US embassy cable - 89KUWAIT5979

THE PRESS LORDS OF KUWAIT

Identifier: 89KUWAIT5979
Wikileaks: View 89KUWAIT5979 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Kuwait
Created: 1989-11-02 11:28:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: OPRC KPRP KU
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
R 021128Z NOV 89
FM AMEMBASSY KUWAIT
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 7693
INFO USIA WASHDC 4996
AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI
AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
AMEMBASSY CAIRO
AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
AMEMBASSY DOHA
AMEMBASSY MANAMA
AMEMBASSY MUSCAT
AMEMBASSY RIYADH
AMCONSUL DHAHRAN
AMCONSUL JEDDAH
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 08 KUWAIT 05979 
 
STATE FOR NEA/ARP 
USIA FOR NEA, R/NA 
 
E.O. 12356:  DECL:OADR 
TAGS:  OPRC, KPRP, KU 
SUBJECT:  THE PRESS LORDS OF KUWAIT 
 
REFS:  A. 83 KUWAIT A-7 (NOTAL) 
-      B. KUWAIT 3922 (NOTAL) 
-      C. KUWAIT 0670 
 
1.  CONFIDENTIAL - ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
2.  SUMMARY:  IN LESS THAN 30 YEARS, KUWAIT HAS 
DEVELOPED A POWERFUL CLASS OF NEWSPAPER MAGNATES WHICH, 
NOT SURPRISINGLY REFLECTS THE POLITICAL-ECONOMIC 
GROUPINGS IN MODERN KUWAITI SOCIETY.  END SUMMARY. 
 
3.  REFTELS WELL POINT OUT THE ROUGH DIVISION OF THE 
KUWAITI POWER STRUCTURE INTO A SUNNI MERCHANT 
ARISTOCRACY, THE RULING AL-SABAH FAMILY, THE JENAAT 
CLAN, AND THE SHIA MERCHANT ARISTOCRACY, CLOSELY ALLIED 
WITH THE AL-SABAHS.  OTHER INFORMAL POWER CENTERS 
INCLUDE VARIOUS SUNNI AND SHIA CONSERVATIVE RELIGIOUS 
FACTIONS AND AN INCHOATE LEFTIST GROUPING.  LOOKING AT 
THE FULL RANGE OF KUWAITI MEDIA, A GENERAL DIVISION MAY 
ALSO BE DISCERNED. 
 
A.  GOVERNMENT- (I.E. AL-SABAH) CONTROLLED:  KUNA 
(KUWAIT NEWS AGENCY), KUWAIT TELEVISION (2 CHANNELS), 
KUWAIT RADIO (BROADCASTING IN ARABIC, FARSI, ENGLISH 
AND URDU), AND THE GOVERNMENT MINISTRIES' PUBLICATIONS 
INCLUDING "AL-ARABI" (CIRCULATION:  300,000), THE 
LARGEST CIRCULATION MAGAZINE IN THE ARAB WORLD 
(PUBLISHED MONTHLY BY THE MINISTRY OF INFORMATION). 
 
B.  SUNNI MERCHANT ARISTOCRACY:  "AL QABAS" (DAILY; 
AL-SAQER, AL-NISIF, AL-KHURAFI, AL-BAHAR AND AL-SHAYA 
FAMILY), "AL-ANBA" (DAILY; MARZOUK FAMILY), "OSRATI" 
(MONTHLY; A DIFFERENT BRANCH OF THE MARZOUKS). 
 
C.  JENAAT CLAN: "AL-WATAN" (DAILY; LARGELY BY MUSAED 
AL-SALEH FAMILY). 
 
D.  NON-MERCHANT ARISTOCRACY SUNNI: "AL-SIYASSAH" 
(DAILY; JARALLAH FAMILY), "ARAB TIMES" (ENGLISH 
LANGUAGE DAILY; ALSO JARALLAH FAMILY), "AL-RAI AL-AAM" 
(DAILY; MASAEED FAMILY), "AL-NAHDA" (MONTHLY; ALSO 
MASAEED FAMILY), "KUWAIT TIMES" (ENGLISH-LANGUAGE 
DAILY; "ALTICO" FROZEN FOOD IMPORTER YUSUF S. ALYAN). 
 
E.  SHIA MERCHANT ARISTOCRACY: "AL-YAQZA" (MONTHLY; 
BEHBEHANI FAMILY). 
 
F.  SUNNI FUNDAMENTALISTS: "AL-MUJTAMA" (WEEKLY; THE 
SOCIAL REFORM SOCIETY, IDENTIFIED WITH THE MUSLIM 
BROTHERHOOD). 
 
G.  LEFTISTS: "AL-TALIAT" (BI-WEEKLY, ACTUALLY 
APPEARING IRREGULARLY; FORMER NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEPUTY 
SAMI AL-MUNAYYES). 
 
