Human Rights First condemns the passage of the controversial United Nations resolution entitled Combating defamation of religions and warns that such measures prohibiting the defamation of religions violate fundamental freedom of expression
norms and are counterproductive to efforts to confront the problems of bias-motivated violence, discrimination and other forms of intolerance.
The resolution was introduced by Morocco on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
It was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly with 79 votes in favor, 67 votes against and 40 abstentions. Last year 80 countries voted in favor of the resolution, 61 against and 42 abstained.
Today's vote affirms that support for the defamation
concept continues to dwindle. Nevertheless, we deeply regret that this text continues to distract governments from real issues that deserve greater attention , such as fighting the spread of religious violence and hatred, as well as how to counter
practices of discrimination that many members of religious and other minorities face in all parts of the globe, said Human Rights First's Tad Stahnke. Today's vote is unfortunate for both individuals at risk whose rights will surely be violated
under the guise of prohibiting 'defamation of religions,' as well as for the standards of international norms on freedom of expression.
A United Nations task force formed last week said it was considering the creation of a new inter-governmental working group to help further international cooperation on policies to police the Internet.
The discussion was undertaken to enhance
and extend the work of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), a UN-sponsored organization that makes recommendations on how governments should deal with the Internet. The IGF's mandate is due to expire soon, so members of the UN's Commission on Science
and Technology for Development Bureau took up the issue and formed a task force to determine what the new IGF should look like.
The bureau's members, however, decided their task force would be limited to governments only, with no representation by
civil or industry groups.
The decision drew a sharp warning from search giant Google, which insisted that the next IGF, if comprised only of governments, could result in them obtaining a monopoly on how the Internet is run, as opposed to
the current model where innovation flows from the bottom up. Google's blog said the firm had joined a petition of other industry groups in opposing the composition of the UN's task force.
The proposed .xxx domain is so controversial that ICANN over the years has had to create new processes, policies, and appeals procedures just to handle the various flavours of outcry.
That has happened again this week, due to an unprecedented
decision by ICANN to formally disagree with the opposition to .xxx coming from its Governmental Advisory Committee.
The GAC is a collection of civil servants who represent dozens of world governments. Its advice is given considerable weight under
ICANN's consensus-driven decision-making rules.
By saying it intends to enter into a registry agreement with ICM Registry for .xxx, ICANN has – for the first time in its 12-year history – formally put the GAC on notice that it
intends to reject its advice.
This means that the ICANN board and the GAC will have to meet face-to-face to thrash out their differences at a meeting scheduled for February 2011.
A resolution combating the vilification of religions was adopted on November 23 by a United Nations committee, but religious freedom advocates who oppose the measure say support for it continues to diminish.
The resolution by Islamic
countries is scheduled to be considered by the U.N. General Assembly in December.
The vote -- 76 yes, 64 no, and 42 abstentions -- received fewer affirmative votes than last year, said Freedom House, a human rights group that has worked against
the resolution. In 2009, 80 countries voted in favor to 61 against (42 abstained).
We are disappointed that this pernicious resolution has passed yet again, despite strong evidence that legal measures to restrict speech are both ineffective and
a direct violation of freedom of expression, said Paula Schriefer, director of advocacy at Freedom House.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent bipartisan panel, said the measure's diminished support shows some
countries think the resolution can do more harm than good.
Days before its passage, the Organization of the Islamic Conference relabeled the resolution as condemning vilification of religions instead of defamation of religions, but
U.S. officials and advocates continued to oppose it.
The Citizen Lab, the Toronto-based centre that investigates digital spying and has developed software to circumvent censorship, is to be honoured by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression at its annual gala.
The lab has been named winner of the
2010 Vox Libera Award granted annually to a Canadian individual or organization for an outstanding commitment to the principles of free expression.
The Citizen Lab's fight for open communication and free expression is making a significant
difference for those living in repressed regions of the world, CBC said broadcaster Carol Off, who chairs the CJFE gala steering committee: Their work enables people to share crucial information and exposes those who would try to do them harm.
Citizen Lab, which runs out of the University of Toronto's Munk Centre for International Studies, gained prominence in 2008 after it uncovered an alleged internet spy network based mostly in China. The lab exposed a huge filtering system in China
that tracks and keeps records of text messages containing politically charged words sent through the internet phone application Skype.
In 2010, Citizen Lab and partner the SecDev Group uncovered computers at embassies and government departments in
103 countries that had been compromised by a virus originating from servers in China.
It also created the software psiphon, which helps internet users in repressive countries get around censorship.
During protests against the results of the
2009 Iranian election, Citizen Lab helped activists exchange ideas via Twitter and blogs by helping them bypass government restrictions.
The lab, founded by Ron Deibert, is a group of security researchers and human rights activists who focus on
the intersection of civic politics and digital media.
We must stop the practice of viewing words as crimes. Those measured words are from Charter 08, the call for democracy by Chinese writers, dissidents and citizens that has earned the poet and scholar Liu Xiaobo an 11-year prison sentence and the
2010 Nobel peace prize.
It doesn't take very many words to set off a reaction that ends badly for writers. Liu Xiaobo's imprisonment is for seven published phrases deemed subversive ; these sentences consist of just 224 Chinese characters.
Writers have been sentenced in the past year for hooliganism (Azerbaijan) and defacing a street sign (Georgia). They have been jailed for writing about the environment in Panama and Morocco; handed a three-year sentence for songwriting (Cameroon); a
five-year sentence for blogging (Tibet); a 19-year sentence for blogging (Iran). Abducted in Yemen, beaten in Sudan, detained in Mauritania and killed by the dozen in Mexico.
For 50 years the Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International has
monitored the practice of viewing words as crimes and treating writers as criminals. PEN International, founded in 1921, is arguably the oldest freedom of expression organisation in the world. Until 1960, PEN's advocacy took the form of impassioned pleas
on behalf of individual writers such as Arthur Koestler and Frederico García Lorca in the 1930s, and Boris Pasternak in the 1950s.
The porn-only .xxx internet domain is set to come under review by international governments, after ICANN deferred voting on the proposal until December.
This week, the organisation decided to refer the controversial domain to its Governmental
Advisory Committee, which may prove to be the last hurdle it has to jump before being approved.
The Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) has historically been less than keen on the idea of a domain just for porn, so ICANN's move could be seen as
a setback for ICM Registry, the company behind the proposal. If the committee arrived as a consensus against .xxx, it could hurt the domain's chances of being approved.
But Stuart Lawley, ICM's president, said he believes the GAC consultation, is
just a formality: We understand that ICANN wants to cross all of its t's and dot its i's by reaching out to the GAC . We welcome the board's resolve to move forward expeditiously, and continue to look forward to a first quarter launch.
The .xxx proposal is opposed by many in the porn business, and notably, the Free Speech Coalition, a US-based trade association for the adult entertainment industry. Stuart Lawley can stand on the rooftops and shout that this is a done deal
all he wants but this is an insurmountable obstacle for ICM to overcome, FSC director Diane Duke said in a statement.
More than half of the EU's 27 countries score badly in the annual press freedom index carried out by the Paris-based NGO Reporters without Borders - a negative trend compared to previous years, even though three EU members are the freest places in the
world in which to be a journalist.
It is disturbing to see several European Union member countries continuing to fall in the index. If it does not pull itself together, the EU risks losing its position as world leader in respect for human
rights, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-Francois Julliard said in a statement accompanying the study.
Thirteen of the EU's 27 members are in the world top 20. But some of the other 14 stand very low while the gap between good
and bad performers continues to widen, the report says.
The poor performers include France and Italy, where events in the past year – violation of the protection of journalists' sources, concentration of media ownership, displays of contempt by
government officials and judicial summonses - continue to follow a negative line.
Italy, where some 10 journalists still live under police protection, stayed in 49th place out of 178, scoring worse than Bosnia and sharing the same position as
Greece got the worst marks in the EU, plummeting a huge 35 places to 70, where it now sits alongside the bloc's other meida villain, Bulgaria.
