Melon Farmers Original Version

International Censorship News


2007: Oct-Dec

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31st December   

Update: Allah be Praised...

Malaysian christians allowed to continue using the word 'Allah'
Link Here

The Malaysian government has reversed a decision to ban a Christian newspaper using the word 'Allah' to refer to God.

The government had threatened to refuse to give the Weekly Herald a publishing permit if it continued to use the word.

Now the government has back-tracked. In a fax to the Herald's editor, the government says it will get its 2008 permit, with no conditions attached.

Father Andrew Lawrence told the BBC he was delighted, saying prayers had been answered.

He blamed politics and a general election expected here in 2008 year for what he said were the actions of a few over-zealous ministers in the Muslim-dominated Malay government.  

 

30th December   

Oh MY God...

Suing Malaysia for banning christians from using the word Allah
Link Here

A church and Christian newspaper in Malaysia are suing the government after it decreed that the word "Allah" can only be used by Muslims.

In the Malay language "Allah" is used to mean any god, and Christians say they have used the term for centuries.

A spokesman for the Herald, the newspaper of the Catholic Church in Malaysia, said a legal suit was filed after they received repeated official warnings that the newspaper could have its licence revoked if it continued to use the word.

We are of the view that we have the right to use the word 'Allah', said editor Rev Lawrence Andrew.

The Sabah Evangelical Church of Borneo has also taken legal action after a government ministry moved to ban the import of religious children's books containing the word.

In a statement given to Reuters news agency, the church said the translation of the bible in which the word Allah appears has been used by Christians since the earliest days of the church.

There has been no official government comment but parliamentary opposition leader Lim Kit Siang said the decision to ban the word for non-Muslims on security grounds was "unlawful": The term 'Allah' was used to refer to God by Arabic-speaking Christians before Arabic-speaking Muslims existed .

 

29th December   

Not So Open Communication...

Japan quietly starts on the task of internet censorship
Link Here
With little fanfare from local or foreign media, the Japanese government made major moves this month toward legislating extensive regulation over online communication and information exchange within its national borders.

In a series of little-publicized meetings attracting minimal mainstream coverage, two distinct government ministries, that of Internal Affairs and Communications (Somusho) and that of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (Monbukagakusho), pushed ahead with regulation in three major areas of online communication: web content, mobile phone access, and file sharing.

The future of online communication within Japan hinges on attracting attention to these issues and on drawing as wide a range of voices into the debate as possible. While current activism by groups within Japan such as the recently formed Movements for Internet Active Users (MIAU) have made important first steps in this direction, international attention is needed to coordinate support and confront the many pressing issues facing open communication in the Japanese cyberspace.

Web content

Plans for regulation of web content are summarized in two primary documents drawn up by the “Study group on the legal system for communications and broadcasting” under the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (Somusho). The first document is an interim report released on June 19th, setting down basic guidelines for regulating web content through application of the existing Broadcast Law to the sphere of the Internet. The final report, made public on December 6th, sets down steps to move ahead and submit a bill on the proposed regulations to the regular diet session in 2010.

One of the key points of both reports is their emphasis on the blurring line between "information transmission" and "broadcasting", a distinction that becomes less and less meaningful as content-transfer shifts from the realm of traditional media to that of ubiquitous digital communication. The reports deal with this difficult problem in part through the creation of a new category, that of "open communication", broadly described as covering communication content having openness such as homepages and so on.

Online content judged to be "harmful" according to standards set down by an independent body (specifics of which are unclear) will be subject to law-enforced removal and/or correction.

Mobile phone access

The push for protecting young users from potentially dangerous content, such as online dating services and so-called "mobile filth", has gained momentum in recent years within Japan. The government responded to such concerns on December 10th by demanding that mobile carriers NTT Docomo, KDDI, Softbank, and Willcom implement filtering on all mobile phones issued to users under the age of 18. While optional filtering currently exists and can be implemented at the request of the mobile phone owner, few users make use of or even know of this service. The proposed regulation would heavily strengthen earlier policy by making filtering on mobile phones the default setting for minors; only in the case of an explicit request by the user's parent or guardian could such filtering be turned off by the carrier.

According to the new policy proposal, sites would be categorized on two lists, a "blacklist" of sites that would be blocked from mobile access by minors and a "whitelist" of sites that would not. The categorization of sites into each list will reportedly be carried out together with carriers through investigations involving each company targeted. The Telecommunications Carriers Association (TCA) of Japan is indicating that the new policy will be enforced with respect to new users by the end of 2007 and applied to existing users by the summer of 2008.

While it is not yet entirely clear what content will be covered by the new policy, a look at existing filtering services promoted by NTT Docomo reveals the definition of "harmful" content to be very broad indeed. As noted by a number of Japanese bloggers, notably social activist Sakiyama Nobuo, current optional filtering services offered on NTT Docomo phones include categories as sweeping as "lifestyles" (gay, lesbian, etc.), "religion", and "political activity/party", as well as a category termed "communication" covering web forums, chat rooms, bulletin boards, and social networking services. The breadth of this last category in particular threatens to bankrupt youth-oriented services such as "Mobage", a social networking and gaming site for mobile phones, half of whose users are under the age of 18.

File sharing

In a meeting held on December 18th. Authorities and organizations pushed for a ban on the download of copyrighted content for personal use, a category of file transfer previously permitted under Article 30 of Japan's Copyright Law.

 

28th December   

Internet Blocking...

Middle East filtered from the civilised world
Link Here

Governments in the Middle East are stepping up a campaign of censorship and surveillance in order to block their citizens from viewing websites whose topics range from adult entertainment to human rights.

As a result, millions of Middle Easterners are being blocked from accessing news and entertainment sites like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Flickr.

The prohibitions have led to an explosion in "circumventors," proxy servers that allow Internet users to bypass workplace or government filters. In cyber cafes throughout the Middle East, patrons still can browse blocked sites and swap web addresses for the latest "proxies."

Five of the Top 13 Internet censors worldwide are in the Middle East, according to Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based journalism advocacy group that lobbies against web censorship.

Only four Arab countries have little or no filtering: Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan and Egypt. On the other side of the web censorship gap are Saudi Arabia and Syria, which have consistently been described by human rights groups as the most hostile toward the Internet.

Authorities in Syria continue to ban websites, including Amazon.com last month. The government reportedly uses a filtering system called Thundercache to block content from sites such as Blogspot, Hotmail, Skype and YouTube, as well as any Arabic-language news sites.

In Iraq and the Palestinian territories, the Internet is policed mainly by the owners of Internet cafes and by Internet users themselves. Islamist militants have reportedly attacked Internet cafes in both places, accusing patrons of looking at adult material or chatting with members of the opposite sex.

Tunisian authorities block several sites, human rights workers said, but the authorities also have started holding the owners of Internet cafes liable if political activists use their establishments to post critical news about the government.

In Egypt the authorities do little or no filtering but police have rounded up at least three bloggers and harassed many more in recent years, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Iran's hard-line Shiite Muslim leadership also is a zealous censor of the Internet. The government boasts of filtering 10 million "immoral" websites, in addition to all the major social-networking outfits and dozens of pages about religion or politics.

Additionally, the ultraconservative Saudi government blocks thousands of adult websites

 

26th December   

PC World Recommends...

The Year's Most Offensive Video Games
Link Here
  • So You Think You Can Drive, Mel?

    Maneuver Mel Gibson (who leers drunkenly from the window of a subcompact with the license plate "WTFWJD?") around a nightime highway. You tag bottles of hooch for points while simultaneously dodging flying Stars of David thrown by bearded men wearing hats, shawls, and dark suits. Hit five state troopers, and the game ends. Presumably offensive on grounds of bad taste
     
  • Manhunt 2

    What's most offensive about Manhunt 2 isn't its violence but its cruddy gameplay: Poor AI, boring environments, and blurry execution animations make Manhunt 2 a shoo-in for the year's "Sound and Fury" award.
     
  • V-Tech Rampage

    Attention angry people, I will take this game down from [casual games site] Newgrounds if the donation amount reaches $1000 US, designer Ryan Lambourn wrote to visitors who found his simulation of the shooting at Virginia Tech this spring offensive. Emerging shortly after Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people in a campus shooting spree, Lambourn's Flash-based game, which allows you to plug dozens of pixelated students, just feels like a shallow cry for attention.
     
