World News

 2005: Jan-March

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31st March   Shrinking CineWorld

From DCE Cinemas

Government revokes Cineworld’s license for airing porn movies. The Indian Information and Broadcasting Ministry has suspended the broadcasting rights of a Mumbai based private television movie channel for airing porn movies.

A government spokesperson also warned others to fall in line or face similar punishment handed down to Cine World network, which has been ordered to switch off for a month for broadcasting movies perceived as obscene.

The issue of content on channels came up during the meeting between the Government and various stakeholders, including cable operators; broadcasters; women and other concerned groups, last month.

CMS, an agency to monitor the activities of the channels, records the tapes, which can be used as evidence against those who violate the provisions of the Cable TV Network Regulation Act. We have tapes to show that the channel had violated the provisions of the Cable TV Network Regulation Act by showing illegal scenes, Information and Broadcasting Secretary Navin Chawla told PTI in New Delhi. The government is serious on this issue and will keep a close watch on channels engaging in such activities.

He said I&B ministry had received many representations from women’s groups, consumer organizations and educationists concerning material being shown on channels.

The government, which is in the process of setting up a separate regulatory body for monitoring content on various TV channels, has warned ‘CineWorld’ that if it engaged in similar activities again its license would be terminated

 

30th March   Freedoms Fit for a King

From The New Zealand Herald

About 200 Nepali journalists defied a ban on protests to march through the Himalayan kingdom's capital demanding restoration of press freedoms curbed since King Gyanendra seized power last month.

In Kathmandu, riot police stood guard as reporters, editors and photographers waved banners seeking the release of 13 journalists held after Gyanendra imposed emergency and suspended civil liberties. We have resolved to continue the struggle until there is complete press freedom in the country, Tara Nath Dahal, head of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, said in a statement. Nepali journalists have to fight for full democracy, press freedom and human rights, the statement said.

Authorities have crushed small protests, and big anti-king rallies have not been possible because of heavy security across the Himalayan nation.  Political parties and human rights groups say hundreds of politicians, journalists and human rights activists remain under detention since Gyanendra assumed power on Feb. 1. He also banned media criticism of his move, saying it was necessary to crush an increasingly bloody Maoist revolt in which more than 11,000 people have died in nine years.

Dozens of independent radio stations have been barred from broadcasting news and hundreds of journalists have lost jobs, media groups say. Some journalists in Nepal are using the internet to sidestep the tight censorship and many outspoken Web logs, or blogs, have sprung up.

 

30th March   Hilary's Failing Moral Health

From Spong

Violent video games have been condemned by Hillary Clinton as a “major threat” to moral health. She singled out Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto series, calling for a study in how violent videogames affect children, and joining Republican voices that are demanding a $90 million survey into these game's effects.

Children are playing a game that encourages them to have sex with prostitutes and then murder them, she said in a statement released from her office in New York. This is a silent epidemic of media desensitisation that teaches kids it's OK to diss people because they are a woman, they're a different colour or they're from a different place, according to the Sunday Times.

The requested report will demand a complete investigation into the …cognitive, social, emotional and physical development… impact of digital entertainment as seen by pundits, and further evidence of Clinton’s rightward swing as she prepares for a nomination from the badly scarred Democrat party in mid-2007.

 

29th March   Rubbish Monitoring

From The Age

The Spanish Government has launched a campaign to limit what is widely known in Spain as telebasura (telerubbish) - the dominance of gossip programs on television.

Spain's three main broadcasters screen an average of 14 hours a day of "programs of the heart" in which panels of self-appointed experts discuss in intimate detail the private lives of celebrities. Footballers and bullfighters are particular targets.

The broadcasters have said that Government plans to step in would be like a return to the days of censorship under the dictator Francisco Franco. The matter came to a head last week when David Beckham, who plays football with Real Madrid, hinted that he may be forced to leave Spain because of paparazzi following his children to school.

One bullfighter, Francisco Rivera, made a tearful appearance on national television complaining: I can't stand any more of it. Too much rubbish has been said about me, my family and my friends. In a country in which privacy laws are non-existent and where the Hello! magazine phenomenon was born, matadors have called for the kiss-and-tell stories and "persecution" to stop.

They also demanded that politicians change the laws to accept privacy rulings made by the European Court of Human Rights. Many Spaniards, it would seem, agree. A recent poll found that despite the programs in question enjoying high ratings, television is the institution least trusted by Spaniards, ranking behind the church, unions and politicians.

In response, the Government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero met recently the main broadcasters to discuss a code of conduct on what can be shown on television during children's hours, 6am to 10pm.

The Government has also promised to set up an official television monitoring body - Spain is the only major European country without one.

 

29th March   Electing to Blog On

From CNET News

Political bloggers and other online commentators narrowly avoided being slammed with a sweeping set of Internet regulations this week.

When the Federal Election Commission kicked off the process of extending campaign finance rules to the Internet on Thursday, the public document was substantially altered from one prepared just two weeks earlier and reviewed by CNET News.com.

The 44-page document, prepared by the FEC general counsel's office and dated March 10, took a radically different approach and would have imposed decades-old rules designed for federal campaigns on many political Web sites and bloggers.

According to the March 10 document, political Web sites would be regulated by default unless they were password-protected and read by fewer than 500 people in a 30-day period. Many of those Web sites would have been required to post government-mandated notices or risk violating campaign finance laws.

The explanation for the dramatic changes during the last two weeks, according to one FEC official familiar with the events, is the unusual public outcry that followed a public alarm that Commissioner Bradley Smith sounded about a pending government crackdown on bloggers. After Smith's warning, an army of bloggers mobilized to oppose intrusive regulations and prominent members of Congress warned the commission not to be overly aggressive.

Brad Deutsch, the FEC's assistant general counsel, declined to discuss the differences between the two documents in a brief conversation Wednesday.

 

27th March   Bhutan Culturally Degraded

From Kuensel Online

The decision to slash about a dozen TV channels such as Fashion TV was based on general public concerns, reports from a media impact study, and in preparation for the Media Act which would specify putting limits to channels, according to regulating authorities.

The rationale, according to the Bhutan Communication Authority (BCA), was that many foreign channels were a bad influence on the Bhutanese social and cultural values. The 2003-2004 media impact study showed that there were a lot of bad effects on our social and culture standards from the many foreign channels, BCA’s officiating director, Phub Tshering, said. The report also pointed out that we lack our own production, which means that we were not trying to develop our own local programmes.

There was no study or research done on what basis the channels were selected, but the Association of Private cable Operators, BCA, and the media department decided to do away with channels that are not necessarily desirable to be viewed in general public. We heard a lot of public concerns of children not performing well in studies because of TV, concerns of cultural degradation, and other problems TV brought along, Phub Tshering said. We decided to reduce the channels.

The fashion TV channel is not available in many countries as an open channel, Phub Tshering said. Bhutan is one country with many foreign programmes coming through open channels. This is why we are initiating a process to regulate the channels. In future, we will phase out the soaps, but we also need to develop our own production. If need be, we have to replace them by Bhutanese soaps and serials.

According to the director of department information and media, Tshering Yonten, the influence of cable TV was devastating: especially when TV bombarded us on daily basis. We cannot out-right condemn TV, but what our society is absorbing from TV is a big concern to the society.

The regulation should have been in place a long time back, says Dawa Penjo, a media relations officer: While social activities are fast changing, there is a dominant influence from Indian and western culture

There is much more violence and vulgarity in Hindi films than on FTV and Tensports, said an observer, John Chiramal. It is a bit ridiculous to do away with these channels. I don’t think watching FTV would corrupt your morals.

 

23rd March   Signed Up for Bad Law

From CNET News

Utah's governor signed a bill on Monday that would require Internet providers to block Web sites deemed pornographic and could also target e-mail providers and search engines.

The controversial legislation will create an official list of Web sites with publicly available material deemed "harmful to minors." Internet providers in Utah must provide their customers with a way to disable access to sites on the list or face felony charges.

Technology companies had urged Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman not to sign the bill saying it was constitutionally suspect and worded so vaguely its full impact is still unclear.

The measure, Upon request by a consumer, a service provider may not transmit material from a content provider site listed on the adult content registry. A service provider is defined as any person or company who provides an Internet access service to a consumer, which could include everything from cable companies to universities, coffee shops, and homes with open 802.11 wireless connections.

I am having a hard time seeing how this law will survive a constitutional challenge, given the track record of state anti-Internet porn laws--which are routinely struck down as violating the First Amendment and the dormant Commerce Clause, Eric Goldman, a professor at the Marquette University Law School wrote in a critique of the law.

Also targeted are content providers, defined as any company that creates, collects, acquires or organizes electronic data for profit. Any content provider that the Utah attorney general claims hosts material that's harmful to minors must rate it or face third-degree felony charges.

Lobbying group NetCoalition, whose members include Google, Yahoo and News.com publisher CNET Networks, had written a letter to the Utah Senate saying the legislation could affect search engines, e-mail providers and Web hosting companies. A search engine that links to a Web site in Utah might be required...to 'properly rate' the Web site, the letter warned.

A federal judge struck down a similar law in Pennsylvania last year.

 

23rd March   Plotting Obscene Persecution

From AVN

Senator Sam Brownback convened a hearing today before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights. The hearing was titled “Obscenity Prosecution and the Constitution,”

The witnesses who appeared were professor Robert A. Destro, attorney Patrick A. Trueman, a former Justice Department prosecutor, and Prof. Frederick Schauer, none of whom were particularly friendly to the adult industry.

Destro is a professor of law at the Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law and Schauer is a Frank Stanton Professor of the First Amendment at Harvard University. Both have strong conservative credentials, and Destro has ties to right-wing religious groups as well.

Sen. Brownback said in his opening remarks:Government has a compelling and real-life interest in the matter because of porn’s adverse effects on individuals, families and communities in the form of criminality and addiction. The editor and publisher of AVN, a journal of the pornography trade, recently stated that ‘it’s scary’ how much is made on porn, about this there can be little debate. The porn industry has grown rapidly in the last decade. Part of the reason for this growth is that the nature of, and access to, sexually explicit material in the marketplace has been radically transformed and expanded.”

Brownback then launched into an attack on Judge Gary Lancaster’s decision in the case of the United States vs. Extreme Associates, claiming, according to many legal scholars, another reason for the industry’s growth is a legal regime that has undermined the whole notion that illegal obscenity can be prosecuted.

Brownback also claimed that half of all pay-per-view movies in hotels are pornographic and that pornography is now the cause of nearly half the divorces in America. But he added that “porn had an almost non-existent role in divorce just seven or eight years ago.”

The first witness to testify was Prof. Destro, who began by noting the importance of name-calling in Constitutional law. If you call it pornography, it’s not protected,” he said.

Prof. Destro called the U.S. vs. Extreme Associates “an interesting case,” where Judge Lancaster “ignored the Constitution” and “created a right to privacy…that would legalize prostitution.”

Prof. Destro suggested that the best method of regulating sexually explicit material would be to regulate “specific behavior that’s easy to define and is not Constitutionally protected.” He cited the exploitation of women and sexual battery committed during the production of a porn video as examples of conduct that the government could regulate.

The next speaker was Trueman, who trumpeted the fact that while he was a prosecutor the government collected $24 million in fines as a result of prosecuting pornography.

Trueman believes that it should be the juries in various jurisdictions around the country who should decide what is considered obscene in their areas, not the dictates of the Department of Justice. He noted that he was encouraged by the firm stance taken by new Attorney General Alberto Gonzales against pornography and he would encourage increased prosecutions of sexual material.

Prof. Schauer said that, unlike some of his colleagues, he did not believe that obscenity prosecution is unconstitutional. However, he felt that the Justice Department should take several issues into consideration when deciding to mount obscenity prosecutions in the future.

For example, while he said that judges should not ignore the law, he also felt that prosecutors should also adhere as closely to the law as possible. Prof. Schauer testified that he does not believe that America needs any new obscenity laws, and that all material that should be prosecuted, could be prosecuted under the standard enunciated in the seminal case, Miller v. California. He noted that the Miller case divided pornography into three categories: violent pornography, degrading pornography and material which was neither violent nor degrading, and he suggested that the latter category should not be dealt with under the law in the same way as the violent and degrading kinds – a stance that he claimed was supported by the Meese Commission Report.

At one point, Sen. Brownback asked Trueman, if the Extreme decision stands, What will happen to pornography prosecution? Trueman responded, The ruling itself is so extreme, prosecutions will go by the wayside.

Trueman also claimed that if the Justice Department began prosecutions of mainstream companies such as General Motors that are involved in sending adult material to the public via cable and satellite that the companies would stop distributing the material.

In an answer to another of Sen. Brownback’s inquiries, Trueman said that the porn defense bar is rather small, just nine or 10 attorneys in the country, and that the federal government should give aid to local prosecutors when possible to help them fight the defense attorneys’ expertise. However, he said, Prosecutions {of obscene material} should primarily be done by the Department of Justice.

The Free Speech Coalition had already submitted a statement by board members/attorneys Reed Lee and Jeffrey Douglas but that was not mentioned during the hearing.

 

22nd March   Kissing Fair Play Goodbye

From The Jakarta Post

Already the subject of widespread criticism from liberals, the draft revision of the Criminal Code has sparked further protests for being too harsh on crimes committed by citizens but failing to deter the state from practicing violence.

The Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), a non-governmental organization, said the draft poses the danger of overcriminalization, which could lead to the misuse of criminal sanctions.
The Criminal Code is no longer perceived as an ultimate response to crime but as a repressive instrument at the disposal of the state. Instead of emphasizing the protection of individual rights, it preserves the political interests of the state and certain majority groups, ELSAM director Ifdhal Kasim told a recent media conference.

While being excessively accommodating to the interests of the state, the new draft failed to recognize crimes committed by the state or government. Ifdhal said there should, for instance, be provisions criminalizing state officials who intentionally abused their power or facilities to commit crimes. It also needed to impose penalties for human rights violations committed by the government, he added.

Other articles that have been criticized include those on public morality, especially the proposed sanctions for possessing pornography, kissing in public places, adultery and unmarried couples living together. These articles set up victimless crimes. These things are connected with ethics, manners and norms and should not be categorized as crimes, Ifdhal said.

Examples of overcriminalized articles in the draft revision of the Criminal Code

Article 209: Any person who violates the law by spreading or promoting through the media, verbally or in writing the principles of communism or Marxism-Leninism, with the intention of changing or replacing the state ideology Pancasila, faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail.

