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Update: President Zuma's Uncensored Spear...

South African classification appeal tribunal revokes 16 age restriction on satirical artwork

Link Here26th October 2012

Earlier this year the burning political issue in South Africa was a painting of President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed. Hs supporters mobilised a furious campaign to ban Brett Murray's painting The Spear .

At first the censors agreed, and classified The Spear as unsuitable for those under 16. But now they have reversed their decision, rejecting the argument that the artwork is offensive to African culture.

Prince Mlimandlela Ndamase, spokesman for South Africa's Film and Publication Board, said its appeal tribunal has set aside the classification decision .

The tribunal found that the classification board had been heavily influenced... by the need to affirm the dignity of African males and to protect sensitive persons and children . But there had been no evidence before the board that the painting would be harmful to children on the grounds that it seriously undermines and is insensitive to African culture .

The tribunal also upheld the classification board's finding that The Spear was not pornographic.



Update: New Internet Censors...

Tunisia claims an end to repressive internet censorship policies known as Ammar 404

Link Here17th September 2012
Full story: Internet Censorship in Tunisia...Blogs and websites banned in Tunisia

Government representatives in Tunisia have confirmed that the country has officially brought its repressive Internet censorship policies, known as Ammar 404, to an end.

According to Information and Communication Minister Mongi Marzoug this has been brought on by the recent revolution in Tunisia and the interim government will now try to promote access to information and freedom of expression. The launching of the country's National Forum of Internet governance will be the end of Ammar 404, he said.

Tunisia will also try to prove to the world that they have truly ended censorship as he presented the main objectives of the upcoming ICT4All conference to be held in Tunisia.



Rivers of Prejudice...

Uganda charges British producer over gay stage play

Link Here14th September 2012
Full story: Gay censorship in Uganda...Media ensors take action against gay productions

The authorities in Uganda have charged a British theatre producer, David Cecil, for staging a play about the condition of gay people in the country.

He appeared in court accused of disobeying lawful orders , because the play The River and the Mountain by Beau Hopkins was performed without authorisation. Cecil was denied bail.

The play, with the main character being a gay businessman killed by his own employees,  was performed at two theatres in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, last month.

Update: Hearing

5th December 2012. See  article from

Only days before the play was set to open in August, Cecil received a letter from the country's Media Council, the body tasked with regulation of media. It stated the play was to be suspended pending an official content review. Cecil and his company, under legal advice, interpreted this as a request rather than an order. Initially, the play was to run at the National Theatre, open to the general public but Cecil decided to move the production to private venues and eight performances were seen by an invited audience. Cecil was arrested after the short run, and branded a gay rights activist by an angry media.

Cecil's second hearing is taking place tomorrow. There, it will be decided if the prosecution have enough evidence to take the case to court. Cecil's legal team will argue that there were no references to any parts of the constitution or penal code in the letter from the Media Council. It did not refer to any legal consequences if they should choose to perform the play. Furthermore, Cecil says the Media Council is supposed to be an advisory body, it holds no executive authority over individuals' rights to express themselves.

A petition calling for the charges against Cecil to be dropped has been signed by more than 2,500 people, including Mike Leigh, Stephen Fry, Sandi Toksvig and Simon Callow. The petition was organised by Index on Censorship and David Lan, the artistic director of the Young Vic.



No Voice No Choice...

Zimbabwe lawyers fight to overturn censor's ban on stage play

Link Here11th September 2012

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human rights (ZLHR) have petitioned the country's High Court seeking to overturn a ban imposed by the Board of Censors on a theatre play aimed at national healing and peace building.

The Board of Censors chairman only identified as Malaba last week banned the play No Voice No Choice written by prominent theatre practitioner Tafadzwa Muzondo, alleging that it was inciteful and against the spirit of national healing and reconciliation .

The ban will prevent the play's participation in the annual Intwasa Arts Festival which runs from 12 to 22 September in Bulawayo.

In the court application, the ZLHR lawyers, Tawanda Zhuwarara and Bellinda Chinowawa, want the high court to issue an order interdicting the Board of Censors of Zimbabwe and its functionaries from preventing the staging of the performance at any venue in Zimbabwe and permit Muzondo and his Edzai Isu Theatre Arts Project to perform the play at the Intwasa Arts Festival.



Afeworki's Eritrea...

Eritrea's only independent radio returns after 3 weeks of downtime due to government jamming

Link Here9th September 2012

Radio Erena (Our Eritrea), a Paris-based radio station that broadcasts to Eritrea, one of the world's most closed countries, and to the Eritrean diaspora, has been the victim of sabotage that prevented it from being carried by the Arabsat radio and TV satellite service for three weeks.

The sabotage took the form of a pirate transmission from within Eritrea that jammed Radio Erena's signal.

Launched by Reporters Without Borders in 2009, Radio Erena is the only source of independent news in the local language for Eritreans inside Eritrea and, as such, has been the target of the government's constant hostility. Reporters Without Borders said:

The fact that Radio Erena was off the air for more than three weeks is no trivial matter. The station plays a key role by offering impartial and responsible news coverage to an entire people that is otherwise deprived of this. Open to all participants in Eritrean life, whether from the opposition, civil society or the government, Radio Erena is now paying a high price for its independence.

Arabsat, the owner of the BADR-6 satellite that normally carries Radio Erena's signal, suspended the station on 14 August because of the pirate transmission that had just begun to interfere with its signal.

The interference began a day after Arabsat received an Eritrean government complaint claiming that, during an interview with Ethiopian information minister Bereket Simon, Radio Erena had incited its listeners to acts of violence against Eritrean government representatives.

This was a complete lie, as Reporters Without Borders explained when it provided Arabsat with a transcript of the interview. Let it be noted in passing that Eritrea's President Issaias Afeworki is one of the world's worst Predators of Press Freedom.



A Stones Throw from Repression...

