A British Stuckist artist, Michael Dickinson, has fled Turkey after learning that his acquittal last September,
over insulting the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in a collage, has been overturned.
The case gained international media coverage and the acquittal was seen as a step forward in Turkey's human rights record with positive implications for its pending EU application.
The collage Good Boy showed Erdogan as a dog on a stars and stripes leash.
A week ago, a late night news broadcast in Turkey said that the acquittal had been quashed and a new case against Dickinson was pending. He said: I caught a plane out as soon as I could, leaving most of my possessions behind, including my
books, furnishings and computer. I was sad to leave after 23 years in Turkey, but I don't fancy another taste of Turkish hospitality in incarceration.
Dickinson is expecting the trial to go ahead in absentia with his being represented by his lawyer.
He is now staying with friends in Durham, UK, where he was born. He said: I came back thinking I would be safe, but I've since learnt that Britain has an extradition treaty with Turkey and that if there was a request, Britain could send me back
to Turkey if they so wished. I initially thought this was out of the question, but a number of highly unlikely and controversial extraditions have occurred, so I can't say I even feel secure now in the land of my birth and the land supposedly of
Charles Thomson, co-founder of the Stuckist art movement of which Dickinson is a member, has campaigned on his behalf, and said, It seems when the media spotlight is on, Turkey becomes remarkably tolerant, and when the international press go
away, so do human rights.
Dickinson's problems began in June 2006, in an anti-Iraq War show in Istanbul run by Erkan Kaya of the Peace and Justice Coalition (BAK). Dickinson added to his existing display of work, without Kaya's knowledge, a collage Best in Show ,
showing Erdogan as a dog being presented with a rosette by President Bush. It was seized by police. As Kaya was facing prosecution for insulting the dignity of the Prime Minister , an offence with a potential jail sentence, Dickinson wrote
a letter to the court, saying that it was his responsibility, not Kaya's.
Thomson, wrote to then-Prime Minister of the UK, Tony Blair, asking for intervention. The judge who received Dickinson's letter ruled that Dickinson would not be prosecuted, because of the unwelcome press attention involving the appeal to Blair.
Kaya would be prosecuted, however.
In September 2006, Dickinson on his own initiative went to the court for Kaya's case (which was postponed) to protest Kaya's innocence. To draw attention, Dickinson held up outside the court a new collage Good Boy. He was arrested and
detained for 10 days in conditions he described as horrific . David Blunkett, then in Istanbul, intervened on his behalf. Dickinson was released, but told he would be prosecuted for the new collage.
In September 2008, Dickinson was acquitted of any offence under article 123/5 insulting the dignity of the prime minister. The judge said he thought that the collage was insulting according to Turkish standards, but not according to
standards in the European community, and, as Turkey was trying to join the European community, a collage such as Dickinson's should not be held as a crime, so he felt he had no alternative but to acquit.
Dickinson lost his job teaching English at Istanbul University and found he was blacklisted by other educational establishments. He survived by telling fortunes with runes on the street.
In June 2009, Dickinson found out that the public prosecutor had applied to the court, which had quashed the acquittal on 21 June, and ruled that he case would be heard again. Dickinson immediately left Turkey for the UK.
A man has been jailed in Dubai for wearing a cancer awareness Marc Jacobs T-shirt featuring a nude but
discreetly obscured picture of Victoria Beckham.
Raffi Nernekian, a Lebanese national, was arrested after an argument with a local man about the T-shirt, in which the key parts of Beckham's body are obscured either by her hands or the logo Protect the skin you're in.
Nernekian was subsequently jailed for offending public decency for a month, a sentence upheld on appeal. He will be deported after serving his sentence, even though he has lived in the city for five years.
The case is the latest example of foreigners falling foul of the repressive social codes in force in the United Arab Emirates.
Dubai issued an updated version of its code in March, which said that clothing shall not indecently expose parts of the body, be transparent, or display obscene or offensive pictures and slogans.
An Istanbul court has acquitted the Turkish novelist Nedim Gürsel of inciting religious hatred with the
publication of his novel The Daughters of Islam .
The judgment cited errors in the original complaint, and concluded that there had been no criminal intent in the publication of the novel.
The decision brings to an end a process that has lasted for more than a year, after a private citizen accused the novel of denigrating religious values under article 216 of the Turkish penal code, a complaint supported in a rare intervention by
the Turkish directorate of religious affairs.