Article 212: Any person who violates the law by demonstrating the intention verbally, in writing or through the media of abolishing or changing Pancasila in such a way as to create public disorder, loss of life or material losses may be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

Article 308: Any person found to have disseminated uncertain, exaggerated or incomplete news that could cause social disorder may be fined up to Rp 30 million (US$3,300) or jailed for up to one year.

Article 400: Anybody who verbally or in writing mocks the state authorities and institutions so as to result in social chaos may be imprisoned for up to two years and fined Rp 30 million.

Article 476: A maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a fine up to Rp 300 million may be imposed on any adult who in a public place reveals any private part of the body, goes naked, locks lips, dances erotically, masturbates or simulates masturbation, or has intercourse or simulates acts of sexual intercourse.

 

20th March   Adult Games Not Allowed in Australia

From The Sydney Morning Herald

Video game classifications categories must be updated to prevent games not suitable for children being banned altogether, a civil liberties watchdog has urged. Australia's video game classification laws stop at MA, restricting sales to children above 15 years old. With no adult classification, any games considered unsuitable for 15-year-olds are therefore banned from sale.

The request coincides with the expected release later this year of Narc, a game in which players shoot rivals and take drugs such as crack cocaine and speed.

Australia executive director Irene Graham said There is a desperate need for an R (restricted) classification for computer games in Australia,
It's obviously a concern if children are getting access to material that's really only suitable for adults, but to us it's the same as the R(-rated) film situation.

Dr Jeffrey Brand, an associate professor of communications and media at Queensland's Bond University, said Australia was the only Western country which did not allow adult classification of video games.

According to the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia, 70 per cent of video game players in Australia are over 18, challenging a stereotype that most video game players are small children and teenagers.

The Office of Film and Literature Classification, which administers all censorship laws in Australia, commissioned a report into video games in 1999. Among other findings, the report, Computer Games and Australians Today, found that the type of violent or explicit content in some banned games was allowed in films.
It appears anomalous, and without scientific basis, to treat one medium as different from others in this respect.

 

20th March   Fair & Balanced? Its a Fair Cop

I was going to make a quip about being "fair & balanced like the Daily Mail" only that would be horribly unfair to the Daily Mail.

From Twin Cities

A journalism study shows that Murdoch's Fox News is more opinionated and 'more deeply sourced' than rivals.

In covering the Iraq war last year, 73 percent of the stories on Fox News included the opinions of the anchors and journalists reporting them, a new study says. By contrast, 29 percent of the war reports on MSNBC and 2 percent of those on CNN included the journalists' own views.

These findings — the figures were similar for coverage of other stories — "seem to challenge" Fox's slogan of "we report, you decide," says the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

In a 617-page report, the group also found that "Fox is more deeply sourced than its rivals," while CNN is the least transparent about its sources of the three cable channels, but more likely to present multiple points of view.

CNN spokeswoman Christa Robinson says the study "reaffirms what anyone watching CNN already knows. CNN's reporting is driven by news, not opinion."

The Project for Excellence in Journalism, a Washington-based research group, offers a three-part breakdown of cable journalists voicing their opinions. From 11 a.m. to noon, this happened on 52 percent of the stories on Fox, 50 percent on MSNBC and 2.3 percent on CNN. Among news-oriented evening shows, journalist opinions were voiced on 70 percent of the stories on Fox's "Special Report With Brit Hume," due in part to its regular analysts panel at the show's end; 9 percent on MSNBC's "Countdown With Keith Olbermann"; and 9 percent on CNN's "NewsNight With Aaron Brown."

As for the most popular prime-time shows, nearly every story — 97 percent — contained opinion on Fox's "O'Reilly Factor"; 24 percent on MSNBC's "Hardball With Chris Matthews"; and 0.9 percent on CNN's "Larry King Live." King devoted nearly half his time to entertainment and lifestyle topics.

The project describes cable news reporting as thin compared with the ABC, NBC and CBS evening newscasts. Only a quarter of the cable stories examined contained two or more identifiable sources, compared with 49 percent of network evening news stories and 81 percent of newspaper front-page stories.

This, says the study, is in part because cable leans heavily on live reports, 60 percent of which are based on only a single identifiable source ("the White House said today," etc.). What's more, cable news is far more one-sided than other media outlets, with only a quarter of the stories involving controversy making more than a passing reference to a second point of view. By contrast, says the report, the network morning shows, PBS and newspaper front pages were more than three times as likely to contain a mix of views.

Cable networks have gravitated, particularly as Fox has surged in the ratings, toward programs and somewhat less toward reporting, says Tom Rosenstiel, the group's director. He says opinion-laden journalism
probably is part of Fox's identity, but it's not true of all the programs.

 

20th March   Unnatural Views of the Publication Appraisal Foundation

From The Taipei Times

A Taipei bookstore specializing in gay and lesbian literature was slapped with indecency charges, sparking a heated debate over the meaning of morality on issues of pornography and homosexuality.

Lai Jeng-jer, proprietor of Gin Gin's, a Taipei store specializing in gay and lesbian literature, was charged in 2003 with violating Article 235 of the Criminal Code, which states: A person who distributes, sells, publicly displays, or by other means shows to another person in an indecent writing, drawing, or other [work] shall be punished.

Customs officers confiscated more than 200 magazines imported by the bookstore in 2003. Later the same year, the Keelung District prosecutors went to the bookstore and took away more than 500 magazines, including some that are legally published in Hong Kong as well as His, a local publication.

The matter proceeded to a second hearing. The judge and Lai, accompanied by his lawyer, had a fierce debate on the issue of indecency over the photos in 101 magazines that contain what the Publication Appraisal Foundation defined as indecent pictures and content.

The judge and the foundation said that the erect penises shown in the magazines are unnatural, and words like sperm are indecent, which I found ridiculous, Lai said. According to health education textbooks, an erect penis is a natural response any normal man has. It is wrong to demonize human body parts with terms such as indecency.

Unable to reach any conclusion, the Keelung District decided to continue the hearing and reach a verdict in April.

Gay-rights advocates and gender issues experts have questioned the judgment of both the Keelung District judge and the Publication Appraisal Foundation for defining the photos as indecent and an offense against morality. They call the case an example of the demonisation and dehumanization of gay and lesbian groups.

Wu Ming-hsuan, spokesperson for the Coalition Against Pseudo-Rating Regulations, said: The need for sexual information will never stop, and the definition of pornography remains a debatable issue. However, the government and conservative groups should stop playing the role of regulator and banning pornography, It is important for a democratic society to respect the freedom to read, and accept the existence of exotic and different voices or ideologies.

Lai said the recent release of the original cut of noted director Tsai Ming-liang's  latest film, The Wayward Cloud, contains explicit nude scenes and "deviant" sexual behaviors, and shows the need for the public to tolerate and also accept the various representation of human bodies and sexual orientations.
If the government and the public recognized the film's artistry, they should be able to accept the photo display or written words of human body parts or sexual behaviors, such as penis, oral sex, or sperm, which are natural and nothing to be ashamed of.

 

18th March   Indecent Cable Censorship

I wonder if removing tits from TV will reduce the US appetite for war-mongering, torture and killing 

From The Hollywood Reporter

The chairman of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee wants to alter the indecency legislation his panel will soon consider so that pay TV and broadcast TV come under a similar legal rules.

Republican Senator Ted Stevens said he intended to have a committee vote soon as possible on the bill: I intend to try and level the playing field. I take the position that at the time the Supreme Court made its decision about cable, cable was just one of the ways for public access to television products. Today 85% of the television that is brought to American homes is brought by cable, and I believe that the playing field should be leveled.

Stevens told a broadcaster conference this month that he intended to bring cable and satellite TV, including such programming as HBO and Showtime, under the same indecency regulations broadcasters face, but this is the first time he's said he wants to include it in the Broadcast Decency Act. In February, the House approved legislation that would boost the maximum fine for indecency from $32,500 to $500,000 for a company and from $11,000 to $500,000 for an individual entertainer. The bill also removes an FCC provision that gave individuals a warning before issuing a fine.

Although Stevens said he wants to harmonize the rules of the road, he also said,
We're not going to censor cable. We ought to find some way to say, here is a block of channels, whether it's delivered by broadband, by VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), by whatever it is, to a home, that is clear of the stuff you don't want your children to see. And, were not saying you can't, you know, you can buy anything you want, I don't care how they package it.

 

17th March    Bahrain Incites Hatred Against Itself

Surely the Bahraini regime is also guilty of inciting hatred against itself by its own actions.

From Index on Censorship

The Bahraini moderator of an online discussion forum and two web technicians detained on charges of defaming King Hamad have been freed after two weeks in custody, Middle East Online has reported.

"They released us last night, but the investigation is continuing," Ali Abdel Imam, editor of the Bahrain Online website who had been in detention since February 27, said. The three were detained on charges of "defaming the king, inciting hatred against the regime and spreading rumors and lies that could cause disorder," lawyer Ahmed al-Arayedh said after their arrest. He said the trio were accused of running a website that made it possible to publish such material, not of writing the material themselves. The two web technicians, Hussein Yussef and Mohammad al-Musawi, were arrested on 1 March. The three were released after refusing an earlier offer to pay the equivalent of 2,660 dollars bail.

 

16th March   Hardly a Tropical Paradise

From Seven

An Australian man who allegedly had three Playboy magazines in his apartment could spend six months in a Papua New Guinea jail. The 59-year-old, from Melbourne, faced a court in the Papua New Guinea capital Port Moresby this week, charged with possession of pornography.

A Papua New Guinea police spokesman said officers had earlier raided his home in the suburb of Koki, finding the magazines in a box.

The man, who had been working as a workshop manager for a construction company in Port Moresby, denied any knowledge of the magazines and denied the charges, the spokesman said. He said officers had searched the man's apartment, acting on a warrant following complaints he had committed an assault and illegally discharged a pistol. No firearms were found, but the three Playboy magazines were found in a box during the search, he said.

The man was granted bail when he faced Boroko District Court this week. He will reappear in court again on a date to be set, the spokesman said.

The pornography possession charge carries a fine of up to 500 kina ($A203) or six months in jail.

 

16th March   Missourian Repression

From ColumbiaMissourian

With little debate, the Senate gave first-round approval Monday to legislation aiming to make it tough for the adult entertainment industry to operate in Missouri.

The bill, SB 32, would impose a charge of $5 per customer for sexually oriented businesses, from strip clubs to adult bookstores, and a 20 percent tax on their revenues.

Travelers in our state are being sent a signal that Missouri is a porn-friendly state, sponsoring Senator Matt Bartle, said during earlier debate on the bill. Missouri law has fallen sadly behind the laws and ordinances in other jurisdictions. The legislation needs another vote to move to the House.

Bartle said he’s not concerned about the industry’s claims that the legislation violates constitutional rights to free speech and expression. He said it is modeled after what worked and withstood court challenges in other states.

The legislation would restrict such businesses to operating only between 10 a.m. and midnight, and businesses could not be open on Sundays or holidays. Also, customers and strippers could not touch, and customers could not tip strippers. Total nudity would be banned, and no one under 21 could work in such businesses.

 

15th March   Obscenely Biased

Based on an article from AVN

A Senate committee is scheduled for Wednesday under a new title, "Obscenity Prosecution and the Constitution." The original hearing was titled “Obscenity Prosecution of the First Amendment.”

The hearing will be chaired by Sen. Sam Brownback, who, with Sen. Orrin Hatch, wrote in the Washington Times criticizing Judge Gary Lancaster's opinion that dismissed federal indictments against Extreme Associates.

Although the official Judiciary Committee Website no longer discloses the witnesses who have been invited to appear at the hearing, Patrick Trueman, has reportedly been substituted for one previously-announced witness. Trueman is the former head of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice under President George W. Bush. Now he is Senior Legal Counsel for the reactionary Family Research Council (FRC). Trueman has also served as Legal Affairs Director for the American Family Association (AFA), another vocal nutter group.

The list of witnesses reportedly still includes Robert A. Destro, professor of law at the Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law; and Frederick Schauer, Frank Stanton Professor of the First Amendment at Harvard University, both of whom have strong conservative credentials, with Destro also having ties to right-wing religious groups as well.

Although both the Adult Freedom Foundation (AFF) and the Free Speech Coalition (FSC) have requested the opportunity to provide additional witnesses who are intimately familiar with both federal and state obscenity prosecutions and with the general workings of the adult entertainment industry, to date all such requests have been rebuffed. We asked if we could supply experts on the issue, Paul Cambria, general counsel for AFF, told AVN.com. We were told we were too late, and they had already selected the experts. Then we were told who they were, and each of them had a history of basically being against adult material. They had a history of having a clear bias against adult entertainment.

Even if adult-friendly witnesses are not permitted to testify live, several attorneys have indicated their intentions to submit written testimony to the subcommittee.

AVN.com has previously written about witnesses Destro and Schauer, noting that Schauer was an advisor to several U.S. senators involved in creating the anti-adult industry portions of the PROTECT Act which was passed by Congress in 2003.

However, Patrick Trueman is clearly the witness with the most anti-sexual-speech experience. Since leaving the Justice Department, Trueman has worked almost exclusively for right-wing religious pro-censorship groups as well as groups intent on erasing the constitutional boundaries between church and state. As to sexual speech, Trueman is staunchly against that freedom. While employed by the AFA, he conducted a long-running campaign against Internet service provider Yahoo! for allowing sexual speech and explicit images to be posted on the service's message boards.

Of Judge Lancaster's decision in the Extreme case, Trueman charged that the jurist
is giving the Supreme Court an opportunity to eliminate anti-pornography laws. If higher courts fail to overturn this decision, it will be yet more proof that the often-mocked 'slippery slope' argument is alive and well.

 

13th March   Little Affection for Chinese Censors

From Indian Television

China repeatedly blocked transmission of BBC World’s week-long series of China-themed programmes to hotels and apartment compounds for foreigners during political and other sensitive reports.

For example, a report on restive Muslim Uighur ethnic group in China's far west was cut off after just seconds of starting to air. According to international media reports, the screen went black after a BBC correspondent said, But the Uighur people have little affection for their Chinese masters.

Other foreign channels and BBC World are not licensed for cable distribution to ordinary Chinese, but millions of households with unlicensed satellite dishes can view them.

The media reports stated that the Uighur issue has been especially a sensitive issue as some members of the minority group are waging a low-intensity struggle against Chinese control.

