Melon Farmers Original Version

EU Censorship News

2010: July-Sept

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28th September   

Update: The Soviet Block...

Artists to boycott Paris exhibition over Russian censorship
Link Here

Russian artists have threatened to boycott an exhibition of contemporary Russian art at the Louvre over the removal of works deemed offensive to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a gallery owner said.

Seven artists have declared that they won't participate in the exhibition in solidarity with Avdei Ter-Oganyan whose works were censured by the [Russian] culture ministry, prominent Moscow gallery owner Marat Guelman told AFP.

The ban covers Ter-Oganyan's abstract works that include sometimes provocative notes by the artist. One work, a black rectangle on a red background, bears the inscription: This work urges you to commit an attack on statesman V.V. Putin in order to end his statist and political activities.

The boycott of the exhibition at the Louvre opening next month will draw attention to this absurd conflict between art and the authorities. My works were created for this purpose and demonstrate the idiocy of idiots, Ter-Oganyan wrote on his website.

The Counterpoint: Russian Contemporary Art is scheduled to open at Paris' top museum on October 14 and run through January 31, 2011.

Update: Russia Confirms Censorship

30th September 2010.

Russia  has confirmed that it had blocked the export of paintings by a controversial contemporary artist due to be shown at the Louvre in Paris because they could incite extremism.

The abstract works by artist Avdei Ter-Oganyan could be seen as calls for a coup d'etat, or inciting national or religious hatred, deputy culture minister Andrei Busygin told the Interfax news agency.

The series of works consist of geometric patterns with provocative captions such as This work urges you to commit an attack on statesman V.V. Putin in order to end his state and political activities.

Deputy culture minister Busygin told Interfax that it was debatable whether the works were a joke or something that falls under the federal law on fighting extremism.

The culture ministry and a federal arts watchdog expressed doubts about the advisability of exhibiting these works at the Louvre, he said.


20th September   

Censor Spit...

Irish film censor bans the original I spit on Your Grave
Link Here
Full story: Irish Film Censors at IFCO...IFCO: the Irish film censor board

The Irish film censor (IFCO) has banned the DVD re-release of the 1978 horror film I Spit on Your Grave starring Camille Keaton.

UK fans of the infamous cult film will be able to purchase the ultimate collector's edition on DVD and Blu-ray albeit cut by the BBFC. However Irish fans of the cult video nasty will be prohibited from purchasing locally, forcing them to import UK versions from internet retailers.

The decision to ban the DVD re-release of the cult classic film was due to the film depicting acts of gross violence and cruelty (including mutilation and torture) towards humans.

Director Meir Zarchi commented on the ban: It doesn't surprise me that Ireland have decided to ban the film. It has relentlessly continued to shock and offend audiences since 1978 when it was first released, and it still does to this date. However, with the level of graphic violence and horror available these days, it's surprising that IFCO sees this 1978 film more offensive than some of the most daring and empty of content torture porn available today.

Since the birth of the Internet all censor boards around the world have instantly become irrelevant. IFCO included. Anyone anywhere in the universe can simply push a button on any video website store and order a disc of I Spit On Your Grave. There are no iron curtains in the skies that can stop it from landing at his or her door.

Are we going through the Lady Chatterley's Lover syndrome all over again? The bottom line - thank you IFCO for promoting the film in Ireland.

The Original Cult Video Nasty is available today on UK DVD and Blu-ray as an ultimate collector's edition dual format - still cut but less so than previous releases.


18th September   


Czech court orders ban on Hitler's Mein Kampf
Link Here

A court has ordered a Czech publisher to withdraw and destroy all its published copies of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf.

Prague's municipal court issued the verdict at the request of the German state of Bavaria that was suing the publisher, KMa, for copyright infringement.

Mein Kampf is banned in Germany and Bavaria, which holds the copyright for the book, is seeking to block its publication in other countries for fear it could be misused by right-wing extremists.

The 1925 book expresses Hitler's desire to exterminate Jews and occupy territory in Eastern Europe.

The publisher can appeal the verdict.


18th September   

Safer Sources...

European Court reaffirms protection of journalistic sources
Link Here

The European Court of Human Rights has unanimously held that media premises are exempt from police searches, marking a major victory for press freedom across the continent.

This ruling was an acid test for the Court and for media freedom across Europe, said Geoffrey Robertson QC, counsel for a coalition of intervening organizations. It sets a high benchmark for protection of journalistic materials and will force police and prosecutors across Europe, from Russia to France, to change their practices.

