Middle East Censorship News

 2010: Jan-March

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26th March   

Update: Easily Offended PM...


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Theatre director on charges of insulting the Turkish prime minister
Link Here  full story: Insulting Turkishness...Insulting Turkishness law used to repress

laz marks Director and actor Haldun Açiksözlu stands trial under charges of insulting the prime minister in the theatre play Laz Marks .

The show has been playing for one year in cooperation with the Leman Culture and Cans,enlik Actors.

The play has been shown in about 80 different provinces and districts. The complaint was filed after the performance in Rize as part of the Laz region on the eastern Black Sea coast. The Rize Magistrate Criminal Court demands a two years eight months prison sentence for Açiksözlu by reason of insulting the Prime Minister .

 

23rd March   

Update: Damning Jamming...


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EU calls on Iran to stop jamming western broadcasts
Link Here  full story: Iran Jams Western Media...BBC, Voice of America and Deutsche Welle

EU flag The European Union has called for Iran to stop censoring the Internet and jamming European satellite broadcasts.

European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels have called for Iran to put an immediate end to its electronic interference - specifically jamming broadcasts coming from Europe.

Iran has been jamming foreign satellite broadcasts, including those from the BBC and VOA, since late last year. Ordinary Iranians also have problems accessing the Internet.

In a statement, the EU ministers said Iran is breaching freedom of expression commitments laid out in an international treaty it had signed.

But at a news conference, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton offered no details about what sanctions, if any, the bloc might impose. She said the specifics would be worked out later: We are very concerned about what is happening in terms of broadcasting, said Catherine Ashton. We have not yet moved further forward in terms of what further actions to take. As you know, we remain very concerned about what is happening in Iran. And we remain very concerned to ensure the Security Council debate is able to take forward the issues more broadly of what needs to happen next.

Update: Iran blocks France 24 news website

4th April 2010. See  article from  google.com

News channel France 24 accused Iran of blocking its website to users there, the latest in a series of international broadcasters to complain of censorship by the Islamic Republic.

France 24 learned today from various sources that its website france24.com was no longer accessible from Iranian territory, the French rolling news station said in a statement, describing the move as censorship .

 

16th March   

Update: Turkishness Is...Insulting Free Speech...


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Website editor on charges for comments made by forum poster
Link Here  full story: Insulting Turkishness...Insulting Turkishness law used to repress

gercek gundem logo Baris Yarkadas, the editor of the online newspaper Gercek Gündem (Real Agenda), is facing up to five years in prison at a trial that started on 3 March 2010.

Proceedings were initiated in response to a complaint brought by the president's office. He is charged with insulting President Abdullah Gül under article 299-2 of the criminal code for failing to remove a comment posted by a reader.

We call for the immediate withdrawal of this baseless charge, Reporters Without Borders said. It is incomprehensible that Yarkadas should be accused of insulting the president when he did not himself write the comment, which was anyway neither rude nor insulting. This prosecution is indicative of a desire by the government to intimidate and silence its critics.

The reader accused President Gül of allowing his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sargsyan, to defy him. Bravo, you have trampled on the honour of the great republic of Turkey, he wrote.

Yarkadas is facing other prosecutions. He is charged with offending Nur Birgen, head of the Institute for Forensic Medicine's expertise section, by reporting allegations that human rights NGOs have made against her.

 

15th March   

Update: No News on Southern Unrest...

Yemen government seizes broadcasting equipment of news channels
Link Here  full story: News Censorship in Yemen...Yemen news media and southern unrest

Al Jazeera logo The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Yemeni authorities' seizure of equipment enabling the pan-Arab satellite news channels Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera to broadcast live from the country.

The move came after both channels had broadcast clashes between police and protesters in the southern town of Daleh, as well as rallies in the north against the crackdown. The stations can still report and transmit taped coverage.

We condemn this arbitrary seizure and ask the authorities to allow Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya to resume their live broadcasts without delay, said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. To suddenly assert that the confiscations are due to lack of authorization is not credible given than both channels have been broadcasting from Yemen for years without such a claim by authorities.

Al-Arabiya's bureau chief in Sana'a, Mahmud Munassar, told CPJ that his employees were briefly detained and questioned. He called the raid an intimidation tactic designed to silence the channel's coverage of Yemen. Al-Arabiya received the green light from the president of the republic in 2009 to bring live broadcasting equipment into Yemen, Munassar told CPJ. The Sana'a government is clearly trying to cover up its policies in the south.

 

12th March   

Murdoch on Censorship...

The world does not think of the Middle East when it thinks of creative content
Link Here

Rupert Murdoch Ringmaster Information Circus The Middle East must open up its markets to foreigners and renounce media censorship if it wants to harness a powerful wind of creative energy blowing through the region, Rupert Murdoch said.

Speaking at the inaugural Abu Dhabi Media Summit, the chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, parent company of The Times, said that the world did not think of the Middle East when it thinks of creative content . Even Arab citizens, he said, preferred to watch Hollywood movies or American television .