  • Kane & Lynch: Dead Men

    What really upset people was the marketing campaign. We're hunting for a dangerously sexy vixen with the goods to make us moan, reads an ad for a contest sponsored by IGN, MySpace, and Playboy. The ad was illustrated with a topless model coquettishly clutching her naughty bits. The game site WomenGamers.com said : The next time people say, 'The industry does not objectify women,' we will point to that picture and this contest.
     
  • Mario Party 8

    Nintendo voluntarily pulled its minigame compilation from UK shelves over the oopsy-inclusion of a single word: "spastic." Call me uncultured, but I had no idea this playground term for someone acting like Chris Farley in, well, pretty much any skit was actually a dictionary term for "a person affected with cerebral palsy," and was offensive overseas. Nintendo quickly changed "spastic" to "erratic" and re-released the game
     
  • Resistance: Fall of Man

    It wasn't until this summer that the offensiveness hit the fan. That's when representatives of the Church of England got publicly huffy over a certain gun battle that takes place inside a realistic rendition of the Manchester Cathedral. Their argument? The use of [the cathedral] as a backdrop for a violent computer game is an affront to all those whose lives have been affected by guns.
     
  • Scrabble 2007

    In the year's second quirky semantic controversy, in September publisher Ubisoft found itself defending the game's inclusion of the word "lesbo," a derisive abbreviation for "lesbian." Ubisoft's defense? The game uses a word list [from over 277,000] based on the Chambers Official Scrabble Dictionary and all approved words contained in this dictionary are playable in the game.
     
  • The Darkness

    The Darkness is a game about a mafia hit man who ends up possessed by a bunch of snakes that pop out of his jacket like the love children of Medusa. Singapore banned the game for "excessive violence," and Germany delayed its release by a month.

 

26th December   

Weasel Words...

Malaysia renagues on promises not to censor internet
Link Here

11 websites have so far been blocked in Malaysia for having obscene materials and seditious messages, Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Dr Mohd Ruddin Abdul Ghani said.

Besides blocking the websites and blogs, he said the ministry has also drawn up long-term programmes in collaboration with CyberSecurity Malaysia to boost awareness on cyber security.

Dr Mohd Ruddin said it was not difficult to block websites and blogs compared with emails featuring advertisements and pornography.

He said there was no proper mechanism to check such material spreading through e-mails, but the authorities could control and halt blogs.

However, the Cabinet will not obstruct the movement of information in the Internet because of the Bill of Guarantee, which promised free-flow of information when the Multimedia Super Corridor was first set up, he said. [...I think blocking websites is surely obstructing the movement of information]

 

26th December   

Update: Lock 'Em Up...

Philippines look to increase punishments for pornography
Link Here

A member of the House of Representatives has filed a bill seeking to impose stiffer penalties for perpetrators of highly scandalous crimes against decency.

Aside from longer jail sentences, House Bill 2856 filed by Cebu Representative Antonio Cuenco also seeks to increase the fines provided for in the Revised Penal Code for such offenses as grave scandal, indecency and pornography, among others, to between P100,000 to P2,000,000, among others. Currently, such offenses carry sentences of only six months or less.

The current law seems to be taken lightly by offenders since its penalties are minimal compared to the gravity of crime, Cuenco said There is no justice if we let the criminals responsible for the grim days ahead of these victims walk away unscathed -- only to be incarcerated be for a mere six months or less .

The lawmaker also said there is a need to amend some provisions in the law to curtail, if not totally eradicate the conduct of inappropriate and obscene behavior.

 

24th December   

Reserved Words...

Malaysian catholic paper cannot use the word 'Allah'
Link Here

Authorities in Malaysia have threatened not to renew the publishing license of a Catholic weekly newspaper if it continues to use the word "Allah" in its Malay language section, Catholic and government officials said.

The Herald, the organ of Malaysia's Catholic Church, has translated the word God as "Allah" but it is erroneous because Allah refers to the Muslim god, said Che Din Yusoff, a senior official at the Internal Security Ministry's publications control department, in remarks monitored by BosNewsLife. Christians cannot use the word Allah. It is only applicable to Muslims. Allah is only for the Muslim god. This is a design to confuse the Muslim people, Che Din added.

However church sources say the Malay-language Bible uses Allah for God. We follow the Bible. The Malay-language Bible uses Allah for God and Tuhan for Lord. In our prayers and in
church during Malay mass, we use the word Allah,
Reverend Lawrence Andrew, editor of the Herald, told reporters.

Yet, Che Din said there are four Malay words that must not be used by other religions, he said: Allah for God, "solat" for prayers, "kaabah" for the place of Muslim worship in Mecca and "baitula" the house of Allah. The weekly should instead, use the word "Tuhan" which is the general term for God, he reportedly said.

The Herald's permit will only be renewed in two weeks if they stop using Allah in their publication.

 

24th December   

Blasphemy, Mother of All Repressive Laws...

2 men sentenced to 6 months for blasphemy in Sudan
Link Here

A Khartoum court has sentenced two Egyptians to six months in prison for marketing a book that is deemed offensive to Aisha, one of Prophet Mohammed's wives.

Abdel Fattah Abdel Raouf and Mahrous Mohammed Abdel Aziz were sentenced under article 125 of Sudan's penal code, the same section under which U.K. teacher Gillian Gibbons was convicted after allowing her class to name a teddy bear Mohammed.

Justice Minister Mohammed Ali al-Mardhi said Dec. 11 following the pair's arrest that they were guilty of bringing over the book entitled Aisha, mother of believers, devoured her sons from bookseller and publisher Madbouli in Egypt and selling it in Sudan.

The book contains blasphemous passages and particularly despicable offenses to the prophet and to the mother of believers, as Aisha is often called, Mardhi said at the time.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRinfo) said the book was titled Aisha: The Wife of Prophet Mohamed and that: The arrest is a flagrant violation of freedom of opinion and expression.

HRinfo said the Egyptians found themselves in danger when a radical islamist had bought the book and in turn informed the authorities about its contents.

Madbouly had already received permission from the Sudanese censorship authoritie s to distribute the book, written by London-based Syrian writer Nabil Fayyad, before arriving in Khartoum for the festival.

Another book confiscated at the book fair was about the Shiites, a book called Darfur, the history of war and genocide, published by Horizons House.

Egypt requested an explanation from the Sudanese authorities.

 

24th December   

Update: Winter Morality Campaign...

Iranian police close internet cafes and smoking rooms
Link Here

Iranian police have closed down 24 Internet cafes and other coffee shops in as many hours, detaining 23 people, as part of a broad crackdown on immoral behavior in the Islamic state.

The action in Tehran province was the latest move in a campaign against fashion and other practices deemed incompatible with Islamic values, including women wearing high boots and barber shops offering men Western hair styles.

Using immoral computer games, storing obscene photos ... and the presence of women wearing improper hijab were among the reasons why they have been closed down, Colonel Nader Sarkari, a provincial police commander, said.

Sarkari told the official IRNA news agency that police had inspected 435 coffee shops in the past 24 hours, and 170 had been warned.

Many young Iranians are avid users of the Internet, some using chat rooms to socialise with the opposite sex. Mingling between sexes outside marriage is banned and many Web sites considered unIslamic are blocked by the authorities.

In a separate campaign, IRNA said police had inspected 275 restaurants in the capital to check compliance with a new ban on smoking in public places. The ban includes water pipes, known in Iran as qalyan, offered in some outlets. Of those, 138 received a warning and 17 were shut down, police official Mohammad Reza Alipour said.

 

24th December   

Advertising Repression...

China next targets sex related internet advertising
Link Here

The latest campaign to clean up cyberspace has been launched by the Chinese government.

According to a notice jointly released by 12 ministries taking part in the scheme, the campaign aims to curb the growing number of illegal advertisements for sex-related health supplements, STD drugs and clinics, and sex toys.

It is scheduled to run through to next February.

