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International Censorship News

2007: Jan-March

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31st  March   UN-Believable Religious Bollox ...


The Modern World

I disapprove of what you say,
but I will defend to the death
your right to say it.
If you disagree...
 I will kill you

UN Human Rights Council passes motion against defamation of religion

From MediawatchWatch

European countries are arguing forcefully that free speech is the basis for the enjoyment of all other cultural and political rights, and Islamic countries are taking the line that protecting religious sentiments is the most pressing task of our time.

The choice would almost seem to be a moot one, given the daily acts of torture, extrajudicial killing, imprisonment and denial of basic rights going on around the world every day, but certain countries not usually considered the greatest defenders of liberty have made the problem of 'defamation of religion' a central issue of debate in the UN Human Rights Council.

Thanks to Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan and Tunisia, among others, resolutions urging a worldwide ban on 'defamation of religion' have become a regular fixture in the one-year old council.

Unfortunately the United Nations Human Rights Council has now passed a resolution urging a global prohibition on the defamation of religion. For “religion” read “Islam”, because the main thrust of the resolution focussed on that particular belief system. This is unsurprising, as the resolution was pushed through by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference countries, and opposed only by European countries plus Canada, Japan, and South Korea.

The resolution is said to: expresse deep concern at attempts to identify Islam with terrorism, violence and human rights violations.

It makes no mention of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism or any other religion besides Islam, but urges countries to take resolute action to prohibit the dissemination of racist and xenophobic ideas and material aimed at any religion or its followers that constitute incitement and religious hatred, hostility, or violence.

It was passed by a 24-14 vote.

Needless to say, the Islamic countries and their allies (China, Cuba, Russia) don’t exactly have the greatest human rights records, especially when it comes to freedom of expression, which, according to the resolution: may … be subject to limitations as provided by law and necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others … or morals and respect for religions and beliefs.


28th March   Sending a Censorial Message ...

China flagMobile phone porn banned in China

I would have thought that anything to do with porn would have been banned already

From China Daily

Beijingers who send pornographic text messages or pictures on their cell phones may face fines up to 3,000 yuan (US$385) and two weeks in administrative detention, the local public security department has warned.

Those who sell such content can face jail terms between six months and three years, according to China's criminal law and the law on public security administration.

Over the past three weeks, Beijing police have arrested 19 second-hand cell phone dealers who were found selling mass storage devices containing pornographic pictures or films. The mass storage chips, which can hold a 60 minute-long film, were being sold for five or six yuan (US$0.64 to 0.77) each, a spokesman with the Beijing Public Security Bureau told Xinhua.

It's also illegal for the public to download pornographic content from the Internet or to forward it to friends, he said, adding that the severest penalty in such cases would be 10 to 15 days in detention plus a fine up to 3,000 yuan.


28th March   Peruvian Nutters ...

Peru flagCalls for Internet cafe filters in Peru

We don't get to hear much from Peru, but predictably they are suffering from the same problems of mean minded nutters as the rest of the world.

Based on an article from Living Peru

Civil representatives from the southern Peruvian province of Arequipa have increased operations that call for the immediate placement of pornography control filters in all internet cafes located throughout southern Peru's largest city.

Sonia Sanchez, Manager of Arequipa's Gestion Social, a public advocacy group, indicated that the operations, which began last February, will cease when: all internet cafe operators become responsible and place the filter in their establishments.

Sanchez informed that the operations are unpredictable in nature, since they occur at all hours of the day and target every internet cafe in Arequipa.

Additionally, the public advocate called for separate designated areas in cafes where under-age children can surf the internet worry free.

The campaign's 'success' has brought much satisfaction to Gestion Social and its ultimate goal is to spread the initiative throughout the entire department.

Arequipa city officials are also contemplating making the measure a city wide requirement. According to Sanchez, making the measure a city ordinance stands a good chance of becoming official at the end of April.


7th March   Blogger Blocker ...

Great Wall of ChinaChina blocks 1.8 million blogs

From Daily Tech

According to an announcement made by LiveJournal, China has officially blocked the popular online blogging site from its citizens. China's censor locked out about 1.8 million blogs, of which 8,692 are self-reported Chinese bloggers.

This isn't the first time that China has blocked LiveJournal. This block is just in time for China's National People's Congress meeting in Beijing. According to Xiao Qiang, founder of the China Digital Times, the move is historical to the meeting: The security is tight and the control is upgraded because they don't want [political voices].

Chinese officials did not release a statement as to why LiveJournal was blocked, but according to Xiao, the government likely put up a blanket-restriction to target a few, or possibly one blogger. Xiao claims it is possible that Chinese officials simply wanted to block out a single blogger or a specific post, but blocked out all of LiveJournal anyway.

25th March   Update: Blogspot Blocked ...

Great Wall of ChinaChina blocks more blogs

From Shanghaiist
see Great Firewall of China to check on blocked sites

The Chinese government is once again tightening the screws of internet censorship. Specifically, the new changes are targeted against China's bloggers and their 34 million blogs. LiveJournal was an early casualty of the new enforcement, as well as Xanga, and now, it seems that BlogSpot has been blocked again.

If you wish to check for blocked sites, you could test for them
here , if that site were not also blocked. Naturally, we here at Shanghaiist are absolutely thrilled with these developments, and we feel that the emperor's clothes are perfectly exquisite.


22nd March   No People for People's TV ...

CPJ logoSatellite channel blocked by the Thai authorities

From CPJ

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the censorship of a new satellite television station by Thai authorities, part of an ongoing ban against the broadcaster since the military seized power in a coup last September.

Over the weekend, government agencies blocked news programs carried by PTV, or People’s Television, which was established last month in Hong Kong by politicians from ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai political party.

A PTV employee told CPJ that access to their station was first blocked on Sunday, approximately 10 hours after its maiden broadcast. PTV was unclear about what footage, if any, may have driven the government to censor its broadcasts.

The station had failed to air on March 1, after the state-run Communications Authority of Thailand and the Telephone Organization of Thailand, which together control the country’s telecommunications infrastructure, had declined to give PTV the Internet access it needed to launch the new channel. To bypass the state agencies, PTV joined with Star Channel MV1, one of 18 satellite broadcasters in the country.

Top military leaders had earlier indicated that they would not interfere with PTV’s news broadcasts if the station abided by rules it has imposed on state-controlled television stations, including a ban on broadcasting any news footage or interviews that feature Thaksin. The government has on several occasions blocked news spots that featured footage of Thaksin, including reports from international news broadcasters CNN and BBC.


19th March   Update: European Censure of Nigeria ...

Nigeria FlagWide ranging human rights resolution passed

From GayNZ

The European Parliament is to call on the Nigerian Government and Parliament not to adopt the proposed 'Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act' in its current form.

If passed, the Nigerian bill would mean anyone who speaks out or forms a group supporting lesbian and gay people's rights would be imprisoned. Virtually any public discussion or visibility around lesbian and gay lives would be silenced.

Members of the European Parliament voted 61-24, with one abstention, on a wide-ranging human rights resolution that included a call to abolish the death penalty and to intervene in individual cases of persons tried under Sharia law and sentenced to death, amputation, flogging or other inhuman and degrading treatment that violates the Nigerian Constitution as well as international human rights law.


17th March   Desperate Measures ...

Pakistan flagPakistan police smash up TV station

From The Independent

President Pervez Musharraf's regime in Pakistan is resorting to increasingly heavy-handed methods to quell protests against him that are growing by the day.

In Islamabad yesterday hundreds of police fought protesters outside the Supreme Court. And as the protests continued, riot police stormed the Geo private television station, which was broadcasting pictures of the protests, tear-gassed the staff and smashed up the studio.

Several high-profile figures were arrested for taking part in demonstrations around the country, including a former president and the leader of one of the main opposition parties. An MP claimed he had been beaten by police at the demonstrations.

Inside the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary was attending his second closed hearing before a special tribunal. At the centre of the row is President Musharraf's attempt to sack Chaudhary.

The authorities had already ordered one of Geo's most popular news programmes off the air for its critical coverage of the President's move against Chaudhary. As the channel defied pressure not to broadcast images of the protests, riot police burst into its Islamabad studio to shut it down by force.

But the tactic appeared to misfire badly when Geo was able to broadcast live images of the helmeted policemen forcing their way into the building.


16th March   Freedom Awards ...

IFEX logo
Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards

From the BBC
See also IFEX

Five "defenders of free speech" have been honoured at a London awards ceremony.

The annual Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards salute people who have contributed to the defence of freedom of expression. They are given to those who use film, the law, books, journalism, campaigning or whistleblowing to achieve this. The awards' organisers said each winner was symbolic of under-reported stories.

The whistleblower award went to Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught lawyer in the Shandong province of China. Known as the "barefoot lawyer", he is a blind activist who publicised reports of forced abortions, as late as eight months pregnant, and sterilisations in the city of Linyi to enforce China's one-child policy. Chen was sentenced in August 2006 to over four years in prison for property damage and organising a crowd to disturb traffic.

The 2007 award for journalism went to 22-year old blogger Abdel Kareem Soliman, who wrote under the name Kareem Amer. He was recently sentenced to four years in prison after using his web log to criticise the country's top Islamic institution, al-Azhar university, and President Hosni Mubarak, whom he called a dictator.

The literature award went to assassinated Lebanese journalist Samir Qasir, well known for his criticism of the former pro-Syrian Lebanese authorities, for his book Being Arab. Qasir died in a Beirut car bomb attack in 2005.

The campaigning award went to Siphiwe Hlophe, from Swaziland, for her work with women who have HIV/Aids. Having suffered discrimination first hand when she was diagnosed with HIV, Ms Hlophe co-founded an organisation called Swazis for Positive Living which aims to fight gender discrimination related to HIV/Aids and help other victims.

This year's film award went to Israeli director Yoav Shamir for his film Five Days , a documentary about the Israeli Defence Force and the planned evacuation of Jewish settlers from Gaza.


2nd March   Under the Thumb of the State ...

Isarel flagIsrael mandates biometric checks for adult web surfers

From X Biz

Members of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, gave preliminary approval to a bill that would require Internet service providers to restrict access to websites with adult content.

The bill, which calls on ISPs to block minors from accessing adult websites that contain sex, violence or gambling, moved through the Knesset with unanimous support. Only one lawmaker from the 25 member body abstained.

According to the language of the bill, access to adult websites would require physical or biometric age verification in addition to a password.

The bill’s sponsor, Amnon Cohen, said newer computers have the capability to institute his proposal. Cohen said he proposed the bill because of national studies concluding that 60% of Israeli children between the ages of 9 and 18 have seen porn online.

The legislation also calls for a fine of nearly $5,000 for ISPs that fail to comply.

Absent from the bill is a definition of how sites would be classified as adult. Nor does the bill contemplate the technical or financial feasibility of its requirements.

The bill's definitions are flawed and it constitutes a violation of the right for privacy and freedom of speech, said Dr. Michael Birnhack of Haifa University's Faculty of Law. The bill does not define what is a site that deals with sex, and so it would appear that it is also meant to block access to sites explaining about human sexuality, open sex, gay and lesbian sites, or sites explaining about martial arts because they deal with violence.

18th March   Update: Register for Porn ...

Isarel flagIsrael to require faxed ID to receive adult services

From Haaretz

Phone users wanting to receive erotic services on their cellular devices face a potential roadblock in the Communications Ministry. Anyone seeking such services will first have to fax or e-mail a copy of his identity card, including picture, according to a ministry plan. The ministry will hold a hearing on amending licenses of cellular operators in accordance with this regulation.

The ministry, however, faces harsh criticism for limiting only one area, while these services will still be available with relatively easy access on cable or satellite TV and with no restrictions on the Internet.

The ministry also withdrew from its earlier demand that cellular firms install systems for filtering pornographic content. Company heads railed against efforts to limit freedom of cellular surfing.


14th March   There is no Swiss Justice ...

Swiss flagTurk punished for genocide denial

It seems a bit nasty to persecute someone for a belief they learnt in school and supported by their own government.

From the BBC see full article

A Swiss court has convicted a Turkish politician of racial discrimination for denying that mass killings of Armenians in Turkey in 1915 amounted to genocide. He was given a suspended sentence and fined $2,450 (£1,270).