 Murdoch warned his hosts not to use censorship to bury inconvenient stories. Throughout my life, Murdoch said, I have endured my share of blistering newspaper attacks, unflattering television coverage and books that grossly distort my views or my business or both. Countries that buried bad press ended up promoting the very panic and distrust that they had hoped to control . In the long run, this is counterproductive.

 

11th March   

Update: Dogged by Censorship...

British artist given suspended fine over depiction of Turkish PM as a dog
Link Here  full story: Insulting Turkishness...Insulting Turkishness law used to repress

Collage with Turkey PM as dog A British artist has accused Turkey of censorship after an Istanbul court fined him almost $4,500  for caricaturing the country's prime minister.

Artist Michael Dickinson displayed in 2006 an illustration that superimposed the head of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan onto the body of a dog.

The court suspended the fine, on the condition that Dickinson does not produce similar art for the next five years.

It's censorship. It's a threat. It's punishing people who are expressing their opinion, Dickinson told dpa, the day after the verdict was handed down. There is a lack of freedom in a country where journalists can be arrested or cartoonists fined for expressing their opinion, said the artist, who has been living in Turkey for the last 23 years.

Dickinson's illustration was first shown as part of an Istanbul anti-war exhibition. The artist was later arrested and charged with insulting the Turkish prime minister. A local court initially acquitted Dickinson in 2008, but a state prosecutor asked that the case be reopened.

 

11th March   

Update: Freedom of Repression...

Newspaper and journalist fined for criticising ruling family
Link Here

al al youm The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a Kuwaiti court's decision to fine a journalist and two newspapers for statements deemed offensive to the ruling family and the prime minister.

A criminal court in Kuwait fined opposition writer and journalist Mohammed Abdulqader al-Jassem 3,000 Kuwaiti dinars (US$10,500) for publishing an article in November critical of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who is also a member of the ruling family. The article alleged that media outlets backed by the prime minister had been stoking tensions between the country's Sunni and Shiite communities. The independent daily Alam Al-Youm, which published the article, was also fined the same amount.

We urge the Kuwaiti judiciary to overturn these sentences, said CPJ's Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. The press should be able to freely criticize government officials even if they are members of the ruling family. It is outrageous that criticizing public officials is a crime in Kuwait.

 

9th March   

Update: Preaching Disbelief in Freedom...

Egyptian Journalist's Syndicate supports newspaper columnist in rant against atheist blogs
Link Here

almasryalyoum logo The Egyptian Journalists' Syndicate's misleadingly named freedoms committee announced its full support for Al-Masry Al-Youm's columnist, Sahar El-Ga'ara, in her call for shutting down and prosecuting the authors of blogs that she said preach atheism and disrespect religions.

El-Ga'ara wrote a column titled Complaint to the Prosecutor General, in Al-Masry Al-Youm, condemning three specific blogs: Do the rules and regulations of publishing apply to the internet? I don't think so. Therefore, the internet is turning into a lethal weapon in the hands of organizations with fanatical ideologies and homosexuals.

Mohamed Abdel Qudous, head of the 'freedoms' committee, told Daily News Egypt, We are supporting Sahar El-Ga'ara for two main reasons. First, because we reject atheism, if a person wants to be an atheist he can be but he can't preach it. The second reason is because of the foul language and insults directed at her on the internet.

Freedom of expression has its limits; a person cannot preach atheism or insult the three divine religions. This is not accepted anywhere in the world, claimed Abdel Qudous.

 

7th March   

Update: Searching for Repression...

And finding it at Middle East Bing
Link Here  full story: Supporting Internet Censorship...US multi-nationals support repressive censorship

Bing logo A new report has now revealed that Microsoft censors its Bing search engine returns in Arab countries even more heavily than the countries themselves do using national Internet filters.

The study covered the United Arab Emirates, Syria, Algeria, and Jordan, and found heavy censorship of anything relating to sex.

It is interesting that Microsoft's implementation of this type of wholesale social content censorship for the entire Arabian countries region is in fact not being practiced by many of the Arab government censors themselves, reads a new report from the Open Net Initiative (ONI). It adds: It is unclear, however, whether Bing's keyword filtering in the Arab countries is an initiative from Microsoft, or whether any or all of the Arab states have asked Microsoft to comply with local censorship practices or laws.

ONI performed the study by testing the search terms inside the countries. Banned words include sex, intercourse, breast, nude, and many more in both the English and Arabic language.

When someone attempts to search most sex-related terms, Bing informs searchers: Your country or region requires a strict Bing SafeSearch setting, which filters out results that might contain adult content.

 

7th March   

Offsite: Dangerous Acting...

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's tyranny is crushing Iran's artists
Link Here

Body Lies DVD Leonardo DiCaprio Golshifteh Farahani knows how dangerous it is now to be an artist in Tehran. In 2008 she became the first Iranian-based actress in almost 30 years to appear in a Hollywood blockbuster. Starring opposite Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe in Ridley Scott's Body of Lies , she hoped the film would be appreciated in her homeland for its critical stance on America's politics in the Middle East.

