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World News

2006: Jan-March

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19th March   Vulgar Bangla Censor

Based on an article from The Daily Star

Adaptation of the anti-obscenity law in parliament in January revives nutter hopes of bringing back 'golden days' to the film industry as the makers and those involved in pornographic films have gone into hiding.

Parliament on January 31, adopted the anti-obscenity law that can land any 'pornographic'/ vulgar filmmaker in prison for three years. Action can be also taken against the artists, crew, officials, exhibitors and any person involved with the vulgar film.

Producers of vulgar films have stopped their ongoing projects realising perhaps they would be in trouble if they continue.

Producers themselves halted the making of around 30 films after the adaptation of the new law, said Kamruzzaman Babu, staff reporter, daily Prothom Alo: Producers of these low grade films fear that their movies would not run and they will not be able to be make any profits.

According to different newspaper reports, the law-enforcing authority has shutdown three cinema halls for screening uncensored and vulgar Bangla movies. Another 16 cinema halls known to be screening pornographic films are marked to face the same fate if the allegation against them is proved.

With such initiative from the government, we hope to see more family oriented movies, that would increase the number of viewers, said Chashi Nazrul Islam, director and member Bangladesh Censor Board.

Cinema hall owners, too, are very careful in picking the right movies to avoid punishment since the new law took effect. Makers of these films are not ready to admit that showing obscenity in films is a crime. Because they that adult scenes shown in the movies do not depict vulgarity, rather it's a demand of the day.


12th March   Fatwa Against Women's Internet Use

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information has expressed concern over recent censorship by Arab governments in North Africa and the Middle East.

According to a Press Statement, the Egyptian website has been blocked for a the past week and various other sites, including the famous website "Modern Discussion" (, which defends secularism and women's rights, campaigns against capital punishment, and defends other journalists and writers, have been banned in many countries including Tunisia. The websites have also been threatened with a lawsuit by a Saudi business man who alleges that they carry unacceptable writings about Muslims.

In Egypt, security authorities have recently been blocking websites calling for reform, such as the "Save Egypt Front" and "Masreyat" sites, in addition to continuously blocking the sites of the "Al-Shaab" newspaper and the Al-Amal (labour) party.

Religious scholars and businessmen affiliated to the Saudi government are launching campaigns against the freedom of Internet use and of information exchange. Religious scholars have issued a "fatwa" prohibiting women from using the Internet unless in the presence of a "mahram" (a close relative they are prohibited to marry). The announced fatwa was followed by a call from Saudi businessmen to sue websites that call for freedom of thought and secularism.


11th March
updated 28th March
  XXX Episode 27

From The Sydney Morning Herald

The issue of whether or not the world needs a virtual red-light district will be on the agenda when ICANN's meets again this month in Wellington, New Zealand.

ICANN stands for the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers, and is a US non-profit organisation that oversees top level domain names like .com on behalf of the US government.

The creation of an .xxx domain was proposed in recent years to take the place of .com in move strongly promoted by the adult entertainment industry in the hope of improving traffic flow to legitimate adult sites and dramatically easing filtering requirements for other domains.

However the online red-light district has suffered a number of setbacks under growing opposition. Those contesting it have concerns over the legitimisation of pornographic material, especially in countries where standards might substantially differ from norms in the western world.

Although ICANN's board originally voted in favour of creating the .xxx domain in August last year, a final decision was put on hold after the reciept of a letter from Michael Gallagher, Assistant Secretary at the US Commerce Department, saying he had received nearly 6000 letters and emails expressing concern about the impact of pornography on families and children and urging further debate.

Approval for the domain was then deferred to a board meeting of ICANN last December, however it was again delayed to allow more time for consultation.

Some have declared this evidence that ICANN is bowing to pressure from the US government, a topic that was loomed large at the recent World Summit on Information Society in Tunis late last year where governance of the Internet was the subject of strong debate.

The .xxx issue will be firmly back on the agenda in Wellington with a Government Advisory Committee expected to present its findings at the conference and "further discussions" among international delegates to follow.


17th March   Update: XXX: A bit of the old in and out and in again

From AVN

A bill introduced on March 16 in the U.S. Senate seeks to require all commercial websites that provide “material that is harmful to minors” to register and operate within a Top Level Domain set aside specifically for that purpose.

Sponsored by Sens. Max Baucus (Democrat) and Mark Pryor (Democrat), the “Cyber Safety for Kids Act of 2006” mandates that the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers establish the new international TLD and have it operational within 90 days of the enactment of the bill. The Secretary of Commerce will be empowered to devise and enforce regulations for the operation of the TLD, and will be responsible for imposing civil penalties on any Web publishers who do not abide by the regulations. Under the legislation, companies that fail to register in the new domain within six months of the establishment of the new TLD would be subject to civil penalties.

According to the bill, which is not expected to be addressed by the Senate until after it returns from a weeklong recess that begins March 20, The term ‘material that is harmful to minors’ means any communication, picture, image, graphic image file, article, recording, writing, or other matter of any kind that is obscene or that a reasonable person would find…with respect to minors, is designed to appeal to, or is designed to pander to, the prurient interest; depicts, describes, or represents, in a patently offensive manner with respect to minors, an actual or simulated sexual act or sexual contact, an actual or simulated normal or perverted sexual act, or a lewd exhibition of the genitals or post-pubescent female breast; and taking the material as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.

Although the bill does not specifically use the term “pornography,” it’s clear from the language that online adult entertainment is exactly what the bill seeks to control. It’s also clear from the language that it is an attempt to approach certain now-enjoined requirements of the Child Online Protection Act from a different angle, according to First Amendment attorney J.D. Obenberger.

28th March   Update: XXX: Filtered Out Again

From The Age

The United States Government has blocked a plan to create a red-light district in cyberspace.

Icann, the worldwide body that manages the internet, had been expected to approve website addresses ending in ".xxx" at an international meeting under way in Wellington, but it is understood it will not now vote on the proposal.

Canadian firm ICM Registry has spent five years and $US2.5 million campaigning for the right to web addresses, for which it would charge $US60 each.

Chairman Stuart Lawley said he was disappointed, but it was not realistic to expect a decision in Wellington.

The US Commerce Department - which created Icann as an independent body to take over its management of the domain name system - raised concerns about proposed mechanisms for managing .xxx websites. But Lawley said he believed it was a "deliberate delaying tactic". Lawley said this was the third time the US Government had delayed .xxx addresses, and blamed the influence of religious conservatives in the US that appear to have access to the powers that be.

Lawley estimates there are four million adult websites, owned by 100,000 webmasters.

ICM Registry is not directly involved in the adult Internet industry, but has made no bones that it wants to make money selling .xxx addresses.

The company has won some support for its argument that setting up the red-light zone in cyberspace would make it easier to filter out adult websites so they could not be seen accidentally or by children.

Liz Butterfield, executive director of New Zealand's nonprofit Internet Safety Group, said .xxx was potentially positive and saw no reason why such addresses should not be allowed. But she said she doubted the addressing system would stop many adult website owners using other Internet addresses, such as .com.
I think you have got to be realistic about what it would achieve


11th March   Advertising Regulators Need to Chill Out

Based on an article from the New Zealand Herald

A party pill company has withdrawn posters featuring two Mr Potato Head characters because of supposed concerns it could mislead children.

The posters, which had an R18 rating, carried the heading "Sit on the couch and get mashed!". One of the potato characters had lost its eyes and nose to the bottom of the picture and the other's eyes had slipped below its nose and mouth.

The concerns were taken to the Advertising Standards Complaints Board, which has backed the complaint. In a decision just released, the board noted that while the company, Energy Products Ltd, had voluntarily withdrawn the posters, the incident raised some serious matters.

The complainant, J Dean, said that while the posters were inside a shop for people over 18, they were visible from the street in shops in Dunedin and Oamaru. The complainant felt the use of the Mr Potato Head character "to promote mind-altering substances is entirely inappropriate".

Energy Products said its use of the potato figures was "simply a play on words" for the product, called Mash: We would not have thought there would in any way be a belief we are targeting [under-3 year olds] with a product that is clearly R18 and sold in R18 premises."

But the Advertising Standards Complaint Board said posters ran the risk of being visible to a wide range of age groups.  It considered the ad in the light of advertising codes for children and therapeutic products and found it did not live up to high standards required for therapeutic products.

It also noted that the current ban on advertising party pills in some media did not extend to posters.


8th March   Gay Angst

From Starpulse News Blog
From eitb24

The Chinese media heavily censored Ang Lee's Oscar acceptance speech during the broadcast of the Academy Awards, omitting any references to his native Taiwan or homosexuality.

The Asian nation has hailed Lee as a national hero following his triumph at the Sunday ceremony, where he was named Best Director for Brokeback Mountain .

In his speech, Lee said, They taught all of us who made Brokeback Mountain so much about not just all the gay men and women whose love is denied by society, but just as important, the greatness of love itself.

Chinese state television decided to edit the gay references from his address, because homosexuality is still frowned upon in society and was considered a mental disorder as recently as 2001.

Chinese TV also removed Lee's closing sentence, in which he thanked, everybody in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.

The Beijing government sees Lee's self-ruled Taiwan as sovereign territory and the director was described as Chinese or Chinese-American by many national press.

The China Daily enthused, Ang Lee is the pride of the Chinese people all over the world, and he is the glory of Chinese cinematic talent.

The Chinese government, while glorying in the director's achievement, has prohibited the film from general release in the country because of its controversial content. Government censorship of the media prohibits the display or reference to homosexuality as: going against the healthy way of life in China.

People on the streets of Beijing  questioned the decision to ban the movie. It's the 21st century now. It's not appropriate for the government to prohibit this movie. Everybody wants to watch it, said one .

Yet the cinema ban is symbolic as consumers can already buy copies of Brokeback Mountain on DVD. The DVDs, many of which are pirated, can be bought for one US dollar or less, often in the back of legitimate shops or on street corners.

It has only been in the last decade that the Chinese government announced that it would no longer treat homosexual relations between consenting adults in private a crime, and as recently as 2000 the government stated that homosexuality was to be considered a mental illness.


8th March   Moral Decay in Indonesian Authorities

Based on an article from Islam Online

The Indonesian government has introduced a new regulation to scrutinize the content of TV programs to coincide with the  much derided pornography bill.

Before this, all TV stations ignored our warnings on their inappropriate broadcast content, saying there were no grounds for legal action, said Ade Armando of the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI). But it is different now, we can report them to the police if they are proved to have broadcast violence and sexual (content).

The new regulation empowers the KPI to report TV stations airing programs containing violence, sexual content and occult themes to police. It also gives the information and communication minister the right to revoke a TV station's broadcasting license if the station violates program standards and guidelines issued by the KPI.

Local television programming is notorious for horror and occult shows, violence-packed movies and supposedly sexually suggestive content in soaps and music shows.

The KPI will work together with the Film Censorship Institute to identify programs with graphic sexuality and violence. Stations submit 10 to 20% of their programs for approval, Titie Said, the institute's head, said.