In its decision in Sanoma v. the Netherlands, the Court reversed an earlier ruling and held that police cannot search media premises or seize journalistic materials unless they can show it is absolutely necessary in the investigation of a serious crime and have obtained a judicial warrant.

In this judgment, the European Court lays down a clear marker for the protection of journalistic materials, said Peter Noorlander, legal director at the Media Legal Defence Initiative. This will force a change in law and practice across Europe, not only in countries like Russia and Romania but also in France and the Netherlands, where new legislation is now required.

The Court today said in the clearest terms that all European nations must have strong laws that protect the media's fundamental right to confidential sources in order to ensure the public's right to know. Every country must now review their laws and ensure that these rights are fully respected. said David Banisar, Senior Legal Counsel for ARTICLE 19.


9th September   

Update: Cartoon Bravery...

Angela Merkel honours Kurt Westergaard by presenting him a press freedom award
Link Here
Full story: Mohammed Cartoons...Cartoons outrage the muslim world

Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard received this year's M100 Media Prize.  This year's award is for Freedom of the Press in Europe .

Kurt Westergaard created one of the 12 Muhammad cartoons accompanying a feature entitled The Face of Muhammad , published on 30 September 2005, in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten. His illustration triggered an international controversy about freedom of speech and sparked world-wide, partly violent demonstrations of Muslims who felt insulted.

It wasn't my intention to attack Islam , stated Westergaard in an interview with Der Spiegel, but instead terrorists who abuse Islam for their spiritual ammunition.

Despite an alleged bounty of eleven million Dollar on him and his colleagues, Westergaard defended the publication by invoking the right to freedom of speech.

The board of the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium honours his courage to stand by these democratic values and defend them, notwithstanding threats of violence and death.

The Lord Mayor of Potsdam declared: With Kurt Westergaard we honour a personality who has become a symbol for freedom of speech and opinion. When the drawing of a caricature results in death threats it is our duty to publicly back the illustrator. The Prize is setting a signal.

Based on article from

German Chancellor Angela Merkel presented him with the award, saying Westergaard was entitled to draw his caricatures: Europe is a place where a cartoonist is allowed to draw something like this. We are talking here about the freedom of opinion and the freedom of the press

Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, added that German people clearly remembered the implications of a lack of freedom and should therefore cherish it: It's about whether in a Western society with its values he [Mr Westergaard] is allowed to publish his Muhammad cartoons, or not. Is he allowed to do it? Yes he is, Ms Merkel said.

She described Europe as a place that respects and values the freedom of belief and religion.

Security was tight at Sanssouci palace in Potsdam where the cartoonist told reporters: Maybe they will try to kill me and maybe they will have success, but they cannot kill the cartoon.

Merkel's decision to speak at the event about press freedom has caused some surprise in Germany. One newspaper said she was taking a huge risk . Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said that the effect of having a photograph taken with Kurt Westergaard was incalculable, describing it as probably be the most explosive appointment of her chancellorship so far .

Germany's Central Muslim Council (ZMD) criticised Merkel for attending the award ceremony. A ZMD spokesman, Aiman Mazyek, told public broadcaster Deutschlandradio that the Chancellor was honouring someone who in our eyes kicked our prophet, and therefore kicked all Muslims . He said giving Westergaard the prize in a highly charged and heated time was highly problematic .


30th August   

Update: Censorship Lottery...

ISP's oppose Lithuanian internet censorship of gambling sites
Link Here

A recent decision made by the Vilnius regional court sees Lithuania being added to the growing list of EU countries that are ordering local internet service providers (ISPs) to censor the internet.

A local agency known as the ISA has issued orders to Lithuanian ISPs demanding that they implement blocks to prevent users from gambling at unlicensed online gambling sites in Lithuania.

Lithuanian ISPs Teo and Bite are calling the filtration methods they are being required to use inefficient , arguing that the only way to truly prevent players from accessing internet gambling sites is to disconnect their internet connections completely.

Similar demands are being made of internet service providers in other European countries, including France, Bulgaria, Sweden, Holland, and Israel. The same technical arguments are being made by ISPs in all countries. They insist that filtering the internet in this way is a technological nightmare, and that there is simply no way to do it properly.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has been upholding government gambling monopolies in some EU countries on the grounds that they can help promote responsible gambling, but the court has yet to rule on the practice of censoring the internet.


28th August   

Update: A Dangerous Book...

