The U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution Friday deploring the defamation of religions and expressing concern that Islam is frequently and 'wrongly' associated with terrorism and human rights violations.
The nonbinding resolution,
sponsored by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, was adopted by a vote of 80-61 with 42 abstentions.
The United States and many European and developed nations voted against it. Many see it as an interference in freedom of expression and
freedom of religion.
Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat who is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the resolution fails to solve the very real problems of religious discrimination and hatred and further promotes
intolerance and human rights violations by curtailing individuals' rights to express their religious beliefs.
He noted that the General Assembly has adopted defamation of religion resolutions annually since 2005 — and this year it was
approved by the smallest margin yet.
Among other things, the resolution expresses deep concern at the negative stereotyping of religions and manifestations of intolerance and discrimination in matters of religion or belief.
A survey of 20 nations has found strong support for the right to criticize religion. According to the survey of more than 18,000 people, 57% agreed that people should be allowed to publicly criticize religion because people should have freedom of
speech. Meanwhile, 34% of all respondents said they supported the right of governments to fine or imprison people who publicly criticize a religion because such criticism could defame the religion.
The strongest support for the right to
criticize religion came from the United States, where 89% said public criticism should be allowed, followed by Chile (82%) and Mexico (81%). Britain came fourth, with 81% supporting the right to criticize religion.
The seven nations with a
majority of support for prohibitions on the right to criticize religion, meanwhile, had overwhelmingly Muslim populations. In Egypt, 71% agreed that criticism of religion should be prohibited, followed by Pakistan (62%), and Iraq (57%).
conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org, was released as the U.N. General Assembly prepared to debate a proposal calling for the prohibition of the defamation of religions.
The proposal, put forward by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which
represents 56 Muslim nations, calls on all nations of the world to effectively combat defamation of all religions and incitement to religious hatred in general and against Islam and Muslims in particular.
A reception held by the group Open Net Initiative (ONI) was interrupted when United Nations officials demanded that an advertisement for a book titled Access Controlled be removed from display. The book details suppressed speech on the Web.
The reception was held at the UN-sponsored 2009 Internet Governance Forum in Egypt. According to a UN delegate witness, officials threw the poster on the floor, demanding its removal, which was resisted. Security then removed it over protest.
We condemn this undemocratic act of censoring our event just because someone is trying to impress or be in the good graces of the Chinese government, said a spokesman for the Foundation for Media Alternatives, an affiliate of ONI.
A UN resolution advanced by Muslim countries that seeks to outlaw criticism of religion has seen a decline in support since last year.
The number of countries continuing to support the resolution proposed by the Organisation of the Islamic
Conference (OIC) to promote the concept of defamation of religions dropped to 81. Eighty-five countries in the UN's Third Committee on Human Rights voted for the resolution last year, which itself marked a reduction in support from 95, in 2007.
Likewise, the number of countries voting against the resolution increased to 55 this year from 50 last year, while the number of abstentions rose from 42 to 43.
Muslim states have pushed non-binding resolutions on combating religious
defamation through the 192-nation General Assembly and the Geneva-based Human Rights Council since 1999, arguing that Muslims need protection from Islamophobic race-hate.
Although the 56-nation OIC bloc has found support in African and non-aligned
countries, campaigners have lobbied hard against the resolution over the past year and won over nations other than the traditional naysayers in Europe and North America.
A coalition of more than 100 human rights organisations, including secular,
Muslim, Christian, Baha'i and Jewish groups, opposed the resolution, saying it sought to provide cover for anti-blasphemy laws and the marginalisation of religious minorities in repressive countries.
The General Assembly is set to vote on the
resolution again in coming weeks, although attention has already turned to Geneva, where Pakistan, on behalf of the OIC, last month advanced a binding treaty amendment to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination. The amendment would see the principle of religious defamation enshrined in international law, rather than non-binding resolutions.
More than 100 organizations, including Muslim and secularist ones, have signed a petition against the proposed U.N. resolutions on the defamation of religions, which they contend will do more harm than good for religious freedom.
The Common Statement from Civil Society on the Concept of the 'Defamation of Religions,'
signed by organizations in over 20 countries, opposes the Organization of the Islamic Conference's (OIC) proposal for the United Nations to adopt a binding treaty that would protect religions from defamation. The groups pointed out that a similar
resolution adopted earlier this year only cites Islam as the religion that should be protected.
Moreover, human rights groups say the resolutions will give credit to anti-blasphemy laws in countries such as Pakistan and Sudan.
indicate that blasphemy laws have been widely abused to justify violence and abuse against religious minorities in predominantly Muslim countries. Blasphemy laws can also be used to silence critics of a religion and restrict freedom of speech.
In seeking to protect 'religion' from defamation it is clear that existing international human rights protections will be undermined, specifically freedom of religion and belief and freedom of expression,
said Tina Lambert, Christian Solidarity Worldwide's advocacy director.
For the sake of those who already suffer unjustly under such legislation (blasphemy laws) and for the protection of our existing international human rights framework, it
is vital that member states act to prevent such a treaty or optional protocol being established, she said.
Since 1999, when the defamation of religions resolution was first proposed, this is the first time that sponsors have asked for
it to become a binding treaty.
Angela C. Wu, international law director of the Becket Fund, one of the groups that signed the petition, argued, Human rights are meant to protect the individuals, not ideas or governments. Yet the concept of
'defamation of religions' further empowers governments to choose which peacefully expressed ideas are permissible and which are not.
It is pivotal for human rights defenders around the globe to unite against this flawed concept before it becomes
The preliminary vote on the proposed binding treaty is expected before Thanksgiving, and the final plenary vote is expected in early to mid-December.
Wolfgang Werlé served 15 years for the gruesome murder of a famous German actor is taking legal action against Wikipedia for reporting the conviction.
Attorneys took the action on behalf of Wolfgang Werlé, one of two men to receive a
life sentence for the 1990 murder of Walter Sedlmayr. In a letter sent late last month to Wikipedia officials, they didn't dispute their client was found guilty, but they nonetheless demanded Wikipedia's English language biography of the Bavarian star
suppress the convicted murder's name because he is considered a private individual under German law.
Werlé's rehabilitation and his future life outside the prison system is severely impacted by your unwillingness to anonymize any
articles dealing with the murder of Mr. Walter Sedlmayr with regard to our client's involvement, they wrote. As your article deals with a local German public figure, we expect you are aware that you have to comply with applicable German law.
They go on to say they are currently taking legal action against Wikipedia in the trial court of Hamburg. And according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Werlé's attorneys have also gone after an Austrian internet service provider that
published the names of the convicted.
EFF Senior Staff Attorney Jennifer Granick said: At stake is the integrity of history itself. If all publications have to abide by the censorship laws of any and every jurisdiction just because they are
accessible over the global internet, then we will not be able to believe what we read, whether about Falun Gong (censored by China), the Thai king (censored under lese majesté) or German murders.
Last month, for instance, lawyers for the convicted murderers of German actor Walter Sedlmayr sent Wikimedia, an Internet content provider located
in the United States that runs Wikipedia, a cease and desist letter demanding that Wikimedia remove from its Wikipedia article the names of Seldmayr's killers in compliance with the German law that protects the privacy of individuals.
courts have reasoned that criminals are no longer public figures nearly 20 years after being convicted, and thus should be afforded privacy by not having their names published.
Thus far, Wikipedia has asserted its right to free expression and not
removed the names of Sedlmayr's murderers from its English article.
Never before have so many people been threatened or imprisoned for what the words they write on the internet.
As activists and ordinary citizens have increasingly made use of the internet to express their opinions and connect with others, many
governments have also increased surveillance, filtering, legal actions and harassment. The harshest consequence for many has been the politically motivated arrest of bloggers and online writers for their online and/or offline activities, in some tragic
cases even leading to death. Online journalists and bloggers now represent 45% of all media workers in prison worldwide.