She was wrong. When she returned to Tehran the then 24-year-old was subjected to seven months of inquisition from the authorities of the Islamic republic. Reprimanded for not having asked the permission of the government, she became a regular guest of the Information Ministry and intelligence services.

...Read full article

 

4th March   

Censored...

Noted Iranian film maker arrested over support for opposition
Link Here  full story: Jafar Panahi...Iran jails film director for propaganda against the regime

Offside DVD Sima Mobarak Shahi Artists from around the world have called for the release of the Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi, who was arrested in a raid on his home in Tehran. The award-winning director, a vocal supporter of the Opposition, was seized on Monday night along with his wife and daughter and 15 house guests.

It is a very shocking development and further demonstration of the intolerance of the regime, said Ken Loach, the British director. I hope all people working in films will call for his release, and speak out in solidarity for him and all Iranian film-makers working under similar conditions. It is completely unacceptable.

Panahi had supported Mir Hossein Mousavi, the opposition leader, in last year's disputed parliamentary elections. He was previously arrested in July at a ceremony commemorating Neda Soltan, the anti-Government protester who was killed by security forces Last month, Panahi was denied permission to leave Iran to attend the Berlin Film Festival.

Panahi's work has received critical acclaim for its unflinching portrayal of social tensions in contemporary Iran. In 2000, he won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival for The Circle, which depicted women struggling with the country's inherent sexism. His most recent feature, Offside , depicted a group of women defying a ban on them attending football matches, and attempting to enter the national stadium disguised as men to watch a crucial World Cup qualifier. The film won the 2006 Silver Bear award in Berlin.

Despite his international success, the critical stance in most of Panahi's work has led to conflict with government censors. Most of his films are banned from being shown in Iranian cinemas.

Update: Hunger Strike

22nd May 2010. See  article from  news.bbc.co.uk

The internationally acclaimed filmmaker Jafar Panahi has begun a hunger strike to protest at his imprisonment in Iran, opposition websites say.

The writer and director was arrested in March along with members of his family.

Panahi's family were released shortly after their arrest, but he was taken to Evin prison in Tehran.

His wife, Tahereh Saeidi, told the opposition Rahesabz website the director had informed her by phone that he had stopped eating and drinking until he was allowed to see his family and a lawyer.

 

3rd March   

Dam Censorship...

Egyptian Supreme Court throws out government ban on President Nasser movie
Link Here

nasser and amer Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court has turned down an appeal submitted by the government and the Ministry of Defense against the release of a movie about former President Gamal Abdel Nasser and his deputy Abdel Hakim Amer.

The court said it upholds the freedom of opinion, expression and artistic creativity, which are supported by the Egyptian Constitution.

Mamdouh el-Leithy, who wrote the screenplay for el-Raees wal Mousheer ( The President and the Marshal ), filed a lawsuit in 2006 after authorities ordered that filming should stop. According to el-Leithy, these authorities said the script would reveal secrets regarding Nasser and Amer's relationship and had to be changed before production could continue.

The court ruled that only the Government Censorship Authority has authority to determine which movies are appropriate for screening. The court's ruling also stated that the Government Censorship Authority should not abandon its jurisdiction in deference to another state institution.

Nasser Amin, head of the Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession, who also acts as lawyer for el-Leithy, described the ruling as historic because it entrenches the principles of freedom of opinion and expression.

 

3rd March   

Update: Lies about Lies...

Iran bans opposition newspaper for 2 months
Link Here  full story: Press Freedom in Iran...As if there were any

etemaad logo The Iranian state news agency IRNA reports that the country's leading reformist newspaper has been banned for two months for spreading lies.

No additional details were provided, but the pro-reform Etemad daily had recently published an interview with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's press adviser, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, in which he criticized the conservative opposition to the Iranian president.

Etemad has been banned several times over the past decade.

 

3rd March   

Bad Marks for Egypt...

UN criticises lack of freedom of expression
Link Here

UN logo Egypt came under review Wednesday, Feb 17, 2010, for the first time at the United Nations Human Rights Council for its rights record.

Western countries criticized the emergency laws in effect since 1981, along with related restrictions on freedom of press, expression and unions and the imprisoning of journalists and bloggers.

The accusations included the death penalty, torture and illegal detentions and the use of violence against religious minorities.

Human Rights Watch had called on Egypt to

  • epeal the emergency laws
  • lift its longstanding abusive emergency regulations
  • hold security forces accountable for serious human rights abuses such as arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention
  • end systematic torture and unfair trials before state security courts
  • halt its systematic arrest and harassment of peaceful political activists, as well as bloggers and journalists
  • halt the policy of using lethal force to stop African migrants and asylum seekers from crossing the Sinai border into Israel

The government has never confirmed the number of those arbitrarily detained under emergency law orders issued by the interior minister, but Egyptian human rights organizations estimate that between 5,000 and 10,000 people are held without charge.