The Greek plunge is due to political unrest and related physical attacks on
journalists. Athens was also criticised for political meddling, going so far as to ask the German government to apologise for nasty headlines about the Greek economic crisis in the Stern magazine.
Romania went down two places to 52.
Reporters Without Borders noted that the government now considers the media a threat to national security and plans to censor activities.
At the top end, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands share the pole position with non-EU members Norway,
Iceland and Switzerland. The group-of-six has held the top score since the index was created in 2002.
Iceland won special praise for its bill, the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), to provide a unique level of legal protection for
In Denmark, which holds 11th place, murder attempts against Mohammed cartoonists Kurt Westergaard and Lars Vilks, could create a climate of self-censorship, Reporters Without Borders warned.
The survey also pointed to serious
violations on the EU's doorstep.
EU candidate Turkey was placed in 138th place, next to Ethiopia (139) and Russia (140). The NGO spoke of a frenzied proliferation of lawsuits [and] incarcerations of reporters.
EU aspirant Ukraine
placed at 131. Censorship has signalled its return, particularly in the audiovisual sector, the study said on the return to power of Russia-friendly President Viktor Yanukoych.
Elsewhere the Philippines, Ukraine, Greece and Kyrgyzstan all
fell sharply in this year's index. In the Philippines this was due to the massacre of around 30 journalists by a local baron, in Ukraine to the slow and steady deterioration in press freedom since Viktor Yanukovych's election as president in February, in
Greece to political unrest and physical attacks on several journalists, and in Kyrgyzstan to the ethnic hatred campaign that accompanied the political turmoil.
India's and Thailand's rankings drop due to a breakout of serious violence Political
violence has produced some very troubling tumbles in the rankings. Thailand (153rd) – where two journalists were killed and some fifteen wounded while covering the army crackdown on the red shirts movement in Bangkok – lost 23 places, while India
slipped to 122nd place (-17) mainly due to extreme violence in Kashmir.
A U.N. resolution that seeks to criminalize words and actions perceived as attacks against religion – particularly Islam – will be up for vote again this year. Related
This time, however, the U.N. Defamation of Religions resolution is picking up
more opposition than in previous years and might not pass as it has in the past.
The resolution lost support in the U.N. General Assembly vote during the last couple of years and we think this year may be the tipping point, reported
Christian persecution watchdog group Open Doors, which has launched a campaign to rally concerned individuals against the resolution.
Annually sponsored by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) since 1999, the anti-defamation resolution
– which has been presented in various forms and under various titles – seeks to make the defamation of religions a human rights violation. According to the resolution, the defamation of religions and incitement to religious hatred in general
could lead to social disharmony and violations of human rights. It also claims there is a need to effectively combat defamation of all religions and incitement to religious hatred in general and against Islam and Muslims in particular.
The resolution seeks to protect ideas instead of individuals undermining the true purpose of international human rights law, remarked Open Doors. It also legitimizes national blasphemy laws used by countries such as Pakistan to silence
Christians and other religious minorities, as well as Muslims who do not conform to the government's ideas.
Open Doors, through its Free to Believe campaign, is rallying concerned Americans to press their representatives to reach out to
countries that abstained from last year's GA vote on the resolution. Countries that abstained included Belize, Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, and Zambia. Open Doors is also targeting countries that voted yes last year
but are not member states of the OIC, which boasts itself as the second largest inter-governmental organization in the world after the United Nations and claims to represent the collective voice of the Muslim world.
Presently, OIC's member
states and allies have a majority in the 47-nation U.N. Human Rights Council, but if nations such as the Dominican Republic and Thailand change their yes votes to no this year and are joined by some of those who abstained in 2009, a defeat
of the resolution is possible.
The Committee to Protect Journalists will honor four courageous journalists with its 2010 International Press Freedom Awards at a ceremony in November.
The winners of the 2010 International Press Freedom Awards have endured violence, threats,
imprisonment, and even torture because of their work as journalists, CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. Each has made a vital contribution to civic life in his or her country. They have exposed wrongdoing, denounced corruption, and cast a
skeptical eye on official actions. We honor and support their independence and courage.
Here are the recipients of CPJ's 2010 International Press Freedom Awards:
Dawit Kebede, Ethiopia
30, was one of the first journalists to be jailed for independent reporting on Ethiopia's 2005 election violence. And he was among the last to be released under a presidential pardon nearly two years later. Unlike many of his colleagues who went into
exile, Kebede chose to stay in Ethiopia after he walked free from Addis Ababa's Kality Prison, where he had been crammed into a communal cell with 350 political prisoners. The government rebuffed Kebede's attempts to get a publishing license after his
release but relented in the face of public pressure. Kebede launched the Awramba Times in 2008, and today it is the country's only Amharic-language newspaper that dares question authorities. Here are three things people should know about me, Kebede says.
First, it is impossible for me to live without the life I have as a journalist. Second, unless it becomes a question of life and death, I will never be leaving Ethiopia. Third, I am not an opposition. As a journalist, whatsoever would be a governing
regime in Ethiopia, I will never hesitate from writing issues criticizing it for the betterment of the
Nadira Isayeva, Russia
Isayeva, 31, has incurred the wrath of security services in Russia's
volatile North Caucasus for her relentless reporting on their handling of violence and militant Islam in the region. As editor-in-chief of the independent weekly Chernovik (Rough Draft) in the southern republic of Dagestan, she has criticized as
counter-productive the heavy-handed tactics of state agencies charged with fighting terrorism. In 2008, authorities brought a criminal case against her under anti-extremist legislation after she published an interview with a former guerrilla leader, who
accused local authorities of corruption and of being in thrall to the Kremlin. Isayeva sees the case as retaliation for Chernovik's work. If convicted, she faces up to eight years in prison. She and the newspaper are regularly harassed with official
summonses, financial audits, and state-commissioned linguistic analyses that label content as extremist. Investigators have searched Isayeva's home, seizing a computer, books, and files. A local prosecutor has sent her notice that she must undergo a
psychological examination. Since June 2009, the main state media regulator has been trying to close the paper for hostile attitudes toward law enforcement officers and other extremist statements.
If there were an Algonquin Round Table in Caracas, Laureano Márquez would have a seat. Journalist, author, actor, and humorist, Márquez has found rich fodder in Venezuela's idiosyncratic political landscape. He is the scourge
of left-wing President Hugo Chávez and other politicians for his biting columns in the Caracas-based daily Tal Cual and other national publications. He is also the author of three books of humor, including the national 2004 bestseller, Código Bochinche.
In February 2007, he and Tal Cual were fined after a court ruled that a satirical letter to Chavez's daughter violated the honor, reputation, and private life of the then 9-year-old girl. In the piece, Dear Rosinés, Márquez urged the girl to influence
her father to be nicer to his political opponents. In January, Marquez, 47, wrote a piece in Tal Cual that imagines a Venezuela freed from the political oppression of a ruler named Esteban, a veiled reference to Chávez. Information Minister Blanca
Eekhout demanded the journalist be criminally prosecuted, describing the column as an assault on the country's democracy and a coup plot disguised as humor.
Mohammad Davari, Iran
editor-in-chief of the news website Saham News, exposed horrific abuse at the Kahrizak Detention Center, videotaping statements from detainees who said they had been raped, abused, and tortured. The center was closed in July 2009 amid public uproar, but
by September of that year the coverage had landed Davari in Evin Prison. He is serving a five-year prison-term for mutiny against the regime. His mother has written to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to say that her son has himself been tortured in
custody. Now in solitary confinement, Davari has not been allowed contact with his family for more than eight months. The journalist had served his country and paid a high price. As a young student, Davari volunteered to fight in the Iran-Iraq War,
during which he suffered eye and leg injuries.