Ade said handling violators will be done on stages: We will send three warning letters, with the first letter asking for clarification. If they do not clarify and pay no attention to the other two letters, then we will go to the police. By reporting the matter to police, Ade added, legal procedures for revoking the license could begin. To be valid, the revocation process requires a court ruling.


5th March   Sneeze and you are Deported

From China View

Foreigners in China may be ordered to leave the country if they violate a new set of regulations coming into force today.

Compared with the version that has been in place for 19 years, the new law stipulates a total of 238 illegal practices an addition of 165 offences and raises the maximum fine from 200 yuan (US$25) to 5,000 yuan (US$617).

The Law on Public Security Administrative Penalties, which takes effect today, applies to all Chinese citizens and foreigners in the country, including those with diplomatic immunity, the Ministry of Public Security told a press conference yesterday in Beijing.

Cases involving diplomatic immunity would be handled through diplomatic channels and the rest dealt with directly by Chinese police, said Ke Liangdong, director of the ministry's legislative bureau. Ke said the law targets new illegal practices in society.

Instances of new illegal practices include:

  • Repeatedly sending pornographic mobile-phone messages
  • Disturbing public order at sports or cultural events
  • Raising pets that harass neighbours
  • Causing disturbance by making too much noise.

Punishment ranges from warnings, fines, and revoking licences to detention of up to 15 days. For foreign violators, the law adds the deportation clause.

Ke would not say what kind of illegal behaviour would attract the severe penalty of deportation: It depends on the circumstances. But no matter which article foreigners violate, there will be risks of being deported.

He said local police stations have to seek approval from the ministry or authorized provincial police authorities for deporting foreigners. But if the penalty is detention, county-level police authorities would have the final say.

Wu Mingshan, deputy director of the ministry's public security management bureau, said a large number of violations involving foreigners relate to prostitution, frequenting brothels, theft and assault.

He added that the ministry would soon issue an English copy of the law.


5th March   Ideas from the Ash Tray

I am sure that declaring two thirds of films to be 18 rated will achieve nothing except getting censors' age recommendations even more widely ignored.

From Stuff

A New Zealand anti-smoking lobby group, Ash,  wants  a ban on smoking in kid-rated movies. Ash NZ director Becky Freeman claims two-thirds of child-rated Hollywood movies contain smoking or tobacco product placement, endangering the health of young New Zealanders.

The DreamWorks studio was said to be the worst offender, with all its 2002 child-rated movies containing smoking or tobacco placement, followed by MGM on 80%. What really makes me angry is when you see children's cartoons with smoking in them, like Shark Tale, Freeman said.

Ash was calling for all new movies with smoking references to be rated R18, or for movie makers to voluntarily remove smoking from their youth movies, Freeman said.

However, a spokeswoman for the Classifications Office said the Government would have to legislate to allow smoking to be considered in a film's classification. Under existing, law films can only be restricted because of sex, torture, crime, cruelty, violence or dehumanising behaviour.


5th March   Chinese Starfuckers

Sounds like we are on some sort of moral high horse mocking the freedom challenged Chinese and Americans.

I don't think the UK can boast that the Rolling Stones have been granted full freedom of speech though. I seem to remember the BBC refusing to play Starfucker even after it had hastily been renamed Star Star.

From The Guardian

Stones forced to axe sexually explicit songs for China concert. For the second time in a matter of weeks, the Rolling Stones are having to cut back on the brown sugar rather than leave a sour taste in the mouth of morally indignant censors.

First there was the Superbowl, where organisers silenced Mick Jagger's microphone during the sexually explicit song Start Me Up in the half-time concert in Detroit last month. Now China is set to follow suit. When the Stones make their Chinese debut next month, they will succumb to government pressure by dropping Brown Sugar , Let's Spend the Night Together , Honky Tonk Woman and Beast of Burden from their playlist.

Promoters say the Stones will play live in Shanghai on April 8 as part of their A Bigger Bang tour. It has been a long time coming. The British band has been in talks about playing in China since the late 1970s, when a concert was denied by a government concerned about "spiritual pollution" from western culture.

But fears of spiritual pollution have not entirely subsided. According to one insider, promoters must provide lyrics and a video of past performances to the ministry of culture for approval before permission for a concert is given.


4th March
Updated 14th March
  Bali Bothered by Burkha Beachwear

From the Jakarta Post
Also see the campaigning website at ,

About 1,000 protesters here greeted a visiting delegation of legislators deliberating the Indonesian pornography bill by threatening to organize acts of civil disobedience if it becomes law. We designed the rally to underline the open and tolerant nature of Balinese culture. That's the reason why the rally is filled with traditional art performances and music concerts, the rally's chief organizer, I Gusti Ngurah Harta, said.

A regional youth leader, who met with the House group, also warned that Bali would secede from Indonesia if the bill took effect. If this bill is passed, we won't hesitate to leave the Republic of Indonesia, Bali branch head of the Indonesian National Youth Committee, I Putu Gede Indriawan Karna, said to applause as quoted by

Protesters came from all walks of life, numbering community activists, academics and ordinary citizens. There has been widespread opposition to the bill, which critics say goes too far in taking a moralistic approach to clamp down on pornographic materials and obscene acts, which would also include public displays of affection. Women's rights activists fear women are particularly vulnerable to its misuse, while some ethnic groups, such as the Balinese and Papuans, have nudity as part of their cultural displays.

Balinese arts and religious beliefs have never considered sensuality and sexuality as an impure, morally reprehensible thing. Instead, sensuality and sexuality are treated as natural, integral parts of our lives as human beings, another rally organizer, Cok Sawitri, said. In the past, Balinese women never wore a bra, yet the custom did not turn the society into a sex-craving, pornographically demented community.

A participant in the meeting with the legislators said they reminded them that Indonesia was not a monolithic state where one group could impose its values on the rest.

The bill has blatantly ignored the fact that Indonesia comprises hundreds of ethnic groups with different cultural values and religious beliefs. The bill, which represents the moral values and belief of one single group, has the potential to cause the disintegration of the state, I Gusti Putu Artha said.

Women's rights activist Luh Anggraeni said the bill discriminated against women. It is as if the woman is the only party responsible for the nation's moral decadence. Most of the prohibitive articles in the bill are directed at women.

Participants also said the passage of the bill would inflict irreparable damage on the local tourism industry, the island's economic backbone, already hobbled by a downturn in visitors from two separate bombings in the last four years.

There is an associated Internet campaign site aptly named Jiwa Merdeka (literally meaning "free soul"). The site, , has been in operation since Feb. 22.

On the site, people can read or download various texts, including the controversial bill, the Bali delegation's opposition statement and a list of the notable figures, who support the opposition, in addition to an enlightening paper on pornography by Prof. Dr. I Made Bandem. Most of the texts are still in Indonesian buy they are in the process of translating the key documents to English.

The site has already found an "Internet buddy" and ardent supporter in another blog, . This blog has explicitly and openly voiced support for Jiwa Merdeka and the struggle against the bill. Most of its recent graphic posts were dealing with this issue. The latest one portrayed an image of a human torso with an uncovered navel and a question: What's wrong with allowing my belly button to have a peek of reality?

Well, it must be so wrong that the law will impose a hefty fine up to Rp 1 billion (over US$100,000) and a prison sentence up to ten years for navel displays.

6th March   Update: Navel Gazing in Bali

Based on an article from the Jakarta Post

Following a visit by legislators to Bali, Batam and Papua to gauge public opinion on the pornography bill, it's still a guessing game whether there will be major changes to the controversial bill.

While House of Representatives special committee chairman Balkan Kaplale promised people in Batam there would be major changes to the draft of the bill, legislator Rustam E. Tamburaka said in Bali that there may be some exceptions in the bill for Bali and Papua.

Members of the House committee returned Sunday from their visit to the provinces from where people had raised objections to the bill. A group of Balinese earlier told legislators how eroticism and sensuality were part of their culture.

In a meeting with several groups in Batam, Nutter Balkan had previously asked the participants to contemplate the timeliness of the bill, saying that a series of recent natural disasters and tragedies that hit Indonesia were "a warning from God". This bill is a part of our efforts to strengthen the moral fiber of the nation, some of which has been damaged , the nutter of the Democrat Party said, referring to prostitution, human trafficking and the representation of women in adult magazines and tabloids.

Balkan added that of 167 groups and individuals invited by the committee to discuss the bill, only 22 rejected it, including well-known figures from the art world. However, he was at a loss for words when a number of participants bombarded him with questions.

One participant raised concerns that he would be arrested when going online to view a painting of a nude woman by Italian artist Michelangelo. Others questioned the possible arrest of athletes, who wear shorts or miniskirts, and models sporting revealing clothing in fashion shows.

Balkan only replied that the draft of the bill, containing 11 chapters and 93 articles, would see major changes during an upcoming deliberation on the bill next week.

However Balkan's colleague, Rustam, said in Denpasar there would be possible exceptions in the implementation of the bill in Bali and Papua due to their unique cultural traditions. Both regions deserve consideration, he said amid a colorful protest against the bill.

The Golkar Party legislator said that the bill would respect the Papuan tradition of wearing the koteka (penis sheath) as well as foreign tourists who sunbathe in bikinis, because it is the tradition they bring from their countries. Balinese artists are also allowed to make nude sculptures or paintings, he added. Rustam added that legislators may scrap articles on penalties, which reach billions of rupiah, but did not elaborate.

Balinese legislator of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle said that she was opposed to the bill despite the fact that she was a member of the committee. It is useless for the government to discuss such a bill which displeases so many people, because it would waste time and money, she said.

8th March   Update: Indecent Haste

From Asia Media

The Indonesian House of Representatives should exercise extra caution before passing the pornography bill into law because many of its contentious articles have not been resolved, a respected Muslim cleric says.

Cleric Mustofa Bisri of the 40-million-strong Nahdlatul Ulama said legislators should listen to the opinions of many people from a variety of backgrounds and faiths before passing the bill into law:
The House should accommodate as many people's aspirations as possible.

Mustofa said the bill contained no clear-cut definition of pornography. The existing vague definition could allow multiple interpretations and cause confusion and conflict, he said.

The content of the draft bill is currently being disseminated in selected provinces before it is passed. Particularly controversial articles in the law involve regulations on public dress and restrictions on nudity in the media and art. If the bill became law, women who bare their shoulders or legs or artists who include nudity in their work could be prosecuted for indecency and could be jailed or fined up to Rp 2 billion (US$217,503).

Strongest opposition to the bill has come from predominantly Hindu Bali, where nudity in certain contexts is an accepted part of the island's art and culture. Balinese also worry that tourism could be affected by the law -- with holidaymakers forbidden from wearing revealing swimming outfits.

Balinese protesters have threatened to seek independence from Indonesia if the bill is passed as is. Opposition has also been voiced in Papua, another place where there are few cultural prohibitions on nudity, and in Batam, where tourism plays an important part in the island's economy.

Women's groups and artists throughout the country are also against the bill, which they say intrudes on personal privacy, curtails creativity and criminalizes women for their sexuality.