The BBC’s website describes China Week as
a themed series of news reports and programmes exploring one of the world’s most dynamic countries.

 

12th March   Military Justice...My Arse

From Gay City News

In yet another exception to a 2003 Supreme Court decision legalizing sodomy, a high military court, the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, has upheld the sodomy conviction of a heterosexual marine in a case arising from events at an American base in Japan.

According to the opinion for the court by Judge David Wagner, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Jakarri Avery was living on the base during divorce proceedings from his wife, a Japanese citizen. Avery acknowledged to his unit mates that he had both anal and oral sex with two other Japanese civilian women in his barracks room. The prosecution resulted from a confrontation between Avery’s wife and one of the two females at the on-base hotel that had to be resolved by military police.”

Military authorities prosecuted Avery for sodomy, adultery and indecent acts, as well as the possession and use of marijuana and Percocet, a prescription drug. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine months confinement and a bad-conduct discharge that included forfeiture of pay and a reduction in grade.

Shortly after his sentencing, the Supreme Court declared, in a 6-3 opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, that that state’s anti-sodomy law was unconstitutional, in effect nullifying nationwide other such statutes. Avery promptly appealed his sodomy conviction, claiming that, based on the language in the Lawrence ruling, his private adult consensual activity was protected by the Constitution.

Last year, in the highest military appellate ruling on the impact of Lawrence on military sodomy prosecutions, United States v. Marcum, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ruled that Lawrence had not invalidated Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the military sodomy law, but had merely narrowed the circumstances in which it could be used to prosecute uniformed personnel. Under the Marcum approach, sexual penetration that falls squarely within the parameters of Lawrence—consensual oral or anal sex—could still be prosecuted if there are military factors that affect “the nature and reach of the Lawrence liberty interest.” In the Marcum case, the military high court found that sexual activity between military personnel of different ranks presented issues of military relevance justifying prosecution.

Since the Marcum decision, there have been several military sodomy prosecutions, but in only one case, involving a service member and a civilian, did a military court find Lawrence to be controlling. Undoubtedly, Avery was hopeful that this precedent would be found to control his situation, but the court thought otherwise. His subordinates knew about the extra-marital activities, and local Japanese nationals also knew about the activities. In this case we find direct and obvious impacts on both the command structure and the armed forces reputation in the local foreign community resulting from the acts of sodomy committed by the appellant.

Apparently, Avery’s candor about his extra-marital sexual behavior figured into the court’s decision. Not unlike the secrecy governing the sexual behavior of gay and lesbian service members, perhaps more discretion would have allowed Avery to avoid prosecution.

It is unclear whether or not Avery intends to appeal his decision to the military high court.

 

12th March   Tunisia Dishonours Honour

Sounds like any many other European capitals to me, suffering from nutters and other lowlifes  that like to deprive their fellow man of sexual entertainment.

From Index on Censorship

Eight months before the World Summit on the Information Society is held in Tunis, the government has blocked the site set up to monitor the summit. It also has  blocked access to the opposition Progressive Democratic Party (PDP)’s website.

The action is likely to reinforce the view of free expression groups that Tunisia address its censorship of the internet before being granted the 'honour' of hosting the UN sponsored summit on global digital information. A number of websites are already being blocked or filtered, including the site set up by Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) to monitor the summit.

The ban has been linked to the PDP's criticism of Tunisian president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali's decision to invite Israeli premier Ariel Sharon to the country. According to the Paris based Tunisian Solidarity Movement (TSM), lawyer Muhammad Abu was detained on 2 March after an article criticisng the decision was published on the internet. Abu is a member of the Tunisian Committee of Young lawyers, the International Association of Support for Political Prisoners, and other justice groups.

 

11th March   Russian Nutters See Red

Sounds like any many other European capitals to me, suffering from nutters and other lowlifes  that like to deprive their fellow man of sexual entertainment.

Based on a biased article in The Sunday Herald

A backlash against the ‘sex sells’ culture has seen Russians embrace the old Soviet values. Moscow’s deputies believe they have the remedy: a law that would ban advertisements featuring swear words, genitalia and “filthy gestures and poses”.

And their concerns are far from isolated. Right across Russia the calls for a renaissance of Soviet-style puritanism and a return to moral order are being voiced with increasing frequency.

Once a drab, neon-free and asexual zone, Moscow itself has metamorphosed into a city where anything goes. Billboards feature soft lesbian scenes and underwear adverts for women’s thongs  and sexual double entendres are used to sell anything from cars to phones.

Deprived of commercialism for years, experts say Russia has embraced the old adage that “sex sells” with gusto but with little regulation, a phenomenon that has at turns shocked, offended and titillated.
Strip clubs and brothels line many of the city’s main avenues, hardcore pornography DVDs are on sale at most of the city’s metro stations and sex shops.

Young people who have only vague memories of Soviet-style morality, where sex was rarely referred to in public, do not bat an eyelid at any of this. But middle-aged and older Russians find it distasteful and are beginning to realise that democracy and capitalism do not have to go hand in hand with sex.

After one Muscovite complained that she had caught her five-year-old grandson watching a pornographic video he had bought from a sex shop near his school, lawmakers decided enough was enough. Under a law drafted by Moscow Duma deputy Ludmila Stebenkova, sex shops will soon be prohibited in residential homes, markets, airports, railway stations and from within 500 metres of schools, cemeteries, theatres and hospitals.

The clean-up battle is also being waged on TV. Nationally, lawmakers are trying to ban the broadcast of violent images or images of an extreme sexual nature between 7am and 10pm.

Russia's State Duma has ordered its cultural committee to investigate an opera by the Bolshoi Theater after a deputy described it as pornographic. United Russia Deputy Sergei Neverov complained after seeing a television report on the opera, The Children of Rosenthal: It is not decent for the stage of the Bolshoi Theater. His complaint involves a scene featuring a ranting pimp.

The famously conservative Russian Orthodox Church is also doing its bit. It is in the process of setting up a nationwide channel to promote Christian morality and oppose “the cult of consumption and pleasure”.

Church leaders, who have the Kremlin’s ear, say that television adverts should not promote sex, alcohol or cigarettes, and the government has fallen into line. Beer ads have been banned from radio and TV between 7am and 10pm, the consumption of beer is to be prohibited in many of public places such as hospitals and schools, and children under the age of 18 have finally been banned from buying beer, traditionally considered a soft drink in Russia.

The Church says the media have much to answer for, notably for the fact that some eight out of 10 marriages end in divorce and that an estimated one-third of births take place out of wedlock.

A Kremlin-backed youth group called Walking Together is trying to turn the tide. With a nationwide membership of 100,000, it urges its members to adhere to a strict moral code which urges respect for one’s parents, no drunkenness or drugs and respect for core family values. It has recently been joined by another Kremlin-inspired youth association called Nashi, or “One of Us”.

In the eyes of the authorities, morality is closely linked to national security. The Kremlin is said to be concerned that young people are becoming too fond of the single, promiscuous, commitment-free lifestyle at the expense of Russia’s falling birth rate. The current average birth rate is 1.25 children per woman. A rate of 2.13 needs to be attained if the existing population level is to be maintained, something that is regarded as vital for Russian national security.

 

9th March   Sacked Illegally

From The Nation

The Supreme Court yesterday upheld a ruling that all 21 journalists fired four years ago by television station iTV were illegally dismissed. The court ordered iTV to reinstate the journalists and pay them their salaries dating back to February 2001.

Some of the 17 journalists who turned up at the court embraced each other upon hearing the verdict. Their legal victory has lifted industry spirits at a time of media suppression in Thailand.

iTV is owned by the family of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who has frequently lashed out at reporters who criticise him or his policies, saying they are unpatriotic.

The court dismissed iTV’s reasons for dismissing the journalists. The station said it terminated the employment of seven of the journalists because they criticised management for interfering in editorial content so that it favoured the ruling Thai Rak Thai party. It also dismissed the television station’s claims that 13 journalists were made redundant.

The court believed that iTV dismissed them because they applied to become members of the station’s labour union. The court also ruled that iTV illegally dismissed one journalist because he refused to cover a news event. It said the journalist had the freedom to choose what news to cover and that the station could not interfere.

Songsak Premsuk, iTV managing director, said the company would welcome all 21 journalists back and would pay them their back salaries in one payment.

Ubonrat Siriyuwasak, a media academic at Chulalongkorn University, hailed the ruling as a day for justice. The verdict shows that if journalists do their job with honesty, they will be protected, Ubonrat said.

iTV was founded in 1992 amid a broad movement to promote democracy in Thailand. Its aim was to provide an independent-television voice, since all TV stations at the time were owned by the military or controlled by the government.

 

9th March   Lost High Ground

It used to be held that detention without trial was a chilling characteristic of repressive regimes. We have now lost this moral high ground and have to include the UK in the list of repressive states.

Based on an article from Index on Censorship

Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) has expressed renewed concern over the continuing investigation of Malaysian blogger Jeff Ooi, saying the case has adverse implications for the Internet and free speech in Malaysia.

Ooi was questioned by police for two hours on 28 February in connection with a posting on his Screenshots blog, www.jeffooi.com. Selangor State Criminal Investigation Department's (CID) Chief Senior Assistant Commander II, Hadi Ho had confirmed that Ooi was being investigated under a Section of the Penal Code relating to acts fostering "religious disunity", which carries a penalty of two to five years imprisonment. However the Malaysian Supreme Court had in 1987 declared this section of the Penal Code unconstitutional.

During the two-hour questioning, Ooi was asked when and why he started blogging. He was also asked about a 2 October 2004 front page story in a Malay daily, which accused him of failing to control the [Screenshots] forum by allowing an opinion ridiculing Islam to be published.

That story referred to an anonymous posting on Ooi's weblog that angered readers and officials in Malaysia who saw it as blasphemous. Ooi himself, as owner and administrator of the website, took down the posting and barred the anonymous writer (a user writing under the name of "Anwar") from future discussions.

Nevertheless, in 2004, Ooi was threatened with detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows for imprisonment without trial for up to two years. He was also threatened with prosecution under the Sedition Act. These investigations are continuing. SEAPA view this case as an attempt to harass Ooi and other website owners and operators in Malaysia, and to curtail freedom of expression on the Internet.

The use of the Sedition Act, the Internal Security Act, and now a dubious, supposedly voided clause of the Penal Code to intimidate Mr. Ooi in fact lays bare Malaysia's intent to run around Kuala Lumpur's own pledge to never censor the Internet, SEAPA executive director Roby Alampay said. SEAPA noted that former prime minister Mahathir Mohammad had vowed to maintain the integrity of cyberspace and to never intervene in the management of its content.

Despite its economic strength, Malaysia remains a politically restrictive society where government maintains a strict hold over the flow of news and information, and over all forms of mass communication. Much of the print and broadcast media is state-owned and media outlets must submit to strict licensing rules and face intolerance for political criticism.

SEAPA noted that, for now, the Internet is the most viable medium for independent news and information in Malaysia. Censorship of the Internet was explicitly rejected in the Communications and Multimedia Act 2001.

Now SEAPA  are concerned that the Malaysian government has found an excuse to influence web content as well. The organisations are concerned that the very suggestion of using the ISA and sedition laws against a webmaster may have a chilling effect on other content providers.

 

7th March   Rating Utah Unconstitutional

From AVN & CNET News

An amended  Internet porn filter bill passed unanimously the Utah House of Representatives with warnings from legislative staff attorneys reduced such that only part of the bill has a high probability of being held unconstitutional.

That part would be the section which requires the state's attorney general to identify and maintain a database of the porn sites, at a projected cost of $70,000 a year. Keepers of the database would have to amend and add to the list as porn sites multiply or change URLs, and another section of the bill requires all content providers either based in Utah or which generate or hosts content that is accessible in Utah to self-rate their sites as to whether material on the site is "harmful to minors" an undefined term. Transgressions may mean a $5,000 fine and up to a year in jail for each offense.

Other changes are to a section which previously required service providers to use filtering technology to prevent the transmission of material harmful to minors to the consumer at no additional cost to the consumer. That section now reads, Upon request by a consumer, a service provider shall filter content to prevent the transmission of material harmful to minors to the consumer at no additional cost to the consumer, except that a service provider may increase the cost to all subscribers to the service provider's services to recover the cost of complying with this section.

Also, where the bill formerly exempted ISPs with less than 5,000 subscribers from the blocking requirements of the bill but required that they provide blocking software at cost to subscribers to use on their home computers, the new version removes that exemption and gives all ISPs three options:

  1. use a generally accepted and commercially reasonable method to prevent a consumer's access
  2. provide easy-to-enable and commercially reasonable blocking software
  3. comply with any federal law in effect that requires the blocking of content from a registry of sites containing material harmful to minors.

Other provisions of the previous version of the bill remain the same, including appropriating $250,000 in taxpayer funds to set up the adult site registry and advertise its existence, oversight and updating of the registry, requirements for self-rating sites, the increased penalties for various violations, and the clearly-unconstitutional sanctioning of First Amendment-protected "pornographic material."

The Utah governor is now deciding whether to sign the bill.

A spokesman for newly elected Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman said his aides would need to review the final version. We have until March 22 to figure out what to do, a spokeswoman  said Thursday.

I'd be shocked if the governor did not sign this bill, said Markham Erickson, director of federal policy for lobbying group NetCoalition. But I'm quite certain there will be a constitutional challenge.

Also targeted are content providers, defined as any company that "creates, collects, acquires or organizes electronic data" for profit. Any content provider that hosts material deemed harmful to minors by the Utah attorney general must rate it or face third-degree felony charges.

A letter that NetCoalition sent to the state Senate earlier this week said the wording is so vague it could affect search engines, e-mail providers and Web hosting companies. A search engine that links to a Web site in Utah might be required...to 'properly rate' the Web site, the letter said.

A federal judge struck down a similar law in Pennsylvania last year.

 

6th March   Iranian Channel Banned from France

Based on an article from MEHR News

The French Higher Council for Radio and Television, CSA (Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel), have banned the Iranian satellite television network Sahar from broadcasting in France.

The council accused Sahar of anti-Semitism and issued a warrant saying the Iranian network has systematically mocked Israelis and Jews by broadcasting the series “Zahra's Blue Eyes” and the Syrian-produced series “Al-Shatat”, which was originally broadcast by Lebanon’s Al-Manar. Al-Manar, a satellite television network affiliated with Hezbollah, was also accused of airing anti-Semitic programs and banned by the French Higher Council for Radio and Television.