Today, Global Voices Advocacy is launching a new website called Threatened Voices to help track suppression of free speech
online. It features a world map and an interactive timeline that help visualize the story of threats and arrests against bloggers worldwide, and it is a central platform to gather information from the most dedicated organisations and activists, including
Committee to Protect Bloggers, The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Reporters without Borders, Human Rights Watch, CyberLaw Blog, Amnesty International, Committee to Protect Journalists, Global Voices Advocacy.
In what one official describes as a mixed report, the US State Department's Annual Report on International Religious Freedom praises growing interfaith initiatives in some countries but criticizes blasphemy laws supported by some Islamic
nations. Such laws, it says, curtail freedom of expression.
Introducing the report at the State Department Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized anti-defamation policies, such as those being proposed at the United Nations, saying
that an individual's ability to practice his or her religion has no bearing on others' freedom of speech.
Clinton said the protection of speech about religion is particularly important since persons of different faiths will inevitably
hold divergent views on religious questions. These differences should be met with tolerance, not with the suppression of discourse.
The annual report, addressing the state of religious freedom in 198 countries and territories, cites serious
problems of religious tolerance in Afghanistan.
It singles out a controversial law signed by President Hamid Karzai limiting the rights of women from the Shia minority. It also cites harassment and occasional violence against religious
minorities and Muslims perceived as not respecting Islamic strictures. Non-Muslim minority groups -- including Christians, Hindus, and Sikhs, it says -- continued to face incidents of discrimination and persecution.
The United States has very
serious concerns over the status of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia as well, Posner said. The report says freedom of religion is neither recognized nor protected under Saudi law and it is severely restricted in practice.
Department will issue a separate report on countries of concern. Officials say they plan to release by January.
More freedom of expression and human rights groups have voiced concern at a bid by the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the African Group to write new conditions into an international convention that will add a requirement to ban defamation
of religion to a convention intended to eliminate racism.
The OIC, represented by Pakistan, and the African Group, represented by Egypt, have approached the UN Ad Hoc Committee mandated to elaborate on the International Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
The OIC proposes new and binding standards on issues such as defamation of religions, religious personalities, holy books, scriptures and symbols .
With an eye to the Danish cartoons saga, the OIC calls for protection against provocative portrayals of objects of religious veneration as a malicious violation of the spirit of tolerance, and prohibition of the
publication of …gratuitously offensive attacks on matters regarded as sacred by the followers of any religion .
The OIC submission would also provide for action against abuse of the right to freedom of expression in the context of
racio-religious profiling .
The letter, originated by free expression campaigners Article 19, The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and Human Rights Watch Legal Resource Consortium in South
Africa, maintains that the concept of defamation of religions is contrary to freedom of expression but also general principles of international human rights law.
The focus, the signatories argue, should be on protecting the rights of
individual believers, rather than belief systems.
The Horn was again the African region with the most press freedom violations. Eritrea (175th), where no independent media is tolerated and 30 journalists are in prison (as many as in China or Iran but
with a much smaller population), was ranked last in the world for the third year running. Somalia (164th), which is steadily being emptied of its journalists, was the world's deadliest country for the media, with six journalists killed between 1 January
and 4 July.
The process of adopting a Shield Law protecting the confidentiality of journalists' sources at the federal level is far from over in the United States (20th) but the judicial
authorities are no longer jailing journalists and violating civil liberties in the name of national security as they were in the Bush era. So the US is back in the press freedom top 20, as is appropriate for a country where the press has traditionally
played its role as independent watchdog well.
One of the countries where prosecutions led to exorbitant damages awards, Canada (19th) fell a few places but still holds the hemisphere's highest position.
The authoritarianism of existing governments, for example in Sri Lanka (162nd) and Malaysia (131st), prevented journalists from properly covering sensitive subjects such as corruption or human rights abuses. The Sri Lankan government had a
journalist sentenced to 20 years in prison and forced dozens of others to flee the country. In Malaysia, the interior ministry imposed censorship or self-censorship by threatening media with the withdrawal of their licence or threatening journalists with
a spell in prison.
War and terrorism wrought havoc and exposed journalists to great danger. Afghanistan (149th) is sapped not only by Taliban violence and death threats, but also by unjustified arrests by the security forces. Despite having
dynamic news media, Pakistan (159th) is crippled by murders of journalists and the aggressiveness of both the Taliban and sectors of the military. It shared (with Somalia) the world record for journalists killed during the period under review.
Asian countries that least respected press freedom were, predictably, North Korea, one of the infernal trio at the bottom of the rankings, Burma, which still suffers from prior censorship and imprisonment, and Laos, an unchanging dictatorship
where no privately-owned media are permitted.
Asia's few democracies are well placed in the rankings. New Zealand (13th), Australia (16th) and Japan (17th) are all in the top 20. Respect for press freedom and the lack of targeted violence against
journalists enable these three countries to be regional leaders.
Europe & ex-USSR
For the first time since 2002, the press freedom index's top 20 is not quite so European. Only 15 of the 20 leading
countries are from the Old Continent, compared with 18 in 2008. Eleven of these 15 countries are European Union members. They include the top three, Denmark, Finland and Ireland. Another EU member, Bulgaria, has been falling steadily since it joined in
2007 and is now 68th (against 59th in 2008). This is the lowest ranking of any member of the union.
The biggest one-year fall of any EU member was Slovakia's. It sank 37 places to be 44th. This was mainly the result of government meddling in media
activities and the adoption in 2008 of a law imposing an automatic right of response in the press. Two candidates for EU membership also experienced suffered dramatic falls. They were Croatia (78th), which fell 33 places, and Turkey (122nd), which fell
Turkey's big fall was due to a surge in cases of censorship, especially censorship of media that represent minorities (above all the Kurds), and efforts by members of government bodies, the armed forces and judicial system to maintain
their control over coverage of matters of general interest.
Middle East & North Africa
Israel cast down by Operation Cast Lead This is the first time that Israel (internal) is not at the head of the
Middle Eastern countries in the press freedom index. By falling 47 places to 93rd position, it is now behind Kuwait (60th), United Arab Emirates (86th) and Lebanon (61st). Arrests of journalists (and not only foreign ones), their conviction and in some
cases their deportation are the reasons for Israel's nose-dive. Israel's media are outspoken and investigate sensitive subjects thoroughly, but military censorship is still in force.
Iran at gates of infernal trio Iran (172nd) now stands at the
threshold of the infernal trio of countries at the very bottom of the index after a major deterioration in its press freedom situation marked by blogger Omidreza Mirsayafi's death in Evin prison, Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi's arrest and the
crackdown in the wake of President Mahmoud Ahmadinedjad's disputed reelection in June. Many journalists were arrested and a Stalinist-style show trial began in Tehran in which the most basic rights of the defendants are still being flouted.
Is the US Supporting Calls to Outlaw Supposed Hate Speech?
That's what it looks like, with this Joint U.S./Egypt draft U.N. Human Rights Council resolution (dated Sept. 2005). The resolution generally seems to be an attempt to urge more protection
for free speech throughout the world, and some praise it for that; moreover, it lacks the exception for defamation of religion that some Muslim countries have urged. It may therefore be a step forward for Egypt, and an attempt to urge a step
forward for some other countries.
But I'm worried that it might be a step backward for our own constitutional rights, because of what seems to be the U.S. endorsement of the suppression of any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred
that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence and possibly of negative stereotyping of religions and racial groups. I say seems to be because some of the language in the resolution is pretty slippery, and of
course it's always possible that I'm misunderstanding it.
Paragraph 4 of the draft resolution expresses ... concern that incidents of racial and religious intolerance, discrimination and related violence, as well as of
negative stereotyping of religions and racial groups continue to rise around the world, and condemns, in this context, any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, and urges
States to take effective measures, consistent with their international human rights obligations, to address and combat such incidents.
