The Ontario Human Rights Commission said yesterday it will not proceed with a complaint against Maclean's magazine for an article titled The Future Belongs to Islam by columnist Mark Steyn that appeared in October 2006.
The Canadian Islamic Congress complained to the commission that the content of the article and the Maclean's refusal to provide space for a rebuttal had violated its human rights.
The commission said the Ontario Human Rights Code did not give it jurisdiction to deal with the content of magazine articles through its complaint process.
Steyn's article argued that high birth rates among Muslims points to them becoming the majority in Europe, an eventuality that would fundamentally transform the West. It also says some Muslims are violent radicals.
While freedom of expression must be recognized as a cornerstone of a functioning democracy, the Commission strongly condemns the Islamophobic portrayal of Muslims, Arabs, South Asians and indeed any racialized community in the media, such as
the Maclean's article and others like them, as being inconsistent with the values enshrined in our human rights codes, the commission said in a statement: Media has a responsibility to engage in fair and unbiased journalism.
Afghanistan's lower house of Parliament has passed a resolution seeking to bar television programs from showing dancing and other practices deemed un-Islamic.
The decision came just days after the private Tolo TV channel aired a dance number featuring men and women together on an Afghan film awards program.
The Information and Culture Ministry condemned the scene, saying dancing by men and women together was completely against the culture of the Afghan, Muslim society.
The parliamentary resolution, drafted by a commission for cultural and religious affairs, said dancers should not be shown on television, and un-Islamic scenes should be cut from Indian TV series broadcast in Afghanistan, said Din Mohammad Azimi,
a lawmaker and member of the commission.
The resolution, which is not now legally binding and cannot be enforced, will go before the upper house of Parliament for consideration, Azimi said. It would also have to be approved by the president before becoming law.
Tolo TV's owner Saad Mohseni said the dancing on the awards show Friday was very tame by any standard and the women were dressed modestly.
For the past eleven years the organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), representing the 57 Islamic States, has been tightening its grip on the throat of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On 28th March 2008, they finally killed it.
With the support of their allies including China, Russia and Cuba (none well-known for their defence of human rights) the Islamic States succeeded in forcing through an amendment to a resolution on Freedom of Expression that has turned the entire
concept on its head. The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression will now be required to report on the “abuse” of this most cherished freedom by anyone who, for example, dares speak out against Sharia laws that require women to be stoned
to death for adultery or young men to be hanged for being gay, or against the marriage of girls as young as nine, as in Iran.
Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan saw the writing on the wall three years ago when he spoke of the old Commission on Human Rights having become too selective and too political in its work. Piecemeal reform would not be enough. The old
system needed to be swept away and replaced by something better. The Human Rights Council was supposed to be that new start, a Council whose members genuinely supported, and were prepared to defend, the principles of the Universal Declaration of
Yet since its inception in June 2006, the Human Rights Council has failed to condemn the most egregious examples of human rights abuse in the Sudan, Byelorussia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China and elsewhere, whilst repeatedly condemning Israel and
Three years later Annan's dream lies shattered, and the Human Rights Council stands exposed as incapable of fulfilling its central role: the promotion and protection of human rights. The Council died yesterday in Geneva, and with it the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights whose 60th anniversary we were actually celebrating this year.
There has been a seismic shift in the balance of power in the UN system. For over a decade the Islamic States have been flexing their muscles. Yesterday they struck. There can no longer be any pretence that the Human Rights Council can defend
human rights. The moral leadership of the UN system has moved from the States who created the UN in the aftermath of the Second World War, committed to the concepts of equality, individual freedom and the rule of law, to the Islamic States, whose
allegiance is to a narrow, medieval worldview defined exclusively in terms of man's duties towards Allah, and to their fellow-travellers, the States who see their future economic and political interests as being best served by their alliances
with the Islamic States.
Yesterday's attack by the Islamists, led by Pakistan, had the subtlety of a thin-bladed knife slipped silently under the ribs of the Human Rights Council. At first reading the amendment to the resolution to renew the mandate of the Special
Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression might seem reasonable. It requires the Special Rapporteur: To report on instances in which the abuse of the right of freedom of expression constitutes an act of racial or religious discrimination …
For Canada, who had fought long and hard as main sponsor of this resolution to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, this was too much.
Canada's position was echoed by several delegations including India, who objected to the change of focus from protecting to limiting freedom of expression. The European Union, the United Kingdom (speaking for Australia and the United States),
India, Brazil, Bolivia, Guatemala and Switzerland all withdrew their sponsorship of the main resolution when the amendment was passed. In total, more than 20 of the original 53 co-sponsors of the resolution withdrew their support.
On the vote, the amendment was adopted by 27 votes to 15 against, with three abstentions.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights died with the vote. Who knows when, or if, it can ever be revived.
I used to wonder what States who felt it necessary to kill people because they change their religion thought they were doing in the Human Rights Council. Now I know.
Head of the screening department of the Nihon Ethics of Video Association (NEVA) Katsumi Ono was indicted last week on charges involving failure to screen two DVDs that did not comply with obscenity standards.
NEVA’s panel of scholars, former journalists and film experts screens adult videos produced by 90 Japanese production companies to determine if they comply with standards and regulations.
Ono was arrested, in the beginning of March, on suspicion of assisting the sale of the explicit DVDs after approving the videos. The movies, which were released in June 2006, were allegedly approved for sale without proper screening for
potentially obscene content.
The two videos contained scenes showing genitalia which were pixellated, but according to authorities, viewers could still make out body parts.
Reportedly, three other men have also been indicted in the incident.
The young Sri Lankan filmmaker Thushara Peiris has been subjected to mob attack by hundreds of Indians including film producers, directors and technicians within an Indian Laboratory premises.
Director Thushara Peiris went to India with his maiden film Prabhakaran to make its Tamil copy and he was at Gemini Colour Laboratory in Chennai since March 20.
The procedure to pass a film through Indian Censor Board is not an easy task. We have to produce an English translation of the Sinhala version of the screenplay, then the Tamil version, cast list, their background details and so many other
details, Thushara explained the harrowing experience he had in India.
While I was giving these details to the Censor Board some details of the film had been leaked and misinterpretation and misleading news had been spreading about the film labelling it as an anti Tamil and anti LTTE.
As Peiris was completing the final touches to the film on Tuesday, March 25, a mob who claimed they were film producers and technicians staged a protest in front of Gemin lab and in the evening as Thusara was leaving for his hotel had attacked
They demanded that the film be destroyed, Peiris said.
Following a severe assault and cut on his back Thusara's dress was torn into pieces by the violent Indian mob at Gemini Lab premises. Later as the media and the police were approaching the place the assailants who introduced themselves as film
technicians had given him a shirt and forced him act as if nothing had happened.
However I was kept in a room in the laboratory and was not allowed to talk to the media, Thusara claimed. After the assault a meeting was summoned with the film technicians, police and officials of the Indian Censor Board and had demanded
to watch the film to which Thusara had agreed. However Thusara was made to sign a letter stating that if it contained any scene against Tamils or terrorists it would not be allowed to be screened in India.
Without seeing the film they had labelled my film as a propaganda for Mahinda Rajapaksa government which it is not. It is a film I made about the suffering and misery faced by the youth in Sri Lanka and I want every Tamil to see it, the
Update: Tamil Calls for Ban
3rd April 2008
The dubbed version (in Tamil) of Prabakaran was screened in Chennai to the agitating Tamil activists. Around 30 Tamil activists from various Tamil groups and political parties viewed the film at a preview theatre in Chennai. After
seeing the film, Tamil activists have alleged that the entire film demeans Tamils in general and their freedom struggle in particular.
The film portrays Sinhalese as innocent people and demonises Tamils as war mongering and violent people , Thol Thirumavalavan (leader of Dalith Panthers of India and known LTTE sympathiser) told BBC Tamil service: If this film is
released it may trigger ethnic violence against Tamils. So we are going to ask the Tamil film producers council not to give permission to release this film in Tamil Nadu or anywhere in India. We are also going to ask the censor board not to clear
this film to be screened in India. We are also contemplating filing a court case seeking a complete ban on the film.
A new book details the extent to which countries across the globe are increasingly censoring online information they find strategically, politically or culturally threatening.
Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering challenges the long-standing assumption that the internet is an unfettered space where citizens from around the world can freely communicate and mobilise. In fact, the
book makes it clear that the scope, scale and sophistication of net censorship are growing.
There's been a conventional wisdom or myth that the internet was immune from state regulation, says Ronald Deibert, one of the book's editors: What we're finding is that states that were taking a hands-off approach to the internet for
many years are now finding ways to intervene at key internet choke points, and block access to information.
Deibert heads The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto. The Lab, along with Harvard Law School, the University of Cambridge, and Oxford University, has spent the last five years testing internet access in some 40 countries.
The book highlights Saudi Arabia, Iran and China as some of the most aggressive nations when it comes to net filtering. They use a variety of technical techniques to limit what their citizens can see online. But they reinforce that filtering with
other methods, such as net surveillance.
Surveillance is a huge deterrent, says The Citizen Lab's Nart Villeneuve. If you talk to dissident groups in these countries, they'll tell you that they're under surveillance, that they're concerned for their safety, and that it
definitely influences their online behavior.
And even as human rights and internet rights groups fight to raise awareness about internet censorship, countries such as China have responded by getting smarter in what they block, and when they block it.
John Palfrey, director of Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, points out that some countries are considering whether or not to bypass the World Wide Web all together by creating what amounts to their own local area
networks. We are starting to see something more like the China Wide Web, the Pakistan Wide Web, and the Iran Wide Web.
The top UN rights body has passed a resolution proposed by Islamic countries saying it is deeply concerned about the defamation of religions and urging governments to prohibit it.
The European Union said the text was one-sided because it primarily focused on Islam.
The UN Human Rights Council, which is dominated by Arab and other Muslim countries, adopted the resolution on a 21-10 vote over the opposition of Europe and Canada. 14 countries abstained in the vote.
EU countries, including France, Germany and Britain, voted against. Previously EU diplomats had said they wanted to stop the growing worldwide trend of using religious anti-defamation laws to limit free speech.
The document, which was put forward by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, expresses deep concern at attempts to identify Islam with terrorism, violence and human rights violations.
Although the text refers frequently to protecting all religions, the only religion specified as being attacked is Islam, to which eight paragraphs refer.
The resolution notes with deep concern the intensification of the campaign of defamation of religions and the ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim minorities in the aftermath of the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001.
The EU said, International human rights law protects primarily individuals in their exercise of their freedom of religion or belief, not religions or beliefs as such.
The resolution urges states to take actions to prohibit the dissemination ... of racist and xenophobic ideas and material that would incite to religious hatred. It also urges states to adopt laws that would protect against hatred and
discrimination stemming from religious defamation.
Turkey has banned access to Slide, a presentation application, for hosting supposedly offensive content.
Slide is one of the most popular applications on Facebook. According to the company's blog it was accused of harboring pictures and articles that are considered to be insulting to Ataturk . Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is the founder of modern
Turkey, and insults against him are considered an attack on "Turkishness".
However, Turkey is restoring access to YouTube after the video-sharing website removed the videos that prompted the officials to block access in the first place.
The website said that it has removed the videos a prosecutor deemed insulting to Kemal Ataturk, Turkey's founding father, who established the country after collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
Update: IndyMedia Blocked
31st March 2008
Access to Indymedia Istanbul inside Turkey has been blocked by Turk Telekom.
Istanbul Indymedia (
http://istanbul.indymedia.org ) has been operating in Turkey since 2003. This initiative aims to organize its own information network without disregarding the information resources both in Turkey and abroad, and to make its voice to be heard
by the masses in Turkey and abroad -despite that the internet is still a media tool which has a limited access for many people.
Indymedia can still be accessed in Turkey as follows:
By changing the DNS keys of your network connection to Open DNS servers
Update: Pandering to Turkishness
2nd April 2008
YouTube has removed several video clips that had prompted Turkish authorities to block access to the video-sharing Web site, a move the company believes will lead to a restoration of access soon.
In a statement in Turkish sent to The Associated Press, YouTube said the company reviewed the videos that led to the most recent ban on access and removed them because of their content, which violate YouTube's content policy.
A court in the capital of Ankara imposed a ban on access to the site at the request of a prosecutor who had argued the clips were disrespectful to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a war hero who founded Turkey from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.
Canada is often thought of as a land of bland consensus and multicultural harmony - the last place where you would expect to see a religious minority up in arms, and journalists accusing the state of gagging freedom of speech.
Yet in recent months, these have become fixtures of the country's public debate.
Failure to provide clear definitions in a new law banning online pornography will hamper its enforcement, the government is being warned.
Legislator Abdullah Azwar Anas of the National Awakening Party (PKB) said the government must clearly define the terms "immorality" and "pornography" contained in the law on information and electronic transactions passed by
the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
The law criminalizes the use, transmission and provision of pornographic websites.
The law only briefly states providers and transmitters of information or pictures with immoral content could face a maximum sentence of six years in prison or a fine of up to Rp 1 billion (US$107,000).
Abdullah said although the terms immorality and pornography were still debated between feminist activists and conservatives, there needed to be an exact parameter upon which the two disputing groups could agree.
I think nudity certainly falls within the category of pornography, he said. The lawmaker said the government had a one-year period to draft regulations to enforce the law and publicize it before it is implemented.
National Commission for Child Protection chairman Seto Mulyadi said clear-cut definitions of immorality and pornography were important to avoid controversy over the new law.
I think pornography includes pictures or information that can arouse sexual desire. It doesn't necessarily mean nudity. In many cases, nudity can serve as an educational object, let's say for example in biology class, or as an artistic object.
Information and Communications Minister Muhammad Nuh told Reuters members of the public had asked the government to block sites with violent and pornographic content, out of concern about their negative impact as more Indonesians gain access to
the Internet. Nuh's office has made available software to block websites with adult content. The software can be downloaded from the ministry's website.
It plans to begin blocking all adult sites from April 1.
A court sentenced a prominent Turkish human rights campaigner to six months and 20 days in prison for insulting the army in a newspaper interview two years ago.
Legal action was taken against the campaigner, Eren Keskin, after a complaint by the Turkish general staff after she told the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel that the army had undue influence on politics, the judiciary and state institutions.
Ms. Keskin was found guilty under a provision in the penal code that forbids “insulting Turkishness.” In the 15-minute hearing, Ms. Keskin said she stood by her statement but denied any intent to insult the army, adding, It was meant as
political criticism. She said she would appeal the verdict.
People in China are able to access English language stories on the BBC News website in full, after years of strict censorship by Beijing. The BBC News website has been blocked for almost a decade.
The Communist authorities often block news sites such as the BBC in a policy dubbed the "great firewall of China".
But BBC staff working in China now say they are able to access news stories that would have been blocked before.
However, the firewall remains in place for Chinese language services on the website and for any links in Chinese.
Beijing has never admitted to blocking access to BBC news stories - and there has been no official confirmation that the website has been unblocked.
Technology experts say such a development would not be possible without the approval of internet service providers - which are under strict supervision by Beijing.
Typically fewer than 100 people read BBC stories from Chinese computers - but on Tuesday that figure jumped to more than 16,000.
The Chinese authorities had promised to give foreign journalists more freedom in the run-up to this summer's Olympic Games. But analysts say that recent outbreaks of unrest in Tibet have made this promise more difficult for Beijing to uphold.
Fairfax Media is counting the cost of a small "inappropriate" item in its Sunday Star-Times glossy magazine which led to four pages being literally pulled before the paper reached newsstands.
Fairfax hired casual staff in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch to remove 4 pages from about 200,000 magazines.
The offending item is believed to have been on the editorial page with a link to a sex website, associated with article in the magazine about the erotic author Suzanne Portnoy [described in the original
article as a porn queen]
Executive editor Paul Thompson said: We have our editorial standards and they are well known. My view was that this content clearly crossed the line and we could not let the magazine be distributed containing that material.
Fouad Mourtada, the 26-year old IT engineer who has been arrested on February 5th, 2008 and sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of $1350 for creating a fake Facebook profile of King Mohammed VI’s younger brother, Prince Moulay Rachid,
has been released.
According to a source close to Help Fouad campaign, Fouad got a full royal pardon.
Update: Losing YouTube
7th June 2008
A Moroccan in Washington D.C. broke the news that YouTube had been blocked in Morocco. He remarked that It's quite saddening to see such a thing happening in Morocco;a country that has made giant steps in freedoms and socio-economic reforms in
the span of short 8 years.
In an effort to prolong the trial of two Turkish converts to Christianity accused of denigrating Islam and Turkishness, three gendarme soldiers were summoned to testify before the Silivri Criminal Court in northwestern Turkey as witnesses
for the prosecution – which has yet to provide any evidence for its case.
Turan Topal and Hakan Tastan, who were searched, detained and then charged in October 2006 under Turkey’s controversial Article 301 restricting freedom of speech, have been on trial for 18 months.
The state prosecutor had called for the Christians’ acquittal last July, noting that the youthful plaintiffs in the case had given contradictory testimonies and no credible evidence had been produced to prove the charges. But the new judge
assigned to the case in November accepted prosecution lawyer demands to call another dozen witnesses to testify.