Ahmad Mir-Alawi, the producer of the series, reportedly said that the story is the product of research and is a collection of facts that were turned into a film to make the world aware of what the Zionists are doing to the Palestinians.

In addition, the CSA has protested against one part of the series “Al-Shatat” that has not yet been broadcast by Sahar TV, despite the fact that according to its charter, the council is not authorized to censor programs or put pressure on a TV network before it has aired a program.

In its warrant, the French organization accused Sahar of questioning the veracity of the Holocaust, the genocide of the Jews during World War II, in a program called “World in Question”.

Mohsen Sharifzadeh, the director of the Sahar network, announced that Sahar is trying to deal with the matter through human rights forums.

 

4th March   US Under Threat from Police Zombies

From www.fangoria.com, Thanks to Harvey

Teen horror writer arrested and detained as terrorist

Kentucky’s Lex 18 news site reports that an 18-year-old high-school student is facing terrorist threat charges because of a zombie story he wrote for his English class. William Poole, an 18-year-old student at George Rogers Clark High School, was arrested after his grandparents found the tale, in which the undead attack a high school, in his journal and turned it over to police. I’ve been working on one of my short stories, [and] the short story they found was about zombies, Poole told Lex 18. Yes, it did say a high school. It was about a high school overrun by zombies.

Despite the obviously fantastical nature of his writing, and the fact that neither his own school nor any real people, school officials or police were mentioned in the story, Poole was taken into custody on a second-degree felony terrorist threatening charge. Anytime you make any threat or possess matter involving a school or function, it’s a felony in the state of Kentucky, Winchester Police detective Steven Caudill told Lex 18. A judge even raised Poole’s bond from $1,000 to $5,000 at the prosecutors’ request, due to the "seriousness" of the charges. Poole is currently being held at the Clark County Detention Center.

 

4th March   The Value of Free Speech is Not Free in the US so must be Banned

From CNET News.Com

In just a few months, he warns, bloggers and news organizations could risk the wrath of the US federal government if they improperly link to a campaign's Web site. Even forwarding a political candidate's press release to a mailing list, depending on the details, could be punished by fines.

Bradley Smith should know. He's one of the six commissioners at the Federal Election Commission, which is beginning the perilous process of extending a controversial 2002 campaign finance law to the Internet.

In 2002, the FEC exempted the Internet by a 4-2 vote, but U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly last fall overturned that decision. The commission's exclusion of Internet communications from the coordinated communications regulation severely undermines  the campaign finance law's purposes, Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

Smith and the other two Republican commissioners wanted to appeal the Internet-related sections. But because they couldn't get the three Democrats to go along with them, what Smith describes as a "bizarre" regulatory process now is under way.

CNET News.com spoke with Smith about the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better known as the McCain-Feingold law, and its forthcoming extrusion onto the Internet.

Q: What rules will apply to the Internet that did not before?
A: The commission has generally been hands-off on the Internet. We've said, If you advertise on the Internet, that's an expenditure of money--much like if you were advertising on television or the newspaper.

Do we give bloggers the press exemption? The real question is: Would a link to a candidate's page be a problem? If someone sets up a home page and links to their favorite politician, is that a contribution? This is a big deal, if someone has already contributed the legal maximum, or if they're at the disclosure threshold and additional expenditures have to be disclosed under federal law.

How can the government place a value on a blog that praises some politician?
How do we measure that? Design fees, that sort of thing? The FEC did an advisory opinion in the late 1990s that I don't think we'd hold to today, saying that if you owned a computer, you'd have to calculate what percentage of the computer cost and electricity went to political advocacy.

It seems absurd, but that's what the commission did. And that's the direction Judge Kollar-Kotelly would have us move in. Line drawing is going to be an inherently very difficult task. And then we'll be pushed to go further. Why can this person do it, but not that person?

How about a hyperlink? Is it worth a penny, or a dollar, to a campaign?
I don't know. But I'll tell you this. One thing the commission has argued over, debated, wrestled with, is how to value assistance to a campaign.

Corporations aren't allowed to donate to campaigns. Suppose a corporation devotes 20 minutes of a secretary's time and $30 in postage to sending out letters for an executive. As a result, the campaign raises $35,000. Do we value the violation on the amount of corporate resources actually spent, maybe $40, or the $35,000 actually raised? The commission has usually taken the view that we value it by the amount raised. It's still going to be difficult to value the link, but the value of the link will go up very quickly.

How do you see this playing out?
There's sensitivity in the commission on this. But remember the commission's decision to exempt the Internet only passed by a 4-2 vote. This time, we couldn't muster enough votes to appeal the judge's decision. We appealed parts of her decision, but there were only three votes to appeal the Internet part (and we needed four). There seem to be at least three commissioners who like this.

What would you like to see happen?
I'd like someone to say that unpaid activity over the Internet is not an expenditure or contribution, or at least activity done by regular Internet journals, to cover sites like CNET, Slate and Salon. Otherwise, it's very likely that the Internet is going to be regulated, and the FEC and Congress will be inundated with e-mails saying, "How dare you do this!"

What happens next?
It's going to be a battle, and if nobody in Congress is willing to stand up and say, "Keep your hands off of this, and we'll change the statute to make it clear," then I think grassroots Internet activity is in danger. The impact would affect e-mail lists, especially if there's any sense that they're done in coordination with the campaign. If I forward something from the campaign to my personal list of several hundred people, which is a great grassroots activity, that's what we're talking about having to look at.

If Congress doesn't change the law, what kind of activities will the FEC have to target?
We're talking about any decision by an individual to put a link (to a political candidate) on their home page, set up a blog, send out mass e-mails, any kind of activity that can be done on the Internet. Again, blogging could also get us into issues about online journals and non-online journals. Why should CNET get an exemption but not an informal blog? Why should Salon or Slate get an exemption? Should Nytimes.com and Opinionjournal.com get an exemption but not online sites, just because the newspapers have a print edition as well?

Why wouldn't the news exemption cover bloggers and online media?
Because the statute refers to periodicals or broadcast, and it's not clear the Internet is either of those. Second, because there's no standard for being a blogger, anyone can claim to be one, and we're back to the deregulated Internet that the judge objected to. Also I think some of my colleagues on the commission would be uncomfortable with that kind of blanket exemption.

This is an incredible thicket. If someone else doesn't take action, for instance in Congress, we're running a real possibility of serious Internet regulation. It's going to be bizarre.

 

4th March   Customs are Thieves the World Over

From Index on Censorship

Vancouver gay bookstore Little Sisters Book and Art Emporium, currently attempting to challenge the censorship powers of Canada's Customs department, has abruptly had its legal funds denied.

An appeal court removed the bookshop's right to claim nearly a million Canadian dollars' worth of legal funds to finance its defence against the Customs on the grounds that it was a matter of public interest that the case be resolved fully and fairly. Canadian customs had impounded pornographic books ordered abroad by the Little Sisters store; the store's owners argued that the Customs' de facto power of censorship should be challenged in court. But appeals court judge Mr Justice Allan Thackray ruled that the fact is that the public has not appointed Little Sisters to this role (of watchdog over the Customs department.

The ruling is a serious blow to those unable to shoulder the massive costs of constitutional litigation, Little Sisters lawyer Joseph Arvay told the Toronto Globe & Mail. I don't have the proper term for it, but some linguist might aptly coin the phrase " bibliocide" to describe what is happening at Canada Customs - given their propensity to ban and destroy literally thousands of titles of expressive material each year.

 

3rd March   Turkish PM will have to Wait 9 Lifetimes to Join EU

From Kurdish Media

Journalists and caricaturists continue to criticize the Prime Minister Erdogan who sued caricaturist Kart of Cumhuriyet daily for drawing him as a cat. Caricaturist Kart and editor-in-chief Sucu were fined a total of 3,800 dollars for the caricature.

Caricaturist Behic Ak said caricaturists, as well as journalists, constantly live through the problem of lack of freedom of expression in Turkey. He said there is a double censorship in Turkey.

Caricaturist Musa Kart and editor-in-chief Mehmet Sucu were fined a total of 5 billion Turkish lira ($3,800) for a caricature showing Prime Minister Erdogan as a cat entangled in headscarf threads. The caricature was published in the Cumhuriyet newspaper in May, 2005. The caricature represented the much-debated Islamic high schools, or Imam Hatip. The caricature was taken as an insult and Erdogan sued

This shows, people are afraid of the smallest expression of thought, or joke, said Ak. He added that people in Turkey like caricature a lot, and said caricaturists can stand up to difficulties because they get their power from the people.

Journalist Turker Alkan called on Erdogan to be more tolerable toward journalists in his column called in Radikal newspaper. In democratic countries, worse things are drawn.

Another commentator noted I thought there was democracy, freedom of thought. I thought we were going to share European values.
(Maybe...but surely not until Turkish leaders have learnt to take a bit of satire)

 

3rd March   Who Rules the Cyber World?

From the Financial Times

Four years ago global business rose up in protest when a French court ruled that French law could be used to protect French citizens living in France, in the famous Yahoo ruling.

Yahoo was told it must block French users from accessing Nazi memorabilia on its US website. Now that case is being revived in California, where a federal appeals court is due to rehear the first big test case for global business regulation in the internet age.

The world has moved on, and e-commerce has matured since the French court made its ruling in 2000. But for companies, politicians and internet users, the issue remains: when can one country impose its values on another via cyberspace? When can courts in one country regulate the business activities of companies that have a worldwide presence on the internet?

That question was almost entirely new when, in the early days of e-commerce, two French human rights groups sued Yahoo in France to remove Nazi material from its US website. The sale or display of objects associated with Nazism is illegal in France. Yahoo removed such material from its France-based website but refused to do so for its US- based site, arguing that the American site cannot be regulated by French law even though it can be accessed by users in France.

The French court rejected that argument and imposed a $13,000-a-day fine on Yahoo. The company challenged the ruling in a US court, which ruled that the first amendment to the American constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech, means the French ruling cannot be enforced in the US. But a three-judge panel of the ninth circuit federal appeals court subsequently overturned that ruling on procedural grounds, so the French court ruling remains in limbo.

About a month from now Yahoo will be back in court, this time arguing before the full ninth circuit appeals court. The US Chamber of Commerce, the biggest US business group, has filed a friend of the court brief that argues that the case could have a "devastating impact" on the internet.

If the French court's decision is recognised in this country, every piece of information posted on the internet will have to conform to the laws of every country in which material might be accessed, even where (as is the case here) the American company posting that information was targeting US citizens, and operating in a manner fully consistent with US law, the chamber argues in its brief. Plainly put, such a result would cripple the internet.

The appeals court is not expected to answer the biggest question in the case: whether a court abroad should be allowed to censor the operations of a US company protected by the first amendment. The court will only decide whether the lower court had jurisdiction to consider that issue in the first place. But Yahoo says the uncertainty alone has a big impact on internet companies and on free speech. For every day that Yahoo remains unsure whether the French ruling will be enforced by the US courts, the fines mount, and the chilling effect grows greater, says Mary Catherine Wirth, Yahoo's attorney.

But Michael Geist, an expert on internet law and jurisdiction at the University of Ottawa, says "the world has moved on" since the case was brought, and most big companies now understand that they risk foreign judgments based on their web presence.

He and other experts point out that the US does not hesitate to exert its jurisdiction over websites based overseas when enforcing US intellectual property or gambling laws. Other countries, too, have become more aggressive in asserting jurisdiction. The more sophisticated e-commerce businesses are able to address the risk in a manner that leaves them comfortable with operating online, says Prof Geist.

But Wirth says it would be impossible to review every posting by every Yahoo user every day for compliance with the laws of every country around the world and it would also be bad for free speech. She asks:
Shouldn't US people have a forum where they can go to talk with one another where the first amendment applies?

 

2nd March   Nipple Brained Senate

Based on an article from ZD Net

Ted Stevens, chairman of the US. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, said on Tuesday that he would push for applying broadcast decency standards to cable television, as well as subscription satellite TV and radio.

Cable is a much greater violator in the indecency area, the Alaska Republican told the National Association of Broadcasters, which represents most local-television and radio affiliates. I think we have the same power to deal with cable as over-the-air broadcasters. There has to be some standard of decency, he said.
But he also cautioned that no one wants censorship. Shame!

Stevens told reporters afterward that he would push legislation to apply the standards to cable TV and satellite radio and television. It could become part of a pending bill to boost fines on broadcasters who violate indecency restrictions or of an effort to overhaul U.S. communications laws.

If Stevens is successful, it could pose new problems for raunchy radio host Howard Stern, who has said he was forced to leave broadcast radio for satellite radio to avoid decency limits.

So far, the restrictions have not applied to subscription services offered by companies like cable TV operators Comcast and Time Warner, or to services such as XM Satellite Radio and Stern signer Sirius Satellite Radio.

Last year, the Senate Commerce Committee narrowly defeated an amendment to a bill boosting fines for indecency that would have extended such limits to cable and satellite services. Virginia Republican Sen. George Allen, a Commerce Committee member, told reporters that he would be hesitant to expand it to those services.

While lawmakers and some nutter groups are anxious to wipe the airwaves clean of indecency after singer Janet Jackson bared her breast last year during the Super Bowl halftime show, President Bush has said parents are the first line of defense and can just "turn it off."

Federal regulations bar broadcast television and radio stations from airing obscene material, and they restrict indecent material such as sexually explicit discussions or profanity to late-night hours when children are less likely to be watching or listening.

Stevens said he disagreed "violently" with assertions by the cable industry that Congress does not have the authority to impose limits on its content. If that's the issue they want to take on, we'll take it on and let the Supreme Court decide.

The House of Representatives has approved legislation to raise fines to $500,000 from $32,500 on television and radio broadcasters that violate indecency limits. The Senate has legislation pending to increase fines as well. But neither bill has provisions that would extend indecency restrictions to cable and satellite services. So far, the White House has expressed support for the House bill and has made no public pronouncement about the Senate measure.

 

2nd March   Land of the Free Persecution

From AVN

The Utah House of Representatives on Tuesday heard a revised version of a bill titled "Amendments Related To Pornographic And Harmful Materials" introduced on the House floor.

The bill appropriates $250,000 of taxpayer funds and requires almost as much in private matching funds to create an official database. The database will be organized by URL of Websites containing "material harmful to minors," and which sites are "not properly rated" by the site's "content provider," who is defined as "a person that creates, collects, acquires, or organizes electronic data for electronic delivery to a consumer."