Speaking by phone from his home in France the author said he was happy and even relieved to be acquitted of a charge which carries a maximum sentence of three years in jail.
He had been worried when the directorate intervened, he continued, particularly because the evidence they submitted reproduced the errors in the original complaint, confusing the phrase Allah's servants in the book with the phrase Allah's lovers,
and citing a description of Allah's daughters lying completely naked that did not appear in the novel.
This means that the directorate wanted to condemn me without even having read the book, he said.
An appeal may be lodged against the decision within seven days, but Gürsel considered it unlikely that a higher court would reverse the decision, since a police report concluded that the publication of the book had not disturbed the peace, a
vital part of any prosecution for blasphemy under article 216.
The author pronounced himself satisfied with the verdict, but sad that the trial had degraded the image of Turkey in the eyes of democratic countries. The offence of blasphemy shouldn't even exist in a secular republic, which is what Turkey
considers itself to be.
On Monday, 22 June, Bahrain's oldest newspaper in circulation Akhbar Al Khaleej was suspended
for the day after printing an article critical of Iranian leaders and making reference to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's alleged Jewish origins.
The move would seem to have been made to avoid provoking unrest amongst the Shi'a majority in Bahrain.
Iranian authorities criticized international media reports and took steps to block the flow of information from independent news sources
as anti-government protests raged in the country for a second day Sunday.
The BBC said that electronic jamming of its news report, which it said began on election day Friday, had worsened by Sunday, causing service disruptions for viewers and listeners in Iran, the Middle East and Europe. It said it had traced the
jamming of the satellite signal broadcasting its Farsi-language service to a spot inside Iran.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lashed out at the media shortly after he claimed victory in the election that critics contend was marked by widespread voter fraud. At a news conference Sunday, he accused international media of launching a psychological war
against the country.
A range of communications have been disrupted inside Iran since election day, including those which could be used to organize protests. Iran restored cell phone service Sunday that had been down in the capital since Saturday. But Iranians still
could not send text messages from their mobile phones, and the government increased its Internet filtering in an apparent attempt to undercut opposition voices. Social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter were also not working.
There were a variety of other clamp-down steps affecting both international and domestic news organizations. For instance, officials telephoned several visiting international journalists with visas to cover the elections and told them that their
visas would not be extended after the vote, a courtesy often offered in the past.
Dubai-based news network Al Arabiya said the station's correspondent in Tehran was given a verbal order from Iranian authorities that its office would be closed for one week, said Executive News Editor Nabil Khatib. No reason was given, but the
station was warned several times Saturday that it needed to be careful in reporting chaos accurately, he said.
German television network ZDF said Sunday on air that its reporter in Iran and other reporters were being prevented from doing their jobs in a massive form. The network said it was unable to show a broadcast feed from the network's
correspondent depicting protests.
Within Iran, state-run newspapers carried no news Sunday about the widespread street clashes the day before. But on Sunday, state TV showed some video footage from the two days of protests.
A newspaper started by the main reformist candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, did not appear on newsstands Sunday. An editor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said the paper, called Kalemeh Sabz or the Green Word, never left the printing house because authorities were upset with Mousavi's statements after the elections. The paper's Web site reported that more than 10 million votes in Friday's election were missing national identification numbers, data which make the votes
untraceable. It did not say how it knew that information.
Update: Iran bars foreign media from reporting on protests
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the Iranian government's decision to bar foreign journalists from leaving their offices to report, film, or take photographs--a restriction intended to prevent news coverage of protests over the
disputed presidential election.
The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, which accredits foreign media working in Iran, ordered foreign journalists and Iranians working with foreign media not to cover the demonstrations, The Associated Press reported.
In the past five days, Iranian authorities have increased control over the flow of information by clamping down on media and harassing journalists, according to news reports.
News groups such as Reuters, AP, BBC, CBS, and Bloomberg, reported that their journalists in Iran have been ordered not to cover protests in Tehran. Press cards have been declared invalid, the BBC reported.
No reporting activities should take place without coordination and permission of this office, Bloomberg quoted a faxed statement from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance as saying: Reporters should not take part in news events
that have not been announced by this office.
Update: 'Deviant news sites' threatened by Revolutionary Guard
Iran's fearsome Revolutionary Guard is warning bloggers and local websites to remove any materials that create tension ...or else.