The three soldiers from the Silivri Gendarme Headquarters testified separately to their involvement in searching the defendants’ homes and office on October 11, 2006, when they said they found a large number of Bibles and Christian documents, as
well as several computers.
One of the soldiers said that at the time of their court-ordered investigation, military intelligence officers had shown them an organizational chart, listing names of alleged leaders of the detained Christians’ group, which is accused of
conducting illegal religious activities.
Although the Christians’ trial in Silivri is officially held in “open” court, the current judge has refused to admit any Turkish or international press to observe the last two hearings.
301 Changes ‘Shelved Indefinitely’
A senior member of the European Parliament declared last month that the European Union was losing patience with Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) over its failure to change the restrictive Article 301.
“We’re preparing a report for the European Parliament which will be voted on in April,” Joost Lagendijk told the BBC on February 11. If nothing has moved by then on freedom of expression, the report will be negative.
Turkey’s prime minister, justice minister and president have declared repeatedly over the past two years that amending the law was both needful and “high on their agenda.” But last week AKP deputy Nihat Ergun admitted that although a revised
draft of Article 301 was completed, it had been shelved indefinitely.
Reportedly this reflects accommodations to the opposition Nationalist Movement Party, which supported the AKP’s recent constitutional amendment to allow headscarves on university campuses but opposes making any changes to Article 301.
Access to a total of 294 Web sites has been blocked in Turkey since November of last year following the establishment of an Internet bureau within the Department of Telecommunications.
Telecommunications Director Fethi Simsek, in an interview with a correspondent from Anatolia, said 294 Web sites have been permanently shut down for reasons such as obscenity, encouraging people to gamble and for insults directed at Turkey's
founder Atatürk and the Turkish nation since last November.
Simsek said most of these Web sites were blocked for violating Article 226 of the Turkish Penal Code on obscenity, Article 227 on prostitution, Article 228 on gambling, Article 13 over the sexual abuse of children and Article 190 on the use of
Wikileaks has released 35 censored videos relating to the Chinese suppression of dissent in Tibet and has called on bloggers around the world to help drive the footage through the so called "Great Firewall of China".
The transparency group's move comes as a response to the the Chinese Public Security Bureau's carte-blanche censorship of youtube, the BBC, CNN, the Guardian and other sites carrying video footage of the Tibetan people's recent heroic stand
against the inhumane Chinese occupation of Tibet.
Wikileaks has also placed the collection in two easy to use archives together with a HTML index page so they may be easily copied, placed on websites, emailed across the internet as attachments and uploaded to peer to peer networks.
Censorship, like communism, seems like a reasonable enough idea to begin with. While 'from each according to his ability and to each according to his need' sounds unarguable, the world has learned that these words call forth a power elite to
administer them with coercive force. Such elites are quick to define the needs of their own members as paramount. Similarly 'from each mouth according to its ability and to each ear according to its need' seems harmless enough, but history shows
that censorship also requires an anointed class to define this "need" and to make violence against those who continue talking. Such power is quickly corrupted.
Earlier this week the Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger, sent a formal letter of complaint to the Chinese embassy in London calling for access to the Guardian website to be restored and "henceforth unfettered".
Chinese authorities can censor online content internally using either an outright block on a specific website address, or using filtering technology that restricts access to individual online articles containing key words such as
"Tibet" and "violence".
It has not been clear which technical restrictions the Chinese authorities have been using against international news websites.
However, according to reports from several internet users in China, the censorship appears to have become less draconian this week compared to the weekend, when the worst of the unrest in Tibet was taking place.
Videos on the Guardian website that had previously been inaccessible can now be viewed in China and users in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guilin have been able to access a range of online news stories on Tibet.
One Chinese technology blogger said that while access has improved it does not necessarily mean that the authorities have relented: Suppose there is less access from Chinese readers once they felt the site is hard to access. The censorship
system will turn to other hot sites with higher sensitive hits automatically.
China has succeeded in blocking the flow of news about its crackdown on Tibetan protesters.
While China has traditionally exerted strong control over traditional media outlets such as television, radio and newspapers, this week's developments are notable for the country's effective control of YouTube, blogs and other Internet
While Western news outlets are getting information out to the rest of the world, many Chinese remain in the dark. The Wall Street Journal reported that Baidu.com, China's largest search engine, turns up no news in a search for "Tibet"
(the fifth most popular search term on Baidu Monday), while searches for "Tibet riot" produce hits to pages that have been removed.
In addition, China's major Internet portals, Sina and Sohu.com, are devoid of news of the uprising and repression. And Chinese Internet video sites Tudou.com, Youku.com and 56.com, the Chinese equivalents of YouTube, are similarly vacant.
Observers are not completely sure how China is blocking all the news, the Journal reported. In some cases, entire domains are blocked; in other cases, only certain pages. While editors of state-run media frequently avoid controversial topics,
independent Internet companies also cooperate with censorship; they are required to monitor user-supplied content Relevant Products/Services and delete pornography, as well as a list of forbidden topics.
The censorship raises a challenge to the much-vaunted claim that the Internet views censorship as network damage and routes around it, a claim no less a technology luminary than Bill Gates repeated last month: I don't see any risk in the world
at large that someone will restrict free content flow on the Internet. You cannot control the Internet .
Reporters Without Borders has urged heads of state, heads of government and members of royal families to boycott the 8 August opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games because of the Chinese government’s mounting human rights violations and
the glaring lack of freedom in China.
China has not kept any of the promises it made in 2001 when it was chosen to host these Olympics, the press freedom organisation said. Instead, the government is crushing the Tibetan protests and is imposing a news blackout, while Hu
Jia, a tireless human rights campaigner, is facing a possible five-year prison sentence at the end of a summary and unfair trial.
Politicians throughout the world cannot remain silent about this situation. We call on them to voice their disapproval of China’s policies by announcing their intention not to attend the opening of the Olympic Games. Britain’s Prince Charles
has already said he will not go to Beijing on 8 August. Others should follow suit.
Calling for a complete boycott of the Olympic Games is not a good solution. The aim is not to deprive athletes of the world’s biggest sports event or to deprive the public of the spectacle. But it would be outrageous not to firmly demonstrate
one’s disagreement with the Chinese government’s policies and not to show solidarity with the thousands of victims of this authoritarian regime.
Around 100 journalists, Internet users and cyber-dissidents are currently imprisoned in China just for expressing their views peacefully. Journalists have been banned from visiting Tibet since 12 March and have been expelled from neighbouring
provinces. The crackdown on protests by Tibetans is taking place behind closed doors.
Chinese journalists continue to be subject to the dictates of the Publicity Department (the former Propaganda Department), which imposes censorship on a wide range of subjects. The government and party continue to control news and information and
have authoritarian laws to punish violators.
One new Russian bill proposes tighter state control over Russian online news sites. Another restricts foreign ownership of internet service providers (ISPs). And a new government decree compels ISPs to allow the authorities to read their clients'
e-mails, write RFE/RL.
According to Oleg Panfilov, a free press advocate who heads the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, the Russian authorities have been wary of the internet's growing importance for years.
They are afraid. This fear of the internet emerged about four years ago when the Kremlin saw how it became the main source of information during the Orange Revolution, Panfilov, who himself writes a popular blog on the website
A decree from the Information Technologies and Communications Ministry, made public on 26 February, requires all telecommunication companies and ISPs to allow the Federal Security Service (FSB) unrestricted monitoring of all communications -
phone calls, text messages and e-mails. Telecoms and ISPs are also required to install, at their own expense, equipment allowing the FSB to monitor communications at any time without the provider's - or the user's - knowledge.
Separately, a provision in a new bill on investment working its way through parliament would forbid foreigners from acquiring majority stakes in ISPs without express government permission.
Insiders say the legislation is likely to face strong opposition from within the industry. I don't think it is very realistic to pass such a law, because there is a strong lobby against it. There are already a lot of companies that have a high
level of foreign shareholders, Aleksandr Militsky, who runs a website that monitors ISPs, tells RFE/RL's Russian Service.
Robert Amsterdam, an attorney on jailed former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky's international defense team and the author of an influential blog on Russian affairs, says the emerging trend toward greater state control reflects an entrenched
Kremlin view that managing the media is an important aspect of defending national security.
In March, Putin established a new federal agency to regulate media and the internet and oversee content. A month later, authorities used loopholes in the law to shut down the Siberian online publication Novy Fokus for failing to register
as a news organization despite the fact that Russian law does not explicitly require online news sites to register.
Vladimir Slutsker, a member of the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia's parliament, is now seeking to make registration mandatory. Slutsker recently told the daily "Kommersant" that legislation was needed to stop
"irresponsible journalists from spreading rumors and hiding behind anonymous websites."
If Slutsker's bill becomes law, Russia's popular blogs and news sites would need to apply for licenses and be subject to the same regulations as print and broadcast media.Analysts have labeled Slutsker's bill impractical given the sheer volume of
websites and the difficultly tracking them, adding that the time when the authorities could realistically control the internet is long gone.
Some Russia watchers say the Kremlin isn't interested in Chinese-style controls. Amsterdam points out that Russia's media control strategy - which allows for opposition newspapers like "Novaya gazeta" and radio stations like Ekho Moskvy
- is more sophisticated than that: They don't have to control 100% of it. One of the things that the survival of 'Novaya gazeta' and [radio station] Ekho Moskvy shows is that they are very happy for liberals to talk to liberals. They just
don't want liberals talking to anybody else. Amsterdam adds that a combination of intimidation, selective use of libel laws, cooptation, and other means has been very effective in controlling the print and broadcast media.
And there are indications that such time-proven mechanisms can be of use to the authorities in the modern media environment as well. Recent charges against blogger Savva Terentyev for allegedly "inciting hate" against police officers
through his "LiveJournal" posts serve as one example. Terentyev faces a possible US$4,000 fine or up to two years in prison.
Photo sharing site Photobucket has quickly u-turned on a decision to ban pictures that show babies in nappies. The company originally removed such images from its site because they depicted "nudity", which it said threatened the safety
and security of its users.
However, within hours of being contacted by CNET News.com, Monica M. Massad, the content moderation manager at Photobucket decided to republish the removed pictures.
My team has reviewed the images that were tossed in your account and it was determined that the images that were removed from your account should not have been removed. We have the images available to restore and are currently in the process
of restoring them. Please accept our sincere apologies for the error, said Massad in an e-mail.
It is true that we reviewed our content moderation guidelines to make sure it was in line with Photobucket's terms of service and it made us more strict on child nudity, however, we were over-censoring in this case and are working to rectify
that, she added.
The original ban started when US-based Good Mama Diapers sponsored a photo contest on Photobucket and posted hundreds of photo submissions on the site. On Wednesday, Jessica Thornton of Good Mama Diapers logged on to the site and noticed they
were all gone.
Thornton e-mailed Photobucket customer support to find out what happened. She got a reply saying that the site recently changed its content moderation policies regarding images of children and that the photos violated the new policy, which
prohibits content that contains nudity.
While we understand that in a family album type of setting, these images are innocent, we must remove the content because of the nudity and believe that this restriction is in the best interest of childrens' safety .. This policy applies to
all accounts, public or private. We ask that you keep these images on your personal computers and not host them on Photobucket.com, the Photobucket e-mail said.
The Thai Information and Communications Technology Ministry is to ‘hack and crack' foreign websites deemed offensive to Thailand's revered institutions.
A March 15 report in Krungthep Turakij newspaper (www.bangkokbiznews.com) quoted a source at the ICT that the ministry could pursue legal proceedings only with websites registered in Thailand, and is now planning a ‘hack and crack' programme to
hack offensive websites hosted abroad and delete their contents, because the legal process would take too long.
This approach may be somewhat illegal, but sometimes it might be worth it, if [the websites] are really unacceptable, the source said.
One website registered abroad has been found to advertise merchandise including calendars, dolls, bags, hats, glasses, watches, trousers and underwear, all with a logo of the Buddha meditating on a lotus, with the face of a dog. It was reported
to have upset some Buddhists.
The Technology Centre has found that the website has its server in California, USA, and the centre has twice asked the ICT Ministry in writing to shut down the website, but it is still online. The centre has also asked the Foreign Ministry's
Information Department to address the problem through diplomatic means.
If within one month the problem is still not solved, I will ask for cooperation from ‘internet cop' Pol Col Yanapol Yangyuen, Commander of Office of Technology and Information Cases under the Department of Special Investigation, to shut it
down, said Booncherd. He added that his centre has cooperated with relevant agencies in shutting down 5 similar websites which made commercial use of Buddhist symbols.
Iran has banned nine lifestyle and cinema magazines for publishing pictures of "corrupt" foreign film stars and details about their "decadent" private lives, the student ISNA news agency said.
The publications were banned by the press commission watchdog for publishing photographs of corrupt foreign artists and details about their decadent lives.
The most significant magazines banned are Donya-ye Tasvir (World of the Image), Sobh-e Zendegi (Morning of Life), Talash (Effort) and Haft (Seven). The commission also gave warnings to 13 other publications.
Such magazines regularly print articles and pictures of foreign film stars, as well as of Iranian actresses in the kinds of loose headscarves and tight-fitting clothes that are frowned upon by the Islamic authorities.
The latest issue of Donya-ye Tasvir carried articles about several Hollywood female stars including Naomi Watts, Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, all accompanied by pictures.
In Tehran there are only a handful of cinemas which offer a selective screening of foreign movies, which are subject to heavy censorship of any scenes where actresses are scantly dressed.
People all over China are Twittering that Youtube is blocked. A quick ping through a network utility does show 100% packet loss, indicating that a block is likely in effect:
There were some videos uploaded to Youtube already about the demonstrations in Tibet, but this block will definitely throw a wrench anyone's plans to upload more. Chinese video sharing sites, which have been told to censor this kind of sensitive
content, are all still up and running.
Turkey has again blocked access to the popular video-sharing Web site YouTube in response to a video clip deemed insulting to the country’s revered founding father, state-run media said.
A court in the capital of Ankara ordered the ban at the request of a prosecutor who had argued the clip was disrespectful to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who died seven decades ago, the Anatolia news agency said.
HRinfo has denounced decisions announced by the Jordanian Ministry of the Interior increasing restrictions on Internet cafes in Jordan by installing cameras to monitor users of these cafes. HRinfo also emphasized that these procedures are a real
retreat from freedom to use the Internet and the right to exchange information.
The Jordanian Ministry of the Interior has recently issued new instructions for monitoring Internet cafes, which are widespread throughout Jordanian cities, obliging Internet cafe owners to install cameras at the front of their businesses in
order to facilitate identification of Internet users.
In addition to the cameras, HRinfo notes that the new security measures oblige Internet cafe owners to register the users' personal data such as their names, telephone numbers and time of use, as well as the IP number of the cafe and data on the
websites explored by the users.
The newly-announced policies on organizing the work of internet cafes also include obliging internet cafes owners to install censorship programs to prevent access to websites containing pornographic material, or those offending religious
beliefs or promoting the use of drugs or tobacco.
HRinfo denounces these decisions, which violate the right to exchange information and the privacy of Internet users, and calls on the Jordanian government to reconsider such arbitrary decisions which would lead Jordan to join the ranks of those
countries which are hostile to freedom of access to Internet.
Reporters Without Borders is making a new version of its Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents available to bloggers.
The handbook offers practical advice and techniques on how to create a blog, make entries and get the blog to show up in search engine results. It gives clear explanations about blogging for all those whose online freedom of expression is subject
to restrictions, and it shows how to sidestep the censorship measures imposed by certain governments, with a practical example that demonstrates the use of the censorship circumvention software Tor.
The leaders of authoritarian countries are becoming more and suspicious of bloggers, these men and women who, although not journalists, publish news and information online and who, worse still, often tackle subjects the so-called traditional
media dare not cover. In some countries, blogs have become an important new source of news. It is to protect this source that Reporters Without Borders has updated its handbook.
India's Supreme Court has described a legal case in which Hollywood actor Richard Gere is accused of obscene behaviour as "frivolous".
The court judge said this is the end of the matter and that Gere was free to enter India.
Last year, arrest warrants were issued for Gere after he embraced and kissed Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty during a public appearance. Kissing in public is widely considered taboo in India.
In 2007, a court in the western state of Rajasthan ordered the arrest of Gere for sweeping Shetty into his arms at an Aids awareness event in Delhi.
Gere plans to visit India soon and his lawyer had appealed to the court to stop the arrest warrants against him.
The judges said the court believed that such complaints (against celebrities) were "frivolous" and filed for "cheap publicity". The complainants have brought a bad name to the country , the court said.
Kundiawa police have stopped people showing movies in town to prevent children from seeing explicit sexual scenes, violence and criminal activities and hearing obscene words on Television shows.
The move by police is also to stop children from missing classes after lunch as a result of watching movies.
Provincial police commander Chief Insp Joseph Tondop told The National that he personally visited all the movie houses in town to advise operators against showing movies during the day and also at night.
Tondop said operators ignored the labelling on the cassettes or CDs which are not suitable for children. He said many CDs are full of sexual scenes, violence, the use of abusive words and criminal activities, which could affect the mental growth
of children. He said last week, when he visited movie houses in town he saw many children watching movies not suitable for them.