The provider is required to do the rating itself – but woe to the provider who rates improperly (under rules to be devised and published by the Utah Division of Consumer Protection): That's a third degree felony. The bill also funds public service announcements to advertise the existence of the registry and to inform consumers how to use it.

Under the bill, ISPs are apparently required to block material deemed harmful to minors at the server level for any consumer who requests it, at no cost to the consumer.

However, if the consumer wishes to block the sites on his/her own computer, ISPs are required to provide blocking technology to the consumer, again at no cost to the consumer, although if the ISP has less than 5,000 subscribers, it can charge consumers for blocking software – but can't make a profit in doing so. Any ISP that fails to abide by the law is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor and subject to a civil fine of up to $10,000 per day for each offense – and the Division of Consumer Protection is required to check annually to make sure each ISP's blocking technology is effective.

As to material "harmful to minors," this bill also switches the entire onus onto the content provider to determine if a person wishing to view its material is a minor. Whereas the law used to say, A person is guilty of dealing in material harmful to minors when, knowing that a person is a minor, or having failed to exercise reasonable care in ascertaining the proper age of a minor, it now reads, A person is guilty of dealing in material harmful to minors when, knowing that a person is a minor, or having negligently or recklessly failed to determine the proper age of a minor, he distributes to a minor material harmful to the minor, or performs for or with a minor, any material harmful to the minor. Such distribution or performance used to have to be intentional; now, just doing it "negligently or recklessly" is enough to garner at least a $300 fine and two weeks in jail for the first offense. After that, each offense is a second degree felony, with a fine of at least $5000 and at least a year in prison "without suspension of sentence."

All this is in addition to language which is unchanged from current law, that makes it a crime to send, distribute, publish, exhibit, advertise or perform pornographic (not "obscene") material to anyone within the state, although this bill raises each offense from a Class A misdemeanor to a third degree felony with a mandatory jail term of not less than 30 days, and a fine of not less than $1,000.

By the way, it's also a third degree felony, with the same punishments, to require a bookstore or newsstand, for instance, to accept pornographic (not "obscene") material as a condition for supplying that store with non-pornographic books, magazines, newspapers, etc., or to deny or revoke a franchise (or threaten to do so) if the franchisee refuses to carry porn "or material reasonably believed by the purchaser or consignee to be pornographic" as part of its stock.

 

27th February   Inviting Regime Change

From Silicon & Index On Censorship

As Iranian blogger has been sentenced to 14 years in jail for complaining about fellow bloggers being arrested

Arash Sigarchi was convicted this week for charges against the state, including espionage and insulting Iran's leaders, after the 28-year-old criticised the Iranian government and its treatment of web log writers on his own blog.

Sigarchi worked as a newspaper editor before his arrest and had also been arrested last year after he posted a pictures of demonstration by Iranians whose family members had been executed in 1989, according to Reporters Without Borders. The government had also blocked Iranian citizens from accessing the blog, the organisation said.

The sentence passed on Sigarchi is thought to be a harsh warning to other would-be bloggers and is intended to restrict the freedom of the media, human rights groups believe.

News of the arrest follows a day of action by the blogging community to draw attention to Saminejad and Sigarchi's treatment.  Bloggers across the web were asked to add a Free Mojtaba and Arash banner to their blogs and contact Iranian government representatives.

The original Iranian bloggers being talked about recently have had their sentences confirmed in a crackdown described in a report by Reporters sans Frontières. Cyber-dissident Mojtaba Lotfi was imprisoned on 5 February 2005 after an appeal court upheld a sentence of three years and 10 months in prison for posting "lies" on the Internet.

Blogger Motjaba Saminejad, who was freed on bail of 500 million rials (approx. €43,000) at the end of January, returned to prison on 12 February 2005 when a judge doubled the bail, making it impossible for him to raise the money.

Iran is participating in a preparatory meeting for this year’s World Summit on the Information Society.  How can Iranian officials parade at a UN summit on the Internet at the same time as they are jailing bloggers?

 

24th February   Grand Blame Auto

It is interesting to note that no-one ever seems to be sued for making guns available.

From The Register

Take Two, the publisher of the Grand Theft Auto game series, is once again facing a lawsuit that alleges its software was complicit in murder. The legal action was filed on behalf of the families of police force staff shot dead in Fayette, Alabama in 2003, allegedly by one Devin Thompson.

Thompson was apprehended on suspicion of driving a stolen car. He is claimed by state prosecutors to have snatched a policeman's gun and two shot officers and a dispatcher. The lawsuit maintains that Thompson's actions that day were inspired by the GTA series, games he is claimed to have played obsessively. The games amount to "training" for the alleged killings, the families' lawyer said.

Thompson is now 18 years old, but at the time of the shootings he was 16. As such, the lawsuit claims, he should not have been sold GTA III and GTA: Vice City, which carry an M rating - for 'mature audience only', ie. anyone 17 years old or more. On that basis, the plaintiffs requested that the book also be thrown at retailers Wal-Mart and Gamestop for allegedly allowing Thompson to buy the games. It also names Sony, as manufacturer of the PlayStation 2 console on which Thompson is said to have played the games. At least two lawsuits relating to the game are currently pending against Take Two and, separately, BestBuy.

The lawsuit was announced in the same week that the US Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA) publicly criticised the California legislature's attempt to ban the sale of violent games to children.

The proposed bill, dubbed "redundant... frivolous... irresponsible [and] unconstitutional" by the IEMA, seeks to amend existing state law concerning content harmful to children to include games which "depict serious injury to human beings in a manner that is especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel". If the bill becomes law, retailers caught selling such material to children could faces fines of up to $1,000.

The bill was proposed by California Assembly member Leland Yee who last year suggested a similar bill only to have it voted down.

 

23rd February   Extreme Attourney on Extreme Persecution

From AVN See Extreme Persecution for previous post

Louis Sirkin, attorney for Extreme Associates has been responding to the Department of Justice's press release announcing that the government had decided to appeal Judge Gary Lancaster's decision in United States v. Extreme Associates.  The press release stated: The Justice Department believes, that the reasoning of the District Court in dismissing the indictment, if upheld, would undermine not only the federal laws, but all laws based on shared views of public morality, such as laws against prostitution, bestiality and bigamy.

The Feb. 16 decision to appeal was one of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales' first official actions since being sworn into office on Feb. 14, although Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra claimed that, The decision was in the works before he took over.

That decision had to be a difficult one for the Justice Department, since the first stage would take the case to the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has a long history of pro-First Amendment decisions, including the striking down of part of the 1996 Communications Decency Act and two opinions upholding an injunction against the Child Online Protection Act. A loss there would make Judge Lancaster's opinion the law for the entire Third Circuit, which only includes Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but would set the stage for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, whose decisions affect the entire country.

AVN.com asked Sirkin what would happen now that the government has filed notice of its intent to appeal.

I think we're in a good Circuit, and I think that's very, very encouraging, and hopefully, that's a very crowded docket and that appeal will take quite some time. Sirkin also sees the government's notice of appeal as a portent of the Bush administration's intentions to move against the adult industry.

Everybody that Bush is putting on board right now are people that are very, very close and aligned completely, 100 percent, to him. I think that he had some big differences with Ashcroft. I think Ashcroft was hurting him with the PATRIOT Act stuff – not the obscenity crap, but I think that they were clashing over that. I think that Ashcroft was probably stepping on some toes dealing with the bank records and other stuff of people that are around or supporters of Bush, and I think that's why they parted ways. Ashcroft wasn't talked about at all during the campaign, and he was one of the first to resign. I just have a feeling that Bush is now completely surrounding himself with everybody who's clearly a yes-man."

In fact, on Feb. 15, Gonzales announced three appointments to the Justice Department's senior staff, at least two of whom can probably be counted on to help push the administration's anti-adult agenda: New Chief of Staff Theodore W. Ullyot was Associate Counsel to President Bush when Gonzales was Bush's Chief Counsel; and after law school, Ullyot clerked for ultra-conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia during the 1995-1996 term.

 

23rd February   Brunei Censors Possessed by Demons

From The Star

Brunei has banned Keanu Reeves' new film Constantine, an apocalyptic thriller that depicts demon possessions, visions of hell and a renegade angel, an official said yesterday.

The movie has been deemed unsuitable for public viewing, Ahmad Kadir, the secretary of the Brunei government's Censor Board, said by telephone from the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. However, he declined to reveal the reasons for the board's decision.

Brunei has some of South-East Asia's strictest censorship guidelines for movies and songs, especially involving material that might be considered offensive to Islam.

Constantine, which opens in the United States on Friday, is steeped in Roman Catholic mythology and features Reeves as a chain-smoking exorcist who dispatches demons back to the underworld in hopes of erasing a mortal sin he once committed.

The film opened last week in Malaysia. Malaysian censors edited out several curse words and rated the movie as having “non-excessive violent and horrifying scenes," but did not object to the religious material

 

22nd February    Obscene Fines For Indecent TV

From Digital Spy

The American House of Representatives has approved a bill that would hike fines for indecency on American television.

The bill passed the chamber 389-38. It adjusts fines upwards both for TV companies and individual entertainers. Under current regulations, the maximum fine that may be imposed on a company for an indecency event is $32,500; for an individual entertainer, that figure is $11,000. The House bill pushes both fines up to a $500,000 ceiling.

The American Senate is currently mulling over a similar bill; the two chambers would have to resolve differences between the bills before sending it to President Bush.

The White House reacted positively to the news, saying in a statement that it supports legislation that makes broadcast television and radio more suitable for family viewing.

Opponents raised concerns that the stiffer penalties will result in broadcasters being afraid to air potentially controversial shows for fear of punishment, noting that federal regulations regarding a broad concept of "indecency" are not clearly defined.

 

19th February   Celebrating Repression on Democracy Day

From The Telegraph

Nepal's King Gyanendra celebrated his country's 55th Democracy Day with full pomp and splendour yesterday, after cutting off the nation's telephones and banning public transport to prevent embarrassing demonstrations. Police arrested 57 pro-democracy protesters in different parts of Kathmandu, but a heavy police presence kept dissent to a minimum.

In the capital, eight members of the opposition Nepali Congress Party marched and shouted Death to autocracy! Down with the autocratic king! Minutes later, truncheon-wielding police chased them down a lane and arrested them all.

With the call to protest largely ignored, authorities reconnected telephone lines 10 hours after they were cut.

In King Gyanendra's speech he pledged support for multi-party democracy and reminded the nation that he took control on Feb 1 to save democracy from communist rebels and corrupt politicians. The king has vowed to confront a Maoist insurgency that has spread across Nepal in the last nine years, costing more than 11,000 lives and threatening the future of the monarchy. Since Feb 1 a state of emergency has been in force. Democrats have been arrested, the press is censored and public gatherings are banned. According to the American group Human Rights Watch, around 160 people, including journalists and academics, have been arrested since the coup, and many politicians and activists have fled to Delhi.

In the Indian capital New Delhi yesterday, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said Britain might halt military aid to Nepal. During his visit he has referred to the "grim situation" inside the country.

Irene Khan, the general secretary of Amnesty International, said: "The long-standing conflict between the Maoists and the armed forces has destroyed human rights in the countryside.
Now, the state of emergency is destroying human rights in the urban areas, taking the country to the brink of disaster."

 

19th February   Indian Tellycore

Let's hope the Indian's get to enjoy lighter touch regulation than that dished out by the human rights abusing ITC and latterly Ofcom

Based on an incredibly bias article from The Washington Times

Information Technology revolution has not only placed India as one of the global leaders in the software industry, it also has made India hit the world headlines for dealing with television pornography.

Technology including camera mobile phones, spy cams and Web cams have opened up the world multi-media clips and pornographic CDs. Now New Delhi has decided to set up a separate regulator for the broadcasting sector that would regulate the adult programs.

To satiate the desire of Indian viewers for adult entertainment, the federal government has announced an autonomous content regulator that would regulate the downlinking norms, time slotting of adult films, music videos and advertisement norms.

Until now, millions of Indians rent out pirated Western pornographic videos, but all this is set to change with the government getting ready to allow broadcasting of adult content late at night.

The government is working on a draft legislation to bring an autonomous regulator to tackle issues pertaining to content on television channels, India's Information and Broadcasting Minister S. Jaipal Reddy said.

 

19th February   Simulating Repression

From The Register

Last month China banned 50 computer games - including The Sims 2, Manhunt, and FIFA 2005 - to create "a good environment" for children.

More than 12,500 internet cafes were shut down in China during the last three months of 2004, according to state media. Officials in China claim the net cafes were closed down because they were operating illegally - primarily near schools.

The Beijing government is concerned about the influence of the net as a conduit for new ideas. A top official wrote recently in the country's official Communist Party magazine that the domination of the English language and Western ideas online are a threat to China's cultural identity.

The article further warned that other political patterns, value concepts and lifestyles opposes and undermines socialist values. The use of the internet for cultural aggression is extremely dangerous, threatening to a people's culture, independence and freedom, even going so far to possibly unsettle a people's or a country's foundations."

Police in China also arrested 600 people and seized CNY23m (£1.5m) last month as part of a countrywide crackdown on what officials claimed to be a "clandestine internet-based gambling company".

 

17th February   Trojan Rocking Horse

It sounds like New Zealand have been listening to bollox politicians who couple child pornography with adult pornography (usually purely with the intention of getting adult pornography banned). So New Zealanders now face years in prison for merely possessing 'objectional material' I wonder if owning popular computer games banned by their crazed censor may now be punished by 5 years in prison.

Based on an article from Stuff

Penalties for breaching pornography laws have been significantly strengthened under a bill passed by Parliament last night. The Films, Videos and Publications Classification Amendment Bill passed its final stage, the third reading, by 110 votes to nine with only the ACT Party opposing it.

The new jail sentences are supposedly targeted at people producing, trading and possessing child pornography but it has been slipped in that they also apply to other "extreme images".

Injustice Minister Phil Goff said the key feature of the bill was its tough sanctions against child pornography. Every image represents the actual abuse of a child, and every trader and consumer of such images creates a market that encourages more such abuse, Electronic technology has made the transfer of images of this nature around the world much easier, and the volume of this material has multiplied over the last decade.

The maximum penalty for producing, trading and distributing the banned pornography has been increased from one to 10 years. For intentional possession of child pornography, and similar material, the maximum penalty is five years. Previously there was no jail sentence for possession.