Tunisian sculptors charged over challenging exhibits

Link Here5th September 2012

Tunisia's authorities have arrested and charged two sculptors for creating works of art that are supposedly harmful to the public.

The two sculptors, Nadia Jelassi and Mohamed Ben Slama, could be imprisoned for up to five years for their works that were publicly displayed in the coastal town of La Marsa in June, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

Jelassi's work is of a veiled woman surrounded by stones evoking the scene of a stoning.

Ben Slama's work is of a child with ants streaming from its schoolbag that spells out the word Allah.

Their works drew public 'outcry'. Toward the end of the exhibition, two people and a court official told the owner of the hall where the exhibition was held to remove two pieces of art. There was also a campaign started on Facebook to remove the pieces, the organization said.

The night the exhibition ended, several works of art that had been exhibited in La Marsa were damaged by protesters before police sent them away. What followed were riots across the country over the art show, with protesters setting police stations, courts, and other buildings on fire, leaving one person dead.



Updated: Puppet Rulers...

Tunisia unimpressed by TV satire directed at the government

Link Here31st August 2012

An arrest warrant has been issued for Tunisian TV director and producer Sami Fehri, who launched Tunisia's Ettounsiya TV station.

Ettounsiya TV has recently gained notoriety, due to its political satire show, known as Logic Siyassi (Political Logic), which features puppets of politicians. The show garnered the appreciation of some citizens for its humor and free expression, while others felt that it exceeded the limits of what was proper, as the show was perceived by critics to have mocked people, who are considered national symbols.

In an interview with Tunisian radio station Express FM, Fehri asserted that his arrest was purely political. I did not see this coming...This is funny. Four puppets could put me in this situation, he said.

Fehri even mentioned that he had received a phone call from Lotfi Zitoun, the Tunisian Prime Minister's advisor charged with media reform. Lotfi Zitoun called me and told me that there is a big dissatisfaction with Ettounsiya, said Fehri.

Official news agency TAP said Fehri was being charged with illegal use of Tunisian state television resources during the rule of ousted president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.Fehri at that time had links with a media company close to Ben Ali's family.

Update: Jailed on Remand

31st August 2012. See  article from

The owner of a private television channel has now been jailed in Tunisia pending trial on 'corruption' charges.

Sami Fehri, who launched the channel in partnership with Belhassen Trabelsi, the son-in-law of former President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, handed himself over to the authorities after an arrest warrant was issued a few days ago. In an Internet video broadcast shortly before, he said the government was punishing for him for a comedy program on his channel that mocks symbols of power - thereby muffling the media and giving up gains made when Ben Ali was ousted last year.

Tounissia tv broadcast a satirical program called Political Logic which made fun of Tunisia's President Moncef Marzouki, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali and Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the ruling Islamic Ennahda party.

Fehri's defence lawyer told Reuters:

We believe that this is an attack on the freedom of expression. The issue is political and came after weeks of pressure on Fehri and the airing of the program on the channel.



Update: Dangerous Humour...

Somali comedian murdered

Link Here3rd August 2012
Full story: Sharia in Somalia...Somalia adopts sharia law

One of Somalia's most popular comedians, known for his parodies of Islamist militants, has been shot dead in the capital, Mogadishu.

Abdi Jeylani Marshale was reportedly killed shortly after leaving a local radio station where he worked as a drama producer and performer.

It is not known who carried out the murder but last year Marshale was threatened by the extremist group al-Shabaab, prompting him to go into hiding in neighbouring Somaliland for several days.



Update: Cartoonists Get Under Zuma's Foreskin...

South Africa's president continues to be the nub of cartoon jibes

Link Here7th July 2012

South African President Jacob Zuma is still the butt of penis jokes because of his penchant for sex.

The African National Congress' Women's League is upset over the latest cartoon that appeared in Friday's Globe and Mail. They condemned Zapiro's cartoon featuring Zuma looking decidedly like a big dick looking at himself in a mirror. He was depicted in the Goodman Gallery where Brett Murray's The Spear was exhibited. This was another image alluding to Zuma's well used appendage.

The cartoon carried the ditty:

Though sex is his publicised sport,
Zuma took the dick painting to court,
Suing Brett's free expression,
Confirmed the impression,
He's a big a dick as we thought.

The ANC Women's League said:

The Zapiro cartoons rely on their shock value to make an impact, but calling the president of this great nation a 'dick' is unacceptable and the [league] would like to know who the 'we' he is referring to in the cartoon actually is, as the majority of the population who voted for the president clearly did not think this of Zuma.

The ANC is now demanding an apology from Jonathan Shapiro and the newspaper remove it from its site. However the editor-in-chief Nic Dawes said:

We have no plans to remove the cartoon.



No Point Continuing...

Tunisian organisation charged with reducing media censorship disbands citing government censorship

Link Here5th July 2012

The independent Tunisian authority charged with reforming the media has announced that it had shut down after failing to achieve its objective, accusing the Islamist-dominated government of censorship.

The body does not see the point in continuing its work and announces that it has terminated its work, said Kamel Labidi, who heads the National Body for the Reform of Information and Communication (INRIC). Labidi said:

The body warns of the gravity of the situation in the realm of information and accuses the government of reverting to forms of censorship and disinformation.

Since this government came to power, we have noticed the absence of concrete measures to reform the (media) sector.

INRIC was created after the revolution that overthrew president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January last year to reform the media sector, and particularly state media organs, to guarantee Tunisia's previously restricted press freedom.



Updated: Nando's Diversity...

South African TV advert banned after pointing out that nearly the entire population is of foreign origin

Link Here28th June 2012

South African broadcasters and DStv have withdrawn a new Nando's commercial following refusal by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).  The SABC has refused to air the advertisement, citing xenophobic undertones .

The commercial opens with foreign nationals illegally crossing the South African border, followed by a voice-over that says: You know what's wrong with South Africa? It's all you foreigners.