Tondop said these movie houses operate from early in the day till midnight. He said he had informed movie operators in towns to stop it. He said many children left school after lunch to watch movies till late afternoon and also in the evening
Tondop added that if any movie house owners refused to comply with the order and continued showing movies at night, they would be arrested and charged accordingly.
The federal government of India has directed TV channels not to screen an ad from a life insurance firm calling girl children a burden.
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has asked the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) to ask all TV channels to stop airing the advertisement immediately. We have also asked the ASCI to take action against the advertising
company for making such an advertisement, a senior ministry official said.
Life insurance firm ING Vysya is behind the controversial advertisement, which has the following tagline for the girl child: hai to pyaari lekin bojh hai bhari (though loving, she is still a burden). An insurance cover for the girl child,
it says, would lighten the burden. The ad has been on air for the past few months.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), which received several representations against the advertisement, has sought an immediate ban on the ad. The advertisement is totally unethical. Television channels have failed in
their duty to censor content before airing it, said its chairperson Shantha Sinha.
The Delhi government and several states have gone to the extent of saying the advertisement can promote female foeticide. Internet bloggers call the ad evidence of the typical “Indian bias” against the girl child. I could not have imagined
that a company of international repute could air such views about the girl child, said a blogger on Youtube.
An aggressive campaign to shut down pro-ana (pro-anorexia)blogs has been taking place in the popular Israeli portal Israblog. Many pro-ana organizations state that they exist mainly to give anorexics a place to turn to discuss their illness
in a non-judgmental environment.
There have been numerous online conversation for and against banning of these sites. Ilana, a representative of the Israeli portal, responded to the petition calling to close down blogs that encourage anorexia:
Israblog is a network of blogs created to provide every person with the means to express themselves as long as it abides by the country’s laws. Our motto, ‘life is here’, refers to all aspects of life, even the more hurtful
sides can be expressed here. Any person can own a blog through our system, even if their self perception is problematic or if their body fat percentage is lower than the norm.
The second, and more important reason, is that we do not believe that erasing blogs will have a positive effect. On the contrary, it may be damaging. We realize that there exist other blogging platforms which erase this type of content, however
we strongly believe that if we act in a similar manner, we will simply pass this ‘burning hot potato’ onwards without actually making positive change.
We agree that these blogs are problematic, but they also represent a true call for help. And it is best that this call will be heard here, in Israblog, a place where there are attentive listeners and arms ready to reach out and help, rather than
a lonely, underground or extreme space.
One must remember that it is not possible to help someone with eating disorders by shutting her mouth. It is possible to help by providing an opposing voice, anti-anorectic, anti-bolemic.
This is precisely why we contact the psychologist Liran Rogev, from the Shahaf organization, who created the blog winning over eating disorders. In this blog, Liran describes ways to cope with eating disorders from his
experience as a professional in the field. He tries to engage in supportive dialogue with those suffering from this complex issue, and suggests alternative methods of dealing.
Liran posted a list of things to remember when formulating anti-anorectic responses in pro-ana blogs. Amongst all his recommendations, we want to emphasize the last - try to make a true connection - do not criticize or be judgmental.
Otherwise, the pro-ana blogger will only reach out to other people with eating disorders, something that can certainly feed this disorder and lead to a further deterioration in their health. In other words - be friends, real friends, so that
those suffering from eating disorders will not seek out only other pro-ana friends.
The Lebanese authorities have banned Persepolis after fears it may exacerbate the fragile political situation there.
The animated pic, nominated for animated feature at last month's Academy Awards, is based on co-helmer Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical, bestselling graphic novel about growing up in Iran during the 1979 revolution.
Authorities likely want to avoid any potential fallout from offending pro-Iranian members of the Lebanese opposition, notably Hezbollah.
They want to stay on the safe side and not create any more friction, said Gianluca Chacra, of UAE distributor, Front Row Entertainment: We're still hoping for a DVD release in Lebanon.
Reporters Without Borders yesterday organized the Online Free Expression Day, including a virtual Internet protest against censorship, but the group is incensed that a UN organization yesterday backed out of supporting the event.
UNESCO, the UN agency in charge of scientific and cultural education, was to have sponsored the protest, but let Reporters Without Borders know yesterday that it had changed its mind. We are not fooled, Reporters Without Borders said in a
statement today. Several governments on today's updated list of 15 'Internet Enemies' put direct pressure on the Office of the UNESCO Director General, and deputy director general Marcio Barbosa caved in. UNESCO's reputation has not been
enhanced by this episode. It has behaved with great cowardice at a time when the governments that got it to stage a U-turn continue to imprison dozens of Internet users.
Online Free Expression Day is an event meant to rally support for imprisoned journalists and bloggers, as well as to increase awareness of government censorship. Reporters Without Borders has also created a web site where Internet users from
around the globe can participate in "virtual protests" in areas like Tiananmen Square in China.
Reporters Without Borders also updated its "Internet Enemies" list which now includes Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan,
Vietnam and Zimbabwe
Japan is to bow to international pressure and ban the possession of child pornography, although the new law is expected to exempt manga comics and animated films.
Media reports said the Liberal Democratic party and its junior coalition partner are drafting legislation that would bring Japan into line with most other developed countries, amid mounting criticism of its failure to address the sexual
exploitation of minors.
Japan and Russia are the only G8 countries where it is still legal to own pornographic images of children, provided there is no intention to sell them or post them on the internet.
Japan is one of the world's biggest suppliers of child pornography and the second biggest consumer after the US, despite a 1999 law that banned the production, sale and distribution of images of children under 18. The government decided to act
following scathing public criticism by the US ambassador to Tokyo, Thomas Schieffer.
This week Schieffer will discuss the measures with the justice minister, Kunio Hatoyama. This is a reprehensible market, Hatoyama said. It is true that the lack of a penalty for individual possession is serving as a loophole. As with
narcotics, approval of possession could lead to distribution over the internet.
Though they welcomed the new law, child welfare campaigners said they were dismayed that the legislation will almost certainly not apply to the huge market in manga and other forms of animation that sometimes depict children.
China is to impose stricter rules on foreign rock and pop stars after singer Bjork caused controversy by shouting "Tibet, Tibet" at a Shanghai concert.
Her cry followed a powerful performance of her song Declare Independence .
Talk of Tibetan independence is considered taboo in China, which has ruled the territory since 1951. China's culture ministry said the outburst broke Chinese law and hurt Chinese people's feelings and pledged to further tighten
controls. We shall never tolerate any attempt to separate Tibet from China and will no longer welcome any artists who deliberately do this.
Bjork said she would like to put importance on that I am not a politician, I am first and last a musician and as such I feel my duty to try to express the whole range of human emotions.
On her website, she said: This song was written more with the personal in mind. But the fact that it has translated to its broadest meaning, the struggle of a suppressed nation, gives me much pleasure.
A spokeswoman from the culture ministry told the AFP news agency Bjork could be banned from performing in China if there was a repeat performance: If Bjork continued to behave like that in the future, we may consider never allowing her to
perform in China .
Update: Olympic Backtracking
The Chinese Vice Minister of Culture , Zhou Heping , has now dismissed the tighter controls originally implied, saying: It was just an individual case. I don’t
think it will affect an invitation of artists from all over the world to come to China and perform, particularly during the Olympic Games .
Lust, Caution star Tang Wei has been banned in the Chinese media because of the sexual nature of her performance in the Ang Lee film.
An internal memo from China's State Administration of Radio Film and Television was allegedly sent to all television stations and print media in China, stating that a new television commercial starring Tang for skin care brand Pond's was to cease
broadcast immediately. All print ads and feature content using the actress also were to be pulled. The memo gave no reason for the ban.
Neither Tang's manager nor SARFT could be reached for comment, but her "Lust, Caution" director weighed in on the decision Friday.
In a statement titled Reassertion of Censorship Guidelines and dated March 7, SARFT said that, it informed all major film and broadcast entities and governing bodies that it was renewing prohibitions on lewd and pornographic content
and content that show promiscuous acts, rape, prostitution, sexual intercourse, sexual perversity, masturbation and male/female sexual organs and other private parts.
In addition, all awards shows in China were advised to exclude Tang and the producers of Lust, Caution from their list of guests, while discussions about the film and Tang on online forums were deleted.
The Iranian government might block private access to the Internet for the general legislative election on March 14.
Iran has placed many restrictions on the Internet, but it has never shut down the Internet on such a scale. Several million Iranians follow political news on the Internet, and political parties have their own active Web sites.
In the latest sign of a government crackdown on sex and violence in domestic films and TV shows, Canada's TV regulator has called for the first-ever fines for broadcast indecency.
Konrad von Finckenstein, chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), told a parliamentary committee in Ottawa that fines would sharpen and strengthen his enforcement powers over domestic broadcasters: The commission should be able to fine a broadcaster for infractions. The fines would be proportionate to the offense. They would be large enough to hurt and to serve as a deterrent.
Unlike the U.S. market where the Federal Communications Commission can impose fines on broadcast offenders, the CRTC currently punishes indecency with either on-air announcements that an infraction has occurred, or by a decision to shorten or
deny a broadcast license renewal.
Von Finckenstein said both remedies are either too light or too heavy, and fines would help modulate enforcement.
His comments came as the Canadian House of Commons considers two bills aimed at the media industry. One seeks to amend the Broadcasting Act to reduce exposure by children to TV violence, while the other wants to censor domestic films and TV shows
through tax policies.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government will consult the public later this year on ways to amend the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance.
HKSAR government secretary for commerce and economic development Frederick Ma told legislators that such amendments could include the development of criteria for assessing the content of an article and the assessment system itself.
According to press agency, Xinhua, Ma emphasized that enforcement of the obscenity ordinance lies with the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority (TELA), the police and the Customs and Excise Department. Xinhua noted that over the past
three years, these departments have initiated 1,876 prosecutions and secured 1,829 convictions, of which 1,198 prosecutions and 1,178 convictions involved possession of obscene or indecent articles for publication.
According to Ma, given the huge volume and transient nature of internet-based information, enforcement agencies have adopted a complaint-driven approach to deal with indecent online content. According to Xinhua, over the past three years, the
agencies instituted five prosecutions against publication of obscene or indecent articles over the Internet with all leading to convictions.
Xinhua quoted Ma as saying, All agencies will take enforcement action in a lawful, conscious and fair manner. All prosecutions initiated by the police will be based on sufficient evidence to support the charge.
The Thai Prime Minister’s Office Minister Jakrapob Penkair has ordered the Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) ministry to keep a close watch on the use of social networking site
www.hi5.com after it emerged a Buddhist monk had been using the site to woo women.
I am upset by this, he said: Any sort of misdeed caused by monks results in the deterioration of Buddhism.
Jakrapob has already consulted with ICT ministry officials to lay down possible measures to ensure that something like this does not recur: We are still determining the pros and cons of blocking the site altogether.
A new cyberlaw passed last year would require court permission to block the site, although the government has broken this law hundreds of times, and several thousands of websites are blocked without court order or explanation.
The Iranian embassy in Abu Dhabi has slammed the Oscar-nominated animation film Persepolis which released in the UAE.
The movie from France is a depiction of Iranian author Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel which was released in 2003. The novel is on the list of books banned in the UAE.
The embassy however said that it will not lodge an official protest against the release of the film here.
The National Media Council’s Censorship Board reviewed the movie on Tuesday and announced that it will release it without any cuts. The movie has received a PG rating.
In this movie we see the Iranian woman as a woman who is not free. I know that the Iranian society is not an angelic one but the Iranian woman is not as represented in the film, said Dr Mohammad Hatimi, Cultural Attache, Iranian Embassy,
He said the film paints Iran in an unrealistic way. We are against the principles that this film stands on. We believe real cinema is free cinema ...BUT... this film shines a bad light on Iranian society.
A new bill that would give the federal Heritage Department the power to deny tax breaks for films and TV shows it considers offensive is creating shock waves in the industry.
Changes now before the Senate to the Income Tax Act that would allow the federal government to cancel tax credits for projects thought to be offensive or not in the public interest. The amendments have already been passed in the House of Commons.
The amendment to Bill C-10 would allow the Heritage Minister to deny tax credits for Canadian productions, even if federal agencies such as Telefilm and the Canadian Television Fund have invested in the production.
Representatives from the Heritage and Justice departments would determine which productions are unsuitable and therefore ineligible for tax cuts.
David Cronenberg, the Canadian director behind the critically acclaimed Eastern Promises , said the proposed plan doesn't belong in Canada: It sounds like something they do in Beijing.
You have a panel of people working behind closed doors who are not monitored and they form their own layer of censorship. Cronenberg says Canadians have a reputation for making edgy dark movies that go places other filmmakers wouldn't
venture. This new panel could quash that kind of creativity, he said.
The Knesset has passed the first reading of a bill that will restrict Israelis' access to the Internet.
According to the bill, which passed by a majority of 46 to 20, Internet service providers would be asked to implement an apparatus that would filter out sites deemed "harmful".
The decision on the filtering of specific sites will ultimately be in the hands of the communications minister, who will be aided by an advisory committee.
The letter of the law, proposed by MK Amnon Cohen of Shas, calls for the erection of a filtering service for minors of inappropriate content on the Internet. Specifically, the bill advocates the censorship of violence, pornography and
Under the new law Internet service providers would be forced to offer a filtering program to their customers free of charge. Consumers would be given the chance to refuse to install the program, but it would be installed by default if a customer
did not provide a response within a time frame that has yet to be finalized.
The law also states that as soon as the technology will be made available, providers will block content on their end, unlocking it only to customers over the age of 18 who explicitly request to receive the "harmful" content.
The communications minister will also be granted the power to decide on changes to the blocking program, the manner of communication between providers and their customers and even the way in which providers will verify the age of a customer
requesting the unlocking of content.
Internet service providers, according to the worldwide norm, would be willing to distribute free of charge a family filtering program, MK Gilad Erdan said. The law will transform us into a type of Iran by giving the minister the
authority to decide that the Shas Council of Torah Sages will determine the sites to be rejected and blocked - without any supervision or monitoring of its considerations by the Knesset.
As clips go, it seems pretty inoffensive: scenes of men doing Lords of the Dance impressions in a dark, water-filled basement interspersed with shots of a crowded dinner table studded with bottles of wine.
But when singer Aslizen Yentur sent the promotional video for her first album to Kral TV, Turkey’s top music station, she was told the alcohol would have to come out.
I thought it was a joke, says Yentur: The album is called Cheers . The song is based on a Greek tavern song. Was I supposed to sip yogurt drink?
Her arguments cut no ice with Kral. When the clip made its broadcast debut earlier in February, all that remained was the Irish dancing, plus a couple of lingering shots of the leading lady reclining on a red divan.
The ban has no basis in Turkish law but the censorship comes as RTUK, Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, works on new regulations that would make it illegal to broadcast scenes that encourage consumption of alcohol.
Leaked into the media mid-January, news of the plans sparked outrage, and a defensive justification from the watchdog. The draft, it insisted in a press release, is merely bringing Turkey, a candidate for European Union membership, in line with
In this conservative country, the bill has many supporters. Nearly half the complaints RTUK received last year were from viewers upset at what they considered the excessive visibility of alcohol (and cigarettes) on TV.
Yet critics point out that European restrictions on alcohol are limited to advertising. For them, hardening official attitudes on alcohol are a symbol of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s worrying turn towards religious
Drink was always an issue for conservative opinion, but until now no government paid attention to it , says Mehmet Ali Birand, a prominent commentator. Now the AKP seems to be saying ’come on, let’s give them a hand.’
A Japanese government panel is proposing to govern influential, widely read news-related sites as newspapers and broadcasting are now regulated.
The government is also seeking to rein in some of the more unsavory aspects of the Internet, leaving in its wake, critics say, the censoring hand of government interference.
The panel, set up by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, said ISPs should be answerable for breaches of vaguer minimum regulations to guard against illegal and harmful content.
The conservative government, led by the Liberal Democratic Party, or LDP, is seeking to have the new laws passed by Parliament in 2010.
Japan's Internet is increasing its clout, so naturally the government wants to control it, said Kazuo Hizumi, a former journalist who is the Tokyo city lawyer: The Internet threatens the government, but the new law will put the
government back in control by making the ISPs directly answerable to the government. This is the untenable position we are facing in Japan.
What really strikes Hizumi and others is that there is so little public opposition or debate on a bill that would bring enormous change.
Chris Salzberg, who monitors, comments on and translates some of the Japanese blogosphere for Global Voices, an international blog round-up, said: It seems that the Web community in Japan is really pretty unaware of all of this, or else just
in disbelief. It's a strange situation. Maybe nothing will come of it, but it still seems like something people should at least be paying attention to.
I'm afraid ordinary citizens don't care about these lack of rights, consequently the Internet in Japan is heading for the Dark Ages, Hizumi said.
A chief censor at the country's largest independent screening body of adult DVDs was arrested Saturday on suspicion of aiding and abetting the distribution of obscene material.
Four others, including presidents of three adult DVD production companies, also were held on suspicion of distributing the material, police said.
Katsumi Ono head of the Nihon Ethics of Video Association's screening department, was arrested on suspicion of assisting in the sale of two highly obscene DVDs, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.