4.  THE PUBLICATIONS OWNED BY THE SHIA, THE SUNNI 
FUNDAMENTALISTS, LEFTIST "AL-TALIAT", AS WELL AS THE 
ENGLISH-LANGUAGE PRESS AND OTHER WEEKLIES AND DAILIES, 
HAVE LIMITED INFLUENCE ON THE LARGER KUWAITI SOCIETY 
(THE ENGLISH-LANGUAGE DAILIES ARE PROFITABLE CASH COWS 
FOR THEIR OWNERS WHO ALSO RECEIVE ALMOST DOLLARS 
100,000 (KD 28,000) A YEAR FROM THE GOK AS A SUBSIDY). 
WHILE "AL-TALIAT" AND "AL-MUJTAMA" HAVE A CERTAIN 
NUISANCE VALUE TO THE KUWAITI POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC 
ELITE, THEY ARE COMPARATIVELY LIMITED IN TERMS OF 
POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC INFLUENCE.  IT IS THE 
GOK-CONTROLLED ELECTRONIC MEDIA AND THE FIVE ARABIC 
DAILIES (UNDER THE MODERATING HAND OF GOK CENSORSHIP) 
THAT HAVE A POWERFUL, DAILY IMPACT ON THE WAY KUWAITIS 
VIEW THEMSELVES, THE UNITED STATES AND THE WORLD. 
REFTEL C FOCUSED ON THE DECISION-MAKING STRUCTURE IN 
THE MINISTRY OF INFORMATION WHICH RUNS RADIO AND 
TELEVISION IN KUWAIT, THIS CABLE FOCUSES ON THE 
OWNERSHIP AND DIRECTION OF THE FIVE ARABIC DAILIES. 
 
5. AL-RAI AL-AAM 
---------------- 
 
FOUNDED ON APRIL 16, 1961, "AL-RAI AL-AAM" IS THE 
OLDEST BUT LOWEST CIRCULATING OF THE FIVE 
ARABIC-LANGUAGE DAILIES AND IS WHOLLY OWNED BY FOUNDER 
CONFIDENTIAL 
 
CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 02        KUWAIT  05979  02 OF 08  021158Z 
 
ABDULAZIZ F. AL-MASAEED.  AL-MASAEED, IN HIS SEVENTIES, 
ALSO PUBLISHES THE WEEKLY "AL-NAHDA" (PUBLISHER'S 
ESTIMATED CIRCULATION: 110,000, OF WHICH ALMOST HALF IS 
SUPPOSED TO BE IN SAUDI ARABIA).  HE REPORTEDLY ALSO IS 
A PARTNER IN SEVERAL HOTEL VENTURES IN THE UNITED ARAB 
EMIRATES AND OWNS THE CARLTON HOTEL IN KUWAIT. 
 
AL-MASAEED WAS A DEPUTY IN KUWAIT'S NATIONAL ASSEMBLY 
FROM 1967 TO 1971.  IN THE HEADY ATMOSPHERE OF THE 
1961-1976 PERIOD, WITH FREEDOM OF THE PRESS AND A 
FUNCTIONING PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY, AL-MASAEED AND 
"AL-RAI AL-AAM" WERE A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH.  THE 
PAPER WAS VERY MUCH IN THE IMAGE OF THIS PROUD, 
SOMETIMES VINDICTIVE MAN OF LITTLE FORMAL EDUCATION. 
AL-MASAEED IS FAMOUS IN KUWAIT FOR BEING A LITTLE ODD, 
SOMETIMES SENSATIONALIST, AND LATELY ALSO MORE WILLING 
TO OPENLY CALL FOR THE RESTORATION OF DEMOCRATIC 
PRACTICES SUSPENDED BY THE AMIR THAN OTHER DAILIES (HIS 
RIVALS ATTRIBUTE THIS TO THE FACT THAT "SINCE NO ONE 
READS THE PAPER ANYWAY, THIS IS A GOOD WAY TO GET 
ATTENTION"). 
 
ALTHOUGH THE PAPER WAS TRADITIONALLY ANTI-LEFTIST 
(AL-MASAEED WAS VIRULENT IN HIS ATTACKS ON LEFTIST 
PARLIAMENTARY LEADER AHMED AL-KHATIB DURING HIS TERM IN 
THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY) AND STRONGLY PRO-SABAH 
(AL-MASAEED HAS CURRENTLY CONTRACTED KUWAITI SCULPTOR 
SAMI MUHAMMAD TO CREATE A LARGER THAN LIFE STATUE OF 
THE LATE AMIR ABDULLAH AL-SALEM, THE FATHER OF "KUWAITI 
DEMOCRACY" FOR THE NEWSPAPER'S LOBBY), AL-MASAEED HAS 
BECOME INCREASINGLY BITTER AT HIS PAPER'S DECLINE AND 
AT THE CURRENT AMIR'S FAILURE TO RESTORE PARLIAMENT AND 
FREEDOM OF THE PRESS SINCE 1986.  WHEN AN EDITORIAL OF 
HIS CALLING FOR DEMOCRACY WAS CENSORED IN EARLY 1989, 
HE RESPONDED BY PUBLISHING WITH A BLANK EDITORIAL 
SECTION ON THE FRONT PAGE, FOLLOWING THIS UP BY PUTTING 
HIS OWN PICTURE IN THE SPACE THE DAY AFTER THAT. 
 