Mustofa criticized some Muslim groups that were trying to push the law through the House without proper consultation. The pressure was: a manifestation of panic from Muslims who have no self-confidence. It seems that certain Muslims are so worried about globalization and are unable to deal with it that they are resorting to speedily passing this law.

First drawn up in 1999, the bill had been shelved until last year when it was revived after pressure from Muslim-based parties concerned about what they perceived was the moral degradation of the nation.

A House legislator said the bill showed tolerance for pluralism was waning in this multi-religious and multicultural society. Sidharto Danusubroto of the Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle said pluralism was under threat as long the pornography bill existed in its present form: There are certain groups who are forcing their ideology on others.

Entertainment and tourism businesspeople in Batam have also now expressed their concerns over the controversial pornography bill following a meeting with a House special committee, but received little assurance their worries would be addressed.

At the meeting with the committee from the House of Representatives on Saturday, the businesspeople raised fears the bill, if passed into law, would have a negative impact on the island's tourism and entertainment sectors, as well as restrict people's freedom of expression.

Deputy head of investment and promotion at the Batam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), Jadi Rajagukguk, said: The draft bill is like the seed of a disease, and will make foreign tourists afraid to come to Indonesia.

Jadi said that even before the bill had been passed into law, Barelang Police had started warning shops against selling revealing clothing and women not to wear such clothing in public, causing concern among the community.
We heard that one shop opted to close after being warned by the police, and there are many shoppers at the malls who fear that the way they dress might cause the police to target them.

13th March   Update: Revealing More Opposition to Burkha Beachwear

From Green Left

At the forefront of the parties in parliament supporting the Burkha Beachwear bill is the Justice and Welfare Party (PKS), which has strong Islamic fundamentalist perspectives.

Other parties have vacillated or refused to take a clear stand on the law during the past year, but are being increasingly pressured to either reject or revise the bill. Politicians from the more mainstream political parties have come out in opposition to the bill. Both members of parliament from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), as well as its chairperson Megawati Sukarnoputri, have now stated their opposition to the law.

What appears to have tipped the balance in the world of elite politics is increasing fear of a threat to cultural pluralism in a society that has no single dominant cultural perspective.

Now former Golkar chairperson Akbar Tanjung has weighed in against the bill, arguing that there can be no national law that cannot be implemented in specific provinces. However it is not clear whether these mainstream parties will reject the bill or simply soften it. Vivi Widyawati, from Women’s Freedom in Jakarta, told Green Left Weekly that the campaign against the bill has created quite a polemic and is forcing pressure for revision. But it is not looking good for getting the bill stopped given the ambivalent stand of most of the parties.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has remained silent, emboldening the PKS and other supporters of the bill. Yudhoyono’s party, the Democrat Party, has so far supported the UUAPP.

There are strong fears that the passing of the bill will open the way for greater oppression of women. Even before it has passed, said Widyawati, there have been repressive actions. In some areas, raids and arrests have already started ... This is hitting poor women particular hard. For example, in Tangerang, on the outskirts of Jakarta, they have instituted a curfew for women. Three women were arrested and fined. In other areas, the sense that the law will be passed has emboldened local governments to decree the wearing of Muslim dress for women. Local governments have issued regulations against prostitution, under which women have been detained and sentenced simply because they were out alone at night.

In the island of Batam, just 20 minutes from Singapore by ferry, there have been increasing raids on shopping malls where women have been warned about wearing “provocative” clothes, such as sleeveless tops. In Aceh, there have been arrests of women walking with men who were not their husbands or relatives.

Not all Islamic groupings are supporting the bill. Various Islamic figures from the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the organisation that former President Abdurrahman Wahid headed for 20 years, have called on the bill to be revised and have criticised the stand taken by other Muslim organisations. One such cleric, Mustofa Bisri, was quoted in the Jakarta Post on March 6 as saying that some Muslim groups were attempting to push the law through parliament without proper consultation.

Islamic student organisations, such as the Indonesian Islamic Student Union (PMII) and the Association of NU Young Men and Women (IPPNU) have also outright rejected the bill.

From the Jakarta Post

Meanwhile lawmakers actually drafting the controversial pornography bill plan to do it in secret away from the critical eye of the media at an undisclosed hotel in Puncak, some 60 kilometers south of Jakarta.

Members of the special committee are tasked with listing contentious issues before the bill is submitted to a joint House of Representatives-ministerial committee for further scrutiny.

Legislator Balkan Kaplale of the Democratic Party, who chairs the committee, said "biased" reporting on the legislation only added fuel to the controversy: The media tends to run stories favoring those opposing the bill. This is unfair, he said at a meeting with Muslim activists who support the draft law.

Legislator Chairunnisa of the Golkar Party said the special team would hear opinions from 10 major political factions about the draft law. It will be the first time the House factions present their formal stances on the bill. So far, the only party that openly supports the bill is the Muslim-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS): Each faction is expected to submit a list of articles they deem contentious, Chairunnisa said.

Next week, they are expected to produce a list of the contentious articles and submit it along with the bill to the government. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will then read the bill and appoint several Cabinet ministers to work with the legislators on redrafting it before it is submitted to the House for debate. The President can reject the bill at this stage, sending it back to the initial House drafting team, although his approval is normally a formality.

14th March   Update: Indonesia on the Brink of Collapse

From the Jakarta Post

The pornography bill will focus on pornographic materials and their distribution, and do away with the vague definitions on content and personal conduct, the chairman of the House committee deliberating the bill said Monday.

Balkan Kaplale told The Jakarta Post that while there were disagreements among the committee members, they agreed that the bill should target curbing the distribution of pornographic materials: Pornographic products could be in the form of films, video cassettes, pictures printed and broadcast by mass media.

However, his deputy, Agung Sasongko of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said he walked out of an earlier committee meeting because it was not possible to begin redrafting the bill with input from the public still pouring in.

The PDI-P, the party which has expressed the most vocal opposition to the bill and controls 109 of 550 House seats, has requested a delay of at least six months from the committee's deadline for passage in April.

The executive director of the Center for Indonesian Law and Policy Studies, Bivitri Susanti, also urged legislators to focus on strict regulation of the distribution of pornography and the porn industry, instead of dealing with clamping down on obscene acts.

From Asia Media

Contentious clauses in the pornography bill, which has been assailed for encroaching on personal rights, will be dismantled as deliberations enter a critical stage, a House leader said.

Balkan Kaplele, the legislator and chairman of the special committee finalizing the bill, refused to specify which articles would be rewritten, but said the law would focus on general definitions of pornography and obscenity: We've taken quite a number of controversial clauses off the bill, particularly those which criminalize particular conduct. However, legislators are set to redefine the term pornography, considered vague and subject to varied interpretations under the bill.

The bill, initially proposed in 1999 and officially titled the Anti-Pornography and Pornographic Acts Bill, has gained its strongest support from orthodox Muslim groups. Thousands gathered Sunday at Al-Azhar mosque in South Jakarta to urge the government to quickly pass the bill into law.

Balkan's promise of major changes followed an announcement Friday by the Golkar Party and Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the two largest factions in the House, that they would strive to ensure it respected pluralism.

Another expected change is the removal of a clause on the establishment of an agency to oversee the implementation of standards of decency. Balkan said the task would be entrusted to the police: All breaches of the law on pornography and obscenity will be dealt with using the Criminal Code and relevant laws, while the police will have the authority to oversee the enforcement.

Muhammadiyah chairman Din Syamsuddin, who hosted the discussion, said the country needed a pornography law to "reverse the situation" of an increasingly liberal society:
We are concerned by the moral liberalization that will lead the nation to the brink of collapse, unless it is stopped as soon as possible.

23rd March   Update: Presidential Dressing Down

From the China Post

Legislation proposed by Muslim legislators to ban pornography and obscene acts in Indonesia will not affect whether scantily-clad tourists can sunbathe on the resort island of Bali, Indonesia's vice president said Monday.
Jusuf Kalla was responding to fears among members of the island's Hindu enclave that the bill would have a chilling effect on its tourist industry by criminalizing sunbathing, as well as being incompatible with its Hindu culture.

Do not worry, we (the government) don't agree (with everything in the bill), Kalla told tourist chiefs on the island.
I am sure if it is passed, it will not wreck your rights. All the political parties are listening to your complaints.

27th March   Update: Rallying for Obscene Law

From the Daily Times

About a thousand Muslims rallied in Indonesia's capital on Sunday to support a proposed law banning pornography and obscene acts .

The protesters, including many women and young children, chanted "We refuse pornography!" as they gathered under gloomy skies in Jakarta to press parliament to pass the bill, which is supported by conservative Islamic politicians and preachers.

Those who only see this issue from a human rights, liberal and secular point of view are trying to disrupt efforts to curb pornography, said Ma'ruf Amin, a member of Indonesia's council of clerics.


3rd March   Free Speech Jammed

From the Bangkok Post

The Thai government is trying to disrupt the operations of Manager Group's ASTV satellite TV channel, according to Pramen Pakdiwapee, the station's director. Pramen says ASTV's internet connections are mysteriously degraded every time it reports important news that could be viewed as anti-government.

ASTV has been the only channel to broadcast live the anti-government rallies since they started on Feb 4 at the Royal Plaza. Before that, it broadcast the Muang Thai Rai Sapda (Thailand Weekly) programme hosted by Manager founder Sondhi Limthongkul after the programme was booted off Channel 9 by the Mass Communication Organisation of Thailand.

ASTV currently has two separate 40 megabytes-per-second links, both with its connection provider. One link is used to send the seven ASTV channels to a satellite uplink station in Hong Kong and then to the Dutch NSS-6 satellite for broadcast to 20 countries in the Southeast Asian region. The other goes to Singapore to be uplinked to a satellite for broadcast in the USA and Canada.

Pramen said that while both links are with the same provider, there are always problems with the Hong Kong link while the Singapore link is much more reliable: I think the government does not know about the Singapore link or maybe does not care.

Asked to comment on allegations that ASTV was little more than an anti-government channel, he said channels 3,5,7,9,11 and ITV are mainly pro-government. What we are doing is giving the 10% of people who think differently a chance to express their views and opinions. That is democracy; that is free speech. Even if we give them 80% of the airtime on ASTV, it is still a tiny fraction of the total.

Meanwhile, Niran Yaowapa, webmaster of the website said authorities have tried various ways to disrupt the website. In January, access to the manager website was blocked from overseas. Such blocking can only happen at the gateway level (run by CAT Telecom), he said. He dismissed the possibility the servers were overloaded, as traffic was well within normal levels that day.

A source at CAT, speaking on condition of anonymity, said CAT had indeed blocked internet addresses belonging to the Manager and ASTV on Jan 27. However, the manager of the internet exchange Aniruth Hiranraks ordered the ban lifted the same day as soon as he found out, the source said.

This led to CAT acting CEO Phisal Jorphochaudom ordering Aniruth's transfer from the network section on Feb 1. A flurry of protests followed from the media and the CAT labour union and he was soon reinstated.