The four others--including Hiroyuki Gorokawa association board member and president of h.m.p, an adult DVD production company were arrested on suspicion of distributing the two DVDs, the MPD said.
The association decided to relax screening standards at a board meeting in June 2006 after adult DVD production firms called on them to do so to help sales. With the police believing that the new criteria itself is likely to be illegal, it was to
make inquiries as to the responsibility of other board members.
According to the police, Ono is suspected of letting the DVDs pass the screening by disregarding the fact that "mosaic" video effects intended to obscure sexual organs were easy to see through. There are differences in what is
perceived as obscene, Ono reportedly told police in questioning.
The association decided at a board meeting to introduce a new standard to allow works with more transparent or smaller mosaics to pass the screening process after member companies made complaints in spring 2006, such as: [DVDs] won't sell if
standards aren't relaxed.
Eight people are on the board, and the majority of them also occupy executive positions at the production firms that pushed for the new criteria.
The police were investigating a situation in which DVDs made by those production firms that advocated the new criteria have become a de facto indicator of screening standards.
It seems that Russian officials have finally learned to see the difference between erotica and pornography.
A draft law Restricting the Distribution of Erotic and Pornographic Products gives the previously non-existent [in Russia] legal definition of pornography and limits the circulation of pornographic products.
The document, prepared by the Ministry for Culture and Mass Communications, defines pornography as a detailed naturalistic image, a verbal description or a demonstration of a sexual intercourse and genitals with a view to arouse sexual excitement
of a human being.
Erotica was defined as the demonstration of sexual relations between humans, which do not contain elements of pornography. Educational and medical works, as well as works of scientific and artistic value are not to be classified as either
erotic or pornographic products, the draft law says.
The document also put forward a suggestion to ban the sale of pornography with the participation of underage, deceased individuals and animals. The bill excludes violence, as well as state symbols and architectural monuments from
Any other kind of pornographic production would be available in specialized stores, the activities of which should be licensed.
As for mass media, the bill allows to broadcast erotic and pornographic programs from 1:00 till 5:00 a.m. All kinds of pornography will be excluded from the Russian Internet. The publication or a pornographic material may leads to the punishment
of up to six years in prison. At present moment, pornography is legally allowed on the Russian Internet with the exception of child porn, which stipulates the punishment of up to eight years in prison.
The bill currently undergoes coordination at the government.
With the death toll in Turkey's operations against Kurdish nationalists in Iraq rising daily, one of the country's most famous pop stars was in serious trouble this week after she questioned deeply-engrained Turkish militarism on prime-time
I am not a mother, nor ever will be, but I would not bury my child for somebody else's war, said Bülent Ersoy, during a broadcast of Star TV's hugely popular Popstar Alaturka .
Visibly shocked, another presenter intervened to try to shut her up.
May God give me a son so that I can send him off to our glorious army, Ebru Gundes said, adding a nationalistic phrase repeated without fail at every military funeral: Martyrs never die, the fatherland cannot be divided.
But Ersoy, a transsexual, was not put off. Always the same cliched phrases, she riposted: Children go, bitter tears, funerals. And afterwards, these cliched phrases.
An Istanbul prosecutor promptly opened an investigation into her for alienating the people from military service, a crime punishable by up to three years in jail. The broadcasting watchdog announced that it was considering banning Ersoy from the
These were predictable reactions in this profoundly nationalist country where criticising the conscript-heavy army is a risky business. From an early age, Turkish schoolchildren are taught that all Turks are born soldiers . School
textbooks warn children that a man who has not done his military service cannot be useful to himself, his family, or his homeland.
Yet, while Ersoy's comments earned her Turkish media opprobrium, the packed audience in Star TV's studio applauded her warmly.
Civil libertarians scored a decisive victory on Friday when a federal judge reversed two controversial orders meant to disable Wikileaks, a website devoted to disclosing confidential information exposing unethical behavior.
US District Judge Jeffrey S. White issued the orders two weeks ago after Wikileaks posted internal documents purporting to show that a bank located in the Cayman Islands engaged in illegal tax evasion and money laundering. One ruling demanded
Wikileaks and a host of third parties refrain from posting any additional documents or linking to any documents that had already been disclosed. The other required Dynadot, the registrar of the Wikileaks.org domain name, to make the address
inaccessible and to prevent its owner from transferring it to any other service.
Earlier this week, attorneys representing the Electronic Frontier Foundation, American Civil Liberties Union and other groups filed motions in the case arguing that the White's orders violated several Constitutional protections and legal
principles. Specifically, they argued the restrictions amounted to prior restraint, which under the Constitution, can only be imposed in limited situations. After more than three hours of oral argument in a San Francisco federal courtroom today,
The court has serious questions about the concerns, as properly raised before the court, would make the granting of relief requested by the plaintiffs constitutionally appropriate, he said. He immediately rescinded both orders.
White said he may also be swayed by arguments that he didn't have the authority to issue the order because Wikileaks was not headquartered in the US. Bank Julius Baer, the Swiss-based owner of the Cayman Islands bank, had argued the group
operating Wikileaks was based in California and pointed to whois records for the Wikileaks.org domain name as proof. Federal courts lack jurisdiction in cases where both the plaintiff and defendant are located outside the country.
The reversal means that while Julius Baer's case proceeds, the Wikileaks website will be free to continue operating unhindered by any kind of preliminary ruling. Dynadot attorney Garret Murai said the company would reconnect the Wikileaks.org
domain name as soon as White issued a written order.
A rare festival of uncensored sexual films screened in Tokyo this week in the latest bid by a Japanese distributor to test the country's restrictions on showing nudity.
Pornography is widely available in Japan for personal use, but bans are imposed on images of genitalia either being imported or being displayed in public places such as cinemas.
The Extreme Love festival, which opened Monday and runs until March 2, is the brainchild of Takashi Asai, head of the Uplink distribution firm who has long battled with censorship.
Just last week, Japan's Supreme Court handed him a significant victory by lifting a ban by customs officers who confiscated his personal copy of a book from late US photographer Robert Mapplethorpe that depicted male genitals.
It's a pure coincidence that this cinema festival is coming several days after the ruling, said Asai, whose company, which was started in 1987, publishes artbooks and distributes films and documentaries.
The Extreme Love festival was put together with the support of the French embassy's cultural service, which said it was promoting two works being shown by French filmmaker Philippe Grandrieux. The festival is also screening uncut versions
of two French films that were previously censored when shown in Japan -- Baise-Moi (Fuck Me) by Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi and Une Vraie Jeune Fille (A Real Young Girl) by Catherine Breillat.
The festival opened without hindrance in the trendy Shibuya district, even though the same films would typically only be shown in Japan with footage of genitalia pixelated.
The four feature films and 24 short works at the festival feature graphic nudity including scenes of masturbation and sexual acts.
The New Zealand Society of Authors says children are getting a diluted version of the world because publishers don't want to rock the boat.
The group have joined up with Wellington's 15 libraries to highlight the issue this week. The organisations say a growing number of works are being banned, restricted or sanitised.
Out of Reach - the forbidden bookshelf is a new event organised by Wellington City Libraries and the Wellington Branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA). A week-long series of readings, displays and a celebrity debate at Wellington
libraries will focus on the theme of banned, restricted or sanitised children's books.
Spokesman and author Dom Long says subtle censorship is rife in New Zealand. Long says it's widely rumoured that work that includes taboo topics like fast food will not be touched by some publishers.
He says many writers are also having to bend over backwards to make their work politically correct enough for the US market.
Many NZSA members have reported increasing pressure from publishers to adjust their work for overseas markets. Long says the American edition of his book Fishing Off the Wharf had elements such as its separated and mixed-race parents removed.
Many high-profile children's book titles have been subject to bans. The Harry Potter series was in the news after being banned in many schools and libraries overseas, and public opinion on books such as Little Black Sambo, where an Indian boy
outwits some tigers, has changed over time as cultural attitudes have shifted.
Pakistan's telecommunications regulator said that it had lifted restrictions imposed on YouTube over an anti-Islamic video clip, but rejected blame for a cut in access to the Web site in many countries over the weekend.
The authority told Pakistani Internet service providers to restore access to the site on Tuesday afternoon after the removal of a video featuring a Dutch lawmaker who has said he plans to release a movie portraying Islam as fascist and prone to
inciting violence against women and homosexuals.
Officials here have described the YouTube clip as "very blasphemous" and warned that it could fan religious fanaticism and hatred of the West in Pakistan, where the government already faces a growing Islamic insurgency.
Geert Wilders, said his film criticizing the Quran will be completed this week and criticized Pakistan for its moves to block the clip: It's far from a true democracy. A real democracy must be able to bear some criticism.
If you happened to be searching for a video at YouTube.com Sunday afternoon, there's a good chance your browser told you it was unable to locate the entire Web site. Turns out, much of the world was blocked from getting to YouTube for part of the
weekend due to a censorship order passed by the government of Pakistan, which was apparently upset that YouTube refused to remove digital images many consider blasphemous to Islam.
According to wire reports, Pakistan ordered all in-country Internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to YouTube.com, complaining that the site contained controversial sketches of the Prophet Mohammed which were republished by Danish
newspapers earlier this month. The people running the country's ISPs obliged, but evidently someone at Pakistan Telecom - the primary upstream provider for most of the ISPs in Pakistan - forgot to flip the switch that prevented those blocking
instructions from propagating out to the rest of the Internet.
So, what happened? From everything I've read and heard, the YouTube situation appears to have been due to an innocent, if inept, mix-up, which allowed Pakistan's ISPs to effectively announce to the world that its Internet addresses were the
authoritative home of YouTube.com, and for about an hour or so, most of the rest of the world's ISPs incorporated those updated directions as gospel.
In a country where the government more or less can tell resident ISPs what to do, blocking citizens from visiting certain sites is simple: The ISPs simply tell their customers that if they're looking for a censored site, they either receive an
empty page or are redirected to wherever the ISP or government deems as an appropriate substitute destination.
Some experts are crying foul, saying this was an deliberate act of defiance or assertiveness by the nascent Pakistani government. But most seem to agree this was little more than a screw-up. Still, a nation state or other adversary could stir up
diplomatic trouble by toying with this sort of trust built into the Internet. What would our government make of it, say, if all of a sudden all traffic destined for .gov domains wound up in China or North Korea?
Marc Sachs, director of the SANS Internet Storm Center said for now the checks and balances in the system today are that the same trust that allows network providers to abuse the system can be revoked. In this latest case with Youtube, network
operators affected by the bogus update simply discarded the errant directions from Pakistan and in all likelihood told their own routers to ignore any further updates from Pakistan, at least for the time being, Sachs said.
Edison Chen is to suspend his career "indefinitely"
Actor and singer Edison Chen has apologised and promised to suspend his career in the aftermath of a sex photo scandal which has gripped China.
Several people have been arrested after 1,300 private shots which Chen had taken were put on the internet.
He told a news conference he was deeply saddened and wanted to apologise to all the people for all the suffering that has been caused.
Chen said he was stepping down from his showbusiness career "indefinitely".
Canadian-born Chen is a famous Asian actor and hip-hop artist. He appeared in the Infernal Affairs trilogy, which was later made into the Hollywood film The Departed . He was also in The Grudge 2 with Sarah Michelle Gellar.
Chen said: I admit that most of these photos being circulated on the internet were taken by me. But these photos were very private and have not been shown to people and were never intended to be shown to anyone.
Hong Kong police say the photos were uploaded by staff at a computer repair shop which Chen took his laptop to.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has directed that the country's ISPs to block access to the videos sharing website YouTube for allegedly featuring a blasphemous video.
However, and according to the Pakistani “Don't Block The Blog” there are two theories that could explain PTA's recent move to ban YouTube: vote rigging videos showing alleged evidence of election fraud in Karachi and a supposedly blasphemous
video disgracing Prophet Mohammed.
The authority did not specify what the offensive material was, but a PTA official said the ban concerned a movie trailer for an upcoming film by Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders, who has said he plans to release an anti-Koran movie portraying the
religion as fascist and prone to inciting violence against women and homosexuals.
Beijing's Internet review council has requested a public apology from Chinese Internet search engine Baidu.com after Baidu allowed users access to pornographic pictures featuring Hong Kong actor and singer Edison Chen.
The Beijing Internet news information review council issued a statement saying, We severely criticize Baidu's behavior.
A picture-sharing section of Baidu.com became a platform to show and spread the obscene pictures and Baidu failed to block the photos after other Beijing-based websites had taken actions against the pictures spreading.
The statement praised other Chinese websites that called for Internet users not to download, save and spread the photos and to prevent the photos from falling into the hands of children.
It looks like China will have no problem living up to its promise to give the world's media free and uncensored access to the Internet during next summer's Olympic Games.
But, it will do it without loosening its grip on what its own citizens can see and hear on the web.
In an article in the March edition of The Atlantic magazine, correspondent James Fallows reveals that the Chinese Internet censorship system, often called the Great Firewall of China is now sophisticated enough so that it can pinpoint specific
locations in Beijing and make sure anyone who goes online from them has free and clear access to the web.
Fallows, who often writes about computer technology, says Chinese government officials have told engineers to get ready to unblock access from a list of specific Internet Protocol (IP) addresses -- certain Internet cafes, access jacks in hotel
rooms and conference centres where foreigners are expected to work or stay during the Olympic Games.
Japan's Supreme Court has ruled that a collection of erotic photographs by the late Robert Mapplethorpe does not violate obscenity laws, a decision that should allow the sale of the book for the first time in eight years.
The decision overturns a 2003 Tokyo High Court ruling that the book Mapplethorpe was indecent, court spokesman Takashi Ando said. It was believed to be the first time the top court has overruled a lower court ruling on obscenity.
The court, however, rejected publisher Takashi Asai's demands for government compensation of 2.2 million yen (US$20,370).
In the ruling, justice Kohei Nasu said the book of black-and-white portraits compiles works from the artistic point of view, and is not obscene as a whole.
The decision, a majority opinion of the five-judge bench, also recognized Mapplethorpe as an artist who has won high appreciation as a leading figure in contemporary art.
Japanese customs have a long history of applying conservative obscenity standard, by targeting all clear genital images in prints and films across the board, forcing film distributors and publishers to alter the parts, prompting criticisms by
artists who said such measures insult their works.
Publisher Asai called the ruling “groundbreaking” and said it could change the obscenity standard used for banning foreign films that show nudity and censoring photographs in books.
In a commentary Tuesday, the Yomiuri newspaper said that the Supreme Court ruling reflected a change in the concept of what constitutes obscenity: Obscene images have spread on the Internet and are accessible to anyone. The supreme court must
have decided that calling a highly acclaimed photographer's book ‘obscenity' does not fit today's social norm.
Asai had sold about 900 copies the Japanese version of “Mapplethorpe,” which was originally published by Random House, in Japan starting in 1994 without objection from authorities. But airport customs officials in Japan confiscated a copy he had
with him when he returned from a trip to the U.S. in 1999. The 384-page book contained 20 close-up photos of male genitalia, and authorities considered it obscene.
The Macao SAR government is paying close attention to online crime and pornography and is studying a measure to 'deal with' the issues.
Zhang Yongchun, director of the Justice Affairs Department of the Macau Special Administrative Region, disclosed to media that they would listen to the opinions of different parties and consummate two draft laws on cracking down on online crime
and pornography. Zhang said that the recent spread of celebrities' indecent photos in Hong Kong had caused wide attention in Macau. With the popularization of the Internet, especially with more students going online, it was urgent for them to
make legislation for online crime.
Zhang said the Macau government was keeping a close watch on the influence of the Hong Kong incident on Macau and the possible problems. Though Macau still has not a special law for online crimes of this type, there are some regulations that ban
the spread of erotic information online.
The Emir of Kuwait has been asked to clarify draft law for regulating Internet
Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard wrote requesting clarification of a draft law for regulating the Internet that was announced by the minister for religious endowment and Islamic affairs, Abdallah Al-Muhaylbi, who is also
the communications minister. The bill is currently being discussed by the ministries of communications and information:
Reporters Without Borders is closely following the current debate in your emirate about regulating and controlling online content. The minister for religious endowment and Islamic affairs, Abdallah Al-Muhaylbi, last week
told the newspaper Al Watan that the government plans to present a draft law for controlling and organising websites and political blogs with the aim of protecting public order, ensuring respect for decency and preserving the values of Kuwaiti
Our organisation is worried about the abuses that could be committed in the name of such a law and hopes that certain guarantees will be adopted to protect free expression before it is submitted to parliament.
Reporters Without Borders would therefore like to ask you to provide the clarification that is needed so that this bill can be understood. We appreciate that it is important to regulate the Internet but we also know that this type of law can lead
to online censorship. We remind you that in Kuwait, journalists can still be imprisoned for any activity contrary to national interests. The Internet must not be subjected to the same kind of abuses.
The International Olympic Committee is for the first time permitting athletes to write blogs.
The IOC has set out guidelines for blogging at the Beijing Games to ensure copyright agreements are not infringed. They include bans on posting any audio or visual material of action from the games themselves.
The move follows the increasing use of unofficial blogs by athletes in previous Games, including Athens in 2004 and the Turin Winter Games.
