Kuwait court fines Al Jazeera for slandering the country

A court in Kuwait has ordered Al-Jazeera to pay $16,670 in damages to four Kuwaiti lawyers who sued it for slandering their country. One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys said they would ask for another $66,600 in damages.

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By  David Cass Published  November 14, 2002

A court in Kuwait has ordered Al-Jazeera to pay $16,670 in damages to four Kuwaiti lawyers who sued it for slandering their country. One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys said they would ask for another $66,600 in damages.

Al-Jazeera's attorney, Mishal al-Namesh, said the Qatari-based satellite channel would "most probably" appeal the ruling.
Although widely respected in the Arab world for its independence, many Kuwaitis view Al-Jazeera as biased toward Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, whose forces invaded it in 1990.

One of the plaintiffs, Mohammed Taleb, told The Associated Press that the lawsuit named the chief executive officer of Al-Jazeera, Sheik Hamad bin Thamer Al Thani, and the host of the "Opposite Direction" program, Faisal al-Qassem.

The closure of Al-Jazeera's office might complicate collection of the fine, but Taleb said the plaintiffs were willing to pursue the matter through legal channels in Qatar.

In an episode aired in February this yeaer, a guest on the live talk show, Sayyed al-Nassar, described Kuwaitis as "the Jews of the Arabs." The term "Jew" is considered derogatory to some people in the Arab world.

The show was discussing reconciliation between Kuwait and Iraq when Al-Nassar, who is an Egyptian researcher, accused Kuwaitis of stealing Iraqi oil before the invasion and that their country was no more than a "thorn in the side of Arabs" and a "transit station for foreign forces."

Taleb said Al-Jazeera should have stopped the show to avoid further insults. In fact, the host did end the show about 15 minutes early, saying he was not happy with the level of the dialogue.

Al-Jazeera attorney al-Namesh told AP that the channel behaved correctly. "There was no mistake on Al-Jazeera's part ... it was the guest who made the mistake," al-Namesh said.

When the station reran the program the next day, it cut out some of the remarks.

In an earlier action the station was ordered to pay $1,650 in damages in April 2001 after a group of Kuwaitis sued it over remarks made by one of its talk show hosts. That ruling was overturned on appeal.

Earlier this month the Kuwait government closed Al Jazeera's office there, claiming that its reporting of the emirate was "not objective".

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