Flemming Rose to reprint Mohammed cartoons in his book
Link Here
Full story: Mohammed Cartoons...Cartoons outrage the muslim world

A leading U.S. terrorism expert has warned of renewed tensions between the Muslim world and Denmark in connection with plans by Jyllands-Postens Culture Editor Flemming Rose to release a book in which caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed are reprinted.

In his The tyranny of silence Rose studies the 12 controversial caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, which were first published in Jyllands-Posten in 2005.

If I were him, I would seriously consider the consequences of reprinting the drawings, says U.S. terrorism expert Evan Kohlman, who has worked for the FBI and the U.S. administration on terrorism issues. Kohlman says that while he understands the issue of freedom of speech, every time the drawings are reprinted, there are riots and demonstrations and there will be bloodshed .

The author insisted in an interview with Jylland-Posten competitor Politiken that he was not trying to be provocative, stressing that he simply wanted to tell the story of the 12 drawings and put them into a context of (other) pictures considered offensive.

I am sure that a lot of people don't know what I think of these drawings. My concerted wish is to explain myself. I have nothing but words to do so, but once people have read the book ... maybe they will be able to see the broader context, he said.

The spokesman for the Islamic Society in Denmark Imran Shah says that Flemming Rose is beyond reach and says that Danish Muslims will probably react by shrugging their shoulders.


24th August   

Cartoon Banners...

Calls for a ban on media museum's manga exhibition
Link Here

Protesters are seeking to ban a manga exhibition that is opening this week in a Danish museum due to its depiction of fictional children in a sexual manner.

The gallery opened at Kunsthallen Brandts' media museum in the city of Odense. It contains erotic manga such as Taro Shinonome's Swing Out Sisters, Kondom's Bondage Fairies, and Tuna Empire's The Spirit of Capitalism.

The Danish Psychological Association and members of the Social Democrats party have spoken against the exhibition.

Christian Hviid Mortensen, the curator of Kunsthallen Brandts, said no pictures show explicit sexual acts, and the point of the exhibition was to encourage a debate and question the power of media. I have to admit that I myself was shocked at how extreme this genre is, and how deranged the imaginations are in this universe, Mortensen said according to The Copenhagen Post newspaper: But we're not showing the works for the sake of displaying child pornography. We're looking for a debate on the issue. So if people are offended by it then they should by all means speak out and say so.

Denmark is the only Scandinavian country where sexual depictions of fictional children is permissible, but the Social Democrats proposed a ban in April.


22nd August   

Update: Cartoon Freedom...

Easy offence trumps freedom of speech in the Netherlands
Link Here

A Dutch appeals court has fined an Arab organisation in the Netherlands 2,500 euros for causing unnecessary offence in publishing a Holocaust-denying cartoon.

The Holocaust is a black page in the history of humanity, the appeals court in Arnhem in the eastern Netherlands said in a statement: The suggestion that it may have been contrived or exaggerated by victims is extraordinarily offensive for the victims and their surviving relatives, in this case the Jews.

The Dutch leg of the Arab European League (AEL) re-published the cartoon on its website last year, saying it wanted to point out double standards in society.

In April, a court acquitted the AEL of insulting Jews by publishing the cartoon, which depicts the Nazi Holocaust as a figment of Jewish imagination.

But appeals judges agreed with prosecutors that the cartoon was more offensive than could be justified by the debate.


20th August   


Whinges at Danish art using Duplo to depict gay sex
Link Here

Employees at Roskilde Town Hall are in uproar over a picture showing two Duplo figures having gay sex and want the work removed from the building.

Administrators at the town hall have received at least three internal complaints over the piece by artist Svend Ahnstrøm, which depicts the characters Kurt and Anders smiling as they enjoy themselves in a public park.

Ahnstrøm's exhibition is being displayed in the building by the local art association, and in addition to the gay sex piece, features Duplo depictions of Hitler, Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden.

But Henrik Kolind, spokeman for Roskilde Council, said the administration would not take the picture down because it is the art association that determines which works are displayed: We have freedom of expression in Denmark, and the association asked for my approval of the exhibition and got i t.

As for Ahnstrøm himself, he said he did not expect the works to cause such controversy. He added that he did not think the same objections would be voiced if the piece featured a man and a woman having sex: It's hard to believe that something like this can offend people in today's Denmark .


17th August   

Censorship to Protect Tax...

France orders ISPs to block bookies that undercut ludicrously high gambling tax
Link Here

France continues to take online censorship to the next level with news that the country's gambling regulator, Arjel, has persuaded a French court, the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris, to order the country's ISPs to block unlicensed online gambling websites or face a daily fine of €10,000 ($12,820 USD).