2nd March  25 to Life for Nutter Baiting

From CTV

Canadian police are suggesting that a new videogame, 25 to Life , should be banned.

Games where the player kills other characters are nothing new. What makes 25 to Life different is that players can choose to be police or criminals. If a gamer chooses to be a crook, killing police becomes a way to score points.

The Toronto Police Association, the organization representing officers, is disturbed by the game's premise. President Dave Wilson discourages parents and game players from buying it, and store from selling the game: Anything we can do to discourage this video from being bought is a good thing. If a ban would discourage it then we should do it.

The game was created by U.K.-based Eidos. In the United States it has come under fire from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF). The group started a petition to ban the game from being sold. The NLEOMF hoped to get 17,500 signatures in support of their efforts. According to their website, more than 200,000 signatures have been collected so far.

25 to Life   is rated M for mature gamers. That means only players aged 17 and over can buy the game.


27th February   Emergency Repression

From Sun Star

Philippines media yesterday rallied behind The Daily Tribune, which was the subject of the “first attack” against freedom of the press after President Arroyo put the country under a state of emergency.

Police raided The Daily Tribune office in Port Area, Manila, past midnight Saturday and seized several copies of its Saturday issue that were about to be dispatched nationwide. PNP Director General Arturo Lomibao said that under General Order Number 5 issued in relation to Presidential Proclamation 1017, the PNP has a clear mandate to carry out appropriate action and security measures to prevent an escalation of the situation.”

Aside from The Daily Tribune’s office, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group operatives also attempted to raid the office of Abante, a tabloid, also in Port Area, Manila, and offices of Malaya but the policemen withdrew when they noticed several crew of two television stations in the area.

Niñez Cacho Olivares, publisher of The Daily Tribune, decried the act saying that the police conducted the raid without a warrant. She also said they will file a case: What’s this martial law? Does the state of national emergency allow the policemen of (President) Arroyo to just confiscate anything they please?

Marites Danguilan-Vitug, editor of Newsbreak Magazine, feared that they might suffer the same fate that The Daily Tribune had experienced: We view the raid on Tribune, an opposition newspaper, with alarm. It appears to signal the start of a crackdown on media organizations. We have always believed that repression is never the answer to a critical press . Vitug reminded authorities that a free press is a cornerstone of a democracy and without it, “we cannot claim to be a democratic country.”

Vergel Santos of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) likened the incident that happened to The Daily Tribune to the early days of martial rule. Santos said media organizations should band together and oppose the proclamation or any attempt that would curb the freedom of the press.

Also, the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) said it is about time that journalists must take a stand regarding the issue. Carlos Conde of NUJP feared that the situation might worsen had not media would not take any stand on the matter: This is going to get worse. We are worried and concerned about the implications of this proclamation on press freedom.

The five daily newspapers in Cebu yesterday also said the government cannot censor the media as proclamation of a state of emergency does not suspend the constitutional right to freedom of expression. Proclamation 1017, which put the country under a state of emergency, said that certain sectors of the media are “recklessly” promoting the cause of those who want to bring down the Arroyo administration.


26th February   Indians Reclaiming Cowboy Territory

From Adam McConnel on Media Channel

I haven't seen the film, but from what I understand, the Gary Busey character has been interpreted as anti-Semitic, but the character may or may not be obviously so. The interpretation of the film also depends a lot on how knowledgeable one is about events in Iraq during the past three years; for that reason, Americans are likely to be upset about the film because they don't know that much of what is in the film is, unfortunately, taken directly from reality. For example, how many wedding parties (in the region guns are shot off as a part of the celebration and so have been 'mistaken' by the Americans as 'enemy fire' on a number of occasions, with high numbers of dead and wounded) have the Americans bombed in the past 5 years in both Afghanistan and Iraq? The number is higher than one might think.

There is also the problem that this film does to Americans what American films have doing to Muslims (or Turks or Arabs) for, well, 80 years, that is it stereotypes and denigrates them. Two wrongs don't make a right, but Americans need to bear that in mind. . .

From The Telegraph

A virulently anti-Semitic film about the Iraq war has provoked a storm of protest in Germany after it sold out to cheering audiences from the country's 2.5 million-strong Turkish community.

Valley of the Wolves , by the Turkish director Serdan Akar, shows crazed American GIs massacring innocent guests at a wedding party and scenes in which a Jewish surgeon removes organs from Iraqi prisoners in a style reminiscent of the Nazi death camp doctor Joseph Mengele.

Bavaria's interior minister admitted last week that he had dispatched intelligence service agents to cinemas showing the film to "gauge" audience reaction and identify potential radicals. Edmund Stoiber, the state's conservative prime minister, has appealed to cinema operators to remove what he described as "this racist and anti-Western hate film" from their programmes.

The £6 million film, the most expensive Turkish production ever made, had already proved a box office hit in Turkey, where it first opened last month at a gala attended by the wife of the country's prime minister.

The production went on general release in Germany a fortnight ago and has had full houses ever since. More than 130,000 people, most of them young Muslims, saw the film in the first five days of its opening. At a packed cinema in a largely Turkish immigrant district of Berlin last week, Valley of the Wolves was being watched almost exclusively by young Turkish men. They clapped furiously when the Turkish hero of the film was shown blowing up a building occupied by the United States military commander in northern Iraq.

In the closing sequence, the hero is shown plunging a dagger into the heart of a US commander called Sam, played by Billy Zane. The audience responded by standing up and chanting "Allah is great!"

The nature of the film and the enthusiastic reception given to it by young Muslims, has both shocked and polarised politicians and community leaders. Bernd Neumann, the culture minister in Chancellor Angela Merkel's government complained last week that the reaction to the film raises serious questions about the values of our society and our ability to instil them.

Kenan Kolat, the head of Germany's Turkish community, insisted that a ban on the film would make matters worse. If it is withdrawn, it will raise levels of identification with the film. A democracy must be able to endure films that it doesn't approve of.

But those arguing for a ban on Valley of the Wolves appeared to have won a partial victory last week when Cinemaxx, one of Germany's largest cinema chains, announced that it was withdrawing the film.


24th February   Chinese Whispers of Freedom

From the BBC

Chinese Communist Party bosses are as determined as ever to maintain control over every word published or broadcast in the world's most populous country. A media clampdown - the latest of many over the years - has seen a string of journalists disciplined, dismissed or even jailed for violating official guidelines.

Some of the campaign's targets, however, are refusing to be silenced. And they have found plenty of supporters - some in unlikely quarters - willing to speak up on their behalf.

There is now an unstoppable wave of demands for more freedom of expression and resistance to the old propaganda policies, said Jiao Guobiao, who was forced to resign his post as a journalism professor last year after accusing the government of handling the press in a manner worthy of Nazi Germany.

Far more embarrassing, not to say ominous, has been the chorus of domestic protest over the closure in late January of Bing Dian (Freezing Point), a weekly publication noted for its cutting-edge reporting on sensitive topics.

Unlike most journalists punished in the past, the two editors loudly disputed the move to censor them. In comments widely aired on the internet they called it an "illegal abuse of power" aimed at preventing the growth of a civil society.

In an apparent climb-down, it was later announced that the magazine would reopen on March 1, but without its two chief editors. The reopened magazine would be an empty shell of its previous self, they said, and had been ordered to print a full rebuttal of the article on historical censorship which triggered the closure.

Among those who have rallied behind the editors are a group of former senior Party and media officials, including Mao Zedong's secretary and a former Editor in Chief of the People's Daily. The Taiwanese-born columnist Lung Ying-tai, whose controversial articles for Bing Dian may have been the real reason for the closure, has sent an open letter of protest to President Hu Jintao.

She believes the move against the influential magazine was a calculated one made by the president himself. His power base lies in the Communist Party Youth League, whose newspaper, China Youth Daily, publishes Bing Dian as a weekly supplement.

The decision to reopen the supplement was an attempt to ease the anger about the closure, she told the BBC: Freezing out the two prominent and courageous editors , she added, was designed to warn all other journalists to behave.

Propaganda officials have also faced other public challenges to their authority, including a rare strike by reporters in support of three editors dismissed from a leading daily, the Beijing News, late last year.

But what really worries them is that those now pushing for a lifting of censorship include not just journalists and activists, but also people in business, government and law who believe media reform is a necessary part of China's modernisation.

It is not good for the Communist Party to keep to its old ways , said Jiang He, who runs a hi-tech company in the western city of Chongqing.  China's rapid economic growth is proving a strong force for change, he said, pointing out that the media was already far more open in many ways than in the past. It's such an information age. There's no way anyone can block everything, he said.


24th February   Silencing Opposition to Thaksin

From The Nation

A senator representing Thailand's northeastern Nakhon Ratchasima Province on Tuesday alleged that government agencies are blocking local residents from political information by forcing cable TV providers to cancel their services despite having subscriptions.

Such acts will only drive more people to join the upcoming rally against the prime minister, warned the senator, Pichet Pattanachoti.

Pichet said residents of Chumpuang District and surrounding areas had complained that government officials forced their cable TV providers to disconnect their services to prevent them from seeing the news, as the opposition against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has grown with democratic activists planning the massive rally against him on February 26.

Villagers were told by their cable TV providers that they have been ordered to disconnect the services by government officials, police and district chiefs, he said:
Doing this will push more people to rally to oust the prime minister.

From the forum at Thai Visa

Presumably they are blocking The Nation, ASTV channels (1-6) and a few others that "dare" to criticize this government. There may be other Thai channels doing this as well that I'm not aware of.

We've been lucky none of them have been removed from our service as I thought would happen eventually...

Spoke to soon!
Tonight's ASTV 1 presentation of a demonstration down South was temporarily replaced by a different channel.


21st February


  Not Just Simple Contradiction

Surely Austria has enough incitement laws to deal with any serious crimes worthy of 3 years in jail without needing to stoop to punishing the ludicrous contradiction of well established history.

From The Times

David Irving, the far-right British historian, sat stunned and open-mouthed yesterday when an Austrian court found him guilty of denying the Holocaust and sentenced him to three years in jail.

I’m very shocked and I’m going to appeal, Irving said as he was bundled out of the Vienna courtroom by armed anti-riot police.

From the public gallery a British supporter shouted “Stay strong, David”, before he too was led away.

But in Britain there was dismay at a verdict that could turn Irving into a right-wing martyr.

Irving had pleaded guilty to denying the Holocaust in two speeches in Austria in 1989. He was arrested when he re-entered the country, where it is a crime to deny the Holocaust, last November, and had been in custody since.

During his seven-hour trial yesterday Irving sought to convince the jury that he had changed his mind and now acknowledged the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis. But the judge and jury were unswayed.

One hundred and fifty-eight people have been convicted of Holocaust denial in Austria between 1999 and 2004, but only a handful other than Irving have been imprisoned.


20th February


  Onslaught of Obscene Repression

From Web India 123

Officials at the Bangladesh Ministry of Information said that a proposed law would be part of the governments drive to check the onslaught of obscenity on the local film industry. They said the plan is to ban the exhibition of English films in cinema halls in the districts and local levels.