DURING THE SALAD YEARS OF THE PAPER, HE DESCRIBED 
HIMSELF AS A "SACK OF COAL TO MY ENEMIES", MEANING THAT 
HE HAD THE POWER OF GETTING OTHERS DIRTY WITHOUT 
GETTING HIMSELF SOILED.  WITH INCREASED COMPETITION BY 
BETTER-FUNDED AND MORE AGGRESSIVE RIVALS IN THE EARLY 
1970S, "AL-RAI AL-AAM" HAS BEEN ON A 15-YEAR 
CIRCULATION SLIDE.  THE PAPER WEATHERED A FINANCIAL 
CRISIS FROM 1982-1986 WHEN ADVERTISING REVENUE DRIED UP 
IN THE WAKE OF THE SUQ AL-MANAKH CRISIS, AND IS NOW IN 
DECENT, BUT GUARDED, FINANCIAL HEALTH, ALTHOUGH IT 
REMAINS THE LEAST FINANCIALLY STABLE OF THE FIVE PAPERS. 
 
ITS STANCE AS THE ONLY PRO-SYRIAN VS PRO-IRAQI OF THE 
KUWAITI ARABIC DAILIES, IS DUE LESS TO ANY POSSIBLE 
SYRIAN PAYOFFS THAN TO THE FACT THAT THE MANAGING 
EDITOR IS A SYRIAN, GHASSAN SAMMAN, WHO OVERSEES MUCH 
OF THE PAPER'S COMPOSITION.  FAHED ABDULAZIZ 
AL-MASAEED, THE OWNER'S SECOND SON, IS TECHNICALLY THE 
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, BUT HAS A SERIOUS DRINKING PROBLEM 
(WHICH PLAYED A ROLE IN THE DEATH OF ABDULAZIZ 
AL-MASAEED'S ELDEST, AMERICAN-EDUCATED SON). 
 
6.  AL-SIYASSAH 
--------------- 
 
"AL-SIYASSAH" WAS STARTD IN 1965 AS A WEEKLY BY AHMED 
ABDUL-AZIZ AL-JARALLAH, A KUWAITI OF RELATIVELY RECENT 
SADI ORIGIN, AND BECAME A DAILY IN APRIL 1968. 
SENIOR USIS FSN RECALLS THAT WHEN PAOS WOULD G IN THE 
EARLY 1960S TO SEE THE THEN-POWERFU AL-MASAEED, CUB 
REPORTER JARALLAH WOULD BE SENT OUT "TO BRING SOME 
PEPSIS, AND CLOSE TH DOOR AFTER YOU." 
 
A MAN OF RELATIVELY HUMBLE BACKGROUND, JARALLAH (NOW IN 
HIS FIFTIES) WAS ABLE TO PARLAY A WINNING PERSONALITY 
AND A FRIENDSHIP WITH THE THEN-MINISTER OF INFORMATION 
INTO A PUBLISHING EMPIRE.  AL-JARALLAH BOUGHT 
"AL-SIYASSAH" FROM AL-MASAEED WITH A BANK LOAN AND THEN 
SECURED THE LICENSE TO TURN "AL-SIYASSAH" INTO A DAILY 
FROM HIS FRIEND THE MINISTER.  IN 1976, AL-JARALLAH 
BOUGHT THE LICENSE FORU,2T9YQ, FOR MORE 
THAN KD 160,000.  AL-JARALLAH'S SEPARATION FROM 
AL-MASAEED WAS AMICABLE AND HE STILL CARRIES THE 
DISTINCTION OF BEING THE ONLY ONE OF THE FIVE NEWSPAPER 
OWNERS USUALLY ON GOOD TERMS WITH ALL THE OTHERS. 
 
"AL-SIYASSAH" AND "ARAB TIMES" ARE OWNED FORMALLY BY 
DAR AL-SIYASSAH FOR PRINTING, PUBLISHING AND 
DISTRIBUTION WHICH IN TURN IS OWNED BY ITS 
STOCKHOLDERS: AHMED AL-JARALLAH, SULAIMAN ABDUL-AZIZ 
AL-JARALLAH (AHMED'S BROTHER AND AL-SIYASSAH BUSINESS 
MANAGER), MESHA'AL AHMED AL-JARALLAH (AHMED'S ELDEST 
SON, EDITOR OF THE "ARAB TIMES", SPEEDBOAT AND RACE CAR 
ENTHUSIAST), AND SATTAM AHMED AL-JARALLAH (AHMED'S 
3-YEAR OLD SON).  THE COMPANY'S SHARES HAVE BEEN DULY 
REGISTERED BUT, UNLIKE "AL-QABAS", HAVE NOT BEEN 
PUBLISHED ANYWHERE.  THE COMPANY ALSO OWNS A WEEKLY 
NEWSPAPER "AL-HADAF" PUBLISHED ON FRIDAYS IN PLACE OF 
"AL-SIYASSAH" TO ALLOW AL-JARALLAH TO HOLD ON TO ITS 
PUBLISHING LICENSE, WHICH SOMEDAY MAY BECOME USEFUL. 
"AL-HADAF" IS ALMOST ENTIRELY MADE UP OF FILLER 
MATERIAL, "SOCIETY PAGES" AND HOLLYWOOD GOSSIP. 
 