ACT's justice spokesman, Stephen Franks, said he was worried about a provision in the bill which allows the censor to ban "highly offensive language". Franks said "highly offensive language" was not sufficiently defined, and could restrict free speech. We have free speech...we must tolerate people who are offensive and we should define it so it relates to swearing and foul language. I'm extremely sorry we can't vote for this bill but we have to stand up for a principle."

The Green Party voted for the bill, although it yesterday opposed increasing the sentence for possession from two years - as it was when the bill was drafted - to five years.

MP Keith Locke said the problem was that child pornography and other "extreme images" were lumped together under the definition of "objectionable material".
Now we have everyone subject to this maximum of 10 years' jail for circulating any type of objectionable material and five years for possession.

Locke said that could be dangerous, because all sorts of objectionable material was on the Internet and could be unwittingly accessed. He said the sentences should have been targeted specifically at child pornography.

 

17th February   Extreme Persecution to Continue

From the Monterey Herald

The Bush administration said Wednesday it would seek to reinstate an indictment against a California pornography company that was charged with violating federal obscenity laws.

Billed as the government's first big obscenity case in a decade, the 10-count indictment against Extreme Associates Inc. and its owners, Robert Zicari, and his wife, Janet Romano was dismissed last month by U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster of Pittsburgh. Lancaster ruled prosecutors overstepped their bounds while trying to block the company's hard-core movies from children and from adults who did not want to see such material.

In his opinion, Lancaster said the company can market and distribute its materials because people have a right to view them in the privacy of their own homes. Lancaster relied in part on the Supreme Court's June 2003 ruling that struck down Texas' ban on gay sex, which it called an unconstitutional violation of privacy.

The Justice Department said it will appeal the ruling to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. While acknowledging the importance of the constitutional guarantee of free speech, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said selling or distributing obscene materials does not fall within First Amendment protections.

The Department of Justice remains strongly committed to the investigation and prosecution of adult obscenity cases, said Gonzales, who pledged during his confirmation hearing to pursue obscenity cases. If allowed to stand, Lancaster's ruling would undermine obscenity laws as well as other statutes based on shared views of public morality, including laws against prostitution, bestiality and bigamy, the department said in a statement.

Zicari said he was not surprised by the decision to appeal. They touted my case for almost a year and a half about this being an important step in kind of stamping out the adult product as we know it, he said in a telephone interview. You'd think our government has a lot more things to worry about with the war in Iraq.

Prosecutors charged Zacari and Romano and their company with distributing videos to Pittsburgh through the mail and over the Internet. Mary Beth Buchanan, the U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh, has said the case was not about banning all sexually explicit materials, just reining in obscenity. Extreme Associates' productions depict rape and murder, Buchanan said. When she announced the indictment in August 2003, Buchanan said the lack of enforcement of obscenity laws during the mid- to late-1990s
led to a proliferation of obscenity throughout the United States.

 

15th February   Freedom Swings Away from Texans

From the Houston Chronicle

A southwest Houston club that billed itself as a "private lifestyle clubhouse for adventurous adults" was closed on Monday after its owner, manager and more than a dozen employees and patrons were arrested during a weekend raid.

The Covia Club was raided early Sunday by Houston police and agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau, said Captain Steve Jett of the Houston Police Department's vice division. Jett said authorities had been investigating the club for several months after complaints that the club's unlicensed bar remained open all night and that sex acts took place inside.

The club's owner was charged with two counts of delivery of a controlled substance in the raid. His son was charged with selling liquor without a license. Another 15 people, about a dozen of them club employees, were arrested on charges of delivery of controlled substance, selling or serving liquor without a license and public intoxication and for outstanding warrants, Jett said.

A Web site operated by the Covia Club was offline Monday, but club information still was available on various "swingers" Web sites, where the business boasted "five-star clubhouse amenities."

 

13th February   Shattered Again

From Refused Classification monitoring Australia's censors. Thanks to Andrew

In late 2004 Siren Visual Entertainment announced that they would be releasing Agustin Villaronga's 1986 Spanish film,  In a Glass Cage on DVD on March 25th 2005. On February 8th 2005 it was again Refused Classification by the OFLC. It is released internationally on DVD in 2003 by Cult Epics (Holland) and C.A.V Distribution (USA).

This was the movie that shattered the myth that film festivals were out of reach of the censors. In 1995 Queer Screen applied to show it at the upcoming Mardi Gras Film Festival. The application was refused, and an appeal to the Film Board of Review produced the following response:

Reasons for the Decision

The Review Board based its decision principally on the graphic scenes of, and unrelenting focus on, child physical and sexual abuse, torture and murder described in paragraph 5.2 above, and the tone of relish in both visuals and dialogue as described in paragraph 5.3 above. The Review Board is of the view that elements of gratuitousness and the relishing of child abuse and torture pervade the film and outweigh considerations of the film as a serious exploration of the problem of child sexual abuse and torture in Nazi concentration camps, and its consequences. In the Board's opinion these made the film 'indecent'.

In coming to this view, the Board also had regard to current community concern about child exploitation and abuse, and considered that the portrayals in the film fell within the proscriptions in all States and Territories against 'films which depict a person (whether engaged in sexual activity or otherwise) who is......under the age of 16 years in a manner that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult. The Board is of the opinion that, when judged by current community standards and concern about child sexual abuse, the film would be considered to be offensive. The current Guidelines for the Classification of Films ,which require that films which depict child sexual abuse be refused classification, reflects these State and Territory laws.

The film was considered by the Board to be well made, and to have as a major theme the horrific consequences of wartime Nazi child abuse on the young victims, rather than that of promoting such practices. However, in the Board's view, this is outweighed by the gratuitous elements of the film and the pervasive relishing of child abuse and torture. Further, the Board notes that the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations do not provide for the consideration of 'artistic or educational merit'.

The Review Board's decision is to confirm the ban, under Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulation

 

12th February Banning Khmer Rose

From Channel News Asia

A "shocked" Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen recently ordered pornographic magazines removed from news stands as he claims they pose a danger to society, and predictably Khmer youth.

For years government ministries have waged a battle with publishers to restrict or shut down sex-oriented magazines, which cater mainly to Cambodian teens and students, and the premier finally put his foot down: I was very shocked. The magazines are pornographic and they use licenses from the Ministry of Information to publish them. This is more dangerous than pornographic videos as they could proliferate through society quickly and without the need of video equipment, he said as he held up copies of several magazines, including one with an image of American pop star Britney Spears on the cover.

The powerful premier ordered the ministries of culture and information to shut down several publications and to hand out fines if they are found to be violating the law. I dare not describe them, they have everything inside, Hun Sen said.

Many of the publications in question are sold to youths outside public schools for less than a dollar each. They include X-rated photographs, mainly copied from Western publications or the Internet, explicit drawings, and erotic stories.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said he would withdraw publishing licenses from several magazines soon. He told reporters one magazine, the particularly racy "Rose", had published without a license, and authorities would be urged to fine the publisher.

 

10th February   Secret Society Police

From The Malay Mail

A Malaysian shop selling pirated Video Cassette Discs (VCD) at Taman Maju was raided the second time within a week last Wednesday after it was suspected of selling pornographic VCDs.
The shop was raided by 10 policemen including officers from the anti-vice, gambling and secret society division (D7) of the State police.

A police spokesman said 12,000 VCDs worth RM68,200 and 300 units of Digital Video Disc (DVDs) valued at RM3,000 were seized. He said a small room at the back was believed to be used for their regular customers to select their favourite pornographic VCDs.

All the three workers and the seized items were taken to the Central Seberang Prai district police headquarters for further action. Police obtained a six-day remand order to assist in the investigations under Section 117 of the Penal Code.

 

9th February   Russia Leads the Free World

From Novosti

Russian Information Technologies and Communications Minister Leonid Reiman has come out against Internet censorship. My position is the following: I am against any kinds of filters and a special regime on the Internet. The web is developing rapidly and our task is to support it, he said at arecent Internet conference.

According to the minister, the appearance of the 'wrong information' on the Internet lies in the sphere of the law on mass media. The law should contain a relevant section regulating relations between providers and consumers of information, Reiman said. The Information Technologies and Communications Ministry is ready to render juridical assistance to solve this problem.

Reiman said he does not support the introduction of "nationwide special measures" against spam and thus, the ministry will not introduce them.

There should be no centralized regulations on our behalf, Reiman stressed. International community decisions should be followed and technical solutions offered by software and hardware producers, he added.

 

7th February   Indian Police with a Priority Problem

Feeling mellow after a couple of beers but sometimes it gets a little depressing to so continually have to report on nutters the world over. In a world racked by poverty, cancer and tsunamis why do the low lifes of the human race get so nasty over private sexual enjoyment? Just exactly what drives these people to think that they have dominion over other people's private lives? And why do they want to go to such lengths of hurt  to get their mean minded way?

Based on an article from New Kerala

Twenty-five people, including 10 women, were arrested from two Indian cybercafes here during a police crackdown against surfing of pornographic sites.

Police said adult sites were being watched in the cybercafes Monday night, and cabins at one centre were used for "obscene acts". The sorry drama continued until late night, with those arrested being let off after their parents were called in.

The families, however suggest that the reality is that: the policemen are out to impress their bosses by claiming to curb pornography when they have been unable to check rapes and murders in the city,

The Uttar Pradesh government has banned the surfing of pornographic sites at cybercafes and ordered that partitions and cubicles at Internet centres be pulled down. Police have already raided cybercafes in Agra and Aligarh.

A top police official refuted allegations of mean mindedness and misbehaviour during Monday's action, saying the raid was led by a woman officer.
(well that makes it OK then!)

 

6th February   Parents are a Mere Insult to the Crazed New Zealand Censor

This most be one of the most obnoxious censors I have ever written about. I really don't believe that the New Zealand people can  possibly put up with such a show of disrespect to so many people.

From Stuff

Parents who let their children watch or play anything with an R18 rating are breaking the law, Chief Censor Bill Hastings says. Hastings said yesterday the increasing number of parents buying R18 video games for their children was an insult to his work.

R18 games, such as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, were big sellers over Christmas with many parents buying them for their children. An R18 rating on a game is just as meaningful as an R18 rating on a video. When people ignore these ratings, they waste both taxpayers' money and our time, Hastings said.

Under the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993, offenders can be fined up to $10,000 and sentenced to up to three months' jail. However, no one had yet been charged, he said. When something was rated, it was done to prevent those people who were likely to be harmed from seeing it. It means we've decided that it's likely to injure the public good if someone under the rated age uses it. Just because something was termed "a game" did not mean it was meant for children, he said.

Although most games were rated because of violent content rather than sexual content, this didn't make them any more appropriate. In fact, violent content was the more serious problem, he said. Many R18 video games involved such things as torture and vengeful killing, as well as copious amounts of blood and gore, he said. If a parent sat down with their 13 or 15-year-old for an hour or so to watch them play these R18 games, they would probably regret the purchase, Hastings claimed.

 

6th February   Non-Halal Censorship

Based on an article from the New Straits Times

Watching the recent Golden Globe award presentation, an annoying thought came to mind, How many of these movies will the Malaysian Film Censorship Board, ever allow us to watch? Trailers of Manchurian Candidate, Mike Nicholas’ Closer, which earned two Golden Globes, Alexander Payne’s Sideways and Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby were shown. The question is will these movies be released here, or will they remain in the censor's closet?

The lack of consistency in our censoring is a recurring phenomenon in spite of numerous debates on, "whether a ban or a cut is reasonable?" Currently, the unkindest cut of all seems to be on Yasmin Ahmad’s movie, Sepet — a tale about a young Chinese VCD vendor who falls for a young pretty Malay girl. But our Censorship Board has imposed eight poorly justified cuts on the film. If the filmmakers fail to co-operate, the film will be banned.

Most notable one cut was justified by the repressive argument Why did you make the Malay heroine walk into a Chinese restaurant where non-halal food was probably served? Such a jaundiced vision will surely only serve to broaden the divide between races.

The board continues to push the jaded myth that our society is fragile and vulnerable, and hence in need of protective censorship.

The Home Affairs Ministry admits that there were about 1,500 foreign films banned in Malaysia since 2000. And while many have remained in the X Files, a few bans have been lifted. For instance, Jim Carrey’s Bruce Almighty was initially banned on religious grounds. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was approved for screening at designated cinemas to be seen by Christians only. Stephen Spielberg’s Holocaust film Schindler's List was unsuitable because of political content, while The Prince of Egypt, an animated epic about Moses, was "insensitive for religious reasons".

The trouble with our censorship process is that it seems to be arbitrary and subjective, and no one is ultimately accountable for it. A kissing scene between women, in The Hours was banned while similar scenes among men in Oliver Stone’s Alexander, were allowed.

Interestingly, some movie makers intentionally include violence and graphic sexual scenes, so that the censors get something to cut. In this way the censors feel that they earned their keep and movie makers get to show what they really want to show.

Singapore Media Development Authority’s rating system under age classifications reflects a positive mind shift, where a consumer can decide for himself based on the rating. But I read, they too have problems in the interpretations.

Who represents us at the Censorship Board? Are they educationalists, journalists, parents and sociologists? Do they like movies? Why are they so scissor-happy? Some say the entire point of this argument is futile because no matter what, movies have entered our rooms in various ways, making a mockery of the rulings. In the days of information revolution, we receive a lot from cable television, video and the Internet.

Finally, censorship negates creativity. Freedom of expression is a necessary tool for a creative artist. If you stifle that, you kill the talented local industry. Unfortunately, to some extent movies have been perceived as the partial cause for the moral decline of society and the Censor Board has been blamed for it. It is also unfortunate that unlike other government decisions that sometimes could be buried in some obscure files, the outcome of the censors’ decision, are seen or heard by all.

Nonetheless, movies are a work of art and have to be seen in the light of total impact. Ideally, on a big screen. And this is possible if the board just cuts pornography and violence and leaves the rest to us. Meanwhile, if there is some time left at the censor's office, they can start banning movies that glamorise the servility of women.

 

5th February   From Disaster to Disaster

Well that's Bali off the list of romantic holiday destinations

From the Jakarta Post

Watch out all you lovebirds out there -- there is now a chance that kissing in public in Indonesia could send you to jail for 10 years and cost you as much as Rp 300 million (US$32,800) in fines.