The Swiss parliament has labelled the killings as genocide. Turkey firmly rejects the genocide allegation.

Nationalist leader Dogu Perincek was on trial for remarks he made in a public speech in Lausanne in 2005. Perincek, the head of the Turkish Workers' Party, had denied the charges: I have not denied genocide because there was no genocide, he told the court earlier this week.

A law criminalising the denial of genocide was adopted in 2003 by the parliament in the Swiss canton of Vaud, where Perincek made his remarks.

Twelve Turks prosecuted in Switzerland on similar charges in 2001 were acquitted.


12th March   Addicted to Repression ...

China flagRe-education for those addicted to the Internet

Based on an article from The Scotsman

A military-style boot camp near Beijing is at the front-line of China's battle against Internet addiction.

The Internet Addiction Treatment Centre (IATC) in Daxing county uses a blend of therapy and military drills to treat the children of China's nouveau riche addicted to online games, Internet pornography, cybersex and chats.

Supposedly concerned by a number of high-profile Internet-related deaths and juvenile crime, the government is now taking steps to stem Internet addictions by banning new Internet cafes and mulling restrictions on violent computer games.

The government-funded Daxing centre, run by an army colonel under the Beijing Military Hospital, is one of a handful of clinics treating patients with Internet addictions in China.


11th March   So Little Time ...

India flagSerious Indian TV to be limited to after 11pm

From RxPG news

The Indian government has drawn up the first formal content code for TV channels.

The code will prescribe a watershed time band for TV viewing. The source said films with ‘A’ and ‘U/A’ censor certification, and other programmes for adult viewing, would be permitted across channels from 11pm to 5am. Only those films and programmes certified as ‘U’ will be allowed outside that time band.

The content code is believed to envisage the creation of a panel to monitor self-regulation. Indian Broadcasting Foundation, the association for TV channels, may act as the monitoring panel.

The Broadcasting Bill is expected to be introduced in the next session of Parliament.


11th March   Violent Culture in China ...

China flagChina 'needs' more censorship

From RxPG news

China needs a law to restrict a 'violent culture' in films and Internet to protect the youth from being corrupted, a Chinese lawmaker said.

Only legislation can limit the violence-dominated content in media, said Peng Fuchun, a member of the National People's Congress. He said a violent culture was rapidly spreading in China, impacting the society negatively.

The lack of a film rating system and an effective TV censorship had left teenagers exposed to violent scenes, Peng said. He also blamed film and TV producers for promoting their products with violence, horror and crime as selling points.

Fu said that many online games and about 70% of non-education Internet information contain violence: Online war games make young people to fight and kill in the cyber space, while heroes in films, TV dramas and cartoons, promoting violence, become their idols.

China has witnessed 68% rise in juvenile crimes in the past five years said a survey by the China Youth and Children Studies research group this year.


8th March   Censorial Turkishness ...

Gagged Turkish protestorTurkey bans YouTube as they take offence at video taunts

From the BBC see full article

Access to the popular video-sharing website YouTube has been suspended in Turkey following a court order.

The ban was imposed after prosecutors told the court that clips insulting former Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had appeared on the site.

According to Turkish media, there has been a "virtual war" between Greek and Turkish users of the site, with both sides posting insulting videos.

The clip prompting the ban reportedly dubbed Ataturk and Turks homosexuals. The offending videos sparked a storm of complaints to YouTube and the clips were removed, but the court order goes further, blocking all access to the site.

Insulting Ataturk, the founding father of modern Turkey, or "Turkishness" is an offence which can result in a prison sentence.

Turkish visitors to the site are now greeted with a message in English and Turkish reading "Access to site has been suspended in accordance with decision no: 2007/384 dated 06.03.2007 of Istanbul First Criminal Peace Court".

Paul Doany, the head of Turk Telecom, the country's largest telecoms company, said that they had blocked access to the site as soon as the court order came through. Doany said that for its part Turk Telecom will continue to enforce the ban as long as the order stands.

The European Union, which Turkey is hoping to join, has long called for an easing of Article 301, the law which prevents insults to Turkish culture, arguing that the law places severe restrictions on free speech in Turkey.

10th March   Update: You Turn ...

Gagged Turkish protestorTurkey restores YouTube after offending video was removed

From The Sydney Morning Herald

Internet users in Turkey regained access to the popular video-sharing website YouTube on Friday when a court revoked a ban imposed because a clip was judged to have insulted the country's founder.

Once we received the court decision revoking the ban, we allowed access to YouTube, according to Turk Telekom, Turkey's biggest ISP.

The company had blocked access to YouTube on Wednesday on a court order following press reports over a video, submitted by a Greek user, that allegedly insulted the country's founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Later that day, the same court ruled, after a petition from Turk Telekom, that it would cancel the ban if the offending video was removed from the website.

The ban was strongly criticized as censorship in the press and by the general public. The Turkish press reported that YouTube had removed the video after being bombarded by thousands of e-mails from protesting Turks.


8th March   Update: Little Lawsuits for Little Sisters ...

Little Sisters book & art emporiumBook Store to continue fight against Canadian Customs

From Xtra

The Little Sister's book store may continue its legal fight against censorship at the border, despite being denied advance costs by the Supreme Court Of Canada.

We've been encouraged by other people not to let up, says Little Sister's manager Janine Fuller. We're taking a deep breath and looking at where we stand.

The bookstore, which has been fighting the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) formerly known as Canada Customs, was denied funding by the high court on Jan 19, seemingly making it impossible for the store to continue its current fight.

But now Fuller says the bookstore is considering fighting on based on private donations and smaller-scale legal tactics.

Even if the store can't afford to fight another large-scale case, Fuller says she'd hate to see all the work that's gone into the current case go to waste: This case has piled up an incredible amount of evidence and witnesses and I'd hate to see that end up on the cutting-room floor. We're talking to our lawyers about other smaller cases, even if it's not the huge case.

CBSA hasn't seized any material since the current case began, but she doesn't think it's a sign that they've eased up: I think, as usual, they're just holding off. During a court case, they don't usually seize material.

In 2000, the Supreme Court Of Canada ruled that CBSA was unfairly targeting queer bookstores and materials and ordered the agency to stop. But Fuller says the agency didn't follow the court's orders, and that CBSA has actually added definitions to their obscenity regulations that disproportionately target queer material: After 2000, they added bootlicking and fisting to the regulations. It was quite appalling to think our community might face the brunt of those seizures.

Cheques can be sent to the Little Sister's Defence Fund c/o BC Civil Liberties Association, 425-815 West Hastings, Vancouver, BC, V6C 1B4. Receipts will be issued for donations of $10 or more.


7th March   'Mr' State Persecutor If You Please ...

Gagged Turkish protestorProsecuted for showing implied respect with the word 'Mr'

From the BBC see full article

A Kurdish politician in Turkey has been sentenced to six months in prison for referring to jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan as "Mr Ocalan".

A court in Diyarbakir said the use of "Mr" by Ahmet Turk implied respect for Ocalan, seen as a criminal in Turkey. Ocalan is serving a life sentence after he was found guilty of treason for leading the Kurdish armed campaign in which more than 30,000 people died.

Ahmet Turk was sentenced by the court in south-eastern Turkey on a charge of supporting a criminal in a speech he made in January 2006.

It was the second conviction for the leader of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) in seven days. Last week, Ahmet Turk, alongside a DTP deputy leader, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for distributing party materials in the Kurdish language. Turkish law allows distribution of political literature only in Turkish.

According to one tally, more than 50 DTP members of the pro-Kurdish DTP have been arrested and at least seven senior officials charged in less than a fortnight, our correspondent says.

Party officials argue they are victims of a sustained campaign of harassment, saying the authorities are trying to close the party down before a general election later this year.


5th March   Separating Turks from their Freedom ...

Turkey flagTurkey debates a wide range of websites to block

Based on an article from Sunday's Zaman

Members of the Turkish Parliament recently debated banning Web sites that publish materials countering the "indivisible unity
of the Turkish state."

Members of the Parliament's Justice Subcommittee debated banning Web sites that publish materials countering the "indivisible unity of the Turkish state" and agreed to include separatist crimes in a draft prepared to prevent child pornography and Internet crimes. However, the committee left the final decision to the upper-committee.

The committee consisting of officials from the Justice Ministry, academics and lawmakers noted the supposedly negative effects of separatist propaganda on children and the young, and agreed to block all separatist Web sites, particularly those affiliated with the terror network the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The draft stipulates a court verdict within 24 hours to shut down or block access to any website that publishes separatist materials.

The draft is expected to be enacted in March. Speaking at a Justice Committee meeting on the draft, the Justice Minister noted the number of Internet cafes was increasing nationwide and warned against the negative effects if they were not reigned in: Turkey is today facing the misuse of technology. We know from recent tragic events that the Internet is misused and materials that encourage drug use, sexual abuse, gambling and other bad habits are widely viewed in Internet cafes.

The draft contains the following regulations:

  • Access to Web sites publishing materials that encourage sexual abuse, drug use, pornography, prostitution, suicide and gambling will be blocked.
  • If the server or domain name provider is located overseas, the request to block access to such Web sites will be presented to the Telecommunication Board and the board will warn the concerned ISP to tackle the issue.
  • If the ISP fails to abide by the regulations, the board will give the concerned party a three day deadline. At the expiry of deadline, the server will be fined YTL 10,000 if it refuses to tackle the problem. The license of ISP could be cancelled if it fails to comply with the decision.
  • Owners of ISPs that fail to block access to banned Web sites could be sentenced up to three years imprisonment.
  • The Telecommunications Board will be entitled to stipulate in license agreements with Internet cafes the use of filters and content blocking software for Internet services.


4th March   Nutters, Police and Dildos Under the Same Roof...

North Carolina sealAdult toys and DVDs illegal together

Based on an article from AVN

Retailer Greg Sakas is calling out to the adult industry for help in his fight against police and religious nutters who are attempting to shut down his North Carolina business. This week, local authorities intend to charge Sakas with a third-class misdemeanor under a state law that prohibits the sale of adult DVDs and novelties under the same roof.

In late January, New Bern police raided Sakas' Pure Bliss outlet, seizing the store's inventory and records. According to Sakas, the action against him is the first salvo in a Christian Coalition campaign designed to rid North Carolina of pornography.

I'm the first person in North Carolina to ever be charged on this, Sakas told AVN. The Christian Coalition is looking at this as the springboard to a major fight in which they can shut down all the adult stores in North Carolina, and beyond. Everybody in the industry needs to fight this.

The Christian Coalition filed a complaint with the New Bern police, who applied for a search warrant on Jan. 29.

The police chief went ahead with the raid without even discussing it with the D.A., Sakas recounted. Six vice and narcotics officers came in like they were after a major seizure of narcotics. We've never had one person question what we were doing; we had a license to operate, with the city fully knowing we had adult material. They confiscated the fax machine, the computer, our vendor list, invoices, the DVR [surveillance cameras] and all of our paperwork from the past year; we had to estimate our sales tax at the end of the month. They took all the movies out of the store, and all of the printed matter except for the tattoo magazines. No one signed off on this, and they had no list or description of anything they took - it felt like we were in Nazi Germany.

In the weeks since the raid, New Bern police have placed Sakas and his store under surveillance. When employees began bringing video and magazine inventory back into Pure Bliss this past weekend, the police immediately arrived on the scene to block their efforts.

Heatwave Entertainment's sales and marketing VP Alex also contacted AVN to voice his concern over the case: If the other side wins, then they're just going to go after everybody else in that state…and then, it's going to be other states. That's why this is so important; everybody needs to be aware of this and support the cause.

Update:  Charged

March 7th

A store manager was arrested last night for a third-degree misdemeanor stemming from a Jan. 26 police raid on the store. New Bern police have also charged Sakas and three other employees with the same misdemeanor under a state law which prohibits novelties and videos from being sold under the same roof. Further charges may be pending.


3rd March   No Cigar for Cuba ...

Cuba flagCuba ejects critical journalists

From Ledger-Enquirer

In the harshest crackdown in years on foreign correspondents based in Havana, the Cuban government has ordered at least three of them - including the Chicago Tribune's - to stop writing because of their "negative" reporting.