The problem is that many online gambling sites, although licensed to operate elsewhere in the European Union, have refused to adhere to the additional requirements necessary to obtain a license to operate in France.

Why? One of the reasons is the heavy taxation rates: 8.5% for sports betting, 15.5% for horse racing betting, and 2% for online poker.

Another is the strict transparency requirements that require sites to retain all data related to gambling activities. All data exchanged between players and operators and data linked to the identification of gaming or betting events has to be available on a mirror server based in France.

A number of ISPs refused to adhere to all the additional requirements and opted not to serve French customers instead. The ruling now forces them to block French customers with threat of heavy fines.

The ruling is in important one because it shows an escalation in online censorship in a country that otherwise prides itself on being a bastion of freedom of speech. It could inevitably mean that a whole range of sites that don't comply with French law could also find themselves blocked by the country's ISPs.


11th August   

Drawing Up Policy...

Swedish Pirate Party harangued over their defence of cartoon porn
Link Here

Sweden's Pirate Party leader, Rick Falkvinge has said that child pornography should be allowed in cartoons but this stance has been roundly criticised by the press.

The law should focus on 'real criminals' abusing children , he's quoted as saying, But We want to be extremely clear in that we do not want to legalize any form of the handling of child pornography .

He expressed regret over comments made in an interview with Sveriges Radio's Ekot news programme admitting he expressed himself clumsily.

The debate arose when a man was convicted for the possession of animated comics, Falkvinge says in The Local: In an open society you can not forbid someone from drawing their fantasies. That is our main point in the issue, that we can not have thought crimes in Swedish law.

Meanwhile, Pirate Party vice-chair Anna Troberg says The current law is wasting resources chasing pretend criminals and should be focusing on real child pornography, with real children involved, not manga comics, holiday pictures and so on. The problem is that they focus on the pictures and not the victims and waste masses of resources, she states.


11th August   

Updated: Euro Gag...

Struck off doctor tries for court gag on criticism from victim's family
Link Here

A German doctor who killed a British patient is seeking an injunction across Europe to silence his victim's family. Daniel Ubani was providing out of hours care in the UK when he injected David Gray with ten times the recommended dose of a painkiller.

Nigerian-trained Ubani gave Gray, 70, a fatal dosage of diamorphine when he treated him for kidney stones at his home in Manea, Cambridgeshire, in February 2008.

He is now trying to silence Gray's sons using European human rights laws by claiming that their campaign to bring him to justice is stopping his right to practise.

Stuart and Rory Gray have spoken out repeatedly about how Ubani escaped punishment by refusing to return to Britain to face potential criminal-charges. Instead he cut a deal with German prosecutors which allowed him to avoid extradition and being struck off in Germany.

The brothers now plan to travel to Bavaria to fight the legal action. Stuart Gray, himself a doctor, said: I consider this a grave threat to free speech and we will fight it in every way possible.

Ubani has submitted papers to a Bavarian court calling for the brothers to be banned from talking publicly about the death.

Earlier this year they stood up and denounced him as a charlatan and a killer as he spoke at a medical conference.

Although he was struck off in Britain in his absence, Ubani's ability to continue practising general medicine and cosmetic surgery elsewhere was not affected.

Update: Case Heard

11th August 2010. See  article from

Rory Gray spoke at a court hearing as Daniel Ubani launched his legal bid to gag him and his brother to prevent them damaging his reputation in future.

Gray told the panel of three judges at the State Court in Kempten, Bavaria, that his statements were based on fact and not opinion. He spoke of the outstanding malpractice lawsuits still pending in Germany against Ubani who is seeking a European-wide injunction against him and his brother to prevent them damaging his reputation.

He is trying to use European human rights law by claiming that their campaign to bring him to justice is stopping his right to practise. But by the time the court reconvenes on August 25 to give its verdict in the case Ubani's career in Germany may be over.

Ubani, who has a doctor's surgery and cosmetic surgery practice in northern Germany, is facing a fitness to practise hearing on August 18. He has indicated that he does not intend to attend the hearing where the German equivalent of the General Medical Council plans to make him sit a written exam to test his medical skills. This would trigger an application to a judge to suspend his licence to practise as a cosmetic surgeon which would, in turn, disqualify him from also practising as a GP.

If the gagging order is successful, Ubani wants the court to make the brothers pay £200,000 each time they breach it. He also demands that the brothers keep a minimum of 600ft away from him at all times.