It then shows foreign nationals including Chinese, Indians and even Afrikaners disappearing in puffs of smoke. Finally, the only person left is a traditional Khoisan man who says he's not going anywhere.

Fast food chain Nando's, which is known for its controversial marketing campaigns, said it was shocked at the decision and planned to ask the broadcasters to reconsider. It argued that the advertisement depicted South Africa's rich ethnic and cultural diversity and was meant to show the absurdity of xenophobia.

The commercial was initially aired both on and across DStv channels, and is still available on social network websites.

Thabang Ramogase, marketing manager at Nando's, said after being informed that and DStv had banned the ad:

We think it is short-sighted and we stand by the advertisement. The responses the ad has generated online have been overwhelmingly positive and show that South Africans get the message.

Chris Hitchings, media sales CEO at DStv, said the pay-TV broadcaster was concerned that the advertisement could be misunderstood:

While we understand that the commercial is a parody, we are not convinced that all our viewers will interpret it in the way intended, he said. We have a responsibility not to broadcast material that could be deemed offensive to our viewers and we have exercised our rights in this regard.

Leon Grobler, dispute resolutions manager at the ASA, South Africa's advert censor, said the organisation had received a handful of complaints about the advertisement. Its review will take about a month.

Update: South African ASA rejects whinges about the Nando's advert

28th June 2012. See  article from

Pay-TV broadcaster DStv has lifted its ban on fast-food chain Nando's new advertisement that broadcasters initially refused to air due to its xenophobic undertones.

The commercial had been banned by both DStv and after they initially aired it earlier this month, days after the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) rejected it on the grounds that it could be misinterpreted and perpetuate xenophobia and even violence.

Satellite television network TopTV, however, said that it would air the controversial advertisement. Its decision came after the Advertising Standards Authority of SA (ASA) dismissed complaints it received from viewers and ruled that the advertisement did not contravene any of its codes.


The ASA Directorate is satisfied that this advert falls within the parameters of hyperbole and/or harmless parody as allowed for by a clause in the code. This clause states that Obvious untruths, harmless parody or exaggerations, intended to catch the eye or amuse, are permissible provided that they are clearly to be seen as humorous ... This is also in line with the respondent's reputation for poking fun at topical issues and current affairs.

What's more, the commercial is clearly contrasting the voice of xenophobia (who starts the commercial off with mention that ... all you foreigners should just ... go back to where you came from ), with the voice of reason , who explains that REAL South Africans (our emphasis) love diversity. This carries the implied message that the initial voice of xenophobia does not speak for Real South Africans.

In addition to this, if one views the entire commercial, it becomes apparent that the xenophobic voice and opinion is ridiculed and made to be irrational, because the point is made that all nationalities found here (save for the Khoisan) were once foreigners .

Put simply, the respondent juxtaposes the xenophobic view that what's wrong with South Africa is all you foreigners with the rational and reasonable view that what's wrong with South Africa is actually all you xenophobes . This is done in a tongue-in-cheek manner, and the ending voice-over explains that REAL South Africans love diversity .

For the above reasons, the Directorate is satisfied that the commercial does not contravene the provisions of the Code. The complaints are accordingly dismissed.



Update: Revisiting a Painful History of Repression...

South Africa's censors give The Spear a 16 age rating

Link Here2nd June 2012

South Africa's media censors at the Film and Publication Board have given The Spear painting a 16N rating.

FPB chairperson Thoko Mpumlwana said:

Any persons or entities wishing to publish and exhibit images and/or replicas of this specific artwork will in future have to put in place mechanisms to regulate access to this piece of art by members of the public below the age of 16.

FPB CEO Yoliswa Makhasi said the board understood the image of the painting had gone viral, but urged youths to delete copies of it.

When asked how this image differed from other nude artworks, FPB chief operations officer Mmapula Fisha said Murray's painting was not just a piece of nude art:

The artwork has forced society to revisit its painful history. The classification had to balance this and artistic merit


31st May   

Updated: No Dignity in Censorship...

Portrait of Joseph Zuma winds up the African National Congress
Link Here

South Africa's African National Congress (ANC) plans to take an art gallery to court over a satirical depiction of President Jacob Zuma.

The painting titled The Spear (Umkhonto we Sizwe) depicts Zuma in an authoritarian pose with his gear hanging out. The ANC has labelled the work by artist Brett Murray an insulting depiction of the president and says it violates his constitutional right to privacy and dignity.

The party is demanding that the Goodman Gallery, where the painting is on display, takes it down. It has also asked the City Press newspaper to remove a photograph of the work from its website.

Goodman Gallery curator Liza Essers tweeted:

It is a sad day for South Africa when creative production is being threatened with censorship from our ruling party.

Update: Presumably State Censorship

23rd May 2012. See  article from

Two 'state censors' wielding cans of red and black paint walked into Johannesburg's Goodman gallery and daubed an X over South African President Jacob Zumat's groin before smearing paint over his face. The controversial painting draws attention to Zuma's genitals and his reputation for promiscuity.

The painting by Brett Murray entitled The Spear has been on display since early this month, but made the news only last week when it came to the attention of South Africa's governing African National Congress party.

Zuma filed an urgent application at the South Gauteng High Court for an order to have the portrait removed from the gallery and photographs of it taken off the City Press newspaper website.

Both the gallery and the newspaper refused on the grounds it would be censorship. The matter was set to be heard today.

Update: Newspaper under duress

29th May 2012.

See  article from
See  article from

South Africa's ruling party, the ANC, has called for a boycott of the City Press newspaper after it published a picture depicting President Jacob Zuma in a Leninist pose with exposed genitalia.

The ANC has demanded that the Sunday paper remove the image entitled The spear of the nation from its website.

It has called on advertisers not to buy space in the paper and on people not to read it until the publishers comply with its demand.

