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KUWAIT, EGYPT: Censors pull plug on shows that mock politicians

September 10, 2009 |  9:38 am

Kuwaiti and Egyptian censors recently banned two television shows because they satirized prominent political figures, said the Cairo-based group the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, or ANHRI, in a statement.

According to the organization, the Kuwaiti Ministry of Information banned the program "Soatak Wasal" ("Your Voice Is Heard") because it was "offensive" to Kuwaiti officials. 

The comedy makes fun of Kuwaiti officials. Apparently, a sketch mocking Kuwaiti lawmakers and Cabinet members was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Shortly afterward, Egypt clamped down on "Hokuma Show" ("Cabinet Show") after Prime Minister Ahmed Nazief was criticized in an episode. 

Kuwait-television Information Minister Anas Fiqi moved to ban the show "as a courtesy to the prime minister" in what the ANHRI called a "blatant violation of freedom of expression and an unjust abuse of power."

ANHRI is calling on the Kuwaiti and Egyptian authorities to allow both programs back on air "in support of freedom of expression." 

Meanwhile, the outlawed programs are accessible to viewers on the Internet, including on YouTube.

The banning of "Soatak Wasal" has also irked rights groups in Kuwait. 

"How can such a decision be made in a country like Kuwait, whose people have been used to freedom of opinion and expression, free thinking, and productions of diverse artworks without restrictions, since the start of the constitutional era in the country in 1962?" said the Kuwaiti Human Rights Society in response to the ban.

Kuwait's Scope channel, which aired the show, remains defiant. After canceling it following its third episode, the channel is reportedly continuing to air it under the name "Ammak Asmakh" ("Your Deaf Uncle").

--  Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Video: An excerpt from a Kuwaiti television show satirizing politicians. Credit: YouTube.

Photo: A screen shot from the same show.