It part of a larger crackdown on media of all types, as the Tehran regime attempts to control the information battle surrounding the pro-democracy Green Revolution there.
Revolutionary Guard investigators have already taken action against ‘deviant news sites' that encouraged public disturbances, according to a statement released through official outlets, and translated by the Associated Press.
The statement alleged that dissident Web sites were backed by Canadian, U.S. and British interests, a frequent charge levied by hard-liners against the opposition.
Legal action will be very strong and call on them to remove such materials, it said.
As protesters continue their demonstrations all over Iran against the presidential election results, Iranian authorities have arrested hundreds of activists, including bloggers.
Mohammad Ali Abtahi, former reformist vice president and an adviser to Mehdi Karoubi, a reformist candidate, was arrested last Tuesday. Abtahi used to update his blog each day for several years and share his opinion on different topics, including
Somayeh Tohidloo, a female reformist blogger was also arrested. As protests against the Iranian presidential election results grows, Iranian authorities continue to arrest political activists. Recently, she and a couple of bloggers organized an
Internet interview with former president Mohammad Khatami. It seems that her blog is no longer accessible.
Mojtaba Saminejad, an Iran-based blogger and human rights activist, informs us about several other arrested bloggers. Saminejad says that Shiva Nazar Ahari, a female blogger and human rights activist, Mehesa Amarabadi, a female blogger and
journalist,Karim Argandehpour, a blogger and leading journalist and Amad Baharvar have all been detained.
Two major reformist newspapers have been shut down before Friday's election.
All copies of newspaper Etemad Meli have been seized by the government after reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi made allegations that President Ahmadinejad was involved in several financial scandals. Additionally, the unofficial newspaper
of the Islamic Iran Participation Party, Yas-e No , has been shut down.
Hossein Bastani, an Iranian dissident journalist living in France claimed that other reformist newspapers were issued a gag order 96 hours before the election.
With the widespread use of new media among Iranian youth, Bastani believes that dissenting bloggers are more at risk than journalists because of their relative obscurity.
Reformist campaigner Ghomar Asheghaneh recently reported that renowned Iranian blogger Ali Kalai, reported missing a month ago, is in jail.
Bastami fears that while the Iranian government will often withhold from torturing famous journalists because of the public's reaction, young bloggers are prone to much harsher treatment.
Nedim Sener who has written a book about the murder of journalist Hrant Dink, faces prison after police officers filed complaints
Sener's book is entitled, The Dink Murder and Intelligence Lies. The book deals with the gendarmerie, police and national intelligence officers who have been accused of negligence in the 2007 murder of Dink. They are accused both of having
prior knowledge of the murder plans and of preventing the solving of the case with misleading evidence and fake documents.
Sener has said, I published the incidents of negligence of these three important state intelligence institutions in the Dink murder case, giving names. I have proven that fake documents were prepared. Documents marked as classified and
containing lies were published in the book.
Following the publication of the book, several police officers filed criminal complaints against the writer. The officers demanded that Sener be tried under the Anti-Terrorism Law.
All in all, Sener faces up to 28 years in prison. He stands accused of targeting people involved in anti-terrorism campaigns, revealing classified information, obtaining classified information, violating the secrecy of these communications, and
attempting to influence the judiciary.
The 28 years that Sener faces represent eight years more than Samast, who is being tried for shooting Dink, faces.
Iranian Facebook users are heaving a sigh of relief after access to the site was reopened. So what was all the fuss about? One of our Observers in Tehran explains the election debates raging on the online social network and why President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad probably isn't a big fan.
Although Ahmadinejad denies having ordered the shutdown, the reformist-leaning Iranian news agency Ilna said that government representatives orchestrated the censorship.
Iran has arrested more than 100 Satan-worshippers in a raid on a concert in the southern city of Shiraz where people were drinking alcohol and sucking blood, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.
One hundred and four members of a Satan-worshipping group were arrested at a party and immoral concert in Shiraz (on Sunday), local Revolutionary Guards chief Abbas Hamidi was quoted as saying by Jam-e Jam newspaper.
The session was held in a garden outside Shiraz and the Satanist ceremony was broadcast live to the world via the Internet, he said: These people drank alcohol, hurt themselves and sucked blood. They even bow to Satan in some ceremonies.
Jam-e Jam carried pictures of drum sets and amplifiers seized in the raid and a group of young men photographed after the arrest sitting on the floor of an official-looking building with their backs to the camera. It said some of the detainees
sported tattoos and body art resembling the wings of birds and car emblems.