The government was considering a number of steps to rid the film industry of vulgarity and encourage production of good films for healthy development of the industry, the New Age newspaper quoted Bangladesh's Information Minister M Shamsul Islam as saying.

The minister said some dishonest producers, distributors and cinema hall owners were showing uncensored and obscene English films, which could lead to the moral degeneration of society, particularly the young generation. So, we must take action against those who are responsible for the exhibition of obscene films, he added.

Earlier this month, the government had enacted a law to give some teeth to the Film Sensor Act. Producers and actors associations then claimed that the new law might be used as a tool for harassment against them.

The Ministry of Information will send the proposal to parliament shortly, even as the entertainment industry has given a mixed reaction to the move.

English films do not necessarily contain obscenity, and every year, Hollywood produces plenty of good movies. So, if the government enacts the law, moviegoers here will be deprived of watching many good films, said the owner of a movie-theatre in Dhaka.


18th February


  Free Speech Denial

From DW World

Ernst Zndel, a Holocaust denier is in front of a German court on charges of inciting racial hatred and defaming the dead.

According to prosecutors, Ernst Zndel is one of the "most active" Holocaust deniers today. He began distributing Nazi and neo-Nazi propaganda in the 1970s and has written several books praising Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. Since 1995, he has been associated with a Web site that carries his name and is one of biggest online repositories of Holocaust-denial propaganda.

But Zndel, who was born in Germany's Black Forest region, was only able to engage in such activities because he was living outside of his native county, in Canada and the United States.

Although freedom of the press and of expression is written into German law, the country is generally more wary of free speech than the US, where Zndel's dissemination of racist literature and refutation of the Holocaust,  while distasteful to most, was perfectly legal.

In Germany, however, it was not. Zndel was deported to his native country in March 2005 after a long legal battle with the Canadian government. He found himself immediately under arrest and up against the German justice system. If he is found guilty by a court in Mannheim of incitement to racial hatred, libel and defamation of the memory of the dead, he faces up to five years in prison.

Article 5 of Germany's constitution, or Basic Law, enshrines the right of freedom of speech and of the press. Everyone has the right to freely express and disseminate their opinions orally, in writing or visually and to obtain information from generally accessible sources without hindrance, states paragraph one of the law. Freedom of the press and freedom of reporting through audiovisual media shall be guaranteed. There shall be no censorship.

But the next paragraph puts certain limits on that freedom, which were deemed necessary when the Basic Law was proclaimed in 1949, just four years after the end of World War II and the downfall of the Nazi dictatorship: These rights are subject to limitations embodied in the provisions of general legislation, statutory provisions for the protection of young persons and the citizen's right to personal respect, reads the second paragraph.

German law therefore constrains press freedom, said Udo Branahl, a professor of media law at the University of Dortmund: The penal law code says Holocaust denial is a punishable offense. That ban limits press freedom and overrides the right to free expression in the mass media.

So while in the US and Canada, Zndel could freely present his "evidence" that the gas chambers and crematoria of the Third Reich did not exist, in Germany, he was committing a crime that he would be tried for, even though it was not committed on German soil.
n weighing free speech against individual rights

The country's Federal Constitutional Court confirmed in 1994 that Holocaust revisionism is not protected speech. In weighing the importance of free speech against that of individual rights, courts must consider on the one hand the severity of the offense caused by Holocaust denial to the Jewish population in light of the suffering inflicted upon it by Germany, the court wrote at the time.
This court has consistently protected the personal honor of those defamed above the right of others to make patently false statements.


14th February


 No Violence, No Drink, No Nothing

F rom The Nation

The Thai Social Development and Human Security Ministry will today propose that Cabinet ban television programming with violent content from being broadcast between 4pm and 10pm.

It also seeks a total ban on programming that depicts smoking and the consumption of alcohol.

Only programmes suitable for children will be allowed during the six-hour period, according to the proposal, although the length of the slot may be changed after further study by academics and the Culture Ministry. Programmes aired during the period must be educational and factual, and should not include offensive content.

The proposal calls for the establishment of a monitoring panel that could include representatives from the government, academia, business and civic groups. Viewers will be able to have their say via a telephone hotline, 1111, or mail.


13th February   Respecting Foreign Cultures

Based on an article from Irrawaddy

Indonesia’s government has imposed a new law aimed at inflicting control over the broadcasting of foreign programs. The government says that the change has been made to preserve “local culture” and to prevent “indecent” presentations from foreign broadcasters.

The new law, applicable to public service broadcasts, covers the monitoring of programs, the allocation of frequencies and the awarding of licenses to broadcast stations. It also limits the content of foreign transmissions and the ownership of broadcasting outlets.

Indonesian Information and Communication Minister, Sofyan Djalil, said the new regulations will mean avoiding anarchy in the broadcast industry.

Until now, most of Indonesia’s 160 radio and television stations have regularly broadcast content from major foreign media groups such as the UK-based BBC, Germany’s Deutsche Welle, Voice of America, Radio Hilversum from the Netherlands and Radio Australia.

While an official announcement of the new law was made on January 30, the proposed changes were delayed following complaints from media activists.

Last week, the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists said: the regulations will severely restrict foreign broadcast content, having a detrimental impact upon media freedom by limiting news and information sources. We implore the Indonesian government to respect the public’s right to freedom of information.

In a region where press freedom is too often trampled underfoot, the Jakarta government should protect rather than obstruct it, said the Paris-based press watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

The new law marks a definite shift for the Jakarta government, which has maintained a largely hands-off policy with regard to media operations in the country since the fall of the Suharto regime eight years ago.


8th February  2 Years Prison for a Glimpse of Naval

Based on an article from the BBC

Indonesia, home to the world's largest Muslim population, is caught up in a growing debate about pornography. News that the raunchy Playboy magazine has signed a deal to produce a local edition has fuelled the controversy.

Parliament is expected to pass a new anti-pornography bill by the middle of this year but the draft legislation is proving divisive.

A series of demonstrations has taken place in the capital, Jakarta, in support of the tightening of the laws.

The head of the parliamentary committee which drafted the new legislation, Balkan Kaplale, said Indonesia was in a state of moral decline: It is terrible, our poor country. We are a religious people but now Indonesia is third worst in the world for porn after Scandinavia and Russia. It is so easily available and it is going unchecked. That is why we need this law.

Few people in Indonesia would openly argue against the need to control the sale of porn. And yet the proposed anti-pornography bill has come up against strong opposition.

The draft document includes articles which would make it an offence to show what it calls sensual body parts, including the navel, hips and thighs. Those found guilty of breaking the law could face a two-year jail sentence.

Husna Mulya, a women's rights activist, said the anti-pornography law had been hijacked by groups pushing a hardline conservative agenda. The people behind this are using religious values to make their argument, especially Muslim groups. It is not stated in the bill, but the standard being used is the standard of Sharia law. They say people are not dressing in line with Indonesian culture. But the fashion in Indonesia now is to wear trousers that are tight around the hips, and even traditional clothes are often designed to show off a woman's breasts.

And it is not just women who are worried.

The artistic lobby is up in arms as well. The draft bill would make it illegal to record anything which portrays erotic dancing, or kissing on the lips. It would mean ground-breaking Indonesian films such as Arisan would be banned. Arisan is a humorous take on the life of wealthy, 30-something Jakartans which addresses traditionally taboo subjects like adultery and homosexuality.

The screenplay was written by one of Indonesia's leading film critics, Joko Anwar. He said the anti-pornography bill was a dangerous and unnecessary form of artistic censorship that would hamper filmmakers' creativity. We are not going to make some very graphic sexual scenes because we know that it wouldn't be accepted by an Indonesian audience. We already have that filter ourselves so I don't think it needs to be put into law. It's not democracy. It's not about pornography, it's your freedom to express yourself.

The consensus in parliament is such that the anti-pornography bill will almost certainly be passed. The question then becomes how it will be interpreted and enforced by a notoriously corrupt legal system.

But it is perhaps an encouraging sign of Indonesia's growing democratic maturity that a piece of draft legislation is being debated in public at all.


8th February   Immoral Legislators

Based on an article from the Sun Star

In Dumaguete City, Philippines, Vice Mayor William Ablong welcomed a move by members of the House of Representatives to impose a stiffer penalty on persons engaged in obscene, pornographic, and immoral activities. The proposal was to increase the penalty to P1 million or its equivalent life imprisonment .

The vice mayor is a top nutter and official of Couples for Christ in Negros Oriental and a sponsor of an anti-pornography ordinance in the City Council.

Meanwhile, Representative Emmanuel Joel Villanueva of Partylist, CIBAC, called for an update on the country's penal laws to adapt it to advances in technology. Villanueva said despite provisions in the law defining and penalizing indecent act, pornography still prevails and is even more rampant because violators have grown bolder in recent years.

He said the campaign of the Philippine National Police in 2003 alone has resulted to seizure of 365,602 pornographic VCDs, DVDs, and VHS, with an estimated value of P14,733,467 and 120 cases were also filed in the same year for violations of existing anti-pornography laws.
It is unfortunate that there seems to have no little impact on the continuing proliferation of immoral doctrines, obscene publications and exhibitions, indecent shows, and the despicable practice of involving children in them.

He said this could be attributed to the fact that aside from its high profitability, low penalties are being imposed. Villanueva said even if an offender was convicted, there was no assurance he would be in jail and kept away from the public: The fine is so negligible when compared to the profit pornography business generates.


7th February   Sex in the City of Riyadh

From The Telegraph

A Taboo 'behind the veil' novel tops the Saudi bestseller lists. Its heroines are four well-to-do girls about town and its subject their hot gossip on love and lust, men and money. But the setting for this taboo-breaking, best-selling tale of sex and the city is not New York. It is Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Together, Lamees, Sadeem, Qamrah and Mashael are The Girls of Riyadh - the title for a tell-all novel set in the Islamic world's most conservative society, where the book is causing both sensation and scandal.

The book's Saudi author, Rajaa al Sanie, is just 24. But in the few months since her novel was published in the Lebanese capital Beirut, it has been banned in her own country and she has been propelled from unknown dental student to celebrity author in the eye of a moral storm.

In the kingdom where women are banned from driving, the behind-the-wheel exploits of her Dom Perignon quaffing heroines have not been "approved" for publication by the Ministry of Information.

The censor's stance, however, has made the book much sought after - black market editions are selling for up to 10 times their cover price of $10. Some people are smuggling it in from other Arab countries, and some have even copied the whole thing out and are sending it by e-mail.

Such is demand that The Girls of Riyadh has become the number one best-seller in the Arab world. We are on our fourth print run , said its publisher, Dina Dalli, in Beirut. No one has spoken about the private lives of women in Saudi like this. It's been a taboo subject.

Despite the controversy over her book, Ms al Sanie said her family had been supportive of her literary ambitions and she had not encountered any problems with Saudi Arabia's religious police.

But her brother, Ahmad, feared that she might pay the price later. She's not married yet , he said,
and society doesn't forgive or forget.