In calling for the boycott, the ANC described the paper as a paragon of immorality which does not belong to our shared democratic dispensation and values . It was therefore anti-ANC, the president, our democracy and the majority of South Africans.

The paper published a copy of Murray's painting column 10 days ago to accompany a review of the art exhibition in which it was displayed.

The Guardian's Roy Greenslade said that he included a copy of the picture as an act of solidarity with City Press.

Later the City Press bowed to the pressure and removed the painting from its website. Editor Ferial Haffajee wrote:

We take down the image in the spirit of peacemaking -- it is an olive branch. But the debate must not end here and we should all turn this into a learning moment, in the interest of all our freedoms.

Of course, the image is coming down from fear too. I'd be silly not to admit that. The atmosphere is like a tinderbox: City Press copies went up in flames on Saturday; I don't want any more newspapers burnt in anger.

Meanwhile in court

See  article from

Lawyers for President Jacob Zuma will have to refine their arguments over how the High Court in Johannesburg will implement a ban on the controversial artwork, The Spear, since the image has already gone viral.

While on one hand, advocate Gcina Malindi delivered a compelling argument about the classist nature of the painting, and how it was an insult to Zuma, he appeared to falter when asked how the court would police a court order making the image unlawful and unconstitutional.

The ANC, along with Zuma and his children have called on judges to go beyond interdicting the Goodman Gallery and the City Press newspaper from displaying the portrait.

Since Brett Murray's painting of Zuma with his genitals on display first appeared in the newspapers two weeks ago it has been replicated, copied, lampooned and photographed. It has also been carried on international news websites, Facebook and Twitter.

Judge Kathree-Setiloane put it to Malindi that the image is already out there , while Judge Claassen said an apology from the gallery, City Press and artist Brett Murray, can be monitored while it would be near-impossible to police a declaration of unlawfulness in the digital age. What happens when the image is downloaded from various other websites? Would that be a transgression? Claassen asked.

Update: Gallery Removes Painting

31st May 2012. See  article from

A South African art gallery has agreed not to display a controversial painting of President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed after reaching a deal with the ANC. The painting has sparked fierce debate about the balance between freedom of expression and the right to dignity.

Under the deal, the ANC has agreed to drop its legal action demanding that the gallery remove the painting from its exhibition and the website.

Hundreds of ANC supporters protested outside the gallery on Tuesday.

Update: Censors get involved

31st May 2012. See  article from

The online version of the famed The Spear painting will be classified by the Film and Publications Board.

The Goodman Gallery's defence team had asked for the dismissal of the case against it because, advocate Matthew Welz said, the painting no longer existed.

But the censors insisted the online version still existed to pose problems for children and sensitive people. The board's chief operations officer, Mmapula Fisha, who chaired proceedings, said: We will still classify the painting as is our duty to children. Online content cannot be looked at in isolation.

After deliberations, the board agreed it had no jurisdiction over the same image in the City Press newspaper, and said the complaint would be escalated to the ombudsman: We accept that the print media self-regulation body needs to deal with this. But a decision on how to classify the online picture of the painting would be made within two days.

Meanwhile the Democratic Alliance party has reacted with disbelief at the Film and Publications Board's decision to classify the artwork. DA justice spokeswoman Dene Smuts said the board appeared to be scraping the bottom of the barrel in its attempts to find grounds for restricting the distribution or display of The Spear . It was in fact measurably the result of the ANC's attempts at censorship that images of the painting had gone viral.


15th May   

Printing Press Censors...

Ethiopia's printers take new role as state news censors
Link Here

In late April, Ethiopia's state-owned Barhanena Selam (Light and Peace) Printing Company, which is used by most local newspaper publishers, issued a directive saying it would refuse to print any material it believes would breach Ethiopia's 2009 anti-terrorism law

The legislation criminalizes independent reporting on opposition groups or causes that the government deems terrorist and holds printers, as well as publishers, accountable for material that promotes terrorism.

The directive, a copy of which CPJ obtained, allows Barhanena Selam the right to cancel any printing contract if the publisher repeatedly submits content the printer considers legally objectionable.

Barhanena Selam said it would require all newspaper publishers to agree to the new terms before further publications would be printed.

Local journalists said there haven't yet been interruptions to printing even though not all newspapers have signed.


4th May   

Update: Animated to Repression...

Tunisian TV boss fined for showing the controversial film Persepolis
Link Here

A Tunis court's decision to fine a TV boss for spreading information which can disturb the public order after he screened an animated French movie is a sign of the continuing erosion of free speech in Tunisia, Amnesty International said.

Nabil Karoui was fined 2,400 Tunisian Dinar ($1,500) after his station broadcast the animated French film Persepolis dubbed into Tunisian Arabic dialect in October 2011. The film was criticized for being blasphemous because of a scene showing a representation of God.

Karoui's lawyers have confirmed that he will be appealing the verdict.

On a day that is meant to celebrate world press freedom, Tunisia has shown its failure to respect the basic right of freedom of expression. Nabil Karoui should not have been tried to begin with, let alone found guilty for exercising his right to peacefully express his views , said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa programme.

Two others have also been found guilty of participating in the crime: Nadia Jamal, head of the organization that dubbed the movie into Tunisian dialect, and Alhadi Boughanim, responsible for monitoring programs. Both have also been fined.

While protecting public morals or public order may sometimes be a legitimate reason for restricting freedom of expression, such restrictions may only be imposed if absolutely necessary. This is clearly not the situation in these cases -- people should not be convicted and sentenced for their views, even if these views are seen as controversial or offensive, said Ann Harrison.


14th April   

Police Censorship...

Sudan's press suffers state censorship and economic sanctions
Link Here

Sudanese authorities have a long history of closing newspapers and silencing journalists. But the government security agents who carry out official censorship have launched a new strategy this year that focuses on economic impoverishment--leaving newspapers more vulnerable than ever.