Security officers arrested a group of bloggers and political activists who had traveled to the southern town of Nag Hammadi to pay their condolences to the families of 6 Christians shot and killed on Coptic Christmas Eve.

 

27th February   

Coming Down Hard...

UAE bans Heavy Rain video game
Link Here

Sony Heavy Rain PS3 Despite rave reviews that critics have been showering on the PlayStation 3's latest game to hit the market, Heavy Rain will not see any shelf life in the UAE.

The videogame's nationwide launch was aborted after the UAE's censor, the National Media Council, reportedly pulled the plug on the sales and promotion of the title, which has attracted global controversy for its depiction of nudity and violence. This decision, despite Heavy Rain' s 18+PEGI rating, signals the government's intent on cracking down on games that are deemed unfit for the audience because of their content.

A sequence where one of the main characters is forced to go topless at gun point and perform a seductive dance at a club, were among the more 'objectionable' aspects that probably led to the banning of the game. Heavy Rain has been described by its publisher's Quantic Dream as psychological thriller, with four professionals on the trail of the Origami Killer, who preys on boys between eight and 13 and then subsequently drowns them in rainwater.

 

25th February   

Cutting the Good with the Bad...

UN urges Bahrain's internet censors to ease down
Link Here

UN logoBahrain was urged to take a softer approach to Internet censorship by United Nations Development Programme Arab Knowledge Report director Dr Ghaith Fariz.

The government's alleged policy of blocking politically-motivated websites and newspapers could be cutting the bad with the good, said Dr Fariz.

Dr Fariz claimed that although blacklisting pornographic content could be justified from a moral standpoint, there was a fine line when censoring other subjects.

We are advocates of total freedom [ ...BUT... not for porn] . In many cases, websites may be blocked for good or bad reasons - we are not here to judge. Unfortunately, what tends to be happening more frequently is that in the name of combating the evil we seem to be killing a lot of the good. We have called, and we still call, for people to understand that the veering principles of blocking specific sites can be abused and has been abused - intentionally or unintentionally.

Dr Fariz was speaking at a Press conference at the United Nations headquarters in Hoora. He was outlining the findings of the Arab Knowledge Report 2009, the first in an annual series to be published in association with the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation.

 

20th February   

Putting the Guns Down and Sharing a Prayer...

Israel whinges at Spanish art exhibit
Link Here

Eugenio Merino artA display by a Spanish artist, including a candelabrum growing out of the barrel of an Uzi sub-machinegun and a sculpture of a haredi figure standing on a priest, who kneels on a prostrate Muslim, has drawn fire from the Foreign Ministry.

The Israeli Embassy in Madrid issued a statement protesting the display at the International Art Fair in the Spanish capital.

Values such as freedom of speech and creative freedom are sometimes used to disguise stereotyping, prejudice and provocation for the sake of provocation, the statement said. The sculptures are two of five works on display by the well-known artist Eugenio Merino.

Merino denied that he had tried to provoke. The aim was to display the wonder in the co-existence of the three religions, each making a common effort to reach God, he told reporters.

 

20th February   

Update: Culturally Immoral...

ECHR rule against Turkey's ban on book considered part of European literary heritage
Link Here  full story: Book Censorship in Turkey...Freedom of speech under duress

Eleven Thousand Rods Apollinaire The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) convicted Turkey of a violation of freedom of expression in the context of the book The Eleven Thousand Rods (Les onze mille verges) by French writer Guillaume Apollinaire published in 1907. The book was censored in Turkey and its publisher, Hades Publishing owner Rahmi Akdas,, was convicted by a Turkish court.

The decision was announced by the ECHR on 16 February. The court declared that there nothing to say against the protection of moral values. Nevertheless, Acknowledgment of the cultural, historical and religious particularities of the Council of Europe's member States could not go so far as to prevent public access in a particular language, in this instance Turkish, to a work belonging to the European literary heritage .

Publisher Akdas was sentenced to a monetary fine of 684 Turkish Lira (TL) on the grounds of obscenity and harming inner feelings of the people by publishing the work which contains graphic descriptions of scenes of sexual intercourse, even though it is a fictional work. On 11 March 2004, the Court of Appeals approved the decision and decreed for the seizure and destruction of all copies of the book.

 

14th February   

Update: Gcensors...

Gmail blocked in Iran
Link Here  full story: Iranian Internet Censorship...Extensive internet blocking

old gmail logoIran's telecommunications agency announced what it described as a permanent suspension of Google's email services, saying a national email service for Iranian citizens would soon be rolled out.

A Google spokesman said in a statement, We have heard from users in Iran that they are having trouble accessing Gmail. We can confirm a sharp drop in traffic, and we have looked at our own networks and found that they are working properly. Whenever we encounter blocks in our services we try to resolve them as quickly as possibly because we strongly believe that people everywhere should have the ability to communicate freely online.

