Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Free Speech in Kuwait Was Bad Before, And Now There’s a Cybercrime Law

Kuwait, MENA, Middle East, censorship, free speech, VPN, SumRando Cybersecurity, Secure Messenger, Web ProxyIf you believe everything the Kuwait Times tells you, you may think the country’s new cybercrime law was designed to benefit its people.

A January 14 article titled, “New cybercrime law protects on-line users” described the legislation as “aimed at protecting society from misuse of the internet and e-media by some users,” but offered little additional information in its 118-word blurb.

Sources outside of Kuwait seem to have a different interpretation and a bit more to say:

“This law does not belong to the 21st century. In spirit and indeed, in letter, it is a retrograde piece of legislation that merely draws upon earlier, repressive laws. Kuwaitis deserve better,” argued Amnesty International’s Said Boumedouha.

“This new law comes at a time when Kuwait is prosecuting many opposition politicians and activists, journalists, and other government critics using expansive interpretations of moral imperatives and national security requirements. It appears designed to allow the authorities even wider legal latitude to curtail Kuwaitis’ right to free speech,” opined Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch.

In fact, punishable offenses under the cybercrime law, in effect as of January 12, include using the internet to insult religion, the emir (Kuwaiti leader) or the judicial system, to damage Kuwait’s international reputation and to publicize classified information even when in the public’s best interest. It furthermore allows the government to confiscate devices used to carry out such acts and to ban “outlets and locations” responsible for these actions.

A better understanding of the cybercrime law certainly helps to explain the Kuwait Times’ vague-yet-optimistic approach to it, which ultimately only demonstrated the danger of such legislation: a newspaper unable to critique its government is also unable to openly discuss basic facts. Surf secure and stay Rando, Kuwait!

Want to know more about government infringements of citizens' rights? Read on!

SumRando Cybersecurity is a South Africa-based VPN, Web Proxy and Secure Messenger provider. Surf secure and stay Rando!

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