Fake news, rumours fuel political tensions in Kuwait

Sheikh Nawaf called on the country to avoid tensions and discrimination that hinder the progress of development and said it was committed to the democratic approach.
Saturday 08/05/2021
Kuwaiti members of parliament wait for the parliamentary session to start at Kuwait’s National Assembly headquarters in Kuwait City. (AFP)
Kuwaiti members of parliament wait for the parliamentary session to start at Kuwait’s National Assembly headquarters in Kuwait City. (AFP)

KUWAIT CITY--Kuwaiti political sources said that the aggrieved note in the speech of the Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah on Wednesday was mainly prompted by rumours and some calls to take to the streets, exploiting the name of some tribes for political purposes. These calls for protests, the sources said, were circulated on shadowy websites and fake social media accounts.

The emir said on Wednesday the country would not allow anyone to undermine its security and stability by “publishing malicious calls aimed at harming our national unity.”

Speaking during his annual address on the last ten days of Ramadan, the emir said cooperation between authorities and institutions was the basis for any successful national action and the best way to achieve development.

“We are all required to stand up to the rumours broadcast on social media platforms and to investigate their accuracy to find out the whole truth,” he added.

Sheikh Nawaf called on the country to avoid tensions and discrimination that hinder the progress of development and said it was committed to the democratic approach.

The electronic armies of the Kuwaiti opposition, specifically the Muslim Brotherhood and the electronic army of what is known as Al Fintas Group, based in London, are very influential in Kuwait.

Al Fintas Group first appeared on WhatsApp to spread fake news and rumours via social media. Court rulings were issued against the group’s members and they fled to London. Among them are Athbi al-Fahd, the former director of State Security and brother of Sheikh Ahmed al-Fahd; Sheikh Khalifa Al-Ali, the former editor-in-chief of Al-Watan newspaper, Ibn Al-Sheikh Ali al-Khalifa, a suspect in the tankers’ case, and Muhammad al-Harun who is accused of fabricating the “sedition tapes” of Sheikh Ahmed Al-Fahd.

Local observers indicated that social media is adding fuel to fire in the country which is already on the edge of exploding due to several crises. The rumours, according to observers, spared no one, including the Kuwaiti emir.

Free expression in Kuwait, which was controlled to some extent by the authorities, has now turned into an unmanageable tussle on social media.

Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah delivering a speech on the occasion of the last 10 days of the holy month of Ramadan. (Kuna)
Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah delivering a speech on the occasion of the last 10 days of the holy month of Ramadan. (Kuna)

Over the last few months, there have been calls to restore the role of tribes, with many  signalling the intellectual and political connection of some individuals with foreign entities – a factor that threatens to undermine national unity.

Kuwaiti authorities are currently concerned about the torrent of rumours that has had an effect on various issues, especially those involving corruption. According to observers, members of the ruling family have often been targeted on social media in a way that may damage the credibility of the  country’s political leadership.

In recent years, the growing public attention given to corruption cases has prompted the Kuwaiti judiciary to take action against influential figures, some of whom hail from the ruling family.

Last month, Kuwait’s ministerial court ordered the pre-trial detention of former prime minister and ruling family member Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah in a case over the alleged mishandling of military funds.

The detention of Sheikh Jaber, the first decision of its kind against a former prime minister, drew attention to the spread of corruption to the sinews of the Kuwaiti state.

Kuwait’s Public Prosecutor referred last week a total of eight judges, three lawyers and six administrators in the Kuwait Appellate courts to the Criminal Court.

The move set a precedent in the history of the judiciary and emphasised the country’s dedication to fighting corruption.

Corruption allegations have led to public protests outside parliament, the Gulf region’s most outspoken, with the power to question ministers. Kuwait’s current prime minister has said combating corruption was a government priority. 

Despite his aggravation, the Kuwaiti emir on Wednesday was keen in his speech to ease tensions, especially over the current dispute between the government and parliament.

“Cooperation between the State’s bodies is the basis of any successful national action and the optimal method for achievement to meet development aspirations desired by the country’s people, in line with the democratic path,” the emir said.

 “We are sticking to the democratic approach that we have accepted, moving away from the atmosphere of tension and everything that breeds division which slows down the pace of development in the country,” he added.

Sheikh Nawaf also stressed that the “most important priority at this stage is to take care of this promising generation of our youth by qualifying them with the best modern scientific and academic means.”

He praised the efforts of frontline workers and volunteers in all sectors, as well as citizens and residents, in confronting the COVID-19 pandemic and called on everyone to stick to public health precautions.