Middle East Censorship News

 2015: April-June



  Culture Minister Vs Culture Community...

Israel theatre sees protest against culture minister who has vowed to gag criticism of the state


Link Here 22nd June 2015
miri regevProtesters gathered outside a Tel Aviv theater with tape across their mouths to protest Culture Minister Miri Regev's repeated vows to censor voices that insult Israel.

Regev, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu s right-wing Likud Party who has been unabashed in her disdain for artistic projects that criticize the Israeli occupation, was at Tel Aviv's Einav Theater to present an award. She was booed by the protesters as she entered the theater, and heckled by several audience members as she took the stage.

The event occurred one day after Regev, in a televised interview on Israel's popular Channel 2 network, referred to artists as "tight-ass, hypocritical and ungrateful" people, comments she later backpedaled from a bit by clarifying that she only meant two specific left-wing artists.

The background to the tension is that filmmakers and producers rely heavily on public funds for most of their productions. Regev has repeatedly said she will not hesitate to cut public funding for projects that she feels defame or threaten the State of Israel, and earlier this week she blocked funds for Haifa's Al-Midan Arab Theater, which is currently staging a controversial production about the life of an Arab terrorist. She threatened to do the same for a joint Arab-Jewish theater after its director, the actor Norman Issa, refused to perform in the occupied West Bank. Issa later relented, and his funding was not cut.

 

  Symbolically Banned...

Saudi introduces a video games rating system


Link Here 15th June 2015

An official video game rating system has just recently been established by the Saudi government . It has warning symbols for violence, religious offence, alcohol use, gambling, sex, violence and online play. And unsurprisingly also includes a banned classification.

cert saudi religion cert saudi violence cert saudi drink
Religious offence Horror or violence Smoking, alcohol, drugs or subversive ideas
cert saudi sex cert saudi gambling cert saudi online
Nudity, sexuality, kink or sex out of wedlock Gambling Online games with user content that may transgress classification

The 'classifications' have so far been used for bans of Assassin's Creed II, The Last of US, and Hitman.

 

  Unfriended...

Film makers call for a boycott of an Israeli film festival in London


Link Here 9th June 2015
secret 2015 film festival logoFilm-makers including Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and Peter Kosminsky have called on the Curzon and Odeon cinema chains and Bafta to drop screenings for an Israeli film festival opening this week.

Seret 2015 , the London Israeli film and television festival opens at Bafta followed by screenings at cinemas including Curzon Soho and Odeon Swiss Cottage in London.

In a letter to the Guardian, more than 40 artists and film-makers express sadness and disappointment that the festival has been given a berth. It says the Israeli state is promoting this festival and supporting it financially.

By hosting it, these cinemas are ignoring the 2004 call by Palestinian civil society for sanctions against Israel until Israel abides by international law and ends its illegal displacement of Palestinians, discrimination against them, and occupation of their land.

 

  Less Queing and Waiting...

Kuwait abandons pre-broadcast censorship requirements from TV dramas


Link Here 2nd June 2015
kuwait ministry of information logoKuwait has issued a new decree partially partially removing the prior censorship requirement TV dramas and soaps.

The Ministry of Information issued decree no. 18/2015 saying:

This will allow companies to produce their works in a shorter period than in the past. This decree was prepared by a committee formed by Minister Sheikh Salman Al- Hmoud Al-Sabah in order to improve the content of local dramas and soap operas.

The decree canceled article 19 of law 61/2007 that forbade any changes, editing, canceling or adding to the approved script. It's now possible to do partial modification of the script as long as it doesn't change the idea or subject and is not in conflict with the law and general morals or system.

However removing some constraints from pre-censorship requires additional post broadcast censorship. Khalid Al-Duwaihi, consultant of the minister of information, spoke about the formation of the committee that agreed on issuing the new decree, which had 10 members including only four from the ministry and six from art unions and societies.

Pre-censorship continues for other genres of TV content.

 

  Debauchery and immorality...

Egypt persecutes participants in sexy music video on YouTube


Link Here 27th May 2015
sib eddi video An Egyptian belly dancer has been arrested after taking part in a sexy music video that has been viewed more than one million times on YouTube.

Egypt's prosecution has charged Salma El-Fouly with inciting debauchery and immorality after she appeared in the three-minute video alongside director Wael Elsedeki.The video is titled Sib Eddi, which means Let go of my hand . As 26 May, the video had been viewed over 1.1 million times.

The Al-Ahram newspaper reported that El-Fouly would be detained for four days pending investigations as the first court session is scheduled to take place on 28th May.

A warrant is out for director Elsedeki, who is believed to have fled the country, and a third person who appears in the video.

As well as the low cut dress that El-Fouly wears in the video, there has also been criticism of the lyrics, reported Egyptian Streets. They tell the story of a woman, played by El-Fouly, being sexually harassed while riding on the Cairo metro but enjoying the abuse.

 

 Update: So which has caused more grief in the world, porn or religion?...

