Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Kuwait activists decry social media curbs

Kuwait is forging ahead with a law that will regulate the country’s telecommunications and information technology, including social media, despite claims by human rights activists that the bill will restrict freedom of expression.'
“The law allows authorities to block websites, terminate mobile lines for security reasons without a legal order, and issue warrants to search houses without a prior legal order,” Kuwaiti humans rights activist Nawaf al-Hendal told Al Jazeera.
Hendal alleged that the legislation violates Kuwait’s obligations under international treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it signed in 1996. “This article allows the punishment of all those deemed violators or abusers of public morals, which is an elastic expression that raises concerns. The law must outline the conditions and guidelines under which websites are to be blocked,” he said.
On May 18, parliament passed the Unified Media Law by an overwhelming majority. Comprising 93 articles, the law establishes establishes a Commission for Mass Communications and Information Technology to oversee all technical matters pertaining to mobile phone services and internet providers, a role now carried out by the ministry of communications.
While members of the CMCIT have yet to be chosen, it will also be tasked with monitoring social media content.
Speaking to reporters in May, Hameed al-Qattan, undersecretary of the ministry of communications, said that the authority’s purpose was “regulatory” and would include tasks like granting licenses and monitoring prices, “not [suppressing] freedoms”. He added that blocking websites or eavesdropping on phone calls would not happen without a legal order or the word of the public prosecutor.]

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