The government last week ordered veteran Chicago Tribune foreign correspondent Gary Marx to stop covering Cuba immediately and gave him 90 days to leave the island, said Tribune managing editor for news George de Lama.

Mexico City's El Universal reported that its correspondent in Havana, Cesar Gonzalez-Calero, and an unidentified correspondent for the BBC got the same orders. More are expected to follow.

The sanctions come at a tense time for foreign journalists in Cuba. Although Cuba has always restricted news coverage of its affairs, reporters on the island say the pressures against filing negative reports intensified after leader Fidel Castro became sick in July and was replaced by his brother, Raul.

Raul had been widely expected to be more pragmatic and open to reforms than his brother, but journalists in Havana have said several have been called in for extended questioning about their stories since Raul took over.


27th February   Update: Off Air ...

Egypt flagEgypt bow to US request to block satellite channels

From the BBC

Egypt has stopped the transmission of a private Iraqi TV station which glorifies the Sunni insurgency in Iraq.

The United States has privately asked the Egyptian authorities to stop al-Zawraa which is carried on Nilesat, a government-owned TV satellite.

Mishan al-Jaburi, the owner of al-Zawraa says political reasons were behind the Egyptian decision. He accused Egypt of bowing to American pressure to stop carrying al-Zawraa.

The channel shows footage of attacks by Sunni groups against US and Iraqi forces. It also shows images of bloody and mutilated bodies of women and children which it identifies as Sunnis killed by US soldiers and Shia militiamen.

Al-Zawraa is still being carried by Arab Sat, which is jointly owned by all Arab countries.


26th February   Censors Sent In ...

Somalia flagSomalia to send censors to radio and TV stations

From CPJ

Somalia’s UN-backed transitional government said they would censor three private broadcasters over their coverage of deadly unrest in the capital Mogadishu, according to news reports and local journalists.

At least 12 people died and thousands fled the city on Monday after fierce artillery exchanges between Ethiopian-backed government troops and unknown fighters, according to international news reports. The fighting was the fiercest since the government took Mogadishu from Islamists last December.

The transitional government’s National Security Agency (NSA) ordered the executives of HornAfrik and Shabelle media groups, the two biggest media houses in Mogadishu, and Radio Banadir to stop reporting on government military operations and the flight of civilians from the capital, according to news reports and local journalists.

We were invited and warned to avoid certain news, Radio Banadir Director Ahmed Nur Ali told CPJ. The NSA will provide a written “code of conduct” in the coming days, he said. Officials announced that they would send censors to the stations to edit their news.


25th February   Dancing with Censors ...

Iran flagIran closes website showing president watching female dancing

From The Guardian

An Iranian website fiercely critical of the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been shut down in an apparent fresh crackdown on anti-government dissent on the internet.

Baztab, a fundamentalist site which has previously accused Ahmadinejad of betraying the Islamic revolution by attending a female dance show, has been closed for acting against the constitution and undermining national unity.

The order coincided with the confirmation of Gholamhossein Elham, who has supported restraints on press freedom, as Iran's new judiciary minister. Elham, previously the government's official spokesman, last year urged prosecutors to pursue news outlets that printed "lies" about Ahmadinejad's government.

His appointment came as the government disclosed new measures to monitor and restrict unofficial news websites.

Baztab is one of Iran's most widely read political sites. It has been a staunch critic of the government's economic policies, which have produced surging inflation and high unemployment. The website also posted video footage purportedly showing Ahmadinejad watching a female dance performance at the recent Asian Games in Qatar, in breach of Iran's prohibition on women dancing in front of men.

The culture and Islamic guidance ministry said: Considering the large amount of such material, [Baztab] was recognised as an illegitimate internet site and its continued activity is illegal and banned.

Access to the site is now blocked on most Iranian internet service providers.

Update: Parliamentary Protest

More than 130 Iranian parliamentarians have protested to President Mahmud Ahmadinejad about the banning of a conservative news website that has been critical of the president.

In a letter to Ahmadinejad today, 136 lawmakers demanded the lifting of the ban.


20th February   Family Contempt ...

Free Kareem protestorEgyptian Blogger's family disowns son on trial for contempt of religion

From Michelle Malkin

There's a horrid development in the case of Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suleiman, the Egyptian blogger on trial for posting to his website statements calling for equal rights for women and protection of free speech, as well as other statements critical of the Egyptian government and Islam. The Free Kareem website reports:

The family of Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suleiman, accused of “contempt of religion”, has disowned him before his court verdict session on the upcoming Thursday. His father, a retired mathematics teacher, has demanded applying the Sharia ruling on him by giving him three days to repent, followed by having him killed if he does not announce his repentance.

The father of the accused also described the organizations that are working on having his son acquitted as “monkey rights” organizations, in his own words. He also described his son as the “monkey” who has imitated the atheists of the West in their intellectual thinking.

The family also said that they will announce their disownment of their son on the Internet as well...

Amer will learn on Thursday whether he faces 10 years in jail, following a trial that has been condemned by human rights groups. He is the first person to be prosecuted in Egypt for online writings; observers fear this may mark a new clampdown on freedom of speech...

His lawyer, Gamal Eid, said last week: I am very pessimistic about the verdict, but I have great hope for the appeal.

Malcolm Smart of Amnesty International said: Karim Amer's trial appears intended as a warning by the authorities to other bloggers who dare criticise the government or use their blogs to spread information considered harmful to Egypt's reputation.

23rd February   Update: Egypt Guilty of Insulting Humanity ...

Free Kareem protestorBlogger sentenced to 4 years in jail

From The Independent

An Egyptian blogger was sentenced to four years in jail yesterday for articles published on his website.

Abdel Kareem Soliman, 22, a former law student from Alexandria who used the internet alias Kareem Amer, was convicted of inciting hatred of Islam and insulting the President, Hosni Mubarak.

The harsh sentence marked the first time that an Egyptian blogger has been formally prosecuted for an opinion published online. Gamal Eid, part of Soliman's defence team, said: This is a dark day for all who are interested in freedom of expression and belief in Egypt. Four years is too much, we were expecting no more than one year. He is just a student, and hasn't committed any crime - he has just published his opinion.

Soliman was arrested last November, following a complaint by al-Azhar University, his former place of study and Sunni Islam's most important institution. He had referred in his blog to companions of the Prophet Mohamed as "terrorists", to al-Azhar as "the university of terrorism" and to President Mubarak as the "symbol of dictatorship".

Amnesty International said the conviction was a slap in the face for freedom of expression and added that the internet was the new front in the battle between those who want to speak out and those who would stop them.

While the Egyptian government refused to comment on the case, Soliman's provocative writing won him few sympathisers in Egypt's mostly conservative, Muslim society. Many believe that he went too far and the case has brought to the fore a debate about the limits of free speech in a predominantly religious society. A lawyer, who attended the court, said: I was hoping that he would get a harsher sentence... There are things that one should not talk about, like religion and politics. He should have got a 10-year sentence.

Soliman's lawyers are preparing his appeal.

24th February   Update: Banged up For What? ...

Free Kareem protestorA sample of Kareem's blogging

From MediawatchWatch

Here is a transcript of one of the articles which got him Abdel Kareem Soliman banged up for 4 years :

The Naked Truth of Islam As I Saw It In Maharam Bey Riots

The Muslims have taken the mask off to show their true hateful face, and they have shown the world that they are at the top of their brutality, inhumanity, and thievery.

They have clearly shown their worst features and have shown that in dealing with others they are not governed by any moral codes.

From what I have seen yesterday of the events at Maharram Beh, which were quite shameful, and have shown me more facts that they have tried to cover over the centuries.

They have indicated that Islam is a religion of peace and forgiveness, but their true face has been uncovered to show barbarism and thievery and fanaticism and not acknowledging others, and attempting to remove them from existence.

Some may think that the actions of the Moslems does not represent Islam and has no relationship with the teachings of Islam that was brought by Mohamed 14 centuries ago, but the truth is that their actions is not different from the Islamic teachings in its original form when it has urged people to deny others and hate them and kill them and take their property, things that they know well but they try to deceive people by falsely defending the teachings of Islam by extremists and they are hiding from the truth and they prefer living a lie.

I have seen with my own eyes the thugs as they break into our Christian brothers’ stores after the whole area of Maharram Beh was completely out of control of the government authorities, and I saw them as they ransack the contents of the store right and left, amidst cheering and shouting extremist Islamic slogans, and I saw them stealing the money from inside the drawers of the cash registers and splitting it among themselves as if it is justified by being owned by what they call the infidels and the worshippers of the cross.

I saw them break into a liquor store owned by a Coptic merchant Labib Lotfy and I saw them smash everything they can get their dirty hands on, including the refrigerator and the scale and the boxes and liquor bottles. I saw some of them stealing liquor bottles so they can get drunk after a hard day’s work against the Coptic infidels.

It is worth mentioning that although some people may think that this Christian-owned liquor store was particularly targeted because the owner is selling the forbidden alcoholic beverages that is forbidden in Islam, but another liquor store in front of the Christian-owned store happens to be owned by a Moslem merchant, and none of the thugs dared to attack, as they did with the Christian-owned store. Now you can see the hateful sectarian actions.

What the Moslems did yesterday in a very vulgar and criminal and horrible way proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that they don’t acknowledge others or their rights of existence or their rights to live with the freedom of expression and also consider them less than them, and these actions should be fought and exterminated for is it right to leave these horrible human beings to do what they want and kill, destroy, steal, and burn??!!

The Islamic teachings that was brought by Mohammed 14 centuries ago should be faced with courage and boldness, we should expose and show its faults and warn humanity of its dangers. We should, even though we are different –look with reason to these teachings that urges people, human beings, to become monsters that don’t know anything in life except killing and looting and plundering and raping and pillaging.

We should stand courageously and boldly against these teachings that became a plague on humanity and is not supported except by extremists like bin Laden and al Zarqawi and al Zawaheeri and the thugs that assaulted our Coptic brothers and burned their homes and stole their properties, and tried to assault their religious men and destroy their churches.

We should take off the religious and sectarian gown and look at matters in a more humane way. We should hold trials to all the acts of terrorism and extremism, that our Islamic history have kept their names and their criminal actions starting with Mohamed ibn Abdullah and his company of murderers like Khalid ibn el Waled and Omar ibn el Khattab and Saad ibn Abbi Waqqas and Moiizah Bin Shaabah and Samra bin Gandab and the kings of Beni Ummaya and Beni al Abbass and al Osman, and ending with the Moslem criminals of the modern day that became more famous than movie stars and singers.

We should show the world the truth of these criminals that unfortunately have become role models for our youth and our children and our women. We should expose their false teachings and show the world that they are a big danger that should be exterminated and removed from its roots.

Before you put on trial the people that are responsible for the crimes that occurred on Black Friday in Maharram Beh, you should first put on trial the dirty teachings that caused them to go on a rampage of stealing and plundering and looting.. put Islam on trial and sentence it and its symbols with a figurative execution so that you can be sure that what happened yesterday will never be repeated again.

For as long as Islam exists on this planet all your efforts to end wars and disputes and upheavals will fail because Islam’s dirty finger will be found behind every catastrophic event to humanity.


21st February   Editor Murdered ...

Philippines flagPhilippines continues to be a dangerous place for journalists

From CPJ

Hernani Pastolero, editor-in-chief of the community newspaper Lightning Courier Weekly, was shot dead in front of his home Monday morning in Sultan Kudarat township, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

Pastolero was shot twice in the head by an unidentified assassin who escaped on foot. Local Police Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao told local press that police investigators had already compiled a list of suspects, but as of today he had not ordered arrests. He declined to speculate about a possible motive for Pastolero’s killing.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is investigating whether Pastolero’s killing, the first in the Philippines this year, was related to his work as a journalist.

We hope authorities at the local and national levels will bring the killers of Hernani Pastolero to justice, and not let the case linger unresolved, as so many others have, said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today ordered the Philippine National Police to investigate the case and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunyes condemned the killing.

GMANews.TV said the National Bureau of Investigation was investigating Pastolero’s connection to a land conflict between residential lot owners and a large private landholder.