Here is this year's recipient of the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award:
Aryeh Neier, United States
CPJ will honor Aryeh Neier with the Burton Benjamin
Memorial Award given for a lifetime of distinguished achievement in the cause of press freedom. Neier is a pillar of the U.S. and international human rights community. He spent 15 years with the American Civil Liberties Union, including eight as national
director. He was a founder in 1978 of Human Rights Watch and ran the organization as executive director for a dozen years before joining the Open Society Institute as president. In 1981 when a small group of U.S. journalists wanted to help colleagues
overseas who were in trouble, Neier provided invaluable advice about starting a nonprofit group. That organization became CPJ, and Neier served on its board for many years. He writes frequently for the New York Review of Books, and has been published in
numerous periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, and Foreign Policy. For 12 years he wrote a column on human rights for The Nation.
Aryeh Neier is a true pioneer in the field of press freedom and human
rights, CPJ Chairman Paul Steiger said. Through his ground-breaking work at Human Rights Watch, his leadership of the Open Society Institute, and his journalism, Aryeh has advanced press freedom and helped countless individual journalists and writers
around the world. The Burton Benjamin Memorial Award is named in honor of the CBS News senior producer and former CPJ chairman who died in 1988.
Media employees world-wide face physical violence and persecution of all kinds, whether from public officials, criminals or terrorists. Assaults are daily - and often deadly - for those who challenge governments, report on conflicts or investigate
corruption and crime.
Media employees world-wide face physical violence and persecution of all kinds, whether from public officials, criminals or terrorists. Assaults are daily - and often deadly - for those who challenge governments, report on
conflicts or investigate corruption and crime.
99 journalists have been killed in 2009 and at least 56 have been killed since the beginning of the year. Hundreds of media employees have been arrested in 2009 and at least 120 remain in jail today,
most often following sham trials or without charges having been brought against them. Hundreds more have been forced into exile.
An Islamic organization that claims to represent the collective voice of the Muslim world is trying to get the U.N. Human Rights Council to pass a resolution condemning the highly-publicized and now-defunct plan of a U.S. preacher to burn Qurans.
In a draft resolution submitted by Pakistan, the 57 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) expressed their concern over the instances of intolerance, discrimination, profiling and acts of violence against Muslims
occurring in many parts of the world.
They also called upon the U.N. Human Rights Council to condemn any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to hatred, discrimination, hostility or violence, and to call upon the
international community to stand together against acts that undermine peaceful coexistence between nations and create an environment conducive to violence and reprisal.
Specifically, their resolution asks the council to speak out against the
recent call by an extremist group to organize a day to burn copies of Islam's sacred text, the Quran.
Aside from the resolution on the planned Quran burnings, OIC is also trying to push through another resolution that it has brought before the
U.N. Human Rights Council every year over the past decade.
The resolution, which OIC has annually sponsored since 1999, seeks to make the defamation of religions a human rights violation, saying that the defamation of religions, and
incitement to religious hatred in general, could lead to social disharmony and violations of human rights. [As per Pakistan].
It claims there is a need to effectively combat defamation of all religions and
incitement to religious hatred in general and against Islam and Muslims in particular.
The OIC resolutions, together with others yet to be submitted at the council, are likely to be voted on when the council wraps up its current autumn session
at the end of next week. The council's 15th session, which commenced Sept. 13, concludes on Oct. 1.
Since January 2009 The Economist has been banned or censored in 12 of the 190-odd countries in which it is sold, with news-stand copies particularly at risk.
India, the only democracy on our list, has censored 31 issues and at first
glance might look like the worst culprit. However its censorship consists of stamping Illegal on maps of Kashmir because it disputes the borders shown.
China is more proscriptive. Distributors destroy copies or remove articles that contain
contentious political content, and maps of Taiwan are usually blacked out.
In Sri Lanka both news-stand and subscription copies with coverage of the country may be confiscated at customs. They are then released a couple of weeks later (sometimes
sooner if the story is also reported by another news outlet).
In Malaysia the information ministry blacks out some stories that it judges may offend Muslims, among other things.
And in Libya, four consecutive editions were confiscated in
late August/early September 2009, the first of which featured a piece critical of Muammar Qaddafi.
Images can also prompt action. The cover of last year's Christmas issue showing Adam and Eve was censored in five countries. Malaysian officials
covered up Eve's breasts. Pakistan objected to the depiction of Adam, which it said broke a prohibition on depicting Koranic figures.
Governments around the world increasingly expect Internet service providers (ISPs) to take responsibility for every bit of data that passes through their systems, says David McClure, the president and CEO of the US Internet Industry Association.
He will participate in the the International Internet Industry Association (IIIA) meeting to be held in SA this week that will cover how ISPs and governments should work together to create better Internet-related laws and regulations.
Legislative bodies, left on their own to develop Internet law, often do not have the technical expertise or the understanding of Internet trends to make good laws, he says.
A small US church says it will defy international condemnation and go ahead with plans to burn copies of the Koran on the 9/11 anniversary.
The top US commander in Afghanistan warned troops' lives would be in danger if the Dove World Outreach
Center in Florida went ahead.
Gen David Petraeus, the top US commander in Afghanistan, said on Monday that the action could cause problems not just in Kabul, but everywhere in the world . It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban
uses and could cause significant problems.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the church's plan was disrespectful and disgraceful .
Muslim countries and Nato have also hit out at the move.
White House spokesman
Robert Gibbs said on Tuesday that any type of activity like that that puts our troops in harm's way would be a concern .
Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen blasted the plans, telling reporters that burning Korans violated the Nato alliance's
And the US Attorney General, Eric Holder, called the idea idiotic and dangerous .
But organiser, Pastor Terry Jones said: We must send a clear message to the radical element of Islam.
Dr Jones - author
of a book entitled Islam is of the Devil - has said he understands the general's concerns but that it was time for America to quit apologizing for our actions and bowing to kings .
News of the bonfire has also sparked protests in
Afghanistan and Indonesia. In Kabul on Monday, about 500 protesters chanted long live Islam and death to America as they set fire to an effigy of Jones. Thousands of mostly Muslim demonstrators rallied around Indonesia at the weekend.
The role of Islam in America has become a hot button issue with social and political implications. While most Americans would probably take issue with exhortations to burn the Koran, there is clearly widespread concern about the influence of Islam.
The website of the church that was planning to burn a Koran on Saturday to commemorate 9/11 was removed from the internet after its hosting service claimed the site violated its terms of service agreement.
The removal of the doveworld.org site
comes as President Barack Obama urged the Florida pastor not to burn the Koran on the 9-year anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. This could increase the recruitment of individuals who would be willing to blow themselves up in American cities or
European cities, Obama said.
Rackspace, of San Antonio Texas and the web hosting service in question, pulled the plug on the Dove World Outreach Center's site at midnight over what it said was a terms of service breach. Its terms of service
agreement prohibits using Rackpace servers if such usage incites violence, threatens violence, or contains harassing content or hate speech.
Dan Goodgame, a Rackspace spokesman, said that the company reserved the right to stop hosting
Jones' hate speech as of Thursday morning. He said Rackspace was protecting its right not to associate and do business with Jones under the company's terms of service contract.
Jones said Rackspace's decision was an indirect attack on
our freedom of speech.
The fundamentalist pastor who promised to mark the anniversary of the September 11 attacks by burning hundreds of copies of the Koran has pulled the plug on his stunt, in the face of blanket condemnation from world leaders and a warning from Interpol
that Christians around the world were at risk of violent revenge attacks.
As anger mounted against the obscure Florida church, called the Dove World Outreach Centre, Pastor Terry Jones said he was changing his plan, following a meeting with local
Earlier, Barack Obama and the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, had led a chorus of condemnation at the proposed book-burning which only intensified through the day, amid claims that it had already prompted killings in Iraq.
In the news conference announcing his decision, the pastor claimed that he decided to cancel his protest in exchange for a deal to move a planned Islamic centre and mosque away from New York's Ground Zero. The imam planning the centre, however,
quickly denied any such deal.
