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East Europe Censorship News


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27th December   

Phone Control...

Turkmenistan turns off 80% of mobile phones to force users to switch to a state censored service
Link Here

Amnesty International is calling on the Turkmenistani authorities to immediately lift the suspension of the operation of the country's largest mobile phone service provider until arrangements can be made to provide an alternative service enabling them to access independent news sites.

Earlier this week, the authorities suspended the operation of the privately-owned and Moscow-based service provider, Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), leaving around 2.5 million people, half of the country's population and 80% of the mobile phone-users, suddenly unable to use their mobile phones or access the internet.

With their arbitrary actions the Turkmenistan authorities are severely restricting communications within the country and with the outside world, said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Programme Director: This measure will unlawfully interfere with correspondence and violate the right of many people in Turkmenistan to receive and impart information in breach of international human rights standards.

Meanwhile, MTS users are left with no choice but to buy the services of Altyn Asyr, the state-owned service provider, which blocks access to independent news sites and the websites of opposition groups.


19th December

 Offsite: Real Underground...

Link Here
Why Belarus Free Theatre deserves a standing ovation

See article from


11th December   

Borat Blamed for Drunken Kazakh Thuggery...

More likely it was the horse urine drinks
Link Here

An MP from Kazakhstan has demanded that action be taken against the comedian Sacha Baron Cohen because his fictional Kazakh character Borat still causes his countrymen to suffer pain in their hearts .

More than four years have passed since Baron Cohen's film, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan , was released. The film portrayed the Central Asian state as a bigoted backwater where people drink horse urine and chase Jews through the streets, and where the age of consent has been raised to eight years old .

After initial anger over the film, there appeared to have been an acceptance among Kazakh officials that it was counterproductive to rail against Borat . But a recent drunken incident in Exeter shows that the British comedian's fictional buffoon still has the power to make people angry and upset in the Central Asian nation.

Last month, a Kazakh student at Exeter University attacked two men on a drunken night out. Almat Samirov said he went crazy when he overheard comments about Borat and drunkenly assaulted the two men, throwing one on the ground and proceeding to kick him. He admitted assault and threatening behaviour and was sentenced to 200 hours community service and fined £750.

Bekbolat Tleukhan, a member of the Kazakh parliament, said this week that it was Baron Cohen's Borat character that was to blame. [The film] has left a negative stain on our country, said Tleukhan: Our students abroad are hurting in their hearts and they are opposed to the fact that their country is shown in a bad light – I ask that measures be taken. He did not specify exactly what measures he felt were appropriate.


21st November   

Update: Script Cleansing...

Bosnian victims group seek to censor Angelina Jolie movie
Link Here

Angelina Jolie has been chased out of Bosnia after a rumour spread that the film she was making there contained an inter-ethnic rape scene.

The Hollywood actress had planned to spend 10 days in the country filming her directorial debut, which is about a Serb man and a Bosnian Muslim woman in love during the 1992-95 war.

But she has moved most of the production of the as-yet-untitled picture to Hungary following protests from women who were sexually assaulted during the conflict. Only three days of filming will now be done in Bosnia and Jolie will only visit the set briefly.

Jolie was accused by two victims' associations of attempting to falsify the historic truth about the crimes of mass gang rapes of Bosniak women by Serbian forces during the war.

She and her producers vehemently denied this and insisted the film featured no depiction of rape. According to their synopsis, it features a young couple who are separated as the war starts and meet again when the woman is held in a detention camp where her former boyfriend now works as a guard.

The pressure groups said Jolie was seeking to depict a loving surrender by women to crimes of sexual abuse by Serbs who used rape as a means of denationalising and dehumanising the victims . In an open letter published by local media, the victims' associations told her: We can and will do everything in our power to publicly proclaim your movie as compromising the truth.


6th October   

Update: Mickey Mouse Censors...

Appeal by Russian art curators fails
Link Here
Full story: Art Censorship in Russia...Art exhibitions winds up the nutters

The Moscow City Court has upheld a lower court's ruling that declared two prominent art curators guilty of inciting religious hatred by organizing an exhibition, Interfax reported.

Andrei Yerofeyev and Yury Samodurov were convicted of extremism and fined 150,000 rubles ($6,500) and 150,000 rubles ($4,900), respectively, for the 2007 exhibit called Forbidden Art, which included a painting depicting Jesus as Mickey Mouse.

Yerofeyev and Samodurov's lawyer confirmed that they would now appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Representatives of the radical Orthodox Christian group Narodny Sobor, which initiated the case against the curators, said they would now seek the destruction of artwork ruled as offensive in the case.


5th October   

Update: Crucified by Censors...

Another Russian artist under duress
Link Here
Full story: Art Censorship in Russia...Art exhibitions winds up the nutters

Russian prison means death for people like me, said Oleg Mavromatti, a filmmaker and performance artist.

Mavromatti fled to Bulgaria in 2000 after the Russian Orthodox Church complained about a movie he was shooting in which he is crucified. He was accused of violating a criminal code that includes inciting religious hatred and denigrating the church, an offense punishable by as much as five years in prison.