According to CPJ research, three Filipino journalists were killed in connection with their reporting last year, making the Philippines on par with Afghanistan as the deadliest place in Asia to be a news reporter.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is currently conducting an independent probe into the recent rash of extrajudicial killings, including the unresolved murders of journalists, across the Philippines.


21st February   Cafe Spies ...

Belarus flagBelarus Internet cafes to spy for the KGB

From Charter 97

From now on an owner of an Internet-Cafe or a person authorized by him is to keep a log of domain names of sites read by users. A log of domain names is to be stores for at least 12 months and if necessary given to officers of state security, law-enforcing and state inspection agencies.

This demand is contained in a decree of Belarusian government“ with the aim to regularize relations in the sphere of computer clubs and internet-café business. in case a user is suspected of a computer crime, the administration of an Internet-café is to inform relevant law-enforcing agencies immediately.

In line with the decree of the government, it is prohibited to distribute information forbidden for distribution in public communications network in Internet-cafes, to make attempts of unsanctioned access to informational systems of public-service communications networks, and to use programmes propagating cult of violence, cruelty, pornography.


17th February   Update: Turkish Author in Exile ...

Gagged Turkish protestorAfter threats linked to death of Hrant Dink

From The Telegraph

The Turkish novelist and Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk is living in exile in the United States and is believed to be in fear for his life.

Amid a climate of intimidation that has seen the prosecution and even murder of dissident intellectuals throwing into doubt Turkey's aspiration to the join the European Union, Pamuk, who is living in New York, is said to have told friends he has set no deadline for his return. Instead, according to the prominent Istanbul columnist Fatih Altayli, the writer has quietly gone into exile.

Following the murder of an ethnic Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink, last month, Pamuk expressed fears for his own safety. The writer enraged Turkish nationalists by acknowledging that under the Ottoman empire Turks had triggered the genocide of one million Armenians nearly a century ago.

During the 1990s, Pamuk, whose novels includes Cevdet Bey and His Sons and The Black Book , began to write candidly about human rights issues and free speech in Turkey. The country's authorities vociferously campaign against any suggestion that the state has inherited responsibility for the unacknowledged massacre of Armenians.

In an interview with a Swiss newspaper last year, Pamuk said: One million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds were killed in these lands but no one but me dares talk about it.

Two weeks ago, Pamuk abruptly cancelled a speaking tour of Germany, fearing that his engagements would expose him to hostile elements within the diaspora. Yasin Hayal, a nationalist charged with incitement to murder Dink, made what appeared to be a threat against Pamuk. He said: Orhan Pamuk be careful.

In meetings with Western leaders, Abdullah Gul, Turkey's foreign minister, has moved to address concerns that the law granted a veneer of legitimacy to the shadowy figures who were threatening its liberal intellectuals. He has promised reforms of an ambiguous law that allows nationalists to demand punishment for those they accuse of insulting the Turkish nation.

Gul admitted that Turkey's standing had been damaged by Dink's murder and the threat to Pamuk.


15th February   Child Sensitivity ...

Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne book coverJapanese government wound up by biography about princess

From The Telegraph

Japan's extreme sensitivity over its royal family was laid bare when it reacted furiously to an unauthorised biography of its most famous princess.

Lodging a formal protest with the government of the author's native Australia, the Tokyo government described the account of the life of Princess Masako as "disrespectful and distorted" and demanded an apology.

The rare intervention was delivered via the Japanese embassy in Australia. Ben Hills, the Australian author and a former journalist in Tokyo, refused to apologise yesterday and accused Japan of attempting to censor his book, Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne.

Princess Masako, wife of Crown Prince Naruhito, has been suffering from a depressive illness which has kept her from performing almost any royal duties since December 2003. Hills attributes her illness to the treatment she has endured since marrying into the royal family in 1993.

She has been allowed on only a few official visits overseas and has endured intense pressure to produce a son to secure the line of succession. In the event, the couple have only a daughter, five-year-old Princess Aiko, and the line of succession is now expected to revert to Prince Hisahito, Aiko's five-month-old cousin.

Japanese journalists traditionally report the imperial family in a reverential way. Honorifics and especially polite terms are used whenever writing about them. Hill's book, released in Australia and the United States but not yet in Britain, argues that the "tragic" story of Masako's marriage makes Princess Diana's ordeal look like a picnic.

Update: Japanese Publishers Back Out

Kodansha, one of Japan's largest publishing firms, said it was pulling out of a Japanese edition because of a loss of trust in the author after he refused to acknowledge alleged errors in the book. The company also pointed to cultural differences that made the book problematic in Japan.


14th February   Great Ice Wall of Norway ...

Norway flagProposal to install state Internet filter in Norway

From Slashdot

A Norwegian Web filtering system, comparable to the Great Firewall of China, has been proposed to the Norwegian legislature.

It would, if enacted, block all Web sites and servers that contain hate material (racial hate, pro-Nazi sites, hate towards the government, etc.), most kinds of pornography (not only child pornography), foreign gambling sites, and sites that share copyrighted or other material that it is not legal to share.

Reactions have been mixed; however they are mostly negative.


14th February   Laos Consigned to Trash Bin ...

Welcome to Laos...notThai TV soap offends Laos and is pulled

From the Bangkok Post

The Thai soap opera Pleng Rak Song Fang Khong ( The Mekong Love Song ) was yanked from Channel 7's schedule after the government of Laos complained that several scenes were inappropriate.

Souvanna Phouyavong from the Lao embassy in Bangkok, said the Information and Culture Ministry asked station executives and the show's producer, to adjust some parts of the programme that Lao officials consider "inappropriate".

Channel 7 decided to replace it with another show.

There were at least three parts of the programme that upset Lao authorities, said Souvanna, including a scene where an actor gives dok champa (plumeria flower) to his loved one, but she refuses to accept it. The character is so disappointed with her response that he throws the flower into a garbage bin. Souvanna said dok champa is the national flower and official symbol of Laos, and it was considered inappropriate for the actor to discard it in such a way.

There was also a scene in which a character proposes to his girlfriend. In Lao tradition, this should be presided over by senior members of both families: In the programme there were no phu yai [village bigwig] at the ceremony and this is inappropriate from a Lao point of view .

Other parts of the programme could also create misperceptions about Lao women, Souvanna said.


12th February   Attacks on the Press ...

CPJ logoCommittee to Protect Journalists reports on 2006

From Committee to Protect Journalists
Read Attacks on the Press

Journalists were killed and jailed for the work in growing numbers in 2006, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports in its new analysis of international press conditions, Attacks on the Press .

Targeted assassinations from Iraq to Russia, the rise of popularly elected autocrats in Latin America, and the erosion of neutral observer status for war correspondents all threatened press freedom in 2006.

Reported and written by the staff of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press also details a record-setting year of violence in Iraq, where 32 journalists were killed in the line of duty. Attacks on the Press documents hundreds of cases of media repression in dozens of countries.


11th February   Insulting Internet Users ...

South Korea flag
South Korea to target cyber crime

From Korea Times

South Korean police have announced that they will implement an anti-cybercrime operation during the next three months, with more than 700 police officers taking part. Operators of Web sites that host illegal content will be punished.

Police are looking to cut down on malicious comments, insulting or abusive language, illegal political campaigning, fraud, porn and gambling sites, and spam.

Unlike previous crackdowns, which focused on specific types of crimes, this so called crackdown will be a dragnet that targets every kind of cyber offense,’ an official at the National Police Agency said: People used to think cybercrime was high-tech crime that a small number of technicians commit, such as hacking and spreading viruses. However, today we see incidences of the Internet being involved all types of crime, including murder, robbery, fraud, forgery and defamation.

Among the 70,545 cybercrimes committed last year, fraud accounted for 37.8%, followed by hacking, 22.7%; libel, 13.4%; and illegal Web site operation, 10.4%.

The number of those charged with online libel has jumped in recent years with 1,850 in 2004, 3,509 in 2005 and 3,953 last year.

In January, pop singer Yuni killed herself after suffering from depression, and her agency claims she was hurt by malicious also posted comments posted on her blog and other Web sites. Actress Kim Tae-hee, pop singer Rain and transgender entertainer Harisu have also filed suits against Internet users who supposedly defamed them on the Internet.


10th February   Literally Obscene ...

South Korea flag
Korea struggles to define obscenity

From AVN

The prosecution in the case of Ma Kwang-soo, a literature professor who was indicted in 2006 for posting obscene materials on his personal website, has been struggling to define the guidelines for what constitutes obscenity.

Kwang-soo's novel, Happy Sarah , was at the center of another obscenity charge ten years ago, as the cover of the book features a man and a woman with their genitals exposed. Kwang-soo was imprisoned for the book's content in 1995.

When Kwang-soo was indicted again in November for the words and pictures on his website, he told the Korea Times that he could not understand the standards the prosecution used to judge literary obscenity: I thought legal standards had changed, as more than 10 years have passed since Happy Sarah was ruled illegal by the court.

An official at the Seoul Western District Prosecutors Office told the Korea Times that the investigation has been extended: because [the office] has to compare the case with other literary obscenity cases. We have been investigating what kinds of words and pictures on the web have led to indictments of those who posted them and what kinds of rulings they have received.


9th February   Update: Beheaded and Banned ...

Sudan flagSudan closes paper for reporting on beheading of editor

From Reporters without Borders see full article

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the indefinite closure today of an independent Sudanese daily for publishing an article about the beheading of an editor last September.

A state prosecutor imposed an immediate ban on the prominent Arabic-language Al-Sudani which carried an article on January 31 discussing the murder of Mohammed Taha Mohammed Ahmed, editor-in-chief of the private daily Al-Wifaq, in violation of an official ban on writing about the case.

This absurd act of censorship is a good measure of where press freedoms stand today in Sudan, CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. The closure on Al-Sudani should be lifted immediately along with this news blackout on the case of our murdered colleague.

The prosecutor said the paper violated Article 39 of Sudan’s provisional constitution and provisions in the 2004 Press and Publication Act regarding harming public interests and professional ethics and inciting religious and ethnic hatred. He said he had imposed the ban under Article 130 of the 1991 Code of Criminal Procedure to prevent any influence on the procedures that are still before the investigative authorities.

The Al-Sudani article reported that those accused of the editor’s murder would stand trial next week.


7th February   Enemy of Press Freedom ...

Saudi flag
Annual Report on Saudi

From Reporters without Borders

The country remains one of world’s biggest enemies of press freedom. Two journalists were dismissed in 2006 for going beyond the limits set by the dominant ultra-conservative religious authorities.

The Saudi regime maintains very tight control of all news and self-censorship is pervasive. Enterprising journalists pay dearly for the slightest criticism of the authorities or the policies of “brother Arab” countries. The tame local media content means most Saudis get their news and information from foreign TV stations and the Internet.

Journalist Fawaz Turki, of the government daily Arab News, was dismissed in April for writing about the atrocities perpetrated by Indonesia, a Muslim country, during its 1975-99 occupation of East Timor. He had previously been warned for criticising Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in print.

The regime directly censored some journalists. The culture and information ministry told journalist Kinan ben Abdallah al-Ghamidi without explanation on 30 November that he could no longer write in the government daily Al Watan. He had already been forced to resign as the paper’s editor in 2002 after reporting that US troops were using the country’s military bases.

The privately-owned daily Shams was closed for a month on 16 February and its editor, Battal Alkus, dismissed for reprinting some of the cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed first carried by a Danish paper in September 2005.

Unlike in China, where a blocked website is passed off as a technical problem, Saudi filters say openly that certain pages on a site have been censored by the authorities. Targets are mostly pornography, but also political opposition, Israeli publications and homosexuality.

Blogs are a problem for the censors, who tried in 2005 to completely bar access to the country’s main blog-tool, They gave up after a few days and now just censure blogs they object to, such as “Saudi Eve,” the diary of a young woman who discusses her love life and criticises government censorship, which was added to the blacklist in June 2006.


6th February   Censorship with a Bullet ...
Army Payslip cartoon

They've just picked up a Zimbabwe
National Army payslip

Zimbabwe newspaper editor threatened

From the BBC

Zimbabwean newspaper editor Bill Saidi has been sent a bullet in the post with a note warning: "Watch Your Step".

