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Online dissenters face jail time in Kuwait

Journalists in the Middle Eastern country of Kuwait have come under fire recently after their comments on Twitter criticizing the country's emir.

Limiting freedom of speech is often a popular tactic of ruling powers who wish to scare people from speaking out against the government. Journalists play an important role in societies around the country in reporting the news can being critical of various institutions in the country, even the government itself.

Critics sentenced
However, in Kuwait, this practice has led to the jailing of many of these writers recently. According to the Guardian, Mussab Shamsah, a netizen in the country, was recently sentenced to five years in prison for insulting the prophet Mohamed via Twitter. The news source noted that this is not the first time such a sentencing has occurred. Earlier in the year, another man was sentenced to five years for insulting the emir and a woman to over a decade in prison for similar actions on Twitter.

The social media outlet has become a popular medium for many to voice their opinion on government actions, with many crediting it as an essential element of the Arab Spring. However, it seems that to prevent such an uprising from happening within Kuwait, the government has sought to dole out harsh punishment to those who wish to invoke similar action within the country.

Court upholds limitations
This news comes as Human Rights Watch recently reported that Kuwait's constitutional court recently upheld a provision that allows authorities to continue these kinds of actions. Article 25 of the penal code allows for prison sentences of up to five years for anyone that publicly voices dissent against authorities of the emir.

In November, Ayyad Khaled al-Harbi was sentenced to jail for two years after violating this rule. However, the law was challenged in constitutional court by his lawyer, Khaled Felah al-Kafifa, according to the human rights organization. The court reportedly ruled that, "It is not acceptable that the highest position in the country should be treated like other individuals."

The ruling is certainly a set back for those in the country who wish to be able to freely voice their opinion when it comes to these kinds of matters. By not being allowed to voice one's thoughts on the state of the country, individual citizens are limited in right to freely express themselves, be it on the Internet or in print. Unless these kinds of provisions are changed, citizens rights will continue to be limited in Kuwait.

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