Tough punishments will be meted out to medical institutions and clinics for advertising unapproved or unlicensed cures for STDs

Companies that use sexually suggestive advertisements to promote sex drugs face having their businesses suspended, the notice said.

In addition, agencies that design, make and release "vulgar" advertisements will be dealt with in accordance with the law on advertising, it said.

Those that are found to have seriously violated the law or the new regulation could be stripped of their right to operate in the advertising business, the notice said.

Websites that host illegal advertisements must remove them immediately once they are told to do so by the authorities. Those that do not do so will be closed down, the notice said.

 

24th December   

Young Love Banned...

Under 16s kissing in South Africa are considered criminals
Link Here

South African Teenagers under the age of 16 caught kissing, touching or rubbing up against each other can be criminally charged.

The new Sexual Offences Act, signed into law by President Thabo Mbeki last week, has criminalised kissing, or any light sexual behaviour among people under the age of 16 - even if it is consensual.

Also illegal under the new act is any sexual activity, including oral sex, between consenting teens aged 15 and younger.

The new act, which has made sweeping changes to the definition of rape, has, however, been met with mixed reviews by IOL users who were asked: Will the new Sexual Offences Act take the romance out of being a teenager?

 

23rd December   

Vice City...

Blaming games for violence to sex workers
Link Here

The Toronto Sun reports that an advocate for sex workers believes that pop culture influences, including the popular Grand Theft Auto series, help legitimize violence against prostitutes. Anastasia Kuzyk of the Sex Workers' Alliance of Toronto told the newspaper:

Sex work is a job, and violence isn't in the job description… There's a video game out there where you can run down prostitutes and kill them and beat them up and take their money. It feeds into the whole subculture of allowing the violence to continue. Violence against sex workers should not be normalized, but it is.

 

20th December   

Incompatible with Free Speech...

Author under Canadian duress for muslim incompatibility idea
Link Here

Celebrated author Mark Steyn has been summoned to appear before two Canadian judicial panels on charges linked to his book America Alone .

The book, a No. 1 bestseller in Canada, argues that Western nations are succumbing to an Islamist imperialist threat. The fact that charges based on it are proceeding apace proves his point.

After the Canadian general-interest magazine Maclean's reprinted a chapter from the book, five Muslim law-school students, acting through the auspices of the Canadian Islamic Congress, demanded that the magazine be punished for spreading “hatred and contempt" for Muslims.

The plaintiffs allege that Maclean's advocated, among other things, the notion that Islamic culture is incompatible with Canada's liberalized, Western civilization. They insist such a notion is untrue and, in effect, want opinions like that banned from publication.

Two separate panels, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission, have agreed to hear the case. These bodies are empowered to hear and rule on cases of purported “hate speech."

 

17th December   

Olympic Handcuffs...

Reporters Without Borders protest about press freedom in China
Link Here

A large flag showing the Olympic rings transformed into handcuffs was unfurled outside the Liaison Office of the central people's government of China in Hong Kong today by five Reporters Without Borders representatives, including secretary-general Robert Ménard, in a protest to mark Human Rights Day. Two days before Chinese authorities refused to give visas to members of the press freedom organisation.

We had initially planned to stage this demonstration in Beijing, but the authorities refused to give us visas, Reporters Without Borders said. We know that some of us are blacklisted by the Chinese immigration services (photo below). At a time when the government is compiling files on foreign journalists and human rights activists in advance of the Olympic Games, this refusal is evidence of its determination to keep critics at a distance.

The Chinese authorities are clearly not prepared to let people remind them of the undertakings they gave to improve the situation of human rights and, in particular, press freedom when they were awarded the 2008 Olympics in 2001.

 

17th December   

Kings of Censorship...

YouTube implements country specific blocking
Link Here

It appears that YouTube really did cooperate with Thai authorities as was claimed in a selective blocking of clips deemed offensive to the monarchy.

For instance one of the disputed videos is still available to view outside Thailand but within Thailand page shows: "This video is unavailable".

 

16th December   

Turkish Repression Continues...

Article 19 report on freedom of expression in Turkey
Link Here

A new report, published in part by Article 19, has found that freedom of expression continues to be repressed in Turkey.

Article 19 worked with the Kurdish Human Rights Project, Index on Censorship, the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales and the Centre for European Studies in Limerick, Ireland to produce the report.

The report indicates that despite reforms in 2003 and 2004, restriction on media freedom has increased. It also indicates a rising hostility toward opposition journalists, especially Kurdish and pro-Kurdish journalists, who are labeled as writers for terrorist publications.

 

13th December   

Update: Ministry of Book Censors...

Thais fight back
Link Here
Culture Minister

Culture Minister
Khaisri Sri-aroon

Webboards at the Culture Ministry's website have been bombarded with hundreds of supposedly lewd web links, the Culture Watch Centre has found.

The centre found more than 500 sexually-explicit web links put up on webboards run by the ministry, which has been campaigning against obscene websites. The website, www.m-culture.go.th, could not be accessed last night.

The attack on the website comes a few days after the ministry said it was contemplating censoring novels.

Culture Minister Khunying Khaisri Sri-aroon yesterday admitted that inappropriate web links had been posted on the website. She had ordered Thongchai Masattana, director of the IT centre, to explain why webmasters had failed to detect and screen out the saucy content.

Khunying Khaisri said the ministry is mulling rating various novels, particularly adult romances and translated novels.

Many complaints had come in about the ministry's bid to censor sex and erotic scenes. Romance readers argued the erotic scenes were written in beautiful language and are not morally incorrect.

Khunying Khaisri said she personally agreed that censorship would spoil the novels.

In deciding on a rating system for romance novels, the ministry would invite artists, academics, writers, publishers and distributors to give their views. The attempt to impose a ratings system is prompted in part by the arrest of two traders selling romance novels with erotic content at a book fair in October.

 

12th December   

Harmful Anime...

Japanese anime under threat
Link Here

A research panel made recommendations to the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications for stricter regulations on “harmful material” displayed on the Internet, a move that closely follows the passage of the Securing Adolescents From Exploitation Online Act or "SAFE Act" by the US last week.

The act could potentially have a significant effect on adult-oriented manga and anime content. Currently, child pornography laws in Japan do not regulate manga and art that depict children who are not real or "virtual child pornography."

In Japan, a report was submitted to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIAC) Thursday recommending that a bill be submitted to the Diet (the Japanese governing body) by 2010, imposing stricter regulations on “harmful materials” online, as well as unifying the laws on telecommunications and broadcasting.

Another panel is expected to convene between 2008-2009 in order to draft specific proposals, after which the MIAC is expected to propose a bill for regulation to the Diet.

The report cited the need to protect children from being exposed to inappropriate Internet content and pointed out that the laws currently do not allow for the government to filter online materials.

The panel's recommendations were prompted, in part, by a survey conducted in October. Called the Special Opinion Poll on Harmful Materials, the study was conducted on 1,767 participants who were interviewed by researchers.

Survey results indicated that 86.5% of the respondents thought that manga and anime content should be subject to regulations for child pornography, and 90.9% said that “harmful materials” on the Internet should be regulated.

 

12th December   

Update: Veiled Repression...

Indonesian anti-porn bill includes sharia morality laws
Link Here

For the past two years, conservative Islamic parties in Indonesia, often supported by paramilitary religious groups known for their intolerance have been periodically pushing to have elements of Islamic Law become the law of the land.

This time, social critics are pushing back. On 3 December, a diverse group of activists—including many from mainstream Islamic groups—urged the country's legislative branch to reject the proposed legislation.

What makes the debate noteworthy is the way that the Islamic hardliners have been able to disguise their end-game. In a brilliant political move, they penned a so-called “Anti-Pornography Bill” that would ostensibly protect women and children from the scourges associated with pornography.

In fact, the anti-pornography angle was just a veil. According to the authors of the document, pornography is vaguely defined to include just about anything that would offend their hyper-caffeinated moral sensitivities. Many forms of women's bathing suits, for example, would suddenly become illegal. Any publications or works of art that showed all but a fully-dressed female form, too, would conceivably be off limits. So would many cultural events, such as those in tourist destinations like Bali.