The move marks another effort by the regime to close the gap with its opposition in controlling Iranian cyberspace, according to Internet security experts. The government has a tight grip over old media—television, radio and newspapers—but learned during the unrest following the contested election last June that the opposition and its supporters dominated new media, including social networking Web sites like Twitter and Facebook.

The primary purpose for doing this is to control communication and mine that communication, so the government can crack down on dissenters and people who threaten the government, said Richard Stiennon, founder of Internet security firm IT-Harvest: If the government can induce the population to use a state-controlled email service, it would have access to the content of all of those emails, he added.

Silencing the Opposition

Based on article from news.bbc.co.uk

The US has accused Iran of seeking a near-total information blockade to silence anti-government protesters.

The allegations came after opposition supporters clashed with security forces as Iran marked the anniversary of the 1979 revolution. The US government said it had information that the telephone network was taken down, SMS messages blocked, and internet communication throttled .

Official events were held across Iran, but the main gathering was at Tehran's Azadi Square. State TV showed tens of thousands of people filling the streets. Amateur footage purportedly showing opposition protests has been appearing on the video-sharing website YouTube, including at least one rally in the Tehran underground.

 

13th February   

Update: The Lost Appeal of Saudi Justice...

Man given extreme sentence for boasting about his sex life loses his appeal
Link Here  full story: Religious Police in Saudi...A law unto themselves

Red Line on LBCA Saudi Arabia appeals court has upheld a sentence of five years in jail and 1,000 lashes for a man who boasted on TV of his sex life, reports say.

Mazen Abdul Jawad was convicted in October of immoral behaviour under the country's strict Islamic law code.

Sentences of two years in jail and 300 lashes were upheld for three friends of his who were also on the programme.

The men can appeal again to a higher court.

 

10th February   

Dangerous Words...

Book seized at Cairo Book Fair over criticism of repressive Libya
Link Here

Egypt flagThe Cairo International Book Fair saw security and government forces rear their ugly face when a Libyan author had his book confiscated and banned from the festival.

According to local reports, the publisher of the text critical of the Libyan government, was also arrested.

The book, The Leader is cutting his hair , has been taken by Egyptian security forces in a raid at the international book fair. All copies of the book have been taken and it is unclear what action will be taken against the publisher.

Author Idris Ali, is a Nubian writer who lived in the North African nation in the late 1970s.

The book is about the repressive regime in Libya, [Muammar] Gaddafi's dictatorship, Ahmed Ezzat, from the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, was quoted as saying.

 

7th February   

Registered as Repressive...

Iraq proposes the licensing of media outlets and journalists
Link Here

Iraq flagThe Iraqi government plan to impose restrictive rules on broadcast news media represents an alarming return to authoritarianism, the Committee to Protect Journalists said. CPJ denounced the rules and called on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his government to abandon their repressive plan.

CPJ's review of the plan found rules that fall well short of international standards for freedom of expression and that appear to contravene the Iraqi constitution, which provides for a free press. The new rules would effectively impose government licensing of journalists and media outlets, a tool that authoritarian governments worldwide have long used to censor the news.

The rules would also bar coverage that the government vaguely describes as incitement to violence. CPJ research shows that such broad and unspecified standards are often used by repressive governments to silence critical coverage.

The regulations suggest either a lack of understanding of the news media's role in a democratic society, or a deliberate attempt to suppress information and stifle opposing views, said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. Either way, the rules should be rescinded immediately so that the media can do its job free of government intimidation.

 

6th February   

Censors on High...

Saudi satellite censors Iranian news channel
Link Here

Al Alam logoThe Committee to Protect Journalists called for Saudi-run satellite operator Arabsat to return to air the Iranian-owned Arabic-language satellite channel Al-Alam, which was stopped from broadcasting o January 27 without prior notice.

In a statement published on its Web site, Al-Alam said that Arabsat, in continuation of its censorship policies and as a move to confront the news networks which reflect the realities of the world, has today once again cut broadcasting of the Al-Alam network. Al-Alam was previously taken off the air by both Arabsat and the Cairo-based satellite service provider Nilesat in November. Both cited a contractual breach without elaborating further.

Al-Alam was previously taken off the air by both Arabsat and the Cairo-based satellite service provider Nilesat in November. Both cited a contractual breach without elaborating further.

We urge Arabsat officials to resolve any outstanding technical difficulties they may have and put Al-Alam back on the air as soon as possible, said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. Viewers have a right to receive information from multiple sources, even critical ones.

Al-Alam has been a vocal critic of Saudi Arabia's involvement in the insurgency in northern Yemen, Mohamed Dehavi, an Al-Alam spokesman, told CPJ: We do not believe that this is a technical issue like Arabsat is claiming, but rather a political one aimed at censoring Al-Alam's coverage of current events.

 

5th February   

Update: Turkishness Insults Europe...