AL-JARALLAH STRIKES MANY AS SOMETHING OF A 
NOUVEAU-RICHE SOCIAL CLIMBER WHO LOVES TO PRINT HIS 
PICTURE ON THE FRONT PAGE OF HIS PAPERS INTERVIEWING 
REGIONAL AND WORLD LEADERS, INCLUDING A LENGTHY 
INTERVIEW WITH ADNAN KHASHOGGI IN THE "ARAB TIMES"). 
HE WAS A MAJOR PROMOTER OF, AND HEAVY PARTICIPANT IN, 
THE OVERHEATED KUWAITI STOCK MARKET THAT COLLAPSED IN 
1982, AND HAS BEEN PRIVATELY TAKEN TO TASK BY THE 
MARZOUKS, AS WELL AS BY A LOT OF LESSER INVESTORS WHO 
LOST THEIR SHIRTS IN THE COLLAPSE, FOR CONTRIBUTING TO 
THE FINAL DEBACLE. 
 
BUT AL-JARALLAH HAS ALSO SHOWN SOME POLITICAL COURAGE. 
"AL-SIYASSAH" WAS THE ONLY ONE OF THE KUWAITI PAPERS TO 
SUPPORT EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT SADAT'S PEACE OVERTURES TO 
ISRAEL AND CALLED ON THE PLO TO MODERATE ITS POLICIES 
YEARS AGO.  THESE STANDS, PLUS A HARD-LINE ANTI-SYIAN 
EDITORIAL POLICY, ARE USUALLY CONNECTED B OBSERVERS 
HERE WITH AN ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT I APRIL 1985, 
POSSIBLY CARRIED OUT BY RADICAL PLESTINIAN ELEMENTS 
ALLIED WITH SYRIA.  SINCE TEN, AL-JARALLAH HAS NOT 
MELLOWED; HE HAS EEN A VOCIFEROUS SUPPORTER OF 
LEBANESE GENERAL ICHEL AOUN (UNDER CENSORSHIP, THIS IS 
THE BST WAY TO ATTACK THE SYRIANS) AND OF IRAQ (SO 
PRO-IRAQI THAT HE HAS BEEN ACCUSED OF BEING ON HE 
IRAQI PAYROLL, AS HE WAS ACCUSED OF WORKIN FOR THE 
SAUDIS SOME YEARS AGO). 
 
WHEN THE SS LA SALLE, FLAGSHIP OF THE US NAVAL FORCES 
N THE GULF, CAME TO KUWAIT IN ERL 1989, AL-JARALLAH 
WAS THE ONLY ONE OF FOUR EDITORS-IN-CHIEF CONTACTED BY 
THE PAO WHO AGREED IMMEDIATELY TO DO A STORY ON THE 
SHIP. 
 
7.  AL-WATAN 
------------ 
 
FOUNDED ON JANUARY 17, 1974, "AL-WATAN" IS KUWAIT'S 
MOST CONSISTENTLY LEFT-WING ARABIC DAILY.  IT COVERS 
EVENTS AFFECTING THE PLO AND THE PALESTINIANS WITH 
ALMOST AS MUCH CARE AS KUWAITI LOCAL NEWS.  IT 
GENERALLY REPRESENTS THE INTERESTS OF THE POWERFUL 
10,000-MEMBER JENAAT CLAN WHICH ORIGINATED IN SOUTHERN 
IRAQ AND CAME TO KUWAIT IN THE 19TH CENTURY.  AS ONE 
REPORTER PUT IT, "THE GULF BANK IS THE JENAAT BANK AND 
"AL-WATAN" IS THE JENAAT MOUTHPIECE". 
 
IN THE YEARS SINCE ITS FOUNDING, "AL-WATAN" HAS HAD 
MANY CLASHES WITH THE GOK AND THE MINISTRY OF 
INFORMATION'S CENSOR AS IT HAS BEEN A STRONG SUPPORTER 
OF LEFT-WING POLITICAL ELEMENTS IN THE NATIONAL 
ASSEMBLY, ESPECIALLY AHMED AL-KHATIB.  IT PROVIDES THE 
MOST EXTENSIVE COVERAGE OF THE KUWAIT LABOR MOVEMENT 
AND FREQUENTLY FEATURES INTERVIEWS ON, OR GROUP 
DISCUSSIONS OF, TOPICAL ISSUES WITH LESSER- OR UNKNOWN 
KUWAITIS. 
 
WHILE MAINTAINING A LEFT-OF-CENTER EDITORIAL LINE, THE 
PAPER DOES NOT LET POLITICS GET IN THE WAY OF GOOD 
BUSINESS.  WHEN IN EARLY 1989 FUAD AL-HASHEM, ONE OF 
THE PAPER'S MORE STRIDENT COLUMNISTS, GOT "AL-WATAN" 
BANNED IN THE LUCRATIVE SAUDI MARKET FOR AN INTEMPERATE 
ATTACK ON A FORMER SAUDI KING, HE WAS IMMEDIATELY 
FIRED.  EDITOR-IN-CHIEF JASSEM AL-MUTAWAA QUIPPED THAT 
"HE EMBARRASSED US ONCE TOO OFTEN, HE'S BAD FOR 
BUSINESS."  THE "AL-WATAN" PRINTING SUBSIDIARY HAS ALSO 
CONSISTENTLY UNDERBID THE OTHER KUWAITI PAPERS IN 
MEETING USIS KUWAIT'S PRINTING NEEDS. 
 