Last month, the Russian consulate in Sofia refused to renew Mavromatti's passport.

They gave me two options, he said in a telephone interview from his apartment in Sofia. Either I voluntarily fly to Moscow and stand trial or Interpol comes after me.

Mavromatti's case highlights what human-rights activists see as a return to Soviet-style censorship, with a resurgent Russian Orthodox Church playing a central role and the Kremlin supporting it.

Last month, four artworks by Avdei Ter-Oganian were temporarily withheld by Russian authorities from an exhibition at the Louvre Museum in Paris because, a Culture Ministry official said, they incited religious hatred.

But even after the Russian authorities released Ter-Oganian's work, the Prague-based artist announced he wouldn't participate in the Louvre show unless Mavromatti's passport is renewed.

In New York, Mavromatti's backers include U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Exit Art director Jeanette Ingberman, art dealer Ronald Feldman and Mark Rothko's son Christopher Rothko. All of them have written letters to immigration officials in Bulgaria and to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in support of Mavromatti's application for the humanitarian-refugee status he would need to enter another country.


2nd October   

Nutter Pressure...

Russia to ban strong language from all films
Link Here

The Russian Public Prosecutor has decided that strong language should be censored from Russian films.

The State Office of Public Prosecutor of the Russian Federation has obliged the Ministry of Culture to change the issuing of censor certificates so as to ban films with substandard lexicon,

Henceforth all obscene words will be eradicated from Russian films.

The Office of Public Prosecutor inspected the issuance of films certificates on request of the Nardony Sobor (People's Assembly). This is a shadowy alliance of 200 nationalist and religious groups.

Earlier it was the initiative of this movement that instigated proceedings against organizers of the exhibition Forbidden Art – 2006.


28th September   

Update: The Soviet Block...

Artists to boycott Paris exhibition over Russian censorship
Link Here
Full story: Art Censorship in Russia...Art exhibitions winds up the nutters

Russian artists have threatened to boycott an exhibition of contemporary Russian art at the Louvre over the removal of works deemed offensive to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a gallery owner said.

Seven artists have declared that they won't participate in the exhibition in solidarity with Avdei Ter-Oganyan whose works were censured by the [Russian] culture ministry, prominent Moscow gallery owner Marat Guelman told AFP.

The ban covers Ter-Oganyan's abstract works that include sometimes provocative notes by the artist. One work, a black rectangle on a red background, bears the inscription: This work urges you to commit an attack on statesman V.V. Putin in order to end his statist and political activities.

The boycott of the exhibition at the Louvre opening next month will draw attention to this absurd conflict between art and the authorities. My works were created for this purpose and demonstrate the idiocy of idiots, Ter-Oganyan wrote on his website.

The Counterpoint: Russian Contemporary Art is scheduled to open at Paris' top museum on October 14 and run through January 31, 2011.

Update: Russia Confirms Censorship

30th September 2010.

Russia  has confirmed that it had blocked the export of paintings by a controversial contemporary artist due to be shown at the Louvre in Paris because they could incite extremism.

The abstract works by artist Avdei Ter-Oganyan could be seen as calls for a coup d'etat, or inciting national or religious hatred, deputy culture minister Andrei Busygin told the Interfax news agency.

The series of works consist of geometric patterns with provocative captions such as This work urges you to commit an attack on statesman V.V. Putin in order to end his state and political activities.

Deputy culture minister Busygin told Interfax that it was debatable whether the works were a joke or something that falls under the federal law on fighting extremism.

The culture ministry and a federal arts watchdog expressed doubts about the advisability of exhibiting these works at the Louvre, he said.


17th September   

TV Causes Russians to Beat Up Passers By...

Russian TV under nutter pressure
Link Here

Russian TV is under nutter pressure for a clean up as United Russia cries out against the polluting effects of impure images across our screens . Moral evangelists want to pull state funding on a range of popular daytime money spinners across popular channels.

The social-conservative club of Russia's political powerhouse discussed the 'problem' of upholding decency in the modern media, principally on television.

The group wants to use money as a lever on channels which receive federal or state funds, to stop them broadcasting crime programmes or erotic material before 11.00pm.

The Moscow budget subsidises channels 1 and 2, Moscow Duma deputy Lyudmila Stebenkova told I know that Gazprom-Media pay NTV and TNT. We believe that the main channels, which receive public money, must promote decency and not chase ratings, she said.

The CrossTalk presenter and political commentator at Russia Today said that there is less for United Russia to complain about now, If you compare Russian TV today to even seven years ago it was far more violent…you could come across hard pornography on the screens. It is still a lot more explicit than western media, he says, with western media being extremely tame in comparison.

The party named some shows in particular as falling short of the moral mark, TNT's Big Brother clone Dom 2 and Comedy Club , Channel 1's gritty youth drama Shkola , and TNT's Ochnaya Stavka, Chrezvychainoe Proisshestvie, Osobono Opasen, Programma Maximum and Russkie Sensatsy.

