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TMCNet:  HRW hits telecom law - 'Narrowed down freedoms' [Arab Times (Kuwait)]

[August 23, 2014]

HRW hits telecom law - 'Narrowed down freedoms' [Arab Times (Kuwait)]

(Arab Times (Kuwait) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) KUWAIT CITY, Aug 22: The Human Rights Watch has criticized the new telecommunications law, which was released last May, saying it has narrowed down the freedoms. The organization described the law as a serious decline in the country which had the best record in human rights among the Gulf States.


The Human Rights Watch in a report said the Kuwait's new Telecommunications Act gives the government sweeping powers to withhold content and block access to the Internet and withdraw licenses without giving reasons, and the government should amend the law to reduce the restrictions on telecom service providers and users, including no more than permitted by international law of human rights.

Under the Telecommunications Law No. 2014/37, which was adopted on May 18, 2014, on the establishment of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and Information Technology, as an independent body under the supervision of the Minister of Communications with wide discretionary powers to grant or revoke licenses for companies that provide services — Internet and broadcast satellites, and landline phones and wireless.

The law imposes harsh penalties on anyone who produces or sends 'immoral' messages and gives the authorities the power to suspend non-specific communications services for reasons of national security. It can also punish any of telecommunications service providers if it 'contributes' in spreading the messages that violate these standards and the law does not give any opportunity for judicial review. Eric Goldstein, deputy executive director of the Department of Middle East and North Africa said, this new law was cooked to give prosecutors greater legal license against activists, politicians and journalists.

The law allows the authority to grant or refuse licenses to service providers without disclosing the reasons or criteria and can revoke licenses if it decides that the licensee 'caused serious injury to others', although the law does not define what 'serious damage'.

The law authorizes the Commission to impose or take technical measures to prevent the dissemination of content that can be 'detrimental to public order and public morality', on all service providers to be effective as a condition of the license, and thereby increasing the breadth of the field of self-censorship is growing and continuing on the Internet. The Ministry of Communications currently obscures sites that it considers politically sensitive or offensive, morally, and often with the help of Internet service providers.

Human Rights Watch explained Kuwait, as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Arab Charter on Human Rights that protects the right to freedom of opinion and expression, as guaranteed in Article 36 of the Kuwaiti Constitution which reads, 'Freedom of opinion and of scientific research is guaranteed.

Every person has the right to express and propagate his opinion verbally, in writing, or otherwise, in accordance with the conditions and procedures specified by law'. The Commission on Human Rights at the United Nations says it is not permissible for a law that gives absolute discretion to restrict freedom of expression for those in charge of its implementation. Goldstein said: As a result of this law Kuwait's reputation has suffered and the Parliament should intervene and amend the law before the body begins its work.

(c) 2014 Arab Times Kuwait English Daily. All Rights Reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).

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