THE STRONGMAN OF "AL-WATAN" IS ITS CHAIRMAN OF THE 
BOARD, CAIRO-EDUCATED MUHAMMAD MUSAED AL-SALEH, IN HIS 
SIXTIES AND IN POOR HEALTH.  A LAWYER WITH A VERY 
SUCCESSFUL PRACTICE (AL-SALEH, GRAHAM AND JAMES), HE IS 
A PASSIONATE ADVOCATE OF HUMAN RIGHTS, AN ADMIRER OF 
AMERICAN DEMOCRACY (ADDING THAT "THE PROBLEM IS THE WAY 
THE US BEHAVES OUTSIDE ITS BORDERS"), AND A PARTISAN OF 
A MODERATE FORM OF ISLAM THAT HIS FUNDAMENTALIST 
CRITICS HAVE TERMED AS "ATHEISM IN MULLAH'S CLOTHING". 
 
THE PAPER IS OWNED BY DAR AL-WATAN FOR PRINTING, PRESS, 
AND PUBLISHING, WHICH IS IN TURN CONTROLLED (51 
PERCENT) BY THE AL-MASALEH COMPANY WHICH BELONGS TO 
MUHAMMED MUSAED AL-SALEH AND HIS CLOSE RELATIVES. 
AL-MASALEH COMPANY'S DIRECTOR IS NAJIB MUSAED AL-SALEH, 
MUHAMMAD'S NEPHEW.  TWELVE PERCENT OF DAR AL-WATAN IS 
OWNED BY VERY WEALTHY FINANCIER YUSSUF ABDULAZIZ 
AL-MUZAINI AND 15 PERCENT BELONGS TO SHAIKH FAHED 
AL-AHMED AL-SABAH (THE ONLY AL-SABAH TO OPENLY OWN ANY 
KUWAITI NEWSPAPER), WHO IS HEAD OF THE KUWAITI OLYMPIC 
COMMITTEE.  SHAIKH FAHED IS SOMETHING OF A "BLACK 
SHEEP" IN THE AL-SABAH FAMILY HAVING BEEN INTIMATELY 
INVOLVED IN THE "FATEH" MOVEMENT.  THIS GIVES 
"AL-WATAN" THE DUBIOUS DISTINCTION OF HAVING 
CONNECTIONS WITH TWO FORMER KUWAITI GUERRILLAS:  SHAIKH 
FAHED, AND HARVARD-EDUCATED COLUMNIST AHMED AL-RIBI WHO 
FOUGHT AGAINST THE SULTAN OF OMAN'S FORCES IN DHOFAR. 
THE REMAINING 22 PERCENT OF DAR AL-WATAN IS HELD 
PERSONALLY BY MUHAMMAD MUSAED AL-SALEH AND ABOUT HALF A 
DOZEN SMALLER INDIVIDUAL INVESTORS. 
 
THE PAPER'S EDITOR-IN-CHIEF JASSEM AL-MUTAWAA (ALSO A 
JENAAT), IN HIS FORTIES, IS THE BROTHER-IN-LAW OF 
MUHAMMAD MUSAED AL-SALEH. 
 
8.  AL-QABAS 
------------ 
 
WHILE "AL-WATAN" SEEMS TO HAVE A SOLID LOCK ON THIRD 
PLACE IN CIRCULATION, THE TWO REMAINING KUWAITI PAPERS, 
"AL-QABAS" AND "AL-ANBA" BOTH CLAIM THE DISTINCTION OF 
BEING THE TOP-SELLING PAPER IN THE COUNTRY. 
 
"AL-QABAS", FOUNDED IN 1972, IS A SOLID ENTERPRISE 
OWNED BY SOME OF THE WEALTHIEST MEMBERS OF KUWAIT'S 
SUNNI MERCHANT ARISTOCRACY.  ACCORDING TO THE FOUNDING 
CONTRACT OF DAR AL-QABAS FOR PRESS, PRINTING AND 
PUBLISHING AS PRINTED IN THE OFFICIAL GAZETTE "KUWAIT 
AL-YAWM", THE COMPANY'S SHARES ARE EQUALLY DIVIDED INTO 
FIVE PORTIONS OF 400 EACH BELONGING TO: 
 
A.  YUSUF AL-NISIF, DEPUTY CHAIRMAN, WHOSE FATHER, 
ORIGINAL SHAREHOLDER MUHAMMAD YUSUF AL-NISIF, DIED IN 
1982. 
 
B.  BILLIONAIRE MUHAMMAD ABDEL-MUHSEN AL-KHURAFI, 
DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, MEMBER OF 
THE BOARD OF THE NATIONAL BANK OF KUWAIT, AND FATHER OF 
THE CURRENT FINANCE MINISTER. 
 
C.  MUHAMMAD ABDULRAHMAN AL-BAHAR, ALSO A DIRECTOR OF 
THE NATIONAL BANK OF KUWAIT, AND AGENT FOR GENERAL 
ELECTRIC, VOLVO, AND MANY OTHERS. 
 
D.  ABDULAZIZ AL-SHAYA, CHAIRMAN, (WHOSE FAMILY 
ORIGINALLY CAME TO KUWAIT FROM THE SAME NEJDI VILLAGE 
AS THE AL-KHURAFIS).  THE SHAYAS OWN THE KUWAIT 
SHERATON AND A HOST OF OTHER BUSINESSES. 
 
