Kuwait's liberalization of the press and publication law in 2006 sparked a threefold increase in the number of Arabic language newspapers that defied conventional wisdom about print media decline and also survived the world financial crisis. The article provides a political explanation for this puzzle, arguing that newspapers serve as political instruments in elite rivalries in Kuwait's semi-democratic setting. It qualifies the idea of newspapers as civil society institutions and shows how political control is reproduced in a liberal context. It thereby contributes to our understanding of the role of the press in hybrid regimes.