It is required that, when accredited persons at the games post any Olympic content, it be confined solely to their own personal Olympic-related experience, said an IOC statement: The IOC considers blogging... as a legitimate form of
personal expression and not a form of journalism . Blogs should be dignified and in good taste.
The IOC guidelines follow concern that the games could become highly politicised, with China's human rights record, its treatment of dissidents and links with Sudan becoming major issues.
It looks as if the interesting and controversial, Wikileaks website, which promises anonymous, untraceable, uncensorable publication of leaked documents from whistleblowers, and which recently published the devastating No2ID Campaign
annotated leaked UK National Identity Scheme document, is weathering some technical hitches and legal litigation attacks.
It seems that there has been a fire in an Uninterruptible Power Supply, which took the WikiLeaks web servers offline for much of Saturday, at their Swedish co-location hosting company.
More seriously and for the longer term, the brand name of WikiLeakS.org is no longer online, due to a Temporary Restraining Order issued by the California Northern District Court in San Francisco, aimed at a Domain Name Registrar, rather than
just the actual publishers of controversial material, who happen to be outside of US legal jurisdiction..
Spy Blog has provided a list of alternative URLs for WikiLeaks which have not yet been censored.
The plaintiffs in the California case are a Swiss Bank bank - Bank Julius Baer and its associated Cayman Islands tax avoidance subsidiaries, egged on by their expensive Hollywood media celebrity shyster lawyers Lavely & Singer. Julius Baer
have been pursuing a Swiss whistleblower, some of whose leaked documents have been allegedly published on WikiLeaks.org. Why this is a problem when the world's financial monitoring and tax authorities appear to have already had access to them, is
It is interesting that the first threats to this supposedly "uncensorable, anonymous, mass whistleblowing" project, do not come from Government Big Brother authorities, but from the private sector, and from equipment failures at a
Single Point of Failure.
Eight people have now been arrested and two charged in Hong Kong in what many netizens are calling the “white terror,” police response to the Edison Chen sex photo scandal, explained by Police Commissioner Tang King Shing last weekend when he
said possession of the photos alone is now illegal.
On 4 February 2008, A 29-year-old man became the eighth person to be detained in connection with the internet posting of nude photos. The man arrested is being detained at Ma On Shan police station. On the same day, the 23-year-old man, Sze
Ho-Chun, arrested in Central on 2 February 2008 was charged with the dishonest use of computers with criminal intent, which has a maximum penalty of five years of imprisonment. The man appeared in Eastern Court on 5 February 2008. He denied the
charge and was released on HK$50,000 bail. The case has been adjourned to 22 February 2008.
Pornography is openly sold by many street newspaper vendors in Hong Kong and versions of the photographs have been seen on the covers of most Chinese-language dailies every day since the first batch of photos appeared online two weeks ago,
despite that under the city's Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance, distribution is prohibited.
Hundreds of netizens came out to protest [zh] the arrests today, calling for Tang's resignation and accusing Hong Kong police of inconsistency in their arrests.
With the League of Social Democrats in the lead, a group of several hundred netizens marched this afternoon from Victoria Park to police headquarters, protesting police double standards in assigning large numbers to investigate the celebrity
obscene photos as well as launching criticisms at Police Commissioner Tang King Sing, shouting in unison slogans calling for his resignation. Organizers say more than 500 people took part, but the police count was at 230.
Artem Basirov, a university student, was among a group of pro-democracy activists planning a protest against President Putin's increasingly authoritarian rule ahead of last December's elections.
But on the night before the planned demonstration, he was snatched by secret service officers, taken to a state psychiatric hospital and forced to undergo a month of "treatment", during which he was fed mind-numbing drugs.
Basirov's incarceration inside the Soviet-era psycho-neurological clinic is the latest case in which opponents of Kremlin rule have been hauled off to state-run mental institutions. Reminiscent of the days of communism, when sectioning on mental
health grounds was used to silence Kremlin critics, it is being seen as another tactic used by the government to intimidate the opposition ahead of next month's presidential elections.
The use of punitive psychiatry was pioneered during the era of Nikita Khrushchev. Its revival by the present Russian authorities has horrified human rights activists, and according to Dr Lubov Vinogradova, executive director of Russia's
600-strong independent psychiatrists' association, the latest cases are merely the tip of the iceberg.
Under Putin we have witnessed a gradual growth in the breach of human rights using psychiatry, she said.
Her organisation has about 500 reports annually of individuals being sectioned without good grounds. Many have simply fallen foul of individual businessmen and politicians, who often bribe corrupt state health officials to sign sectioning papers.
In Basirov's case, he was hauled before a three-man psychiatric commission at a state psycho-neurological clinic and accused of what he calls "an absolutely absurd" charge of sexually harassing women. He was then sent to a secure unit.
Contact with family, friends and a lawyer was minimal, and he was only freed after members of the independent psychiatrists' association arrived to protest at his detention.
The Russian Culture Ministry has prepared a draft on Restricting circulation of erotic and pornographic production and changes in legislative acts of the Russian Federation.
MP and United Russia party member Robert Shlegel said that the document is now waiting on the government approval. According to the MP, it is proposed to sell such production only in rigorously defined places and prohibit publishing erotic images
on the covers of magazines and other printed materials.
The draft will specify such notions as 'pornography', 'erotica', etc. Definitions have been notably absent from Russian law until now.
It is proposed to issue special permissions on retail sales of erotic and pornographic production in special shops. Besides, the draft envisages issuing special licenses for carrying out activities connected with sales of the indicated production
as well as events with erotic elements.
The draft is expected to enact several bans including restrictions of the law on advertisement.
It was decided that the Committee would suggest the State Duma to consider Shlegel's draft in April.
Russian lawmakers presented amendments on which would strictly regulate the most popular Russian websites. If passed, the legislation would change the way the internet is viewed from a legal standpoint. Vladimir Slutsker, a delegate from
Chuvashiya, introduced the proposed changes.
Amendments are needed to increase responsibility for the information being posted , Slutsker said: We propose equating internet sites with mass media depending on the frequency of visits. Sites that see more than 1000 visitors would
be treated the same as a newspaper or TV station, and would be required to register through the Russian agency that oversees mass media.
In addition, the proposed changes would force websites to cite their sources, and reference only registered publications.
Internet blogs and social networking sites would be excluded, according the delegate's press secretary.
Criticism of the proposal was sharp, with opponents calling the move the government's latest step in dismantling freedom of speech in the country. Some critics equated the draft law with censorship under the Soviet Union.
A group of attackers calling itself "Hacked Netdevilz" broke into one of the Internet's most popular porn sites and effectively shut it down.
According to a news report, the self-described "Turkish cyber-terrorist" group left a message on the RedTube site: "No porn!" it said. "We're not the first but we're the best."
With some four million visitors last month, RedTube -- a porn site that operates much like YouTube -- ranks as one of the top 100 most trafficked sites on the Web. The site is now back up and running on a different server.
Experts are currently studying log files to find out how the attack occurred and whether other Web 2.0 sites might be vulnerable.
Arab countries have agreed to allow punishment of satellite channels deemed to have offended Arab leaders or national or religious symbols.
At a meeting in Cairo called by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, a charter was adopted allowing authorities to withdraw permits from offending channels.
The only country to refuse to endorse the charter was Qatar, the home of leading satellite station al-Jazeera.
Correspondents say the satellite channels have thrived on controversy. The often privately financed stations give airtime to government critics and viewers, and discuss issues which state channels would never dare approach
At the meeting of information ministers from the 22-nation Arab League in Cairo, the charter was agreed by a vote. The document calls on stations not to offend the leaders or national and religious symbols of Arab countries . They
should not damage social harmony, national unity, public order or traditional values, the charter says. The charter also calls on broadcasters to avoid erotic content, or content which promotes smoking or the consumption of alcohol, and to
protect Arab identity from the harmful effects of globalisation.
Signatory countries may withdraw, freeze or not renew the work permits of media which break the regulations.
A senior Euro MP has said that the EU is losing patience with Turkey over its promise to change its controversial law restricting freedom of speech.
Joost Lagendijk, joint head of the parliament's Turkey committee, was speaking as a court heard the case of murdered journalist Hrant Dink. Dink had been convicted under a law which bans "insulting Turkishness".
The MEP said Turkey's leaders had repeatedly promised to overturn the law and it was now time for them to act.
The EU opened talks on Turkish membership in 2005 but there have been repeated concerns about Ankara's willingness to make the necessary changes to its laws.
We have to take ourselves seriously, Lagendijk told the BBC News website: We're preparing a report for the European Parliament which will be voted on in April and if nothing has moved by then on freedom of expression, the report will be
Turkmenistan will end its seven-year ban on opera and the circus introduced by the Caspian nation's former eccentric leader, state media reported.
President-for-life Saparmurat Niyazov died in late 2006 of a heart attack. He banned opera, ballet and the circus in 2001, saying they are “alien” to Turkmen culture and allowed funding for state-sponsored circuses to dry up.
The new leader, Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, has sought to promote a softer image for the gas-rich nation bordering Iran — and reversed some of Niyazov's most eccentric policies. He plans to reopen an opera house, resume circus shows and build a
cinema in the capital Ashgabat.
Today a new period is starting in our country which we have called an era of great renaissance, Berdymukhamedov said in televised remarks. Berdymukhamedov says his country is becoming increasingly developed and should, therefore, welcome
such artistic performances. Our flourishing nation should not stand separate from the world. It absolutely should have a worthy operatic theatre and a worthy state circus.
Iran's Commission for Press Authorisation and Surveillance has suspended feminist monthly Zanan (Women) for publishing information detrimental to society's psychological tranquillity.
Zanan has been published regularly over the last 19 years in Tehran. In the past, Zanan has always shown support to other magazines and newspapers which have been shut down. What has upset Iranian journalists is the fact that Zanan
was not only closed, but its authorisation for publishing has been revoked, meaning it is very unlikely it will reopen in the future.
This short statement was made on writer Asieh Amini's blog a few hours after the closure of Zanan magazine: I have worked for many newspapers that have been closed down by the authorities but none of these closures angered me as
much as the closure of Zanan magazine.
Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft all maintain versions of their search engines for the Chinese market that censor political content. One of the key issues that emerged concerned transparency. In 2006, all three search engines, following Google's
lead, introduced a message that informed user when the results of their searches were censored. The presence of a mechanism of notification is a critical component of transparency. This notification informs users that their search results have
been censored and indicates, to a certain degree, the reason (often unspecified “local law”) why based on what the user searched for. The message appeared only when the user's results were censored and thus it was possible to connect the
censorship to specific keywords or websites.
By 2008 the level of transparency has decreased. While Google's censorship notification has remained essentially the same as it was in 2006, Yahoo! and Microsoft have altered the way in which users are notified of censorship. Yahoo! has put its
censorship message at the bottom of every page regardless of whether results are censored or not, in effect de-linking the censorship notification from the results. Microsoft has removed the text completely and buried the censorship notification
with a separate “help” page. These developments represent a significant degrading of transparency and accountability.
January 25, 2008
Notification is placed under results
Notification only appears when results are censored
Notification is placed at the bottom of every page
A link to a separate “help” page which contains a link to section that contains the notification
The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, strongly criticises the preliminary proceedings brought against Turkish cartoonists Musa Kart and Zafer
Temocin, both of the Cumhuriyet newspaper. Both cartoonists are being investigated for caricatures considered insulting to the President.
The proceedings brought against Kart and Temocin are deeply disappointing. At a time when the international community is encouraging the Turkish government to ease its restrictions on freedom of expression, it appears that it may be moving in
the opposite direction, said David Dadge, IPI Director: This latest matter occurs in a week in which over ten newspapers were fined, and the anniversary of the murder of Hrant Dink came and went without any sign of the reforms to Article
301 mentioned in the weeks after his death. We strongly urge the Turkish to authorities to drop all the charges against Kart and Temocin.
Following the report by IPI, the Cartoonists' Rights Network (CRN) has reacted to the investigation of the two political cartoonists. CRN has confirmed that the two are being charged with violating criminal code article 299, which prohibits
defaming the President of the Republic, currently Abdullah Gl. If found guilty, the cartoonists can be sentenced to up to four years in prison. In the recent past cartoonists were regularly charged with civil code offences relating to
personal injury and most of those cases have been thrown out of court.
The cartoon that Kart drew depicted the president as a scarecrow in a corn field claiming powerlessness over the actions of his 16-year-old son.
The Chinese government has decided to allow private video-sharing websites to continue operation as long as they do not broadcast illegal content.
The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) and the Ministry of Information Industry (MII) said on its website that all video-sharing websites established before Jan 31 are qualified for a license and can continue operation.
The license was needed for any website providing online video services and could have been granted only to State-owned or State-controlled enterprises, according to an earlier regulation.
But video-sharing websites established after Jan 31 have to be State-owned enterprises in order to get the license, according to the regulator.
On Dec 29, SARFT and MII sprang a regulation stating that websites that provide video programming or allow users to upload videos in China must obtain a government license and applicants must either be State-owned or State-controlled companies.
The regulation surprised many as most video-sharing sites in China are privately held and funded by foreign venture-capital firms.
The latest announcement thus saves hundreds of private video-sharing websites from closure or forced cooperation with State-owned enterprises.
The Philippines House of Representatives has approved a bill that seeks to prohibit both print and broadcast media from using the words "Muslim" and "Christian" as a means of describing a person suspected of committing a
The bill's main authors said the measure's objective is to penalize media practitioners by imposing a fine of at least P50,000 whenever the words Muslim and Christian are used: It is hereby declared unlawful for any person to use in mass
media, the words Muslim or Christian or any other words that would denote religious or ethnic affiliation to describe any person suspected of or convicted for having committed criminal or unlawful acts."
Hataman, a human rights advocate, said the bill would go a long way as this would reduce connotations of discrimination in the practice of religion.
The bill provides, however, that only editors of newspapers and broadcast stations will be penalized.
Four other measures were approved on third and final reading at the House, including House Bill 2420 amending the Family Code of the Philippines, HB 2811 penalizing those exploiting women and glorifying sexual violence in advertisements, HB 3305
banning obscene porn materials and live sex shows.
The Indian Supreme Court will hear on February 15 an application seeking directions to the Union of India for blocking access to a website promoting pre-natal gender identification kits from abroad.
The Voluntary Health Association of Punjab is petitioning to seek strict implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition on Sex Selection) Act, 1994.
The application said that a website promoting sale of gender identification kits was reported in the media.
The website, according to the applicant, says the test seeks to identify the presence of male or female foetal genetic materials in the mother's blood. The website provided the methods by which the test was conducted, the process of
ordering the test kit, safeguards to be taken, etc.
Since the website was accessible anywhere in the country, a blanket blocking of this website was essential to prevent the misuse of technology and violation of the law, the application said and sought a direction in this regard.
The "Danish Cartoon Riots" were a shock to the world. Many newspapers republished the cartoons in defense of freedom of speech and to inform the public. Others decided it was unnecessary and inappropriate. In Canada, the Western
Standard magazine chose to do the former. Whether the decision was appropriate or not, it was entirely in its right to do so.
However, a Saudi Imam was so enraged that he called the police to arrest the publisher of the magazine. His 911 call was dismissed. The Imam then turned to the Alberta Human Rights Commission and argued that Ezra Levant, the publisher of the
Western Standard, had undermined his human rights. In Canada, where separation of Church and State and the individual's freedom of speech are cherished, one would think this Imam would have been laughed out of court.
However, the state-funded Commission has taken upon itself to be the arbiter of what is proper and politically correct speech, and the scarier part is that they have the power to punish individuals for speech they consider "illegal". Of
course, certain hate-speech laws are necessary, for instance, speech that calls for murder, incites a riot, or speech that harmfully libels an individual should be monitored. Levant, however, did none of these things.
The Commission decided that the mere fact that the Imam was offended is grounds for forcing a private citizen, who was practicing his democratic right, to defend himself before their joke-of-a-court.
Thanks to Levant's video postings of his interrogation on YouTube, which have received about half a million hits, his case has received considerable media attention. The absurdity of this kangaroo court becomes clear when his unabashed
interrogator has the audacity to question him on his political motives in publishing the cartoons, to which he unapologetically answers "whatever you find offensive".
Maybe if this was an isolated event it would seem like an absurdly embarrassing, but insignificant episode in Canada's proud history of personal liberty. However, the state has also inserted itself between another high-profile Canadian
journalist, Mark Steyn, and the public, due to his publication in MacLean's Magazine titled The Future Belongs to Islam.
He too is scheduled for a court date with the Canadian thought police this summer where he
will go before the so-called Canadian Humans Rights Commission.
Among these journalists are many other less known figures whose basic right of free speech is being questioned by thuggish state institutions. Many journalists, inside and outside of Canada, are watching the proceedings with disbelief.
Freedom of speech is not negotiable in Canada and it is not the government's right to decide which religion or creed may or may not be insulted or criticized in public.
A bill has been submitted to Russia's parliament proposing that a fine be imposed for reading erotic and pornographic publications in public places.
Drafted by United Russia party MP Robert Schlegel, the bill proposes fines of up to 1,000 rubles ($41) for the offense. It also calls for a fine on transporting erotic materials in transparent packets, and an amendment to the media law
prohibiting the reading of such materials in public places.
