Prior to the new law a 12-member censors committee met twice a month and decided which books would be permitted or banned. Now books can be published first, and banned after. Previously banned books remain banned
Amendments to Kuwait’s notoriously restrictive press and publications laws were passed by the Kuwait National Assembly this week, in what was described as “an important step in terms of increasing freedom with a balanced commitment to moral, legal and national controls (and) a gift to writers, intellectuals, creators and everybody involved in culture.”
Amendments include a condition that for imported books the importer will bear the legal responsibility for the ideas and opinions expressed in the publication.
Gulf News quotes Kuwaiti author Bothyana Al Essa, who lobbied and worked with the National Assembly to amend the publications and press law, as saying:
The Ministry of Information is no longer the judge when it comes to books and I believe this is a most important achievement. We will continue to work towards achieving greater freedoms.
Others were less charitable. Kuwaiti activist Abdullah Khonaini told Gulf News:
The freedom of expression is already restricted in Kuwait on multiple levels, this law doesn’t fix it. The amendment shifts the power of censorship away from the executive branch and to the judicial branch. We still need to work on the prohibition section in the law, which needs a stronger political lobby and mature political and societal awareness.
Prior to the new law a 12-member censors committee of the Ministry of Information met twice a month and decided which books would be permitted or banned. Some of the decisions have been, even by conservative Arab standards, controversial.
Per Gulf News,
Between 2016 and 2018, around 3,766 books were banned, which is about an average of 1,255 books per year. The Ministry of Information justifies the banning of books, stating that 46 per cent of bans are due reasons related to religion, beliefs and prophets. The committee takes its decision based on a 2006 law that bans any book that could be detrimental in any way to Islam, justice and national security.
For further insights I turned to ArabLit which notes that, per Abdulla Khonaini, books will no longer be subject to a required prior censorship they can still be challenged in court on a case-by-case basis.
Another point raised by ArabLit is the question of the standing of,
the thousands of books that have been banned — some seemingly on a whim — in the 14 years that law has been in force.
In the absence of any indications to the contrary we must assume they remain banned.