Agents of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) now raid printing presses and confiscate newspapers on grounds that publications are covering topics barred by the NISS. The agency's red lines are numerous, changeable, and ungoverned by law or judicial order. The NISS demands, for example, that newspapers abstain from covering the International Criminal Court, government corruption, human rights violations, Darfur, the war in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, armed movements, and many other subjects.

In the past, the NISS would censor publications in advance by dispatching agents to newsrooms. Officers would read the newspaper in full and order articles be taken out and replaced. In many cases, they would reject the replacement articles too, and halt the printing of the newspaper entirely. The officers would oblige editors to sign a pledge not to publish the censored articles elsewhere, notably online.

The new goal: Censor newspapers and force them to incur heavy financial losses. Agents, for example, have confiscated copies of the newspaper Al-Maidan on several occasions, among them February 21, and March 13, 15, 17 and 18. The newspaper said it lost thousands in revenue each time the printed copies were confiscated.

It's worth noting that the president of the National Council for Press and Publications, the government body officially charged with overseeing newspapers, said in an interview with a local news outlet that the NISS exercises full control over the press. Even his agency is powerless due to NISS encroachment.


10th April   

Dangerous Rap...

Moroccan jailed on remand over song lyrics criticising the political situation
Link Here

The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) condemns the arrest of rapper and activist of the 20 February movement, Megaz El Haked, by the Moroccan security forces on March 29 claiming that one of his songs is offensive to a public institution.

El Haked was summoned for interrogation on a charge of offending a public authority by a Casablanca Cour. In one of his songs, El Haked criticized the political situation in Morocco, which authorities considered a defamatory insult against public officials. The activist jailed on remand to stand trial on 4 April.

It is worth noting that this is not the first time that El Haked has been arrested for his songs. He was imprisoned for four months on trumped-up charges before being released in January 2012.

El Haked's arrest for the content of his songs for the second time is unacceptable and is a clear violation of freedom of expression, which includes freedom of creativity and art, stated ANHRI: Freedom of expression is an inherent right and no one should be punished for expressing his opinions, whether that was critical of the system or not.

ANHRI calls upon the Moroccan authorities to immediately release El Haked and ensure that peaceful free expression is protected.

Update: Still Jailed

20th April 2012.  See  article from

Moroccan authorities should drop charges and release a rapper who has spent three weeks in pretrial detention on charges that he insulted the police in his songs and a video set to his music, Human Rights Watch said today.

Police arrested Mouad Belghouat, known as al-Haqed (the sullen one), on March 29, 2012, because of a YouTube video with a photo of a policeman whose head has been replaced with a donkey's. The lyrics denounce police corruption.

The offending material cited in the case file consists of a rap song Belghouat composed and recorded, entitled Kilab ed-Dowla (Dogs of the State), and a YouTube video containing a photo-montage set to the song. The song denounces police corruption with lines like, You are paid to protect the citizens, not to collect people's money and take it to your chief.


7th April   

Severe Censorship...

Victims of Tunisian 'justice' jailed for 7 years over Mohammed cartoons
Link Here

Tunisian authorities have sentenced two young Facebook users to seven years in jail after they published cartoons of Mohammad on the social network.

Tunisia's 'justice' ministry says that the duo posted images showing Mohammad naked which, according to spokesperson Chokri Nefti, saw them punished for violation of morality, and disturbing public order.

One of the men, Jabeur Mejri, is already incarcerated while police are actively seeking the other, Ghazi Beji, who was sentenced in absentia.

Local blogger Nebil Zagdoud told Reuters that the sentences are very heavy and severe, even if these young people were at fault. This decision is aimed at silencing freedom of expression even on the Internet. Prosecutions for offending morals are a proxy for this government to gag everyone.

Tunisia is still on Reporters without Borders' list of countries under surveillance despite attempts by the newly formed government to distance itself from tactics used by its predecessors.

Update: Appealling

3rd June 2012. See  article from

A court hearing of the appeal of a Tunisian young man sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison for publishing cartoons of Prophet Mohammed is set to resume, according to one of his lawyers.

We made a request for our client's medical assessment because we want to prove that he suffers from psychological problems, Bochra Bel Haj Hamida, told AFP, adding that the court will respond to their request. In any case, we are going to ask for a dismissal of this case, she said.

Update: Appeal Fails

26th June 2012. Based on article from

A Tunisian appeals court has upheld the 7-year sentence for the man convicted of blasphemy for posting Muhammad cartoons on Facebook.

Jaber Majeri was convicted March 28 for posting images of the religious character purportedly being intimate with one of his wives. He was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison and fined $800.

Update: Appeal cancelled

27th April 2013. See  article from

Tunisia's Court of Cassation failed to review the seven-and-a-half year sentence of Jabeur Mejri, who was convicted last year of publishing cartoons of the prophet Muhammad on Facebook. Mejri's lawyer, Mohammed Mselmi, told AFP that the demand for an appeal was mysteriously withdrawn , even though a hearing had been scheduled on 25 April.

The defence team will now seek a presidential pardon for their client.

Update: Set to be released

29th January 2013. See  article from

The imprisonment of Jabeur Mejri over the publication of prophet Muhammad cartoons on his Facebook page is set to come to an end soon, reports Tunisian local media.

Mohamed Attia, vice-president of the Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH) told privately-owned radio station Shems FM that Mejri will soon be released, and that he will travel to Sweden where he has allegedly obtained political asylum. The announcement comes after civil society groups visited Mejri in prison on 21 January.

The initiative was led by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and included representatives from the LTDH, the Tunisian Forum for Socio Economic Rights (FTDES) and Mejri's support committee.

Mejri has been in prison for nearly two years for posting cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad on his Facebook page. He was sentenced to a seven-and-a-half year jail term for publishing material liable to cause harm to public order or good morals , insulting others through public communication networks and assaulting public morals .

