Middle East Censorship News


2018: Jan-March

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Offsite Article: A bellyful of censorship...


Link Here 27th March 2018
Four More Years of Censoring Culture in Egypt. The current president has presided over a purge of liberal expression. And he's nearly guaranteed to win another term this week.

See article from theatlantic.com

 

 

Following Britain's lead...

Turkish parliament extends the TV censor's control to internet TV


Link Here 23rd March 2018
Full story: Internet Censorship in Turkey...Website blocking insults the Turkish people
Turkey's parliament on Thursday passed legislation widening government control of the internet, one of the last remaining platforms for critical and independent reporting.

The TV, and now internet censor RTUK is controlled by representatives of the ruling AKP party.

Under the new legislation, internet broadcasters will have to apply for a license from the censor. And of course risk being turned down because the government doesn't like them. Websites that do not obtain the required licence will be blocked.

Turkish authorities have already banned more than 170,000 websites, but observers point out that Turks have become increasingly savvy on the internet, using various means to circumvent restrictions, such as by using virtual private networks (VPN).

But authorities are quickly becoming adept, too. Fifteen VPN providers are currently blocked by Turkey, cyber rights expert Akdeniz said. It's becoming really, really difficult for standard internet users to access banned content. It's not a simple but a complex government machinery now seeking to control the internet.

 

 

Internet Censorship Bill Looms Large Over Egypt...

Egypt set to introduce new law to codify internet censorship currently being arbitrarily implemented


Link Here 23rd March 2018
Full story: Internet Censorship in Egypt...Egypt blocks political and porn websites

Egyptian parliamentarians will soon review a draft anti-cybercrime law that could codify internet censorship practices into national law.

While the Egyptian government is notorious for censoring websites and platforms on national security grounds, there are no laws in force that explicitly dictate what is and is not permissible in the realm of online censorship. But if the draft law is approved, that will soon change.

Article 7 of the anti-cybercrime law would give investigative authorities the right to order the censorship of websites whenever evidence arises that a website broadcasting from inside or outside the state has published any phrases, photos or films, or any promotional material or the like which constitute a crime, as set forth in this law, and poses a threat to national security or compromises national security or the national economy. Orders issued under Article 7 would need to be approved by a judge within 72 hours of being filed.

Article 31 of the law holds internet service providers responsible for enacting court-approved censorship orders. ISP personnel that fail to comply with orders can face criminal punishment, including steep fines (a minimum of 3 million Egyptian pounds, or 170,000 US dollars) and even imprisonment, if it is determined that their refusal to comply with censorship orders results in damage to national security or the death of one or more persons.

In an interview with independent Cairo-based media outlet Mada Masr, Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression legal director Hassan al-Azhari argued that this would be impossible to prove in practice.

The law also addresses issues of personal data privacy, fraud, hacking, and communications that authorities fear are spreading terrorist and extremist ideologies.

 

 

No freedom, before or after the revolution...

Egyptian play, Before the Revolution, is banned by censors


Link Here 19th March 2018
Egypt's state censors have banned a play on the day of its Cairo premiere, saying it cannot be shown without the removal of five key scenes.

As a result, writer and director Ahmed El Attar cancelled performances of Before the Revolution , a two-actor piece that depicts oppression and stagnation in Egypt before its 2011 popular uprising,

In a statement, organizers say El Attar has appealed for a second censorship committee to watch the show on March 19th, asking for it to be allowed to be shown without the censor cuts, which he said heavily distorted the piece.

 

 

Immoral censorship...

Turkey is set to extend internet TV censorship to the likes of Netflix and YouTube, and also to personal social media accounts


Link Here 23rd February 2018
Full story: Internet Censorship in Turkey...Website blocking insults the Turkish people
The Committee to Protect Journalists rather optimistically calls on Turkish authorities to scrap the article of a draft bill that would expand internet censorship in Turkey.

The Parliamentary Planning and Budget Commission has now passed article 73 of the bill, which would require online broadcasters, including YouTube and Netflix Turkey, to be licensed and regulated by the federal TV and radio censor RTÜK, according to news reports. Article 73 would also extend RTÜK's authority to personal social media accounts.