Paragraph 6 likewise stresses that condemning and addressing, in accordance with
international human rights obligations, including those regarding equal protection of the law, any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence is an important safeguard to ensure
the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all, particularly minorities.
Paragraph 10 also expresses regret at the promotion by certain media of false images and negative stereotypes of vulnerable
individuals or groups of individuals, and at the use of information and communication technologies such as the Internet for purposes contrary to respect for human rights, in particular the perpetration of violence against and exploitation and abuse of
women and children, and disseminating racist and xenophobic discourse or content.
The UN Human Rights Council has now passed the resolution condemning stereotyping of religion . It's a move that flouts freedom of expression - and it was sponsored by the United States and would surely be considered unconstitutional under its
First Amendmen. The UN Human Rights Council on 2 October adopted the resolution, which the US had co-sponsored with Egypt.
While the new resolution focuses on freedom of expression, it also condemns negative stereotyping of religion .
Billed as a historic compromise between Western and Muslim nations, in the wake of controversies such the Danish Muhammed cartoons, the resolution caused concern among European members.
The language of stereotyping only applies to stereotyping
of individuals, I stress individuals, and must not protect ideologies, religions or abstract values, said France's representative, Jean-Baptiste Mattéi, speaking for the EU. The EU rejects the concept of defamation of religion.
France emphasised that international human rights law protects individual believers, not systems of belief. But European members, eager not be seen as compromise wreckers, reluctantly supported the measure.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has been honored with the fourth biennial Thomas J. Dodd Prize in International Justice and Human Rights.
The $75,000 prize is given to an individual or group who has made a significant effort to advance the
cause of international justice and global human rights.
CPJ was selected for the prize by a committee representing the University of Connecticut, the advisory board of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, and representatives of the human rights
Supporting press freedom is an integral part in the promotion of human rights and democracy, said Betsy Pittman, director of the Dodd Center. We as citizens are entitled to the truth and knowledge that comes with freedom of
the press and we are honored to have the opportunity to award this distinguished prize to an organization whose mission is to ensure press freedom is maintained worldwide.
Marianne Pearl, wife of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel
Pearl, presented the award to CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon on the plaza of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut. CPJ is honored to receive this prestigious award, said Simon. We accept it as a testament to
the incredible risks that journalists take around the world to report the news. It is their dedication that serves as a model for all of us.
The Committee to Protect Journalists will honor courageous journalists from Somalia, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, and Azerbaijan with its 2009 International Press Freedom Awards at a ceremony in November.
Mustafa Haji Abdinur of Somalia, Naziha
Réjiba of Tunisia, Eynulla Fatullayev of Azerbaijan, and J.S. Tissainayagam of Sri Lanka and have faced imprisonment, threats of violence, and censorship to stand up for press freedom in their countries.
These are reporters who risk
their personal freedom and often their lives to ensure that independent voices resonate within their nations and across the globe, said CPJ Board Chairman Paul Steiger: Their fearlessness to report the news in the face of great obstacles is an
inspiration to us all.
The awards will be presented at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City on Tuesday, November 24.
Here are the recipients of CPJ's 2009 International Press Freedom Awards:
Mustafa Haji Abdinur, Somalia: Haji has seen six of his colleagues die this year on the streets of Mogadishu, caught in the crossfire of battling insurgents, or gunned down for their work. He is one of a very small number of courageous journalists
still working in Mogadishu despite ongoing violence and a shattered economy. As a correspondent for Agence France-Presse in Mogadishu and editor-in-chief of independent radio station Radio Simba, Haji faces danger and threats on a daily basis to report
from Mogadishu's once-bustling Bakara Market, which has become a stronghold of insurgents in the war-torn city.
Naziha Réjiba, Tunisia: As editor of the independent online news journal Kalima, which is blocked in Tunisia,
Réjiba is one of Tunisia's most critical journalists. In a country where the media is heavily restricted and the government actively harasses the few independent journalists who attempt to write critically of the government, Réjiba, also
known as Um Ziad, has been the target of intimidation and harassment since November 1987, when President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali came to power in a coup. Rejiba's home is under constant surveillance, her phones lines are monitored, and she has been
summoned for questioning repeatedly. Réjiba co-founded Kalima in 2000 with prominent journalist Sihem Ben Sedrine, herself a frequent target of the government.
Eynulla Fatullayev, Azerbaijan: When Fatullayev's friend and
colleague Elmar Huseynov was murdered, the journalist set out to find his killer, and ended up facing more than eight years in prison. In 2005, Fatullayev was working as an investigative reporter for the opposition magazine Monitor when his colleague and
Editor-in-Chief Elmar Huseynov was assassinated. In 2007, he published an article in Realny Azerbaijan, a newspaper he founded after Huseynov's assassination. The article, Lead and Roses, accused Azerbaijani authorities of obstructing the
investigation into the killing and alleged that Huseynov's murder was ordered by high-ranking officials in Baku and carried out by a criminal group, including five Georgian citizens who had arrived in Baku two months prior to the assassination. Four days
later, Fatullayev began receiving death threats. In the months following, he was convicted on charges of libeling and insulting Azerbaijanis in an Internet posting that was attributed to him but which he denied making, and his newspaper's offices were
raided and shut down.
J.S. Tissainayagam, Sri Lanka: On March 7, 2008, Tissainayagam, editor of news web site OutreachSL and a columnist for the English-language Sri Lankan Sunday Times, went to the offices of the Terrorism
Investigation Division to ask about a colleague who had been arrested the day before. He never made it back home. Tissainayagam, also known as Tissa, was one of the dozens of ethnic Tamil journalists who were swept up during the 26-year-long conflict
between the Sinhalese-dominated government and Tamil separatists, which ended this year. Terrorism Investigation Division officials arrested Tissainayagam and held him without charge for six months. Then in August 2008, he was charged with inciting communal disharmony,
an offense under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, in two articles written nearly three years earlier in a defunct magazine called North Eastern Monthly. In September 2009, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
CPJ will honor Anthony Lewis with the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award given for a lifetime of distinguished achievement in the cause of press freedom. Twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize, Lewis is a former columnist for The New York Times. He is widely
recognized as one of the United States' foremost thinkers on freedom of speech and First Amendment rights. Lewis has been a tireless scholar of journalism, having taught and lectured at Columbia's School of Journalism as well as at Harvard University.
His book Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment was published in 2008.
To Farouk Hosni's fans, it seems the only conceivable objection to crowning him global protector of culture is his public habit of making anti-Israel slurs, notably last year's offer to burn Hebrew books.
The Egyptian Culture Minister is
campaigning ahead of this week's meeting to decide the next chief of the U.N. Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (more commonly known as Unesco).
But there is reason to pause before appointing Egypt's Culture Minister as Unesco head:
namely, the unbroken social, political and cultural repression in Egypt under his tenure.
Having told Agence France-Presse that he believes he has won over 32 of the 58 nations on Unesco's executive council, the 22-year steward of Egyptian
culture can taste victory. Cairo is now scrambling to quash any stray quibbles with his candidacy ahead of a vote this week on his appointment. To this end, since the Unseco job campaign began, Egypt has announced plans to allow the translation of
Israeli books while feverishly contextualizing Hosni's past tirades against the Jewish state. And last month Egypt ostentatiously unveiled the ongoing restoration of an important synagogue in Cairo.
That scramble, sincere or not, cannot
erase Hosni's sorry record as a culture czar in general. Human-rights activists are not the only ones reeling at the thought of one of Egypt's pre-eminent censors being named standard-bearer in Unesco's self-described goal to build peace in the minds
of men. One can only imagine the peace in the minds of thousands of Egyptian writers, bloggers, artists, musicians, filmmakers, lecturers, broadcasters and other culture-purveyors who have been tortured, harassed, imprisoned or banned in Egypt since
Hosni took office in 1987. Or the 100-plus heavy-metal fans arrested there over the last decade for their supposed Satanism. Or any of the remaining 80 million Egyptians regularly denied access to any new ideas their government deems harmful.