5th February   Customary Rights Abuse wrapped in Pretty New Words

From NZ Herald

New customs powers to seize goods proposed in New Zealand.

The "draconian" rules which govern the powers of Custom officers to seize and keep goods may be due for a major overhaul with the Law Commission recommending the system be simplified.

The Commission has made 48 recommendations aimed at modernising the Customs and Excise Act 1996 which Law Commissioner Warren Young has described as "well out of date". It is framed in centuries old language and concepts from the time of smuggling around the shores of Britain. It is difficult to understand and in fact the legal principles are not always clear, Dr Young said.

The report recommends replacing "forfeiture and seizure" with "detention and confiscation".

Customs would be able to detain goods at the border on the same basis as now but there would be more safeguards for the rights of people who had goods confiscated.

Goods considered harmful or forbidden -- such as illegal substances, pornography, dangerous or pirated goods -- would be confiscated permanently, as is the case now.

But owners of goods which were not harmful and were detained because of violations such as mislabelling or payment of incorrect duty would be entitled to recover their goods by correcting the violation or paying the fine.

The current forfeiture system was disproportionate in many situations and a monetary penalties system was recommend for less serious offences, Dr Young said: In addition people should always be able to apply for a review and ultimately appeal to a court when goods are detained or confiscated. New Zealanders have a lot at stake in protecting the borders but we are also great travellers and people need to have confidence that the law in this area is fair.

Key features of the proposed reforms are:

  • Categorisation of goods in three main categories -- forbidden goods, restricted goods and craft used in the commission of offences;
  • Notices to people affected by the detention or proposed confiscation of goods;
  • An opportunity for people to respond to the notice before a penalty is imposed or the goods confiscated;
  • Introduction of administrative monetary penalties for less serious offences;
  • An opportunity for people to appeal to the Customs Appeal Authority if dissatisfied by a Customs' review of the original decision;
  • Protection of the interests of third parties.


3rd February   Closing Gates After the Horse Has Bolted

From AVN

A recent story reported that Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said that attempts by governments to censor Website contents were doomed, because banned information can seep out, despite official injunctions.

The ability to really withhold information no longer exists, Gates told a government forum on the Internet. Gates also commented that his company must comply with legal requirements in the countries where it operates.

The report went on to say that late last year, Microsoft shut down the site of a popular Chinese blogger at Beijing's request. The blog by Zhao Jing, writing under the pen name An Ti, appraised sensitive topics such as China's relations with Taiwan and media freedoms in China.

But the spread of free, private e-mail enabled users to disseminate information anyway, Gates said: You may be able to take a very visible Website and say that something shouldn't be there, but if there's a desire by the population to know something ... it's going to get out very broadly via e-mail, Gates told the forum.

Some of Microsoft's rivals, including Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO - news), also have hit problems with censorship in foreign countries.

Brad Smith, Microsoft's top lawyer, said Tuesday the company was tightening its policies regarding blocking Web journals.

The story went on to say that the software company operates a popular blogging technology called MSN Spaces. Smith said the changes would include efforts to make the banned content available to users elsewhere in the world even if Microsoft decided it had a legal duty to block it in a particular country.


2nd February   Appalled in Nepal

From The Hindu

Three dozen journalists were arrested in Nepal as they held demonstrations to protest against the curbs imposed on the media after King Gyanendra's assumption of absolute power a year ago.

Two dozen scribes were arrested from New Road, a restricted area in Kathmandu, as they demonstrated, marking the first anniversary of the royal takeover as 'Black Day' to protest against curbs on media.

Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) President Bishnu Nisthuri, former Press Council Chairman Harihar Birahi, and 'Himla Khabarpatrika' Editor Kanakmani Dixit, were the prominent journalists who were arrested, FNJ sources said.

Journalists Ramesh Bista and Bijaya Sivakoti were also seriously injured as paramilitary forces indiscriminately baton-charged the scribes holding peaceful demonstration, the sources said.

In Jhapa in eastern Nepal, 12 more journalists were arrested while trying to bring out an anti-government rally.

Nepalese journalists have launched a series of demonstrations to oppose the curbs, press censorship, harsh press laws and ban on FM broadcast.

FNJ described the one-year direct rule of the King as "black period" in the Nepalese media history.

Over 400 journalists have been arrested so far and some 240 newspapers faced various kinds of censorship by the government, stated a report published by FNJ.


2nd February   Three Years Inside for an Onscreen Kiss

From Monsters & Critics

Bangladesh parliament has adopted an anti-obscenity law that can land any 'pornographic' film maker in prison for three years, officials said recently.

Parliament officials said the Censorship of Films Act was passed in the legislative assembly after a threadbare discussion held overnight by the deputies.

It is a law against obscenity and vulgarity and is not aimed at curbing freedom of expression in any form, said Information and Broadcasting Minister Shamsul Islam who had introduced the bill in the assembly and sought the support of the lawmakers for its approval.

The new law provides for three years in jail for any film maker whose production is adjudged by censor officials as pornographic. Islam said the new law would also protect the local cinema industry from the influence of pornographic film videos smuggled into the country from abroad.

Critics said the new censorship law could be used by the government against creative film makers questioning established values in the society.

Kissing on screen as well as scenes of physical contacts between a man and a woman are snipped off the reels by the censor authorities before the films run in cinema halls across the country.


31st January   Cyber Snitches

Based on an article f rom Manager Online

The Thai Information and Communication Technology Ministry (ICT) is taking another crack at banishing pornography from the country, this time by using hundreds of cyber snitches and closed-circuit television (CCTV) in post offices.

Just a few months after Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said that the government would begin to shift its focus to an agenda aimed at curing social ills, including pornography, ICT Minister Sora-at Klinpratoom said earlier this week that today will see the start of an initiative that will be executed by hundreds of employees and backed by tougher regulations, with the aim of ensuring that the country’s decency laws are observed.

The ICT has been blocking illegal websites for years, but, according to a spokesman, it has been nearly impossible to stop people from surfing illegal sites , due to the open nature of internet communication technology and the proliferation of websites with obscene content. The ministry estimates that there are more than one million websites with content that violates the law, and these pornographic websites get about one million hits from inside Thailand every day, Sora-at said yesterday.

So far, the ICT has gathered a list of fewer than 2,000 websites with content that is deemed illegal, and has requested that internet service providers (ISPs), such as CAT Telecom (CAT), True and CS Loxinfo, block their users from accessing the sites.

Most internet users access the web through a handful of licensed service providers, all of whom can filter out material from banned websites, said a spokesman at CAT. Every [ISP] has a proxy server and all data go through that server before they appear on subscribers’ computers, he said. So, it is easy for ISPs to filter content. Users usually don’t even know about the filtration process, as banned sites will often come up with normal error messages or “request denied” pages, he said.

The ministry spokesman said that, although they are difficult to breach, filters can stop access to specified websites only, and the ICT has not yet been able to identify every website which violates Thai law.

To get around the problem, the ministry has employed hundreds of so-called “cyber inspectors,” who scour the internet to identify websites with nudity or other obscene material. The ICT has its own website, where citizens can report potentially illegal web content, and it recently began giving away parental control software.

Starting today, the ministry is sponsoring a radio show which parents can call to report illegal websites and receive advice on how to monitor their children’s internet usage. It has installed a telephone hotline and is monitoring post office boxes to catch people who send printed pornography through the mail.

People can rent post office boxes, but they don’t have to register their names, [and] so, they can use them to send [pornographic] DVDs, books [and] CDs. Starting [today], everyone has to register to have a post office box number, and we will soon have CCTV in some post offices, the ministry spokesman said.

The ministry does not have an estimate of the number of people it suspects of viewing online pornography, but if internet porn is as widespread as estimated by Sora-at, the government’s efforts to block websites will have little impact, said telecommunications analysts, who expressed doubt over the government’s ability to stop people from accessing online pornography sites, even with the new policies and the cooperation of ISPs.


26th January   Searching for Appeasement

From The Independent

Google has become the latest technology company to founder against the Great Firewall of China with the news that it will censor its search engine to give it greater access to China's fast-growing market., the company's site aimed at boosting its market share in China, was launched yesterday but will censor itself of politically sensitive material.

The new version could restrict access to thousands of sensitive terms and web sites and make searching for information on topics such as Tibet, Taiwanese independence and the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre even harder.

There are 111 million internet users in China and the number is rising swiftly. A growing market of that size is too big to ignore. A survey during the summer showed Google was losing market share to companies such as the Beijing-based Baidu, in which it has a small stake. Domestic giants including Inc. and Inc., along with China sites operated by Yahoo Inc and Microsoft, all routinely block searches on politically sensitive terms.

Google said that it planned to notify users when access had been restricted and argued that it could play a more useful role in China by participating than by boycotting it.

The press freedom group Reporters Without Borders described the launch as a black day for freedom of expression in China . It said that US firms were bending to the same censorship rules as Chinese competitors.

The Free Tibet Campaign described the move as an endorsement of censorship and repression. With this move, Google's motto 'do no evil' is in smithereens, said the campaign's spokeswoman Alison Reynolds. This also further contradicts those political leaders who attempt to convince us that foreign business can change China for the better.

The Free Tibet Campaign has already protested to Google about its service "Google Earth", in which the word Tibet is not recognised.


23rd January   Turkey Relents on Talk of Genocide

From The Guardian

The Turkish authorities have dropped charges against the celebrated novelist Orhan Pamuk, thus avoiding the international opprobrium which would have mounted if he had been convicted of a crime for expressing his opinion.

The justice minister, Cemil Cicek, yesterday disavowed responsibility for the case and a municipal court in Istanbul dropped the charges, according to CNN Turk television last night.The EU had said the case raised concerns over freedom of speech in Turkey as it seeks to win EU membership by demonstrating its commitment to European values.

Pamuk was put in the dock last month in Istanbul amid ugly scenes, charged with a criminal offence and facing a potential three years in jail for saying to a Swiss magazine that 30,000 people had died in the conflict between Kurdish nationalists and Turkish security forces, and that a million Armenians had died in Turkey during the first world war - "and nobody but me dares to talk about it".

If the writer's observations may seem commonplace outside Turkey, they were met with protests in the country, which is sensitive to any charge of genocide, which it rejects, in relation to Armenia, and has struggled with armed Kurdish separatism. The decision to try Pamuk, author of the acclaimed novels Snow and My Name Is Red , shocked Istanbul liberals, outraged rights activists and the European Union, and embarrassed the reformist wing of the Turkish government.

A game of pass the parcel followed when the judge in the case adjourned the trial in December and ruled that the justice ministry had to decide on whether it should proceed. Cicek yesterday passed the problem back to the court which promptly said there was no case to answer.

While Pamuk supporters were pleased his ordeal was over, anti-censorship lobbyists noted that scores of others - writers, publishers, and academics - still face trial for "denigrating Turkishness" or for publishing books deemed to be offensive to Turkey's official self-image. The writer was charged under a catch-all article in the penal code which criminalises any belittling of "Turkishness" and also outlaws "insulting" all of the major offices of state as well as the military and parliament.