Parliament still needs to approve the bill's remaining articles before it schedules a vote on the bill but it has more than enough votes to pass and become law,

Government Minister Ahmet Arslan, who oversees internet censorship, has claimed that:

Censorship does not exist in Turkey ...[BUT]... Only broadcast material that goes "against national security [and the] moral order of the country" would be blocked if the bill becomes law.

 

 

Updated: Severe punishment...

Ofcom fines Al Arabiya News channel from the UAE for broadcasting a prison confession extracted via torture


Link Here 17th February 2018

Al Arabiya News is an Arabic language news and current affairs channel licensed by Ofcom.

Mr Husain Abdulla complained to Ofcom on behalf of Mr Hassan Mashaima about unfair treatment and unwarranted infringement of privacy in connection with the obtaining of material included in the programme and the programme as broadcast on Al Arabiya News on 27 February 2016.

The programme reported on an attempt made in February and March 2011, by a number of people including the complainant, Mr Hassan Mashiama, to change the governing regime in Bahrain from a Kingdom to a Republic. It included an interview with Mr Mashaima, filmed while he was in prison awaiting a retrial, as he explained the circumstances which had led to his arrest and conviction.

The interview included Mr Mashaima making confessions as to his participation in certain activities. Only approximately three months prior to the date on which Al Arabiya News said the footage was filmed, an official Bahraini Commission of Inquiry had found that similar such confessions had been obtained from individuals, including Mr Mashaima, under torture. During Mr Mashaima's subsequent retrial and appeal, he maintained that his conviction should be overturned, as confessions had been obtained from him under torture.

Ofcom's Decision is that the appropriate sanction should be a financial penalty of £120,000 and that the Licensee should be directed to broadcast a statement of Ofcom's findings, on a date to be determined by Ofcom, and that it should be directed to refrain from broadcasting the material found in breach again.

Update: Closed

6th February 2018. See article from ofcom.org.uk

Ofcom has announced that Al Arabiya News Channel is no longer licensed by Ofcom and hence cannot broadcast to the UK. Presumably this is related to the recent Ofcom fine.

Update: Maybe another reason for the UK closure

17th February 2018.  See  article from menafn.com

Al Arabiya News Channel has surrendered with immediate effect its license with the U.K. broadcasting censor Ofcom, which received a complaint over the channel's involvement in covering the crime of hacking Qatar News Agency (QNA), British law firm Carter-Ruck said.

QNA had hired Carter-Ruck to submit a complaint at Ofcom against Al Arabiya and Sky News Arabia for broadcasting fabricated and false statements attributed to Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani after QNA's website was hacked on May 24, 2017, The four countries of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt used this event to justify the siege that they have been imposing on Qatar since June 5, 2017.

The surrendering of the license by Al Arabiya, a Dubai-based satellite broadcaster owned by Saudi businessmen, was to avoid an an Ofcom investigation.

QNA says Al Arabiya's decision was dictated by the inquiry but the channel says business reasons also influenced the move.

 

 

Offsite Article: Ban it, bin it, close it: Lebanon and the growing climate of censorship...


Link Here 11th February 2018
Full story: Banned Films in Lebanon...Beirut Hotel
Background to the Lebanese political censorship of films with a connection to Israel

See article from thearabweekly.com

 

 

Bellicose moralism...

A Russian belly dancer is the latest victim of Egypt's morality drive


Link Here 9th February 2018
Full story: Music Censorship in Egypt...authorities persecute singers for slightly sexy music videos

The Tourism and Antiquities Police have referred a Russian belly dancer Eicatrina Andreeva, who goes by the name Gawhara, to investigations for wearing a 'non-standard' dancing suit A controversy arose over how the ideal dancing suit should look.

According to Act No. 430 of the law on the censorship of literary works, the dancing suit should cover the lower body, with no side slits, and should cover the breast and stomach area.

The Russian dancer was arrested over inciting 'debauchery and arousing young people's sexual instincts', as she appeared in a not particularly sexy dancing video that has gone viral.

Accompanied by a translator during her investigations, Gawhara added that she was wearing a dancing suit no different than those donned by many belly dancers in Egypt.

The Tourism and Antiquities Police stated that Gawhara was wearing a non-standard dancing outfit and was featured in a viral video flaunting her body and pointing to private parts of her body in a racy manner, according to the findings of preliminary investigation previously announced by the prosecution.

 

 

Censorship Diktat...