Update: Released

6th March 2013. See  article from

The lawyer for a Tunisian blogger sentenced to seven years in prison for posting cartoons deemed insulting to the religious character Muhammad says her client has been freed.

Amid international and local outcry, President Moncef Marzouki pardoned the 29-year-old Mejeri on Feb. 19, however authorities at first kept him in prison pending new charges of embezzlement by a former employer.


1st April   

Confirming the Repressive Reputation of the King of Swaziland...

Swaziland is finalising law to ban criticism of the king
Link Here

Swaziland is planning a censorship law that will ban Facebook and Twitter users from criticising its autocratic ruler, King Mswati III.

Mswati's 'justice' minister, Mgwagwa Gamedze, told the Swazi senate: We will be tough on those who write bad things about the king on Twitter and Facebook. We want to set an example. He said that t he government is finalising a law that will make it illegal to insult the king on social networks,

The move follows comments last week by the Swazi senator Thuli Msane over how online activism was spiralling out of control and threatening the king's reputation.

Networks such as Facebook and Twitter have been used to organise public protests, including a student demonstration against cutbacks in higher education.

Pius Vilakati, spokesman for the Swaziland Solidarity Network, condemned the planned crackdown. The government is desperate right now. They are trying anything to stop people talking to each other, he said. It would be difficult for them, because people will always talk and continue to talk.


26th March   

The Not So Democratic Republic of Congo...

Television station attacked after criticism of provincial government
Link Here

A private television station in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been raided by unidentified men.

Radio Television Kindu Maniema (RTKM) who broadcast from the capital of Maniema province was attacked by a group of men, who set fire to the station's satellite antenna, and damaged the station's offices.

Programme presenter Mira Dipenge went into hiding five days ago, fearing he would be arrested following orders from the governor of the province, Tutu Salumu.

In early February, Salumu ordered station management stop broadcasting call-in programmes in which callers could criticise his management of the province.


9th March   

Updated: Grabbing the Headlines...

Tunisia puts editor on remand to face obscenity charges for sexy but modest celebrity picture on the front page of his newspaper
Link Here

Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate release of Nasreddine Ben Saida, the publisher of the Arabic-language daily Attounissia, and the withdrawal of all charges against him, the newspaper's editor, Habib Guizani, and one of its journalists, Mohammed Hedi Hidri.

The first media executive to be jailed in the post-Ben Ali era, Ben Saida has been held since 15 February, when he, Guizani and Hidri were arrested by the vice squad on the prosecutor-general's orders for printing a photo of German-Tunisian football player Sami Khedira embracing a topless model so as to hide the nudity on the front-page of that day's issue, which was seized from newsstands.

Guizani and Hidri were released after being questioned, but a judge ordered Ben Saida placed in pre-trial custody on charges that carry a possible sentence of six months to five years in prison and a fine of 120 to 1,200 dinars (60 to 600 euros).

By bringing criminal charges, the prosecutor's office is showing that journalists can still go to prison for a newspaper article and is sending an extremely disturbing signal to all those who defend freedom of expression.

This is a hypocritical reaction because photos of this kind often appear on the cover of foreign magazines sold in Tunisia, Reporters Without Borders said.

Update: Fined

9th March 2012. See  article from

A Tunisian court has fined a newspaper publisher for supposedly violating public morals by printing a photograph of a footballer's girlfriend shown naked but mostly obscured.

Nasreddine Ben Saida was fined 1,000 dinars ( 420) and the court ordered all copies of the issue destroyed.

Critics called the case an attack on media freedom.


2nd March   

Update: Predatory Censorship...

Morocco bans newspaper from including an extract from a French book about the king of Morocco
Link Here
Full story: Royal Censorship in Morocco...Law puts the Moroccan king above comment

The International Publishers Association is speaking out after authorities in Morocco banned the Spanish-language daily newspaper El Pai's from distributing its February 26 issue because of an excerpt it featured from the French book Le Roi predateur (The Predator King).

The book, written by Catherine Graciet and Eric Laurent, offers a critical look at the King of Morocco, and is being published in France by the French house Le Seuil.

The IPA is calling the cancelation of the paper in Morocco an act of censorship. IPA member Olivier Betourne, said:

By prohibiting the issue of the El Pais daily, which included excerpts of The Predator King, the Moroccan authorities go against the wind of freedom which is currently blowing in the MENA region. Not only does IPA condemn the censorship of the Spanish daily, it also urges Morocco to authorize the distribution in Morocco of The Predator King.


28th February   

Blowing her Top...

Malawi minister gets wound up by local and modest version of the Sun's Page 3
Link Here

Malawi Information Minister Patricia Kaliati is aging a nutter war with local tabloid, Weekend Times , with its Page 8 Action Girl that depicts sexualised images modestly reminiscent of Page 3 of The Sun in the UK.

Kaliati, speaking at the launch of the Malawi Child Protection and Gender Media Network, is reported to have condemned the Weekend Times Page 8 girls , describing it as pornographic and misogynistic.

What a shame! she screamed: How would you feel to see your daughter or sister exposed like that?

She called on journalists to campaign for the removal of Page 8 from Weekend Times.


26th February   

Will Surely be Accused of Blasphemy...

Tunisian president acts against those making accusations of blasphemy
Link Here

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki has called on parliament to outlaw accusations of blasphemy as a threat to public order.

Such practices can threaten the peace between citizens living in the same country and lead to conflict, Marzouki warned in a statement. Violators of the new law should be prosecuted to protect the coexistence, fraternity and solidarity among Tunisians, he said.

Nobody has the right to make such accusations against a fellow citizen because such behavior risks leading to violence which is reprehensible in itself, Marzouki added.

Salafist extremists have accused Tunisian journalists and other public figures of not following the teachings of the Koran. They have also demanded full-face veils for female university students, castigated a TV channel for an allegedly blasphemous film and beat up journalists at a protest.


