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EU Censorship News

2013: April-June

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Update: Play Rights...

Maltese theatre company goes to European Court to content ban on the play, Stitching

Link Here29th June 2013

A Maltese theatre company had planned to stage the play Stitching by Anthony Neilson. However the play was banned by the theatre censors. The controversy has resulted in the theatre censors being disbanded, but the play is still banned in the country. The legal dispute is continuing, now heading towards the highest court in Europe.

Unifaun Theatre Productions have now taken the case of the banned play Stitching to the European Court of Human Rights. This is in response to the Constitutional Court of Appeal upheld a ban on performing the production last November.

Unifaun had planned to stage the play at St James Cavalier in Valletta in 2009 but it was banned by the now defunct Film and Stage Classification Board. The board banned the play because of what it perceived as blasphemy, contempt for Auschwitz victims, dangerous sexual perversions, a eulogy to child murderers and references to the abduction, sexual assault and murder of children contained in the script.

The company said it was turning to the ECHR having exhausted all domestic judicial remedies.



Do You Remember When We Had Free Speech?...

You know... before we had political correctness, and before police started arresting people for jokes and insults...Well the EU are consulting the public about it

Link Here27th June 2013

The EU is committed to promote human rights in all areas of its external action without exception, in particular, using the link between new technologies and human rights as important avenues for promoting democracy.

In this context the EU strategic framework on Human rights and Democracy adopted in 25 June 2012, foresees that the EU will develop CFSP Guidelines on Freedom of Expression online and offline, including the protection of bloggers and journalists. The Human right guidelines are an integral part of our Human rights policy. The guidelines are practical tools to help EU representations in the field to better advance our policy.

The EU guidelines on Freedom of expression, which should be adopted in the coming months, will ensure a maximum of coherence and consistency in EU and EUMS actions, as well as a reinforced visibility of the EU commitment on freedom of expression.

The EEAS would like to consult civil society while drafting these guidelines, opening up public consultations through the EEAS internet page. Please give us your input until 15 July 2013.

Index on Censorship have already published their contribution. See  How the European Union can protect freedom of expression from



Update: Searching for Free Speech...

The supposed 'right to be forgotten' doesn't look like it will trump the right to factual legitimate information

Link Here26th June 2013

Google should not have to delete information from its search results when old information is pulled up that is damaging to individuals who claim to be harmed by the content.

That's the early opinion of a special advisor to the European Union's highest court, who has apparently sided with Google in a case involving a man in Spain who argued that Google searches about him provide information about an arrest years before that should be cleaned up to protect him.

An expert opinion requested by the European Court of Justice, which is based in Luxembourg, recommended that Google not be forced to expunge all links to a 15-year-old legal notice published in a Spanish newspaper documenting a failure to pay back taxes.

Instead, the European Union's highest court was advised to strike down a Spanish regulator's demand that the search engine grant citizens a broad digital 'right to be forgotten,' including the ability to delete previous arrests and other negative publicity from Google's online search results.

A final decision in the case is expected before the end of this year.



Updated: Hardly Earth Shattering...

Conflict of interest moves Irish book censorship to another ministry

Link Here25th June 2013
Full story: Book Censorship in Ireland...Minister for censorship investigated by how own censor board

A sexy novel written by the Irish Minister for Justice Alan Shatter 24 years ago has prompted him to transfer responsibility for censorship out of his department.

A ludicrous complaint to the Censorship of Publications Board alleging that his novel, Laura: A Story You Will Never Forget , is somehow obscene posed a dilemma for the Minister whose department has ultimate responsibility for the board.

In response he has decided to shift responsibility for censorship out of Justice to the Department of Arts and Heritage. A Government spokesman said the Minister had made the decision in case there was any suggestion of a conflict of interest on the part of Shatter.

A complaint about the book's sex scenes was lodged with the censorship board over a month ago. The complaint also claims that the novel advocates the procurement of an abortion or miscarriage, contrary to Irish censorship laws.

Update: Cashing In

25th June 2013. See  article from

Justice Minister Alan Shatter's raunchy first novel Laura has been reprinted and hits the bookshelves today.

