A man was sentenced to two years of imprisonment in a Kuwaiti court for insulting the country’s ruler on the social networking website, Twitter.
The opposition in Kuwait has organized many protests against the ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who used emergency powers in October 2012 to change the voting system.
Ayyad-al Harbi, who has more than 13,000 followers on Twitter, was sentenced to jail after his arrest and released on bail. He used his Twitter account to criticize the Kuwaiti emir. Before him, a social media activist Rashid Saleh al-Anzi was given two years in prison over a tweet. According to an online Kuwaiti newspaper, his tweet ‘stabbed the rights and powers of the emir’. Sheikh Meshaal al-Malek al-Sabah, a member of the ruling family, was also arrested in July 2012 for posting ‘offensive’ tweets.
A U.S. ally, Kuwait has generally been considered ‘democratic’ but such events suggest otherwise. The Kuwaiti government is becoming firmer about politically sensitive statements posted on social networking websites. Many people are now criticizing the emir and calling him a ‘tyrant’ like Hosni Mubarak and the Libyan General Gaddafi.
Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah is a tyrant. Please retweet to show your support for freedom of speech in #Kuwait. Free Rashid Saleh al-Anzi now.— Joseph Williams (@earsopen) January 8, 2013
The Arab Spring which ousted four Arab dictators was fueled and powered by the online media. Perhaps the ruling family of Kuwait dreads that. It is becoming more vigilant and stricter with comments being posted on the internet.