19th February   

Update: Dangerous Caricatures...

Morocco bans Spanish newspaper over a caricature of King Mohammed
Link Here
Full story: Royal Censorship in Morocco...Law puts the Moroccan king above comment

Morocco has banned the distribution of Thursday's edition of Spain's El Pais newspaper, as a cartoon published by the newspaper allegedly tarnished King Mohammed VI's name.

The decision to ban (the paper) was made on the basis of article 29 of the press code that protects the monarch, a senior communication ministry official told AFP: The caricature contains a deliberate intention to smear the (king's) image to harm the king personally.

The cartoon, which was picked up by a Moroccan website, accompanied an article by Spanish journalist Ignacio Cembrero. Contacted by AFP, Cembrero said the Moroccan reaction surprised him as the small cartoon was friendly and rather likeable .


16th February   

Update: Hanging on to Freedom...

Tunisian court appeal trying to prevent the country slipping back to bad old ways of internet censorship delayed
Link Here
Full story: Internet Censorship in Tunisia...Blogs and websites banned in Tunisia

A court hearing of a case regarding censorship of pornographic websites in Tunisia has been postponed to February 22nd, confirmed Olivia Gre, director of the Tunisian chapter of Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Last year, a lawsuit was filed by three Tunisian lawyers, who found free access to pornographic websites in Tunisia to be dangerous to children and corrosive of Islamic values. The court's decision sided with the lawyers, yet the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI) appealed the ruling on May 26th. On August 11th, 2011, the appeal was denied, but the ATI delayed implementing the decision, pleading technical and financial limitations.

They appealed the decision again, to Tunisia's Supreme Court, prolonging the legal debate as to the acceptable extent of internet freedom.

On February 3rd, RSF released a statement, entitled Internet Filtering: Risks to Stepping Backwards , in which it argued that blocking porn sites in Tunisia could mark a prelude to the return of old censorship practices of the previous regime. The statement recommended that internet providers promote tools of parental control.

Update: Blocking Blocked

23rd February 2012. See article from

The Tunisian Internet will remain unblocked, for the time being. The Supreme Court of Tunisia has cancelled the decision of a lower court, which had previously ruled in favor of blocking pornographic content on the internet.

The decision did not end the case, but sent it back to a lower court, giving an apparent vote of no confidence in the legal argumentation previously presented.

The decision was immediately hailed by free speech advocates and by the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI). The ATI's legal argument against the suit, however, did not hinge upon issues of civil liberties, but rather the technical ability of the agency to implement the decision. According to a press release distributed by the ATI this afternoon, all attempts of application of judgment led to serious degradation of service.

Olivia Gre, director of the Tunisia office of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said: For us, it's definitely good news. It means not taking a step backwards . According to Gre, the trial would begin from scratch, with new legal arguments to be employed in two to three months.


16th February   

Update: The King is Inviolable...

Moroccan sentenced to 3 years in jail for criticism of the king
Link Here
Full story: Royal Censorship in Morocco...Law puts the Moroccan king above comment

On Monday, a court in the Moroccan city of Taza sentenced 24 year-old student Abdelsamad Haydour to 3 years in jail and a fine of USD 1,200 for criticizing the king of Morocco in a video posted on YouTube. According to the official state news agency, Haydour is accused of attacking the sacred values of the nation.

According to one Moroccan news website Haydour had no legal assistance during the hearing and the Court did not appoint a lawyer to defend the accused in accordance with the Moroccan law.

Under Moroccan law the king is considered inviolable. But the Moroccan constitution also guarantees (Article 25) freedom of thought, opinion and expression in all its forms.

The incriminating four-minute clip was posted in early January, during a week of social unrest and violent clashes between demonstrators and anti-riot police in the unemployement-stricken city of Taza. In the video, Abdelsamad Haydour is seen talking to a group of people in the street, harshly criticizing the king and his entourage.


15th February   

Update: Observing Censorship...

Le Nouvel Observateur magazine banned in Morocco
Link Here

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information condemns the Moroccan authorities for their confiscation of the last issue of the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur due to its publishing of an image adopted from the French-Iranian film Persepolis .

The mentioned issue of the magazine was supposed to be distributed on 2 February 2012 and addressed Persepolis, an animated film about the suffering of an Iranian family following the Iranian revolution in 1979, forcing the family to travel to France. Persepolis seems to have offended by a depiction of the muslim god as an old man. 


28th January   

Updated: Top Speed...

TopTV wants to go ahead with its porn channels without waiting for the heel dragging TV censors to give approval
Link Here
Full story: Satellite Sex in Africa...MultiChoice consider adding porn channel

South Africa's Independent Communications Authority will take legal action against TopTV should the pay-TV broadcaster continue with its plan to launch three porn television channels within the next few weeks.

On Digital Media, the company that owns TopTV, said last month it would go ahead with the launch of the channels early this month despite Icasa's objections.

It argued that the TV censor had not responded to its application in the required three months and TopTV was therefore legally entitled to go ahead.

However, Icasa last week maintained that it was illegal for TopTV to proceed with the launch until the regulator had finalised the application process.

If TopTV goes ahead with the launch we will have no option but to obtain an interdict to stop them. We are waiting for their response to our queries, Icasa spokesman Paseka Maleka said. He added a public hearing on the issue would be held within the next two weeks. Icasa would rule on whether or not it would grant TopTV's application for the three new channels by the end of the month.

Update: Court prevents porn starting before the TV censor has finished deliberating

17th January 2012. See  article from

The South Gauteng High Court has granted the  Independent Communications Authority of South Africa an urgent interdict to stop a satellite TV operator rom going ahead with its proposed porn channels. The company must now wait on the deliberation by the TV censor.

TopTV wants to introduce a standalone porn package of channels Adult XXX, Private Spice and Playboy Europe.