3rd August   

Saw VI Hacked...

Spain gets a belated and cut release.
Link Here

Saw VI, which was not screened in Spain after it was slapped with an X rating last year, will finally be released in the country in October, its Spanish distributor said.

A new version of the movie, with the most violent scenes cut out, has received a not under 18 rating, meaning it can screen at commercial theatres like the previous installments of the franchise, DeAPlaneta said. It will open across Spain on October 8.

In October 2009 Spain's film institute, a unit of the culture ministry, gave Saw VI an X rating, citing its extreme violence, and in effect relegating the film to porn theatres. It was the first time that the institute's ratings commission awarded an X rating because of violence. The movie ended up not being released in Spain because of the X rating.


2nd August   

Update: Taken For A Ride...

Malta lawmakers duped into censorship hidden behind child protection law
Link Here
Full story: Censorship Law in Malta...Lawnmakers hide obscenity law behind child protection

Malta's Labour leader Joseph Muscat has admitted that his party did not mean to back a legal amendment that has introduced tougher penalties for the distribution and production of pornography.

He said the controversial amendment to Article 208 of the Criminal Code, approved by Parliament in April, was passed as a measure of stealth by the government, having been sold to the Opposition as part of a package of laws to strengthen penalties for child pornography .

The amendment to the article was made together with various other amendments to laws mostly relating to child pornography.

Admitting that his party had not carefully evaluated what it approved, Dr Muscat said his MPs would not have backed the legal changes had they known they did not have anything to do with child pornography or protecting vulnerable people.


30th July   

Robbery with Intimidation...

Nasty attack on Italian bloggers with impossibly quick right of reply requirement
Link Here
Full story: Internet Censorship in Italy...Censorship affecting bloogers and the press in Italy

One of the provisions of the Media and Wiretapping Bill currently being discussed by the Italian Parliament is that all those responsible for information websites will be required to issue corrections within 48 hours to any complaint regarding website content, whether blogs, opinion, comment and/or information in general.

Corrections would need to be in the same form in which the contested content was originally put online, whether text, podcast or video. Failure to do so will risk a fine of up to 12,500 euros.

This law seeks to apply to online opinion/information/news – whether professional or amateur, commercial or individual – the same rules as those applied to the traditional media as established in the law of 1948, namely Article 8 relating to the so-called obbliga di rettifica or requirement to issue corrections. Media law will thus henceforth make no distinction between mainstream media and the multifarious world of information and/or opinion on the web.

Is it right for bloggers, content-sharing websites or any other online information-providers to have to publish a correction within 48 hours if any of their content, whether direct or indirect, is considered false or slanderous? The web is not the press. Rules should be different for mainstream media and online information. To manage any request for correction is time-consuming and complex - just to evaluate whether the complaint is justified might require professional expertise which the vast majority of online information websites don't have. At stake is the very existence of the website - a heavy fine would for many constitute closure.

What's the likely result of this proposed law? Many bloggers and amateur participants in web debate and information-gathering will simply decide it's not worth the risk and the hassle. They'll retreat to the position they may well have started from, namely passive consumers of news. Or continue in an active online role but only on issues of low media visibility so as to avoid drawing attention to themselves. All of this is inimical to a healthy democracy of well-informed and actively involved citizens.

Consider the practicalities of request for correction to a social networking website: first see the request (a day at the beach or illness might become very expensive indeed), then locate the author (ditto), then check the content (how can second-hand information be quickly and effectively verified?), then decide whether the request for correction is justified (natural tendency to issue corrections each time just to be on the safe side?), then (having carefully weighed all the relevant issues) perhaps issue the correction. All within 48 hours. Power cut? Tough luck! Server down? Your problem! A post on my website by someone I don't know on an issue I'm not interested in while I'm off scuba-diving and I'm on the hook for 12,500 euros? This isn't law-making worthy of a modern democracy, it's robbery with intimidation.


29th July   

Seeing Red...

Bullfighting banned in Catalonia from 2012
Link Here

Generations of matadors have strutted their way across Barcelona's Monumental bullring, drawing roars of approval from the crowds as they tormented the hulking bulls with their scarlet capes before killing them with a sword-thrust between the shoulder blades.

But now bullfighting is to be banned from Barcelona and the rest of the north-eastern region of Catalonia after the local parliament dealt a blow to Spain's most emblematic pastime and unleashed a political battle over what some see as a threatened cultural treasure.

