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Trump, Kuwait and The New Arab

Kuwait has had a de-facto ban in place for years, despite its public denials [AFP]

Date of publication: 7 February, 2017

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We've published thousands of pieces from a region in which independent journalism is rare. Naturally, it was the one we made a mistake with that went viral.

On the very early morning of February 1, at around 0500, one of our overnight editors came across a story published by local Gulf media on a decision by the State of Kuwait to ban five nationalities from being granted visas.

With the intense coverage of the Trump Muslim Ban, and justifiable international public interest, he very quickly wrote and published a story without realising it was a decision made in 2011. The piece was not representative of the quality with which we wish to be associated with or aspire to publishing.

Mistakes happen, and unfortunately we found ourselves in a situation where a serious mistake like this (for which the member of staff has been disciplined) went viral - before we had amended our story, an aggregator site published it word-for-word, only for that to be re-posted by President Trump on his Facebook page.

That aggregator site has since issued this statement.

The irony of what happened is not lost on us, of course; prior to Trump's election and after it, we have spent much of our very limited resources on covering what he does, knowing that it is the duty of every news outlet to do so, given his immense impact on the world and of course on the region on which we are focused.

We hope that we have been able to bring new perspectives to what is now a discussion on the future of international relations. Covering the impact of "fake news" on this presidency is one of our priorities, but to find ourselves unwitting contributors to one of the president's many questionable endorsements is both professionally and personally frustrating.

This mistake, a one-off in our history of reporting from across the region, is a solitary aberration from our usually excellent coverage from a part of the world not known for its media transparency or officials' willingness to talk to the press.

We will always do our best, given our limited resources, to provide well-sourced and researched coverage of the region.

For the record, the State of Kuwait did issue a ban on citizens from five countries in 2011. This story was carried by Gulf News, Arabian Business, and the BBC, and may have well been to do with the political upheaval that the region was beginning to go through at that time.

In checking up the story over the past few days, our sources have given us clear examples of how a ban was enforced during 2011. Official statements, however, have been very hard to come by.

Conflicting reports suggest a lifting of the ban was imminent in 2013, yet appeared to still be in place in 2014. Our sources in Kuwait tell us that even now, Syrians in particular are finding it impossible to enter and that, since 2011, unless one has good government connections, it is very difficult to get visas if you are from these countries.

This suggests that internally a decision has been made to stop or make it very difficult for people to gain visas.

It remains unclear exactly when the ban was lifted, but we welcome the recent statement by the Kuwaiti foreign ministry and look forward to seeing the country accept greater numbers of refugees, particularly from Syria and Iraq, in coming days and months. We have amended our original story appropriately.

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