A spokeswoman for Poolbeg Press said:

We have had very good support for the reprint of the book from stores like Easons, Tesco, Dunnes Stores, with a good response also from Dubray and other independent book stores.

Women will enjoy the book. It's written in 1989 but the issues it raises are still very relevant and it has tough questions to ask.

We've decided to keep the original cover. It has become quite iconic.

Shatter is expected to do one or two high-profile interviews to promote the book. When Poolbeg approached him about reprinting the book, he said he was very happy with it .



Keeping Blasphemy Law Out of Europe...

European Parliament passed 2 resolutions opposing any attempts to establish blasphemy laws

Link Here24th June 2013

On 13 June, MEPs voted in favour of 2 resolutions to set the EU Guidelines on the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief, which explicitly mention the need to protect the rights of both believers and non-believers and oppose any attempt to criminalise freedom of expression on religious grounds.

The first resolution ( 2011/2081(INI) ), focusing on press freedom: Recognizes that governments have the primary responsibility for guaranteeing and protecting freedom of the press and media. The resolution also points out that governments also have the primary responsibility for hampering freedom of the press and media and, in the worst cases, are increasingly resorting to legal pressures in order to restrict that freedom, e.g. through the abuse of anti-terrorism or anti-extremism legislation and laws on national security, treason or subversion. The EP endorses a balance between the concerns of national security and press freedom. The resolution goes further to deplore the fact that  journalists are frequently wounded or murdered or are being subjected to serious abuses throughout the world, often with impunity, and stresses the importance of combating impunity.

The second resolution ( 2013/2082(INI) ), centering on religious freedom, endorses the firm opposition of any attempt to criminalise freedom of speech in relation to religious issues, such as blasphemy laws. The EP predictably condemns all forms of violence and discrimination, but goes further to emphasize that particular attention should be paid to the situation of those who change their religion or belief, as in practice they are subject in a number of countries to social pressure, intimidation or outright violence.



Taking Issue with Laissez-Faire Culture...

French politicians debate the age rating for the crime thriller Only God Forgives

Link Here5th June 2013

Only God Forgives is a 2013 France/Thailand/USA/Sweden crime drama thriller by Nicolas Winding Refn.
With Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Yayaying Rhatha Phongam. YouTube icon IMDb

Julian, a drug-smuggler thriving in Bangkok's criminal underworld, sees his life get even more complicated when his mother compels him to find and kill whoever is responsible for his brother's recent death.

International ratings so far from IMDb (not sure these are confirmed though):

  • USA: R (17A)
  • Switzerland: 16
  • Norway: 15
  • Germany: 18
  • UK: 18 for strong bloody violence

Re-classification of Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives from 16 to 12 has prompted controversy in France.

The decision has sparked a public spat between former presidential candidate Ségolene Royal and Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti.

Originally rated a certificate 16, the film's classification was softened to a certificate 12 ahead of its May 22 release, following an appeal by co-distributors Wild Side Films and Le Pacte. Under the French film classification system, the Minister of Culture grants certificates on the advice of a 28-person commission.

The distributors spoke of their saying:

In our appeal letter we pointed out to the minister that Only God Forgives was no more violent than Django Unchained or Rambo 4 which were both given certificate 12s.

If the film had been forbidden to under-16s, a number of theatres would have refused to show the film, especially within the mainstream circuits. It's our job to make the film available to as big an audience as possible.

Royal said in an interview with current affairs TV show over the weekend that she believed Filippetti had bowed to pressure from the producers when she signed off on the modification:

I regret that Aurélie Filippetti de-classified an ultra-violent film which was originally forbidden for under 16-year-olds. We can't contaminate youngsters with scenes of extreme violence.

France reserves its 18 rating for hardcore porn. The 16 rating is usually used for the most violent mainstream films, (and for softcore porn). Most less extreme films, rated 18 in the UK, will qualify for a 12 rating in France. And the French censors certainly don't waste everybody's time worrying about strong language.



Update: Facebook Prudery Has Few Friends...