Worse, the bill calls on “all parties” to protect morality. This has been seen as a call to arms for the Islamic Defenders Front and their ilk, which have made a name for themselves raiding nightspots during the Ramadhan fasting month.

Secular political groups oppose this shift, which they correctly note would undermine the nation's cultural diversity. But because of the name of the bill, they are often left having to explain why they are defending “pornography.”

No date has been set for the final debate on the Anti-Pornography Bill. But with presidential campaigning set to unofficially start next year (the election is not until 2009), hard-line Islamic parties will probably try to flex their muscles—and make another push for passage of the bill—within the next two quarters.

Update: Definitions

16th December 2007

The definition of pornography according to the bill says: "Pornography is any man-made work that includes sexual materials in the form of drawings, sketches, illustrations, photographs, text, sound, moving pictures, animation, cartoons, poetry, conversation, or any other form of communicative messages; it also may be shown through the media in front of the public; it can arouse lust and lead to the violation of normative values within society; and it can also cause the development of pornographic acts within society".

 

11th December   

Lady Khaisri's Lovers...

Book censorship in Thailand with cuts for sex scenes?
Link Here
Culture Minister

Culture Minister
Khaisri Sri-aroon

Culture Minister Khaisri Sri-aroon yesterday said she disagreed with a proposal to cut "romantic" scenes from translated novels.

She said it would ruin the taste for readers and affirmed that she would invite national artists, academics and publishers to formulate a rating criteria.

Following the ministry's plan for book ratings - especially for romantic and translated novels - as proposed by the Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand (PUBAT), many public members posted their concerns that love scenes in books might be cut.

They argued that romantic scenes were not obscene as the translators and publishers used "sensitive descriptions" and urged the ministry to hear the opinions of the public and related parties before making a decision.

Khaisri said most of those who expressed opinions on the ministry's website agreed to the book rating according to readers' age but disagreed with the content cutting.

 

11th December   

Obscene Ruling...

Indian court rules that obscenity can be prosecuted without actually viewing it.
Link Here

An Indian judge has ruled that obscenity charges may be prosecuted without requiring the court to actually review the materials in question.

The case stems from allegations by a local cyber cafe owner that Sanjay Gupta was playing a pornographic CD, potentially within view of other patrons.

The court ruled that the magistrate was not required to view the CD in order to verify its contents as being "obscene" as a prerequisite for proceeding with the obscenity charges against the defendant.

Gupta challenged the order, claiming that the magistrate was wrong for proceeding with charges against him without knowing what was actually contained on the CD he was charged with viewing at the time of his arrest — allegedly the only incriminating evidence against him.

Additional Sessions Judge A.K. Chawla dismissed Gupta's petition, claiming that the court was not required to watch the CD before preferring charges against the accused.

There are specific allegations of the CD containing obscene material, Chawla said. When this is so, it is not necessarily required that the trial court should have got the CD run and then come to the prima facie conclusion of the same containing obscene material.

 

9th December   

The Truth Will Get Turks Locked Up...

Another insulting Turkishness trial
Link Here

Ragip Zarakolu is facing up to three years in prison for publishing a book - promoting reconciliation between Turks and Armenians - by George Jerjian, a writer living in London.

Jerjian's book, The Truth Will Set Us Free , which was translated into Turkish in 2005, chronicles the life of his Armenian grandmother who survived the early 20th century massacres of Armenians thanks to an Ottoman soldier. The historical account has prompted as much controversy among the Armenian diaspora, not least in the US, as it has in Turkey.

Mr Jerjian ... is a highly credible author with very moderate views, said the Labour MEP Richard Howitt, who will attend the hearing at Istanbul's Asliye Ceze courthouse. If even he falls foul of Turkish law it shows how far they still have to go on freedom of expression.

The MEP, who is in Turkey in his role as vice-president of the human rights sub-committee of the European parliament, said Jerjian was too scared to visit Turkey for fear he might be shot.

Zarakolu is being tried under Turkey's 301 article of law, the same legislation that was used against Pamuk, a Nobel prize winner, as well as 60 other local writers and journalists.

In February this year, six months before he went on to become head of state, Turkey's foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, declared the need for article 301 to be revised, saying: There are certain problems with [it]. We see there are changes which must be made to this law. Yesterday the Turkish justice minister, Mehmet Ali Sahin, reiterated the sentiment, telling Howitt that freely expressed views that neither promote terrorism nor violence should be protected.

But while Turkish diplomats admit the contentious law has probably done more damage to Ankara's efforts to join the EU than any other single piece of legislation, observers say there has been little headway made over reforming the spirit and letter of the law.

Update: Adjourned

The trial was adjourned until 31st January 2008

 

7th December   

Puritan Airlines...

Air India blur out romance
Link Here

All airlines may be spending a fortune on selecting the right mix for their in-flight entertainment (IFE) system, but national carrier Air India is taking a step backward. The airline is showing censored versions of movies, which already have been censored by the already strict Censor Board. Not only is the airline clipping scenes of movies but also blurring any romantic sequences, including songs.

In fact, at a time when most foreign and Indian players are busy upgrading their IFE product mix so as to make the journey more exciting and pleasurable, it's a retrograde step for the national carrier. Foreign airlines, for the matter of fact, are now localising their in-flight content for Indian travellers and strengthening their movie library.

When SundayET contacted Air India, this is what a senior official had to say: You can't compare Air India with other private operators. There are children on-board and you cannot permit showing anything which is sensitive in nature. In the past, questions have been raised in Parliament on the same subject.

This is in stark contrast to the fact that other airlines are showing the same movies on-board sans any censor.


4th December    Iranian Rap ...
   
Rap takes the rap for all the world's ills

Iran flagIran said that it planned to launch a crackdown on rap music, complaining that the words used by rap artists were "obscene", the state IRNA news agency reported.

"There is nothing wrong with this type of music in itself," the official for evaluation of music at the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry, Mohammad Dashtgoli, was quoted as saying: But due to the use of obscene words by its singers this music has been categorised as illegal.

In coordination with the police, illegal studios producing this type of music will be sealed and the singers in this genre will be confronted, he said.

The Islamic republic's hardline officials have repeatedly complained about a "cultural invasion" by "decadent" western music which they believe diminishes Islamic values. The culture ministry official expressed his frustration that rap artists were finding low-cost ways to publish their music on the Internet. We should find a solution for this.

Producing albums and holding concerts in Iran requires official permission from the culture ministry and, needless to say, rap music is an underground phenomenon in the Islamic republic. Nevertheless, rap albums are widely available on the black market with artists drawing inspiration from the Persian-language rap of the Iranian diaspora based in Los Angeles.

 

3rd December    Censorship Propaganda ...
   
ECHR finds against Turkish censors

Turkey gaggedÖmer Asan appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after his book Pontus Culture was confiscated for allegedly containing "separatist propaganda". The ECHR has sentenced Turkey to paying 1,500 Euros compensation.

The book was first published by Belge Publications in 1996. The first edition was not stopped. The second edition came out in Turkey in 2000. The then State Security Court decreed the confiscation of the book in January 2002.

The ECHR questioned why the second edition was confiscated if the first one was not and there had been no changes in law. According to the ECHR, the only difference was that the media had pounced on the publication of the second edition.

The court said that it was not convinced that it was necessary in a democratic society for the government to limit the freedom of expression of Asan. It further recorded that the book did not contain any political theses but rather ethnological, cultural and linguistic information.

The book was allowed to be sold again in August 2003, after the ban on the book had been lifted.

In a separate case, the ECHR found no grounds for the six-month closure of Nur Radio station and TV channel by the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTK). A person at the radio station had described the earthquake of August 1999 as "a warning from Allah". However, the ECHR did not consider it necessary to sentence Turkey to compensation or investigate a claim of discrimination in this case.

When the radio station reported the opinions of a spokesperson of the Mihr Community, who had said that the 1999 earthquake was "a warning against Allah's enemies" and that "Allah had decided on it", RTK had closed the station for six months in October 1999.

The station appealed to the ECHR on 27 January 2003. The court found the 160-day broadcasting ban too extreme a penalty.

 

29th November    Deluded Turks ...
   
