Banner headlines demand "Democracy Now!" and chant "We Want Food and Electricity!" In the chaos of reconstruction, with no censors about, Kuwait has its freest and most lively media in years.

The Iraqis stole Kuwait's presses, ravaged its radio studios and gutted its television station. But the seven-month Iraqi occupation also broke - at least for now - the iron hand of Kuwaiti media censors."We've paid a huge price for our freedom," said Mubarak al-Adwani, a 33-year-old social scientist and an editor of the newest periodical, Voice of the People. "There's no way we're going to give it up."

After enduring the occupation and frustrated over the state of the city, many are calling on the ruling family to share power with the people.

There are gas lines, food lines and water lines. People are tired of an endless diet of canned foods. There is still no electricity and none is expected for at least a week. The emir hasn't returned from Saudi Arabia.

"If the government is intelligent, they will leave us alone because we are like a balloon, the air must go out," said Abdul Aziz al-Mansour, who heads state-run Radio Kuwait.

Since Iraqi troops were forced from Kuwait, at least four periodi-cals have appeared, being churned out of computers and copying machines stashed in living rooms and basement dens.

The publications are printed in quantities of about 2,000 an issue, but each is copied and re-copied until its black ink turns almost white.

Some, like Voice of the People, attempt to be dailies. Others, such as Steadfastness and February 26 - named for the day the Iraqis fled Kuwait - are weeklies.

All would like to become newspapers, but that will take time. The Ira-qis left only two large printing presses in Kuwait City, trucking the other seven to Baghdad.

Right now, copying toner is the most wanted commodity, as are the paint brushes used to clean mud caked on printers stashed underground during the occupation.

Kuwait Radio broadcasts 19 hours a day and Kuwait Television is on the air for 90 minutes, even though most Kuwaitis still don't have electricity.

Some media have been bold in criticizing the government, which for the four years preceding Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion had kept a tight rein on newspapers and political opposition.

In a column entitled "The Latest Rumor," Steadfastness wrote in its March 5 edition: "Have you heard the latest rumor that electricity and water will be back in the next two days?"

The media has also chided the government for its failings, which have included sending in food in huge container trucks that rotted because no one organized smaller trucks needed for unloading and distribution.