With the evolution of the Internet and the emergence of social media, people around the world have been given the opportunity to readily express their opinions and ideas about anything they want. If you live in Kuwait, you might not be so lucky because on October 28, 2013, the Kuwait Court of Appeals upheld a 10 year prison sentence for a local blogger’s comments on twitter. Hamad al-Naqi was sentenced for tweets insulting the Prophet Mohammed and similar tweets criticizing the King of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The lower court convicted al-Naqi for his tweets on the basis of article 15 of the National Security Law of Kuwait, which sets a minimum three-year sentence for “intentionally broadcasting news, statements, or false or malicious rumors…that harm the national interests of the state.” The court also convicted al-Naqi for his insulting tweet toward the Prophet Mohammed under article 111 of the Penal Code, which prohibits mocking religion and carries a maximum one-year sentence.
Kuwait is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Arab Charter on Human Rights, Kuwait is required to protect the rights to freedom of opinion and expression. The United Nations Human Rights Committee, which provides the definitive interpretation of the covenant, has stated that “all public figures, including those exercising the highest political authority such as heads of state and government, are legitimately subject to criticism and political opposition,” and there is a need for “uninhibited expression” in public debate concerning public figures. It is clear that Kuwait has no respect for the freedom of expression right that its citizens should have. By punishing peaceful criticism or insults of pubic figures violates Kuwait’s free speech guarantees and international standards on freedom of expression.
I personally own a twitter account and often tweet about concerns or ideas that come to mind but to think that in some countries people can be sent to jail for simply posting a tweet is simply horrifying. Freedom of speech is a value highly regarded in the United States and internationally and Kuwait is going to accomplish nothing by punishing people for their tweets. Kuwait needs to amend its laws and squash the conviction of al-Naqi because it is in clear violation of valuable human rights.
Do you think that the laws and sentence punishing al-Naqi are fair?
Should Kuwait be reprimanded for violating international covenant rights?