Egypt court again demands the censorship of internet porn


Link Here 21st May 2015  full story: Internet Censorship in Egypt...Egypt blocks political and porn websites

Egypt flagAn Egyptian court has ordered Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb to impose a ban on pornographic websites. A similar decision taken two years ago described pornographic content as somehow venomous and vile, but failed to come into force.

The latest ruling is to be immediately enforced, but it can be appealed at the Supreme Administrative Court, Ahram Online reported.

During the hearing, lawyer Nezar Gharab said that pornographic websites lead to a spread in immorality, affecting young people:

Islamic Sharia law and all heavenly religions came to elevate human beings to a desired level of dignity.

 

  Sensitive and political issues...

German customs seize documentary film that argues that 1915 Armenian deaths were not genocide


Link Here 30th April 2015
1915 in armenian documents A Turkish filmmaker and a group of activists staged a protest outside the German consulate in Istanbul on Wednesday over the German customs confiscation of the tapes of a Turkish documentary sent to Germany.

Serkan Koç is the director of 1915 Belgeseli ( The Story of 1915 in Armenian Documents ), a documentary arguing that the mass deaths of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I was not a genocide as Armenia claims. He told reporters that politically motivated customs officials recently seized the tapes of his documentary. He said it was openly censorship and clearly an intervention to freedom of expression and thought in Europe.

Koç had shipped the documentary to the German parliament and several dignitaries. He said:

The documentary defends Turkey's stance and it had all the legal documents required for its shipping to Germany. Still, German customs officials ignored that and focused instead on the documentary's content. They were clearly politically motivated, as they said they would watch the film first to check its content.

Koç claimed it was a reflection of the German parliament's stance on the issue. The German parliament last week had defined the deaths of the Armenians as "genocide" to the chagrin of Turkey, which contends that the deaths were the result of diseases and an arduous journey during the war. He added:

It runs against the values of Europe. The German public has a right to see what happened in 1915 from our perspective as well. The confiscation is a sign of double-standards.

 

  34th International Istanbul Short of Films Festival...

Filmmakers withdraw their films in protest at censorship by the organisers


Link Here 14th April 2015
istanbul film festival logoThe makers of 22 domestic films withdrew their movies from this year's 34th Istanbul International Film Festival to protest the removal of a documentary from the lineup, prompting programmers to cancel the national and international feature and national documentary competitions of the 2015 event, as well as this weekend's awards ceremony and closing gala.

The directors who withdrew from the festival, joined by dozens of film professionals from the country's cinema circles, issued a boycott letter in reaction to the programmers' announcement that a festival screening of Kuzey (The North), a film set in the guerilla camps of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), has been banned from screening.

The I.KSV announcement sparked an immediate uproar among the country's filmmaking community. The producers of Kuzey , other film professionals and representatives of several cinema trade unions issued a letter highlighting the censorship at the festival and announcing they are boycotting the event until Kuzey is put back in the program.

Screenings of feature films in the international competition will continue as planned, the festival's programmers said .

 

  An insult to free speech...

Turkish journalists prosecuted for publishing images of Charlie hebdo


Link Here 10th April 2015

cumhuriyet newspaper logoTwo Turkish journalists have been charged with inciting public hatred and insulting people's religious values , after publishing the cover of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that depicted the religious character Mohammed.

The two columnists, Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Cetinkaya, work for the pro-secular Cumhuriyet newspaper which published a selection of Hebdo's images shortly after the magazine was attacked by muslim terrorists.

Although Cumhuriyet did not publish the image of Mohammed, Karan and Cetinkaya included pictures of the magazineit in their columns, prompting prosecutors to launch an investigation after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said his government would not allow insults to our Prophet .

Karan told Reuters:

We are being threatened with prison for defending free speech. To threaten a journalist because he or she printed a drawing that does not include an insult can only come from a religious, authoritarian government. Neither of us will abandon our defence of free speech.

 

  A Picture of Government Repression...

Turkey blocks all social media in an attempt to censor news images that were considered propaganda


Link Here 7th April 2015

Turkey flagTurkey got itself in a censorship mess in attempt to block a few news images.

Two gunmen, from a far-left group, took a prosecutor hostage at an Istanbul courthouse last week. Prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz was apparently taken hostage because he headed an investigation into the 2013 death of a boy during anti-government protests. Images were published in news reports showing the prosecutor being held at gunpoint. The gunmen and the hostage were later killed in a police 'rescue'.

Turkish authorities decided that the images were anti-government propaganda . and set about censoring them. Newspapers were stopped from printing the images, but it was not so easy to stop the images circulating on social media. So Turkey promptly blocked access to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and others in their entirety. In total, 166 websites which shared the images were blocked by the court order.

The blocks on Facebook and Twitter were later lifted after they both sites later took down the censored images. But not before the Turkish people had come to see how repressive their government has become.

Millions of social media users tried to post comments or videos on their favourite platforms only to find that they were blocked. But the block did not stop people from tweeting. Newspapers and individuals alike shared guidelines on how to circumvent the ban. The hashtag #TwitterisblockedinTurkey became the number one trending topic worldwide.