Turkey considering charges against publisher of The God Delusion

The God DelusionA prosecutor is investigating whether to press charges against the Turkish publisher of a bestselling book by atheist writer Richard Dawkins for inciting religious hatred.

Publisher Erol Karaaslan said yesterday that he would be questioned by an Istanbul prosecutor as part of an official investigation into The God Delusion , written by the British expert in evolutionary biology.

Karaaslan could go on trial if the prosecutor concludes the book incites religious hatred and insults religious values, and faces up to one year in prison if found guilty, Milliyet newspaper reported.

The prosecutor started the inquiry into the book after one reader complained that passages in the book were an assault on "sacred values", Karaaslan said.

The publisher said he would be questioned today and faces prosecution both as the book's publisher and translator. The book has sold 6,000 copies in Turkey since it was published by his Kuzey publishing house in June.

The EU, which Turkey hopes to join, is pressing Ankara to change laws that curb free expression and do not fit within the bloc's standards of free speech. Turkey has said it will soften a law which makes it a crime to denigrate Turkish identity or insult the country's institutions.

 

29th November    Political Puppets ...
   
Fist fighting Lebanese politicians cause game ban

Lebanon FlagDouma (puppet) was a Street Fighter style game set in Lebanese politics. The online game lasted only a day before authorities compelled its creator, known only as “Z.F.”, to take it down.

Douma’s designer ZF told the Daily Star: We tried, with a medium we know [games], to give the people their given rights as citizens, to control the attitude and decisions of the politicians they elect … We tried to find another way for the fans to relieve their anger.

Players could choose their combatants from among seven prominent political figures. An eighth announces each round by riding across the battleground on a moped. From the newspaper account:


Each zaim (”chief”) has a special move with particularly devastating effects. The Hajj Hassan character’s secret weapon, for example, is a battery of Katyusha rockets, while Geagea’s is a kneeling prayer that summons the crushing fist of “God.”

ZF is hopeful the game may return soon: We are working on it, and fast, we’re just looking for the right way to do it.

 

26th November    Silent Hill ...
   
Hilltribe radio forced off air in Thailand

Community radio logoThe northern community radio network will protest to the Chiang Mai governor after two of its 10 member stations broadcasting in a hilltribe dialect were forced off the air for supposed security reasons. 

Sangmuang Mangkorn, coordinator of the Chiang Mai-based Migration Action Programme, said a man claiming to represent the Third Army called up the two stations, in Fang and Chom Thong districts, and ordered them to stop broadcasting, citing security reasons. The stations broadcast in Karen dialect.

He said there might be a political motive behind the closure order as the Dec 23 general election was approaching. It is widely known that the majority of hilltribe people who have Thai ID cards were key supporters of the dissolved Thai Rak Thai party, which has been resurrected as the People Power party.

Sangmuang said his radio station in Chiang Mai's Muang district, which broadcasts in the ethnic Shan dialect on FM 99 MHz, had also been warned that it might be shut down even though the station's programme content focuses on health and law issues.

 

17th November    Stunned ...
   
YouTube have no idea of public interest over ban on taser video

YouTube logoA graphic video that shows the final minutes of Robert Dziekanski's life before he was shot by police Taser stun guns appears to be too shocking for YouTube.

YouTube has banned 24 hours from the online video sharing site, after the newspaper posted the highly publicized video of the incident Wednesday. In a statement e-mailed to 24 hours, the company called the video "inappropriate": Our policy prohibits inappropriate content on YouTube and our community understands the rules and polices the site for inappropriate material.

The company appears to have taken issue with the video, in which Dziekanski can be seen and heard screaming after he is shot without good reason by Canadian Police Taser guns. Dziekanski, who had arrived hours earlier at Vancouver International Airport, died shortly after he was shot on Oct 14.

Real violence on YouTube is not allowed. If a video shows someone getting 'hurt, attacked, or humiliated,' it will be removed, the statement read.

But 24 hours Editor-in-Chief Dean Broughton questioned YouTube's decision to censor the clip, saying it's in the public's interest for the video to be shown as widely as possible: This was a major news story that has captured the attention of people worldwide. This video is the only publicly available depiction of what actually happened to Robert Dziekanski. For YouTube to arbitrarily censor it defeats the purpose of citizen driven media."

Broughton said 24 hours would appeal the decision with YouTube.

 

17th November    Thai Internet Cafe Ratings ...
   
Useful warnings of censored internet cafes

Internet cafe ratingsOnline games that involve violence, fantasy, cop-shooting, stripping and abducting young women are popular among Thai youths, while some use the Internet as a means to hook up with others for sex, a poll revealed yesterday.

Meanwhile the National Committee on Safe and Creative Media is gathering information on Internet cafes and computer game shops to implement a red (dangerous) or green (safe) sticker to identify these venues next year.

Ladda Tangsupachai head of the Culture Ministry's Cultural Surveillance Department, said the committee, on which she served as secretary, had assigned the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth) and the Abac Poll to survey Internet use and impact among 1,114 Thais aged 15 to 24 in Bangkok and surrounding areas.

Most youths used the Internet to search for information, play online games and download music or movies, the poll found. The respondents also went online while at schools and educational institutions (75%) followed by shopping malls (58%) and homes (48%). Slightly less than a third said their parents knew in detail which websites they had visited while some 74% said they did not.

The online-game-playing respondents also ranked their favourite themes as fighting, fantasy worlds, cop-shooting, stripping and abducting young women.

Over half (53%) of the youths said they had seen obscene or pornographic materials on the Internet, including downloading porn pictures or clips (64%), playing games on pornographic sites (16%), chatting about sex with others (13%), uploading sexual pictures or message onto websites (11%), and using webcam services such as camfrog (6%).

Moreover, 27% of male respondents and 8% of female admitted they had sex with people they had met online. Of this group, 28% of males and 59% of females said the sex was not consensual.

Ladda said the Safe Media Committee also assigned the Culture Ministry to conclude the issue about Internet cafés and computer-game shops, as they planned to launch a campaign persuading business-owners to adjust Internet café and computer-game services to be of the same standard.

Next year the committee and officials will visit Internet cafés and computer-game shops and allocate the safe and creative green sticker, which should get more parents and children to use the services there. Meanwhile, Microsoft and Asiasoft said they would lower the programme prices for these venues.

Those given a red sticker, indicating inappropriate services, will face legal action by the police.

 

16th November    Censor Ban ...
   
Indonesian filmmakers ask court for censors to be banned

Indonesia flagFilm-makers in Indonesia have brought a case before the constitutional court, asking for the censorship board to be disbanded.

They say that the film law is outdated, and that the board is trampling on their constitutional rights.

The petition has been backed by some of the biggest names in Indonesian cinema.

The board describes its goals as unifying society and preparing it for change, while protecting it from any negative impact.

The film law which provides the legal basis for the censorship board was last updated under the repressive rule of former President Suharto in 1992. The board has jurisdiction over all movies, commercials, TV films and music videos released in Indonesia.

Many independent film-makers complain that it routinely cuts scenes, including some related to historical events.

One of the country's foremost directors, Nia Dinata, told the BBC that the board was still scared of film's influence over people, and that it was holding back the industry's creativity.

 

16th November    Supreme Art ...
   
Japanese import ban on Mapplethorpe pictures will get hearing in Supreme Court

Robert Mapplethorpe and the Classical Tradition bookA Japanese publisher who tried to print images of male genitals taken by late US photographer Robert Mapplethorpe said he was hopeful the top court will lift an eight-year ban on the book.

Pornography is widely available in Japan and legal for personal use. But laws on public morals forbid the import of material that clearly depicts genitalia, causing frequent disputes as censorship is at officers' discretion.

The Supreme Court agreed this week to hear an appeal by Takashi Asai, who was barred from bringing into Japan a book of photos, including some showing men's organs.

Asai's publishing company, Uplink, had reproduced the photos in a book of Mapplethorpe's collection printed in 1994.

But when Asai took a copy to the United States and then brought it back to Japan in 1999, customs officers seized it as obscene and Asai agreed to suspend sales.

Asai told AFP: I really don't understand the government's decision to ban importing a book which had already been published for five years.