The cancellation came as reports emerged from Baghdad of an apparent revenge attack on Iraq's only operating Anglican church, St George's. According to two eyewitnesses, up to four people were killed after gunmen
opened fire on guards outside the church, which lies in a compound just outside the comparative safety of the Green Zone.
Update: Bored of the Westboro Baptists even when they
burn a Koran
The burning of a Quran and an American flag Saturday by members of Westboro Baptist Church drew little visible interest. Instead of the hoards of media representatives that descended on Florida, only a handful of area reporters turned out at noon for
I'm glad it didn't get a lot of publicity and it didn't draw a lot of people to the church, said Imam Omar Hazim, of the Islamic Center of Topeka: It seemed people in Topeka ignored what they were doing. Members
of Topeka's Islamic community were absent from the event. Hazim said that was by design.
Mayor Bill Bunten, who was at home watching The University of Kansas football game during the burning, said national attention on Westboro Baptist is waning.
The fool in Florida one-upped them, Bunten said, referring to the Rev. Terry Jones, of the Dove Outreach Center church in Gainesville, Florida: They were apparently tagging along on his idea, so the fellow in Florida had stolen the
stage, so to speak.
A small Christian group tore a few pages from a Koran in a protest outside the White House on Saturday to denounce what they called the charade of Islam as they marked the anniversary of 9/11.
Part of why we're doing that, please hear
me: the charade that Islam is a peaceful religion must end, said Randall Terry, one of the six members in the group.
Another activist, Andrew Beacham, read out a few Koran passages calling for hatred towards Christians and Jews, and then
ripped those pages from an English paperback edition of the Islamic holy book.
He carefully put the torn pieces into a plastic bag, in order not to litter, and said: The only reason I will not burn it at the White House is because to burn
anything on the Capitol grounds is a felony.
A national Islamic group has called for an FBI investigation after a burned Quran, pages allegedly covered in feces, was found Saturday at an East Lansing mosque frequented by the Michigan State University community.
To have the Quran burned at
a mosque is equivalent to having a cross burned at a black church, said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, referring to an intimidation tactic frequently used during the civil rights
movement by those opposed. He has asked the FBI to consider the burning a hate crime.
Meanwhile in Tennessee, the Rev. Bob Old vowed to stick with his plan to burn the Quran. On Saturday, despite the national tempest and opposition from
conservative Christian leaders including Middle Tennessee pastors, Old carried out his plan. But for all the controversy and hype, his Quran burning took place in front of just a handful of people, most of them from the media.
Old and the Rev.
Danny Allen stood together in Old's backyard, answering what they say was a message from God. The pair soaked two copies of the Quran and one other Islamic text with lighter fluid, ignited them and watched the books disintegrate into ashes. This is a
book of hate, not a book of love, Old said, holding the Quran, before setting it afire. It's a false book, it's a false prophet (Muhammad) and it's false Scripture.
Three protesters stood across the street from Old's home, holding signs
that read My husband fights terrorism and your actions perpetuate it and Proud of my country but ashamed of my neighbors.
Two protesters were killed and several more injured as for a third straight day violent demonstrations swept Afghanistan in response to the threats made by a US church to burn copies of the Koran.
Chanting Death to America and Death to
Christians , about 500 demonstrators clashed with Afghan security forces in Logar province, south of Kabul, pelting them with stones until the soldiers opened fire, killing two and wounding five others. Few protesters were aware that the Koran
burning by the pastor of a small church in Florida had been called off, and some warned of more violence to come.
The [district] governor must give us an assurance that the church is not going to burn the Koran, otherwise we will attack foreign
troop bases in our thousands, Mohammad Yahya, one of the protesters, said. For his part, the governor, Mohammad Amin Rahim, said he had tried to convince demonstrators that the burning would not go ahead but the demonstrators were not convinced
and attacked us .
An Australian lawyer has contributed to the US pastor's plan to burn the Koran by allegedly smoking holy books and posting the videos on YouTube.
Brisbane-based lawyer Alex Stewart is seen smoking what appear to be joints made up of pages from the
Koran and the Bible filled with (lawn) grass.
He was shown lighting up his religious joints under the YouTube title: Bible or Koran - Which Burns Best?
He gave the Bible a seven out of 10 for its burning qualities, and said it
was better than the Koran which left him feeling sick. Stewart says burning religious books is no big deal and that people need to get over it .
But since his video attracted approbation from around the world, Stewart - who appeared in the
video wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words I'm an atheist, Thank God - has gone into hiding.
The president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Ikebal Patel, said: I think it's highly offensive that he has done this
to two of the holiest books in the world. It does not in any way add value to trying to promote world peace and the consideration of different views, especially when there are heightened tensions around the anniversary of September 11 and the Eid el Fitr
(end of Ramadan) celebrations.
Sheik Muhammad Wahid, president of the Islamic Association of Australia, said: We condemn the video and our feelings have been hurt by this man's actions.
Stewart told Queensland's Courier Mail
newspaper before he fled from his Brisbane home that the video was a joke and he does not do drugs. He insisted that the green substance he showed in a plastic bag before rolling it up in the torn-out pages was actually grass clippings.
has been censored and removed from YouTube.
The long-troubled state of Kashmir suffered one of its bloodiest days when at least 18 people were killed and more than a hundred injured as security forces opened fire on protesters in confrontations across the valley.
As politicians in Delhi
debated whether to ease a bitterly controversial law that provides effective immunity to troops, Indian forces again responded to widespread demonstrations with deadly force. Related articles
The protests, which saw tens of thousands of people
ignore a curfew and take to the streets, were at least partly in anger over reports that copies of the Koran had been burnt in the US. A police officer also lost his life.
Google's legal chief has called for pressure on governments that censor the Internet, such as China and Turkey, arguing that their blocking access to websites unfairly restrains U.S. businesses and would be unacceptable in physical trade.
Drummond said: If this (Internet censorship) were happening with physical trade and manufacturing goods, we'd all be saying this violates trade agreements pretty fundamentally.
In our view at Google it's high time for us to start really
sinking our teeth into this one, said Drummond. We have great opportunities now with pending trade agreements to start putting some pressure on countries to recognize that Internet freedom not only is a core value -- that we should be holding them
to account from a human rights standpoint -- but also that if you want to be part of the community of free trade, you are going to have to find a way to allow the Internet to be open.
Listen to the Banned is a unique collection of contemporary songs by artists who have been censored, persecuted, taken to court, imprisoned and even tortured for no
other reason than their music.
Compiled by singer and composer Deeyah for the international organisation Freemuse, its purpose is to raise awareness of the lack of free expression experienced by many musicians and
composers around the world - a freedom that many of us take for granted in a democratic and mainly uncensored society.
Singer, composer and filmmaker, Deeyah is a versatile artist and a passionate human rights
activist. Born to Pakistani immigrant parents, Deeyah has released three critically acclaimed albums and worked with renowned musicians such as her teacher Ustad Fatah Ali Khan, Jan Garbarek (ECM: Ragas & Sagas) and Andy Summers. Having endured
constant intimidation and physicals threats throughout her career, Deeyah stopped performing and now devotes the majority of her time promoting human rights and freedom of expression through a range of self-initiated projects.
Freemuse is an international organisation dedicated to protecting musicians and composers' rights to freedom of expression.
Mahsa Vahdat (Iran) - Mystery
Farhad Darya (Afghanistan) - Arooss-e-Aftaw
Lapiro De Mbanga (Cameroon) - Constitution Constipée
Marcel Khalife (Lebanon) - Oh My Father, I Am Yusif
Chiwoniso Maraire (Zimbabwe) - Rebel Woman
Tiken Jah Fakoly (Ivory Coast) - Quitte Le Pouvoir
Abazar Hamid (Sudan) - Salam Darfur
Kamilya Jubran (Israel/Palestine) - Al Shatte' Al Akhar
The website WikiLeaks recently publicly disclosed more than 70,000 classified US field reports from the war in Afghanistan. The Pentagon says it wants them back.