Minister Farouk Hosni, who said last year he was ready to burn Israeli books, has failed to become the next head of the U.N. culture and education body, losing out to a Bulgarian diplomat.
Irina Gueorguieva Bokova won the fifth and final round of
voting by 31 to 27 in a ballot that laid bare bitter divisions within the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
Hosni was favourite to become the Arab world's first UNESCO director-general, but his candidacy
created outrage amongst Jewish organizations, while media rights activists accused him of turning a blind eye to censorship in Egypt.
Hosni stirred fierce controversy last year in an angry exchange in the Egyptian parliament, when he said he would
burn Israeli books if he found them in Egyptian libraries. He has also been quoted as calling Israeli culture inhuman.
Nigerian immigrants play a large part in the film District 9 – taking the roles of gangsters, prostitutes or witch-doctors. They are depicted eating alien flesh or having sex with the creatures. Many Nigerians are furious.
backlash is under way with an online petition and a Facebook group, District 9 Hates Nigerians accusing the film of xenophobia.
blogger, Nicole Stamp, wrote: That's Hollywood's Africa, isn't it. Black Africans shown as degenerate savages who'll have sex with non-humans and are pretty damn eager to eat people. Disgusting.
There was further criticism yesterday from
the Nigerian-born British actor Hakeem Kae-Kazim, who appeared in the films Hotel Rwanda and Wolverine . On Facebook, he wrote: If the African continent truly wants to be liberated, we cannot sit back and allow this depiction of a 'few
rotten apples' to be spread across the world. He expressed concern that District 9 would reinforce negative stereotypes of all Africans. The manner in which the Nigerians are depicted cannot be justified.
Update: Nigerian government demands ban on District 9
Nigeria's government is asking its cinemas to stop showing
the science fiction film, District 9 , that it says denigrates the country's image.
Information Minister Dora Akunyili told the BBC's Network Africa programme that she had asked the makers of the film, Sony, for an apology. She says the
film portrays Nigerians as cannibals, criminals and prostitutes.
An actor from the film said that it was not just Nigerians who were portrayed as villains. The Malawian actor, Eugene Khumbanyiwa, plays a gang leader with the nickname of Obasanjo,
also the surname of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The film is about alien refugees who set up home in a South African shanty town called District Nine. It is a loose allegory about apartheid and recent violence by South Africans
Akunyili said it clearly took aim at Nigerians: We feel very bad about this because the film clearly denigrated Nigeria's image by portraying us as if we are cannibals, we are criminals, she said: The name our former
president was clearly spelt out as the head of the criminal gang and our ladies shown like prostitutes sleeping with extra-terrestrial beings.
The information minister said she had ordered the Nigerian film and video censors' board to ask all
cinemas to stop showing the film and to confiscate it. I have also formally written to Sony Pictures Entertainment, the company that produced this film, demanding an unconditional apology for this unwarranted attack on Nigeria's image, she added.
On September 14, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution aimed at creating a more potent women's agency, a single U.N. body to promote the advancement of women around the world.
The decision came after three years of negotiation. Supporters
of the new agency say it will serve as a landmark in the struggle for women's equality and rights, reported Reuters.
The move would merge four existing U.N. offices that all deal with women's affairs--the United Nations Development Fund for Women,
or UNIFEM; the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women; the Division for the Advancement of Women; and the United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women.
will be put under a single office, forming a full-fledged new agency perhaps by the middle of next year, reported Inter Press Service. The agency will be headed by an under-secretary-general, the third highest ranking position within the U.N. The
under-secretary-general will represent the interests of women in senior policymaking bodies, serving as a watchdog for women. This change should bring both greater coordination and accountability, reported Global Post.
Donor countries will need to
pledge approximately one billion dollars to support the agency in order to help it fulfill women-related promises by governments and the U.N., Inter Press Service reported.
This year's Melbourne International Film Festival was beset by attempts to censor our programme. The most celebrated effort came from the local Chinese consulate – demanding the withdrawal of the documentary 10 Conditions of Love about Rebiya
Kadeer, the exiled voice of the Uighur minority. The festival's refusal to comply with this diktat produced an extraordinary response: the withdrawal of several Chinese films, hackers assaulting our website and ticketing system and waves of abusive
emails, faxes and phonecalls.
The Kadeer controversy overshadowed an equally insidious attempt to censor our programme by the English filmmaker Ken Loach. While the Chinese wanted to silence Kadeer, Ken Loach demanded that we refuse any cultural
sponsorship from Israel.
The debate over graphic Japanese sex games such as RapeLay continues with word that the United Nations is stepping in.
At a meeting earlier this month, the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women called for a ban on
explicit video games and anime.
As reported by Anime News Network, the committee urged Japan to ban the sale of video games or cartoons involving rape and sexual violence against women which normalize and promote sexual violence against women
The committee also expressed concern at the normalization of sexual violence in the State party as reflected by the prevalence of pornographic video games and cartoons featuring rape, gang rape, stalking and the sexual
molestation of woman and girls.
The Diablo action role-playing games are known for their excessively bloody violence, and Blizzard is staying true to that with the upcoming Diablo III.
Wired.com: Do you think Diablo III, with
all its blood and gore, can appeal to a wider audience this time around?
Wilson: If we appeal to a wider audience, I don't think it should be because we shied away from mature subject matter. Diablo is our
Mature-rated series, and it's important for us that it be that. It's our goal, and that's where we want it to be. So we wouldn't go for an audience by moving away from that.
Wired.com: Earlier, you mentioned
parental controls. What are you guys planning for that?
Wilson: We intend to have people to be able to tone down the actual gore levels. In terms of whether we go beyond that, we'll probably do something. But we haven't really gotten into a
specific design for it yet, so it's hard to say.
Wired.com: Are you thinking it's possible to turn off the blood completely? Or simply change the blood color?
Yeah, we're going to have to be able to turn off blood, change the color and things like that, because you can't have red blood in some regions, regions that we would very much like to sell the game in. So we definitely build everything, that every bit
of gore, in a deposited manner so that at a future date, we can go through and change it all or turn it off.
Wired.com: Do you think they'll be controversy over the parental controls, like we saw with the new
Wilson: I'm sure someone will be controversial about it. I don't think they should though, the idea that people put parental controls and allow for option of turning down the blood. It's not like
we're doing it across the board. It's not like we're forcing it on everyone. We're making it an option, and not the default option. Will some people complain about it? I'm sure they will. But ultimately, that's the world we live in.
Wired.com: You'll obviously have to edit content for regions like Germany and Australia, but what about China? Is that a more difficult case?
Wilson: Definitely for regions
like Germany and Australia, we will have to change blood if we're going to sell there. And that's fine. Those are the standards for those regions, and we don't really have a problem with catering to what they need and what they want. But China's going to
be hard for us. Because a lot of the restrictions there are really… we may not be able to do them. It may not be possible. With our relationship with NetEase, we recently got new information about what China really wants, and it's a lengthy list. It's
really hard for us to cater to. We'll try. There's no reason we wouldn't want to go there, but there is a certain point where we'd have to redo so much of the game that it's not viable anymore.
The Organisation of the Islamic Conference, a voting block within the United Nations, is currently attempting to use its power
within that organisation to seek to have a binding resolution made attempting to force governments to criminalise freedom of expression. In pursuing this course of action it seeks to promote the idea that religion can be defamed and that criticism of
religion should be outlawed.
This is a gross violation of the most basic and fundamental of Human Rights, that of freedom of speech. It must be countered by all governments wherever possible and properly identified for what it is, a blatant
attempt to stifle debate and criticism of religion. Religions do not have rights, people do. Whilst this is being introduced by Islamic countries it is not specific to the religion of Islam.