Iranian authorities sometimes link hard rock and heavy metal music and their icons with devil worship.
The trial of a novelist accused of inciting religious hatred in his last novel The daughters of Allah opened
and adjourned in Istanbul yesterday. Nedim Grsel, who lives in Paris and is being tried in absentia, faces between one and three years in jail if convicted.
The court heard testimony from the plaintiff Ali Emre Bukagili, a follower of Adnan Oktar who is known for his belief in creationism and rejection of the Darwinian theory of evolution. He said he was offended by the book because it was insulting to the Prophet and the Koran. Freedom of expression has limits.
The public prosecutor has recommended acquitting the author on the grounds that an imminent and clear public order danger as required by the law has not been established. The novel was published in 2008. The case was adjourned to May 26.
A Turkish author on trial after being charged with inciting religious hatred in a novel based on the birth of Islam said that his book was fiction, but the result of extensive research and consultation with religious leaders, and therefore could
not be called blasphemous.
An Istanbul court on Tuesday adjourned the trial of the author, Nedim Gursel, until June 25.
A Turkish publisher said that he and a translator had been indicted after a prosecutor judged three erotic books, including one by renowned French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, to be obscene.
The books in question were Apollinaire's The Exploits of a Young Don Juan, Turkish writer Ben Mila's The Fairy's Pendulum and a collection of writings by various authors published in Turkish as Letters from an Informed and
Experienced Bourgeoise Woman , Irfan Sanci, owner of Sel Publishing, said.
The courtcase was launched under a penal code article that criminalises the dissemination of obscene material deemed of no literary value but which excludes scientific and literary works from its scope, Sanci said.
The courtcase came after so-called experts contacted by the prosecutor said these three books were not literary works, Sanci told AFP.
A fourth book by Spanish writer Juan Manuel de Prada escaped prosecution as the same experts decided it was a literary work, he added.
The publisher condemned the case as a violation of freedom of expression and said it cast a shadow on the Muslim majority but secular country that is seeking European Union membership.
A blockade by security forces of the offices of a Yemeni newspaper, aiming to prevent distribution of copies of the paper, has
entered its second week.
The action follows the confiscation by the authorities of thousands of copies of Aden-based Arabic daily al-Ayyam.
In a another development on Monday, security forces surrounded the house of Hisham Basharhail, al-Ayyam’s editor–in-chief, and notified him that he had 48 hours to hand himself over to the authorities in Sana'a.
Six other newspapers - al-Masdar, al-Watani, ad-Diyar, al-Nedaa, al-Sharea and al-Mostakela –had copies of their newspapers seized on 4 May, following a widely publicized decision by Yemen’s Director of the Press.
The government has accused all seven newspapers of expressing views favourable to the secession of the south in their coverage of protests in the southern part of the country in April.
Human rights activists in Yemen have said they are outraged by the decision to confiscate newspapers. They have said that they consider the government's action not only a serious violation of international standards but also of Yemen's own laws.
Yemeni laws allow confiscation of newspapers only through a judicial order. The Yemeni authorities carried out the confiscation without resorting to the judiciary.
The Committee to Protect Journalists strongly condemns a raid by Yemeni security forces on the Aden compound of the country's most popular independent newspaper. One passerby was killed.
Just before noon, a group of security forces clashed with guards at the offices of Al-Ayyam, firing tear gas and bullets and wounding at least two guards and killing the passerby, according to local and international news reports. The raid is the
latest development in a series of attacks against Al-Ayyam and other independent publications and journalists in Yemen in recent weeks.
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns an ongoing campaign to suppress independent journalism in Yemen and urges President Ali Abdullah Saleh to immediately bring it to a halt and order the release of two detained bloggers. Also,
authorities have announced a special court to try media and publishing offenses.
One of the latest victims of the media crackdown launched nearly two weeks ago is Yahya Bamahfud, a blogger and former editor of the Hadhramaut news Web site. Security forces arrested Bamahfud on Sunday night in the city of Mukalla in the southern
governorate of Hadhramaut. They stormed his home without warrant and confiscated his computer and documents before taking him to an unknown location, local journalists told CPJ.