TV affects the minds of children, and then gives teenagers the idea of going out onto the street and…beating up passers by, NGO activist Nikolai Smirnov of Za Slovom – Delo told

United Russia's Leonid Goryainov said the state has to do something to avoid descent into Sodom and Gomorrah. He added that while TV is cleaning up its act the traditional faiths should preach the word of appropriate behaviour to their faithful.


12th September   

Update: Deteriorating Freedom...

Human rights organisations pan Azerbaijan
Link Here
Full story: Internet Censorship in Azerbaijan...Bloggers make a donkey of the state

Ten international NGOs, among them Freedom House, Article 19, Index on Censorship, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, International Federation of Journalists, Media Diversity Institute, Press Now, Open Society Foundations, Reporters without borders, and World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, adopted on September 9 a joint statement following their three-day mission to Azerbaijan.

The mission aimed to meet journalists, human rights defenders, government officials and other civil society activists on critical freedom of expression issues in advance of the country's parliamentary elections planned in November.

Representatives from the organizations highlighted their serious concerns regarding the deteriorating freedom of expression situation in Azerbaijan, including the continued imprisonment of journalists and bloggers, acts of violence and ill-treatment against journalists.

The international human rights mission called for Azerbaijan's authorities:

  • to free immediately the three jailed journalists and never practice such kind of arrests in future
  • to launch an immediate investigation into the cases of suppressing and hunting media
  • to decriminalize defamation
  • to spread honestly and fairly the state advertisement
  • to establish a commission supporting media
  • to establish an independent body to regulate broadcasting-related issues
  • to lift up the ban on foreign radio stations
  • to invest in the Internet and improve the access to Internet
  • to provide candidates with the same access to the on-line media during the election campaigns, and etc.


10th September   

Rule of Life...

Russian police call punk band in for interrogation over song lyrics
Link Here

Soviet-era censorship could be on the way back after police hauled in singer Marya Lyubicheva for questioning over the lyrics of her songs.

Lyubicheva, singer with punk group Barto, attracted controversy after her appearance at a rally-concert last month in support of Khimki forest.

One of her songs on Pushkinskaya Ploshchad included lyrics about setting fire to police cars, prompting an invitation to discuss the lyrics with the authorities.

After her visit to the station Lyubicheva said she was asked about the song and the meeting and she was hoping that all the questions to the band would be resolved after her visit to the station.

It was clear that they are interested in the meeting's organisers, she told Interfax after the questioning. But we only answered questions related to the band and the song. They told us that the lyrics had already been adjudged extremist

The song in question has lyrics: I am ready and you are ready/ to burn cops' cars at night/ It is like a rule of life, a sign of good taste/ with regard to those for whom the law is trash.

The band explained that the song was about love and was not written as a slogan. It is a story of two young people who met at a demonstration and are later testing their feelings like this. The question I am ready – are you ready is not a call [for extremism].

Lyubicheva said that she could face a fine or up to three years in prison.


7th September   

Found Censored...

Belarus web activist Oleg Bebenin found hanged
Link Here

Officials in Belarus claim a prominent opposition figure found hanged at his weekend home committed suicide.

Oleg Bebenin founded Charter 97, a leading opposition website critical of President Alexander Lukashenko.

Colleagues said they could not believe the father-of-two had killed himself. They pointed out that he had left no note and Charter 97's editor, Natalia Radina, said he had not been having any family or health problems.

He had, she told independent Moscow radio station Ekho Moskvy, been absorbed in his work and campaigning for opposition presidential hopeful Andrei Sannikov.

Most independent media in Belarus have been closed down and the authorities barely tolerate political dissent, correspondents say.


6th September   

Out of Control Policing...

Police raid magazine over report on riot police
Link Here

Armed policemen, including masked special-forces officers, have raided the Moscow office of the The New Times , one of Russia's few opposition-minded media outlets.

During the raid, on September 2, Russian police Colonel Stanislav Pashkovsky pressed the magazine's editor in chief, Yevgenia Albats, to hand over recordings of interviews and other material used in a February report on alleged abuse of power by the country's feared OMON riot police.

The magazine posted videos of the raid on its website.

The article in question, entitled Slaves of OMON , cited police sources who alleged that riot police have been given permission to commit abuses when breaking up protests: It was an article about the violations taking place inside Moscow's OMON -- how they are given instructions on how to break up Marches of Dissent, how it is explained to them that supporters of the Russian opposition are the enemies of Russia, Albats said.


21st August   

Radioactive Censorship...

Russia censors information about forest fires around Chernobyl
Link Here

The website of the Russian Centre for the Protection of Forestry (Roslesozashchita) has been blocked since 13 August after it contradicted the official government line that brush fires had not reached areas contaminated by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

The agency said fires were reported in the Bryansk region bordering Belarus and Ukraine, where radioactive residue covers large areas.

Officials seem reluctant to comment on the radioactive threat, despite warnings from Greenpeace Russia. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) suggest the website may have been blocked because the information posted was embarrassing for the government rather than incorrect.


17th August   

10 Days in Jail...

Russian rapper takes back his apology to the police
Link Here

Rapper Noize MC, who was jailed for 10 days in Volgograd after mocking local police in a song and an improvised rap at a festival, has released a new song criticising the police.