The original non-binding resolution can be found on the
UN web site
Result: UK to Continue Opposing Defamation of Religion
Closed with 888 signatures
Government is committed to protecting the human rights of all, including the rights to freedom of expression, and to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. These rights are guaranteed by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The resolution on defamation of religions was first introduced at the Commission of Human Rights in 1999 and again during the 10th session of the Human Rights Council held in March 2009 in
Geneva. The United Kingdom, as with all other members of the European Union, has consistently opposed this resolution on the grounds that it limits the right to freedom of expression. The UK does not accept that defamation of religion is a human rights
concept. International human rights law protects individuals in the exercise of their freedom of religion or belief: it does not protect beliefs, faiths or philosophies. However, we strongly support the right to freedom of religion or belief, and believe
that it is complementary to the right to freedom of expression.
The right to freedom of expression is not absolute and can be subject to certain restrictions that are provided by law and are necessary for respecting the rights or reputations of
others, or for the protection of national security or of public order, public health or morals. In line with our domestic legislation, we have argued that that any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to
discrimination, hostility or violence should be prohibited by law, in accordance with the international obligations of States and that these prohibitions are consistent with freedom of opinion and expression.
The United Kingdom will continue to
protect and promote freedom of expression internationally, including by opposing attempts to curtail it by deploying the concept of defamation of religions.
"The right to freedom of expression is not absolute and can be subject to certain restrictions that are provided by law and are
necessary for respecting the rights or reputations of others, or for the protection of national security or of public order, public health or morals. In line with our domestic legislation, we have argued that that any advocacy of national, racial or
religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence should be prohibited by law, in accordance with the international obligations of States and that these prohibitions are consistent with freedom of opinion and
Hang on just one moment... does anyone see a new word in that list of no-noes? Coz I see one I've never seen before... a very worrying one indeed...
hostility , not just violence or
discrimination, but hostility?
Now... I can't help but feel this is one of those beautiful examples of neo-labour bull shitting, lets take a look at what the word hostile means as defined by dictionary.com:
–adjective 1. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of an enemy: a hostile nation. 2. opposed in feeling, action, or character; antagonistic: hostile criticism. 3. characterized by antagonism. 4. not friendly, warm,
or generous; not hospitable.
–noun 5. a person or thing that is antagonistic or unfriendly. 6. Military. an enemy soldier, plane, ship, etc.
...I don't think any further explanation of how deep the governments
commitment to freedom of expression is necessary...
Be careful what you wish for, that's the old proverb, and as new and different censorship regimes evolve around the world I begin to wonder whether we Brits haven't been a little harsh on the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) – our own homegrown attempt to
expunge child porn from the internet.
The United Nations has appealed to parents, the Internet industry and policy-makers to join hands to eradicate hate speech from cyberspace.
Addressing a day-long seminar titled Unlearning Intolerance on the danger of cyberhate , UN
chief Ban Ki-moon lauded the benefits of the Internet but regretted that there are those who use information technology to reinforce stereotypes, to spread misinformation and propagate hate.
Some of the newest technologies are being
used to peddle some of the oldest fears, he warned, decrying what he called digital demonization… targeting innocents because of their faith, their raace, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation.
The secretary general said the
Internet industry can help ensure that hate speech does not proliferate online and urged policy-makers to take a hard look at this problem and work to safeguard people while balancing basic freedoms and human rights.
stressed that parents have a responsibility to teach their children to safely surf the Internet.
Islamic states have fired back at a United Nations- appointed special expert on freedom of expression, who said that speech should not be restricted in order to protect religion.
Restrictions should never be used to protect particular
institutions or abstract notions, concepts or beliefs, including religious ones, wrote UN Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue in his report presented to the Human Rights Council.
La Rue, a Guatemalan human rights jurist, said restrictions
to prevent intolerance should only be applied to advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.
He also called on the council, and the UN General Assembly in New York,
not to adopt resolutions that support the idea of defamation of religion. At its previous session in March the council adopted, in a blow to European nations, a resolution condemning the so-called defamation of religion as a human rights violation.
Addressing La Rue at the current session, Pakistan's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Zamir Akram, speaking on behalf of the 57 member- states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), slammed La Rue for not reporting on the abuses of
this freedom. Pakistan's ambassador said the OIC would monitor the expert and take an appropriate course of action if he deviated again from the mandate they wanted him to implement.
Cuba have criticized Microsoft for blocking its Messenger instant messaging service on the island and in other countries under US sanctions, calling it yet another example of Washington's harsh treatment of Havana.
The technology giant
recently announced it was disabling the program's availability in Cuba, Syria, Iran, Sudan and North Korea to come into compliance with a US ban on transfer of licensed software to embargoed countries.
Messenger had previously been used on the
island for a decade without Microsoft interference.
Dharmesh Mehta, director of Windows Live Product Management said Microsoft made the change late last year in connection with the last product release of Windows Live Messenger. Microsoft is one of several major Internet companies that have taken steps aimed at meeting their obligations to not do business with markets on the US sanctions list.
Mehta seemed to lay the blame of this censorship at the door of the US government. He said that Microsoft supports efforts to ensure that the Internet remains a platform for open, diverse and unimpeded content and commerce, and that
governments should exercise restraint in regulating the Internet.
Censors at Facebook have developed semiformal policies like the Fully Exposed Butt Rule, the Crack Rule and the Nipple Rule. In this photo there's no visible areola, he decides, so it stays. After delivering a verdict on 75 of the 438,848 outstanding
photos flagged by Facebook users—buff guy soaping up in the shower (OK); girl blowing an epic cloud of pot smoke (he deletes it); an underage user drinking from two liquor bottles at once (ditto)—Axten is off to a meeting. It's just another day at the
office of the world's fastest-growing social-networking site.
Axten is one of 150 people Facebook employs to keep the site clean—out of a total head count of 850. Facebook describes these staffers as an internal police force, charged with
regulating users' decorum, hunting spammers and working with actual law-enforcement agencies to help solve crimes. Part hall monitors, part vice cops, these employees are key weapons in Facebook's efforts to maintain its image as a place that's safe for
It's a tricky job: by insisting that users sign up under real names and refrain from posting R-rated photos, Facebook hopes to widen its user base to include professionals, but it's aware that heavy-handed censorship could
upset its existing members.
With a military government that severely restricts Internet access and imprisons people for years for posting critical material, Burma is the worst place in the world to be a blogger, the Committee to Protect Journalists says in a new report. CPJ’s 10
Worst Countries to be a Blogger also identifies a number of countries in the Middle East and Asia where Internet penetration has blossomed and government repression has grown in response.
Bloggers are at the vanguard of the information
revolution and their numbers are expanding rapidly, said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon: But governments are quickly learning how to turn technology against bloggers by censoring and filtering the Internet, restricting online access and mining
personal data. When all else fails, the authorities simply jail a few bloggers to intimidate the rest of the online community into silence or self-censorship.
Worst Countries to blog:
Burma , which heavily censors print and broadcast media, has also applied extensive restrictions on blogging and other Internet activity. Private Internet penetration is very small—only about 1%, according to the
Internet research group OpenNet Initiative—so most citizens access the Internet in cybercafés. Authorities heavily regulate those cafés, requiring them, for example, to enforce censorship rules. The government, which shut down the Internet
altogether during a popular uprising in 2007, has the capability to monitor e-mail and other communication methods and to block users from viewing Web sites of political opposition groups, according to OpenNet Initiative.
Iran . Authorities regularly detain or harass bloggers who write critically about religious or political figures, the Islamic revolution, and its symbols. The government requires all bloggers to register their Web
sites with the Ministry of Art and Culture. Government officials claim to have blocked millions of Web sites, according to news reports. A newly created special prosecutor’s office specializes in Internet issues and works directly with intelligence
services. Pending legislation would make the creation of blogs promoting corruption, prostitution, and apostasy punishable by death.