Enclosed with the bullet was a copy of a cartoon from last Sunday's edition of The Standard showing three baboons laughing over an army salary slip.

The week before a story claimed that many soldiers are deserting the army and moving to South Africa to work as security guards for better pay.

Critics say President Robert Mugabe has ruined what was one of Africa's most developed economies following the collapse of the commercial agriculture sector in 2000.

I was shocked to see the bullet. Someone was trying to send a dreadful message to us, the acting editor of the private weekly said.

After receiving the anonymous warning, Saidi said the army had written to him requesting a meeting to familiarise itself with the operations of the paper. A date would certainly be put aside for the meeting, he said.

In recent years, the authorities have closed down newspapers critical of the government and introduced increasingly strict laws restricting the media, but the Standard is one of the few to survive.


5th February   Downloading Repression ...

Bahrain flagNasty laws proposed in Bahrain

From Gulf News

A Bahraini lawmaker is pushing for strict prison terms for people charged with downloading pornographic material off the internet, parliament sources told Gulf News.

The punishment is a part of a package of prison terms and fines suggested in a Bill presented by Council of Representatives member Abdullah Al Dossari.

We have noted an alarming surge in cyber crimes resulting from impressive technological developments, but the perpetrators are not always punished. I am submitting this Bill to deter anyone who wants to steal money or disseminate destructive ideas or spread vice, Al Dossari said in the motion.

The MP suggested anyone who uses the internet to download, possess, host, publish or distribute pornographic material should be jailed for one year. In its drive to consolidate its status as the "telecommunications hub of the Gulf," the kingdom has made access to the internet easily available.

However, Islamists have complained the authorities have not exerted sufficient efforts to block sexually explicit material, a charge the Ministry of Information has repeatedly denied. In its 2005 report the OpenNet Initiative (ONI) said that Bahrain was blocking three pornographic sites.

Denigration of religious precepts or defamation of national figures would warrant a three-month prison term and a 1,000 Bahraini dinar (Dh9, 694) fine.


4th February   Government Censor ...

Indonesia flagBlamed for the dour state of Indonesia's film industry

From Asia Media

Amid simmering tensions between a new generation of filmmakers and the industry's long-established figures, the two parties sat together in a public meeting recently to discuss problems within the industry.

Prominent young filmmakers such as Mira Lesmana and Riri Riza were present, along with Indonesia Film Festival organizer Noorca Massardie, director Garin Nugroho, actor Alex Komang and old figures such as M.T. Risyaf, director of the 1987 comedy Naga Bonar.

The discussion allowed the industry's bigwigs an opportunity to vent their frustrations at the current state of affairs, all agreeing the problem lay with the Film Law.

Young director Riri Riza said after the Saturday discussion that the biggest obstacle hindering the industry in Indonesia was the presence of the law, drafted to serve the interests of the ruling government at that time. He said the law was : irrelevant given the current dynamics of the industry.

Riri acknowledged the regulation had moral intentions, but said, When a regulation no longer supports the development of an industry, then maybe it is time to rescind it.

Under the law, film is designed to preserve and to develop the nation's culture with the aim of supporting national development.

Riri said his main objection to the law was the presence of a government censor: There should be no censorship of films. However, there should be age classifications. People should be free to choose which films they want to watch, he said.


13th January   Emergency ...

Bangladesh FlagBangladesh news censorship invoked


Immediately after the Bangladesh president declared a state of emergency, the Press Information Department (PID) under the Information Ministry verbally imposed censorship on the media.

A high official at Bangabhaban on condition of anonymity told The Daily Star that the restrictions have been imposed as it had been during previous emergency periods.

The government directed the private electronic media not to broadcast news during the emergency. It also barred the media from telecasting any sort of talk-show or news analysis. The private TV channels will only air the Bangladesh Television (BTV) news through their satellites, said sources.

It also asked the print media not to publish any news item criticizing the government and its activities. Furthermore, political news including rallies, processions and related pictures, features, editorials, and cartoons have also been banned.

The official orders will be issued soon, the PID official added.

3rd February   Update: Emergency Powers Rules ...

Bangladesh FlagBangladesh news censorship formalised

From CPJ

The Committee to Protect Journalists is greatly concerned about new regulations imposed by the Bangladeshi interim government that severely restrict news reporting. The Emergency Powers Rules of 2007, announced on Thursday, restrict press coverage of political news and set penalties of up to five years in prison for violations.

The new rules aim at a wide range of political activities. Those dealing specifically with media allow the government to ban or censor print and broadcast news about rallies and other political activities that it deems “provocative or harmful.” Under the rules, the government can seize printed material and confiscate printing presses and broadcast equipment. The government also has power under the regulations to censor or block news transmitted in any form.

These rules give authorities sweeping powers of censorship that will deprive Bangladeshi citizens of independent information at this critical time of political upheaval, said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. We call on the interim government to rescind these repressive rules immediately.

Bangladesh has been embroiled in political turmoil since October, when Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s administration came to an end in the run-up to constitutionally mandated elections. Voting had been scheduled for this week but was postponed when opposition parties protested irregularities. President Iajuddin Ahmed stepped down as leader of the caretaker government and declared a state of emergency on January 11, following bitter clashes between supporters of the two major rival parties.

The regulations took effect today and will remain in force until the government lifts the state of emergency, according to Thursday’s announcement.


2nd February   Grim Reading ...

Reporters Without Borders logoAnnual press freedom survey 2007

From Reporters without Borders

The report lists the worst violations in repressive countries, including major culprits North Korea, Eritrea, Cuba and Turkmenistan, but also looks at democracies, where progress needs to be made too.

A disturbingly record number of journalists and media workers were killed or thrown in prison around the world in 2006 and we are already concerned about 2007, as six journalists and four media assistants have been killed in January alone.

But beyond these figures is the alarming lack of interest (and sometimes even failure) by democratic countries in defending the values they are supposed to incarnate. Almost everyone believes in human rights these days but amid the silences and behaviour on all sides, we wonder who now has the necessary moral authority to make a principled stand in favour of these freedoms.

The publication by a Danish newspaper of cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed focused the world’s attention in 2006 on the issue of freedom of expression and respect for religious beliefs. Democratic countries did not defend Denmark, whose embassies were attacked, or the journalists who were threatened and arrested. Europe especially seemed to choose silence for fear of offending Arab or Muslims regimes.

Media workers in the Middle East were once again the victims of the region’s chronic instability. 65 journalists and media assistants were killed in Iraq and kidnappings were more frequent there and in the Palestinian Territories. Despite repeated promises, the region’s governments have not introduced significantly greater democracy.

In Latin America, the murder of nearly a dozen journalists in Mexico with virtual impunity, the continued imprisonment of more than a score in Cuba and the deteriorating situation in Bolivia (nevertheless the best-ranked country of the South in the Reporters Without Borders annual press freedom index) are all signals to the international community to be very vigilant.

Press freedom violations in Asia peaked with 16 media workers killed, at least 328 arrested, 517 physically attacked or threatened and 478 media outlets censored in 2006. Censorship is very widespread and complete freedom to speak and write is rare in Asia.

Many African governments, especially those in the Horn of Africa, distrust media workers. The killers of journalists are also not being punished and are still being protected by governments and all-powerful politicians in Gambia and Burkina Faso.

Dictatorships also seem to be tightening their grip on the Internet and at least 60 people are in prison for posting criticism of the government online. China, the leading offender, is being copied by Vietnam, Syria, Tunisia, Libya and Iran and more and more bloggers and cyber-dissidents are in jail.


2nd February   Military Censorship ...

ICT blocked websiteNumber of blocked Thai websites soars 500%

From The Nation
See also Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)

This year is becoming Thailand's 21st century version of George Orwell's 1984 , as the number of blocked websites has risen 500% since the coup, according to the campaign group Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT).

The "blocklist" numbered 13,435 websites as of January 11, compared to 2,475 on October 13 last year.

The huge jump showed a frightening increase in thought control and abrogation of civil liberties and human rights in Thailand, FACT said in a statement.

Some anti-coup websites such as have been blocked six times since the coup took place last September.

In the wake of September 19, many Thai Web discussion boards were blocked or ordered to self-censor, stifling freedom of expression and freedom of association, FACT said.

It said the identity of blocked websites had not been disclosed to the public, and government agencies had not revealed what criteria they used in regard to blocking sites. The group said that the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT), which does much of the censorship, had a budget of Bt5 billion.

It would appear Internet censorship is the only function of the Ministry of 'Information' yet MICT discloses no information to the Thai taxpayers.


1st February   Repression Deadline Passes ...

Film & Publication Board logo
South Africa now will prosecute webmasters of adult sites

From X Biz

After a year-end ultimatum from the Film and Publications Board warning that websites with a .za URL cease posting adult content or shutdown, many have complied. But the few websites that remain now face prosecution, according to South African authorities.

In September, the Film Publications Board, which has authority over the country’s Internet media, issued a warning to adult sites operating in the country. The warning gave the sites a Dec. 31 deadline to stop selling adult DVDs or distributing adult content online.

Film Publications Board compliance coordinator Yewande Langa said the crackdown on adult websites was part of a series of efforts supposedly to shield the nation’s youth from pornography. He added that the board is compiling a list of offending websites that continue to remain online after the deadline. The list will then be turned over to authorities, who plan to shutdown the sites and prosecute the webmasters.

According to a report in a local paper, a South African webmaster who gave his name as “Ian” said he has not yet heard of any sites being shutdown and that it is “business as usual” for the country’s online adult entertainment industry.

Under South African law, the sale of pornography is legal for licensed brick-and-mortar retailers selling to those who are 18-years-old and above.

South African authorities said they targeted websites because many licensed retailers use the Internet to advertise, but not sell, adult DVDs.


31st January   Mex Press ...

Mexico flag
Mexican journalists under duress

From IFEX see full article

Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) has condemned harassment of the local press in Mexico after publications were censored and journalists spied on in the second half of January 2007 in Sonora state in the north-west, Guanajuato, in central Mexico, and Puebla in the south.

Aides to Sonora state governor, Eduardo Bours, were recently suspected of involvement in the disappearance of a journalist in 2005. The governor of Puebla State, Mario Marín, is no [bystander] in the case of the unfair arrest of freelance journalist Lydia Cacho, also in 2005. These new cases confirm the complete contempt which some local leaders have for the press, said RSF.

On 18 January 2007, police in Hermosillo, Sonora State, halted a distribution truck for the twice-monthly magazine Contralínea , and seized 2,500 copies from inside the vehicle. Police officers, claiming the truck was stolen, pretended to seize two packets of cocaine in order to arrest distribution manager Mauricio Capdevielle and the driver. The two men were released on 21 January.

The magazine's editor, Alvaro Cepeda Neri, told RSF that during the arrest the police officers made threats against Capdevielle, the magazine's publisher, Miguel Badillo, and himself, adding that Bours was personally responsible for this confrontation. The magazine had carried an article about the plundering of land belonging to Yaqui Indians in which the governor was implicated. The case has been referred to the National Human Rights Commission and the special federal prosecutor's office for journalists.

On 15 January,, Martha Laris, head of the Science and Communications Department of the Americas University in Cholula, Puebla state, had the editorial team of the university weekly La Catarina thrown out of its offices and its equipment and files confiscated. In October 2006, the weekly had criticised collusion between the university rector and the state governor, Mario Marín, of whom they published cartoons.


31st January   Putrification of China ...

Great Wall of ChinaChinese leader Hu vows to 'purify' the Internet

From CNET News

Chinese Communist Party chief Hu Jintao has vowed to "purify" the Internet describing a top-level meeting that discussed ways to master the country's sprawling, unruly online population.

Hu, a strait-laced communist with little sympathy for cultural relaxation. But he made it clear that the Communist Party was looking to ensure it keeps control of China's Internet users, often more interested in salacious pictures, games and political scandal than Marxist lessons.

The vast majority of Chinese users have no access to overseas sites offering uncensored opinion and news critical of the ruling party. But even in heavily monitored China, news of official misdeeds and dissident opinion has been able to travel through online bulletin boards and blogs.

Hu told officials to intensify control even as they seek to release the Internet's economic potential: Ensure that one hand grasps development while one hand grasps administration.