Artemy Troitsky, head of Playboy Russia, told Interfax news agency that he felt the bill was introduced because members of parliament have nothing to do. This county has a great number of problems and implicitly important laws to be adopted,
and they propose pointless projects. I would unseat them for such initiations.
While Troitsky remarked that Playboy, to say nothing of magazines [such as] Maxim, are not pornography. It is so-called 'lifestyle' rather than even erotic. The ban on erotic publications is absolutely absurd under this context.
Pakistani cinema goers may soon get to watch their favourite Indian Bollywood films if the government clears a proposal by its MPs to remove a ban on them.
Officially Indian films are banned in Pakistan, a prohibition dating back to the 1965 war between the two countries.
Cinema owners in Pakistan are keen to screen Bollywood films, but local filmmakers fear an influx would harm the Pakistani film industry.
Now a parliamentary committee on culture has recommended to the government that the ban on Indian films should be removed: We have devised a mechanism for allowing the import of Indian films for a period of one year, after which the
arrangements can be reviewed, senator Zafar Iqbal Chaudhry, who headed the committee said.
Though details are unclear, reports suggest that the import of a dozen Indian films will be allowed against the export of an equal number of Pakistani films to India. It is not clear also whether the Indian government would agree to such a
Indian films are hugely popular in Pakistan and illicit copies are easy to find.
A Turkish court has handed down a 15-month suspended jail term to an academic found guilty of insulting the state's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Professor Atilla Yayla, a well known liberal, said the trial highlighted the limits on free speech and academic debate in Turkey.
His crime was to suggest in academic discussion that the early Turkish republic was not as progressive as portrayed in official books.
His lawyers say they will lodge an immediate appeal.
Professor Yayla told the BBC he was prepared to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary: I want to emphasise again and again that Turkey's most pressing problem is freedom of expression.
The persecutor had asked the judge to impose a five-year prison sentence.
This trial has become a test of academic freedom in Turkey, which is pursuing a long-term ambition to become an EU member.
The professor was vilified by parts of the Turkish press, suspended from work at an Ankara university, and brought to trial.
The Turkish parliament is preparing to debate amending another law that restricts free speech. Article 301 on "insulting Turkishness" has been used to prosecute dozens of writers and intellectuals, including Nobel prize winner Orhan
Many foreign observers concentrate on Article 301, but there are other laws and articles in different laws, which have the potential to restrict freedom of expression, as it is in my case, Yayla told the BBC.
The EU has been pressing for a change to Article 301 for well over a year, but the government has faced stiff opposition from nationalists, both within the ruling party and in the opposition.
But changes to the law which protects Ataturk are not up for discussion.
A proposal has been rejected to give adult websites their own top-level domain.
This is the third time that Icann, the agency which regulates web addresses, has said no to the proposal from ICM Registry, which would involve pornographic sites changing from .com/co.uk, to addresses ending .xxx.
People who support the proposal say that if adult sites had their own domain, it would be easier to regulate the content of the sites, and also prevent people accidentally getting onto the sites when they don't mean to.
However, religious groups along with others who object to the proposal, claim that it would legitimise pornography. Some people in the porn industry also opposed the idea as they believe it would confine adult content to the ghetto.
We are extremely disappointed by the board's action today, said Stuart Lawley, ICM's president and chief executive. He added that the organisation would continue to fight for the establishment of a .xxx domain.
An Australian euthanasia campaigner is now allowed to bring a modified version of his banned book into New Zealand.
Philip Nitschke was detained at Auckland Airport when he arrived on Thursday night. Customs officers seized two copies of his DIY suicide guide.
But he says the copies he brought in have been altered to appease New Zealand's chief censor, after the book was banned in February last year.
Dr Nitschke says a detailed explanation was given as to why it was not allowed in the country.
He says offending passages have been removed, and the book will be reviewed again by the censor. Philip Nitschke says there is a good chance the new edition will find its way into New Zealand book shops.
14th February 2008
Customs officers are to return items seized from euthanasia proponent Dr Philip Nitschke.
Australian euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke has been arrested at Auckland airport for bringing in copies of a handbook advising people how to take their own lives.
His partner and co-author of the Peaceful Pill Handbook said his arrest was a surprise, as he had only taken the book to New Zealand to resubmit it to the country's chief censor Bill Hastings. Fiona Stewart told ABC: We actually
submitted it for classification last year at about this time, it was banned in June and it's only now that he's had the chance to get back to New Zealand to give it another go.
The handbook, which offers advice on assisted suicide, was banned in Australia last year. In June last year, New Zealand's Office of Film and Literature Classification gave the handbook an "objectionable" rating.
Nitschke, who had also planned to hold a series of workshops on euthanasia while in New Zealand, said police had detained him on arrival at Auckland Airport, and that he had been read his rights. He said he had in his possession two books about
euthanasia that had pages blacked out, and that the books had been seized.
Earlier this week, Nitschke sought advice from the chief censor on the screening two videos - The Single Shot and Doing It with Betty - which are banned in Australia.
Hastings said Nitschke emailed him on Tuesday seeking censorship advice. Hastings said he had offered advice on what grounds were required for the films to be shown without requiring a classification.
He said it was for Nitschke to decide whether the films were exempt but he risked prosecution if they were shown and found to have required classification first.
Customs officials released Nitschke after questioning him at Auckland Airport.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has begun implementing new laws for controlling the use of technology for terrorism, fraud, pornography, defamation, violating religious values and disregarding public etiquette.
The new IT law contains 16 articles, and provides a maximum penalty of 10 years and a SR5 million fine for persons found guilty of running web sites in support of terrorist organisations.
A maximum penalty of three years and a SR500,000 fine will be handed to anyone found guilty of financial or data fraud, or found guilty of attacking the private life of another subject.
Story continues below ?
The new law also covers the religious and social use of information and communications technology. Those who produce and distribute IT material that violate public law, religious values and public etiquette will receive up to five years in jail,
and a SR3 million fine. Those who use information technology to spread and market pornography will face the same punishment.
According to a Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry source, the new law has been introduced to combat IT-related crimes that threatens security and safety of human societies.
Punishment will be extended to those who aid those who commit IT crime; while those show that they exhibited intent to commit the crime through their actions, even if the crime didn't take place, will receive up to half the maximum sentence.
In a couple of months' time, the horrors of censorship depicted by George Orwell in 1984 will seem like childish pranks compared to the powers granted to the Russian authorities.
According to the Guardian, Russian internet users, will be completely locked off from foreign traffic, which can be used to access the majority of free information, as currently happens in China. Those whose work requires access to foreign sites
(ministries, departments and state companies) will have to be approved by the Special Services.
In practice, this will be achieved by the introduction of Cyrillic domain names, which will automatically cut the whole of Russia off from the World Wide Web and the Internet's other services.
The 'Russian Internet' project will look at the question of how they can best communicate within their own country. The internationalization of domain names will give them the chance to do what is being attempted in China, where three
top-level domain names, written in Chinese characters, are used: .net, .com and .cn, says Wolfgang Kleinwachter, member of the UN Working Group on Internet Governance, explaining the technical details.
The key question here is whether Russia's own root servers will use Russian international domain names when deciding where to direct their enquiries on the Internet -- that is will they be autonomous from the already existing root servers of the
net, which are mainly based in the USA (5 in the USA, 2 in Northern Europe).
In Kleinwachter's opinion, the worst case scenario would be everyone having to register domain names using the Cyrillic top-level domain .rf. Then Russian would have its own root name server, and it is much easier to control a top-level domain
than a hundred thousand subdomains, says the expert.
According to Kleinwachter, it has been suggested that people will be able to access Russian sites freely but will require a password sanctioned by state authorities to access the global Internet. In this way, the Kremlin will be able to control
each citizen's contact with the outside world.
The authorities however assert that this will make tracing "cyber-criminals" easier. Anyone wishing to read the European press, including the Ukrainian, will now become a dangerous criminal.
Western IT specialists point out that this innovation would also make all Russian hackers absolutely untraceable without cooperation from the Russian authorities. [Perhaps The ASCII internet world would the have to block all communication from
The Author of A Coup for the Rich , Professor Giles Ji Ungphakorn, writes:
I have just been informed today by Thammasart University bookshop, the only bookshop to agree to sell my book, that the Thai special branch have issued a letter to the shop banning the sale of Coup for the Rich .
This book, which was published in January 2007, has sold over 900 copies, almost its entire print run. Mostly the book was sold directly by myself or by Thammasart University bookshop. This is because my own university bookshop refused to sell
the book, citing “incorrect procedure”.
A Coup for the Rich criticises the military coup and the liberals who supported the coup. It discusses the role of the Thai Monarchy, citing the work of Paul Handley ( The King Never Smiles ). There is a chapter on the politics of
the Peoples’ Movement. The final chapter deals with the crisis in the South.
Bangkok Metropolitan Police, acting under an appeal from the Special Branch to investigate my book, have issued a letter to the Thamasart bookshop banning the sale of A Coup for the Rich . According to the letter, dated 18 January 2008,
the book is currently under investigation concerning charges of lèse majesté. The letter, signed by deputy police chief Chutti Tamanowanij, states that the continued sale of the book risks creating a “misunderstanding” about the
Monarchy among the Thai population.
In the land known for churning out music videos and CDs by the hour, lewd presentation and innuendos in lyrics of pop songs has led to the Punjab government stepping in.
Vulgarity in the name of entertainment will not be allowed, said cultural affairs minister Hira Singh Gabria, who announced the setting up of a supervisory board within a month to approve music videos before they hit the market, These people
are trying to play with Punjab’s culture. It’s time to define vulgarity and check the growing menace in the state.
The Punjab board will have assistance from school and college principals, as also members from law and art on its panel.
Many have welcomed this step. Crass exhibitionism and bawdy language in Punjabi music is stripping it of its richness. The large number of CDs and videos being made here is reflective of the youth’s disinclination towards professions like
Army, IAS, IPS. Making vulgar videos is an easier route to success and money, said Hans Raj Hans, Punjabi folk singer.
Out of 100 videos made every month, at least 10 are vulgar in the true sense of the word, said one trader.
Alarmed with the violent content of video games and the effect they have on children, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has decided to censor video games.
As per the proposal, the government will slot video games in terms of the age groups of kids they are suitable for, this classification is to be prominently displayed on the game pack.
The Ministry is considering an amendment in the Cinematograph Act, 1952, to give the Censor Board mandatory powers to check video games entering the Indian market.
Censor Board chief Sharmila Tagore had recently submitted a proposal to the ministry seeking powers to ask video games manufacturers to delete objectionable portions in the games. If required, the board should also be able to ban a particular
video game, the way it can ban a movie, she wrote.
Adding to the furor over whether non-Muslims have the right to use the word “Allah” in their publications and religious practice, it is reported that officials confiscated English-language Christian children’s books because they contained images
The government reportedly said Internal Security Ministry officials confiscated the books because their illustrations of prophets offended the sensitivities of Muslims. Islam, which shares some prophets in common with Christianity, prohibits the
portrayal of prophets.
Enforcement officials of the Publications and Al-Quran Texts Control Department under the Internal Security Ministry reportedly confiscated the books from three bookstores in Johor Bahru, Senawang and Ipoh in mid-December.
The books have been sent to the department’s headquarters in Putrajaya for investigation. Managers of the MPH bookstores reportedly said they will wait for the Internal Security Ministry’s decision on the books.
In a statement released on January 17 , the Rev. Dr. Hermen Shastri, general-secretary of the Council of Churches Malaysia questioned how the books could be offensive to Muslims when they were not meant for them. In the strongly worded statement
about the seizures, Shastri said government officials have no right and have overstepped their bounds by confiscating Christian literature.
He urged the prime minister and his Cabinet to take immediate action to put a stop to such seizures and to amend administrative rules and regulations especially in the Internal Security Ministry that give a free hand to enforcement officials
to act at their whim and fancies.
At the same time, the debate over whether non-Muslims can use the word “Allah” in publications and religious practice was stoked when the Internal Security Ministry told the Sun on January 16 that it had confiscated a total of 163 publications
comprising 18 titles from bookshops nationwide.
A ministry official told the daily that the seizures were made because the word “Allah” was used in the books. But Deputy Internal Ministry Minister Johari Baharum reportedly said that the ministry did not target Christian books.
In an open letter, the International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, criticises the ongoing failure of the Turkish government to reform the internationally
denounced article 301 of the Turkish penal code.
H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdogan Prime Minister of Turkey
H.E. Abdullah Gl President of Turkey
The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, would like to express its disappointment at the Turkish government’s failure to initiate reform of the
criminal defamation articles laid down in the Turkish penal code, in particular article 301.
As you are aware, article 301 criminalises insults to "Turkishness" and carries a sentence of up to three years imprisonment. This article has been heavily criticised by the international community and its reform is a prerequisite to
Turkey’s accession to the European Union.
According to information before IPI, comments made on 7 January by Mehmet Ali Sahin, the Turkish Minister for Justice, suggested that the long awaited reforms to article 301 were due to be brought to Parliament last week for debate. However,
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan denied this the following day, stating that the draft reforms were incomplete. Certain press reports suggested that the reform package would be introduced to the floor of the Turkish parliament this week. However,
this has not yet happened.
IPI would like to urge the Turkish government to reform article 301, as the threats it represents to freedom of expression are in stark contrast to the rights laid out in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The willingness of the Turkish government to tackle this issue has special relevance at this moment in time. This week sees the first anniversary of the brutal murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was killed outside his offices
in Istanbul on 19 January 2007. Dink, who was nominated IPI World Press Freedom Hero for 2007, had his conviction for breaching article 301 upheld in July 2006. Dink had received various threats from nationalists, and his murder was followed by
widespread calls for changes to article 301, including an admission by President Gul in October 2007 of the necessity to reform this pernicious law. However, the article remains on the statute books.
IPI urges the Turkish government to place the package of reforms before parliament and to repeal article 301, and in doing so fulfil its obligations as a modern democracy. IPI also urges the Turkish government to repeal all other laws that
impinge on freedom of speech, such as article 318, which criminalises "alienating the public from military service", and article 5816, which contains provisions for "insulting or cursing the memory of Ataturk".
Both of these laws were applied this week against Yasin Yetisgen, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Coban Atesi.
The spat over the Air Hostess War TV soap ended yesterday after a talk hosted by Culture Ministry.
The producers, Exact, agreed to remove any fight scenes of characters in flight attendant uniforms, to make the uniform skirts two inches longer and to add some scenes showing cabin crew working hard for passengers.
Battle of Angels director Nipon Phewnena said the changes were not seen as damaging because he wanted everyone to be happy and feel better about the soap opera, and he affirmed this would not affect the story's intensity, continuity and
Nipon admitted audience ratings had actually increased following the flight attendant's movement against it, although he insisted it was not the kind of ratings boost the producers were proud of. He said this had taught drama producers to work
The Thai Airways International (THAI) Union acting chairman Somsak Srinuan said the union was satisfied with Exact's proposal and would keep a close watch for such improvements in the soap opera.
Today we got a letter from the head of the number one Turkish atheist site which has been removed by the Turkish government twice. Once under the original domain and again under another domain. Unfortunately, the owner is unable to fight this in
court because to do so, he would have to identify himself which, if you're familiar, will end up resulting in his head being chopped off by the peaceful and loving Muslims who work for Allah. If you speak Turkish and you are an atheist please
support this site:
Ateizm.org , the most prominent non-profit Turkish web site on atheism and religions was closed for the second time in December 2007, under orders from a Turkish court. Ateizm.org was established in 2000 by three young Turkish atheists who
devoted themselves to the enlightenment of Turkish people. Ateizm.org hosts an online discussion board named
Ateistforum , one of the busiest forums for the Turkish speaking online community over the Internet.
Many aspects of Ateizm.org are considered to be revolutionary for Turkey. First time in the history of Turkey every conceivable aspect of Islam is being openly, scientifically, honestly and courageously discussed and criticized. Over the years
many thousands of articles appeared in the forum, many of which referred to the verses of Koran and Hadits. With the possible exception of Ilhan Arsel and Turan Dursun's studies, Koran had never been criticized in Turkey so much before. In
addition to these short communications, numerous satires, short stories, poems, comments and lengthy articles were published. A few years after the inception of Ateizm.org, a separate science forum was established and started to enlighten young
During its lifetime Ateizm.org was hacked three times and experienced some serious hosting problems. We survived all of them with flying colors and started over wherever we had left. Last year, however, our web site encountered a different and
more ominous kind of problem. In June 2007, without warning, our web site was closed to its Turkish audience with a court order based on a legal action taken by a Turkish creationist named "Adnan Oktar" (now widely known by his pen name
"Harun Yahya"Eye-wink. Since ateizm.org was hosted in the US, it remained accessible from abroad, but inaccessible to its main audience in Turkey. If we hired a lawyer and challenged the court order, we probably would have won our case.
But we do not want to disclose our identities. This is our biggest weakness. According to our lawyer, there is no way to take a legal action in Turkey and remain anonymous at the same time. Many Turkish intellectuals who were against Islam and
outspoken about their views on religion were murdered by Islamic fundamentalists in the past. We do not want to risk our lives.