Facebook censors French protest against its censorship of nudity

Link Here22nd May 2013
Full story: Facebook Censorship...Facebook quick to censor

Day of Nude on Facebook , a French protest aimed at challenging Facebook's unnecessary censorship of photos was censored when Facebook took down the event page and suspended the accounts of some involved in the online demonstration.

Launched by French photographer Alain Bachellier, the Facebook event asked its 8,000-plus participants to publish a nude picture on Monday, Le Huffington Post reports. While some chose to post of a photo of their own creation, most instead shared copies of famous nude works of art.

Coinciding with the final day of the European Festival of Nude Photography, the Facebook event sought to fight against the ridiculous censorship that flouts the basic rules of our freedom of expression in the name of Puritanism or the moral rules of another age,

A spokesman for Facebook France told the Agence France-Presse that page was closed in the early afternoon.

Facebook authorizes users to mobilize around common causes, included cultural ones, but it can't authorize the cause itself to encourage users to disrespect their conditions of use.



Forgotten Book Censorship...

Irish Justice Minister's novel set to be investigated by his own book censorship board

Link Here22nd May 2013
Full story: Book Censorship in Ireland...Minister for censorship investigated by how own censor board

A sexy novel written by Ireland's Justice Minister, Alan Shatter, has been referred to the Censorship office. Book censors are set to investigate whether Laura: A Story You Will Never Forget is too obscene for Irish readers.

The book, which the minister wrote 24 years ago, contains steamy sex scenes and centres around the troubled private life of an Oireachtas member who is having an affair with his secretary. At one point in the book, the fictional parliamentarian attempts to force the woman to have an abortion in order to save his political career.

The Herald understands that a complaint about the book's sex scenes has been lodged with the Censorship of Publications Board. Another allegation is the novel advocates the procurement of an abortion or miscarriage. In Ireland there are two main categories under which books can be banned. The first is they are indecent or obscene while the second is they advocate the procurement of abortion or miscarriage .

A spokesperson for the Board confirmed that concerns have been raised with its secretary by a member of the public and added: The complaint will be considered by the new Censorship of Publications Board when it is appointed. Ironically, it is Shatter who is due to announce the members of the board in the coming weeks.



Offsite Article: Hungary: Rule of Law Under Threat...

Link Here17th May 2013
Full story: Media Censorship in Hungary...Repressive media censor established in 2011
Government's Damaging Changes to Legal Framework Require EU Action

See article from



Update: Reputation Management...

Google told to censor search suggestions when they are complained about

Link Here15th May 2013
Full story: Scientology Censors...Scientogists quick to litigate against critics

A German federal court has told Google to censor the auto-complete results that its search engine suggests.

The court said Google must ensure terms generated by auto-complete are not contrary to the wishes of those that complain.

The court case was started by an unnamed German businessman who found that linked him with scientology and fraud . Google must now remove certain word combinations when told about them, said the court.

A person's privacy would be violated if the associations conjured up by auto-complete were claimed to be untrue, the federal court said in a statement about the ruling. However, it added, this did not mean that Google had to sanitise its entire index. The operator is, as a basic principle, only responsible when it gets notice of the unlawful violation of personal rights.

The ruling on auto-complete overturns two earlier decisions by lower German courts.



Scrounging Links...

Irish film censor pressurises Netflix over providing age rating information

Link Here12th May 2013

The Irish film censor is attempting to scrounge a website link from the US video on demand service, Netflix.

The Irish Film Classification Office (Ifco) wrote twice last year asking Netflix to redirect people looking for information about the age suitability of a film to the censor's website. Ifco wants a link to be added in the frequently asked questions (FAQ) section of the Netflix website. Ifco wrote:

Ifco habitually receives queries and complaints, primarily from parents, relating to film content viewed without Ifco's age ratings, often online. This being the case, we feel it would be beneficial to your Irish users, parents in particular, to know more detailed consumer advice regarding your content is freely available.

Netflix have declined the link exchange citing technical difficulties.



Offsite Article: The sorry state of the Irish media...

Link Here1st May 2013
The story of free speech in Ireland today has moved on considerably from the past, but the political class believes that they can decide just how the public conversation should be conducted. By Padraig Reidy

See article from



Drunk on PC Extremism...