OSCE unimpressed by Turkeys repressive censorship law
Link Here  full story: Insulting Turkishness...Insulting Turkishness law used to repress

OSCE logoA senior official at the world's largest intergovernmental organization focusing on media freedoms has lambasted Turkey for imposing restrictions on Internet sites and criticized media accreditation methods to ban reporters from attending press conferences.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) media representative Miklos Haraszti told Today's Zaman in Strasbourg last week that Turkey needs to reform or abolish Law 5651, commonly known as the Internet Law, which restricts access to popular Web sites including video-sharing Web site YouTube. He also warned that changes made to notorious Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which makes it a crime to attack the Turkish nation in the media, are inadequate and that the government simply needs to get rid of that law.

It puts Turkey in bad company with countries like Iran and China, though Turkey is basically a free country, Haraszti said, stressing that Turkey should either reform or abolish the Internet Law in its current form. He warned that the practice is simply not in line with OSCE commitments and other international standards on freedom of expression. The government does have tools to go after illegitimate sites and punish those who violate laws. But do not block whole access to Web sites. It is not solving problems, he remarked.

 

1st February   

Update: Turkishness Insults Europe...

Council of Europe unimpressed by Turkeys repressive censorship law
Link Here  full story: Insulting Turkishness...Insulting Turkishness law used to repress

Council of Europe flagAndrew McIntosh, the author of a report on media freedom for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has warned that Turkey is in violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and as such the European Court of Human Rights may impose sanctions on Turkey for its notorious Article 301, which restricts freedom of expression for members of the media.

British MP Andrew McIntosh told Today's Zaman: The report is unequivocal about Article 301. It says Article 301 violates Article 10 of the European convention. If a case was started, that opinion, which is the view of PACE, can be tested in the court of law.

The report said the Assembly welcomes amendments made to Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code [TCK] but deplores the fact that Turkey has not abolished Article 301. Criminal charges have been brought against many journalists under the slightly revised Article 301, which still violates Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Turkish deputies, addressing the floor, objected to McIntosh's proposition and claimed that the European court has not made a ruling and that the report erroneously states that the amended article still violates Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Ertuğrul Kumcuoğlu from the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) even tabled an amendment to delete the proposition from the report.

PACE argued that the changes in Article 301 have not substantially reduced the number of court cases in which writers or journalists have been prosecuted for their published opinions.

PACE further recommended that the Committee of Ministers call on the government of Turkey to revise their defamation and insult laws and their practical application in accordance with assembly resolutions. In January 2009 the IPI criticized attempts to prosecute Turkish cartoonists for lampooning senior government figures.

 

31st January   

Update: Rights Abusers to Pay Compensation...

European Court orders Turkey to compensate journalists
Link Here  full story: Press Freedom in Turkey...Not so free press

European court buildingsThe European Court of Human Rights has ordered Turkey to pay a total of over 40,000 Euros to 20 Turkish journalists as compensation for having violated their rights.

In two separate cases, the Court ruled on 26 January that Turkey had violated freedom of speech laws when it suspended five newspapers and sentenced a magazine editor to prison over an article criticizing prison brutality.

Welcoming the judgment, IPI Board Member Ferai Tinc, Chairperson of the IPI Turkish National Committee, said: We would like that the law that allows [such press freedom violations] be abolished. We would like the canceling of prison sentences in cases concerning the media. No one can be imprisoned for what he has written.

In the first case, the five newspapers concerned are Gndem, Yedinci Gn, Haftaya Bak, Yaamda Demokrasi and Gerçek Demokrasi. Between 9 October and 15 December 2007, an Istanbul court ordered the suspension of all five newspapers for periods ranging from fifteen days to a month for violating the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The Court stated that various articles in the newspapers supported the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an organisation that is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey and much of the international community, including the European Union and the United States.

The second case was in connection with two articles published in February 2001 by the Turkish magazine Yeni Dnya çin Çaðr. The articles reportedly criticized a security operation in Turkish prisons which left 30 inmates dead. A graphic cover photo showed prisoners who had been burned or beaten.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in both cases that Turkey had violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights because the practice of banning the future publication of entire periodicals went beyond any necessary restraint and amounted to censorship.

IPI welcomes the judgment by the European Court of Human Rights, said IPI Director David Dadge. Particularly since Turkey is engaged in accession talks with the European Union, it is important that it abides by democratic standards of freedom of expression and the media.

In March 2009, IPI took its concerns about press freedom in Turkey to the European Commission in Brussels. It appealed to European Commission leaders to make press freedom a priority in ongoing membership talks with Turkey amid concern over verbal attacks on news organisations and continued legal hurdles to free expression in the country.

 

20th January   

Update: Free Speech Blocked...

Turkey criticised for censorial internet blocking
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Turkey...Website blocking insults the Turkish people

OSCE logoEurope's main security and human rights watchdog said Monday Turkey was blocking some 3,700 Internet sites for arbitrary and political reasons and urged legal reforms to show its commitment to freedom of expression.

Milos Haraszti, media freedom monitor for the 56-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said Turkey's Internet law was failing to preserve free expression in the country and should be reformed or abolished.