Since we were unable to challenge the court order, we chose to change our domain name to Ateizm1.org and remained in operation. We continued to bitterly criticize a Turkish creationist organization called "Science Research Foundation"
("Bilim Arastirma Vakfi" or "BAV"Eye-wink and its honorary president Harun Yahya. In December 2007 Ateizm.org (then called Ateizm1.org) was closed to Turkish audience for the second time by another court order.
During 2007 Turkish Telecom has been busy blocking access to many other web sites(*), including YouTube, but they had to back off from YouTube ban due to public outrage.
We know that if Turkish media or Turkish Government is criticized in Europe or US, they listen and pay more attention to it. Becoming a full member of the European Union is crucial for Turks, therefore whenever issues related to democracy,
freedom of speech, human rights and alike are raised in the West, they are taken seriously, sometimes even addressed by the government, particularly if the issue is something that affects Turkey's image or credibility in the West. Therefore it is
vitally important that we find prominent international allies eager to support our cause by publicizing this issue as much as possible. We need a lot of noise!
Some of the web sites blocked by Turkish Telecom in 2007:
The Sex Party was ready to party over its "victory" in Federal Court, which ruled that Canada Post must rewrite its guidelines on what constitutes explicit sex.
We consider this a victory, said John Ince, the president of the Sex Party, a registered political party in British Caledonia I think it's a victory for the rule of law. It's saying that Canada Post is not above the law. It can't just
ignore cabinet regulations and just do whatever it wants in the area of sex.
Ince was reacting to a decision by Federal Court Justice Michel Beaudry to the Sex Party's challenge of Canada Post's refusal to deliver a mass mail-out of a political pamphlet during the 2006 federal election because it deemed it offensive and
sexually explicit without explaining what that meant.
We are trying to make our society, and especially our government institutions, more tolerant and accepting of healthy sexual expression, said Ince.
The pamphlet was titled Politics for a Sex-Positive Future. It contained erotic art images and outlined the party's platform.
Canada Post has been relying on basically an illegal internal rule to prohibit our material and, indeed, all sexual material, said Ince.
He said that the government had previously ruled that the mail must be delivered unless the contents were illegal.
The court gave Canada Post six months to rewrite its policy.
We're examining our policies, said Lillian Au, spokeswoman for Canada Post.
A Private Malaysian television station 8TV has been banned from broadcasting live and delayed telecast concerts for three months.
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) said it has also imposed a ban on artiste Faizal Tahir for live or delayed concerts aired by other TV stations for the same period.
MCMC corporate communications department director Muhamad Tahir Muhamad Noor said in a statement that the rulings, following an investigation into the live Rockin' Birthday Concert by 8TV on Sunday where Faizal bared his chest
He said 8TV had failed to comply with conditions for a live and delayed telecast: The commission found the artiste’s act was intended without taking into account the sentiments and sensitivities of the viewers and public values.
During the Rockin' Birthday Concert, Faizal, a former member of nasyid group Mirwana, took off his shirt, exposing his body painted with an “S” in red.
The online advertising industry should consider a TV-style watershed ban to restrict the marketing of products including alcohol on the internet, according to a report.
Online advertising's rapid growth will lead to the medium facing a "barrage of obstacles" this year, forecast the trend report by the international industry forum group, Deloitte.
The report argues that with this continuing growth will come the increasing scrutiny of digital media advertising by regulators keen to see the industry introduce self-regulatory controls seen in other media.
UK TV channels adhere to a 9pm watershed, policed by communications regulator Ofcom, before which programming and ads deemed unsuitable for children cannot be broadcast.
While a watershed, a time before which certain content cannot be shown, exists for television and radio, this typically does not apply to the internet. The online advertising industry should self-regulate and implement technology that would
enable watersheds and restrict certain types of advertising, such as for alcoholic drinks.
Deloitte's report also argues that there may be a backlash by consumers against too many commercial messages on the internet - as was seen by the revolt by Facebook users against the intrusive Beacon advertising system.
One 2007 survey of US consumers found that over three quarters of respondents considered internet advertisements more intrusive than those in print, said the report: Over a quarter said that they would pay for advertisement-free online
A key mission for the advertising sector in 2008 should be to fight back against its critics by demonstrating - without rhetoric - its capabilities, said the report. Deloitte added that companies should push the "quid pro quo" of
internet advertising, namely that it funds all the content users expect to get for free.
The Pakistani government has issued a new ordinance to prevent cyber crimes some of which can be punished with death or life in prison. Media and civil society organisations have criticised the new legislation calling it another attack on freedom
of expression and on freedom of the press.
The law, which was adopted in secret and is retroactive to 31 December 2007, encompasses 18 offences that carry severe punishments.
But Peter Jacob begs to differ. For the executive secretary of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, the human rights agency of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, this bill is a restriction on media and electronic
communication. Under this legislation it will be very problematic to send SMS or e-mails. They will become a crime.
For him the secret rush by the caretaker government to approve the ordinance is baseless since we will have a new government in a month time. Unfortunately the government has bad advisers and for this reason it adopted a bad law at a
According to Pakistan’s National Journalists’ Forum, this law will negatively affect the right of the people to have access to information and their freedom of expression. The fact that it was adopted by an illegitimate government a month
before the elections makes it another tool of censorship.
China shut down 44,000 Web sites and homepages and arrested 868 people last year in a campaign against Internet porn which will continue until the end of this year's Beijing Olympics, Xinhua news agency has said.
China launched a crackdown on online pornography and "unhealthy" Web content after Chinese President Hu Jintao said the country's sprawling Internet posed a threat to social stability.
Rights groups have said the campaign has been used as a thinly veiled pretext to crack down on dissent and round up online dissidents ahead of the Olympics.
Xinhua said authorities had also investigated 524 criminal cases involving online porn and "penalised" another 1,911 people. Some 440,000 "pornographic messages" had also been deleted, the agency said.
Ezra Levant , editor of the Canadian Western Standard, put up a robust defence of his right to publish the Danish Mohammed cartoons.
He was scandalously called to account for himself by the Alberta Human Rights Commission. See him tell them off:
Here’s a transcript from his opening statement:
For a government bureaucrat to call any publisher or anyone else to an interrogation to be quizzed about his political or religious expression is a violation of 800 years of common law, a Universal Declaration of Rights, a
Bill of Rights and a Charter of Rights. This commission is applying Saudi values, not Canadian values. It is also deeply procedurally one-sided and unjust. The complainant – in this case, a radical Muslim imam, who was trained at an officially
anti-Semitic university in Saudi Arabia, and who has called for sharia law to govern Canada – doesn’t have to pay a penny; Alberta taxpayers pay for the prosecution of the complaint against me. The victims of the complaints, like the Western
Standard, have to pay for their own lawyers from their own pockets. Even if we win, we lose – the process has become the punishment.
The LiveJournal management have demonstrated a serious lack of understanding in how the internet works by declaring that users are responsible for the content of the webpages that they link to in their blog entries.
A user points out the obvious flaw: I get ToS’d because the link’s been redirected to a page full o’ porn, even though context clearly shows that when I originally put up the link that it didn’t actually land on a page of porn?
One wonders how such a long-established blogging company can be so ignorant about the nature of the world wide web.
OKNation is a Thai blog hosting company associated with the Nation newspaper group. They have recently been deleting blogs without warning.
For instance Lalida's blog about the "3rd gender" (lady boys) was shut down yesterday with no warning. Even the posts about Lalida’s transgender blog have been deleted.]
The blogger wrote: Lalida is banned because it targeted on the “3rd gender” that falls under our rule which wants to keep out attacks on personality and debates that involve racism or sexism.
Putushon of the Republic of Poetry blog recently reported the deletion of his blog on OK Nation. His account has been restricted on December 20. On January 8, the blog has been entirely deleted without warning.
Previously Wayward's blog has been banned due to strong language. Independent Press, an anti-junta government blog, has also been deleted by OK Nation.
OK Nation, part of the Nation Group, is a blog community platform with fine ideals...
OK Nation was established in order to building a place for intellectual freedom. Everyone has his own right to write and distribute via the Internet, the most effective communication channel.
The Nation Group as a media who are honest, trustworthy, updated, and creative, opens blogs for everyone to share stories in your daily life, experiences, knowledge and opinion to others freely."
But censorial rules:
Any writings or opinions must not insult or affect the institution of nation, religion, and king or affect the stability of the nation.
Do not use rude, insulting, instigating language giving faults to other or breaking up the society. Also do not include pornographic and obscene image, video clip and words.
OK Nation reserves right to close any blog and delete any content or opinion that are against the above statement without prior notification to the blog or opinion owners.
Flight attendants are upset over the way their profession is portrayed in a new TV soap opera, Songkhram Nang Fah ( The Air Hostess War ), and will today make their feelings public.
Cabin crew led by the Thai Airways International labour union will petition Culture Minister Khunying Khaisri Sri-aroon to get the drama pulled off the air.
Acting union president Somsak Srinual said the Channel 5 show, in which female flight attendants battle to win the heart of a pilot, is humiliating and hurts their image. It would also discourage young people from entering the profession
They will petition the television station and the National Human Rights Commission. Thai Airways president Apinant Sumaseranee and air force chief ACM Chalit Phukphasuk will also get an earful.
The drama first aired on the channel last Tuesday and ran for three days last week. Songkhram Nang Fah is scheduled to air Monday to Thursday at 8.25pm. The female lead is a charming air hostess, the envy of her co-workers, and a married
pilot takes a fancy to her. The melodrama contains many scenes in which characters exact revenge, get jealous and fight each other.
A Turkish court has again blocked access to the popular video-sharing Web site YouTube because of clips allegedly insulting the country's founding father.
It was the second time Turkey banned the site because of clips deemed disrespectful to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. It is illegal in Turkey to insult the revered figure, whose portrait still hangs in nearly all government offices nearly 70 years after
Users trying to access the Web site from Turkey were met with notices in English and Turkish saying it was banned under an Ankara court order issued Jan. 17.
It was not clear how long the current ban would last.
Every major Israeli news site allows users to submit comments for every single one of its stories. These discussions are planned to fall under future censorship, according to the Talkback Law, proposed by Knesset member Israel Hasson. The
proposal passed initial voting in the Knesset on January 16th.
According to the proposal, a popular site, defined as one with an average of 50,000 hits or more per day, will be considered a “newspaper” and thus liable for the damage or harm caused to a person as a result from its user generated content (i.e.
Hasson’s reasoning for the importance of such a law: It is unreasonable that a response, possibly anonymous, sent to a newspaper, will be held under the editor’s responsibility, but a response submitted to the online portal of that same
newspaper will be under nobody’s authority… We must not turn the network into a vandalizing, evil tool.
Israel Hasson’s proposal, which imposes criminal responsibility on commentators, editors and operators of large websites, passed the preliminary vote today. 29 Knesset members supported and only two opposed this evil law proposal. Evil - not
because those who slander will tremble before writing now, but because of the lack of reference to the thin texture of freedom of speech.
It is hard to claim that Shelly Yachimovich, who opposed the proposal along with Gideon Sa’ar said: True, it is not pleasant to have slanderous talkbacks pointed at you, even I feel unpleasant sometimes, but not enough for me to lower the
gavel as a legislator. I suggest to remove this proposal from the daily agenda. It harms freedom of speech and will not be effective. The immense advantages of the web outweighs its disadvantages by far.
The government of Brazil has imposed a ban on a pair of well-known PC games.
Judge Carlos Alberto Simoes wrote that first-person shooter Counter-Strike and the role playing game Everquest , both released in 1999, needed to be banned because they: [Encouraged] the subversion of public order, were an attack
against the democratic state and the law and against public security.
An explanation of the ban on Counter-Strike
nay be something to do with a local modified version that permitted players to take on the perspective of either a police officer or a narcotrafficker in Rio de Janeiro’s infamously crime-ridden slums.
Thailand's banning of a rare "warts and all" biography of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej only stokes interest in the book and risks an eventual explosion of pent-up political tension, an academic said.
Banning books is usually something we associate with fascist and repressive regimes, Australian anthropologist Annette Hamilton told a seminar on The King Never Smiles at an international Thai studies conference in Bangkok.
The book, by U.S. journalist Paul Handley, portrays King Bhumibol as an austere and deeply political monarch whose overarching desire for stability and unity during 61 years on the throne has stifled Thailand's democratic development.
Many of the southeast Asian nation's 63 million people regard the king as semi-divine and credit him with steering Thailand through huge political and social turbulence, including more than a dozen military coups.
However, critics say this perception is propped up by draconian lese majeste laws, which make any insult or threat to the monarchy punishable by up to 15 years in jail.
Even though the King himself made it clear in 2005 that he should not be above criticism, the government banned the book in January 2006 under its 1941 Printing Act, arguing it could disrupt public order and the good morals of society.
This was clearly not the real reason, Hamilton said: The main issue is that it challenges the agreement to silence, or the agreement not to disagree, which is a main strategy in Thailand for maintaining harmony.
The book also contains lots of rumor and gossip about the royal family, in particular heir apparent Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, who does not enjoy the almost unquestioning respect accorded to his 80-year-old father.
Australian scholar Craig Reynolds said much of the underground hype about the book might be overblown as studies in Thai have already pointed to Bhumibol's overtly political reign, backing various democratic and military regimes.
Instead, he said, much of the offence seemed to stem from outrage at an outsider, in particular a journalist, trying to lift the lid on the central pillar of Thai society: Who is he to comment on the sacred institution which has held the
country together during crisis after crisis?
Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik came to the defense of the film censorship board at a judicial review of the country's 16-year old film law at the Constitutional Court.
In the interest of the general public, at present, the Film Censorship Agency (LSF) is still needed, Jero Wacik told the court: We need to protect the public at large from the adverse effects of films, billboards and the like.
The minister spoke after being called to the defense of the 1992 law. The judicial review hearing was demanded by young filmmakers and actors. The film makers and actors said the law was contrary to the 1945 Constitution's article 28 on human
Film directors Muhammad Rivai Riza and Tino Saroengallo, producer Nur Kurniati Aisyah Dewi, singer/actress Annisa Nurul Kusuma Wardhani and film festival organizer Lalu Rois Amriradhiani attended the court hearing.
They argued articles 1, 33 and 34 of the 1992 Film Law had stifled their creativity as artists and had caused them distress.
Member of the House of Representative's Law Commission, Lukman Hakim Saefuddin said the exercise of human rights brought with it obligations: As practiced in Indonesia, human rights are not a totally absolute concept. Certain rights of
some people will need to be checked in order to guarantee the rights of others, and this is where the film law and the censorship board comes in. We seek to protect the general public from any negative excess stemming from unmonitored creativity
and expression. This measure also ensures that our film industry is heading towards the right direction.
All nine justices were present at the hearing, which was adjourned until further notice.
Bollox study to support game restrictions in Saudi
Based on an article from Asharq Alawsat see full article
A recent study conducted in Saudi Arabia has highlighted the 'dangerous' influence of video games on the Kingdom's youths.
The study that was carried out by a group of educationists in conjunction with specialised departments concerned with the negative effects of video games focused on a selected group of youngsters in a juvenile detention centre in the Saudi
capital of Riyadh. The study revealed that 90% of the [already delinquent] juveniles were affected negatively by video games and sought to imitate these games in reality.
The results of the study 'affirmed' that society is facing a critical issue as the danger lies in the fact that video games are interactive. The research highlighted that youngsters often fail to distinguish between virtual reality and real life
as soon as the youth is exposed to the on-screen violence of these games and the evil scenarios in which the player is placed in these games for long hours combating security forces, destroying state property or violating people in various ways.
The study added that voluntary organisations, groups and anti-lobbies in the United States, the European Union and the Asian industrial nations have set out to counter video-game violence and age restrictions have been set in place in countries
such as the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil and the EU. However Arab countries have failed to implement any restrictions regarding accessibility for youngsters to such software.
The study also indicated that the nature of the problem lies in the software that is available on the local market that fails to develop youngsters’ mental abilities and skills. Furthermore, they do not encourage youths to adopt strong values and
noble customs and only time is wasted on such games. They also strip children of their innocence and depend on the concept of ‘survival of the fittest’ by rebelling against society as a whole through theft, kidnapping, murder and the like in
order to score more points.
The study looked at the way in which these games encourage rebellious behaviour for example by teaching the young how to evade state security forces and to confront them violently, and how to kill, kidnap and execute violent assassinations
against leaders, scientists and state officials in general. Furthermore, these games feature the destruction of state-owned property using highly explosive bombs or even destroying a whole city with a nuclear bomb. Through such violence and
destruction, the player gains more points.
Well-known Thai social critic Sulak Sivaraksa, author of the banned book Almost a Century of Thorn-filled Thai Democracy , will lodge a court case against the Special Branch Police Commander and the Interior Minister at the Central
Administrative Court on Jan 16.
Sulak wants the court to lift the Special Branch Commander's order prohibiting sales and distribution, and confiscating copies of his book that was published in April 2007.
On Oct 1, 2007, Pol Maj Gen Sombat Suphajiva acting as printing authority issued Order 5/2007 banning Sulak's book that criticizes Thailand's democracy, alleging that the material may cause unrest and degrade good morals in Thai society.
Copies of the book have been confiscated by the police since.