These new penalties for conspicious, unrestrained lust -- or just perhaps a peck on the lips -- are part of the new Criminal Code (KUHP) draft by a team led by legal expert and former justice minister Muladi. The same penalties apply for "an adult showing certain sensual body parts."

Since the 1960s, there have been calls to revise the Criminal Code inherited from the one drawn up by the Dutch in 1886, which its critics say has many flaws and is outdated. In early 1980s, the government began working on the new code, and only last month, 20 years later, the work was finally completed.

Some critics say the draft is repressive in parts and interferes too much in people's private lives, while others say some articles would limit freedom of expression or contravene human rights laws. The most-criticized articles include those on public morality, especially the proposed sanctions for possessing pornography, kissing in public, adultery and de facto couples.

If the code is passed extant, unmarried couples could be penalized with to two years' jail and a maximum fine of Rp 30 million; the article would also give police and officials the power to raid houses of all those they suspected of living together.

Law expert and women's rights activist Nursyahbani Katjasungkana said the morality articles were excessive and infringed on the "rights of the body." To protect children from pornography, we should regulate its distribution, not make it into a crime. And as far as kissing (in public) or living together goes, these new laws go way too far, Nursyahbani said. What about those couples who cannot register their marriages because the state does not recognize their religions? The state is not doing its duty but it is criminalizing its citizens.

Even a lawyer who helped draft the laws, legal expert Andi Hamzah, said he was surprised about the kissing and de facto relationship laws. What about tourists? Will we hunt them down too? I don't think that every 'immoral' act should become a crime. There are still other (non-legal) sanctions, he told The Jakarta Post.

Morality articles would also regulate films, songs, pictures and other art forms, meaning an on-screen kiss could also be a criminal offense for actors or directors.

Hinca Panjaitan, a lawyer and a free speech activist, said that 49 Articles in the new draft code could threaten the freedom of the press. One example, he said, was Article 308, which would fine or jail all persons found to have spread "uncertain, exaggerated or incomplete news" that could cause social disruption.

The draft will next go to the President, who will later send it on to the House of Representatives to be deliberated.

 

4th February   Repressing Filipinos for the World's Benefit

Based on an article from INQ7.net

Proponents of a repressive cyber-crime measure said that an all-out war against Internet pornography remains futile without a specific law supporting this repression.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared on Monday an all-out war against Internet pornography, calling on the public to report suspected operations of so-called "cybersex dens" to the police. Macapagal's call for action was in reaction to recent raids on the operations of suspected cybersex dens run by foreign and Filipino nationals. To keep the momentum of your new aggressive drive against cybersex dens, I call on our people to report to your nearest police stations operations that taint the image of our women and threaten the morals of people across the world," Macapagal said during a speech at the 14th anniversary of the Philippine National Police.

A government official who declined to be named however said government's all-out war is all talk, as there exists no Philippine law that prosecutes Internet pornography. The current anti-human trafficking law is not enough to prosecute people caught distributing pornography through the Internet, the official added.

The Philippine Computer Emergency Response Team, a group of volunteers drafting a cyber-crime bill has been pushing a measure that includes a provision meant to strengthen existing laws against cyber-crimes like Internet pornography.

The bill hopes to strengthen the Revised Penal Code, according to Albert dela Cruz, former president and director of PH-CERT, in an interview. The cybercrime bill suggests that the penalties on crimes enumerated in the Revised Penal Code should also be applied to crimes that use computers as a tool, Dela Cruz added.

The same government official said that foreign nationals or Filipinos caught distributing pornography on the Internet are likely penalized for indecent exposure.

Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. last week filed a proposal aiming to curb the use of high-tech equipment for pornography now proliferating in the Internet. Revilla’s Senate Bill aims to "add more teeth" to Republic Act, otherwise known as the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act. Revilla filed the bill in reaction to recent sting operations against alleged cybersex shops, the most recent of which was in Barangay Talon, Las Piñas City. The bill covers all digitally transmitted pornographic materials through websites, e-mails, optical media such as CDs, and even chatrooms.

Revilla emphasized that there are presently no clear laws punishing pornography transmitted through the Internet, At present, proliferation of pornographic materials through traditional and new mediums are not clearly punishable. And if they are punishable, the penalties are [so] inconsequential that perpetrators are not deterred from pursuing their immoral and indecent activities. Under the bill, Revilla proposes a penalty of 12- to 20 years in prison and a fine of at least 250,000 pesos against anyone who publishes, broadcasts, exhibits, sells, and acquires pornographic materials. Soliciting sexual favors through email or Internet chatrooms are also punishable under the bill. Cohorts of pornographers will also be sentenced to 12-year
imprisonment and charged a 100, 000-peso fine.

Last week, the National Telecommunications Commission has also ordered cable TV operators to stop TV-based chatrooms alleged to coddle prostitution, until regulations are created to curb indecent activities.

 

3rd February   Land of the Equally Not So Free

From Pravda

During the past six months there's been a passionate debate regarding the need for censorship within the Russian net.

Obviously, those in support of the limitations control the overall tone of the discussion. Governor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov for instance has stated that in his opinion it is necessary to increase one's responsibility for placing information on the world wide web, reports Interfax. At the same time, according to him, instead of limiting one's freedom, it is important to regulate by means of increasing one's responsibility. Luzhkov has also noted that nowadays "Internet is seriously ill", which according to him can be seen from numerous publications promoting drugs and violence.

The argument of the governor of Moscow has been supported by deputy head of federal agency for press and mass communications, Andrei Romanchenko,  who proposed to create a unified system of the so-called "content filtering" in Russia. As far as content filtering of the Internet is concerned, State's politics intends to offer the public its services to protect them against harmful and unlawful content, stated Romanchenko. According to his statements, this concerns the development of a special program, which would automatically block access to sites containing immoral and/or unlawful information.

Creators of the site "Stikhi.Ru" (Poems.Ru) have already forestalled the event proposing the initiation of self-censorship online.

 

2nd February   Land of the Not So Free

Based on an article from the BBC

A significant number of US high-school students regard their constitutional right to freedom of speech as excessive, according to a new survey. Over a third of the 100,000 students questioned felt the First Amendment went "too far" in guaranteeing freedom of speech, press, worship and assembly.
Only half felt newspapers should be allowed to publish stories that did not have the government's approval.

The two-year, $1m survey across US schools - in which 8,000 teachers were also interviewed - suggested students held a number of misconceptions about the First Amendment, and were more censorious on some issues than their elders. Some 83% of students polled felt people should be allowed to express unpopular views, as opposed to 97% of teachers.

Roughly half the students polled wrongly believed the US government had the right to censor the internet, while two-thirds believed it was illegal to burn the US flag - another misconception.

The US government has committed itself to inflicting "freedom" abroad. And anyone who stands in their way will be killed. In his second inaugural address, President George Warmonger Bush said the survival of liberty in the US depended on the success of liberty abroad.

Some rights groups have however attacked his administration for restricting civil liberties in measures that followed the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

The president of the John S and James L Knight Foundation, which conducted the research, said:
Ignorance about the basics of this free society is a danger to this nation's future.

 

31st January   Harassment of al-Jazeera

From The Guardian

International media watchdog Reporters Without Borders has protested at what it calls the "persistent harassment" of Arab satellite news channel al-Jazeera. It has called on the Iraqi government to reverse the August 2004 decision made by the interim leadership to shut down al-Jazeera's Baghdad office.

Reporters Without Borders said that since the start of 2004, al-Jazeera has been "harshly criticised" by Saudi Arabia and America and has been censored in Algeria, Iran, Tunisia and Canada. The press freedom organisation said that the channel, launched in Qatar in November 1996, annoyed some countries by giving airtime to their opponents and by breaching political and social taboos. We regret that some governments have no hesitation in censoring al-Jazeera, the leading Arabic news channel, to protect their political and diplomatic interests," said the group.

The interim Iraqi government accused the channel of incitement to racial hatred and tension and in November last year the defence minister, Hazem Shaalan, called al-Jazeera a "terrorist channel": May God curse all those who terrorise Iraqi citizens and Iraq's children, whether they are journalists or others. The day will come when we deal with al-Jazeera in other ways than with words.

Last year the US accused the channel of stoking up anti-American feelings in its coverage of events in Iraq. Saudi Arabia has banned al-Jazeera from covering the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca for the third year in a row, the latest in a long line of obstacles put in the way of its operations in many countries.

 

30th January   Bush Believes in Free Speech BUT....

  From FMQB

In an interview from the White House, Shameful President Bush states that parents' first responsibility is to pay attention to what their children listen to, whether it be rock songs, movies or TV shows. As a free speech advocate, I often told parents who were complaining about content, you're the first line of responsibility. They put an off button on the TV for a reason. Turn it off.

As for regulating content that goes over the public airwaves, the President stated, I do think though that government can, at times, not censor, BUT... call to account, programming that gets over the line. The problem, of course, is the definition of 'over the line'.  He also added that he would ask of an FCC chairman to Please tell me where the line is, and make sure you protect the capacity of people to speak freely in our society, BUT... be willing to, if things go too far, call them to account.

President Bush added that he thought outgoing FCC Chairman Michael Powell did a good job of balancing that. [ie even the briefest glimpse of a nipple is considered a heinous crime]

When Lamb referred to the bill that has been introduced by Michigan Representative Fred Upton and would allow for fines of up to $500,000 per indecency violation, the President joked that they're going to collect a lot of money on some of these TV shows. President Bush then referred to a statement made in the famous Supreme Court case where the justice explained his views of pornography by saying, I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. BUT... I know it when I see it...

After the reference, President Bush then added,
We are a great society because we are a free society, BUT... on the other hand, it is very important for there to be limits. Limits to what parents have to explain to their children. Never-the-less, parents first responsibility is to pay attention to what their children listen to, whether it be rock songs, movies or TV shows.

 

30th January   Pope of Comedy

From The Independent

A cartoon sitcom set in the Vatican and featuring a manic Pope bouncing around on a pogo stick and a back-stabbing cardinal is to be broadcast in Italy after it was cancelled by the BBC.

Popetown is a knockabout comedy that looks at the daily nuisances that exist in any workplace, according to a BBC press release - the workplace being the Vatican. But after the show was publicised in November 2002, more than 6,000 British Catholics demanded it be scrapped.

Clifford Longley, a Catholic commentator, accused the BBC of trying to incite ill-feeling towards Britain's six million Catholics. He said: If you insult the leadership of the Catholic Church like this, you insult all Catholics ... and you hold them up for public hatred, ridicule and contempt.

The BBC caved into the protests and pulled the show before it was screened, but was determined to recoup some of its multimillion-pound losses from shelving the show by marketing it around the world. Now an Italian satellite channel, CanalJimmy, is to give Italians the benefit of the 10-part series this spring.

CanalJimmy is unfazed by the fact that the object of Popetown's ridicule, the Vatican, is only a few miles from the station. Ironically, the decision to buy the series comes at a time when Italians are bemoaning the disappearance of homegrown satire.

Yet CanalJimmy has no qualms about Popetown, which it has re-titled Holy Smoke. This is a very alternative sort of channel, said a spokeswoman.
In fact we hope there will be a bit of a controversy as it would bring us some attention.

 

28th January   Cyprus Still Dishing Out Porn

From the Cyprus Mail

The Director of the Broadcasting Authority in Cyprus has said that the recent ruling against the sale or rent of pornography on the island does not cover porn legislation for television.

Once a taboo subject for many in Cyprus, the subject of porn has been a focal point for many in the last few months, after the recent clean sweep of explicit magazines and DVDs from kiosks and other shops.

However, many are asking how the authorities can allow hardcore pornography to be aired on television but not sold in shops.

The Director of the Broadcasting Authority, Neophytos Epaminondas, told the Cyprus Mail that he was aware of the recent ruling by the deputy Attorney-general about the law against selling or renting porn on the island, but added that the specific law did not cover broadcasting.
Adult shows or films can only be shown via a subscription channel, in which an adult can supervise and control through a decoder what can be shown. Moreover, adult programmes are only allowed to be aired after midnight.

 

28th January   Obscene Fines

Based on an article from the BBC

US politicians are proposing a tough new law aimed at minor indecency and strong language on US TV. Fines of up to $500,000 (£266,582) could be imposed each time broadcasters transmit nudity or profanities.

The proposal, unveiled in the House of Representatives, also seeks to revoke a broadcaster's licence after three violations have been committed. A Republican senator from Kansas, Sam Brownbeck, is set to call for a maximum $3 million (£1.6 million) fine for repeated violations.

Entertainers could also be liable for fines under the proposed legisation from both US politcians and officials from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The exposure of Janet Jackson's breast at last year's Superbowl landed CBS with a $550,000 (£293,264) fine. The current maximum fine stands at $32,500 (£17,320) - 20 of the stations in the CBS network were each penalised these lesser amounts for the Jackson incident.

New figures have to be decided before new legislation can be put before President Bush.

Certain broadcasters, like Fox, claim the material they carry does not violate indecency laws and is protected under the right to free speech.
(But... Fox News spends all day calling for the censorship and banning of everything that it doesn't agree with)

 

24th January   Nipple Brained Censor Quits

From Digital Spy

The chairman of America's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Michael Powell submitted his resignation today and confirmed that he will leave the regulator in March.

Powell was a controversial figure in American broadcasting during his time at the FCC. After the now-infamous Super Bowl incident involving Janet Jackson and her exposed nipple, Powell pushed to tighten indecency regulations and impose higher fines on broadcasters who violated the rules. Critics of Powell's deceny agenda point out that "decency" was never clearly defined by the FCC, even leading some ABC affiliates to not air Saving Private Ryan for fear that the regulator would slap them with fines. That argument, alongside freedom of speech concerns, remains an ongoing debate in American broadcasting.

Shock jock Howard Stern decided to leave FCC-regulated terrestrial radio in favour of a satellite radio platform due to concerns that his speech would be limited. Today, Stern was audibly pleased with Powell's decision. Thank God he's gone. This is a great day in broadcasting.

 

23rd January   Songs of Censorship

Note that the original Australian X18+ is similar to the BBFC R18 rating and would have prevented an Australian cinema release. The Australian R18+ is similar to the BBFC 18 rating and can be shown in cinemas

OFLC, the Australian censor, issued the following press release found on  www.refused-classification.com

9 Songsclassified R18+ upon review

A five-member panel of the Classification Review Board has determined, in a 3 to 2 majority decision, that the film, 9 Songs, directed by Michael Winterbottom, is classified R18+with the consumer advice, “Actual sex, High-level sex scenes ”.