Deputies voted by 68 to 55 in favour of a people's petition calling on the bullfight to be banished from a region that once played host to some of the world's greatest fights. The last matador in Catalan history will sink his sword into the last half-tonne fighting bull at the end of next year, with the ban starting in 2012.

It is the worst attack on culture since our transition to democracy, said the Catalan poet Pere Gimferrer.

While some mourned the loss of a cultural jewel, the vote was hailed by animal rights campaigners worldwide. Ricky Gervais and Pamela Anderson were among the 140,000 who signed an international petition to the Catalan parliament.

In general the bullfight has been in decline in Catalonia for decades. There is only one major ring functioning in Barcelona, with just 15 fights a year. The city's other emblematic bullring, Las Arenas, is being turned into a shopping arcade.

A petition calling for the ban to be extended to the capital of Madrid, home to the world's most famous bull-ring, Las Ventas, has 50,000 signatures. But there is little prospect of success. The regional government, like that of Valencia, has declared the bull-fight to be a part of its protected cultural patrimony .


27th July   

Cartoon Justice...

Sweden imposes first fine for the possession of dangerous cartoons
Link Here

A Swedish translator of Japanese manga comics has been fined by a Swedish court for possession of drawings depicting children engaged in sexual acts.

The ruling is the first of its kind in Sweden and has sparked a heated censorship debate.

The translator at the centre of the case was found guilty of possessing child pornography after downloading 51 manga images from the internet.

Judge Nils Pålbrant conceded that the decision to fine the translator, though unanimous, had raised a number of thorny issues.

There's a clear conflict between freedom of speech on the one hand and general regulations regarding children's rights on the other, he told local newspaper Upsala Nya Tidning: It was however our view that the protective aspect weighed more heavily when taking into account the intentions of the legislator. The aim of the law, as described in the preliminary work that led to its creation, is not just to protect individual children but children in general.

But the case has polarized opinion in Sweden. In an editorial published on Thursday, tabloid Expressen gave its backing to the translator: However unpleasant and nasty a work of fiction might be, and whatever one thinks about Japanese porn involving cartoon children, there is actually no victim here. The children in the Uppland man's manga comics were not molested since they were characters in a comic.

The translator's lawyer, Leif Silbersky, expressed surprise at the June 30th ruling and has lodged a formal appeal on behalf of his client: It goes against all common sense. These are just drawings; no children have been harmed .

Judge Pålbrant said he too would welcome a second opinion from the Court of Appeal due to the precedential nature of the case.


21st July   

Update: Coming Unstitched...

After banning an 'obscene' play, Malta notices it being performed in Edinburgh with just a 14 rating
Link Here
Full story: Stage Censorship in Malta...Maltese censors ban stage play Stitching, then get disbanded

Stitching , the play banned from being staged in Malta last year, is set to be performed at the popular Edinburgh Fringe Festival next month with a 14 rating.

A spokesman for the Fringe told The Sunday Times it was the performers themselves who gave an age rating to the works they staged, but these were just guidelines .

When it first was staged at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2002, The Guardian reported that some audience members had walked out of Anthony Nielson's play, which focuses on a couple dealing with the loss of a child.

Chris Gatt, director of the Maltese production, said he was not surprised at the self-imposed 14 rating: It proves what we've said all along. It was an entire fuss for nothing. Obscenity is in the eyes of the beholder, not in the script - and this is why plays like Stitching keep being performed.

He said he could not understand why Scottish audiences should be subjected to a different cultural and moral benchmark than the Maltese. Citing as examples local plays like Chat Room (which was given a 16 rating in Malta, when it is meant to be performed by, and for, 14-year-olds), he said local classification needed a radical overhaul. In several countries, not only had stage censorship long been abolished, but so had classification.

Writing in The Times, Culture Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco underlined the need to find a way of better protecting the freedom of artistic expression: Do our laws reflect 21st century realities? Are they too draconian in nature, giving perhaps too much power to the Classification Board?


18th July   

Arse Over Tit...

Malta increases penalties for obscenity before defining what obscenity means
Link Here
Full story: Censorship Law in Malta...Lawnmakers hide obscenity law behind child protection

The Maltese parliamentary committee set up in January to define what constituted an obscenity is still at the initial stages , according to Labour MP Owen Bonnici, who had pushed for its establishment.

Dr Bonnici, who sits on the committee with MPs Evarist Bartolo, Beppe Fenech Adami and Francis Zammit Dimech, said there had been preliminary talks but he hoped work shifted up a gear soon and was optimistic there would be progress.