30th January   Satan Rules ...

Gays arrested after last year's banMoscow bans gay parade

From the BBC

Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov has said he will never allow a gay rights parade in the Russian capital. Speaking to reporters, Luzhkov described such events as "satanic".

Moscow banned a gay march in 2006, citing the threat of violence. People who ignored the ban were beaten up by counter-demonstrators and arrested.

The mayor also blamed groups which he said were receiving grants from the West for spreading what he dismissively referred to as "this kind of enlightenment" in Russia. He thanked the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexy II, for supporting him in banning a gay march last year.

Gay activists say the ban breaches their fundamental human rights. They say they intend to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

But the parade's organisers say they plan to hold the event in May and will appeal against the ban in the Strasbourg court. Trying to silence us, the Russian authorities denied us one of the fundamental human rights. The European justice will have the last say in this case, Nikolai Alexeyev, one of the parade organisers, said in a statement.


30th January   Contracting Freedom ...

Azerbaijan flagAmnesty International report on Azerbaijan

From Earth Times see full article

Journalists striving to expose the misuse of government power are increasingly living under the threat of politically motivated arrests, physical assault and even death, Amnesty International said today.

The organization's report, Azerbaijan: The contracting space for freedom of expression, reveals a pattern of encroachment on the rights of members of civil society, and in particular journalists, to freedom of expression.

Journalists who deviate from the government's party line or draw attention to Azerbaijan's endemic corruption are putting their lives on the line, said Maureen Greenwood-Basken, Amnesty International USA advocacy director for Europe and Central Asia. President Aliyev's denunciations of attacks on reporters must be backed up by genuine efforts to protect writers. In Azerbaijan today, freedom of expression is permitted only when it's in the government's interest.

The Azerbaijani authorities have an obligation to uphold commitments to a healthy environment for the free dissemination of information and exchange of opinions, including those alleging official wrongdoing and abuse of public office, said Laurence Broers, Amnesty International's expert on Azerbaijan. Government officials in Azerbaijan must understand that it is a legitimate function of the media to put their activities under public scrutiny and that such scrutiny must not lead to violence against journalists.

The ongoing assault on freedom of expression in Azerbaijan appears to be three-pronged -- the harassment and ill-treatment of journalists by police and other law enforcement officials, especially during election campaigns; assaults, and in one case murder, of journalists by unknown individuals; and the silencing of journalists through their arrest and imprisonment on dubious charges or by heavy fines following trials for criminal defamation.

Amnesty International calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to ensure the prompt and conclusive investigation of assaults on journalists, to institute measures to tackle institutionalized impunity for harassment of journalists by law enforcement officials, to end the use of criminal defamation suits as a means to silence dissent and to ensure that due process is observed in the enforcement of media industry standards.


29th January   Godless Airlines ...

The QueenCensored airline version of The Queen

From Post Chronicle

Some international airline viewers of the movie The Queen didn't catch all the dialogue because the word "God" was excised from the version they saw.

The censored airline version, shown by at least Delta and New Zealand Air prompted complaints by passenger.

A Delta spokeswoman said the airline had no choice because Miramax Films, distributor of the movie, shipped only the censored version of the movie to airlines. New Zealand Airline officials said they would replace the censored version with an uncensored one.

Eric Johnston, an attorney with the Southeastern Law Institute in Birmingham, Alabama, told the newspaper that airlines, similar to some retail businesses, have a diverse customer base and don't want to offend anyone. But I don't agree with that at all. If the movie industry can use the word 'God,' then certainly the airlines can use it.


2 6th January   Transmitting a Repressive Programme ...

Antena C logo
Moldova government close radio station

From Tiraspol Times

Government censorship continues unabated in Moldova despite the attempts by OSCE and international NGOs to protect human rights and freedom of expression. In mid-December, the popular Chisinau-based public radio station Antena C went off the air, and it is doubtful if the country's authorities will ever allow the signal to be restored.

The worldwide Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ,  issued a highly critical statement deploring the suspension of Antena C. The station, which frequently aired reports critical of the government, has been off the air for more than a month, and local sources said they fear it is part of an official clampdown on news ahead of May elections.

Broadcasting was interrupted at 3 p.m. on December 16, while the station was airing a report that criticized a new government plan to privatize Antena C and the television station Euro TV. Antena C journalists had also recently protested the authorities’ decision to change the station’s management; Veceaslav Sitnic, former chief editor for the government radio station Radio Moldova, had been named the new director.

Police arrived at the station at 2 a.m. the next day, claiming they had received a bomb threat targeting the premises, Antena C correspondent Lucia Culev told CPJ. Police searched the building and forced employees to leave, Culev said.


2 5th January   Searching for Freedom ...

Google China logoInternational internet companies talk about about freedom

But of course the likes of Google will be expected to 'cooperate fully' with any requirements from Western governments

From tvnz

Technology companies Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Vodafone are in talks with human rights and press freedom groups to draw up an internet code of conduct to protect free speech and privacy of Web users.

The parties said in a statement that they aim to produce a code by the end of this year that would counter such trends as the increased jailing of Internet journalists, monitoring of legitimate online activity, and censorship.

Talks are being led by the Washington-based Center for Democracy and Technology and San Francisco's non-profit Business for Social Responsibility. They are trying to craft a code to hold companies accountable if they cooperate with governments to suppress free speech or violate human rights.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said the spotlight had been put on Internet companies after arrests in China of internet writers such as Shi Tao, who was jailed in 2005 for 10 years for leaking state secrets abroad. Rights groups have accused Yahoo of helping China trace Shi Tao's e-mail exchanges with a New York-based news Web site.

Governments around the world are jailing Internet journalists at a growing pace, with 49 bloggers, online editors, and Web-based reporters behind bars at the end of 2006, said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. Protecting the rights of these journalists to express ideas and exchange information without fear of reprisal is one of the highest priorities for the press freedom community today.

2 7th January   Update: Searching for Harm ...

Google China logo Google admit to costs of Chinese censorship

From The Guardian

Google's decision to censor its search engine in China was bad for the company, its founders admitted yesterday.

Google was accused of selling out and reneging on its "Don't be evil" motto when it launched in China in 2005. The company modified the version of its search engine in China to exclude controversial topics such as the Tiananmen Square massacre or the Falun Gong movement, provoking a backlash in its core western markets.

Asked whether he regretted the decision, founder Sergey Brin admitted yesterday: On a business level, that decision to censor... was a net negative. The company has only once expressed any regret and never in as strong terms as yesterday. Brin said the company had suffered because of the damage to its reputation in the US and Europe.

Much of the harm had come from newspaper headlines, he said, which affected perception for most people, who then did not read the actual articles.


24 th January   Malaysian Blog Censored ...

Malaysia flag
Blogger to remove posting on grounds of 'libel'

From Al Jazeera

A Malaysian court has ordered Jeff Ooi, a popular Malaysian blogger, to remove more than 10 postings on his blog Screenshots that a publisher claims are libellous, by January 17.

Ooi is prohibited from republishing those postings in his blog or on the internet until the disposal of the defamation suit filed by New Straits Times Press (NSTP).

The company, however, failed to obtain an injunction against Ahirudin Attan, another blogger facing a similar lawsuit, who posted almost 50 allegedly defamatory comments on his blog Rock's Bru.

The lawsuits are the first of their kind in Malaysia. The lawsuits were jointly filed by the NSTP, which publishes the country's oldest English-language daily, the New Straits Times, and the group's top brass.

A media analyst said this would instil fear in a society already unaccustomed to open debate. But he also said that bloggers should not post wild accusations: If the postings are defamatory, then bloggers are not exempted from facing the music. But one has to be very clear... it is a thin line between fair comment and defamation

Zaharom Nain, a journalism lecturer at the school of communications in Universiti Sains Malaysia in the northern state of Penang, said the action could intimidate bloggers and other internet users: The community of bloggers in Malaysia is lively but still relatively small. They would feel intimidated even though the government guarantees no censorship of the internet under the MSC (Multimedia Super Corridor). The no-censorship rule is provided in the 10-point Bill of Guarantees under the MSC initiative that is designed to attract foreign investors.

The court will hear the inter parte application for Ahirudin on January 25 while Ooi's will be heard on January 30.


23rd January   Gray Five Years ...

Cuba flag
Cuban writers protests reappearance of Stalinist censor

From White Rock Reviewer

The Cuban government's arts union has backed protests against the recent reappearance of a former top censor blamed for Stalinist-type purges on artistic expression in the 1970s.

The resurfacing of Luis Pavon Tamayo and others from the period known to writers here as the "gray five years" has raised worries that Cuba's new caretaker government was moving to tighten expression with ailing President Fidel Castro on the sidelines.

During those years, writers and artists were expelled from their jobs for being homosexuals or not toeing the government line. Some, including Jose Lezama Lima, were hounded into exile. Beatles music and even long hair were banned on the island.

Since Castro ceded his powers provisionally to his brother Raul on July 31, the younger Castro has campaigned for fearless and critical debate within the confines of the island's communist system. Last week, ideology chieftain Rolando Alfonso Borges called on journalists for official media to report more on problems affecting Cuban citizens.


22nd January   Nigerian Anglican Homophobia ...

Nigeria Flag
The most comprehensively homophobic legislation ever proposed

From Pink News

New legislation currently being debated by politicians in Nigeria could be the most serious crackdown on the rights of gay and lesbian people since the Iranian revolution.

The Prohibition of Relationships Between Persons of the Same Sex, Celebration of Marriage by Them, and for Other Matters Connected Therewith, is the title of the bill.

It has been approved by the Nigerian Federal Executive Council and is now before the National Assembly. It is expected to be passed and become law shortly.

The president, Olusegun Obasanjo, controls the Executive Council and his Nigerian People's Party has a majority in the both the Senate and House of Representatives. Although a centrist party, they derive most of their support from the Christian south of the country, and the Anglican church played an active role in promoting this legislation.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell contacted to draw attention to the nature of the new legislation, which has the active backing of other Christian churches in Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa: The bill outlaws almost every expression, affirmation and celebration of gay identity and sexuality, and prohibits the provision of sympathetic advice and welfare support to lesbians and gay men. This draconian measure will outlaw membership of a gay group, attending a gay meeting or protest, advocating gay equality.

Donating money to a gay organisation, hosting or visiting a gay website, the publication or possession of gay safer sex advice, renting or selling a property to a gay couple, expressions of same-sex love in letters or emails, attending a same-sex marriage or blessing ceremony, screening or watching a gay movie, taking or possessing photos of a gay couple, and publishing, selling or loaning a gay book or video.

The new law carries an automatic five year jail sentence for those who break it.

Despite protests of governments and human rights activists, the Nigerian government have pressed ahead with the new laws, which are in contravention of various international treaties. Homosexuality is already illegal in the country. Nigeria's criminal code penalises consensual homosexual conduct between adults with 14 years imprisonment.

The Anglican Church, who have a huge powerbase in Nigeria, have been key in promoting this bill. The church has been increasingly vocal about its disapproval of the position of women and gay men in the English and American churches.

The bill currently being debated in the Nigerian parliament, is the most comprehensively homophobic legislation ever proposed in any country in the world, " said Peter Tatchell: We appeal to gay and human rights groups worldwide to take urgent action to press the Nigerian government to uphold international human rights law and to drop this draconian legislation.

Update: United Nations Against Nigeria

See United Nations Press Release

United Nations human rights experts Friday condemned a proposed Nigerian law banning gay marriage and tightening laws criminalizing homosexuality in the country.


21st January   Little Sister Denied ...

Little Sisters book & art emporiumToo rich for a small shop to fight the Canadian state

From The Times

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled Friday that the government does not have to pay the legal tab for a Vancouver bookstore's epic censorship battle against Canada Customs, quashing hopes among cash-strapped litigants to receive public money to fight Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenges.

Little Sisters have been battling Canadian Customs for some while now. Its latest censorship case involves four publications that were ruled obscene in 2001 and 2003, including two series of comic books and two books on bondage and sadomasochism.


20th January   Editor Murdered ...

Hrant DinkPaying a high price for freedom of speech

From The Times

A prominent newspaper editor and leading figure in Turkey's Armenian community has been murdered in Istanbul.