Launched soon after the artist left jail last week, and entitled 10 Days in Paradise or 10 Days (Stalingrad), the song sarcastically thanks police for the inspiration provided by his time in prison.

The accompanying video shows footage of Russian police brutality, including violence at a demonstration in St. Petersburg on 31 July.

Noize MC, whose real name is Ivan Alexeyev, has included in the song an apology he read out while in prison, which was distributed by the Volgograd police's press service. Alexeyev told that the apology was only written and performed because he was threatened with having his charges changed from disorderly conduct to insulting a police officer — an offence punishable by up to one year of correctional labour .


16th August   

Update: TV Strike...

Ukraine TV stations strike over deteriorating press freedom
Link Here
Full story: Press Freedom in Ukraine...Journalists protest censorship

Three Ukrainian television stations stopped broadcasting for an hour late Saturday, in what a protest against what they said was increasing political pressure on journalists.

5 Kanal, TVi and one regional television station are threatened with having their licences taken away, Kiev media reported.

The stations have accused the authorities of reintroducing press censorship. The strike comes amid widespread concerns that press freedom has deteriorated since pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych came to power in February.

On Tuesday the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI), a media freedom watchdog, wrote an open letter to Yanukovych, saying it was alarmed at reports of an increase in the number of assaults against journalists and a failure to bring the perpetrators of the attacks to justice.

It also noted an apparent blurring of the lines between government office and private media ownership and said it was particularly concerned about a Kiev court's decision to annul the allocation of broadcasting frequencies to two privately-run TV channels: TVi and 5 Kanal.

Update: Appeal Lost

5th September 2010. Based on article from

Ukraine's media landscape could be reshaped after Channel 5 and TVi, two small stations providing the last vestiges of independent television journalism, lost a dispute over their frequencies.

A Kyiv appeals court ruled in favor of the U.A. Inter Media Group (Inter), the nation's largest television holding, upholding a lower court decision that analogue frequencies awarded to the station in January were obtained illegally.

At the time, the National Council for Television and Radio awarded Channel 5 with 26 and TVi with 33 analogue frequencies.

The Inter group, owned partly by State Security Service of Ukraine chief Valeriy Khoroshkovksy.

Both TVi and Channel 5 claim the court decision was unfair and marked a return to the era of censorship and political pressure on media, two hallmarks of ex-President Leonid Kuchma's authoritarian tenure from 1994-2005.

That's just what's happened. Two independent channels who managed to withstand political pressure were deprived of the licenses they were awarded within a totally legitimate competition, Mykola Kniazhytsky, TVi executive director said.

Both channels are preparing to contest the appeals court ruling in the High Administrative Court and in the European Court of Human Rights.

Update: At Supreme Court

25th December 2010. See  article from

Ukraine's administrative supreme court met Tuesday in Kiev to examine the appeals of two independent television stations, TVi and 5 Kanal, against the removal of broadcast frequencies.

Pressure has been applied on the two privately owned stations since President Yunukovych took office in February. Since his election, the government has been accused of attempting to restrict freedom of the press by inducing pro-government censorship. Some journalists have claimed that top government intelligence agents have been monitoring them.

TVi and 5 Kanal are currently appealing against Judge Nataliya Blazhivska's ruling on June 8 to invalidate the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting's January 27 grant of additional frequencies to both stations. These frequencies would ensure development and greater audience for both channels.

The decision was made in response to legal protests filed by Inter Media Group (IMG), the nation's largest broadcasting group, when the Broadcasting Council allocated 33 frequencies to TVi, 26 to 5 Kanal and only 20 to IMG's stations.

Update: Court follows government line

1st February 2011. See  article from

Reporters Without Borders condemns a ruling by the Kiev administrative supreme court on 26 January upholding a lower court's decision to withdraw the over-the-air broadcast frequencies that were assigned to two privately-owned TV stations, TVi and 5 Kanal, in January 2010.

The lower court's decision was issued on 8 June 2010 in response to a complaint by Inter Media Group. Ukraine's biggest broadcasting group, IMG is owned by Valeriy Khoroshkovsky, who also heads Ukraine's main domestic intelligence agency, the SBU, and is a member of the Judiciary Supreme Council, which appoints and dismisses judges.

The appeal to the Kiev administrative supreme court was the last chance that TVi and 5 Kanal had to recover their frequencies by going to the Ukrainian courts. Ukraine's supreme court could in theory overturn the decision but the case would have to be referred by the administrative supreme court (usually regarded as highest court in such matters) and that is highly unlikely.

TVi director-general Mykola Knyazhytsky and 5 Kanal's representative, Tetyana Malashenkova, say they now want to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

The 26 January ruling seems to confirm that the judicial authorities take their orders from the government, and that the government wants to reduce freedom of expression and the public’s access to information.


19th July   

Updated: Mickey Mouse Justice...

Russian gallery curators convicted of blasphemous art
Link Here
Full story: Art Censorship in Russia...Art exhibitions winds up the nutters

   Another Mickey Mouse Christ

Two men who organised an art exhibition in Moscow in 2007 have been found guilty by a Russian court of inciting hatred.