In Asai's case, the Tokyo District Court had sided with him, ruling that the ban be lifted and that the government pay him 700,000 yen (6,300 dollars) in compensation. The Tokyo High Court, however, overturned the lower court decision, and Japan's highest court will now hear the case on January 22.

 

14th November    Searching for Anti-Semitism ...
   
Google will not censor internet searches

Google logoGoogle cannot and will not censor the information which appears on its search engines. What is and isn't proper internet content is for governments and courts to decide, not for us, said Meir Brand, CEO of Google Israel.

Brand spoke at a conference held by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), titled Poisoning the Web – Hate on the Internet, which included a special panel on Google's refusal to censor anti-Semitic results that pop-up on its search engines.

I'm a firm believer in the ADL's values, but we believe radicalism and racism can be curbed through open discussion, not censorship, added Brand.

Wolf brought as an example a website called Jew Watch, which presented itself as an online library for Jewish history, but in fact held anti-Semitic content. The site was able to obtain the coveted first-on-the-list spot in Google's search engine. Once Jew Watch's true nature was exposed, tens of thousands of Google users signed a petition demanding the removal of the site from the search results. Google chose instead to add an annex to the site's link, explaining its nature.

The world, said the ADL is turning a blind eye to online racism, when alongside websites like Jew Watch, the world wide web is filled with so-called charity sites belonging to white-supremacy groups, Nazi memorabilia websites and online computer games which allow their users to kill the Jewish leader of their choice.

The internet, stressed Brand, can not be blamed for the existence of racism: Google mirrors the real world, including some of its uglier images, like racism. I'm an Israeli Jew and my family survived the Holocaust. This isn't an easy topic for me, but removing results form our webpage will not solve the problem.

 

12th November    The Thin End ...
   
New Zealand trials internet filters

New Zealand flagThe Internal Affairs Department has begun working alongside Internet service providers to block access to websites dedicated to child pornography.

Censorship manager Steve O'Brien says the department has drawn up a list of more than 7000 websites that host illegal material. Two Internet service providers agreed to block access to the sites in a trial which has been running for several months but which is still at "the very early stages".

O'Brien says the idea is based on very successful approaches to combating child porn in Norway and Sweden.

If the trial is expanded, people who try to access sites identified by Internal Affairs as hosting child porn may see a webpage telling them the site has been blocked and inviting them to contact the department if they have any queries. At the moment, they will find the sites will simply not load, he says.

During September and last month, the two ISPs that are part of the trial processed six million website requests from customers, of which 3351 were blocked.

O'Brien says Internal Affairs will not try to identify who tried to access the censored sites, because that would defeat the purpose of what it hopes to achieve: We are trying to show to average New Zealanders that we are trying to prevent harmful material going on to people's screens, not waving a big stick at them.

Internal Affairs is not blocking sites that are "borderline", he says, but only "known child-abuse sites".

 

10th November    Dementia at 25 ...
   
Thai Government dreams up a 25 film certificate

25 certficateSo the saga of the new Film Act continues, with an increasing degree of weirdness, or even lunacy.

On Thursday, the National Legislative Assembly held the first-round deliberation of the new Film and Video Act. And if, under the influence of dementia or the approaching election, they pass the law in the second meeting next week, we will have a film act that contains a rating, for the first time in the world's history, that forbids people under 25 years of age to see certain movies.

Such perversity is unthinkable, and it is carrying the ongoing debate of the new law into the realm of comedy - no, actually it's tragicomedy, and not only for moviemakers but for the general audience, whose basic human rights would be violated by this absurd conservatism.

No country in the world (except some Taliban-ruled badland) takes away the right to choose to go to a movie from its 24-year-old citizens. Generally, the international threshold is 18, and even in a bastion of enforced civility like Singapore, the toughest rating restricts people under 21 from entering some movies. To elevate the bar to 25 is phenomenally laughable, and it raises questions about the integrity and intellect of certain bureaucrats in the ministry.

Other disturbing points remain unchanged in the latest draft, chiefly the state's ultimate right to ban films that touch on "the nation, the religion and the monarchy". Existing laws, such as the lese majeste law and anti-obscenity law, provide enough ground to cover the offence should some cretins make a movie about our sacred institutions. To literally spell out that power in the film bill reeks of the dark intention to control freedom of expression.

Article 34 of the new draft stipulates that no movies can be sent to screen outside the Kingdom before receiving an approval from the Film and Video Committee. This means independent directors will need to seek permission - like artists in China - before sending their films to international film festivals, and any movie that portrays Thailand, Thai politicians, Thai cops or Thai monks in a bad light is unlikely to get a nod.

 

8th November    No Joy ...
   
Malawi closes down opposition TV channel

Malawi flagState regulators have summarily pulled off the air Malawi’s first private television station, citing an alleged regulatory violation. The ruling, targeting a fledgling station close to opposition leader Bakili Muluzi in the lead-up to presidential polls in 2009, appeared to violate Malawi’s media laws, according to CPJ research.

Joy Television has remained off the air since receiving a letter from the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority ordering the station to cease all operations on grounds that its license expired on May 31, 2007. The station must remain closed until it applies for an “appropriate radio and broadcasting license,”

 The station had been running test transmissions and entertainment programming in recent weeks ahead of a launch, according to Peter Chisale, director of sister station Joy Radio.

Yet Joy TV’s license—granted in 2002, according to Chisale, was not set to expire until 2009 under Malawi’s 1998 Communications Act, which grants licenses for a period of seven years, according to CPJ research.

This ruling, which does not appear to have a basis under Malawi’s laws, amounts to censorship and threatens to undermine the democratic credentials of Malawi as the country prepares for elections in 2009, said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.


2nd December  Update:  The Joy of Force ...
   
Malawi confiscates TV transmitters

Malawi flagHeavily armed and gun tottering Malawi security forces stormed Joy TV transmission station in the commercial city of Blantyre and confiscated TV transmitters.

Armed police, according to journalists at the media house who witnessed the whole scenario, came with a search warrant from Blantyre Magistrate court obtained by Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA).

Station Manager, Peter Chisale confirmed to Nyasa Times about the development: This is continued harassment that Joy TV has been facing from the regulator for quite some time now. This is despite the fact that the matter is in the High Court of Malawi for a Judicial Review to determine the validity of the Joy TV license.

Sources say Macra were acting on orders from the Head of State to paralyse Joy TV which would have become the second terrestrial station after state controlled TVM.

Government is believed to be targeting the station because of its links to former president Dr Bakili Muluzi in the lead-up to presidential polls in 2009, which opposition United Democratic Front is hawking his name for return to power.

Joy TV remained off the air since receiving a gagging order from the regulator after it had been running test transmissions and entertainment programming ahead of a launch.

Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) executive director Joel Simon is on record to have said that the actions by the state on Joy TV amount to censorship and undermines the democratic credentials of the country in the run-up to 2009 polls.

 

4th November    That's a Bit Rich ...
   
Saudi bans Forbes magazine

Forbes magazineInstead of ripping out the offending pages like they normally do, Saudi Arabia has outright banned the latest issue of the Arabic language version of Forbes magazine. The reason the magazine is banned is an article that talked about the wealth of the King and other Arabic country leaders.

Refaat Jaafar, managing editor of Forbes Arabia, which is based out of Dubai, said The reason was a two-page report on the wealth of 15 ruling dynasties, seven of which are Arab.

The report in Forbes ranked King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia third, behind the rulers of Brunei and the United Arab Emirates. Apparently, Saudis shouldn't know this kind of information.

This is not the first time that Forbes Arabia has been censored by the Saudi government. Authorities have ordered columns written by Khalid al-Dakhil, a well-known Saudi analyst and university lecturer, to be ripped out of the magazine twice this year already.

 

3rd November    Dissent in a Coffee Shop ...
   
Iran closes bookshop-cafes

Iran flagIn what appears to be another blow to Iranian intellectual life, police in Tehran have recently shut down six bookshop-cafes, and others may be in line for closure.

The head of the Tehran police information department, Mehdi Amahdi, justified the closures on October 27 by saying the booksellers' union does not allow two separate professions, namely, selling books and selling refreshments, to be practiced together.

