Hamid Buyabes, a Kuwaiti journalist and blogger, was sentenced on November 23 to four years in jail with hard labour for insulting Saudi Arabia on his Twitter account. The blogger was accused by the Public Prosecution in Kuwait of “taking a hostile action against Saudi Arabia through the post without seeking official permission from the government”.
According to Arab Times, Buyabes’ tweets were found by the State Security Department to be harmful to the cordial relations of both states and “dangerous to the national unity”.
Buyabes has a long history of persecution by the Kuwaiti government over his determined attempts to reveal governmental corruption and express political criticism. His current sentence follows years of struggles to publish political content unpleasant to the Kuwaiti authorities and unauthorized by the Ministry of Information.
Buyabes was the Editor-in-Chief of Al-Sha’ab, a controversial newspaper popular in Kuwait. In October 2004, the newspaper was suspended for three months for its political content by Kuwait’s Minister of Information Mohammed Abu Al-Hassan. It was claimed that the political content violated the newspaper’s license to publish only social and cultural articles.
Buyabes continued to publish political content on Al-Sha’ab despite repeating warnings by the Kuwait’s Ministry of Information. Following the suspension, Buyabes quoted saying:
“I am not quite sure which story in my newspaper supposedly made government officials angry. It could have been one of many. I think that the Kuwaiti government, in general, is afraid of what Hamid Buyabes writes in his newspapers. I write the truth”
Previous to Al-Sha’ab, Buyabes published another newspaper, Al-Democratia, which had been closed by the Ministry of Information in 2002 for its controversial political content.
According to the Freedom House report for the year 2015, Kuwait’s press status is “partly free”, as the state’s protection on freedoms of expression and of the press, is reserved by conformity with the law. For instance, publications that insult Islam, criticize the Emir or calling for the overthrow of the regime are prohibited.