Andrei Yerofeyev and Yuri Samodurov had set up the Forbidden Art exhibition at the Sakharov Museum in Moscow.

Both curators were convicted of inciting religious hatred and fined, but escaped prison sentences. The two were ordered only to pay fines of up to 200,000 rubles ($6,500).

The show provoked condemnation from the Russian Orthodox Church, among others, for artworks that included a depiction of Jesus Christ with the head of Mickey Mouse.

There was also a spoof ad for Coca Cola with the slogan This is my blood that visitors looked at through peep holes.

Yerofeyev, an art expert, and Samodurov, the former director of the Sakharov Museum, said they organised the exhibition to fight censorship of art in Russia.

Update: Book of the Banned

19th July 2010. Based on article from
See also article from

Art that a Russian court found blasphemous this week are about to get a much wider audience.

In the wake of the trial of art expert Andrei Yerofeyev and the Sakharov Museum's then-director Yuri Samodurov, a magazine called Russia! has announced its intention to publish a book, The Banned Art , containing the offensive exhibits in January, 2011.

The magazine has already posted pictures of some of the blasphemous pieces featured in Forbidden Art 2006?.


16th July   

First Off...

Georgian TV station loses court battle over use of Eutelsat satellite
Link Here

A Georgian television channel said it had lost a court battle accusing a French satellite operator of bowing to Russian pressure and blocking its broadcasts.

The Russian-language Perviy Kavkazky (First Caucasian) channel's editor-in-chief, Ekaterine Kotrikadze, said the French court had ruled against the channel's request to force Paris-based Eutelsat to restore its broadcasts, which were cut in January after a few weeks of test broadcasts.

We disagree with the court's decision and we believe it's wrong. We have not yet decided whether we will appeal the decision, she told AFP: Currently our channel is under re-organisation. We will be back on air by the end of the year via satellite. We do not know yet which satellite will be used, we will soon start holding talks with different satellite operators.

The channel charged that Eutelsat was a tool of Russian censorship because it had stopped transmitting Perviy Kavkazky from its W7 satellite after signing a lucrative contract with Russian satellite company Intersputnik.

Eutelsat denied that it came under any pressure from Moscow and insisted that no contract was in force between it and the state-funded Georgia Public Broadcasting company, which runs Perviy Kavkazky.

The channel provides news bulletins and information programmes focusing on events in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as in Russia's North Caucasus region, challenging Moscow's influence in the strategic region.


9th July   

Update: Browser Dictatorship...

Belarus publishes repressive internet law
Link Here

A new Belarus Internet censorship law will be applied from September 1.

Access restrictions are as follows:

  • The Belarusian State Telecommunication Inspection makes a list of forbidden websites on the ground of proposals of appropriate governmental bodies. Legal persons, individual entrepreneurs and concerned citizens have the right to help the governmental bodies to prepare the lists. An IP address, domain name, or an URL may serve as an identifier of a banned Internet resource. If a Belarusian site is included in the black list, the owner will receive a notice about putting the website on the blocklist.
  • 4. Websites can also be removed from the blacklist. A decision on removal of the Internet resource identifiers from the restriction list must be taken by the governmental body that earlier put the website on the list.
  • Information aimed at extremist activity, illicit circulation of weapons, ammunition, detonators, explosives, radioactive, contaminating, aggressive, poisonous, and toxic substances, drugs, psychotropic substances, and their precursors; assisting illegal migration and human trafficking; spreading pornography; promulgating violence, brutality, and other acts prohibited by law is banned


6th July   

The Last Dictatorship in Europe...

London protest in support of the Belarus Free Theatre
Link Here

Britain's theatre community comes out against oppression and censorship in Belarus, the last dictatorship of Europe .

Sir Tom Stoppard and actor/director Sam West Has led a protest of high-profile theatre practitioners outside the Belarussian Embassy in London.

They presented an open letter to President Alyaksander Lukashenko of Belarus calling for greater democratic freedom and for an end to censorship of the Internet.

Other signatories include Mark Ravenhill, Howard Brenton, Alan Rickman, Laura Wade, Caryl Churchill, Henry Goodman, Henry Porter, Simon McBurney, Simon Stephens and Lyndsey Turner.

We urge you to allow the people of Belarus the right to express and share their opinions freely, whether this is on the internet or not. We urge you to use your powers to prevent any further repression of citizens who hold alternative, and oppositional, beliefs to you. We urge that the practice of physical abuse and intimidation against any citizen, including those who dare to hold alternative and oppositional points of view, be stopped. Finally, we urge you to protect the right to freedom of assembly in accordance with Article 21 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights to which Belarus is a state party, – the letter says.

Sam West performed an extract of Generation Jeans , a play from the multi-award winning Belarus Free Theatre.

Generation Jeans charts one man's journey as an activist. It captures all of the courage, the humour and the foolhardy determination that you need to resist a totalitarian regime, which makes it perfect for our protest today, says director Clare Lizzimore, co-organiser of the protest.

On Thursday 1st July a new Presidential decree on the Internet comes into force. It gives the authorities greater powers to monitor usage and will enable the Government to restrict or block access to websites that offer independent and alternative sources of information. It has been described as a step in the wrong direction by the European Union. The decree is a clear attempt to curb the freedom of speech and the right to self-expression.