But the sudden strict enforcement of regulations seems to target the writers and intellectuals who gather at literary cafes, rather than the business owners.

Hafez Mussavi, a writer and publisher in Tehran, told Radio Farda that he believes the crackdown is linked to a broader pattern in which Islamic authorities have stepped up efforts to suppress dissent across all segments of society: I think this is part of moves that include, for example, the closure of newspapers. It means that they are just waiting for an excuse to prevent cultural activities or limit them .

Another Tehran-based publisher, Farid Moradi, noted that many other businesses in Iran, such as swimming pools, cinemas, and sports clubs, have coffee shops aside from their primary line of business, but those establishments have not yet run into legal problems.

 

4th October   Turkishness on the Up ...
 


Turkey gaggedPresident suggests changes to the repressive insult law

From the BBC see full article

Turkish President Abdullah Gul has called for changes to a law that has allowed writers to face trial for insulting Turkish identity.

Nobel-laureate writer Orhan Pamuk and slain journalist Hrant Dink are among the many people tried under Article 301, though few have been convicted.

Gul told a meeting of Council of Europe ministers that the article had damaged Turkey's bid to join the EU. He said he expected the AK Party, which won recent polls, to review the law: Even though nobody has been jailed under this article, I would like to see it changed.

It is Turkey's government, rather than its president, that decides changes to the country's laws. As a former foreign minister in the pre-election AK Party cabinet, Gul still has influence within the party.

Speaking at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Gul defended his country's human rights record: Nobody is in prison in Turkey today for expressing their ideas . But he acknowledged that much remained to be done and Article 301 had contributed an "unfair perception" that Turkey jailed dissidents.


15th October  Update:  Freedom Massacred ...
   
Turkishness doesn't encompass freedom of speech

Turkey gaggedThe son of murdered Turkish-Armenian writer Hrant Dink has been found guilty of insulting "Turkishness", along with another newspaper editor.

Arat Dink and Serkis Seropyan were convicted after printing Dink's claims that the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks from 1915 was genocide.

The verdict came a day after a US congressional committee backed a bill labelling the killings as genocide. Turkish leaders reacted angrily, but the decision was welcomed by Armenians. The non-binding US vote, passed by 27 to 21 votes by members of the congressional House Foreign Affairs Committee, is the first step towards holding a vote in the House of Representatives.

Arat Dink and Mr Seropyan, who both work as editors at Agos, a leading bilingual Turkish and Armenian weekly newspaper, were given one-year suspended sentences for printing comments made by Hrant Dink during an interview.

Dink, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, was one of Turkey's most prominent Armenian voices. He was shot dead outside his Istanbul office in January 2007. At the time he was appealing against a prior conviction for the same offence - insulting the Turkish identity under Article 301 of the country's penal code.

Turkey faces ongoing international pressure to scrap the offence, under which dozens of writers who have been charged, often for articles dealing with killings of Kurds or Ottoman Armenians.


7th November  Update:  Freer Turkishness ...
   
Turkishness to become a little less worthy of insult

Turkey gaggedThe Turkish government says it will change a controversial law restricting freedom of expression.

Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin said a new bill would be put before the Turkish parliament in the coming days.

The law being reviewied, Article 301, bans perceived insults to Turkish identity or the country's institutions.

It has often been invoked by nationalists against those who argue the Ottoman empire committed genocide against Armenians.

Several drafts have been prepared in line with proposals by civic groups. The cabinet will discuss them at first opportunity, select one and submit it to parliament, Sahin told Anatolia news agency.

He did not give details of how the law would be reformed.

Earlier on Tuesday the European Commission said restrictions on freedom of expression were blocking Turkey's progress towards EU membership.

It is not acceptable that writers, journalists, academics and other intellectuals... are prosecuted for simply expressing a critical but completely non-violent opinion, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said: The infamous Article 301 must be repealed or amended without delay .

 

31st October    ISPs Liable for all the Worlds Ills ...
   
India to ban the internet?

India flagIf the recommendations of the parliamentary standing committee were to go through, you might as well pull the shutters down on the net in the country, because the committee seeks to raise the liability of internet service providers for any third party content in a manner that it will become difficult to run the service and stay away from jail.

Over 85% of internet deals with third party content. This includes search engines, mail services, messengers, blogs, communication and community sites. If they were to be held responsible for the sites searched, mails sent, blogs filed or scraps on community sites then service providers would be hauled up by the police for acts they are not even faintly responsible for.

Why, then, is the committee proposing this insanity? The answer is simple — the committee has failed to understand the internet. In its report last month on the Information Technology (Amendment) Bill 2006, the committee headed by Congress MP Nikhil Kumar has called upon the government to abandon the proposal to reduce the liability of service providers or intermediaries in the wake of industry outrage over the 2004 arrest of Baazee.com’s CEO for the auction of a CD containing an infamous student porn MMS.

The bone of contention is Section 79 of the IT Act 2000 which says that no service provider shall be liable for any third party information if he proves that the offence was committed without his knowledge or that he had exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of such contravention.

Since the existing safeguard failed to save Baazee.com CEO Avnish Bajaj from being subjected to the ignominy of arrest and detention, the government sought to reduce the liability further in its 2006 Bill. The Bill raises the bar for taking action against ISPs by stipulating that they are not liable unless it is proved that they have conspired or abetted in the commission of the unlawful act.

To the industry here, the proposed amendment seemed a fair safeguard. But the standing committee, far from endorsing the change, has recommended that the existing Section 79 should be strengthened by casting “a definite obligation” on the service providers to ensure that the third party information was within the parameters of the law especially because it is very difficult to establish conspiracy or abetment on their part.

So, which way should Indian laws go? The way the advanced countries have gone, or in accordance with the wishes of some misinformed MPs that would spell the death of Internet in India?

 

30th October    Superstitious Nonsense ...
   
India to ban religion on TV?

I&B logoThe Indian Information and Broadcasting ministry will soon issue a warning to television channels against airing programmes that promote superstition and occult practices.

Shows on occult and superstition on Hindi and vernacular language channels are said to garner high television ratings.

The viewership is believed to be high among people in the lower strata of society as also in rural India, though several social action groups are opposed to such programmes.

The government had planned to ban such programmes under a proposed content code, but the move failed to take off in the wake of resistance from the television industry.

As there are no specific guidelines for such programmes, the I&B ministry has asked an inter-ministerial committee to look into the whole matter. Last week, the committee met decided to issue the warning.

Officials in ministries from home affairs to women and child development, social justice and empowerment as well as health are unanimous that channels need to be warned as these programmes were having an adverse impact on society.

I&B minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi had earlier hauled up news channels for showing special programmes allegedly propagating superstition and occult practices. However, news broadcasters said such programmes were being shown only to create awareness among viewers against such ills. So far, the ministry has showcased only a couple of channels on specific programmes like Kal Kapal Mahakaal on Zee News.

Meanwhile the Indian government are discussing the new TV content code which will be a part of the new Broadcast Regulation Bill .This is likely to be introduced in Parliament during the monsoon session and aims to clear out the greys, and lay down a specific frame within which broadcasters should function.

The code puts programmes into nine categories, for children, women among others, and prescribes the dos and don’ts in each category.

The code specifies that adult content, programmes certified by the Censor Board as ‘A’, would be allowed on TV between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. Until now, only movies or music albums certified as universally adult (UA) were allowed.

 

19th October    Lust for Censorship ...
   
Erotic novels seized at Thai book fair

Lady Chatterley's Lover novelPolice yesterday arrested two men at the 12th Book Expo Thailand 2007 who were selling erotic novels and seized hundreds of the titillating tomes.

Special Branch Police commander Maj-General Sombat Supacheeva spouted that although these works contained no photos, they used sexually explicit language and could incite lust.

The victims of the police nonsense could each face a maximum three years in jail and/or a fine of Bt6,000.

Ladda Tangsupachai, prudish director of the Culture Watch Centre, praised the police for cracking down on salacious material. The Culture Ministry will convene a meeting of agencies next week to tackle the spread of adult material, she said.

The book expo runs until October 28 at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre.

 

18th October    Pressing Change to Law ...
   