In its current form, Law 5651 not only limits freedom of expression, but severely restricts citizens right to access information, Haraszti said in a statement.

He said Turkey, a European Union candidate, was barring access to 3,700 Internet sites, including YouTube, GeoCities and some Google pages, because Ankara's Internet law was too broad and subject to political interests.

 

18th January   

State Controlled Blogs...

Jordan court extends print controls to the internet
Link Here

Jordan flagJordan's Appeal Court has extended the reach of its print and publications law to cover electronic media, meaning that it will censor sites and blogs.

Writing in ArabCrunch, Gaith Saqer said that this:

empowers authorities to prosecute or impose fines on any electronic medium of Publishing from SMS to the Internet user from Twitter user, to facebook, to journalists, bloggers and editors for publishing online material that the law finds wrong.

In the Jordan Times online paper, Hani Hazaimeh, reports:

Electronic media editors and activists on Thursday said the recent Cassation Court's decision to subject news websites and electronic media to the Press and Publications Law will curb Internet freedom.

Executive director of global organization Article 19, Agnes Callamard stated: The court's decision empowers authorities to prosecute or impose fines on journalists, bloggers and editors for publishing online material that may be deemed offensive or imply criticism of the government, national unity or the economy… ARTICLE 19 is concerned that the extension of the Press and Publications Law will lead to wide self-censorship among the online media, especially as individual writers and commentators seek to avoid heavy fines or criminal prosecution.

 

17th January   

Updated: The Soft War...

Iran bans contact with the BBC, Voice of America and more
Link Here  full story: Iran Jams Western Media...BBC, Voice of America and Deutsche Welle

BBC Persian TV logoIran's international isolation deepened yesterday when the regime banned contact with more than 60 highly regarded Western organisations which it accused of conspiring against the Islamic Republic.

The list includes the BBC, Voice of America and other media organisations that beam Farsi-language programmes into Iran, as well as think-tanks, academic institutions and leading non-governmental organisations from America and Europe. Having any relation ... with those groups involved in the soft war [against Iran] is illegal and prohibited, the intelligence ministry said. Citizens should be alert to the traps of our enemies and co-operate ... in neutralising the plots of foreigners and conspirators.

The list includes Yale University, the Soros and Ford foundations, the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, the liberal Brookings Institution, Human Rights Watch and USAid. Some, but not all of the organisations, have worked with universities or civil society institutions in Iran — bodies that tend to be hostile to the regime.

Four British organisations are named: the BBC, Wilton Park and Menas Associates, along with the British Centre for Democratic Studies — which appears not to exist.

The regime has repeatedly accused the BBC of being part of a British plot against it. It has expelled the organisation's Tehran correspondent and regularly jams the BBC Persian satellite television signal.

Update: European satellite company censors BBC's Persian TV

17th January 2010. Based on article from guardian.co.uk

Iran is facing mounting international protests about its jamming of the BBC's Persian TV service (PTV) after the channel – which has millions of viewers and is hugely popular with opposition supporters – was taken off a satellite owned by Europe's leading operator.

The BBC said today it was actively supporting a formal complaint to the International Telecommunication Union, a UN-affiliated body, about deliberate interference from Iran. The ITU confirmed it had received representations from regulators in France, home to Eutelsat, owner of the Hotbird 6 satellite, which transmitted PTV until the end of last month.

The German state broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, said it too would protest about interference with its Persian-language radio broadcasts. Voice of America Persian TV programmes have also been jammed.

The BBC said it was telling viewers how to adjust their satellite dishes to receive programmes via two other satellites that are out of range of Iranian jamming.

Eutelsat says PTV was removed from Hotbird 6 in agreement with the BBC, though sources close to the affair say the operator caved in to commercial and legal pressures from other customers broadcasting on the same transponder. Another Eutelsat satellite, Hotbird 8, provides capacity to Iranian state media channels, including English-language Press TV, which has offices in London.

 

17th January   

Lots of Laughs...

Lebanon nutters whinge about TV comedies
Link Here

Lebanon flagSupposedly racy and objectionable content on local television stations continued to draw fire after government authorities promised to see outlets tone things down. The Lebanese Women's Council strongly condemned certain television shows it deemed of a low media, cultural and moral level.

The council was referring to comedy shows that depended on low levels of entertainment and immoral jokes. It said such shows were a bad influence on Lebanese society, particularly on young people.

In a statement, the group also blamed the National Audiovisual Media Council [NAMC], the Information Ministry's Censorship Committee and local television stations for the problem. The council urged government censorship bodies to step in and ensure that audiovisual media and internet websites halt the objectionable programs and content.

For its part, the International Catholic Press Union in Lebanon also condemned the phenomenon of supposedly immoral programming, singling out OTV's weekly program LOL for censure. The union said a wide-ranging revision of the relevant legislation was required. It said the judiciary remained the proper authority for deciding whether certain programs were violating the law.

The union said that religious figures should not be outside the scope of permitted criticism, ...BUT.. added that freedom of opinion and expression didn't permit the practice of insulting others.