This is the second arrest of a blogger in Mukalla since last week. Security forces arrested Fuad Rashid, editor-in-chief of Mukalla Press Web site. He had covered recent clashes, which began on April 27 between security forces and disaffected
residents of the southern region of Yemen. The eruption of violence occurred on the eve of the 15th anniversary of a short-lived civil war that ended with the victory of northern troops.
An Egyptian court banned porn websites, calling them venomous and vile.
According MENA news agency, the Administrative Court in Cairo issued the ruling in a case filed by Islamic lawyer Nizar Ghorab, who argued sites with adult content undermined and destroyed Egyptian social values.
In its ruling, the court, which oversees government-related cases, said, Letting these Web sites (operate) ruins moral values, reports the BBC: Freedoms of expression and public rights should be restricted by maintaining the fundamentals
of religion, morality and patriotism.
Additionally, the court warned government Web agencies that Internet providers ignoring the ruling and allowing access to the sites would be unconstitutional and in violation of law.
Ghorab, called the judgment a victory over vice and corruption. Thank God we won, now the government should stop these electronic dens of vice immediately.
Judge Mohammed Attiya told the court, freedoms and public rights are not absolute, they are limited by the respect of the family which is the base of the society.
After confiscating thousands of copies of a critical independent newspaper, authorities laid siege today to the paper's offices in
Aden, Yemen. The daily, Al-Ayyam, has been covering the ongoing conflict in the country's southern region.
Bashraheel Bashraheel, general manager of Al-Ayyam, told CPJ that after three consecutive days of authorities confiscating thousands of copies of the newspaper, security forces today surrounded Al-Ayyam and prevented the distribution of all 70,000
copies of the paper. Staff members are allowed to leave the building but are being searched as they exit, Bashraheel said.
We call on the authorities to end the siege of Al-Ayyam and to withdraw all its forces immediately, said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator: Al-Ayyam and its staff are exercising their
journalistic duty to cover an ongoing conflict. The government must not target them because of their coverage.
Dozens of protesters gathered today in front of the besieged paper's offices to protest the government's action, with the police eventually dispersing the demonstrators, Al-Ayyam reported on its Web site.
Bashraheel told CPJ that in light of the government's actions and to curb financial losses he has been forced to suspend printing of Al-Ayyam indefinitely.
A professor at the American University here recently ordered copies of The Diary of Anne Frank for his classes, only to learn that the book is banned. Inquiring further, he discovered a long list of prohibited books, films and music.
Even a partial list of books banned in Lebanon gives pause: William Styron's Sophie's Choice ; Thomas Keneally's Schindler's List ; Thomas Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem ; books by Philip Roth, Saul Bellow and Isaac
Bashevis Singer. In fact, all books that portray Jews, Israel or Zionism favorably are banned.
Syrian internet users have grown used to years of censorship but now they face a new challenge – and it comes from outside the country.
While people have been able to get around government-imposed barriers on politically sensitive sites, a harsher form of restriction is being enforced from the US.
Over the past few years, the Bush administration has imposed a series of sanctions on Syria. Most exports were prohibited after a key part of the Syria Accountability Act came into force in 2004. It meant Syrians were not allowed to download software
from the US, but that should not have had an affect on logging on to American websites.
Travel to Syria and try to have a look at your PayPal account, and you will be confronted by a message from the company telling you: You have accessed your account from a sanctioned country. Per international sanctions regulations, you are not
authorised to access the PayPal system.
Things get a lot worse if you want to order something from Amazon when you are in Syria. It even bans UK citizens, using British credit cards, from using their non-US site Amazon.co.uk.
This is their explanation: Syria is an embargoed country under US law. The law covers some products sold even by non-US subsidiaries of US companies [like Amazon.co.uk]. Because it is not practical for us to determine which products are capable of
export to Syria from those that are not, we have blocked all exports of products to Syria.
Some companies have seen sense though. Last week, social networking company LinkedIn deleted the accounts of its Syrian users, blaming the sanctions. Syrian bloggers got together on Twitter to vent their anger. One of the company's press officers quickly
saw what was going on and realised it was turning into a PR nightmare. Hours later, Syrians were back online.
Iran has arrested 26 men and women on a wide array of charges from producing adult and child porn content to mocking Islamic beliefs.
The arrests were made by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards. The special Guards unit for fighting organised internet crimes announced in late March that its task force had closed down 90 porn sites.
The arrest victims are accused of promoting orgies and incest, illegally uploading sex clips of young girls, and ridiculing Shia Islamic beliefs such as the death of the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. One of the people arrested is accused of writing
hardcore erotic stories.