The TV censor's public hearings into the licence application by On-Digital Media, owner of Top TV, have now begun in Sandton, Johannesburg, where the year-old operator was not represented despite being invited to respond and make presentations.

The misleadingly named Freedom of Expression Institute, African Christian Democratic Party and the Film and Publication Board have all opposed the launch.

Freedom of expression is not a pre-eminent right, and especially not when it infringes on children's rights to be protected from harm, spouted Pearl Kupe, on behalf of the Christian Action Network: Putting in pin-blocking functions presents very little challenge to the increasingly techno-savvy generation, and I know this being a mother.

The African Christian Democratic Party said it was impossible to build a strong nation with dysfunctional families , and producers and distributors of pornography had shown contempt for family values .

Freedom of Expression Institute's executive director, Elston Seppie, said the right to freedom of expression was about balance, ...BUT... the right of children, women and family values should take precedence.

Update: Inevitably Banned

28th January 2012. See  article from

TopTV has lost its bid to provide South Africa with its first-ever paid adult satellite programming.

South Africa's TV censor, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has refused to allow the company to broadcast softcore Playboy Europe , and hardcore Private Spice and Adult XXX channels.

ICASA spokesperson, Paseka Maleka said the censor would release the reasons for the denial wihtin the next 30 days.

In a letter to Reuters, ICASA said, We advise that the Council of the Authority ... decided, after careful consideration, to refuse On Digital Media (Pty) Ltd's application for the authorization of (the proposed) video channels.

Update: Inevitably Delayed

2nd March 2012. See  article from

ICASA said it would provide grounds for its decision within 30 days, or by 27 February 2012.

However the TV censor did not deliver its justification by the deadline, telling MyBroadband that the reasons are yet to be approved by ICASA Council in the next week or so.

They are currently being vetted by ICASA Legal Department and will therefore be released after approval by Council, explained ICASA spokesperson Paseka Maleka.


26th January   

Update: Animated to Violence...

Violence outside trial of TV boss who aired Persepolis in Tunisia
Link Here

Violence broke out outside the Tunisian courthouse where TV executive Nabil Karoui was on trial for blasphemy.  Extremists attacked the people rallying in his support.

Karoui, the owner of a television station in Tunis, is charged with violating sacred values and disturbing public order for airing Persepolis , the award-winning animated film about the 1979 Iranian revolution that depicts God as a bearded old man.

The attackers believe that the film violates Islamic values forbidding the depiction of God.

Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali has condemned the most recent violence and affirmed his commitment to freedom of expression. But as the trial is continuing then affirmation is not worth much.

The trial has been adjourned until April 19.


21st January   

Censored by 100 Policemen...

Somaliland TV station closed down
Link Here

Reporters Without Borders is worried by events of the past week affecting the media in the breakaway northwestern territory of Somaliland, in which a total of 25 journalists were arrested and a television station, HornCable TV, was closed in Hargeisa, the territory's capital. The organization accuses the authorities to trying to intimidate the media and calls for the release of four journalists still being held illegally.

This wave of arrests of journalists is without precedent in Somaliland, Reporters Without Borders said. We are disturbed by this crackdown and by the president's readiness to brand a media as a 'nation destructor.' This will further intimidate journalists who already have to cope with tough conditions in this region of Somalia. We urge the authorities to free the four journalists still being held and to reopen HornCable TV without delay.

When HornCable TV employees demonstrated outside the presidential palace in Hargeisa in protest against the station's closure, they were attacked and beaten by members of the Somaliland Special Protection Unit and eight of them were arrested. Thirteen other journalists from various media who went to help their detained colleagues were then also arrested. HornCable TV's owner was summoned to the president's office later and interrogated. The detained journalists were finally released after being held for more than 24 hours.

HornCable TV was closed on 14 January when around 100 policemen arrived in seven armoured vehicles, ordered all the staff to leave and sealed the doors. The transmitter was disconnected soon afterwards.


13th January   

Nutter Objects Thwarted...

South African advert censor dismisses complaints about Playboy billboard
Link Here

South Africa's Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that a Tracy McGregor billboard in Johannesburg was harmless.

The advert censor dismissed complaints that the billboard depicted women as objects for sexual gratification , degrades the dignity of women and encourages sexual promiscuity .

Tracy McGregor, the 2008 FHM Sexiest Women winner, is shown on the billboard wearing black stilettos and black lace underwear, with one arm over her head. Next to her are the words: Playboy Playmate Parties and the Playboy SA website address is given below.

But a handful of motorists and residents were less than titillated. One said that the billboard promotes pornography and that he was uncomfortable having to explain such images to his young nieces and nephews.

In its response, Playboy SA said the magazine carried far tamer content than some magazines on local shelves, and suggested that those who were offended should focus on the message detergent adverts sent to society about women.

And it seems the advertising body agreed, saying in its ruling that Playboy had chosen not to gratuitously depict a lustful, sexual image . The billboard is not overtly sexual and imagery of a seductively dressed woman is a product relevant to the advertiser.


11th January   

Not So Democratic Republic of Congo...

DRC closes down Radio France Internationale over 'unappreciated' election coverage
Link Here

Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) shut down broadcasts of the French government-funded Radio France Internationale (RFI) over its coverage of the violent aftermath of the November 2011 presidential elections.

ommunications Minister Lambert Mende said the Council of Ministers had ordered the temporary measure of switching off RFI's six FM broadcast frequencies until the Congolese Broadcasting and Communications Superior Council, the new state-run media censorship agency, had issued a decision. The government did not at all appreciate the way RFI attempts to trivialize the anti-constitutional comedy of Tshikedi, Mende told Agence France-Press.

This decision is part of a pattern of closures to punish Radio France Internationale whenever it reports independently on political news in the DRC, said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. We call on the Congolese media regulatory agency to break with this pattern of political censorship and reverse the decision immediately.

RFI is the most popular news station in the DRC, according to CPJ research.

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