Syria . The government uses filtering methods to block
politically sensitive sites. Authorities detain bloggers for posting content, even third-party material, deemed to be false or detrimental to national unity . Self-censorship is pervasive. In 2008, the Ministry of Communications ordered
Internet café owners to get identification from all patrons, to record customer names and times of use, and to submit the documentation regularly to authorities. Human rights groups noted that authorities harass and detain bloggers perceived as
Cuba . Only government officials and people with links to the Communist Party have Web access. The general population goes online at hotels or government-controlled Internet
cafés by means of expensive voucher cards. A small number of independent bloggers such as Yoani Sánchez detail everyday life and offer criticism of the regime. Their blogs are hosted outside the country and are largely blocked on the
island. Two independent bloggers tell CPJ that they are harassed by authorities. Only pro-government bloggers can post their material on domestic sites that can be easily accessed.
Saudi Arabia . An
estimated 400,000 sites are blocked inside the kingdom, including those that tackle political, social, or religious issues. Self-censorship is widespread. Aside from indecent material, Saudi Arabia blocks anything contrary to the state or its
system, a standard that has been interpreted liberally. In 2008, influential clerics called for harsh punishment, including flogging and death, for online writers guilty of posting material deemed heretical.
Vietnam . Bloggers have daringly tried to fill the gap in independent news that is left by the traditional state-controlled media. The government has responded with more regulation. Authorities have called on international technology
companies such as Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft to provide information about bloggers who use their platforms. Last September, prominent blogger Nguyen Van Hai, also known as Dieu Cay, was sentenced to 30 months in prison on tax evasion charges. CPJ
research shows the charges were in reprisal for his blogging.
Tunisia . Internet service providers are required to submit IP addresses and other identifying information to the government on a
regular basis. All Internet traffic flows through a central network, allowing the government to filter content and monitor e-mails. The government employs an array of techniques to harass bloggers: conducting surveillance, restricting bloggers’
movements, and undertaking electronic sabotage.
China . With nearly 300 million people online—more than any other country in the world—China has a vibrant digital culture. But Chinese authorities
also maintain the world’s most comprehensive online censorship program, one emulated by many other countries. The government relies on service providers to filter searches, block critical Web sites, delete objectionable content, and monitor e-mail
traffic. Because China’s traditional press is tightly controlled, bloggers often break news and provide provocative commentary. Blogs, for example, played prominent roles in spreading news and information about the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. But bloggers
who go too far in promoting unpopular views or reporting sensitive information can find themselves in jail. At least 24 online writers are now in prison, CPJ research shows.
Turkmenistan . President
Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov promised to open his isolated country to the world by providing public Internet access. But when the country’s first Internet café opened in 2007, it was guarded by soldiers, connections were uneven, the hourly fee was
prohibitively high, and authorities monitored or blocked access to certain sites. The Russian telecommunications company MTS, which entered the Turkmen market in 2005, started offering Web access from mobile phones in June 2008, but service agreements
require customers to avoid Web sites critical of the Turkmen government.
Egypt . Authorities block only a small number of Web sites, but they monitor Internet activity on a regular basis. Traffic
from all Internet service providers passes through the state-run Egypt Telecom. Authorities regularly detain critical bloggers for open-ended periods. Local press freedom groups documented the detention of more than 100 bloggers in 2008 alone. Although
most bloggers were released after short periods, some were held for months and many were kept without judicial order. Most detained bloggers report mistreatment, and a number have been tortured.
Freedom on the Net: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media
As internet and mobile phone use explodes worldwide, governments are adopting new and multiple means for controlling these technologies
that go far beyond technical filtering. Freedom on the Net provides a comprehensive look at these emerging tactics, raising concern over trends such as the "outsourcing of censorship" to private companies, the use of surveillance and the
manipulation of online conversations by undercover agents. The study covers both repressive countries such as China and Iran and democratic ones such as India and the United Kingdom, finding some degree of internet censorship and control in all 15
A United Nations forum has passed a resolution condemning defamation of religion as a human rights violation.
The UNHuman Rights Council adopted the non-binding text, proposed by Pakistan on behalf of Islamic states, with a vote of 23
states in favour and 11 against, with 13 abstentions.
Western governments and a broad alliance of activist groups have voiced dismay about the religious defamation text, which adds to recent efforts to broaden the concept of human rights to
protect communities of believers rather than individuals.
The resolution claimed Muslim minorities had faced intolerance, discrimination and acts of violence since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, including laws and
administrative procedures that stigmatise religious followers.
Defamation of religious is a serious affront to human dignity leading to a restriction on the freedom of their adherents and incitement to religious violence, the adopted text
read, adding that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism.
It called on states to ensure that religious places, sites, shrines and symbols are protected, to reinforce laws to deny impunity
for those exhibiting intolerance of ethnic and religious minorities, and to take all possible measures to promote tolerance and respect for all religions and beliefs.
The 47-member Human Rights Council has drawn criticism for
reflecting mainly the interests of Islamic and African countries, which when voting together can control its agenda.
Mormon anti-pornography nutters led by SCO Group chairman Ralph Yarro III are calling on ICANN to give more political clout to those who want to kick porn off the web.
Scores of Yarro's followers have this week petitioned ICANN to OK the
formation of a new Cybersafety Constituency which would help develop binding policies for the internet's domain name system. The Cybersafety Constituency would represent the interests of families, children, consumers, victims of cybercrime,
religions and cultures.
The drive is being orchestrated by Cheryl Preston, the top lawyer for CP80.org, an Internet Zoning censorship campaign headed by Yarro. CP80.org wants all adult material banned from Port 80, the standard protocol
port for the web, and confined to a new port.
ICANN is responsible for managing internet port and IP address allocations globally.
ICANN has asked for comments on the Cybersafety Constituency proposal. So far, the vast majority of
commenters support the move, and a majority of those are identikit stock letters, written by and sent at the request of Yarrow. The large majority of commenters giving physical addresses or phone numbers appear to be located in the Mormon stronghold of
United Nations officials have said that Muslim-backed references to defamation of religion and criticism of Israel have been dropped from a draft being prepared for next month's world racism meeting, Durban II.
The latest draft declaration,
a compromise 17-page text issued by Russian working group chairman Yuri Boychenko after private consultations, omits any reference to the Middle East conflict as well as defamation of religion.
It now speaks only of concern about the negative
stereotyping of religions and does not single out Israel for criticism, according to the officials.
The April 20-25 meeting in Geneva is designed to review progress in fighting racism since the global body's first such conference eight years ago
in Durban, South Africa.
Israel and Canada said they would boycott this year's meeting in Geneva. The United States and Italy have also vowed not to attend unless countries commit to a balanced declaration. The European Union and Australia have
threatened to follow suit unless Muslim countries backed down.
Reporters Without Borders has issued a report entitled Enemies of the Internet in which it examines Internet censorship and other threats to online free expression in 22 countries.
The 12 ‘Enemies of the Internet' -
Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam - have all transformed their Internet into an Intranet in order to prevent their population from accessing ‘undesirable' online information,
Reporters Without Borders said.
All these countries distinguish themselves not only by their ability to censor online news and information but also by their virtually systematic persecution of troublesome Internet
users, the press freedom organisation said. Reporters Without Borders has placed 10 other governments including Thailand under surveillance for adopting worrying measures that could open the way to abuses. The organisation draws particular
attention to Australia and South Korea, where recent measures may endanger online free expression.
Not only is the Internet more and more controlled, but new forms of censorship are emerging based on the manipulation of
information, Reporters Without Borders said: Orchestrating the posting of comments on popular websites or organising hacker attacks is also used by repressive regimes to scramble or jam online content.
of 70 cyber-dissidents are currently detained because of what they posted online. China is the world's biggest prison for cyber-dissidents, followed by Vietnam and Iran.
The National Secular Society has warned government officials that a new resolution proposed by Pakistan at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will define any questioning of Islamic dogmas as a human rights violation . It will
intimidate dissenting voices and encourage the enforced imposition of sharia law.