Press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters the Pentagon was formally demanding
– through the news media – that WikiLeaks return the reports, as well as 15,000 additional records the website says it might release soon: We are asking them to do the right thing and not further exacerbate the damage done to date . If doing
the right thing is not good enough for them, we'll figure out what other alternatives we have.
He declined to elaborate on whether the defence department was contemplating legal action but said the FBI and the justice department were
investigating how the documents were leaked.
Morrell acknowledged that the genie is out of the bottle in regard to the more than 70,000 reports that are not only posted on the WikiLeaks site, but have since been copied and downloaded by
people all over the world. He said the Pentagon was primarily interested in blocking the release of the 15,000 other documents.
A UN exhibit has been censored in Vienna after Chinese pressure to ban it.
The Gun Sculpture forming the centre piece of the exhibit was created by Sandra Bromley and Wallis Kendal. The Exhibit is called the Art of Peacemaking .
The 4.5-tonne sculpture, welded together from deactivated guns, landmines and ammunition, has been shown in many countries, including at UN headquarters in New York in 2001, and has never run into problems before.
The problem is that along with the sculpture is a series of panels with photographs of violence from numerous countries. But the ones that stood out for the Chinese was the photographs of two Tibetan nuns.
After the Chinese objected to
exhibit organizers and other UN departments all the photographs were removed.
We were absolutely shocked, said Bromley. This was done without any consultation or permission.
The Chinese wanted the whole exhibit removed but the
UN just removed the panels with the photographs but this obviously completely ruins the integrity and whole purpose the exhibit.
China set to dominate satellite propaganda with an international news channel in English
I suspect that the Chinese channel will easily become the dominant English language news channel. For example in Thailand, free to air satellite is very
popular and people are keen to learn some English. BBC World TV News is locally available as an alternative, but only on a very expensive tier of the pay TV satellite service, Truevisions.
The recently concluded session of the UN human rights council ended with the election of Thailand as the new president to the 47-member council.
The result of the election is quite a surprise, given that Thailand has recently gone through the
worst political violence the country in decades.
Thailand's ministry of foreign affairs issued a public statement highlighting that the election result clearly reflects the confidence that countries around the world have in Thailand and its
human rights policies and standards .
Can this election of the council's presidency be viewed as a realistic reflection of Thailand's human rights standards?
The council was set up in 2006 to replace the contentiously debated UN
commission on human rights. The election of the presidency is done on a rotating basis from five regional groups: Latin America and Caribbean, eastern Europe, Africa, western Europe and other states, and Asia. Since 2006, representatives of all four
regional groups have served as presidents to the council, with the exception of Asia.
Based on this, Thailand was not competing against countries with better recognised human rights records such as those governments of Switzerland or Norway.
Instead, Thailand was competing against countries in Asia, namely Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan and Maldives – all of which are criticised by rights watchdogs as human rights violators.
Both Bangladesh and Kyrgyzstan, prior to the election, resigned from
the contest after fierce campaigns by human rights groups claiming they were unsuitable contestants to head the council.
The election, therefore, only left Maldives and Thailand to compete.
Maldives, a relatively young democracy, has only
just emerged from a history of military coups and held its first democratic election in 2008. The country was ruled by Maumoon Gayoom, who denied free and fair elections, for 20 years. Being a small country, the Maldives lacked the political leverage
required to convince member states of their leadership.
ICANN'S top legal official told its board of directors that the panel will likely approve the sponsored top-level domain when it is put up for vote.
ICANN general counsel John Jeffrey told the board it will likely vote to approve .XXX subject to
due diligence on ICM Registry's financial and technical capabilities.
The .XXX proposal has many in the online adult industry worried that it would amount to the creation of a red light district on the Internet.
Diane Duke, the Free Speech
Coalition's executive director, said ICM's initiative could end up setting policies that harm its businesses. Duke is in Brussels to lobby against .XXX.
But ICM Registry CEO Stuart Lawley, in a letter on his company's website, has remained
optimistic over the possibility of .XXX coming into fruition.
While most Internet extensions are used for just about everything you can imagine, .XXX will be focused on providing an online home for those members of the adult industry who wish
to self-identify and responsibly self-regulate, he said in the letter. We are excited about the idea — and we know you will be too.
In March, ICANN delayed a vote on ICM's proposal to sell .XXX domain names and directed its general
counsel and chief executive to seek public comment. ICANN received thousands of entries from adult companies and other stakeholders, as well as the general public. Most posted items against the implementation of .XXX.
The internet could soon have its own red light district after the .xxx suffix was approved – though pornography companies are not keen to use it.
Icann, the organisation which determines what top-level domains (TLDs) such as .com or
.uk can be added to the internet announced today that it will begin the process of registering .xxx by making checks on ICM Registry, the company that wants to run the domain and sell registrations.
It marks the closing stages of a 10-year battle
by ICM Registry, now run by the British internet entrepreneur Stuart Lawley, to get the .xxx domain set up so that legal pornography sites can be found in a single grouping.
But many pornography companies are unhappy with the idea of a dedicated
space online because they expect that as soon as .xxx is implemented, conservative members of the US Congress will lobby to make any sex-related website re-register there and remove itself from other domains such as .com or .org.
That would mean
that sex sites could be more easily filtered out from web searches, and lower their revenues. Free speech advocates also worry that sites about topics seen by US conservatives as controversial, such as homosexuality, might also be forced to use the .xxx
Muslim states have said that what they call islamophobia is sweeping the West and its media and demanded that the United Nations take tougher action against it.
Delegates from Islamic countries, including Pakistan and Egypt, told the United
Nations Human Rights Council that treatment of Muslims in Western countries amounted to racism and discrimination and must be fought.
People of Arab origin face new forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of
intolerance and experience discrimination and marginalization, an Egyptian delegate said, according to a U.N. summary.
And Pakistan, speaking for the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the council's special investigator
into religious freedom should look into such racism especially in Western societies.
Acting for the OIC, Pakistan has tabled a resolution at the council instructing its special investigator on religious freedom to work closely with mass media
organizations to ensure that they create and promote an atmosphere of respect and tolerance for religious and cultural diversity.
Diplomats say the resolution, which also tells the investigator to make recommendations to the Human Rights Council
on how its strictures might be implemented, is bound to pass given the majority the OIC and its allies have in the body.
The United States and its allies suffered a series of setbacks at the United Nations as the misnamed Human Rights Council flirted with media censorship.
Concerns about censorship were raised after the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which has tremendous sway in the United Nations, successfully pushed through a resolution that creates a watchdog to monitor how religion is portrayed in the media.
The OIC claims it will promote religious tolerance by ensuring that religion is not defamed. But the United States and the European Union members on the council opposed the resolution, fearing that it will censor the press and muzzle freedom of
The resolution now opens the way for the Human Rights Council to select a special investigator on religious freedom to work closely with mass media organizations to ensure that they create and promote an atmosphere of respect and
tolerance for religious and cultural diversity.
If you are a European resident and you cannot access the National Enquirer to read the breaking story about Obama's alleged affair with Vera Baker, try surfing with
www.hidemyass.com or any other anonymizer that works.
For various reasons, the National Enquirer is blocking European IPs. For example, in Britain, they block IPs because any
publication that publishes in the UK is potentially liable to be sued.
Regardless the reasoning behind the European IP ban, the message displayed by the National Enquirer is at least questionable. A Page unavailable/under construction message is confusing and misleading. Correct would be to read
the content of this website is not available in your area .
Teenagers on social networking site Bebo have created a secret language to stop adults knowing what they are up to, researchers say.
Youngsters are using slang words to keep parents and employers in the dark about their social activities such as
partying and drinking.