Only persons aged 18 years and over can gain entry to a film that has been classified R18+.

In the Classification Review Board’s majority opinion, the film warrants an R18+, rather than an X18+ classification, because, while some scenes may offend some sections of the adult community, the actual sex scenes are justified by the context, narrative, tone and artistic merit.

Classification Review Board Convener Maureen Shelley said, 9 Songs depicts a couple’s emotional and physical relationship and the sexual activity is incidental to and reflective of this theme.

The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body. Meeting in camera, it makes a fresh classification decision upon receipt of an application for review. This Classification Review Board decision takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board.

The Classification Review Board’s reasons for this decision will appear on the OFLC website when finalised.

 

22nd January   Nudity Scrubbed Out

From the BBC

A US TV network is editing BBC Films' Dirty War to avoid showing the front of a nude woman being scrubbed down after a fictional chemical attack.

It is not worth showing "non-essential" nude scenes when indecency complaints are "aggressively pursued" by US TV watchdogs, said PBS' Jacoba Atlas.

Dirty War - screened uncut on BBC One last September - depicts a dirty bomb attack on the City of London. It is also being screened uncut on US cable channel HBO on 24 January.

PBS said it will use extra footage for its broadcast, showing the woman "from a more discreet angle" instead. Many US networks and broadcasters are now more nervous about airing nudity, violence or bad language. Atlas said PBS could put itself financially at risk if it showed the uncut version of Dirty War, and it could also deter many of its 170 individual stations from airing "an important film".

 

18th January   Skimpy on Freedom

From Local6.com

Wearing thongs to Melbourne beach in Florida, local parks or out on the street could cost you $500 and perhaps jail time.

The Melbourne City Council recently voted unanimously to stop the super-skimpy swimwear amid a series of new adult entertainment regulations. Melbourne council members also slashed the city's adult entertainment zone from 937 acres to 40 acres along North Drive.

Nearby Brevard County has banned thongs since 1995.

 

15th January   Bollox in Virginia

From The Guardian

The Virginia Supreme Court on Friday struck down an archaic but rarely enforced state law prohibiting sex between unmarried people.

The unanimous ruling strongly suggests that a separate anti-sodomy law in Virginia also is unconstitutional, although that statute is not directly affected. The justices based their ruling on a U.S. Supreme Court decision voiding an anti-sodomy law in Texas.

This case directly affects only the fornication law but makes it absolutely clear how the court would rule were the sodomy law before it, said Kent Willis, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Virginia.

Virginia's anti-sodomy law prohibits oral and anal sex even for married couples, but gay-rights advocates say the statute is only used to target homosexuals. Legislators for years have rejected efforts to repeal the law. They left it on the books again last year even after the Texas decision held that such laws are unconstitutional.

It's a strong message to legislators that they must repeal Virginia's sodomy law, Willis said. Now both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Virginia Supreme Court have spoken on essentially the same issue.

The court said that decisions by married or unmarried persons regarding their intimate physical relationship are elements of their personal relationships that are entitled to due process protection.

The ruling stemmed from a woman's lawsuit seeking $5 million in damages from a man who infected her with herpes. She claims the man did not inform her that he was infected before they had sex.

Richmond Circuit Judge Theodore J. Markow threw out the lawsuit, ruling that the woman was not entitled to damages because she had participated in an illegal act. The Supreme Court reinstated the lawsuit.

The law against fornication had been on the books since the early 1800s but was last enforced against consenting adults in 1847, according to Paul McCourt Curley, attorney for the defendant in the lawsuit.

Curley said he sees nothing wrong with having laws on the books, even if they are unenforced, that say these are the ideals and morals of the state of Virginia. He said the ruling sends a message that virtually anything goes - even adultery - as long as sex is consensual.

However, the justices noted that their ruling does not affect the commonwealth's police powers regarding regulation of public fornication, prostitution, or other such crimes.'

 

15th January   Fair & Balanced Censorship

From CT Now

Attention,  parent Democrats. Are you worried about what your children are seeing on TV? Have you caught them ogling news presenters as they engage in explicit acts of love with Bush administration policies?

Now you can protect your little liberals from hard-core right-wing positions the same way you censor cable porn. For $8.95, The FOXBlocker eliminates exposure to the Fox News Channel.

Sam Kimery and Joshua Montgomery, who are marketing the device, say it employs the technology already used to filter adult content.

And every time someone orders one of the gizmos from Foxblocker.com, Fox advertisers receive e-mail telling them that another consumer has just said no to Rupert Murdoch's brand of "fair and balanced news."

We hope that companies will see people actually paying to block channels that won't offer alternative views, and then rethink how they spend their advertising dollars, Montgomery said.

 

14th January   Ali G: Da Sensitivity

From Yahoo News

Comedian Sasha Baron Cohen has escaped a near-riot at an American rodeo while filming his satirical Da Ali G Show.

According to a report in the local paper, a man who was introduced as Boraq Sagdiyev from Kazakhstan -- in reality a Cohen character named Borat -- appeared at the rodeo over the weekend after organisers agreed to have him sing the national anthem.

After telling the crowd he supported America's war on terrorism, he said, I hope you kill every man, woman and child in Iraq, down to the lizards ... And may George W. Bush drink the blood of every man, woman and child in Iraq. He then sang a garbled version of The Star-Spangled Banner.

The Roanoke Times reported that the crowd turned "downright nasty." One observer said If he had been out there a minute longer, I think somebody would have shot him.

Cohen and his film crew were escorted out of the Salem Civic Center and told to leave the premises. Had we not gotten them out of there, there would have been a riot, rodeo producer Bobby Rowe told the paper.

 

13th January   Dictating Radio Playlists

From The Independent

Radio stations in Belarus, Europe's most repressive state, have been ordered to cut back drastically on the amount of foreign music they play.

Under a draconian new decree, only two of every 10 tracks played on FM radio can be foreign and the rest must be performed by home-grown artists.

Inspired by the neo-Stalinist President, Alexander Luka-shenko - described by his critics as "Europe's last dictator" - the ban has left radio stations struggling to fill their schedules. Although the ban was ostensibly to stimulate the domestic music scene, many of Belarus's most popular bands have been blacklisted for performing at a concert last year to protest against Lukashenko's 10-year rule, in which he has ruthlessly crushed opposition, paid scant respect for human rights and been accused of ordering murders.

The bands - Palac, Drum Ecstasy, Neuro Dubel, N.R.M., ZET, Pomidor/OFF and Zmicier Vajciuskievic - say their music has not been on the radio since, and concerts and media interviews have been cancelled.

Belarussians told the Russian daily Gazeta that many stations face bankruptcy since they will all have to play the same music and lose listeners, or lose their licences.

 

12th January
  Addicted to Repression

From AVN

Alberto M. Gonzales, President Bush's nominee to replace John Ashcroft as Attorney General of the United States, committed to enforcing federal obscenity laws during his questioning by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. This is the first public statement of his views on adult material that anyone has been able to uncover.

The topic first arose when Senator Mike DeWine asked the candidate what he'd like to be remembered for, four years from now? Gonzales replied, in part, I think obscenity is something else that very much concerns me. I've got two young sons, and it really bothers me about how easy it is to have access to pornography.

That statement led to a later exchange that was as revealing about the plans of committee member Senator Sam Brownback  as about Gonzales' views on sexually explicit material. Brownback urged Gonzales to investigate the hypothesis presented before his Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space that pornography was an addictive commodity, suggesting that perhaps the DOJ could prosecute porn on those grounds.

Brownback’s request is repeated in full onthe issue of obscenity laws and enforcement: I held a hearing last session of Congress on the issue of these -- not obscenity laws, but on addictions to pornography. And there was an amazing set of experts that came forward, talking about the addictiveness of pornography.

It's grown much more potent, much more addictive, much more pervasive, much more impactful. You cited teenage children you have and that I have, and in our private conversation. There's been criticism of the Department of Justice for not enforcing obscenity laws, work on these issues on community standards. I would hope that this would be something that you would take a look at, maybe make some personnel shifts within the Department of Justice, to address this from the law standards, on community standards, look at the addictiveness in the nature of it.

There are certain, obviously, guarantees of First Amendment rights, but there are also these laws that have been upheld by community standards, upheld by the Supreme Court, that can be, and I really think should be, enforced, given the nature of this very potent -- what one expert called it, delivery system, of -- in this country. And I hope you can look at that.


Gonzales replied, I will commit to that. I will look at that, Senator.

Beyond Gonzales' "commitment," Brownback's statement contains several troubling elements, not the least of which is his description of the witnesses who testified at the aforementioned panel on the addictive qualities of porn. As noted in the January AVN, this "amazing set of experts" were in fact not experts at all, according to most of the world's top sex researchers, but agenda-driven ideologues who hate sexually-expressive speech.

There is no scientifically credible evidence for her ideas, said Dr. Daniel Linz, co-author of The Question of Pornography, of the claims of witness Dr. Judith Reisman. In fact, the notions of 'sexual addition' generally, including 'pornography addiction' as well as the recent concern with 'on-line sex addiction' are highly questionable to most scientists.

But though Dr. Linz had submitted his opinions to Brownback's subcommittee, the senator obviously ignored Dr. Linz's testimony, and described adult material in drug terms, as having grown much more potent, much more addictive – as if the sexual speech were some new strain of marijuana or opium.

Brownback also spoke of maybe making some personnel shifts within the Department of Justice, which suggests that he has new duties in mind for former DOJ prosecutor/anti-porn crusader Bruce Taylor, whose job duties have been unclear since his rehiring early last year. Andrew Oosterbaan, the current head of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, has been the main target of the criticism of the Department of Justice for not enforcing obscenity laws

Further, Brownback's recommendation that Gonzales address this [obscenity laws] from the law standards, on community standards, look at the addictiveness in the nature of it, recalls Reisman's claim in her testimony that pornographic visual images imprint and alter the brain, triggering an instant, involuntary, but lasting, biochemical memory trail, arguably, subverting the First Amendment by overriding the cognitive speech process. This is true of so-called 'soft-core' and 'hard-core' pornography. This suggests that the government's new strategy will be to attempt to place all sexual speech outside the protection of the First Amendment by claiming that it creates effects over which the viewer will have no conscious, rational control.

At the judiciary committee hearing, Brownback mentioned that he hoped to "recruit" Gonzales' wife "on this topic" because she "had some interest in this." Could a patronage job for Mrs. Gonzales be in the offing – at substantial salary, no doubt – if the new attorney general agrees to target adult materials as Brownback thinks he should? Only time will tell.

 

8th January
  Denying Freedom to Deny

From Expatica

An anti-Semitic book review referring to rabbis "rolling in gold" has been posted on Amazon.com's German website in connection with a book on a World War II battle between the Soviet Red Army and Adolf Hitler's Wehrmacht.

The review will be removed as quickly as possible from our website, a company spokeswoman said on Friday. The company banned anti-Semitic and racist content from book reviews, said Christine Hoeger, spokeswoman for Amazon's German division.

The Amazon customer review - dated 29 October 2004 - says the 1945 Battle of Halbe near Berlin was "the last act of a 30 year civil war in which the Christians (the British Empire) and the godless Jews (plutocrats and Bolsheviks) allied to bomb the German speakers in the centre of Europe back into third class status."

The reviewer, identified only as "kksspeer" from the German city of Celle, goes on to claim it is clear where this led following the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US. (US President George W.) Bush and (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon are standing at the gates of Baghdad. The crusade began in 1914 and found a preliminary end at the Israeli-Palestinian wall. Some rabbis are rubbing their hands and rolling in gold."

The book reviewed is titled Der Kessel von Halbe 1945 and describes the last major battle between the Red Army and German forces, about 40 kilometres south of Berlin, in which at least 22,000 people were killed.

Freedom of speech in Germany - in contrast to countries like the US - has certain constitutional and legal limits, especially with regard to the Holocaust and Jews. Denying that the Holocaust took place is illegal and incitment of anti-Semitism can be prosecuted under the German Criminal code.

 

2nd January
  Ex Support for X Ban

From the News.com.au

Almost three-quarters of Australians have no objection to the sale of X-rated non-violent pornographic movies, a new industry survey has found.

The findings were in a News poll commissioned by the Eros Association, a group representing adult industries.

The survey found that one in seven Australians were in favour of non-violent, X-rated films being available from licensed adult shops, while 17 per cent of respondents were against their availability.

Laws in all Australian states prevent the legal sale of X-rated films, but it is allowed in the ACT and Northern Territory.

Eros spokeswoman Fiona Patten said the findings suggested people did not want explicit movies banned, just properly regulated by the Government.

 

1st January
31,000 Cases of Theft by Policemen

From the Cyprus Mail

The Government decision to ban hard core pornography in Cyprus is being felt in shops and kiosks across the island, with shop owners voicing their anger at the sudden draconian implementation of the rules.

Police authorities, who began enforcing the ban this week, said yesterday they would keep up the pressure until all the explicit material on sale or rent was seized. Police spokesman Demetris Demetriou said a major sweep was already under way, with Limassol the hardest hit. We started cleaning out all the shops selling explicit pornographic items and we shall continue our operations until they have been completely confiscated. Already we have seized 31,000 pornographic items from around the island, with the biggest operations in Limassol. All the other towns and areas are next.

One kiosk owner in Strovolos described the government’s decision to ban porn on the island as idiotic, saying consumers will find other means to access hardcore pornography, while porn that had been on sale or rent in shops would leak on to the black market. I believe the government’s decision to ban pornography in Cyprus is idiotic for three reasons. First, people can simply download porn off the Internet so how can the police possibly monitor those actions. Secondly, people can simply enjoy porn by subscribing to LTV and thirdly they can watch porn through satellites.

The shop owner, who wished to remain anonymous, said that although he believed the decision was wrong, the ban would not affect his business. I never sold a large number of pornographic items so it hasn’t bothered me in the least. However, it doesn’t mean that the decision is right because everyone knows that porn will never disappear from Cyprus. All those items that used to be sold in the kiosks will now be sold on the black market.

Meanwhile, the owner of Lover’s Sex Shop in Makedonitissa told the Cyprus Mail that he would fight the government in the courts should police officials come knocking at his door.
Until know, I have not been contacted by the authorities but in the event that they try and close my business down again I will sue the government. I have always been running my business by the books and have paid a lot of money in investment and taxes. Now, out of the blue they want to close me down. I will fight them in the courts and do everything I can to save my legitimate business.

 

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