Playwright and co-organiser of the protest, Alexandra Wood says: The internet is a vital tool in communication and should be available to all. Lukashenko's law, imposing censorship on the Internet, particularly affects those in Belarus who oppose his regime, who want to offer the Belarusian people an alternative, which is of course, his intention.

Actor Sam West says: The purpose of theatre and the purpose of the internet is the same: to connect people, to bring them together as a collective entity, an audience, a world. Repressive regimes are rightly frightened of the internet for its ability to put free thinkers in touch with one another and give them inspiration and strength; it's not us and them out there, it's all us. We must oppose any withdrawal of these freedoms as anti-thought, anti-freedom, anti-human.

The protest was in support of the Belarus Free Theatre and is in conjunction with the Global Artistic Campaign in Solidarity with Belarus, founded by playwright, Sir Tom Stoppard.


27th June   

Update: Peephole into Repression...

Museum curators on trial for Forbidden Art exhibition
Link Here
Full story: Art Censorship in Russia...Art exhibitions winds up the nutters

It was bad enough that an art exhibition attracted the attention of Russia's authorities. It was worse that the exhibition was in Moscow's Sakharov centre and museum, one of the few institutions in Russia that stands squarely behind the tradition of human rights, exemplified by the saintly physicist and dissident for whom it is named.

Now prosecutors have said that they want the organisers of the 2007 Forbidden Art exhibition, the director of the centre, Yuri Samodurov, and Andrei Yerofeev, an art historian, to be sentenced to a three-year jail term for debasing the religious beliefs of citizens and inciting religious hatred .

The prosecutors' move has aroused a furious reaction from the dwindling ranks of Russia's intelligentsia, and in the non-Kremlin media. In an open letter to the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Yerofeev apologises for unintentionally hurting believers' feelings, but also blasts the church for teaming up with hardline officials and rightwing extremists. Which, of course, was one of the messages of the exhibition.

Three years ago one of the leading Russian contemporary art curators, Andrei Yerofeev, organised an exhibition called Forbidden Art , in the Andrei Sakharov centre in Moscow, where he presented a collection of art works banned from previous exhibitions. To draw attention to political censorship Yerofeev put all the works behind a curtain with one hole in it, above human height, so that in order to see the works one had to climb a stool and peep through the hole. Only people who really wanted to see the art works of art were able to. However, Yerofeev, as well as Yury Samodurov, the director of the Sakharov centre at the time, were accused of inciting hatred and insulting religious feelings, and prosecuted.

The exhibit featured several paintings with images of Jesus Christ. In one, Christ appeared to his disciples as Mickey Mouse. In another, of the crucifixion, the head of Christ was replaced by the Order of Lenin medal, the highest award of the Soviet Union.

This week the prosecutors demanded a jail sentence of three years for each of them. The verdict will be announced on July 12th. The trial was instigated by the so called People's council , a movement of militant religious radicals with strong anti-Semitic views which claims to have the official backing of the Orthodox church.


19th June   

Review: Putin' the Boot In...

Russian police seize 100,000 copies of book critical of Putin
Link Here

Russian police seized 100,000 copies of a book critical of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that activists planned to hand out at the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Copies of Putin. The Results. 10 Years on , written by opposition politicians Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov were intended for participants of the forum.

The book, which has a total print-run of one million copies, aims to tell the truth about the real results of the leadership of Putin and the tandem , Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister, wrote in his blog.

Nemtsov presented the book about Putin in Moscow on Monday. Last year he published a similar book about Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who won a libel case and forced him to retract a statement about corruption in the city hall.


15th June   

Review: Access Controlled...

Russia develops subtle 2nd generation model of internet censorship
Link Here

China may be one of the world's most Internet-repressive regimes. But its Great Firewall is a clumsy and ineffective tool compared with the subtle information control techniques developed over the last few years by Russia and many of the former Soviet states.

That's one of the conclusions of Access Controlled, a new book out from the Open Net Initiative, a consortium of academics focused on free speech and government interactions with the Internet. A sequel to Access Denied, the Open Net Initiative's 2008 report on the state of global Internet censorship, one of the book's theses is that government control of the Internet has shifted from directly blocking sites to slicker ways of repressing dissidents online.

China and Iran still filter the most content online, according to the ONI. In its country-by-country survey of Internet filtering. But while states like Russia and Belarus perform much less of what the ONI calls first generation or Chinese-style filtering, they're increasingly adept at second and third generation control of the Web.

Second generation censorship, as ONI authors Ronald Deibert and Rafal Rohozinski define it in an early chapter, includes tricks like requiring Web site owners to register with the government and using the process to weed out dissident sites with red tape, a tactic often used in Kazakhstan and Belarus. In Belarus and Uzbekistan, veracity and slander laws are used as a pretense for shutting down dissident sites.


14th June   

Update: 5 Critics Silenced...