A new press registration law

Thai Rath newspaperThe Thai print media has won a major concession in its protracted struggle to free itself from the shackles of the draconian Press Act B.E. 2484. Thanks to the government and the National Legislative Assembly the obsolete law which empowered authorities to close down a newspaper, censor news or ban the import or distribution of any publication they deemed a threat to public order or good morals, has been repealed and replaced with a new and media-friendly law, officially called the Press Registration and Notification Act.

The abrogation of the Press Act B.E. 2484 represents a big step forward in the realisation of free expression in Thailand, a fundamental right guaranteed in the 1997 Constitution and also in the existing charter which was approved in the recent national referendum. The new press law, which will come into effect after royal endorsement by His Majesty the King, will do away with censorship and the once powerful press officers who could close down a newspaper or any publication. It will also make it easier to start a publication without the need to apply for a licence.

Yet, there still remains another major problem that has stood in the way towards the realisation of free expression. That is the criminal defamation provisions as stipulated in the Criminal Code, which is as obsolete as the recently-repealed Press Act and thus in need of modification in conformity with the prevailing democratic atmosphere, or else completely abrogated.

In reality, the laws have been abused by politicians as a means to intimidate or to muzzle criticism against themselves by the media.

The use of criminal law in defamation cases represents a disproportionate means of addressing the problem of unwarranted attacks on someone's reputation. It exerts an unacceptable chilling effect on freedom of expression, particularly in relation to statements regarding public figures or on matters of public interest. Civil defamation laws, on their own, provide adequate redress for harm or damage done to the reputation. Thus, civil defamation laws are preferable to criminal defamation laws. There is no denying there is a need to protect the reputation of individuals, just as it is necessary to protect free expression. The point is how to balance free speech with the need to protect reputation. One extreme option is to repeal the criminal defamation laws. The other is to do away with the imprisonment penalty for defamation charges. Whichever the option, the existing criminal defamation laws are out of time and out of place and go against the spirit of democracy. It is time they were amended. Or completely repealed.

 

16th October    Stamping Down on Freedom ...
   
Canada Post censors political flyers

Canada Post logoA tiny political party that promotes sexual freedom in Canada complained in Federal Court it was discriminated against by the country's postal service.

The Sex Party is upset that Canada Post refused to distribute a flyer during the 2006 federal election that outlined the group's philosophy, after deeming some its contents to be pornographic.

We are advocating for rights established for any citizen, said Sex Party leader John Ince, who told a judge in Vancouver that the pamphlet was intended to help recruit new party members and raise donations.

The Vancouver-based party, which advocates liberalization of Canada's prostitution laws among other issues, says its political mailing ran afoul of rules aimed at prohibiting use of the postal system to distribute mass-mailing flyers for hard-core pornography or other illegal material.

That is not what our material is, Ince told the court. Ince, a former lawyer who owns an erotica shop, said the Sex Party does not oppose restrictions on mailing hard-core porn, but said postal officials have been inconsistent in applying their own rules.

Canada Post said it has an obligation to refuse material that could be seen by children or others who might find it offensive.

Canada Post has denied its motives were political.

 

14th October    Chinese Sensitivities
   
Political book criticising China banned in Thailand

Nine Commentaries book coverIt seems banning books has become contagious in Thailand. The Thai government has now ordered censorship of the Thai translation of Nine Commentaries Criticising the Chinese Communist Party .

On October 10, Thai daily “Matichon” reported news of the ban order for the book in Thai translated from Chinese. The book criticises the Chinese Communist Party. A Thai ‘Press Officer’ empowered to act as government book censor comments that the text of the book directly attacks the Chinese government and may affect peaceful relations between Thailand and China. Therefore the Thai government issued its ban order on October 8 under Article 9 of the Printing Act of 1941 as contrary to public order or good morals . Such an order may be issued by publication in the Government Gazette or any daily newspaper.

 

13th October    Russia Shamed by Censorship ...
   
Russian photos pulled from Paris exhibition

Kissing PolicemanThe Russian government has banned a photograph showing two policemen kissing each other passionately in a Siberian forest from going on display in Paris.

The image shot among the snow-covered forest of birch trees shows the two men, in full uniform, kissing on the lips and holding each other by the buttocks.

Its creators claim it is a homage to the British graffit artist Banksy but the work proved too controversial for culture minister Alexander Sokolov.

Russia's culture minister claimed Kissing Policeman ( An Epoch of Clemency ) was politically provocative and banned it and 16 other works from going on display in Paris

This is despite the fact they have all already been on display in Moscow's state-owned Tretyakov gallery. Sokolov said: It this exhibition appears, it will bring shame on Russia. In this case, all of us will bear full responsibility. It is inadmissible... to take all this pornography, kissing policeman and erotic pictures to Paris.

Another work by the same artists, the Blue Noses collective, which showed Vladimir Putin, George Bush and Osama bin Laden cavorting on a doube bed in their underpants, was also banned.

His actions prompted one of two artists in the Blue Noses, Alexander Shaburov, to say: The state is beginning to administer culture in the same way it did under Khrushchev.

 

12th October    Ceremonial Censorship
   
Singapore promises light touch internet censorship

Singapore FlagSingapore's government says it will continue to maintain "ceremonial censorship" and "a light touch" on any censoring of the internet.

Singapore's Second Minister, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, Vivian Balakrishnan said: It is not possible to censor the Net in its entirety or insist on a single perspective being dominant. But, we do draw some lines in cyberspace and we block a total of 100 basically pornographic sites. We call this ceremonial censorship. We block 100 to indicate to the public that as a society, we don't stand for this. We are not going to waste our time hunting down every site.

The only time we prosecuted anyone on the internet was two years ago when a few bloggers made disparaging racial and religious remarks.

The minister says the Internet provides huge opportunities to tap into creativity, innovation and the generation of new enterprises: That opportunity is too good to be missed simply because one is paranoid, thus we will not be paranoid about the Internet. But we will be sensible and pragmatic in understanding where the dangers and the threats are, and we will seek to make our own stand on issues of sensitivity and concern.

 

9th October    Beyond Reproach
   
Thai Junta to extend lese majeste

Spitting Image of the QueenThailand, which strictly enforces laws protecting the monarchy, plans to extend protection to royal advisers and other members of the royal family and restrict media coverage of cases, lawmakers have said.

Under the proposed amendments, to be debated by the army-appointed parliament on Wednesday, journalists could be jailed for three years and fined 60,000 baht ($1,750) for ignoring a court-ordered publication ban.

We don't want any offence to the monarch to be repeated in the news or become an issue of any criticism inside or outside Thailand, Supreme Court chief judge Pornpetch Wichitcholchai told Reuters.

Those protected by the expanded law would include sons and daughters of the monarch and royal advisers known as privy councillors, Pornpetch said.

Thailand's lese majeste law is already among the toughest in the world, with jail terms of three to 15 years for anyone who "defames, insults or threatens" the king, queen, heir apparent or regent.

Under the proposed amendments, those found guilty of lese majeste against royal children face up to seven years in jail, and up to five years if it is against royal advisors, Pornpetch said.

The most recent conviction was of a Swiss man jailed for 10 years in March for defacing pictures of the king. At the request of police, few Thai newspapers reported the case of Oliver Rudolf Jufer, who received a royal pardon and was deported.

The police were doing the right thing and the media made the right decision not to report the story, but we are going to put those judgment calls into law, Pornpetch said.

But a media rights advocacy group said the amendments would gravely violate people's freedom of expression, which should be debated widely in the public, not by army-appointed legislators.

The existing law is already very powerful to gag the people. There is no need to make it tougher, said Supinya Klangnarong of the Campaign for Popular Media Reform: They should let the democratically elected lawmakers decide what to do with the current law.


10th October   Update: Less Lese...

 
Spitting Image of the QueenPlans to extend lese majeste withdrawn

From the Nation

Proposed amendments to the lese majeste laws that would make it illegal to criticise an adviser to His Majesty the King, have been withdrawn due to concern from Privy Council members, the proponent of the bills said yesterday.

Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) member who proposed the bills, said he was contacted by a privy councillor who said the Privy Council was not comfortable about the law amendment


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