Sulak appealed to Interior Minister Gen Surayud Chulanont on Oct 8, 2007, and never received a response. So he decided to ask the Administrative Court to lift the ban order and have the defendants pay him damages of 1,094,000 baht with an annual
interest rate of 7.5% starting from the date of prosecution.
Sulak said that the Special Branch Police had illegitimately and unlawfully issued the order to ban and confiscate his book without presenting any reasons and facts to prove what part in the book ‘may cause unrest and degrade public good morals',
and had failed to grant him a chance to defend his book.
For more than 30 years a cross-dresser with a razor-sharp wit and a merciless tongue has won the affection of millions of Turks. And his success on television has been vaunted as evidence of the tolerance of Turkey's unique mix of Islam and
But for the past year Huysuz Virjin (the Petulant Virgin) has been replaced by his less exotic self, Seyfi Dursunoglu, in a show aired on a private television channel. The 76-year-old entertainer claims to have been forced to trade in his
trademark blonde wig, silk stockings and sexy gowns for more conventional male garb after Turkey's broadcasting watchdog, the RTUK, put pressure on television stations to ban cross-dressing.
RTUK denies such censorship. But Dursunoglu insists that he is the victim of a creeping conservatism that he believes has infected the country ever since the mildly Islamist Justice and Development (AK) party came to power five years ago.
Although he was allowed to appear in drag for a special new-year programme, he says that as a performer, I am no longer as free .
China Aid Association (CAA) has learned that Christian bookstore owner, Shi Weihan has been released on bail.
Chinese officials have decided against a formal trial for Shi, and criminal charges against him have been dropped.
Eyewitnesses told CAA that Shi was in good spirits and relatively stable physical condition. Shi's family members asked CAA to thank the international community for their "tireless efforts" in seeking his release.
Shi, and some of his colleagues, were detained for 37 days under charges of illegal printing and distribution of Christian literature.
Sources state that the Beijing Haidian District prosecution office assigned to Shi's case determined that they were unable to proceed with formal charges due to "insufficient evidence".
Regardless of the reason for Shi's unconditional release, it is evident that international attention and pressure on the case were instrumental in influencing the court's decision, said CAA.
Turkey's government will resume discussions Monday on a proposal to soften a much-criticized law that inhibits free speech, the justice minister said, in a bid to remove a major stumbling block to the country's hopes of joining the EU.
Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin would not give details on the proposed change to the law, but said it was likely to be voted on in parliament later this week.
Turkey's penal code makes denigrating "Turkishness" or insulting the country's institutions a crime punishable by up to three years in prison. The EU has said the law falls short of the bloc's standards on free speech and has warned it
threatens to further slowdown accession talks with Turkey.
Under the proposed amendment, the Justice Ministry's permission would be required for prosecutors to launch investigations into possible violations of the article, according to Turkish news reports. The term "Turkishness" would be
replaced with "Turkish nation," the reports said.
A Christian bookshop owner has been arrested in China for printing copies of the Bible.
Police seized Shi Weihan the owner of Holy Spirit Trading Company. He is accused of conducting "illegal operations" and remains in custody, more than a month after his arrest.
The police confiscated almost all of the Christian literature and Bibles stored in the home he shares with his wife, Zhang Jing, and seized all the books in his bookshop.
Ms Zhang said that, while the books in their shop were legally printed and sold in China, her husband privately published many Christian books and Bibles without authorisation and distributed them among local home churches: this was the reason
for his arrest: He was worried about publishing these unauthorised books. But the church needed these books and so he felt it was a risk worth taking."
China Aid Organisation (CAA) says the country has launched a crackdown on unauthorised religious groups ahead of the Olympic Games. Shi's bookshop, in an upmarket office block, is less than two miles from the main Olympics venue.
With eight months to go before the Olympics, the government is taking great pains to paint itself to the international community as a country of religious tolerance. It says local Christian groups will be encouraged to hand out Bibles to athletes
and spectators during the event.
The CAA says Shi is being held in an unheated cell and is subjected to sleep deprivation. Ms Zhang says she has been denied visitor rights to see her husband and so is "not clear" about his condition.
China detains thousands of members of religious groups every year; some 70 members of a Protestant home church in eastern Shandong province are still being held after their arrest in early December for taking part in an "illegal religious
gathering," according to the CAA.
Thanapol Eiwsakul, editor of the Fah Diew Kan political magazine website sameskybooks.org, told The Nation yesterday it was no longer accessible. Other websites hosted on the same server were also offline as collateral damage.
It was like shutting down a printing house that prints a magazine. This is the price we're paying, said Thanapol, who insisted he always cooperated with the authorities and deleted material considered offensive to the monarchy.
He believed the posting of critical remarks following the death of Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana might have led to the shutting down of the site by the Information and Communications Technology Ministry. Some visitors to the site
posted critical remarks to the effect that the news media generalised when it said the whole country was in grief following the death of the Princess. One correspondent expressed refusal to follow the mourning dress code.
The ministry sent Thanapol an e-mail explaining the site had been shut as a result of offensive content. Thanapol said he had received no warning from the ministry.
Thanapol said he was considering legal action against the ministry and the host company, Internet Service. He added, however, that he had no faith in the judicial system: The interpretation of the law will never side with human rights; it will
likely endorse unjust use of power, but we insist on the principle of human rights and that we're innocent and open about expressing critical views. We don't see the government as acting in the open when it pressures private companies .
13th January 2008
Reporters Without Borders has condemned the sudden closure of the political news magazine Fah Diew Kan’s website (www.sameskybooks.org), which has been accused by the information ministry of lese majeste.
This closure is an example of the most direct form censorship, the press freedom organisation said. “ his was a case for the courts to resolve. What have the authorities got against this website? Provocative comments were posted on it
but that was no reason to close it down. We call on the information ministry to explain to us why this was done and we point out that article 39 of the Thai constitution guarantees freedom of expression.
The Malaysian government has reiterated that non-Muslims cannot use the word ''Allah,'' sparking concern Friday among Christians who use it to refer to God in their Malay-language Bible and other publications.
Abdullah Zin, the de facto minister for Islamic affairs, told reporters that the Cabinet is of the view that ''Allah'' refers to the Muslim God and can only be used by Muslims.
The use of the word 'Allah' by non-Muslims may arouse sensitivity and create confusion among Muslims in the country, Abdullah said.
His statement is the latest twist in a long-drawn controversy involving The Herald, a weekly organ of Malaysia's Catholic Church. It was told by the Internal Security Ministry last month that its Malay-language section would be banned unless it
stops using ''Allah'' as a synonym for God.
But the paper was surprised when the ministry made an apparent about-turn last weekend by renewing its annual permit - a government requirement for all publications in Malaysia - without imposing any conditions. The paper assumed it was a tacit
approval for the use of ''Allah.''
Abdullah's comments Thursday, however, threw the issue into fresh confusion, and will likely renew complaints by ethnic minorities that their rights are increasingly undermined because of government efforts to bolster the status of Islam,
Malaysia's official religion.
The Herald's editor, Rev. Lawrence Andrew, said its latest issue on Wednesday still uses ''Allah,'' but he could not say whether upcoming editions would omit the word.
He declined to comment further, noting the paper has initiated court action to get a legal endorsement for what it says is its Constitutional right to use ''Allah.''
China is to further tighten its grip on internet use by restricting the broadcast of videos on the web to only those run by state-sanctioned companies.
In the government’s latest clampdown on cyberspace, all sites that provide video programming or allow users to upload video must obtain a government permit, with the only companies permitted to apply being those that are state-owned or
Executives at Chinese video-sharing sites spoke with caution but said the move was not unexpected and would likely have a much greater impact on new entrants to the market, such as Google’s popular YouTube.com that has yet to formally register in
The new rules, which come into force on January 31, mark a fresh attempt by Beijing to curtail the internet habits of an increasingly web-savvy population that has become accustomed to decades of state intervention.
The new regulations state that: Those who provide Internet video services should insist on serving the people, serve socialism ... and abide by the moral code of socialism.
The policy will ban providers from broadcasting video that involves national secrets, hurts the reputation of China, disrupts social stability or promotes pornography. Providers will be required to delete and report such content.
A While it remains unclear what caused Robert Dziekanski’s death in October, there’s no disputing that the Polish immigrant was tasered several times by Canadian police at Vancouver International Airport.
Video of the fatal incident was widely broadcast and is available online eg at YouTube.
Canada.com reports on a recent YouTube video which parodies the incident using an early version of the Mega Man video game series.
Mega Man vs. Polish immigrant shows Mega Man confronting Dziekanski in the airport. Mega Man is offered three choices of action, including “Use restraint,” “Call a translator,” or “Tazer mercilessly.”
The creator of the parody, Vancouver resident Mike Greenway, said: The video was really more of a statement on police Taser use than anything. The video that I made is a tongue-in-cheek parody about the incompetence of everyone involved, not
Aga Magdolen, a spokeswoman with the Canadian Polish Congress, found the YouTube video offensive: This tragedy should not have been portrayed as a game. It is disrespectful to the victim, his family and the Polish community.
RCMP Staff Sgt. John Ward was also offended: Any right-thinking person who would look at the video would be offended by that. A gentlemen lost his life and it is in extremely poor taste.
However, Marta Grywalska, a spokeswoman for Polish Ambassador Piotr Ogrodzinski, seemed less condemnatory: The public was disturbed by the event. This is how the subculture reacted to it.
On December 18 2007 the UN General Assembly adopted a raft of resolutions recommended by its Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural). There was also one long campaigned for by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference: combating
defamation of religions.
Draft resolution VI on Combating defamation of religions (document A/C.3/62/L.35), was approved by a recorded vote of 95 in favour to 52 against, with 30 abstentions.
The resolution would have the Assembly express deep concern about the negative stereotyping of religions and manifestations of intolerance and discrimination in matters of religion or belief, still in evidence in some regions of the world. The
Assembly would emphasize that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which should be exercised with responsibility and may therefore be subject to limitations, according to law and necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of
others; protection of national security or of public order, public health or morals; and respect for religions and beliefs.
The only religion actually mentioned in the document is Islam paragraph 9: Stresses the need to effectively combat defamation of all religions and incitement to religious hatred, against Islam and Muslims in particular.
This was adopted with 108 in favour and 51 against. The developing world voted in favour and the developed world voted against.
The I&B ministry has decided to censor all graphic computer games. This basically means that computer games with too much blood and gore will not be made available for children. Same goes for those games which involve ‘prizes’ like virtual
sex with a girl if you clear a certain level.
Parents have been voicing their concerns against such computer games for a long time now. We decided it’s high time we introduce censorship in computer and video games, says a source in the I&B ministry.
The draft bill being considered by the ministry also proposes that the Censor Board do this job and certify an age-limit for kids accessing particular video games. The Censor Board might also reserve the right to reject a video game if it is
‘unsuitable’ for an Indian audience.
This is true that there is a proposal that the Censor Board should start censoring all video games - and I agree with proposal totally, says Sharmila Tagore, the chairperson of the Censor Board: We have already submitted our proposal to
the ministry and the draft is being considered by them.
According to the proposal, the Censor board will mark the video games according to age groups and would clearly mention the age for which it is suitable. It will also be made mandatory for the manufacturer to carry the certificate on the cover of
the game just as it is done on DVD covers.
A university student was recently prosecuted for criminal intent for an online posting that jokingly expressed the desire to be "kept." According to the law prohibiting sexual transaction with minors, any Web message that hints at
sexual transaction with minors is subject to prosecution with sentences up to five years in jail. Though in this case the prosecutor eventually dropped the charge, the student suffered through a painful ordeal that left a mark on his criminal
This was largely the result of inappropriate legislation that can be attributed to the exclusion of sex rights groups from the legislative process, resulting in unfair laws.
On Dec. 20, the Cabinet again proposed revisions to the Children and Youth Welfare Act, pledging to assist certain non-government organizations in establishing censorship mechanisms for Web content. Internet providers that violate the Web content
rating system would be heavily fined. Such censorship legislation should be cause for serious concern.
In the West, regulations that lack provisions for context have resulted in the arrest and conviction of feminist promoters of family planning and birth control as well as persecution for expressing anti-religious sentiment.
Similar Taiwanese legislation has resulted in the criminalization and prosecution of any discussion of sex on the Internet, be it in the form of self-expression, inquiry or exploration, amorous interaction or even community-building and
socializing among sexual minorities. When police, urged on by conservative child-protection groups, focus only on superficial meanings in their indictments, the result is a serious abuse of police power.
Current regulation of Internet content not only ignores context, but also often mistakenly infers motive. For instance, a request for a one-night stand could be wrongly interpreted as intent to conduct a sexual transaction. Police set up
entrapment operations that have put more than 20,000 people through the shame and humiliation of the judicial process in the last seven years.
Sex rights groups have warned against such a travesty of human rights. Is there any justice when a small private joke could lead to prosecution for a crime that carries a possible five-year jail sentence?
Internet speech and communication has its own specific context and meaning that belong to the realm of freedom afforded us in the Constitution. Social space should not be rigidified and unconventional Internet communication should not be
demonized simply for the sake of child protection. Basic freedom of speech and expression should be upheld at all costs.
A lawsuit demanding banning of websites in Egypt is rejected with the emphasis on the freedom of Internet
In a court ruling restoring hope in the hearts of all defenders of freedom of opinion and expression in Egypt and the world, the Administrative Judicial Court issued a sentence today in a case brought by Judge Abdul Fattah Murad calling for
banning the 51 websites on the Internet in Egypt.
The court rejected the lawsuit, and emphasized the support for freedom of expression and not compromising the freedom of these websites as long as these sites do not harm the beliefs or public order.
This historical sentence comes as the best conclusion to a year that witnessed a sharp retreat in the freedom of press and freedom of expression in Egypt. Such a retreat almost hit the many defenders of the freedom of expression with despair and
frustration. Yet this sentence comes to emphasize that there is always a glimmer of light and the struggle of defenders of freedom of expression will not be in vain.
It is truly a wonderful day, and we are pleased with this sentence that restores things back to normal and restores consideration for human rights and press institutions and blogs that have been unjustly described by terrorism. said Gamal
Eid Executive Director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information and he added: The right of citizens to a free Internet and a free flow of information is now guaranteed by the judiciary in Egypt.
The 2 law firms (HRInfo & HMLC) decided to hold a celebration with this sentence, for all supporters of freedom of expression and freedom of press, either in this case or in other cases. The date and place to be determined at a later time, as
a prelude to another round in the struggle against the restrictions, banning and control of information flow in Egypt.
Animal rights activists, PETA, had a clever demonstration planned in which inflatable sex dolls would assert the fact that “KFC Blows”. Unfortunately the dolls were confiscated by customs officials in the Philippines, who may or may not be lonely
PETA Asia-Pacific had planned to take the dolls on a tour of red-light districts, including Pat Pong in Bangkok, Kings Cross in Sydney, Kabukicho in Japan, and the Philippines' Angeles City. The dolls were confiscated by customs officials when
they arrived in the Philippines via U.S.-based package carrier UPS.
The blow-up dolls were a trouble-free prop because KFC also treats chickens like inanimate objects, says PETA Asia-Pacific Director Jason Baker. KFC profits from using crude killing methods—the company has an international obligation to
stop torturing the birds who end up dead in its buckets. We're calling on people worldwide to boycott KFC until the company implements minimal animal welfare standards.
Outraged that his Internet posting about dogs had been banned, Chen Yuhua wrote to the mayor of Beijing. No answer. He wrote to the city council. Still no answer. When all else failed, he consulted a lawyer, studied China's civil code and
marched into court with a lawsuit.
Chen's suit, filed Nov. 26, was a bold challenge to the legal authority of the Communist Party to decide what China's 1.3 billion people can say and read on their computers. It was a rare -- perhaps quixotic -- gesture in a country where the
power of the Public Security Bureau and Propaganda Department to regulate speech is usually considered absolute, enforced with the threat of jail time.
But it was also a sign that, beneath the ever more prosperous surface, some of China's educated elite may be growing impatient with a one-party authoritarian system in which anonymous bureaucrats decide what movies, plays, novels or social
commentaries are safe enough for public consumption.
Chen's posting was an attack on the Beijing municipal government's regulations barring any dog over 14 inches high and restricting each family to only one dog. These rules are unreasonable and are enforced arbitrarily, he contended in his essay.
As far as is known, Chen's filing, at the Xicheng District Court in central Beijing, marked only the second time that a Chinese citizen has gone to court over party censorship. The first was a suit filed in Beijing last August by a lawyer, Liu
Xiaoyuan, who was upset that his blog denouncing corruption was taken down on orders from the censor.
The posting, before it was deleted, had been put up on Chinapet.com, a site set up by Chen and other dog owners struggling to loosen official restrictions on their pets. When it was taken down, Chen in effect sued his own Web site. Although Chen
knew the Internet host was acting on orders from a "black hand," or censor, legally his target had to be the host organization that physically knocked him off, he said.
After Chen filed his suit, the court had seven days to respond according to Chinese legal procedure. But seven days later, it replied it would need more time. On Dec. 14, Chen recalled, he was told by clerks that the district court, after
referring to higher-level judges for advice, had decided to reject the case.
The next step, Chen said, is an appeal to the Supreme Court.