Instead of writing they are drunk, teens post Getting MWI - or mad with it. Being in a relationship is known as taken or Ownageeee , and Ridneck , a corruption of redneck, means to feel
embarrassed, [as in caught with a love bite].
Lisa Whittaker, a postgraduate student at the University of Stirling, who studied teens aged 16-18 in Scotland, said the slang had been created to keep their
activities private, and cited the example of one young girl who was sacked after bosses found pictures of her drinking on the website. She said: Young people often distort the languages they use by making the pages difficult for those unfamiliar with
the distortions and colloquialisms.
Wikileaks has tweeted claiming that their Facebook fan page was deleted by Facebook for violation of the Terms of Service.
According to Wikileaks, the page had been disabled because it promotes illegal acts .
spokeswoman stonewalled and said the group, which had 30,000 members, could have been taken down for a number of reasons, most likely because it had received a complaint from a member about objectionable content.
A rticle 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and
impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Written in 1948, the principle applies aptly to today's Internet -- one of the most important means of free expression in the world. Yet government censorship of the web is
growing rapidly: from the outright blocking and filtering of sites, to court orders limiting access to information and legislation forcing companies to self-censor content.
So it's no surprise that Google, like other
technology and telecommunications companies, regularly receives demands from government agencies to remove content from our services. Of course many of these requests are entirely legitimate, such as requests for the removal of child pornography. We also
regularly receive requests from law enforcement agencies to hand over private user data. Again, the vast majority of these requests are valid and the information needed is for legitimate criminal investigations. However, data about these activities
historically has not been broadly available. We believe that greater transparency will lead to less censorship.
We are today launching a new Government Requests tool to give people information about the requests for
user data or content removal we receive from government agencies around the world. For this launch, we are using data from July-December, 2009, and we plan to update the data in 6-month increments.
As part of our
commitment to the Global Network Initiative, we have already agreed to principles and practices that govern privacy and free expression. In the spirit of these principles, we hope this tool will shine some light on the scale and scope of government
requests for censorship and data around the globe. We also hope that this is just the first step toward increased transparency about these actions across the technology and communications industries.
What was supposed to be images celebrating pregnancy and motherhood created by a Courtenay artist are now considered hateful, threatening or obscene by one of largest social networking sites in the world.
Mother and artist Kate Hansen recently
created a series of portraits called The Madonna Child Project — images which feature different mothers and babies cuddling their babies while breastfeeding and bottle feeding.
Hansen posted some of the images in a figurative art group on
Facebook and discovered the portraits were being deleted around late March.
Hansen noted she initially posted images in groups of three, and all images got deleted. She inquired with the Facebook group administrator, who assured her she had no
reason to delete the images. Hansen continued to repost the images, and soon after, found they were being continually deleted from the site.
Last week, she received an e-mail from The Facebook Team noting: you posted an item that violated our
During a recent interview with CBC Radio, which contacted a Facebook representative, Hansen said the social networking site representative noted they supposedly do not delete breastfeeding images.
She said the entire
incident has made her question the overall topic of breastfeeding in society, and the public perception of the act. At least it's gotten people talking about it, noted Hansen: I will continue to post images and risk my account being deleted;
the risk is worth it, she added.
In numerous examples unearthed by U.N. experts each year - blasphemy and defamation of religion laws have resulted in arrests and arbitrary detentions, as they have sparked assaults, murders and mob attacks. Journalists, bloggers, teachers,
students, poets, religious converts and others are targeted, charged and sentenced for exercising their right to freedom of expression. Those who support defamation of religions law say these policies are necessary to combat incitement to
discrimination, hostility and violence, as well as to protect freedom of religion. But the facts tell a very different story, one that has resulted in eroding international support for this flawed concept.
Last month, as the United Nations Human
Rights Council met in Geneva, it became increasingly clear that the tide is swiftly turning against support for defamation of religions. As it has since 1999, UN States from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) sponsored a resolution
endorsing the concept that nations have an obligation to implement laws against the defamation of religions. Although the text squeezed through to its adoption, that was only by a small margin of three votes -- it was 12 votes last year -- and a
growing number of UN States voted against the measure and many nations that had previously abstained from the debate spoke out in opposition to the resolution's passage.
This weakening UN Human Rights Council support for the defamation of
religions was also evident in a second resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council on the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards that has been charged to identify new methods to combat racism. That resolution's final
text did not include any defamation of religions language and there was no authorization for the Ad Hoc committee to codify defamation of religions into a binding international treaty.
The non-binding defamation of religion resolution that has been an annual fixture at the United Nations Human Rights Council was has been passed again – but only narrowly.
Voting in favour were 20 states, including China, Cuba and Saudi
Arabia. 17 — mostly Western nations — opposed, including the United States and the Netherlands. 8 states abstained. (Last year the vote was 23 in favour, 11 opposed and 13 abstentions).
The resolution was similar to one passed last year, but also
included a section slamming the recent Swiss referendum vote to ban the construction of minarets in the country.
Pakistan introduced the resolution, accusing Western countries of targeting Muslims and using pressure instead of reason
to influence votes. The only religion specifically mentioned as being discriminated against was Islam. Opponents noted tight restrictions on Christians, Jews and others in states such as Saudi Arabia and Libya, which were not mentioned in the adopted
The United States opposed the resolution, which it said failed to galvanize international support for real solutions to improve the lives of people on the ground. It called the resolution ineffective and an instrument of
The 10th annual Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards honour those who, often at great personal risk, have given voice to issues and stories from around the globe that would otherwise have passed unnoticed.
Winners New Media Award supported by Google.vThis award recognises the use of computer or internet technology to foster debate, argument or dissent.
Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging
service that enables users to send and read messages with a 140-character limit.
Twitter was thrust to the fore of international politics during the contested 2009 Iranian elections. During the huge protests that followed, the site played a
pivotal role in mobilising protesters and facilitated a direct line of communication between demonstrators, news outlets and engaged people around the world.
Maintaining its service in the face of a totalitarian regime, Twitter demonstrated how
social networking can have a direct impact on the world stage.
It was used as a powerful tool in protecting free expression in the UK when solicitors Carter-Ruck, acting on behalf of Trafigura, the multi-national oil company, tried to prevent the
press from publishing details of a parliamentary question about a report into the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast. Within hours #trafigura and #carterruck were the site's most popular topics.
Bindmans Law and Campaigning Award. This award is given to lawyers or campaigners who have fought repression, or have struggled to change political climates and perceptions.
Charter 97 (Belarus)
Charter 97 is a campaign
movement dedicated to principles of independence, freedom, democracy and respect for human rights. In Belarus its website is the main independent source of information on human rights and free expression activities in the country. The site comes under
constant attack by hackers thought to be working for the country's secret service and Charter 97 are regularly forced to move offices.
Along with her team, Head of Press Natallia Radzina works to bring to light the cases of arrest, detention and
harassment of critical journalists and human rights activists, despite being arrested on a regular basis.
Only because of such courageous and talented people like Natallia Radzina and the whole team of Charter 97, devoted to truth and morality
in journalism, do we Belarusians and the whole world know what is happening in the last dictatorship in Europe , says Natalia Koliada of the Belarus Free Theatre.
The Guardian Journalism Award . This award
recognises journalism of dogged determination and bravery
Radio La Voz (Peru)
Operating in Bagua Grande in the Utcubamba Region of Peru, Radio La Voz was founded in 2007 by respected broadcast journalist Carlos Flores Borja and his
sons. The aim of the station is to broadcast cultural programmes and information about environmental protection and human rights, fight political corruption and support local communities.
Radio La Voz lost its licence in June 2009 after the
government accused the station of supporting violence against security forces when deadly clashes shook the area in mid-2009.
Thirty-four people were killed as Amazonian communities protested about the opening up of huge tracts of land to
foreign investment. To date no government representative has offered any evidence to support the veracity of its allegation against the radio station.
Flores Borja says that La Voz was only doing its duty as an independent media source. He claims
the government took advantage of the moment to silence a voice critical of its policies . On 16 February 2010, the case against Radio La Voz was dropped.
