Mob storms Kuwaiti TV station critical of rulers

Over 100 people wielding guns break into Scope TV's studios after the channel criticized the Al Sabah family

Published October 18, 2010 8:33PM (EDT)

An armed mob stormed the offices of a privately owned Kuwaiti TV station and destroyed its equipment after the channel aired shows critical of the country's ruling family, employees said Monday.

At least 100 people wielding guns and knives broke into Scope TV's studios on Sunday, cameraman Fahad al-Rashed said.

"They forced us off the air and started smashing computers, sets, studio equipment and cameras," he said.

Kuwait has some of the most vibrant political debate and press freedoms in the Gulf, but censorship is widespread across the Middle East and journalists often face tight controls.

Scope TV, a small operation employing about 70 people, has come under fire for programs critical of religious leaders and the ruling Al Sabah family. Most recently, a comedy show poked fun at Kuwait's limited strides toward democracy, which have given it an elected parliament, though the Cabinet is dominated and headed by the ruling family.

Station owner Fajr al-Saeed said authorities detained and questioned her last week about the show, which included jokes about overthrowing Kuwait's rulers.

Al-Saeed said one of those in the crowd that descended on the station Sunday put a gun to a security guard's head and demanded entry.

"Even if (the mob) didn't agree with something we had aired, there is no reason to use force to make their point," she told The Associated Press.

The station's administration put the damage at just over $1 million.

Scope TV lawyer Faisal al-Enezi said the crowd was led by people close to the royal family.

Kuwaiti government officials could not be reached for comment Monday.

Interior Minister Sheik Jaber Al Khaled Al Sabah told the Arab Times newspaper that authorities had the attackers in custody.

"We will not accept an attack against anybody," the newspaper quoted him as saying. "This is an offensive act and it is not in line with our customs. We are on top of the situation to forestall further degeneration."

By Associated Press

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