Kuwait Political Orientation
Government Type: Emirate/Constitutional Monarchy
Head of State and Government: The authority is transferred between members of the Al-Sabah ruling family. The current Emir is Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah.
Political Party: “No parties might be formed despite the existence of parliamentary blocs.”
Political Position: Center-Right
MBFC’s Country Freedom Rating: 37.92 – Limited Freedom
World Press Freedom Rank: Kuwait 154/180
In 2022, Reporters Without Borders ranked Kuwait 154/180 in their Press Freedom Index, stating that “the government headed by Emir Nawaf Al-Sabah exercises a great deal of control over news and information.”
Media Ownership and Government Analysis
Kuwait is a constitutional emirate ruled by a hereditary emir from the Al-Sabah family. Members of the ruling family, appointed by the emir, control state institutions.
Kuwait has an elected parliament; therefore, compared to Middle Eastern monarchies such as Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, Kuwait is the most democratic. However, its parliament is dysfunctional.
Although privately-owned print media dominates the media landscape, they are typically government mouthpieces, limiting their criticism and praising the government. Elite business families who have business dealings or personal relationships with members of the ruling family own print media, such as Al Qabas, Al-Jarida, and Al-Siyasa. For example, elite business families operate in the construction, energy, and banking sectors as well as media, such as the Al-Nusif, Al-Kharafi, Al-Bahar, and Al-Shaya families. They are all shareholders in the Al Qabas newspaper.
The state owns several radio and TV stations, such as Kuwaiti TV and Radio Kuwait. KUNA is the official news agency of Kuwait, with the ministry of information appointing its board. Some sensitive issues are completely off-limits in Kuwait and subject to penalties, such as insulting Islam and criticizing the emir and the government. For example, in 2015, Al Watan TV was shut down due to anti-government comments. Further, a Cybercrime Law imposes restrictions on freedom of expression and serves as a base to silence critical voices.
In conclusion, the Kuwait government has direct and indirect control over media outlets; with the government controlling some outlets directly. On the other hand, elite business families with business interests and close ties to members of the ruling family own media outlets. Most are not transparent in their media ownership. Therefore, press freedom and plurality are very limited in Kuwait.
Last Updated on May 31, 2023 by Media Bias Fact Check
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