NSS Executive Director Keith Porteous Wood told top officials at the Foreign Office at a meeting yesterday that the new resolution would seriously undermine free
speech, other human rights and, indeed, democracy around the world, and that its first victims would be the more moderate voices in the increasingly radicalised Islamic countries.
The Human Rights organisation UN Watch had obtained a copy of the
Pakistani-authored proposal after it was distributed this week among Geneva diplomats attending the current session of the UNHRC. The document, entitled Combating defamation of religions, mentions only Islam.
While non-binding, said
UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer: the resolution constitutes a dangerous threat to free speech everywhere. It would ban any perceived offense to Islamic sensitivities as a 'serious affront to human dignity' and a violation
of religious freedom, and would pressure U.N. member states to erode the free speech guarantees in their ‘legal and constitutional systems.'
This is an Orwellian text that distorts the meaning of human rights, free speech, and religious freedom,
and marks a giant step backwards for liberty and democracy worldwide. The first to suffer will be moderate Muslims in the countries that are behind this resolution, like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan, where state-sanctioned blasphemy laws
stifle religious freedom and outlaw conversions from Islam to other faiths.
Next to suffer from this U.N.-sanctioned McCarthyism will be writers and journalists in the democratic West, with the resolution targeting the media for the ‘deliberate
stereotyping of religions, their adherents and sacred persons.'
Ultimately, the very notion of individual human rights is at stake, because the sponsors of this resolution seek not to protect individuals from harm, but rather to shield a specific
set of beliefs from any question, debate, or critical inquiry.
Keith Porteous Wood said that the new resolution was dangerous and shocking: We call on all liberal democracies to resist this new attempt to close down
legitimate debate about the place of religion in a human rights context. The resolution is a corruption of the concept of universal human rights and would give a free hand to every Islamic despot and tyrant in the world.
Beware cartoon characters. Sex between the Simpsons, those bright yellow, four-fingered drawings, has just set a new standard for child pornography law and social absurdity. Or to put it another way, on 8 December 2008, a court in New South Wales decided
that pictures are more powerful than we ever realised, when a judge ruled that an online version of The Simpsons was child pornography.
Art and child pornography law have been set on a collision course since the eighties. Until then, censorship
laws in most western countries were on the decline. A growing cult of the child, however, reversed the trend. And that was in the era of analogue imagery. During the last decade, as digital technology has transformed visual communication, the conflict
between art and law has only grown worse.
For the last nine years, the UN's annual ban on defaming Islam has been non-binding. In March, the United Nations may try to impose its view on Islamic blasphemy on all of its member nations thus making criticism of Islam a crime.
the UN General Assembly, as it has every year since 1999, passed a resolution titled Combating Defamation of Religions. The vote was 86-53, with 42 nations abstaining.
Originally titled Defamation of Islam, the name of the
resolution has changed over the years but not the intent. The only religion mentioned in the seven-page document is Islam.
The resolution's main sponsor is the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference.
Although the current
resolution is non-binding, recent reports suggest the U.N. Human Rights Council will attempt to pass a binding version of the resolution when the council meets in Geneva in March.
In November, when the most recent version of the anti-blasphemy
resolution was introduced, Pakistan's Ambassador Masood Khan told the Human Rights Council the OIC wants to see a new instrument or convention that addresses the issue of blasphemy, one that would be binding on member states, according to Canwest
CNN's Lou Dobbs also reported that the United Nations will seek to impose its religious defamation resolution on all of its members.
rising on Germany's Social Democrat-controlled Foreign Ministry to walk away from the so-called Durban II meeting - the UN's World Conference Against Racism - which opens in Geneva on April 20.
When asked about Rome's decision to pull out of
Durban II because, as Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said, the preparatory document and negotiations are filled with aggressive and anti-Semitic statements, a German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post on Friday that
Germany had not changed its position and would participate in the text negotiations.
Germany remained undecided on whether it would take part in Durban II itself, the spokeswoman said.
Germany must boycott this anti-Semitic and
anti-Western spectacle. Either together with its EU partners, or if necessary alone. We are not the fig leaf for Iran's Islamist and anti-Semitic activities, Christian Democratic Union MP Kristina Köhler said in a statement.
the draft Durban II final document, Köhler said, These passages exude the spirit of Teheran, not the spirit of freedom and human rights. Anti-racism is to be misused in the fight against Israel, the fight against the West, and not least the fight
against freedom of opinion and the press.
The United Nations is to be misused to give universal validity to the Islamic anti-blasphemy concepts in countries like Iran. That is unacceptable.
Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders has called for an International First Amendment that would repeal all hate speech laws.
During a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., Wilders discussed the recent attacks and prosecution he
is facing for speaking against Islam and for showing his film.
He also joined the International Free Press Society in announcing a global initiative to protect free speech from laws that criminalize hate speech, whether they are criticisms of
Islam or the doctrines of Shariah.
Lars Hedegaard, president of the International Free Press Society, said in a statement that hate speech and blasphemy laws in many European countries lack clarity as to precisely what they aim to criminalize
and are usually unequally applied.
The way to deal with controversial, offensive or even hateful statements — unless they are directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action — is to expose them to public debate and
criticism, he stated.
The press conference included a screening of Fitna . Wilders toured the United States this past week, with stops in New York, Boston, New York City and Washington, to rally support for the campaign to protect free
speech worldwide. He also screened his film to the U.S. Senate.
The United States has decided not to participate in a UN conference on racism in April unless the final document is changed to drop all references to Israel and the defamation of religion, a senior US official said.
The conference is a follow-up
to the contentious 2001 conference in Durban which was dominated by clashes over the Middle East and the legacy of slavery. The U.S. and Israel walked out midway through that eight-day meeting over a draft resolution that singled out Israel for criticism
and likened Zionism to racism.
Israel and Canada have already announced that they will boycott the upcoming World Conference Against Racism in Geneva from April 20-25, known as Durban II, but President Barack Obama's administration decided to
assess the negotiations before making a decision on U.S. participation.
Last week, the State Department sent two US representatives to Geneva, where the final document to be issued by conference participants at the end of the conference is being
negotiated. A US official said that in the negotiations, a bad document got worse.
The United States has decided that it will not participate in further negotiations on the outcome document and will not participate in the conference itself on the
basis of the latest text, the US official said.
The Obama administration would reconsider its position if the document improves in a number of areas including dropping references to any specific country, references to defamation of religion which
the US views as a free speech issue, and language on reparations for slavery.
Viewers across Asia saw a censored version of the Oscars after television chiefs removed gay references from Sean Penn's best actor speech.
The STAR satellite channel, which broadcasts to more than 300 million viewers in 53 countries, also
cut the sound when Dustin Lane Black, who wrote the screenplay for Penn's film, Milk , addressed all the gay and lesbian kids. Milk is the story of Californian gay rights activist Harvey Milk.
Both Penn and Black backed gay
marriage in their speeches and called for equal rights for homosexuals.
Gay Asians voiced their anger at the broadcaster, which censored its evening telecasts of the awards ceremony.
As a gay man, I am truly offended, Pang Khee
Teik, a prominent Malaysian arts commentator, wrote in a letter sent out to several media organisations. Stop censoring the words that describe who I am. Pang said the move sent a message ... that gays and lesbians are still shameful things to be
censored from the public's ears.
Jannie Poon, STAR's Hong Kong-based spokeswoman, stressed that the company had no intention of upsetting any viewers ...BUT... said it has a responsibility to take the sensitivities and guidelines of
all our markets into consideration.
Clint Eastwood believes the rise of political correctness is no laughing matter. He says the world would be a better place if we could still laugh at inoffensive jokes about different races.
The Hollywood actor and director said we live in
constant fear of being labelled racist for simply laughing about national stereotypes.
People have lost their sense of humour, he told Germany's Der Spiegel magazine: In former times we constantly made jokes about different races. You
can only tell them today with one hand over your mouth otherwise you will be insulted as a racist.