23rd January
Updated 25th January
Updated 5th February
  Bollywood Returns to Pakistan

From the China Post

Films from India's prolific Bollywood movie industry, officially banned for decades in Pakistan but still watched by millions there, have become legal.

Pakistan outlawed public screenings of Indian films in 1965, the year the nuclear-armed neighbor countries fought the second of their three wars. But now, both countries are working hard on a sweeping peace process.

The Times of India newspaper quoted Saeed Rizvi, president of the Pakistan Film Producers Association, as saying the Indian film ban has been lifted: The censor board on Friday deleted the words 'Indian artiste' and 'Indian director' from the guidelines, which had earlier prevented release of films of Indian actors and directors in Pakistan .

India's Hindi language film industry, dubbed Bollywood, is the world's largest by viewership and the number of films it churns out each year. Millions around the world watch the exuberant song-and-dance features, even in countries where Hindi isn't understood.

Even during the ban, Indian films are hugely popular in Pakistan. Illicit copies are easy to find. Pakistani cultural products are legal in India, and Pakistan's poetry, songs and television dramas are widely popular there. Several Pakistani poets and singers are superstars in India.

The first Indian film to be shown in Pakistan with formal permission will be the 1984 romance Sohni Mahiwal a joint venture between a Russian and an Indian company.

25th January   Update : Indian Movies Still Considered Unacceptable

From Hindustan Times

Pakistan on Monday said it would permit public screening of the 1984 Indian movie Sohni Mahiwal , a love story set in Punjab, but it denied having lifted a 40-year-old ban on viewing of Indian movies.

The government has allowed the exhibition of only one Indian movie Sohni Mahiwal on the basis of a court decision, Censor Board chairman Ziauddin said.

Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said he was unaware of any decision on the lifting of a ban on Indian films: I have no knowledge of any such decision, Ahmed said reacting to comments by office bearers of the Film Producers Association (FPA) and the Cinema Owners Association (CAO) that the Pakistan government has approved a request to delete the words "Indian artiste" and "Indian director" from censorship guidelines that prevented the release of films featuring Indian actors and directors.

An appeal was made to President Pervez Musharraf and the president has omitted this clause, Pakistan Film Producers Association President Sayed Rizvi had been quoted as saying. Rizvi claimed the changes were approved by Musharraf.

5th February   Update: Unconstitutional Censorship

From New Kerala

The Sindh High Court has issued notices to the federal Culture Ministry and the country's film censor board following a petition by the Pakistan Film Exhibitors Association (PFEA), which questioned the continued ban on import and exhibition of Indian films.

In the petition, the Association had pleaded that the ban should be declared illegal and unconstitutional, and its members be allowed to import Indian films through proper channels and exhibit them in their cinemas.

The PFEA said that the ban was imposed to protect the country's film industry, but it (ban) had “instead ruined it by banishing away trade competition”.

The ban was imposed in 1961 for five years after a study conducted by the federal industries ministry to 'identify the problems facing the (Pakistani) film industry' and suggest remedial measures. Thereafter, the fact-finding body appointed by the ministry came up with a proposal for a five-year ban on Indian films to be reviewed after the prescribed period as per its effects.

The petitioners stated that the ban was never reviewed and had been thoughtlessly extended with devastating effect on film industry.


21st January   Cold Hearted Censors

From Aftenposten

Despite a Supreme Court ruling that Norway's practice of covering graphic sexual activity in porn films and magazines with black bars needed modernizing, Norway's Media Authority ruled that movies would remain censored.

The Supreme Court ruling was on still photographs. Our assessment concerns moving pictures , said MA director Tom Thoresen.

In December adult magazine editor Stein-Erik Mattsson was finally cleared of violating pornography laws after he provoked a legal crisis by distributing for free a special magazine edition entitled Frie Aktuelle Rapport, which contained images generally hidden behind a censorship bar.

While the MA is not ready to clear the way for uncensored pornographic films, they also made it clear that the depiction of sexual acts did not qualify as an automatic transgression of existing laws, and said that each case must be assessed on its own merits.

We interpret the Supreme Court ruling such that there is no basis in changing the practice we have had in the past few years. Films with an artistic form that show explicit sexual acts have been approved at times in the past. Mass-produced pornography will not be approved, Thoresen said.

Mattsson used a sampling of approved films to convince the Supreme Court that the standard for 'non-offensive' sexuality in films had changed dramatically since the existing law was formed.


21st January

Updated 22nd January

  Watershed in India

From the Times of India

The information & broadcasting ministry is in the process of framing guidelines for TV that will make it difficult for private channels to circumvent loopholes.

Inspired by Ofcom guidelines framed by the UK in July 2005, the I&B ministry will introduce 'watershed' timings.

The guidelines will offer a window period after 10 or 11 pm for adult programmes. Anything before the watershed time (that is 9 pm for UK) should be appropriate for children.

At present, there is a general broadcast code in existence that allows only programming with 'universal' or U certificate to be aired but unsurprisingly it is regularly flouted.

A committee under the I&B secretary is likely to finalise the guidelines by February. The other issues that will be looked into while framing the guidelines include the manner in which women are depicted or whether a programme reinforces superstition.

The guidelines are also likely to be stringent on nudity, glamorising use of drugs, smoking, solvent abuse and misuse of alcohol. The current code has only 1 or 2 sections on the parts that will be seen as objectionable. We are looking at detailing each segment so there is less ambiguity, an official said.

22nd January   Update : India Submissive to Censorship

From DNA India

The government’s draft programming code says women cannot be depicted in a manner that emphasises passive, submissive qualities and encourages them to play a subordinate, secondary role in the family and society.

The draft guidelines, which have been prepared by a committee including members of the media and consumer groups, are still to be studied by the government.

The code lays down a separate time band, from 11pm to 6am, for programmes meant for adults only. It also says the broadcaster must edit movies “to fit the genre of adult movies for India”.

There should be no explicit sex, no full frontal or rear nudity, no overt sexual situations, and no pornography.

TV channels that get high TRPs by telecasting programmes on the occult also need to watch out.

Serial-makers are divided on these clauses. Producer Manoj Raghuvanshi said a character must evolve in a serial. I don’t mind showing a passive woman who metamorphoses into a confident person. On adult programming, he said,
It’s a matter of interpretation in the absence of a clear definition of explicit sexuality.


18th January

Updated 25th January

  Jailed for Dissent

From the BBC

There is an air of confusion in Cambodia at the moment. Since New Year's Eve, three prominent human rights activists have been arrested and jailed pending trial for defaming the government.

Several activists and government critics have left the country rather than risk arrest. The leader of the main opposition party is in self-imposed exile - and has recently been sentenced to 18 months in prison for defaming the leaders of the governing coalition.

Human rights groups and diplomats alike say they are increasingly worried about the situation. The United Nations Special Representative to Cambodia on Human Rights, Yash Ghai, believes it is time for the world to worry about the direction Cambodia is taking: The people of Cambodia are deeply committed to human rights precisely because they have suffered so much from the denial of those rights.

The government has had an adversarial relationship with Kem Sokha since he founded the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights three years ago. But the events of New Year's Eve marked a serious escalation of that conflict. The rights worker was arrested and charged with defaming the government because of a banner displayed at a rally to mark International Human Rights Day in December. One of the rally's organisers received similar treatment, and a few days later one of Kem Sokha's colleagues was also arrested and charged.

It was the second round of arrests of government critics in recent months. In October, the government brought charges of defamation and incitement against seven people who also criticised the proposed border treaty. Five of them left the country before they could be arrested, and other critics of the government also fled as rumours swirled around Phnom Penh.

Defamation is a criminal offence in Cambodia, a legacy of the United Nations transitional regime in the early 1990s. Critics say it was a law for exceptional circumstances that should have been replaced by now.

The United States ambassador, Joseph Mussomeli, warned that the debate on the border issue was a real test of Cambodia's commitment to democracy, and it seems they are failing . But Cambodia's politicians are well aware that Western countries are reluctant to add conditions to the hundreds of millions of dollars in aid they provide every year.

The human rights campaigners who have so far escaped jail or arrest warrants are exasperated. They have heard both the government and donors argue that Cambodia needs time to establish a truly democratic system with freedom of speech.

25th January   Update : Cambodian Leader Drops Lawsuits

From the BBC

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has dropped defamation charges against at least four activists who criticised him, after pressure at home and abroad.

The four - a journalist, union leader, and two human rights activists - were arrested after they accused Hun Sen of ceding Cambodian land to Vietnam.

Hun Sen said he was dropping the charges because he had received letters of apology from the accused. The four were freed on bail last week after a visit by a US diplomat. They were journalist Mom Sonando, union leader Rong Chhun, and activists Kem Sokha and Pa Nguon Tieng.

A fifth man, Yeng Virak, another activist, was freed on bail the week before. It was not immediately clear if Hun Sen was dropping charges against him too.

Hun Sen told reporters he had decided to tell his lawyers to withdraw the lawsuits and "put a smooth end to this affair through compromise".

Several other critics left the country last year before they could be arrested, raising fears about the strength of Cambodia's democracy. Hun Sen said he was prepared to forgive these people too if they also wrote him letters of apology.

But there is no sign of leniency towards exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who was sentenced in absentia last month to 18 months in prison for remarks he made about the governing coalition


16th January   Banning Talking in Bangladesh

The ultimate in Censorship

From the BBC

Bangladeshi authorities have ordered mobile phone operators to stop offering free calls after midnight, to protect the morals of young people.

A telecommunications regulator said it had received scores of complaints from parents that children were using the service to form romantic attachments. They said children were losing sleep and some indulged in "vulgar talk".

In a letter sent to all five of Bangladesh's networks, the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission said the "free calls after midnight" offers were being abused by the young. A senior official at the regulator told the BBC they had received scores of complaints from parents.

The country's biggest mobile phone operator, Grameen Phone, says it will meet its competitors to try to come up with a joint response. The phone companies say they are surprised by the order, which the regulator says must be obeyed immediately.

One spokesman has been quoted as saying that if the authorities wish to stop young people meeting each other, by the same logic, fast food restaurants and universities should be shut down, too.


13th January   International Hatred Stays in Limbo

From Stuff

A US appeals court declined to intervene on Thursday on behalf of Yahoo Inc, the world's largest media company, saying US courts have no jurisdiction in a case pitting free speech protections against a French law barring the sale of Nazi memorabilia.

In a case that pitted US freedom of speech rights against European anti-hate group statutes, the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling that had rejected French plaintiffs attempts to enforce French laws against US companies in US courts.

In a mixed decision, an 11-judge en banc panel said that because Yahoo had voluntarily complied "in large measure" with the French court's orders and barred the the sale of Nazi memorabilia from its site in France, Yahoo's free speech petition has become a moot issue: Unless and until Yahoo changes its policy again, and thereby more clearly violates the French court's orders, it is unclear how much is now actually in dispute, the court's majority said.

The only precedent is that when foreign plaintiffs try to impose censorship on US-based Web sites, US courts have jurisdiction , said Mary Catherine Wirth, Yahoo's former senior international legal counsel, now director of data protection.

