Kuwait’s trade minister has cancelled the business license of the company that publishes a newspaper known for being critical of the government, citing violations of corporate regulations, the newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Al-Watan was one of two newspapers suspended by a judge for two weeks last year after they reported on an audio recording that discussed an alleged plot to overthrow the Gulf state’s rulers.
Kuwait, a major oil producer and U.S. ally, has imposed a news blackout on an investigation into the tape, saying that media coverage about it was damaging to the country.
Al-Watan, in a statement posted on its website, said a trade ministry representative delivered the minister’s decision on Monday evening. Officials from the ministry arrived soon afterwards to seal the company’s office.
The suspension was prompted by “violations of the requirements for a minimum capital” stipulated by the Kuwaiti corporate law, according to a photo of the decision by Commerce and Industry Minister Abdulmohsen al-Madaj that was published on the al-Watan website.
Al-Watan said it plans to appeal the decision.
“The Dar al-Watan company announces it is taking all legal measures to continue its operations and to retain its legal rights as soon as possible,” the statement said.
No paper edition was published on Tuesday but the newspaper’s website appeared to be still in operation.
Last year, state news agency KUNA cited the Information Ministry as saying that al-Watan and Alam Alyawm newspapers had published “articles and views” about the alleged plot against Kuwait’s rulers that might affect investigations by the Public Prosecution and “could undermine the national interest”.
Al-Watan’s editor-in-chief, Sheikh Khalifa Ali al-Khalifa al-Sabah, is a member of Kuwait’s al-Sabah ruling family. Alam Alyawm is a separate publication that is close to Kuwait’s political opposition.
Reports about the tape related to the alleged plot have been featured online and in local newspapers since the start of 2014, prompting a rare call by the emir’s office to stop discussing the topic.
The public prosecutor opened a case on the tape in December 2013 after a legal complaint by a former parliament speaker who asked for an investigation into tweets about the recording.
Kuwait is home to about a dozen daily newspapers, which often include criticism of government ministers, including some ruling family members. However, issues related to the ruling system itself – a hereditary dynasty – are especially sensitive.