Among those arrested are at least two Iranian men and one woman who used to live abroad, but whose friends say were tricked into coming home and then arrested. Others were caught after their e-mails were intercepted by the task force, says Ali Rahnama, a
journalist in Tehran quoting sources close to the operation.
The Guards say the group was supported by foreign countries including the US, Canada and Israel. But the sites seem merely to be hosted by private companies in these countries.
Although access to porn websites is blocked in Iran, many people manage to access them. One of the busted porn sites had 300,000 registered Iranian users and some of the adult video clips were downloaded at least six million times, according to the
Since boys and girls are banned from socialising freely in Iran, demand for online adult content has exploded in big cities where internet access has become widespread.
Iranian operators of pornographic and anti-Islamic websites deserve to face the death penalty, a special prosecutor said in a newspaper report.
Tehran's deputy prosecutor Reza Jafari said 50 Iranians had been arrested and were under investigation for running such websites and promoting prostitution, according to Iran newspaper Vatan Emrouz.
He also said the term corrupt on Earth was appropriate to describe a person who manages many immoral, anti-religious and anti-revolutionary sites, and corruption on Earth is legally punishable by death under strict Islam.
Jafari, who is the prosecutor for a special tribunal against cybercrimes, said 90 websites had been shut down since March and that half of the 50 people arrested were out on bail. Iranian officials arrested 26 adult site operators last week.
An Iranian-American journalist claimed to be a US spy has been jailed for eight years by Iran after a brief trial held behind closed doors.
Roxana Saberi who was arrested in January and went on trial this week, denies the charge and plans to go on hunger strike, her father said.
Ms Saberi has reported for a number of foreign news organisations including the BBC, NPR radio and Fox News.
A spokesman said the US president was deeply disappointed at the outcome.
The journalist originally faced the less serious accusation of buying alcohol, and later of working as a journalist without a valid press card. Then, in a period of less than two weeks, the charge of spying was introduced, and she was tried by the
Revolutionary Court and sentenced. No evidence of espionage was made public.
Ms Saberi's lawyer Abdolsamad Khorramshahi and her father confirmed that an appeal would be made. Mr Saberi, who was not allowed to attend the trial, said his daughter's lawyer had not been allowed to argue the case for the defence properly.
Hamoud Saleh Al-Amri, a Saudi blogger imprisoned in January for writing about his decision to convert to Christianity, was released by Saudi authorities at the end of March 2009 instead of being put death as an apostate as prescribed by Sharia.
However, he has been banned from travelling outside Saudi Arabia or appearing in the media.
According to Hamoud himself, who is back writing on his Christ for Saudi blog, his release is due to pressure brought on Saudi authorities by the Cairo-based Arab Network for Human Rights Information, one of several rights groups that have
campaigned for his release.
Following his arrest in January, the Saudi authorities blocked access to his blog inside Saudi Arabia. Google then censored the blog with a bollox claim of a technical violation of their terms of service, before restoring it on 5 February 2009
following public pressure.
The relative leniency of the Saudi police and regime in this case has surprised some analysts, given Hamoud's explicit claim to have left Islam, which amounts to apostasy punishable by death, and his outspoken criticism of the regime, something which is
not normally tolerated.
A new draft law to regulate the news media unlawfully restricts free expression and will unduly interfere with the media's ability to report on sensitive subjects, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
The pending law also includes provisions that would grant the government virtually complete control in deciding who is allowed to work as a journalist and which media organizations are allowed to operate in the country.
The report: Just the Good News, Please: New UAE Media Law Continues to Stifle Press
says that the new law contains some improvement over the draconian media law currently in effect. But it will continue to punish journalists for such infractions as disparaging government officials or publishing misleading news that harms the country's economy.
Human Rights Watch researched the report by analyzing the provisions of the pending law as well as interviewing foreign and local journalists based in the UAE.
The law will muzzle the press, preventing honest reporting about the country's continuing financial crisis or about its rulers, said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch: Its vague clauses and harsh
fines will almost guarantee arbitrariness by government authorities and self-censorship by the media.
The Federal National Council, the UAE's legislature, passed the draft law on January 20, 2009, and it awaits the signature of President Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. More than 100 leading Emirati academics, journalists, lawyers, and human rights
activists have urged the president to reconsider the law. The Human Rights Watch report also urges the president not to approve the pending law in its current form.
