Kuwait: The authorities must stop targeting the tweets and restrict freedom of expression
The authorities in Kuwait have targeted three bloggers for expressing their views on their personal Twitter accounts, according to reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR).
On 28 February 2020, employees of the Electronic and Cyber Crime Combatting Department (ECCCD), which is managed under the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Ministry of Interior, arrested the blogger who runs the “Marxist Patron of People” account on Twitter after they were able to identify him and he confessed that he was the account holder.
The Marxist Patron of People’s account (picture on the right) on Twitter, which was created in February 2011, is followed by more than 103,000 people and the Twitter user describes himself as "the president of the Kuwaiti Hard-Worker Association". He tweets without mentioning his real name because he addresses important issues of concern to citizens. He criticises widespread corruption and exploitation of citizens by some merchants, as well as the failure of government agencies and their officials to carry out their duties towards society. He is well-known for his criticism of government officials and social outrage in a satirical style that has earned him popularity.
The Kuwaiti newspaper “Al-Anbaa” reported in a tweet that "the Marxist blogger, the Patron of the People, has been subjected to extensive investigations by the Public Prosecution in one of the cases filed against him and submitted by a top official of the state." The newspaper added that the Public Prosecution’s office "decided to continue his detention, and compiled all the cases filed in police stations against him." It stated that the cases may reach 13.
On 01 March 2020, blogger Fayez Al-Otaibi (photo on the left) announced on his Twitter account that the CID had summoned him to appear for investigation. On 02 March 2020, he published a tweet in which he stated that he had completed an investigation at the Cyber Crime Department and was then released without bail. The case is related to a total of 22 tweets and was referred to the Public Prosecution’s Expression, Guidance and Social Communication Department, which was established in November 2019 and among its tasks, “express opinion in the light of monitoring and analysis the cases requiring the preparation of pleadings by the Public Prosecution, and provide the necessary support to perform pleadings for its desired role.” according to what the Public Prosecutor announced at the time.
Fayez uses his Twitter account to peacefully express his views on various topics and defend civil rights, including freedom of expression.
On 29 February 2020, blogger Alyaa Khraibut (picture in the center) posted a tweet on her Twitter account after being summoned for investigation by the Cyber Crime Department. She was released on 02 March after being investigated over a tweet she posted on her account on 27 November 2019, in which she commented on information published in some local newspapers about "a lawmaker trying to release a suspect accused of rape."
Alyaa uses this account to address issues of concern to citizens, including the policy of censorship of books, respect for civil rights such as freedom of the press and freedom of expression, as well to expose attempts to cover up rape crimes.
GCHR calls on the Kuwaiti authorities to:
- Protect public freedoms and in particular freedom of expression, including the immediate release of the Marxist Patron of People in addition to rescinding all the charges against the three bloggers; and
- Ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Kuwait can carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals or restrictions, including judicial harassment.