The freedom of speech scenario to be considered here involves a collection of neo-Nazi materials that was posted on a University of Massachusetts web server by Lewis McCarthy. McCarthy was a graduate student there at the time, and when the university discovered what he had posted to their servers, he was asked to remove them.
Lewis McCarthy was not himself a neo-Nazi, but an advocate of absolute freedom of speech. The materials he posted were, in fact, a mirror of a site originally created and maintained by Ernst Zuendel. The original site was hosted by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) in California. In an effort to prohibit their customers from viewing Zuendel's materials, Deutsche Telekom blocked access to all sites hosted by Zuendel's ISP.
Lewis McCarthy's posting of the materials to the University of Massachusetts web server was a response to this attempted censorship of the internet by the German government. Although he did not personally agree with Zuendel's neo-Nazi views, McCarthy did believe that Zuendel should still have the right to communicate them. For this reason, McCarthy and many like-minded individuals around the world chose to create mirrors of Zuendel's site. The hope was that there would be so many copies of the site throughout the world that the German government would either have to allow their citizens to view it or cut themselves off from the Internet entirely to prevent it.
As for the University's request that McCarthy remove his mirror of Zuendel's materials, they sited the university's policy on political protest. Although protests are permitted, students cannot use public resources for them. The University of Massachusetts is a public school, so the computers fall under that restriction. Thus it was not the content of the page that caused university officials to request its removal, but the fact that it was a form of political protest using public resources.
The first amendment is rare because it does not have a loophole where freedom of speech is guaranteed unless otherwise specified by law. There are a some restrictions placed on freedom of speech, however these are a result of cases that have gone through civil court and not constitutional law. Citizens are allowed to say anything they want until they are infringing on someone else's rights. Examples of this are libel, slander, and defamation. The Communications Decency Act, which was overturned, was a broad law that attempted to control speech on the internet. The Protection of Children Act is a more limited law which protects children from material online which is currently under debate. It is currently in question whether laws limiting publication of false or misleading materials can extend effectively to cover online publication and websites.
Kuwait is a dictatorship where all political power is in the hands of the Emir. The National Assembly has limited powers and can be suspended by the Emir. This has happened twice in the past. Constitutional guarantees are also frequently suspended by the Emir. Freedom of speech and the press is greatly restricted. Journalists have been imprisoned for criticizing the government or Islam. Because of this, journalist practice self-censorship. There are many political prisoners in Kuwait and prison conditions are inhumane. There have been reports of torture and inhumane treatment of detainees. Article 36 of the Kuwaiti Constitution states that: "Freedom of opinion and of scientific research is guaranteed. Every person has the right to express and propagate his opinion verbally, in writing, or otherwise, in accordance with the conditions and procedures specified by law."
Article 37 states that "Freedom of the press, printing, and publishing is guaranteed in accordance with the conditions and manner specified by law." The Printing and Publishing Law was written to place limitations on freedom of the press. It requires a permit from the Printing and Publications Office to sell or distribute publications. The law also includes criminal punishments for a large number of vaguely worded of offenses, and provisions for prior censorship. There is also a clause that prohibits the publication of disturbing relations between Kuwait and Arab or friendly countries.
There are no laws or regulations governing online free speech in Kuwait. The Printing and Publications Law does not apply to the Internet. However, this law may be expanded to include the Internet in the future.
Last updated 2001/09/18.