Ukrainian government bans critical TV stations
Link Here
Full story: Press Freedom in Ukraine...Journalists protest censorship

Reporters Without Borders condemns a Kiev court's decision on 8 June to cancel the licences of TV5 Kanal and TVi, two stations that are regarded as critical of President Viktor Yanukovych's administration, especial TVi, which regularly interviews independent experts or opposition figures who openly criticise the government.

On 7 June, the eve of the court's decision, the journalists at TV 5 Kanal released the text of an open letter to the president claiming they were being harassed by the SBU, Ukraine's main security agency. Calling for the protection of their rights under the constitution, they said they wanted to meet with Yanukovych to explain their fear that their station was about to be broken up.

Their fears were confirmed by the 8 June decision cancelling the allocation of TV broadcast frequencies announced on 27 January, several weeks before the current administration took office. The court, which issued its ruling in response to a legal appeal by the Inter group, withdrew the licences of TV5 Kanal and TVi.

Reporters Without Borders voices its support for the two TV stations, their condemnation of an unprecedented and unacceptable conflict of interests and their call for Khoroshkovky to resign from some of his positions.

The multiple posts held by Khoroshkovky are incompatible in a democracy with the principles of freedom of expression and impartial regulation of the media. Reporters Without Borders also believes that is vital that the National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting should be impartial and free of external pressure.

Mykola Knyazhytsky, the head of TVi, and Ivan Adamchuk, the head of TV5 Kanal, said they would appeal against the court's decision.

Update: A special commission

20th June 2010.  Based on article from

The parliamentary committee for freedom of speech and information has called on the Verkhovna Rada to form a special commission to investigate cases of censorship and pressure on the freedom of speech, as well as cases of the blocking of the professional activity of journalists.

The committee also proposed that the parliament hear reports by the heads of the TVi Channel and the Fifth TV Channel, representatives of the Inter group, Security Service Chief Valeriy Khoroshkovsky, and representatives of the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting regarding the issues of the withdrawal of television frequencies allocated to the Fifth TV Channel and the TVi Channel.

This could take place even [on June 16]. If not, we will insist on hearing [these reports] by the end of the week, said the first deputy head of the committee, Andriy Shevchenko.


13th June   

Update: Stereotypical Russian Censorship...

News media to banned from tagging criminals with nationality, race or religion
Link Here

Moscow's lawmakers have set their minds to fight xenophobia by banning the media from mentioning the nationality, race and religion of criminals.

The measure, supposedly to tackle the level of hate-crime in the city, is designed to prevent generalizations about certain groups in society. For example, talking about a crime committed by a person from Dagestan, Russian journalists will not be allowed to say Dagestani or coming from North Caucasus, but they would rather refer to a person born in Dagestan.

One of the bill's sponsors, Moscow City Duma Deputy Aleksandr Semennikov, said that generalizations spark extremism in society.

This kind of information often causes a stir in public opinion, especially among people that aren't very tolerant or aware of the consequences of their actions. There are groups that will call for revenge, Semennikov told RT.

Initiated by Moscow's Duma, the bill will now be passed on to federal authorities.


13th June   

Update: Don't Shoot Me...

Public Council for Morality wary of Elton John concert
Link Here
Full story: Elton John...International tours censored

Officials in Belarus have asked the organizers of an upcoming Elton John concert in Minsk to prevent the promotion of homosexuality.

The Public Council for Morality is to study recordings of earlier performances by the British singer to make sure they have no elements inconsistent with the law and morality, the head of the organization said.

We have requested the organizers of the concert to give us records of Elton John's earlier performances, he said.

Nikolai Cherginets said the Council is particularly concerned over the openly gay singer's statement in an interview with a U.S. magazine that Jesus was a super-intelligent gay man.

Elton John will play at the Minsk Arena on June 26 as part of his European summer tour.

The Public Council for Morality was established in 2009 by the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Writers Union of Belarus, with the support of President Alexander Lukashenko.


7th June   

Update: Giant Wreath for Press Freedom...

Ukrainian TV news journalists protest against censorship
Link Here
Full story: Press Freedom in Ukraine...Journalists protest censorship

Dozens of Ukrainian journalists were wearing T-shirts reading stop censorship at a news conference by President Viktor Yanukovynch in Kiev.

Media concerns regarding freedom of speech are growing in Ukraine since President Yanukovynch's election.

The president assured the media that he shared their concerns. No-one is putting pressure on you or will put pressure on you, he claimed at the press conference.

He read a letter signed by several journalists and asked the security services and interior ministry to investigate the complaints. He even accepted one of the T-shirts via a bodyguard.

Ukrainian television journalists from the private 1+1 and STB channels issued a petition last month, complaining of an increase in censorship on certain subjects.

When Yanukovych was hit on the head last month by a gigantic wreath at a memorial ceremony, officials ordered journalists not to broadcast the footage. But the presidency later admitted they had overstepped the mark.


6th June   

Update: Dangerous Content...

Russia proposes a 10pm TV watershed
Link Here
Full story: TV Censorship in Russia...Russian TV censors easily wound up

Russia's ruling party has proposed legislation to increase censorship for children, the BBC Russian service has reported.