'I don't want to be politically correct. We're all spending too much time and energy trying to be politically correct about everything.
Ninety-three killed in 2007, 66 in 2008. If numbers could tell full stories, the plunge in recorded journalist deaths might have encouraged sighs of relief.
But as this year's IPI World Press Freedom Review underscores, these statistics mean
little in light of the myriad forms of censorship available to those looking to suppress news and information.
This year IPI focuses on Asia, which proved the region deadliest for journalists in 2008, largely due to a string of killings in India,
Pakistan and the Philippines. But journalists in other corners of the globe died in disturbing numbers, such as in Iraq, Mexico, Georgia and Russia, where the apparent execution-style killing of an Ingushetian reporter unnerved a journalistic community
long accustomed to harrowing violence.
Judicial harassment dressed up as national security protection, in the past much criticized in the United States, also permitted authorities to intimidate outspoken journalists in places such as Sri Lanka,
Bangladesh, Malaysia, China and Iran. The European Union's anti-terrorism efforts subtly encroached on the media, with the implementation of a directive requiring the retention of communications data for potential use in criminal investigations, a
headache for those looking to protect their sources.
Censorship in the name of tradition, religion, culture and national reputation was also widespread. In Thailand, laws protecting the reputation of the monarch prompted judicial proceedings and
led to the shutdown of more than 2 000 websites. In parts of the Middle East and North Africa, laws forbidding insults to Islam continued to carry the death penalty.
Turkey 's government resisted deeper reform to its prohibitions on insults to
Turkishness , half-heartedly rewording the law to forbid insults to the Turkish nation . In Slovenia, a country that held the EU presidency in the first half of 2008, parties angered by media coverage repeatedly pushed for the prosecution of
journalists under laws forbidding insults to the state.
But the news was not all grim. Chile and Guatemala approved access-to-information laws. Nepal created a National Information Commission to implement the previously enacted Right to
Information Act. Bangladesh too saw a new law on the right to information, though various insufficiencies resulted in relatively muted celebrations. The Cook Islands took the lead in Oceania, becoming the first nation to introduce a right to information
law in that region. Disappointingly, Nigeria's government once again stalled consideration of the ever-pending Freedom of Information Bill.
Containing cyberspace was another ambitious effort into which authorities worldwide put much energy. In
the Middle East and Central Asia, this largely came in the form of new user registration requirements. Even the democratic government of South Korea said it is considering such measures. In China, cartoon police officers that popped up on computer
screens when Internet users there accessed illegal content were no laughing matter for those all too familiar with the real thing.
MySpace says about 90,000 sex offenders have been identified and removed from its huge social networking website.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said that the new figure was 40,000 more than MySpace officials acknowledged last year.
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has led efforts to make social networking websites drop such users. He said These convicted, registered sex offenders creating profiles under their own names unmasks MySpace's monstrously inadequate
countermeasures. MySpace must purge these dangerous offenders now, and rid them for good.
Facebook Inc, which was sent a similar subpoena, has not yet responded, Blumenthal said.
Several French online media organizations have decided to stop letting their readers comment on articles dealing with the Israeli offensive against Hamas in Gaza. These news sites include Liberation.fr, LCI.fr and 20minutes.fr.
A spokesman for
Lib้ration said: Many of the reactions were outbursts of hatred, endless insults. We do not want the comments section to become a forum for racists and anti-Semites.
The BBC erases more than half of the reactions posted to one
section of its site
Most major international sites, including CNN, the BBC and Al Jazeera (as well as FRANCE 24), however, have decided to continue publishing reader comments - but they do check the contents before the comments go online.
On most subjects, the BBC has usually allowed most user-comments to pass freely, but they have found that is not the case where reactions to the Israel – Gaza conflict are concerned. In the Have your say section of the BBC website, a
moderator explains: We’ve got two debates on the blog at the moment (on Gaza and on homosexuality) that are leading us to delete well over half of the comments you’re posting. So, to save your time and ours a little reminder of our blog
Robust debate is welcome. Comments that are too long, stray off the topic, are racist or homophobic will not be published. It also comes down to tone. If it sounds like you are being threatening, or launching personal
attacks it won’t be published.
French website Rue89.com has chosen to maintain automatic publication of responses and to filter them after they have been posted. Site editor Pierre Haski explains: It is a sign of defeat to close the
opportunity to comment while the events are happening. We may as well close the site down. It is true that the comments about Gaza are numerous – between 500 and 1,000 per article. I spend at least three hours moderating the site after an article
is posted. We find that we have to remove between 25 and 30% of comments, against 2% for other stories.
Internet users of FRANCE24.com are often surprised that not all their comments are published. For example, “Ch้rif”, a
resident of France, complained: FRANCE 24 is politicized. It’s too bad. My posts do not pass.
FRANCE24.com explained their stance: Because of the high number of user reactions to the Gaza conflict, we are posting only a selection
on the site. Please keep your reactions short, relevant and civil. (See our Rules of conduct.). We select reactions that contribute to a respectful, constructive debate. Like other news sites, we receive many reactions that contain racist or
aggressive language that violate our rules of conduct. We do not publish those.
But we want to know what you think. When news sites filter user reactions, are they providing a service to their users and the broader community, or is it
On the Saturday after Christmas the entrance to the headquarters in Palo Alto, California, of Facebook, the social networking site that has 140m users worldwide, was the venue for a supersized nativity scene as breastfeeding mothers gathered in protest.
The so-called nurse-in was held in support of another young mother, Kelli Roman, whose profile picture had been removed by the Facebook moderator because it showed her suckling her baby.
Facebook’s spokesman, Barry Schnitt, says the
censorship of Roman’s breastfeeding photo is part of its antinudity policy. He said: Breastfeeding is a natural and beautiful act and we’re very glad to know that it is so important to some mothers to share this experience with others on
remains a safe, secure and trusted environment for all users, including the many children over the age of 13 who use the site. The photos we act on are almost exclusively brought to our attention by other users who complain.
bans pictures showing nipple, areola or gluteal cleft (bum cleavage, as was). Of course, this policy has originated in the United States, where the flash of Janet Jackson’s nipple at the 2004 Super Bowl caused a national furore. Any child in
Britain can get all the areolas he or she wants in the nation’s most popular daily newspaper.
I wonder how many people in Facebook HQ sit on the working committee on nipple exposure. When exactly does a natural and beautiful act become something that endangers the moral wellbeing of 13-year-olds?
More than 100,000 people have now signed an online petition, protesting against the Facebook ban on photographs of women breast-feeding.
Clicking join this group on a Facebook petition page is too easy to carry any
weight. People do it for fun, or to pass the time, or by mistake. Large numbers don't make the issue important or newsworthy. One hundred thousand people have clicked to register their disapproval of the breast-feeding photo ban, but 300,000 have clicked
I want my 90's Nickelodeon back.
The breast-feeding petitioners are obviously right, though. What an exasperating, stupid, misguided ban. It comes under the general rule of no fully exposed breasts . Presumably, the person
responsible is one of those who can't look at a nipple, even when it's waiting to feed a baby, without giggling, pointing and making honking noises.
Whoever ruled that a feeding breast would violate the rules on obscene, pornographic or
sexually explicit material needs, rather than banning them, to look at as many as possible, until he morphs gradually back from Sid James into someone who recognises an innocent, sexless human function that a proud mother might like to record in her
online baby album.
The number of journalists who were killed doing their jobs in 2008 came to 60, down from 86 recorded in the previous year, according to a report released by a human rights group Tuesday.
But the finding does not warrant any optimism, said the
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders.
The three most deadly countries for journalists in 2008 were Iraq, with 15 deaths, Pakistan with seven and the Philippines with six, the group said.
The report also said 673 journalists were arrested
during 2008, with African countries topping the list with 263 arrests. The report said 38 journalists were arrested in China, 31 in Iraq and 17 in Myanmar.