The definition of what constitutes an obscenity, last updated in 1975, became even more pertinent this week after an amendment to the Criminal Code came into force on Friday raising the maximum penalty for distributing or displaying pornographic or obscene material from imprisonment for six months and a fine of €465.87 to 12 months and a fine of €3,000. The amendment law was approved unanimously in Parliament on June 15.

The Front Against Censorship lambasted the changes, pointing out that, in the absence of a clear definition of obscenity, the law could be used to prosecute cases such as that of student editor Mark Camilleri and writer Alex Vella Gera, who landed in court over a satirical story detailing the sexual exploits of a man in explicit language on issue eight of campus magazine Ir-Realtà.

The Front said it was disappointed at the fact that instead of repealing the harsh prison terms, which would be the shame of any European nation, the law has actually been amended to increase them . Whoever voted in favour of this Act not only agreed with the draconian proceedings taken against the student newspaper but also wanted to punish such activities more harshly .

It suggested changing the definition of pornography from work featuring the exploitation of, or unnecessary emphasis on, sex, criminality, fear, cruelty and violence to any product which graphically depicts sexual acts with the intent of causing sexual arousal .

It also called for the removal of articles in the Criminal Code imposing a jail term for anyone vilifying Catholicism or any cult tolerated by law as well as the abolition of the centrally-appointed classification board for drama and film, calling instead for a list of publicly available established and transparent criteria , updated in the light of the international situation, to be used during the classification process.

Moreover, it called for the removal of article 7 of the Press Act which lays down a jail term of up to three months for directly or indirectly injuring public morals through the media.

Finally, it called for a removal of the wording of article 13 in the Broadcasting Act which says that 'nothing is included in the programmes which offends religious sentiment, good taste or decency or is likely to encourage or incite to crime or to lead to disorder or to be offensive to public feeling' and replace it with a paragraph which allows such mentioned content from 10 p.m. onwards.


14th July   

Funeral March in Mourning of Maltese Art...

Protest against ban on artist
Link Here

Paintings by Aleksandar Stankovski have been banned from being exhibited during the Gozo Arts Festival after a report was filed to the Ministry of Gozo.

Yet these paintings had already been exhibited in Macedonia without problems.

Isn't it ironic that while Malta is supposed to be celebrating culture through The Malta Arts Festival, art is still being censored? the Front Against Censorship asked.

It is therefore holding a Funeral March of Art – symbolising the dying state of the arts in our country as a result of censorship.

State censorship creates a sense of fear, self-censorship, and takes away our civil liberties, FAC affirms. We will NOT tolerate the death of artistic freedom!

The march will start from City Gate, Valletta at 10.30am on Saturday 24 July. It is expected to proceed halfway down Republic Street, up Merchant's Street and stop in front of the Culture Ministry.

Participants are invited to wear black in mourning of Maltese art.


13th July   

Minister of Censorship...

Dutch injustice minister proposes ban on very violent video games
Link Here

Dutch gamers have started a petition started against the Dutch Minister of Injustice, Ernst Hirsch Ballin who is seeking criminal prohibition of extremely violent imagery, including videogames.

Ballin seemed to specifically focus on games in his proposed banning, according to an article from Dutch gaming site Bashers. In a letter to the house, Ballin, who intimated that banning violent games would be easier and draw less resistance than banning violent movies, wrote that games allow players to identify with the aggressor and to be continuously involved in violent action.

Apparently many of Ballin's ideas in his letter were based on a 2007 book called Media Violence and Children from author Peter Nikken. Nikken said that he found it strange that the Minister would say that games would be worse than movies. He accused Ballin of using some of his book's quotes for impact, while ignoring other nuances.

Gamers appear to have a friend in MP Tofik Dibi, who posed some challenging written questions for Ballin.

The Stop Burning Books 2.0 petition now has 2,323 signatures.


11th July   

Update: Italy Gagged...

24 hour news strike over Berlusconi's press gag law
Link Here

Friday saw a day without newspapers in Italy as reporters and editors went on a 24-hour strike. They were joined by radio, TV and some internet journalists.

The action was over a parliamentary bill proposing a law that Silvio Berlusconi's government claims safeguards privacy. Most of Italy's editors, judges and prosecutors say it is intended to shield politicians, and particularly the prime minister, whose career has been ridden with financial and sexual scandals.

The so-called gagging law would curb the ability of police and prosecutors to record phone conversations and plant listening devices. It would also stop journalists publishing the resulting transcripts. Investigators seeking to listen in on a suspect would need permission from three judges. Regardless of circumstances, eavesdropping warrants would expire after 75 days, after which they must be renewed every three days.