The lower US court previously had declared as unenforceable a French court action against Yahoo by two French anti-Nazi groups, La Ligue Contre Le Racisme et L'Antisemitisme (LICRA) and L'Union des Etuidiants Juifs de France (UEJF). A US district court initially sided with Yahoo in arguing that the French court's decision to require Yahoo to restrict access to hate group Web pages on Yahoo's global auctions site violated US free speech principles.

In the latest ruling, the 9th Circuit said that because Yahoo had largely complied with the French court's order by limiting the sale of some hate-group memorabilia on its auction site, "It is extremely unlikely that any penalty, if assessed, could ever be enforced against Yahoo! in the United States.

Susan Crawford, a law professor who teaches a course on cyberlaw at Cardozo School of Law in New York, labelled the decision a "missed opportunity" to decide whether "
it is appropriate for one country to assert extraterritorial jurisdiction over (Web) servers located in another country.The facts in this case allowed the court to avoid the difficult diplomatic issues raised by the dispute.


13th January   Filtering Out Judas Companies

From Australian IT

An international journalism group has called on bloggers and web users to support its push to guarantee free speech online.

Reporters without Borders , (Reporters Sans Frontieres, or RSF) has issued a call for web companies to respect freedom of speech online when operating in "oppressive" countries. Targeted mainly at US tech companies, it suggests ways of preventing countries from blocking free speech online. RSF has called on bloggers and other net users to get behind the push by signing an online petition.

The proposal includes laws banning US companies from hosting email servers in an "oppressive" country in order to force those regimes wanting user email details to get them from the US, where requests would be subject to US judicial scrutiny.

Service providers and content hosts would also be prevented from hosting servers in countries under oppressive rule. The laws would be supported by a list of oppressive countries drafted using documents supplied by the US State Department, the group said.

RSF also calls for a ban on search engines and content hosts using keyword filters that search for terms such as "democracy" and "human rights" , as well as a ban on the sale of censorship software to repressive states.

US companies would be obliged to get the permission of the US Department of Commerce before selling internet surveillance technology or training services.


9th January   Influencing Judgements on Turkish Oppression

From Index on Censorship

Turkish free expression groups are reporting that the authorities are using a new technique to censor the media – by accusing journalists who criticise court judgements of trying to ‘influence the judiciary’.

Five journalists from the dailies Radikal and Milliyet currently face charges under Article 288 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) and article 19 of the country’s Press Law which prohibit attempts to exert influence or prejudice the judgements of the courts, reported the online BIA news agency.

The five face trial for articles criticising an Istanbul court's decision to ban a university conference expected to cover the mass deportations and killings of hundreds of thousands of Armenians under the Turkish Ottoman empire.

General manager Ismet Berkan and writers Erol Katircioglu, Murat Belge, Haluk Sahin of Radikal and Milliyet writer Hasan Cemal face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty. The first hearing will be held on 7 February in an Istanbul court.


9th January   Censorship Lest the Kids Turn out like Us

From The Nation

PM’s Office Minister Suranand Vejjajiva said yesterday that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was frustrated by the media’s choice of programming and wanted to see more constructive content, especially for children: What the government has been frustrated by is the difficulty for law enforcement [to enforce laws] because of vested interests . Although we have laws in place, games shops and printing houses pay bribes to police .

The minister also accused soap operas of “intoxicating” adults and youths with superficial values: These programmes [soaps] instil young people with lavish and superficial values. Children [learn to] value comfort and materialism. They want to earn a living from being a minor wife for instance. Thai dramas are teaching Thai kids to live in a vicious circus.

Prime Minister Thaksin will next week announce policies to deal with media issues, including establishing a media-rating institute to monitor content. Censorship will be harsher. Blurring images of people smoking cigarettes and revealing imagery only makes children more curious to see [what has been blurred], Suranand said.

Communication technology such as the Internet and 3G technology, which integrates telephones with televisions and computers, will also be tightly monitored.

The government may provide funds to create children’s programmes such as news presented by children and a project to promote reading.


6th January   Sun Sets on Freedom in UAE

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) is also considering a move to allow Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), which is currently banned in the UAE -- much to the annoyance of the majority expatriate population, which wants to make cheap calls to families, mostly in Asia and Europe.

State-controlled Etisalat enjoys a monopoly throughout most of the country, blocking cheap VOIP phone calls and enforcing a federal ban on Internet pornography and gambling.

At present a few thousand homes and offices in Dubai, served by niche telecoms operator TECOM, are exempt from a national ban on sites considered "unIslamic."

Mohamed Al-Ghanim, director general of the TRA  warned that it must abide by UAE censors, who last week banned access to the online version of Britain‘s popular The Sun newspaper: The Internet will remain censored for cultural reasons. We have to keep our culture protected will have to abide by the rules.

Dubai‘s free zones have lured scores of media brands, including CNN and the BBC, on the promise of freedom from censorship, which is the norm in the Arab world. Some observers fear online censorship within the zones could undermine their reputation as creative hubs.


5th January

From Information Week

Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday confirmed that it took down the blog of outspoken Chinese journalist Zhao Jing, saying that it was complying with China's laws.

Blogger Rebecca MacKinnon, a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, first reported that Jing's blog was taken down New Years Eve by Microsoft's blog-hosting service MSN Spaces. The blog has been replaced with the message, "This space is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later."

Zhao is among a number of Chinese bloggers that have grown in popularity in the Communist nation where the general media is government controlled.

China last year started tightening its control over Internet services, but has yet to launch a major crackdown on bloggers. Experts believe the government is still struggling with media control without stymieing the country's emerging Internet businesses.

Microsoft said in a statement that the decision to unplug Zhao was inline with its practice of ensuring that products and services comply with global and local laws, norms, and industry practices. Strange that this attitude does not seem to apply to trade and competition laws, Microsoft are regularly being taken to court.

Most countries have laws and practices that require companies providing online services to make the Internet safe for local users, the company said. Occasionally, as in China, local laws and practices require consideration of unique elements.

It is not unusual for U.S. search engines, such as Google, Microsoft MSN, and Yahoo, to censor their Chinese-language search results at the request of the government.


3rd January  Pakistan Doesn't Believe in Censorship BUT...will Proceed against Transgressors

Based on an article from The Daily Times

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has not banned 35 foreign channels but they have been put off air temporarily, Shahid Humayun, the executive member of PEMRA, has said.

Talking to journalists, Humayun said that the authority had told foreign channels to get landing rights to broadcast their transmission in Pakistan otherwise the authority would put them off-air. He said 50 percent foreign channels had applied for so far and the authority had taken action against rest of the channels.

He shamefully said that the authority did not believe in pre-censorship... BUT... it had given broad outlines to licensees in the form of code of conduct for self-regulation. He said the foreign channels which contravene the authority’s rules and regulations would be proceeded against.

He said the authority had taken number of steps to control obscenity and pornography and taken action against illegal cable TV operators across the country. He said the authority had made arrangements to grant licences within three days to set up FM radio stations in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Northern Areas. He said licences had been issued temporarily for a limited period so that earthquake victims could be advised and informed about important post-disaster measures and precautions to be taken.


3rd January   Offending Cambodian Repressors

From The Guardian

Two of Cambodia's most prominent human rights activists have been arrested and detained for defaming the government. The US ambassador warned yesterday that the arrests further tarnished the country's veneer of democracy.

The director of the Cambodian Centre of Human Rights, Kem Sokha and Yeng Virak, the head of the Community Legal Education Centre, were charged on Saturday over allegedly offensive material displayed at a workshop on December 10 to mark international human rights day.

Information minister Khieu Kanharith said banners on the CCHR booth at the event branded the prime minister, Hun Sen, a "communist" and "traitor who has sold away [Cambodian] land to Vietnam", referring to a border demarcation deal signed in October.

Kem Sokha was arrested after a three-hour standoff at his office while Yeng Virak was detained separately.

Ou Virak, a CCHR advocacy officer, told the Guardian he is convinced Hun Sen is trying to silence the opposition by arresting his critics . This is a major step. It shows this country is walking backwards in democracy. Indeed that we no longer have a democracy.

Their detention comes 10 days after Sam Rainsy, the head of the main opposition party, was convicted in absentia of defaming Hun Sen and the national assembly speaker. It brings to nine the number of government critics and rights activists who have either been jailed pending trial or have fled rather than face imprisonment in the last few months.

The US ambassador, Joseph Mussomeli, described it as another step down the wrong path for Cambodia, adding: There is not much left to a real democracy. He said the government was afraid of free speech.
And when governments are afraid, they make foolish decisions, and this is foolish and unfortunate.


2nd January   Buying into Repression

From Red Herring

China tries to find porn web sites by monitoring payments over cell phones.

Censorship experts said  that China will likely be unsuccessful in finding pornographic web sites by monitoring payments made through mobile phones, but they cautioned it could lead to overzealous censorship of individuals.

Customer payments of “fairly high” amounts will be flagged for further investigation as possible porn purchases, Zhao Shiqiang, a director at China’s Bureau of Public Security, said at a press conference. If the government sees that the site receiving the payment is purveying illegal content, officials will shut it down.

The plan is the latest attempt by the Chinese government to combine Internet censorship with mobile phone monitoring in order to crack down on what it considers “unhealthy” content of a political or sexual nature

Censorship experts said the plan probably won’t lead to the dismantling of many sites, but could turn into a way to monitor individuals more closely.

Broadly monitoring transactions is always a cause for concern, said Nart Villeneuve, director of technical research at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab: Surveillance that is not done in a transparent way is generally what leads to the abuse of such systems.

Danny O’Brien, activism coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, pointed to Europe as an example. Data-collecting regimes there, in which telecommunications companies keep governments informed of transactions they’ve flagged, were originally meant to combat terrorism. But O’Brien said parameters have been broadened to the vague term “serious crimes,” which includes media piracy.

Once you cross the line of surveillance for one purpose, it becomes a tool for all purposes , warned Mr. O’Brien.


1st January   598 Web Sites Repressed

Based on an article from TMC Net

Chinese police have closed 598 Web sites in a crackdown on pornography, but online gambling and fraud are growing, state media said Friday.

The communist government encourages Internet use for education and business but has launched repeated campaigns to repress material deemed obscene or subversive.

The latest crackdown, launched in March, led to 25 arrests, the China Daily Newspaper said, citing figures announced Thursday by the Ministry of Public Security. That figure was low compared with more than 500 people arrested in the previous year.

Online obscene video chats, gambling and frauds have become serious crimes in recent years and are still rising, the Xinhua News Agency cited Wu Heping, a ministry spokesman, as saying.

The police ministry handled 14,000 cases of Internet-related actions over the past year, the newspaper said, citing Zhao Shiyuan, director of the ministry's Web security department. Police received more than 12,000 tips from the public, Zhao said.

In the heaviest reported sentence for online obscenity, a 20-year-old Web site operator in eastern China was jailed in 2004 for 15 years for selling downloads of sexually oriented movies

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