Sunday, November 28, 2010

Camera Ban - by Amer Al-Hilal

This is a re-print from my friend, Amer Al-Hilal, who shares the same confusion as I do as to where this country that we love is headed....

I took a few pics of the sunset this weekend with my mobile phone and I was worried that the CID would jump out of the bushes with the handcuffs.  (When my own CID man refuses to use them for "recreational" purposes....)

Camera ban regressive idea ‘Don’t stifle home-grown talent’

For a country that possesses a Constitution which safeguards civil liberties and freedom of speech, Kuwait sporadically sure likes toying with those liberties such as tentatively banning the Blackberry service, shutting down You Tube, impeding public gatherings and marches, banning and censoring books, literature, films and magazines which are available elsewhere in the Gulf.

This week according to media reports, and highlighted extensively in local Weblogs and Twitter, a palpable growing outcry is directed at the tentative plans by The Ministry of Information, Ministry of Social Affairs and Ministry of Finance to outlaw public photography and relegate it to journalism purposes only. This has allegedly resulted in the ban of Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras (DSLRs) in public places. If this charade is true, then it bodes ill for this country, another regressive move into the annals of ignorance.

During the 1980s video cameras and photographic equipment were also shunned by the authorities. I remember visiting Failaka in 1985 and being confronted by a military officer who demanded I hand in my bulky video camera until I left the island. These types of infringements in the name of security were insignificant — we still had an attempt on HH the Amir, explosions at Foreign Embassies in Kuwait and an actual invasion.

Why does this country always attempt to stifle home-grown talent? Banning cameras in public places is demoralizing to all the passionate, talented young Kuwait men and women who have excelled in this field and love their hobby, not to mention visitors who attempt to document their travels here. Moreover, banning DSLR cameras is irrational and counterproductive if you think about it; in this day and age of iPhones, Blackberries, 5 MP plus camera phones, Google Earth and the like, anyone can take photograph of anything, quietly, without fanfare, which makes the potential DSLR ban even more preposterous.

I have just returned from a trip to Dubai where I witnessed dozens of tourists proudly using their cameras to document Burg Khalifa and the other picturesque locations. No one stopped them, impeded them or asked them what they were doing and you know why, because they respect people’s rights and are intent on making their country more appealing. UAE is able to manage security matters confidently because they have proper security and ID processes in place: eye scanners at airports and entry points, proper electronic government, high fines for breaking the law, a brilliant CCTV system in place in every street corner (not the shoddy black and white choppy, streaming-like quality of the limited equipment we have here) — they truly invest in their infrastructure, maintain it and upgrade it.

If Kuwait is serious about its security then it should invest in the same caliber of CCTV and not the bargain basement tenders that usually go towards ineffective systems (i.e. Highway signs with the useless ‘no mobile’ plasma screen) belonging to members of the matching ministry who want a ‘piece of the action’. The sad reality is the government sector here would rather ban something than actually strive to improve it through sheer hard work and effective processes. It’s just easier to ban; a question of laziness and neglect.

Needless to say, Kuwait seems unfazed when foreign jets infiltrate our airspace and take aerial shots of our oil refineries and military installations, or when agents and their local conspirators are found to possess blueprints and photographs of said installations, but no, lets go after the ‘little guy’, the amateur photographer or tourist on the street taking pictures. It’s a hypocritical, spineless action by the authorities.

Moreover, I suspect the issue is not just relegated to security, a myriad of reasons could have led to the support of this ban, fundamentalists who felt cameras and pictures are a ‘Tool of the Devil,’ government officials and ministries disgraced at seeing shots of Kuwait’s dilapidated infrastructure, environment and mismanagement on weblogs, internet forums and magazines. You cannot conceal the squalid side of Kuwait; it is there for everyone to see.
Furthermore, this law against public photography will not be enforced, just as seatbelt, no mobile while driving, no litter, no smoking areas, and other ‘laws’ cannot be enforced in this Land of Confusion.


Anonymous said...

While I was reading your post I was planning on commenting about all the laws that are passed but never implemented, then I read your last paragraph saying exactly that. This country is a big mess. Do you know about all the rotten food that has been sold in this country for years and years? Solution is to blame the minister that is finding out about it and exposing it all.
Kuwait the land where nothing seems to be illegal but everything seems to be haraam.

Anonymous said...

Hmm... Just moved here a few months ago and wanted to organise photography courses (used to run a photography business in my home country). I guess that's out!!!

Anonymous said...

you are too late to post this. it was already retracted as it was a rumour.

Desert Girl said...

Anonymous 2:17 - Thanks for the notification. Where was it cited as a rumor?

Anonymous said...

I read it on Check it out

BuYousef said...

Some idiot writes an article in an irresponsible paper and the whole world believes him! Is it really this simple to fool everyone? One article?!

There is no ban. There never was.

Anonymous said...

248AM & Kuwait Times

Anonymous said...

It was retracted in the Kuwait Times.

Anonymous said...

Published Date: November 28, 2010

On Saturday, November 20, 2010 the Kuwait Times published an article titled 'Multi ministry camera ban frustrates artists' in which incorrect information was provided. The newspaper regrets failing to verify the information. The article wrongly stated that a ban on DSLR cameras was implemented by the Ministries of Information, Social Affairs and Finance. This information is false. In a follow up investigation, it was proved that no such ban has been issued. We regret this error and deeply apologize for any
inconvenience caused.

Anonymous said...


I am not Anon 2:17 PM, but I saw the retraction online (see link).

Q8GEEK said...

What have we learned?
Al-Watan TV, Kuwait Times (Which is a part of Al-Watan) and the four horsemen who got interviewed in Taw Al-Leil are nothing but attention wh***s who just like to stir things up to bring pointless confusion and shake things up.

Kuwait Times is already a non-creditable or reliable source to begin with.

Anonymous said...

Kuwait Times is not part of Alwatan.

Alwatan publishes Alwatan Daily in English.