Sage International Publishing Award. This award is
given to a publisher who has given new insight into issues or events, or shown a perspective not often acknowledged, or given a platform to new voices
Yael Lerer/Andalus Publishing Press (Israel)
Founded in 2000, Andalus is a unique
Israeli publishing house dedicated to the translation of Arabic literature and prose into Hebrew. The name reflects nostalgia for the period in Andalusia between the 8th and 15th centuries where Hebrew and Arab cultures coexisted.
and founder Yael Lerer hopes to reverse the decline of Hebrew-speaking Israelis reading Arab literature and promote a greater understanding of the region's Arabic cultural heritage in Israeli society. Born in Tel Aviv, Lerer's idea emerged after she
learnt Arabic and began reading literature and poetry in the original, leading her to see how foreign Arab culture was to her, despite having had Arab friends and colleagues for years. Andalus publishes literature from Lebanon, Syria, Sudan and Algeria –
countries it is nearly impossible for ordinary Israelis to visit – as well as Palestinian writers and poets.
Heather Brooke (UK)
Without journalist Heather Brooke's
tireless campaign to uncover details of MPs' expenses, we might never have discovered the details of MPs' duck houses, moats and trouser presses. Her dogged five-year freedom of information battle was later made into a film by BBC4.
Brooke won a High Court case against the House of Commons authorities for full details of MPs' second home allowances. The court said: We have no doubt that the public interest is at stake. We are not here dealing with idle gossip, or public curiosity
about what in truth are trivialities. The expenditure of public money through the payment of MPs' salaries and allowances is a matter of direct and reasonable interest to taxpayers.
Brooke is the author of The Silent State and Your
Right to Know , a citizens' guide to using the Freedom of Information Act. She is a consultant and presenter on Channel 4 Dispatches documentaries and a honorary professor at City University's Department of Journalism.
The Enemies of the Internet list drawn up again this year by Reporters Without Borders presents the worst violators of freedom of expression on the Net: Saudi Arabia, Burma, China, North Korea, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Uzbekistan, Syria, Tunisia,
Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.
Some of these countries are determined to use any means necessary to prevent their citizens from having access to the Internet: Burma, North Korea, Cuba, and Turkmenistan – countries in which technical and financial
obstacles are coupled with harsh crackdowns and the existence of a very limited Intranet.
Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan have opted for such massive filtering that their Internet users have chosen to practice self-censorship. For economic purposes,
China, Egypt, Tunisia and Vietnam have wagered on a infrastructure development strategy while keeping a tight control over the Web's political and social content (Chinese and Tunisian filtering systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated), and they
are demonstrating a deep intolerance for critical opinions. The serious domestic crisis that Iran has been experiencing for months now has caught netizens and the new media in its net; they have become enemies of the regime.
Among the countries
under surveillance are several democracies: Australia, because of the upcoming implementation of a highly developed Internet filtering system, and South Korea, where draconian laws are creating too many specific restrictions on Web users by
challenging their anonymity and promoting selfcensorship.
Turkey and Russia have just been added to the Under Surveillance list. In Russia, aside from the control exercised by the Kremlin on most of its media outlets, the Internet has
become the freest space for sharing information. Yet its independence is being jeopardized by blogger arrests and prosecutions, as well as by blockings of so-called extremist websites. The regime's propaganda is increasingly omnipresent on the
Web. There is a real risk that the Internet will be transformed into a tool for political control.
In Turkey, taboo topics mainly deal with Ataturk, the army, issues concerning minorities (notably Kurds and Armenians) and the dignity of the
Nation. They have served as justification for blocking several thousand sites, including YouTube, thereby triggering a great deal of protest. Bloggers and netizens who express themselves freely on such topics may well face judicial reprisals.
Other countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, Belarus and Thailand are also maintaining their
under surveillance status, but will need to make more progress to avoid getting transferred into the next Enemies of the Internet list. Thailand, because of abuses related to the crime of lese-majesté ; the Emirates, because
they have bolstered their filtering system; Belarus because its president has just signed a liberticidal order that will regulate the Net, and which will enter into force this summer – just a few months before the elections.
Bahrain was urged to take a softer approach to Internet censorship by United Nations Development Programme Arab Knowledge Report director Dr Ghaith Fariz.
The government's alleged policy of blocking politically-motivated websites and newspapers
could be cutting the bad with the good, said Dr Fariz.
Dr Fariz claimed that although blacklisting pornographic content could be justified from a moral standpoint, there was a fine line when censoring other subjects.
advocates of total freedom [ ...BUT... not for porn] . In many cases, websites may be blocked for good or bad reasons - we are not here to judge. Unfortunately, what tends to be happening more
frequently is that in the name of combating the evil we seem to be killing a lot of the good. We have called, and we still call, for people to understand that the veering principles of blocking specific sites can be abused and has been abused -
intentionally or unintentionally.
Dr Fariz was speaking at a Press conference at the United Nations headquarters in Hoora. He was outlining the findings of the Arab Knowledge Report 2009, the first in an annual series to be published in
association with the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation.
New Zealand has quietly been working on its internet filter, due for launch by the end of next month.
The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) began work on the filter in response to community expectations that the government and the internet
service providers (ISPs) should do more to provide a safe internet environment, New Zealand's DIA said in a statement.
Branded the Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System, the filter uses White Box software from Netclean of Sweden.
According to New Zealand's National Business Review, it cost DIA NZ$150,000, which then further customised it.
It has been trialled for two years and features a blacklist of more than 7000 child pornography websites, which, like Australia's list,
will remain private, because the department believed displaying a list would make a directory for offenders to use, the DIA said in its statement.
The system operates by populating the routing tables of a participating ISP so that a
request for the [internet protocol] IP address of a website containing child sexual abuse images results in a first 'hop' to the Department's server, it said.
If there is a match to the particular web page that is being blocked then the
requester is presented with a blocking page stating that access to the requested page is illegal. If there is no match, then the requester is permitted through to the internet.
The Department's system preserves the anonymity of any person
that is blocked by not keeping a record of their IP address. Users who believe they have been prevented from accessing legitimate content may fill in an anonymous request that a site on the filtering list be checked.
Furthermore, the system
will be overseen by an Independent Reference Group, nominated by the DIA, made up of representatives from enforcement agencies, the Office of Film and Literature Classification, child welfare groups, ISPs and internet users.
The New Zealand system
will be voluntary for ISPs and aims to be milder than the Australian one, by just focussing on child porn instead of refused classification sites which also include subjects such as fetishes and terrorism.
This could be why the NZ filter
has not been greeted with the same level of outrage that Australia's has been, though opposition to it has surfaced, from groups who fear it could extend to other objectionable areas and become compulsory like Australia's planned filter. They also
have voiced concerns about the fact that unlike the Australian filter plan, which has come under much public scrutiny, the New Zealand equivalent has bypassed parliamentary procedures such as Bills, white papers and select committee processes.
Censorship of homosexuality on New Zealand pay TV channels set to continue for some time yet despite a number of gay people objecting to a man-on-man kiss being blurred on the E! channel.
Viewers expressed their concern to GayNZ.com after Sky TV's
E! channel blurred over a scene from the movie I Love You Philip Morris of actors Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor kissing. They felt it was unnecessary and conveyed the message that two men kissing is somehow shameful or unpalatable.
They don't censor scenes from movies and shows where there is violence and all sorts of gross stuff, why should they think two men tenderly kissing was an affront, argued Raymond of Auckland. Why would they put a large oval 'modesty patch' over
two men kissing? asked Dominic of Wellington.
The American producers of the E! entertainment news programme say the scene was blurred because of the restraints placed upon us due to the international nature of our programmes and channels.
The E! spokesperson said New Zealand viewers see an international version of the programme that goes out worldwide just hours after it is assembled. We have to ensure our content is compliant in all of the territories that we transmit in,
and unfortunately there are some territories that same sex kissing is required to be blurred.