 

16th January   

Uncensored Censored...

Kuwait bans Egyptian movie over depiction of lesbians
Link Here

Bedoon RakabaKuwait has banned the screening of a supposedly controversial Egyptian film, saying that it promoted a culture of debauchery.

The film, Bedoon Rakaba (Out of Control or Uncensored), was produced in 2009 and addresses lifestyles centering on drug uses by young people and lesbianism, a taboo subject in Arab cinema and society.

According to the Kuwaiti daily Al Watan, a member of the censorship board said that some of the scenes were too hot and that the lesbianism theme was too bold. The member stressed that the scenario was very weak and failed to address the controversial issues properly.

In the film, the main character, Ahmad Fahmy, is a drug addict and an alcoholic who inherits a colossal fortune when his father dies. Actress Ola Ghanem plays the role of a lesbian who seeks to lure young girls into her way of life.

Commenting on the furore caused by the film upon its release in Egypt, Ola said that art had the responsibility to examine homosexuality trends and behaviour and to discuss the reasons and facts for their occurrence. However, the film sought only to convey the idea of same sex relationships and purposely omitted scenes of an intimate nature, she said.

 

10th January   

Update: Iranian Deviance from Human Rights...

Iran publishes long lists of websites that are illegal to access
Link Here  full story: Iranian Internet Censorship...Extensive internet blocking

Iran flagThe Iranian judicial authorities have published a long list of banned Internet websites in a new crackdown on online networks, including those deemed immoral.

They said the list, drawn up by a committee of experts, bans any site that contains pornography, prostitution, sexual deviation or anything considered to be contrary to the morals of society in the Islamic republic.

Websites containing material contrary to security and social peace as well as those seen by the authorities as hostile to government officials and institutions bound to lead to crimes are also banned.

According to the list published in several Tehran newspapers, anyone found guilty of using such websites could be jailed for several years in line with a law on Internet offences passed in parliament more than a year ago.

Internet users are also prohibited from posting articles that violate religious values, that insult Islam and other recognised world religions, saints and prophets, the reports said.

Any articles that insult Imam Khomeini and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are banned, the reports added in reference to the founder of the Islamic republic and his successor. Articles contrary to the constitution, that support hostile political groups or are used as propaganda against the regime of the Islamic republic are also banned.

The sale of software that can bypass bypass filter systems used by the authorities is also forbidden, the reports said.

 

8th January   

Demons in the UAE...

UAE bans the video game Darksiders
Link Here

THQ Darksiders PS3 The United Arab Emirates has banned THQ's game Darksiders reports gaming site GamesLatest.

The site notes that such bannings are not usually accompanied by a detailed explanation; instead an explanation typically offered is that a forbidden commodity contradicts with UAE's customs and traditions.

The game, developed by Vigil games for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, involves demons and has players take the role of War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

In the game's setting, War is accused of breaking a scared law and inciting a war between Heaven and Hell with battling demons and angels.

 

5th January   

Tribal Outrage...

Kuwait to restrict bloggers in the name of 'national unity'
Link Here

Kuwait flagA number of Kuwaiti bloggers said that government's attempt to impose censorship on blogs is unacceptable and unrealistic. The comments were made amidst expectations of the government's plan to amend the audio-visual Law after a TV show on the Al-Soor channel caused a wave of outrage amongst Kuwaiti tribes.

It was only a matter of time before these restrictions were imposed on bloggers, said Amer Al-Mutairy, a Kuwaiti blogger. He added that the government has been waiting for the right excuse to strengthen its grip on the blogging community.

The minister of information is using the instability caused by the programs aired on those two TV channels, and the whole issue of national unity, as means to impose restrictions on bloggers, said Al-Mutairy.

While he agreed that there is a group of MPs who support freedom of expression Al-Mutairy noted that some Parliamentarians have double standards about this issue. I think that, unfortunately, a large group of MPs support the media when it speaks favorably of them and discard the media when it criticizes them, he said.

Muhammad Al-Yousifi, another Kuwaiti blogger, said that the government has been wanting to place restrictions on bloggers for some time now. They have been wanting to do this since the scandal of changing the electoral districts in 2006, he said. They only got the chance to do it now with this Parliament which is mostly governmental. Especially since a number of bloggers are now attacking MPs.

Al-Yousifi said that the law is more laughable than it is scary both because of the motive to monitor blogs, and the process of monitoring blogs itself. How do they want to conduct this censorship? They can't do it, they physically can't do this, he said.

Abdul Aziz Al-Atygy, Kuwaiti blogger and a co-founder of the biggest blogging aggregation website in the Middle East, KuwaitBlogs.com, said that it will be very difficult for the government to censor or block blogs because most of the servers that contain these blogs are outside Kuwait. They don't fall under the jurisdiction of Kuwaiti law. Even if they are willing to block them, people can still access them via proxies. Governments cannot stop that and cannot identify those who access them, he said.

 

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