Unlike the current law, the proposed law contains no criminal penalties and will be part of the civil law. It reduces the number of administrative infractions that media organizations can be held liable for. The law also instructs government institutions
to facilitate information flow to media, and, most significant, mandates that journalists cannot be coerced into revealing their sources.
But the law imposes exorbitant civil penalties that could bankrupt media outlets and silence dissenting voices found to violate the overbroad restrictions on content. Media organizations found to have disparaged senior government officials or the
royal family face fines up to 5,000,000 dirhams (US$1,350,000), and those found to have misled the public and harmed the economy face fines of up to 500,000 dirhams (US$135,000). It also requires media organizations to post an unspecified
security deposit against which fines may be charged, which would set a significant barrier to entry for smaller, independent press organizations.
The law also gives the government authority to regulate who can work as an editor, reporter, correspondent, or producer in the country. This authority is susceptible to abuse and infringes on the media's freedom of expression by preventing media outlets
from organizing, managing, and operating free from governmental interference, the report says.
These intrusions make a mockery of the notion that an independent media exists in the UAE, Whitson said: The president has the option to send this law back and to show leadership in seeking a law that truly supports a free press.
Limor Livnat and Sofa Landver, two apparently inappropriate ministers, simply "disappeared" from a photograph of the new cabinet in the weekly newspaper Shaa Tova, with black holes visible in the spaces where they had been standing. Meanwhile,
in the newspaper Yated Neeman, male cabinet members were blown up and superimposed on to the images of the two female ministers in the frame.
Shaa Tova told the Israeli daily newspaper Maariv: Anyone who is acquainted with the ultra-orthodox press knows that from time immemorial, ultra-orthodox newspapers avoid publishing pictures of women.
Although he was released by the Public Prosecutor, Egyptian blogger Abdel Rahman Fares is still missing. Fares who blogs at Lesani Howa Qalami
(My Tongue is My Pen) was arrested on April 5, while handing out flyers in his city of Fayoum, calling people to take to the streets and protest against the government, as a part of the 6th April strike.
The young blogger was charged with handing out literature promoting the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and for calling for strikes. Besides, he is recognised as a Muslim brotherhood blogger, which means he is member of an outlawed group.
A friend of Fares wrote in his blog that he was released last night, but nobody knows his whereabouts. Recently, Fares told the readers of his blog, that he was summoned to the State Security headquarters:
I don’t know whether the both incident are related! I was summoned to State Security office and ordered to be their on 1st April. Right after that, I had a chat with someone I don’t know on Facebook, he commented on my status, then
chatted with me, describing me and the supporters of 6th April strike as rioters. And he told me ‘don’t regret when you are punished!
Next Tuesday will mark one week since the eighth release order has been made for Egyptian blogger Mos'ad Suleiman Hassan (a.k.a. Mos'ad Abu Fagr); Despite that fact, Fagr remains locked at a police station in El Arish (North Sinai).
Fagr, a Sinai activist and novelist has a blog called Wedna Ne3eesh (We Want to Live), where he writes about the demands and life of the Bedouins of Sinai, as well as the citizenship rights they seek.
In an unexplained action, Egyptian Ministry of Interior issued a new detention order for blogger and activist, Mos'ad Abu Fagr. The detained blogger was transferred again to Borg El Arab prison in Alexandria instead of north Sinai prison. This transfer
imposes hardship on Abu Fagr's family to visit him, as they are based is the Sinai.
Abu Fagr was arrested on 26 December 2007, but the court and D.A issued eight order of release to him, even though he was kept behind bars.
After being detained for 15 days under investigation, the Egyptian blogger Ahmed Mohsen is to still imprisoned, as he is accused of Exploiting the democratic climate to overthrow the government
Mohsen was arrested on April 29th, 2009, after a State Security force broke into his house and searched it. As Mohsen was already moved to Upper Egypt, a police officer summoned him to the prosecution office in Fayoum.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights (ANHRI), described the accusation as a ‘comic' one, stating: It is normal for a State Security officer to tell lies, but when the Public Prosecution believes this lie and approves to imprison a young blogger for
exploitation of the democratic climate, this is black comedy, what democracy did this young man exploit
The Egyptian blogger Abdel Rahman Fares was summoned to State Security headquarters, where he was blamed for his online writings. Fares was warned that he would be arrested if he goes on blogging, and asked to give up both his online and offline
Fares is blogging at Lesani Howa Qalami (My Tongue is My Pen). On Friday, 25 September, 2009, he received a phone call from States Security, and was asked several questions related to his blogging, then summoned to State Security office in Fayoum (North
of Cairo) where Fares is living.
