Al Watan building shut down Image Credit: Supplied

Manama: Kuwait’s commerce and industry minister has revoked the licence of Al Watan newspaper after its capital dwindled to below the levels allowed by the new company law.

Sources said that the newspaper, launched in 1974, had suffered severe financial blows and that its capital had dwindled to less than the KD500,000 (Dh6.2 million) required to obtain or keep a licence for a daily in Kuwait.

Abdul Mohsen Midaj, the minister, had warned Al Watan and other companies that they were facing the revocation of their licences if their capitals continued to slide below the required levels, local daily Al Jareeda reported on Tuesday.

Al Watan is one of Kuwait’s most prominent papers. It was launched in 1974. Its website was the second-most visited news site in the Middle East, according to a Forbes survey in 2010.

The minister has recently said that hundreds of companies had been warned about their non-compliance with the law enacted in 2012 and amended in 2013.

He added that some companies had been shut down while others had been referred to the public prosecution.

Witnesses said that the newspaper offices were shut down late on Monday and that no newspaper could be printed.

However, while the print edition was suspended starting on Tuesday, the daily continued to publish news on its website.

In a brief statement it posted on its online edition, the daily said that the ministry had ordered the shutting down of the newspaper.

“A representative from the commerce ministry came at 6.30pm — beyond the official working hours — and handed over a missive that included the decision of the minister,” it said. “At the same time, officials from the commerce ministry arrived to implement the decision immediately. They sealed the building of the company and put stickers. Al Watan company announces that it is taking all legal measures to continue its activities and preserve its legal rights,” the statement said.

The licence revocation does not cover Al Watan television channel since it is a different entity and was not registered under Al Watan publishing company.

In April, Al Watan was suspended for two weeks after it breached a gag ordered by the public prosecutor on publishing information in a highly controversial leaked tape.

The information ministry one week earlier asked all print, audio, visual and electronic media to comply with a gag order imposed by the public prosecutor in the case of the tape reportedly containing conversations allegedly referring to toppling the regime.

Al Watan is the second daily in Kuwait to lose its licence in six months.

In July, the licence of Alem Al Yawm was revoked by the Kuwaiti authorities after the daily “no longer met some of the terms and conditions for obtaining a licence” and the daily ceased publication.