Gay New Zealand television producer Glenn Sims of RedFlame Media says he understands where the E! producers are coming from, but believes that the
conservative sociology of the American TV marketplace which got so indignant about a flash of nipple in prime-time a few years ago is just as much to blame as the institutionalised homophobia of some of our Asia/Pacific neighbours such as
Singapore and Malaysia. Censoring such gay-themed content reinforces homophobia, he acknowledges.
E! says it tries to be sensitive to the different requirements of each territory and claims to be in the process of overcoming
the technical hurdles that will allow us to create territory-specific versions of our shows.
Facebook routinely deletes from its site photos of breastfeeding. It has labelled them obscene and pornographic. It says that it has rules for what is allowed on its site, but its careless actions show it does not.
Facebook's clueless manner of
censoring is not just pointless but harmful. There are other ways to deal with unwanted material than by immature, arrogant, and foolish removal of what one doesn't like, especially when photos of breastfeeding are claimed to harm children, a claim
Facebook has made for years.
Here is a recent photo Facebook removed. Could Facebook have a bad case of nipplephobia?
led by Facebook administrators to delete pictures of breast-feeding moms from its pages may land the social media site in the middle of a class action lawsuit.
There have been rumblings since last December. A lot of people are really eager to
call Facebook to task and we're considering whether a class action lawsuit will be viable, said Stephanie Muir, a Canadian administrator for the Facebook group, Hey Facebook, Breastfeeding is Not Obscene! We want to hit them in the
pocketbook so they'll actually pay attention. Facebook is getting away with something they would not be able to get away with outside the virtual world. It's basically discrimination.
Facebook fired a warning shot recently to show it's serious
about taking down the group's page by deleting Muir's personal page as well.
The group is still there. And I have created a different account for myself, said Muir. But everything I previously had is gone, including every single post
I've ever made.
Muir said Facebook initially told the group they were in copyright violation and that's why they were going to be removed: One of our administrators in Scotland e-mailed an inquiry and the response said, 'We're sorry, our
message was in error. It's not a copyright violation, it's nudity and explicit sexual content that your group has been removed, They said in their statement it wasn't the breast-feeding, it was the nipples that were the problem. They're very
inconsistent, which is a great source of irritation. They have changed their story a number of times.
We're going to continue to keep a strong presence . It's still a mystery to me how anyone could feel so strongly to interfere with
a community of a quarter of a million people. You know, you have options; if you see a breast-feeding woman (or her picture), you can either harass her or you can use your neck and swivel your head in the other direction. We ultimately just want them to
leave breast-feeding pictures alone.
Wikileaks.org, a whistleblower website that allows people to publish uncensored information anonymously, has suspended operations owing to financial problems.
Its running costs including staff payments are $600,000 (£377,000), but so far
this year it has raised just $130,000 (£81,000).
The website claims to be non-profit and relies on donations. A statement on its front page says it is funded by human rights campaigners, investigative journalists, technologists and the
general public . WikiLeaks does not accept money from governments or corporations.
Investigative journalist Paul Lashmar said he had been startled by the effectiveness of WikiLeaks in publishing suppressed information. However he
thought that the funding issue would not be easily resolved: (Web) users aren't interested in how the people behind sites make their money, he said. The problem for the self-funding model is that sites like WikiLeaks will not find it easy to
attract funding through advertising. At some point people who care about free speech will realise that free speech has to be funded, otherwise it's not free.
Much to the annoyance of government departments and big business everywhere, whistleblower website Wikileaks has been saved.
it cease publishing leaked documents, concentrating on raising donations, this week they succeeded yet staff have still not been paid. That target of around £400,000 has not been reached.
Their main site is still dedicated to raising money
and there is no indication when normal operations will resume.
In an update via Twitter late on Wednesday night, Wikileaks announced that it had reached its minimum target: Achieved min. fundraising goal. ($200k/600k); we're back fighting for
another year, even if we have to eat rice to do it.
Lord Patten asked the government what is their stance on the resolution promoted by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference before the United Nations General Assembly on the defamation of religion.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): The Government share the concern of the Organisation of Islamic Conference that individuals around the world are victimised
because of their religion or belief. We all need to do more to eliminate religious intolerance and to ensure that those who incite hatred or violence against individuals because of their religious beliefs are dealt with by the law.
Government cannot agree with an approach that promotes the concept of defamation of religions as a response. This approach severely risks diminishing the right to freedom of expression. We believe that international human rights law already
strikes the right balance between the individual's right to express themselves freely and the need for the state to limit this right in certain circumstances. International human rights law provides that only where advocacy of religious hatred
constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence should it be prohibited by law.
We believe that the concept of defamation of religions puts in danger the very openness and tolerance that allows people of different faiths to
co-exist and to practise their faith without fear. It risks changing the focus of international human rights law from examining how countries promote and protect the right to freedom of expression to censoring what individuals say. If this happened,
people might feel unable to speak out against human rights abuses or hold their government to account. It is also inconsistent with the international human rights legal framework which exists to protect individuals and not concepts or specific belief
For this reason the UK, along with our EU Partners and other like-minded countries, voted against the resolution put forward by the Organisation of Islamic Conference at the 64th session of the UN General Assembly on Combating Defamation
Reporters Without Borders has released its 2009 year-end round-up on. There are 151 bloggers and cyber-dissidents arrested, 61 physically assaulted and one died in prison in 2009. When compared with 2008, the number of bloggers arrested increased 155%.
The report pointed out that China continued to be the leading internet censor in 2009 and RSF will launch a new campaign against the enemy of the Internet in coming March. Below is the summary on blogger and cyber dissidents section:
For the first time since the Internet's emergence, Reporters Without Borders is aware of more than 100 bloggers and cyber-dissidents being imprisoned worldwide for posting their opinions online. This figure is indicative above all
of the scale of the crackdown being carried out in around ten countries. Several countries have turned online expression into a criminal offence, dashing hopes of a censorship-free Internet.
The Internet has been the
driving force for pro-democracy campaigns in Iran, China and elsewhere. It is above all for this reason that authoritarian governments have shown themselves so determined to severely punish Internet users. This is the case with two Azerbaijani bloggers,
who were sentenced to two years in prison for making a film mocking the political elite.
Although China continued to be the leading Internet censor in 2009, Iran, Tunisia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Uzbekistan
have also resorted to frequent blocking of websites and blogs and surveillance of online expression. The Turkmen Internet remains under total state control.
This year, bloggers and ordinary citizens expressing
themselves online have been assaulted, threatened or arrested as the popularity of social-networking and interactive websites has soared. Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer is still in jail, while the famous Burmese comedian Zarganar still has 34 years of his
prison sentence to serve. The approximately 120 victims of Internet policing also include such leading figures in the defence of online free expression as China's Hu Jia and Liu Xiaobo and Vietnam's Nguyen Trung and Dieu Cay.
The financial crisis has joined the list of subjects likely to provoke censorship, particularly online. In South Korea, a blogger was wrongfully detained for commenting on the country's disastrous economic situation. Around six
netizens in Thailand were arrested or harassed just for making a connection between the king's health and a fall in the Bangkok stock exchange. Censorship was slapped on the media in Dubai when it came for them to report on the country's debt repayment
Democratic countries have not lagged far behind. Several European countries are working on new steps to control the Internet in the name of the battle against child porn and illegal downloads. Australia has
said it will set up a compulsory filtering system that poses a threat to freedom of expression.
Turkey's courts have increased the number of websites, including YouTube, that are blocked for criticising the republic's
founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
The number of countries affected by online censorship has doubled from one year to the next – a disturbing tendency that shows an increase in control over new media as millions of
netizens get active online, said Lucie Morillon, head of the Internet and Freedoms Desk. That is why Reporters Without Borders will launch a new campaign against the Enemies of the Internet on 12 March.