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Kuwait shuts down offices of Al-Jazeera over coverage of police crackdown on Opposition

Cracking down: Opposition MPs say they hold Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah responsible for a police crackdown at a public rally that left several people injured.Photo: Al-Jazeera

Kuwaiti authorities shut down the local offices of the Al-Jazeera TV network and withdrew its accreditation Monday after it covered a violent police crackdown on a meeting of Opposition lawmakers in the oil-rich Gulf country, the Associated Press has reported.

Al-Jazeera denied the charge of meddling in Kuwaiti affairs, saying it was just doing its job. "Al-Jazeera, which has adhered in its coverage of Kuwaiti affairs to hosting all parties, condemns considering its professional coverage an interference in Kuwaiti internal affairs. Al-Jazeera vows to continue to cover Kuwaiti affairs with full professionalism and balance," the channel said in a statement.

Al-Jazeera had aired extensive coverage of the police crackdown on a gathering held by the Kuwaiti opposition on Wednesday. It showed footage of police beating activists and aired interviews with members of the Kuwaiti opposition following the clashes in which four Kuwaiti members of parliament and a dozen citizens were hurt.

"Today, I received a phone call from the information ministry informing me that the office has been closed immediately and our accreditations have been withdrawn," Saad al Saeedi, al Jazeera's bureau chief in Kuwait City, said. Ministry officials had delivered the office a letter that stated the reason for the closure was "the latest developments and your interference in Kuwait's internal affairs," Saeedi said, quoting the letter.

The Information Ministry told AP that the closure was in response to the station's refusal to heed warnings to all media not to cover recent political developments. It said the station was meddling in Kuwait's internal affairs.

The lawmaker whose interview triggered the ban, Mussallem al-Barak, spoke to Al-Jazeera again on Monday by telephone and said if it weren't for the network the truth about the crackdown would have been fudged. "I regret this illegal decision," al-Barak said of the decision to close the station's offices. "It is not a heroic act."

Al-Jazeera, one of the Arab world's most popular news stations, was barred from operating in Kuwait in 2002 for two and half years over its coverage of US forces in Kuwait before the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In 1999, the station was also banned for a month after an Iraqi caller insulted Kuwait's emir.

The oppostion lawmakers represent the Development and Reform Bloc, an Islamist group, the liberal National Action Bloc and the opposition Popular Action bloc. Political parties are banned in Kuwait, so parliament is made up of individuals who form loose blocs.

Date posted: December 14, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 187