The National Magistrates' Association said it had very serious consequences: The fight against crime will be much more difficult for police and investigating magistrates, while the administration of justice will be overwhelmed by bureaucratic demands that will make the operation of the system objectively impossible.

The bill excludes mafia and terrorism investigations. But the police unions say it would cripple inquiries into offences such as moneylending and drug-trafficking which frequently lead investigators to organised criminals and terrorists.

The media would only be able to publish a summary of the findings of an investigation after it had ended. While that may be no more onerous a restriction than applies in Britain, the editor of Italy's biggest-selling daily, Corriere della Sera, Ferruccio de Bortoli, argues it is a bill tailor-made to shield members of the government from unwelcome investigation .

The gagging law is to enter the last stage of its parliamentary journey on July 29.


4th July   

Update: Premier Privacy...

Berlusconi's press gag law under widespread fire
Link Here

More than 1,000 Italian journalists gathered in Rome to protest against a law that curbs police wiretaps and imposes fines on news organisations that publish transcripts.

The prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, claims the new rules are needed to protect privacy.

The Italian National Press Federation has called a strike for 9 July in protest.

Opposition parties accuse Berlusconi of trying to cover up corruption with a tailor-made law to shield him from prosecution while in office.

The US justice department has expressed concern over the law's effect on investigations of organised crime.


1st July   

Update: Stitched Up...

Judges offended by the play Stitching banned in Malta
Link Here
Full story: Stage Censorship in Malta...Maltese censors ban stage play Stitching, then get disbanded

Malta's Civil Court has found that the Film and Stage Classification Board did not violate freedom of expression when it banned the play Stitching last year.

The play, penned by Scottish writer Anthony Neilson, addresses such themes as death and abortion.

The case was instituted by Adrian Buckle, Christopher Gatt, Maria Pia Zammit, Mikhail Basmadjian and Unifaun Theatre Productions Ltd against Teresa Friggieri, the prime minister, the Police commissioner and the Attorney General.

The producers had pleaded that the banning of the play, in January last year, violated their fundamental right of freedom of expression.

They also pointed out that the script of the play was freely available in Malta and the play had been staged in many other European countries.

They called for the classification of banned to be replaced by another classification which would enable the play to be staged.

But the court said it had no hesitation in saying that the decision of the board was correct and according to law:

There was nothing unreasonable in the board having viewed the play as being offensive to the culture of this country in its broadest sense.

It was not proper, even in a democratic and pluralistic society as is Malta's, for the lows of human dignity to be exalted even on the pretext of showing how a couple could survive a storm.

One could not make extensive use of language which was vulgar, obscene and blasphemous and which exalted perversion and undermined the right to life. Neither could one undermine the dignity of women including the victims of the holocaust, reduce women to a simple object of sexual gratification, and ridicule the family.

A civil, democratic, and tolerant society could not allow its values to be turned upside down simply because there was freedom of expression.

The court said the board was right to view the play as exalting perversion as if it was acceptable behaviour. Bestiality, the stitching up of a vagina as an act of sexual pleasure and having a woman eat somebody else's excrement, rape and infanticide were unacceptable, even in a democratic society.

Furthermore, the fact that a person was allowed to blaspheme in public, even on stage, went against the law.

The court therefore found that there had been no violation of fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Constiuttion and the European Convention of Human Rights when the play was banned.


Based on article from

The producers of the play Stitching have declared that they will appeal from a Court judgment which upheld a decision by the Stage and Film Classification Board to ban the production.

The ban had caused an uproar, sparking months of discussion. The play's producers, Unifaun, had claimed their freedom of expression was being denied but the court yesterday disagreed. They have said they would, if necessary, even take the case before the European Court.

An Affront to Freedom

Based on article from

Malta's Front Against Censorship has lashed out at the court's decision to ban the play Stitching , saying that the play does not offend public morals because blasphemy and vulgar language are now part and parcel of adult plays.

The group argued that banning the play verges on the ludicrous, because people know beforehand what they are letting themselves in for before attending the play. In a statement, the group further criticised one of the court's decisions to ban the play because its plotline does not fit with attitudes and values typical of Maltese society. Since the play was classified as containing adult material, banning the play outright, when it has been performed in a host of other countries, is discriminatory and unacceptable, the group argued.

Front Against Censorship concluded by calling on a new legislation which would clear the air on what theatrical performances and works of art in Malta can and should be censored, and what should not.

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