Hrant Dink, a vigorous defender of Armenians who frequently fell foul of the Government's free-speech laws and hardline Turkish nationalists, was shot several times in the neck as he emerged from the offices of the Agos newspaper in Istanbul.

In his final newspaper column Dink described how his willingness to criticise the Government and articulate the views of Turkey's Armenian community had led to dozens of death threats. He complained that he had been offered no protection by the police.

The killing of Dink, who was convicted last year under laws that forbid journalists from "insulting Turkish identity", caused the Turkish stock market to fall. The country's fractious relationship with its writers and its past, notably the Armenian genocide that followed the First World War, is seen as a major obstacle to Turkey's eventual admission to the EU.

At a rushed news conference, the Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, described the murder as an attack on Turkey's peace and stability. Hundreds of bystanders gathered around Dink's body, which lay face down and covered by a white sheet, and chanted the murderer Government will pay.

Dink had been prosecuted several times because of articles published in Agos, an influential bilingual newspaper that appears in Turkish and Armenian. He was unafraid to confront the Government with the history of the Armenian genocide and in late 2005 was charged with insulting Turkey for referring to the long-held Armenian wish to live separately from Turks.

In the end, Dink was convicted of trying to influence his trial by allowing a series of articles to appear in Agos criticising Turkey's penal code. His six-month suspended prison sentence, an unusually harsh penalty, was then upheld last year by Turkey's court of appeal, a verdict that led to condemnation from Brussels. Earlier this month, he predicted that 2007 would a difficult year, but that he would survive.

Update: Deep State

From The Times

Four policemen have been suspended from duty after posing in front of a Turkish flag with the suspected murderer of an ethnic Armenian journalist. Another four security police have been transferred to other duties after film of the incident was shown on Turkish television, offering further apparent evidence that the killing may have had support from within the security forces.

It shows officials, some in uniform, arm-in-arm with Ogun Samast, who has confessed to the murder of Hrant Dink, the Editor of Agos, a bilingual Armenian-Turkish newspaper.

Dink was hated by ultra-nationalists for his writings about the mass killing of Armenians on Ottoman soil during the First World War.

In the film, broadcast by TGRT television after days of official denials that such footage existed.

Since the murder on January 19, the media have been alleging some degree of involvement from within the state. Even Tayyip Erdogan, the Prime Minister, has questioned whether the killing was the work of Turkey’s “deep state”— shadowy nationalist elements in the security forces willing to act outside the law. He has also acknowledged that exposing the “deep state” was almost impossible.


19th January   Turkishness ...

Gagged Turkish protestorNatural born censors

From Kurdish Media

Kurdish websites are already blocked in Turkey but there is worse to come. A bill has been approved in Turkey nominally against indecent broadcasting and online gambling but this law also targets websites that could be considered as against "Turkishness". This measure will give the national Information technology Security Agency the authority to block any broadcast that is believed to threaten state security, as stated in Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code.

It is reported that logging onto Kurdish websites such as,, or undertaking a Wikipedia search for "Kurdistan" all generate the following message: Bu Sayfa Yasak Siteler Listesinde Kayitli ve Bloklandi. Translation: This site is listed as forbidden and has been blocked.

According to the article of Turkish Daily News, Cybercafé owners were ordered in December 2003 to install filters to block access to pornographic websites and to prevent their premises being used to promote gambling, pornography, political separatism or any challenge to the structure of the state.

Amnesty International considers that the attempt to draw a distinction between criticism and denigration is highly problematic...especially on the Internet, where people is used to express their opinion quite "freely" in forums, blogs and other digital spaces. Web surfers from Turkey are now seriously threatened by constant intrusions in their private "digital life" and they could be persecuted for any action that in some way could be considered as against "Turkishness".


17th January   CIMDb ...

CIMDb spoof logoCensored Internet Movie Database

From Cinema Blend

IMDB is censoring search results for movies they deem to be “adult”. If they consider a movie to be “adult”, you will not find it in their search results. IMDB admits to what they're doing on a buried page you can find here .

I’m not talking about porn movies here, I’m talking mainstream films and in some cases classics. For instance, try and look up the movie Shortbus . Try searching for it. You won’t find it. Oh it still exists in the IMDB database, they just won’t show it to you unless you register an account with them, and then click to this obscure page
here and enable the display of adult content. By default, it's turned off. They of course haven’t told anyone about this, so if you search for Shortbus odds are you will simply think it doesn’t exist.

The thing is, it’s completely random. Search for Orgazmo , a raunchy porn industry comedy and you’ll find that. Search for the 1979 Helen Mirren film Caligula , and it’s nowhere to be found. Search for the acclaimed documentary Inside Deep Throat , and IMDB pretends it doesn’t exist.

We’re not talking about them displaying adult photos, this is raw data. Cast listings, movie titles, crew credits. There’s nothing offensive in any of this for any kid of any age. Hell, these aren’t even adult films. They simply contain mature content. Stop it IMDB. Stop it now.

Update: Quick Fix

A few days later, the arty hardcore films like Shortbus and Caligula have been restored to the search for unregistered users. More standard hardcore fare such as Deep Throat is still hidden until one registers and opts for adult film information.


17th January   The Reality of Repression ...

SARFT logoChina proposes more reality TV censorship

Based on an article from China Daily

The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) will target supposedly vulgar reality shows in 2007, said Wang Taihua, general director of the SARFT.

The move is part of the efforts to clean up TV screens, said Wang at an annual work conference attended by heads of provincial bureaus in charge of radio, film and TV studios and programs. Other measures include tighter supervision of legal and entertainment programs: There have been too many reality shows on our TV screens. Many are low-quality, low-brow programs, only catering to the bottom end of the market.

Following the successful Super Voice Girls based on American Idol , Chinese television stations have come up with more than 500 such programs.

Wang said: There are too many reality shows, they are too chaotic and some of them are too vulgar. The government must strengthen supervision of entertainment programs, and restrict the number of reality show programs to upgrade their quality.

He promised to step up efforts to provide guidelines for program design, censor programs before they air, and carry out real-time monitoring, in order to curb the trend of pursuing higher audience ratings by blindly catering to public sensationalism.


13th January   Confused ...

tank used in military coupMedia censored so as not to confuse the Thai public

From The Nation & BBC

The Council for National Security (CNS) made a critical move on Wednesday when it ordered the broadcast media to cease airing views defending former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the Thai Rak Thai Party.

The junta leaders broke an important rule that brought Thaksin to his downfall. And it is turning friends into foes. The junta leaders have proved that they don't believe their allies, who warned at the very beginning of their rule that they could do anything, just don't behave like Thaksin did.

You guys should know that if we allow representatives of the former premier to make statements every day, the public will be confused. Executives of state-owned media should withdraw the programmes [that violate the order]. Why continue to defend people who caused damage to the country? s aid CNS secretary-general General Winai Phattiyakul, who summoned about 50 editors and media executives on Wednesday.

Since being ousted, Thaksin has been barred from returning to Thailand. He has spent his time travelling around the world. He has been sighted in various locations, including London, Hong Kong, Beijing and Bali.

But throughout this period of exile he has continued to state his case against the coup through his lawyer, Noppadol Patama. Now it appears that the Thai media has been asked not to report Noppadol's comments.

Since being told they can no longer report comments from Noppadol, the Thai media have been holding crisis meetings to decide how they should respond. It is not clear what will happen if they defy the military council, nor is it clear why the generals felt they had to impose the ban now.

Coming at a time when confidence in the interim government has slumped, this measure is bound to cause further alarm, both inside Thailand and abroad, a BBC correspondent said.

18th January   Update: Singapore Spat ...

tank used in military coupThailand gag CNN and BBC

From The Nation

The military junta ruling Thailand has come under new attack by domestic human rights organizations and international journalists groups after it censored CNN's broadcast of an interview with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra conducted in Singapore.

A spokesman for the Human Rights Committee of Thailand called the censorship "a freedom of expression blockade."

During the interview Thaksin said that he planned to quit politics and return to civilian life.

The Bangkok Post and The Nation, the two leading English-language newspapers, reported that the government also shut down access to CNN's and the BBC's websites.

Thailand wre clearly not impressed with Singapore for airing the interview. The head of the Council of National Security, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, yesterday sent Singapore mixed signals even as the two allies squabbled over political sensitivity and national sovereignty.

Singapore has claimed it has the right to let ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra meet with its deputy premier, S Jayakumar, while Thailand has accused the city-state of lacking discretion for doing so.

Sonthi stressed that the country's diplomatic slap against Singapore would not threaten military cooperation, perhaps the strongest in Southeast Asia.


31st December   An Insult to Freedom ...

Moroccan authorities ban magazine

Opinion f rom the Magharebia

Back in September, Tel Quel magazine launched an Arabic-language sister publication, under the title Nichane . Now, like its French sister, the magazine is in hot water, reported The View From Fez.

The magazine was banned yesterday [December 20th] by the Moroccan authorities, by order of the prime minister's office, noted Laila Lalami.

The blogger added that issue #91, dated December 9th to the 15th, had a cover story on 'Jokes: How Moroccans Make Fun of Religion, Sex, and Politics.' It included a long article, written by Sanaa Al Aji … The jokes that were deemed particularly offensive were the ones dealing with religion … jokes that readers could just as easily have heard at work, at school, at home or at the café, and therefore they're nothing new.

A lawsuit has been filed against the magazine's director, and Sanaa Al Aji, the writer, for "insult to the Islamic faith" and publication and distribution of writings that are contrary to the morals and mores of the country. The trial is set for January 8th, and they risk prison terms of three to five years, added Mohamed Said Lahjouij.

18th January   Update: Freedom Insulted ...

By humourless Moroccan Authorities

From the NY Sun

The editor and a reporter from a Moroccan news weekly that published jokes relating to Islam were convicted and fined yesterday for insulting the religion.

The court in Casablanca handed down three-year suspended sentences to Driss Ksikes, editor of Nichane, ("Straight Ahead"), and to journalist Sanaa al-Aji. Both were barred from any journalistic activity for two months, and the independent Arabic-language magazine was suspended for two months. They were fined $9,280 each.

The sentence was milder than the three to five years in prison that prosecutors had requested.

Ksikes has repeatedly said the 10-page article was meant as a thoughtful examination of Moroccan popular humor.

I don't regret what I wrote, Ksikes told reporters after the verdict, though he also said he was sorry to have offended some Moroccans.


14th January   Inappropriate Censorship ...

Bahrain flagOpen letter to the king of Bahrain

From Reporters without Borders

Reporters Without Borders wrote today to the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, about his government’s Internet policies, condemning an increase in the censorship of online publications and, in particular, requesting the reopening of the site of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.

"Your Majesty,

Reporters Without Borders, an organisation that defends press freedom worldwide, is concerned about your Kingdom’s Internet policies.

In April 2005, your government adopted regulations that require websites dealing with Bahrain to register with your information ministry. We condemn this requirement at the time, believing that, although hard to apply, it seemed to indicate a desire to place inappropriate controls on the Internet.

Access to many news websites, online political and religious publications, and blogs was blocked in October 2006, a month before legislative elections. Several of these online publications appear to have been banned for covering the "Bandargate," a political scandal in which people close to the government have been implicated. Nearly 20 of these websites are still inaccessible.

We are particularly shocked by the banning for the website of the Network for Human Rights Information (HRinfo), which has been rendered inaccessible in your country since December. Blocking access to this site, which defends prisoners of conscience and free expression, is unacceptable.

As we are confident that you would like to ensure respect for diversity of information as well as the rapid and unrestricted development of the Internet in your Kingdom, we hope that you will agree to overhaul your Internet policies. An initial sign of your commitment to online free expression would be to quickly lift the blocking of HRinfo.

We trust you will give this matter your careful consideration."


5th January   Sharing a Delusion of Grandeur ...

YouTube logoBrazilian court orders the closure of YouTube

From The Register See Brazilian court orders YouTube shutdown

A Brazilian court has ordered the closure of YouTube following the site's failure to completely remove a video showing Ronaldo's ex and her new boyfriend indulging in a bit of beach sex.