Two separate orders were issued last week to prolong the detention of two Egyptian bloggers. The first is yet another arrest order for Mus'ad Abu Fagr, who has been arrested since December 2008. Abu Fagr had a number of court decisions allowing his
release, but unfortunately each one of them was followed by a new arrest order! The blogger is also transferred from Al- Arish police station, in his neighborhood, to Borg El-Arab prison in Alexandria, which make it difficult for his family to visit him.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is writing to protest the recent deterioration of press freedom in Bahrain and the government's ongoing campaign against critical or opposition Web sites and blogs. The crackdown against those
sites has resulted in dozens of them being blocked inside the kingdom.
CPJ is concerned about a campaign targeting independent or critical Web sites that discuss social, political, and human rights issues, especially with the backdrop of an escalating crackdown on Shi'a activists, opposition figures, and human rights
defenders. In January, local media outlets published ministerial order 1/2009, issued by Culture and Information Minister Sheikha Mai bint Muhammad Al Khalifa, ordering telecommunications companies to block specific Web sites without warning or providing
specific reasons when ordered to by the ministry. Dozens of blogs, discussion forums, and sites of local and regional human rights groups have been blocked since.
The Ministry of Culture and Information is using advanced technology that can filter keywords and block sites, multiple sources inside Bahrain told CPJ.
For example, the Google Translation service has been blocked for the last three months, sources told CPJ. Abduljalil Alsingace, who blogs at alsingace.katib.org, told CPJ that his blog was blocked on February 10, after he posted a petition by an
international group of intellectuals. The political forum Multaqa al-Bahrain, the cultural forum Muntadayat al-Bahrain, and the cultural and political forum al-Sarh al-Watani have all been blocked. In addition, the Web sites of the Bahrain Center for
Human Rights and the Arab Network for Human Rights Information have also been blocked for long periods of time and remain inaccessible inside the kingdom. Dozens of sites that provide proxy services are also inaccessible.
Hundreds of muslims in Saudi Arabia have signed a petition demanding a stop to what they say is a trend of films being shown in public.
There have been no cinemas in Saudi Arabia since the 1970s. And there are unlikely to be any soon.
The petition has been motivated in particular by the showing of a home-grown Saudi film in Jeddah last year. It was financed by the Rotana network, which dominates Arab entertainment and is owned by the billionaire Saudi Prince Waleed bin Talal.
But even a one off event as the showing of the first Saudi feature film at two venues has aroused the suspicions of Islamic conservatives. They claim cinemas fill people's minds with evil and pollute the purity of their souls.
Egypt's first graphic novelist Magdi al-Shafei is set to face charges of publication and distribution of publications contrary to public morals over his Metro book.
If convicted, Shafei and his Malamah publisher could face up to two years in prison for violating articles 178 and 198 of the Egyptian Penal Code, which punish publications contrary to public decency. These are the same laws that are used to
The controversy started last April, when police broke into the publishing house and confiscated all copies of the book. They then went to all bookstores and took the novel from the shelves.
The raiders were from the Vice Squad, or discipline police, who have been more active recently in their attempts to rid society of unnecessary material.
Their interest in Shafei has surprised many observers. The discipline police do not usually deal in such affairs as censorship. The discipline police are a sector of the ministry of interior who deal with prostitution mainly and a few other things.
The novel deals with politically sensitive issues, but what may have sparked government interest is the limited sexual content of the book. Many surmise that the government may be using the sex as a scapegoat to keep the politics from reaching a wider
Leading the legal attack against Shafei and Malamah is a ruling National Democratic Party lawyer who last year also filed a number of lawsuits against journalists, including against outspoken Al-Dustour editor Ibrahim Eissa.
Rawda Ahmed, the lawyer in the legal counsel unit for the freedom of expression at the human rights organisation, ANHRI, said: if we allowed police officers or clergy to prosecute literary works, that would completely kill creativity and freedom of
expression. The violation by police of freedom of expression in Egypt is not unusual, but the acceptance of the Public Prosecutor to initiate this lawsuit is completely absurd.