E.  MUHAMMAD JASSEM AL-SAQER, CURRENT EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, 
WHO REPLACED HIS FATHER, ORIGINAL SHAREHOLDER JASSEM 
HAMAD AL-SAQER, DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF THE NATIONAL BANK OF 
KUWAIT, FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE FOREIGN AFFAIRS 
COMMITTEE OF THE DEFUNCT NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, AND BROTHER 
OF ABDUL AZIZ AL-SAQER, THE POWERFUL CHAIRMAN OF THE 
KUWAIT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY. 
THE CONTRACT ESTABLISHED THE COMPANY'S INITIAL CAPITAL 
AT 15,000 KUWAITI DINARS WHICH MEANS THAT EACH ORIGINAL 
SHAREHOLDER PAID KD 3,000 FOR THEIR 400 SHARES.  NOT A 
LARGE INVESTMENT FOR AN ENTERPRISE NOW WORTH IN THE 
TENS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS.  (THE BUSINESS MANAGER OF 
"AL-WATAN" ESTIMATED THAT THE VALUE OF THE PHYSICAL 
ASSETS OF THE PAPERS IS ABOUT 25 MILLION DOLLARS EACH.) 
 
WHILE "AL-QABAS'" OWNERSHIP IS EQUALLY DIVIDED, THE 
PAPER'S HEART IS MUHAMMAD JASSEM AL-SAQER, A WHITTIER 
GRADUATE IN HIS EARLY 40S WHO HAS BEEN ITS DYNAMIC 
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF SINCE 1982.  THE AL-SAQERS ARE 
ORIGINALLY MEMBERS OF THE ONAIZA TRIBE, AS ARE THE 
AL-SABAH, AND WERE PIONEERS IN THE KUWAITI SEA TRADE TO 
INDIA AND AFRICA UNTIL THE MID-19TH CENTURY WHEN THE 
FAMILY FORTUNE AND FAMILY PATRIARCH WENT DOWN WITH ALL 
HANDS IN THE INDIAN OCEAN.  BY THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY, 
THE FAMILY HAD STARTED A SECOND FORTUNE AND MUHAMMAD'S 
GRANDFATHER HAMAD ABDULLAH AL-SAQER WAS A STRONG 
OPPONENT OF AL-SABAH FAMILY RULE.  IN THE 1938 MERCHANT 
FAMILY REVOLT AIMED AT LIMITING AL-SABAH POWER, 
MUHAMMAD'S TWO UNCLES, ABDULLAH (DIED 1974) AND 
ABDULAZIZ (THE FIRST NON-AL-SABAH TO BE NAMED A 
GOVERNMENT MINISTER), PLAYED PROMINENT ROLES. 
 
FOLLOWING IN THE FAMILY TRADITION, MUHAMMAD JASSEM 
AL-SAQER IS A STRONG, OFTEN WITTY, CRITIC OF AL-SABAH 
AUTOCRACY, WHOSE CHALLENGES ALSO EXTEND INTO THE REALM 
OF SPORT CLUB RIVALRIES.  ALTHOUGH "AL-QABAS" IS MORE 
CENTRIST THAN "AL-WATAN", IN MANY WAYS HIS WORLD VIEW 
IS SIMILAR TO THAT OF MUHAMMAD MUSAED AL-SALEH:  BOTH 
PROFESS TO ADMIRE THE AMERICAN POLITICAL SYSTEM AND WAY 
OF LIFE, BUT BOTH INTENSELY DISLIKE U.S. FOREIGN POLICY 
IN GENERAL, AND IN THE MIDDLE EAST IN PARTICULAR 
(ALTHOUGH MOHAMMED JASSEM IS A FERVENT SUPPORTER OF THE 
US NAVAL PROTECTION REGIME AND PRESENCE IN THE GULF). 
AS A MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF THE ARAB COMPANY FOR 
TRADING SECURITIES, MUHAMMAD PARTICIPATED IN THE 1980 
NEGOTIATIONS WHICH LED TO THE COMPANY PURCHASING 19 
PERCENT OF THE NEW YORK INVESTMENT FIRM OF SMITH, 
BARNEY.  THE KUWAITI-SAUDI NEGOTIATING TEAM ALSO 
INCLUDED MUHAMMAD'S BROTHER, WAEL, A PROMINENT 
FINANCIER AND UC-BERKELY GRADUATE. 
 
WITH EXPERIENCE IN INTERNATIONAL FINANCE, AL-SAQER HAS 
SET UP AN INTERNATIONAL EDITION OF "AL-QABAS" CURRENTLY 
PUBLISHED IN PARIS, LONDON AND MARSEILLES (FOR THE 
NORTH AFRICAN MARKET), A VENTURE THAT HAS LOST MONEY 
SINCE ITS INCEPTION IN 1985 (AL-SAQER ADDS THAT "THE 
LOSSES ARE EXPECTED AND MEASURED").  HE HAS AMBITIOUS 
PLANS TO PRINT THE INTERNATIONAL EDITION IN BUDAPEST 
AND IN THE UNITED STATES WITHIN A YEAR.  "AL-QABAS" 
MAINTAINS THE MOST EXTENSIVE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT 
STAFF OF ANY KUWAITI NEWSPAPER WITH LARGE BUREAUS IN 
WASHINGTON, LONDON, BEIRUT, CAIRO, AND EVEN A 
CORRESPONDENT IN MOSCOW.  THE LOCAL EDITION OF 
"AL-QABAS" CIRCULATES EXTENSIVELY IN THE GULF, WITH 
AL-SAQER MAKING THE CLAIM THAT THE PAPER IS THE 
FOURTH-LARGEST CIRCULATING PAPER IN SAUDI ARABIA 
(27,000 COPIES A DAY, AFTER THREE SAUDI PAPERS) AND A 
GROWING MARKET IN IRAQ (ABOUT 9,000 COPIES).  IN 
KUWAIT, HE HAS BEEN THE NEWSPAPER TECHNOLOGY LEADER - 
"AL-QABAS" WAS THE FIRST PAPER TO USE COLOR, AN 
INNOVATION THAT THE OTHER FOUR WERE FORCED TO FOLLOW. 
 