Daniela Cicarelli sued YouTube after the offending film proved a smash hit among Brazilian YouTubers. She filed to force YouTube to take the video down and demanded $116,000 in damages for each day the video remains up . Although YouTube did indeed remove some copies, other users reposted it and the whole sorry exposure dragged on for months.

Finally, Cicarelli and Malzoni filed another suit in December requesting that YouTube be shut down as long as the video is available to users . A Brazilian court agreed and a judicial clerk today said that it had ordered the popular video sharing service ... to be shut down until it removes a celebrity sex video from its site.

This is likely to prove difficult to enforce since YouTube is based the US.

12th January   Update: Court Block Blocked ...

YouTube logoBrazilian court order to block YouTube lifted

From The Register

A Brazilian judge has lifted an order which caused the country's ISPs to block access to YouTube following a ruling last week over a sex-romp video of footballer Ronaldo's former missus Daniela Cicarelli.

Brasil Telecom and Telefonica had responded with enthusiasm to the court order issued in Sao Paulo requesting that YouTube be shut down as long as the video is available to users , and duly blocked the site.

Sao Paulo state Supreme Court Justice Enio Santarelli Zuliani clearly thinks things have got a bit out of hand, and has accordingly asked the companies to unblock the site and let him know why they can't simply prevent the video from being seen .

YouTube last week reported it had purged the video.


2nd January   Repression Registered ...

Iran flagIran requires websites to register

From the Iranian

Beginning today, all websites with Iran-related content will have to register with the Islamic Republic’s Internet vetting body before web users inside the country can view them.

The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance made the announcement. The new rule is in accordance with the decision by the government in November to restrict websites that had not registered with the ministry.

Reporters Without Borders said in November: It will be impossible to force the tens of thousands for websites dealing with Iran, most of which are hosted on servers abroad, to register with the authorities. But this rule could serve as pretext for arbitrarily closing or filtering news websites. It will give a legal basis for the online censorship that already exists in Iran.

12th January   Repression Registry ...

Iran flagDetails about Iranian website registration

From IPS

Iran's hardliner government has demanded the registration of all websites and weblogs sourced in the country by March 1st.

A committee of government officials, including members of the intelligence, judiciary, telecommunications, and culture and Islamic guidance ministries, will be in charge of approving the content of websites. The committee is commissioned with blocking or filtring websites or weblogs that they deem illegal.

Over the last few years, the government has banned and filtred thousands of websites and weblogs without explanation. However, for the first time, the new law is specific about what kinds of content are not allowed.

Some activists plan to defy the new requirements. Farnaz Seify, a feminist blogger in Tehran, told IPS, The government's new policy of forcing registrations indicates that the authorities are making it clear that no one is permitted to criticise or even discuss religion, government's policies, revolution, ayatollahs and social problems.

The new law requires the weblog or website registrar to provide their name, address, telephone number, intended audience, approximate number of readers and other detailed information. Comprehensive restrictions are placed on content that deals with a range of issues from criticism of religious figures to sexual matters as well as content considered offensive to the Ayatollah Khomeini (the founder of the Islamic Republic), Ayatollah Khamenei, (Iran's Supreme Leader), or that is deemed slanderous of Islamic laws.

Since 2002, the Islamic government has employed a highly restrictive filtering system, effectively banning many websites and weblogs for Iranians inside the country. The state controls all Internet Service Providers (ISPs), resulting in the most censored Internet sphere after China.


11th January   Opposition to Censorship ...

Egypt flagEgypt will not censor satellite TV channel

From UPI

Egypt has turned down a request from the Iraqi government and U.S. authorities to stop the satellite transmission of an opposition Iraqi channel.

Chairman of the board of Nilesat, Amin Basyouni said his company will not be party to political differences and noted that satellite companies do not impose censorship on channels.

He was referring to the Iraqi al-Zawraa channel, aired through Egypt's Nilesat, which propagates armed resistance against the U.S. occupation, Iranian influence in Iraq and the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

In a letter last month, Maliki urged the Egyptian government to stop broadcasting the Damascus-based Zawraa TV, whose offices in Baghdad were shut down in November by the Iraqi Interior Ministry on the grounds of inciting violence and terrorism in Iraq.


11th January   Threatened by Genies ...

Malaysia flag
Malaysia censors out article on genies

From Sun2Surf

It seems that reading about genies is inappropriate for Malaysians, and the authorities have chosen to black out the information.

In the Dec 23 issue of The Economist an entire two-page article has been torn off and two sentences from another article have been blacked out.

The first article, a special report entitled Jinn: Born of fire is about the belief among Muslims in Somalia and Afghanistan in the existence of the jinn or genie.

In the second article, A child of Bethlehem: No end of history , an excerpt about Muslim and Christian women visiting a shrine related to the Blessed Virgin Mary has been obliterated with black ink.

When the matter was brought to his attention, Deputy Minister of Internal Security Datuk Fu Ah Kiow predictably said that he was not aware of this. However, he pointed out that the government has the responsibility to censor all imported publications to ensure their contents are appropriate and suitable for Malaysian readers.

We have guidelines in doing our job. We do not allow certain things such as pornographic materials and writings which are seditious, sensitive to religion and contain subversive elements, he told theSun.

However, in the day and age of the Internet, readers can read the whole version of the two articles in The Economist on its website at , which makes the ministry's attempt to filter information seem futile.


1st January   Intensified Punishment ...

Iran flagFor privacy and obscenity offences in Iran

I'd hate to think what extremes they could mean by 'intensified punishment'

From the Iranian

An Iranian official said a bill is being compiled by the judiciary to intensify the punishment for invaders of privacy and distributors of obscene films.

Judiciary's Public Relations Director General Ehsan Qazizadeh expressed his dissatisfaction with tabloid newspapers and gossip magazines and said, For the sake of their own interests and regardless of social norms and values, these publications disclose private details that are not of public concern and offend reasonable people.

Qazizadeh warned these publications and concluded that the judiciary will stop activities that disturb the society.

A good many Iranians are not ignorant of what is going on in the world and the perception of the same of Iran. Many illegally watch international satellite TV and tune in to opposition radios, which have a network of clandestine reporters at work in Iran. However, the national media is submitted to so many restrictions and controls that its credibility is generally very limited.

Freedom of the press was already severely restricted under the government of Khatami and problems and concerns are even more today under Ahmadinejad.

11th January   Obscene Inhumanity ...

Iran flagIran's death penalty for amateur porn

From adnkronosinternational

Thirty one people arrested by Iranian police risk the death penalty for making and distributing a porn movie they made with a cell phone, the president of Tehran's criminal court, Saiid Mortazavi, has announced.

The 31 arrested in the past few days have also been charged with sexual violence on the actresses in the movie. Mortzavi has announced he will sentence to death all those involved in making amateur porn movies.

The market, tolerated for a long time, became a nationwide issue after a porn film of popular television actress, Zohre Mir Ebrahimi, having sex with her partner, was released.


10th January   XXX Sequel ...

ICANN logoXXX Internet Domain idea reappears

From X Biz

ICANN has decided to revisit the issue of a .XXX registry nearly eight months after its board shelved ICM Registry’s plan.

If approved, ICM would be required to help develop requirements that would create mechanisms to regulate companies that choose .XXX. ICM’s board shot down the original measure in May, 9-5.

With the issue again in the online adult spotlight, ICM would be required to contract third parties to monitor registrant compliance with content site-labeling requirements. It also would be required to create a set of “best practices” to protect children online and fund the International Foundation for Online Responsibility, an independent organization ICM has said it would create if approved.

The use of the proposed .XXX domain name would remain voluntary, but any online site that choose to use it would be subject to the new terms.

ICM, as in the original proposal, pledges to donate $10 of the proposed annual fee of $60 for a .XXX domain name to child-protection groups and to require users of .XXX to label their content.

Already, ICM has a long list of companies that have pre-registered for .XXX domain names. ICM President Stuart Lawley said that pre-registration for .XXX has been so successful that, if converted to registrations, it would be the most successful in Internet history.

.XXX opponent Brandon Shalton told XBIZ that the Department of Commerce’s involvement was one of the reasons .XXX was rejected last May: The U.S. government weighing in against .XXX was a major reason for the thumbs-down vote, and we all thought that was it.


9th January   Sacrilege ...
Culture Minister

Culture Minister
Khaisri Sri-aroon

Thailand take offence at porn website with Buddha images

From The Nation

Thailand will take action against a United States-based pornography website for abusing images and the identity of the Lord Buddha.

The site operates out of Chicago and employs the name and images of the Lord Buddha in its content.

It's an act of sacrilege, Culture Ministry monitoring centre chief Ladda Tangsupachai said yesterday. Ladda said the centre asked the Information and Communications Technology Ministry to block the site.

Ladda said Buddhists across the world should condemn the site.

The site and its activities have been reported to Culture Minister Khunying Khaisri Sri-aroon and the Foreign Affairs Ministry will now approach the United States Embassy in Bangkok.


6th January   Sad Consequences ...

Saddam in preparation for hanging
Copy cat Hanging in Pakistan

From Asia Media

A little boy's tragic death by hanging in raises serious questions about the ethical underpinnings of the Pakistani television.

The nine-year-old boy died on Sunday while re-enacting a scene that had been shown repeatedly on television, the graphic footage of the hanging of Saddam Hussein. Aided by his ten-year-old sister, the boy accidentally strangled himself with a rope tied to the ceiling fan.

There is no doubt that the children's behaviour was directly influenced by what they saw on television, a medium in which the distinction between real life and entertainment is often blurred.


1st January   Deadly for Journalists ...

Reporters Without Borders logoPress freedom roundup 2006

From Reporters without Borders

The deadliest year since 1994

At least 81 journalists were killed in 2006 in 21 countries while doing their job or for expressing their opinion, the highest annual toll since 1994, when 103 died (half of them in the Rwanda genocide, about 20 in the Algerian civil war and a dozen in former Yugoslavia). 32 media assistants (fixers, drivers, translators, technicians, security staff) were also killed 2006 (only five in 2005).

  2005 2006
killed 63 journalists + 5 media assistants 81 journalists + 32 media assistants
arrested 807 871
attacked & threatened 1308 1472
kidnapped not recorded 56
media outlets censored 1006 912


24th March   White Knuckle Ride ...

Liberia flagLiberian newspaper unbanned

Based on an article from VOA News

The Supreme Court of Liberia has temporarily lifted the ban on The Independent newspaper that had published the sex photo of former minister of state for presidential affairs Willis Knuckles.

The government had banned the paper supposedly on the grounds that the paper exposed Liberian youths to pornography. But in its ruling, the court urged a return to the status quo and asked the government to show cause why the ban should not be lifted.

The government revoked The Independent newspaper’s license for one year for publishing the photograph of Knuckles in a sex act with two women. Even some in the media criticized The Independent for publishing the photo. But editor Sam Dean says his paper was only printing the truth: There is no news without truth because when there is no truth, then of course, we are being blasted at by the same public. But again, we have an obligation to the public that indeed we should provide proof, and we put that photograph on the basis of truth.

Dean alleges that his life and the lives of his editors have been under constant threat from Liberian security agents since their paper published the photograph: My life has been threatened, and I have complained to the Ministry of Justice and to the Press Union of Liberia. I see no reason why we should be threatened by state security and family of Mr. Knuckles. I think that was harassment, intimidation, and the threat on my life and my reporters and other staff I think that was not good for our young democracy in Liberia.


1st January   Coup Mongering ...

Venezuela flag
Venezuela president to close opposition TV

From The Telegraph

Venezuela's socialist president, Hugo Chavez, has announced he was to close the country's oldest television channel for being critical of his regime.

Chavez said he would not be renewing the licence of Radio Television Caracas (RCTV), founded in 1953, which has long allied itself with opposition forces: It is best that they start packing their bags and working out what to do after March, as there will be no new licence for the coup-mongering channel called Radio Caracas Television, the populist president said during a speech to the armed forces.

Chavez said the channel was: at the service of coups against the people, against the nation, against national independence, against the dignity of the republic.

The head of RCTV, Marcel Granier, said his channel did not need to renew its licence as the present one was "eternal". He also vowed to fight against the president's plans in Venezuela's courts and on the international stage: If Chavez: was serious, I think he's badly informed.

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