Stage play, Only a dictator is banned in Turkey's major cities


Link Here 30th January 2018
Turkish actor Baris Atay plays a dictator in a one-man show that is intended to get audiences thinking. The play has now been banned in several Turkish cities.

In Ankara, he was personally told not to perform. In addition, the governors of the northern Turkish cities of Artvin and Hopa have officially banned the play. As has Kadikoy, one of Istanbul's largest and most populous districts. It has been claimed that his play could be a threat to public order and security.

Only A Dictator was written by Onur Orhan and is directed by Caner Erdem. Atay plays a dictator who struggles with an inner conflict. After the show, the audience is invited to form its own opinion on dictators.

The play alludes to Turkey's present government under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Supporters of Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) took offense, expressing their anger on social media. Atay said he thinks the decision to ban the play shows how much pressure Turkey's government is willing to exert on critics.

When police prevented the play from being shown in Istanbul last week, Atay alluded to his 2015 statement, asking: Do you accept that this ban means our president is a dictator?

 

 

Updated: The distributors go postal...

Steven Spielberg's The Post is unbanned in Lebanon after government minister overrules censors


Link Here 23rd January 2018
Full story: Banned Films in Lebanon...Beirut Hotel
The Post is a 2017 USA historical biography by Steven Spielberg.
Starring Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and Sarah Paulson. IMDb

A cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country's first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor to join an unprecedented battle between journalist and government. Inspired by true events.

Lebanon has banned Steven Spielberg's newspaper drama The Post a few days before the film is set to premiere in Beirut.

A source involved with The Post's international distribution says the movie was presented to the Lebanese censorship board, which banned it, citing Israel connections that includs Spielberg filming some scenes for Schindler's List in Jerusalem.

The matter has been transferred to Lebanon's Minister of Interior and Municipalities, who could overturn the decision.

A spokesperson for Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment says he cannot comment because the company has not been told officially by the Lebanese distributor that the pic will not be released there because of censorship.

Update: Unbanned

23rd January 2018. See  article from mediafiledc.com

According to Reuters, Interior Minister Nohad Mashnouk has decided to overturn the ban on The Post. Mashnouk saw no obstacle preventing the film from being shown because it has nothing to do with Lebanon or the conflict with the Israeli enemy.

 

 

Updated: Suggestive of repression...

Another Egyptian singer is arrested for supposed debauchery in a decidedly unsexy music video


Link Here 21st January 2018
Full story: Music Censorship in Egypt...authorities persecute singers for slightly sexy music videos
Egyptian authorities have arrested another female singer on charges of incitement to debauchery after her music video sparked controversy.

Leila Amer will be detained for four days while authorities investigate the video to the song Boss Oumek (Look At Your Mother) which includes supposedly suggestive dancing and gestures.

Ahmed Mahran, the lawyer who filed a complaint, argues the video poses a great risk to Egyptian society and especially young people.

Musicians' union president Hany Shaker, a male singer known for his conservative stance, last week announced on the private channel Dream TV that Amer had been expelled from the union, effectively ending her career as a musician.

Update: Another victim

21st January 2018. See  article from freemuse.org

Egyptian female singer and dancer Fatima, popularly known as Eghraa was arrested on 20 December 2017 on charges of inciting debauchery and violating public decency for the viral music video of her song I Want a Man in which she is seen dancing provocatively in revealing clothing, reported Egyptian news sources .

The artist's trial has been adjourned until 23 January 2018. If convicted, she could face up to three years in prison. This is the second time that the singer has been arrested on charges of inciting debauchery and facilitating prostitution,

 

 

Propaganda wars...

Iran makes an official complaint that British media is orchestrating the anti-government protests in Iran


Link Here 6th January 2018
Iran's embassy in London has written an official letter to the UK TV censor Ofcom claiming of bias in Britain's media coverage of the ongoing anti-government protests in Iran.

Ofcom said on Friday that the letter is being carefully evaluated.

Iranian state media says its government is complaining about what it calls a propaganda campaign orchestrated by UK-based Persian-language broadcasters.

The letter claims that the media outlets violated UK and international media regulations and tried to incite protesters into using violent tactics.

In an attempt to shut down protests and manage the unrest, Iran's government blocked access to the encrypted Telegram messaging app and the photo-sharing app Instagram, which now join Facebook and Twitter in being banned.

 

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