A CANDID MAN IN PRIVATE, WHO IS A USEFUL EMBASSY 
INTERLOCUTOR, AL-SAQER ADMITS THAT THE PAPER'S KUWAIT 
CIRCULATION IS ABOUT 70,000 INSTEAD OF THE 98,000 THAT 
THE PAPER PUBLICLY CLAIMS.  THE RIVALRY BETWEEN 
"AL-QABAS" AND "AL-ANBA" SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN LARGELY 
PERSONALIZED BY AL-SAQER AND FAISAL AL-MARZOUK, WHO 
MAINTAIN ICILY CORRECT RELATIONS, BUT AT TIMES HAVE 
TAKEN TO CUTTING EACH OTHER OUT OF GROUP PICTURES WITH 
THE AMIR. 
 
9.  AL-ANBA 
----------- 
 
FOUNDED IN FEBRUARY, 1976 "AL-ANBA" CLAIMS A 
CIRCULATION OF 102,000 WHICH ITS RIVALS REJECT AS AN 
EXAGGERATION BY ABOUT 30 PERCENT.  ITS MAJORITY OWNERS 
ARE THE EXTREMELY WEALTHY AL-MARZOUK FAMILY.  THE 
MARZOUK'S PAST IS SIMILAR TO THAT OF OTHER SUNNI 
MERCHANT ARISTOCRATS:  MIGRATION FROM ARABIA IN THE 
1700S AS PART OF THE SUBAY TRIBE, SEA TRADE FROM IRAQ 
TO INDIA AND AFRICA, AND GOLD SMUGGLING.  THE 
AL-MARZOUKS ALSO PLAYED A LEADING ROLE IN THE 1938 
MERCHANT FAMILY REVOLT AGAINST AL-SABAH ABSOLUTISM (THE 
SHORT-LIVED 14-MAN PEOPLE'S LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL SET UP 
THEN INCLUDED TWO AL-MARZOUKS AND ONE AL-SAQER). 
 
THE KUWAIT PRESS HOUSE COMPANY WHICH OWNS "AL-ANBA" IS 
OWNED LARGELY (84 PERCENT) BY THE THREE AL-MARZOUK 
BROTHERS AND ONE NEPHEW: 
 
A.  KHALED YUSUF AL-MARZOUK:  THE FAMILY EMPIRE BUILDER 
LARGELY RESPONSIBLE FOR MOVING THE AL-MARZOUKS FROM THE 
RANKS OF THE KUWAITI RICH TO THE SUPER-RICH BY 
EMPHASIZING INTERNATIONAL FINANCE AND REAL ESTATE 
INSTEAD OF TRADE. 
 
B.  FAISAL YUSUF AL-MARZOUK: HARTFORD UNIVERSITY 
EDUCATED EDITOR-IN-CHIEF; DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF THE 
COMMERCIAL BANK OF KUWAIT; BOARD MEMBER OF PETRA BANK 
(JORDAN) AND OF SEVERAL BAHRAINI BANKS; FORMER CHAIRMAN 
OF KUWAIT SHIPBUILDING CORPORATION;  AND HEAVILY 
INVOLVED IN REAL ESTATE IN CALIFORNIA. 
 
C.  JASSEM YUSUF AL-MARZOUK:  KUWAIT'S FIRST JET PILOT 
AND FORMER DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF KUWAIT AIRWAYS. 
 
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PAGE 02        KUWAIT  05979  07 OF 08  021204Z 
 
D.  WALEED KHALED AL-MARZOUK, KHALED YUSUF'S SON. 
 
TWO OTHER AL-MARZOUKS PLAY PROMINENT ROLES AT THE 
NEWSPAPER.  COUSIN AHDI AL-MARZOUK HAS SERVED AS 
CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF "AL-ANBA" AND 
KHALED'S DAUGHTER BIBI, A PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY 
GRADUATE, IS DEPUTY GENERAL MANAGER AND LARGELY RUNS 
THE PAPER DURING THE FREQUENT INTERVALS THAT UNCLE 
FAISAL IS TRAVELLING ON BUSINESS.  BIBI IS ONE OF ONLY 
THREE WOMEN IN IMPORTANT POSITIONS IN THE KUWAITI 
MEDIA.  INTERESTINGLY, ONE OF THE OTHER TWO IS HER 
OLDER SECOND COUSIN, GHUNAIMA FAHED AL-MARZOUK, OWNER 
AND EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF THE GLOSSY WOMEN'S MAGAZINE 
"OSRATI". 
 