Swedish drinks censor whinge about beer bottle with a busty, lusty lady on the label

Link Here20th April 2013

A cartoon depiction of a busty woman has been deemed too sexy for Sweden's state run liquor store monopoly Systembolaget, forcing a brewery in Denmark to change the beer bottle's label for the Swedish stores.

The bottle features a cartoon image of a woman who is half submerged in water. Above her, the word Lust appears in capital letters. The beer is part of a Seven Deadly Sins Series, from Danish brewers Amager Bryghus, with each of the sins represented by a cartoon image on different bottles.

But Sweden's state-run liquor retailer has decided that the picture on the Lust bottle doesn't abide by Sweden's alcohol etiquette.

As a result, Systembolaget has told the brewers to remove or edit the picture if the beer is to be sold in Sweden. The brewers responded by simply blacking out the entire label so neither the woman nor the bath is visible at all.

However the Danish brewers are having the last laugh. Henrik Paps, head of communications at the brewery, told The Local:

There's been a flood of calls and emails from Swedes who think the decision is ridiculous, and they've been ordering copies of the uncensored beer from here in Denmark. We've gained a major following.



Offsite Article: Naked ambition...

Link Here19th April 2013
Iceland is determined to outlaw the world's oldest business. Can it succeed? The Economist does an in-depth piece on PC extremist bans on porn, strip clubs and sex work

See article from



Extract: Promoting News Censorship...

EU funding organisations that call for the establishment of state news censors

Link Here15th April 2013

The European Union is quietly pouring millions of pounds into initiatives and groups seeking state-backed censorship of the press, including key allies of the reprehensible Hacked Off campaign.

Said to be angered by the British media's coverage of Brussels, the European Commission says it wants to be a moral compass against supposed press misconduct, seeking new national and Europe-wide censorship powers over journalists.

The EU has spent 2.3 million on the previously unpublicised Mediadem project claiming to reclaim a free and independent media . In a policy brief co-authored by its lead British researcher, Rachael Craufurd Smith, Mediadem says it is simplistic to see state influence [over the press] as inherently stifling .

Mediadem recently produced recommendations for the UK demanding the imposition of sanctions beyond an apology or correction on errant media outlets and the co-ordination of the journalistic profession at the European level .

The recommendations call for the press to be controlled by the same body and on the same basis as broadcasters, who are currently tightly regulated with statutory balance obligations that do not apply to newspapers.

...Read the full article



State Censorship...

Ireland's TV censor looks to ban news presenters from stating their opinions

Link Here11th April 2013

Ireland's TV censor has proposed controversial new censorship rules for television and radio stations.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has proposed a new code governing news and current affairs. It introduces a ban on presenters from stating their personal view on air. Another proposal to establish a register of financial interests of presenters has been put on hold by the BAI due to legal difficulties.

In a submission to the BAI, TV3 accused the broadcasting censor of attempting to extend Draconian controls over the media:

The State now seeks through its regulator to control content on channels it does not own, limiting news and current affairs programming to arid lists of facts

It prevents non-State broadcasters from having a different view from the State and thereby restricts essential roles of media as watchdog, as court of public opinion and as provider of informed analysis. At best this is unnecessary 'regulatory creep', more harshly it could be called state censorship.

TV3 said if such a code was introduced in countries like Russia or China it would be regarded as an attack on free media.



Update: Low Budget Court Action...

Spanish gender extremists take Ryanair to court over bikini calendar

Link Here3rd April 2013
Full story: Ryanair Adverts...Ryanair wind up advert censors

The Irish low budget airline Ryanair is being prosecuted by gender extremists in Spain over the production of their 2013 calendar featuring female cabin crew in bikinis.

Groups in Spain's Malaga province claim the calendar is 'offensive' and exploits female employees. They claim that the public use of these images is illegal.

The case is set to be heard before a three-judge panel on April 30.

The calendar is sold on all Ryanair flights for $12 and all proceeds go to the Polish TVN Foundation, which helps children suffering with cystic fibrosis. The company expects to raise $128,508 for the charity.

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