THE REMAINING 16 PERCENT OF THE KUWAIT PRESS HOUSE 
COMPANY IS HELD BY ABOUT 40 INDIVIDUALS, OF WHICH 
SEVERAL ARE MEMBERS OF THE AL-FULAIJ FAMILY (ALSO 
ORIGINALLY MEMBERS OF THE SUBAY TRIBE AND HISTORICALLY 
BOTH BUSINESS AND MARRIAGE PARTNERS OF THE AL-MARZOUKS) 
INCLUDING UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA GRADUATE GHAZI 
AL-FULAIJ, VICE CHAIRMAN OF "AL-ANBA", HIS BROTHER 
FAISAL AL-FULAIJ AND THEIR COUSIN KHALED AL-FULAIJ ALI. 
 
"AL-ANBA" IS, ALONG WITH "AL-SIYASSAH", LESS CRITICAL 
OF US FOREIGN POLICY AND LESS CRITICAL OF THE STATUS 
QUO IN KUWAIT THAN THE OTHER THREE DAILIES.  THE PAPER 
HAS TILTED TOWARDS IRAQ IN THE IRAN-IRAQ AND 
SYRIAN-IRAQI STRUGGLE AND HAS HARSHLY CRITICIZED SYRIAN 
INTERVENTION IN LEBANON FOR YEARS (THEY ALSO HAVE 
SEVERAL ANTI-BA'ATH SYRIAN EXILES ON THEIR PAYROLL). 
FAISAL AND BIBI HAVE BEEN PERSONALLY EXTREMELY 
ANTAGONISTIC TO WHAT THEY REGARD AS KUWAITI SHIA 
TROUBLE-MAKING IN THE COUNTRY.  NOT SURPRISINGLY, THE 
PAPER'S OFFICES WERE BOMBED IN JUNE 1976 AS A RESULT OF 
LOCAL BUSINESS FEUDS.  IN THE 1980S, BOARD MEMBER 
KHALED YUSUF AL-MARZOUK WAS THE OBJECT OF A BUNGLED 
ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT IN SPAIN THAT KILLED HIS DRIVER. 
THE ATTACKERS WERE SUPPOSEDLY PRO-IRANIAN ELEMENTS.  IN 
THE 1985 PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS, THE PAPER STRONGLY 
SUPPORTED RELATIVELY CONSERVATIVE, NON-FUNDAMENTALIST 
CANDIDATES. 
 
10.  CONCLUSION 
--------------- 
 
KUWAIT, WITH A POPULATION OF ALMOST TWO MILLION (27.9 
PERCENT OF THEM KUWAITIS) SEEMS TOO SMALL A MARKET FOR 
FIVE NEWSPAPERS WITH A CLAIMED COMBINED CIRCULATION OF 
405,000 COPIES.  EVEN ALLOWING FOR THE PAPERS' REGIONAL 
AND INTERNATIONAL SALES, THE REAL FIGURE IS CLOSER TO 
300,000.  A SHORT-TERM FORECAST WOULD POINT TO A 
FURTHER CONSOLIDATION OF THEIR MARKET SHARE BY THE BIG 
THREE ("AL-ANBA", "AL-QABAS" AND "AL-WATAN") WITH 
PERHAPS "AL-SIYASSAH" EVENTUALLY ABSORBING "AL-RAI 
AL-AAM" AFTER THE DEATH OF ABDULAZIZ AL-MUSAEED. 
 
ON THE POLITICAL FRONT, THE GOK CONFRONTS A DAILY 
ARABIC PRESS WHICH, WHILE TEMPORARILY CURBED BY 
CENSORSHIP, NEVERTHELESS TENDS TO BE PRO-DEMOCRACY, TO 
REPRESENT THE INTERESTS OF THE SUNNI MERCHANT ELITE, 
AND TO STAND IN OPPOSITION TO INCREASED AL-SABAH 
AUTOCRACY.  THERE IS LITTLE DOUBT THAT A RESTORATION OF 
FREEDOM OF THE PRESS, AS IT EXISTED PRIOR TO1986, 
WOULD BRING ABOUT THE IMMEDIATE RESURRECION OF AN 
ADVERSARIAL RELATIONSHIP IN WHICH LEAING NEWSPAPERS 
WOULD CHIP AWAY AT AL-SABAH PRROGATIVES.  THIS IS 
PROBABLY NOT GOING TO HAPEN FOR A LONG TIME, IF EVER. 
AS WITH RESTORATON OF THE PARLIAMENT HOWEVER, THE GOK 
IS UNLIELY TO FULLY TAKE THE LID OFF THE PRESS OR 
RELA OTHER INTERNAL CONTROLS AS LONG AS IT REMAINS 
ERIOUSLY CONCERNED ABOUT THE THREAT OF INTERNAL 
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PAGE 02        KUWAIT  05979  08 OF 08  021205Z 
 
SUBVERSION.  THIS, IN TURN, IS LIKELY TO BE A 
TOP-PRIORITY CONCERN AS LONG AS THE INTERNAL ITUATION 
IN IRAN REMAINS UNSTABLE AND THERE IS O NEGOTIATED 
SETTLEMENT OF THE IRAN-IRAQ WAR 
HOWELL 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
CONFIDENTIAL 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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