TV and radio news programs featuring episodes of violence, destruction, disasters, death and the like should be put off-air during daytime because they are harmful for children's psychology, said the draft legislation proposed by the United Russia party.

The proposed legislation submitted defines daytime as a period from 6am to 10pm.

After 10pm, TV programs should be accompanied with a warning about the dangerous content of the upcoming program.

Dangerous content is defined as those promoting drugs, smoking, alcohol, gambling, prostitution, begging and vagrancy as well as materials that deny family values or provoke people into committing crimes.

The bill proposed that the first and the last pages of printed media should not bear any information that might be harmful for children's health. Otherwise, these editions must be sold in non-transparent covers, as must be adult magazines.

Experts said some definitions in the proposal are too vogue, and if the bill becomes law, it will result in banning nearly all the news programs.


5th June   

Villains of the Piece...

Russia don't like being game villains so they will impose more censorial state control nastiness
Link Here

Dismayed by the negative way it is portrayed in computer games, Russia is planning to promote itself with a series of patriotic titles based on the heroic deeds of its soldiers in the Second World War.

The country's parliament is also discussing plans to ban anti-Russian computer games after MPs complained that games, mostly American, portrayed Russians as Cold War stereotypes, villains and alcoholics.

The Russian version of the best-selling Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 game already has a scene cut where gamers shoot innocent passengers at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, but if the parliamentarians get their way it could be banned altogether.

While the MPs cannot stop offending games being made, some want to ban their import. The Duma is considering setting up a commission to decide which games should be illegal to import.

Games that might fall foul of the commission include the German Ulitsa Dimitrova, where gamers play a seven-year-old child in St Petersburg who has to steal, kill and lie in order to buy cigarettes.


21st May   


Russian town tries to ban 'satanic' heavy metal music
Link Here

A Russian town famed for its crusades against swearing and easy morals is trying to ban heavy metal concerts arguing that they are satanic and ideologically destructive.

Officials in Belgorod, a town some 400 miles south of Moscow, have written to local café, club and restaurant owners asking them to refuse to host heavy metal concerts.

I am not familiar with such music myself but we have been asked to head off any satanic activity, a local official, Vladimir Shatilo, told the daily Kommersant newspaper.

The parents of youngsters who attended such events would never forgive us for (allowing) the performances of people interested in satanic ideology, added another official. He cited recommendations from an infamous Soviet-era psychiatric hospital that said heavy metal music had an ideologically destructive effect on young people.

Some local club owners appeared unlikely to comply. One of them, Oleg Proskokov, told the same newspaper that he planned to hold a number of rock events in the near future and that any officials who tried to interfere would get a punch in the face.


8th May   

Strike Warning...

Ukrainian TV news journalists complain that they are being censored
Link Here
Full story: Press Freedom in Ukraine...Journalists protest censorship

Ukrainian journalists with the Television News Service (TSN), a new program that is broadcast on the 1+1 television channel, have complained that they are being censored during preparation of news materials.

The journalists made the complaint in an open letter posted on the internet website of the Telekritika publication.

We, the journalists of TSN, want to state that censorship is being introduced on the 1+1 television channel. We have been prohibited from covering certain issues and events. Our news materials containing criticism of the current authorities are being taken off air for political reasons, the journalists said in the letter.

The journalists said that they wrote the letter because they understood their responsibility to the society and because they valued their own reputation and refused to go outside the moral framework.

We do not want to be farmhands and propagandists. For us, freedom of speech is not just empty sounds by the foundation of our progression. This is specifically why we re are announcing that we categorically disagree with pressure on freedom of speech, the journalists said in the letter.

We are demanding an immediate end to the manual control of the Television News Service. We are demanding an end to the disgraceful practice of 'directives,' 'valuable instructions,' and bans on one topic or another. We are demanding a return of TSN to the basic principles of journalism: objectiveness, balance, equal distance from all political forces

The journalists said they were considering the possibility of a one-day warning strike if their demands were ignored.


29th April   

Clowns in Turkmenistan...

Turkmenistan reopens the circus previously thought to be an alien culture
Link Here

Almost a decade after Turkmenistan's leader banned circuses as alien culture, the circus has reopened in Ashgabat with a show of clowns and elephants watched by the current president.

The Central Asian country's authoritarian and eccentric leader Saparmurat Niyazov, known as Turkmenbashi, closed the circus in 2001 after declaring it alien culture and contrary to the Turkmen mentality.

Niyazov, who died in 2006, also closed cinemas, village libraries and the country's opera and ballet theatre in a bid to erase outside influences from the national culture.

The first show was attended by Niyazov's successor, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov who called for a review of Turkmenbashi's policies after his death and a revival of the banned cultural institutions.


16th April   

Update: Opera Turbo...

Internet browser is popular in Kazakhstan due to workaround for blocked websites
Link Here
Full story: Internet Censorship in Kazakhstan...New internet censorship law

A browser that bypasses internet censors has become the most popular way to access the Internet in Kazakhstan, a Central Asian state where sites critical of the government are often blocked.

The Norwegian developed Opera browser made by Opera Software has increased its market share sharply in the ex-Soviet state since it began to allow downloads of compressed web pages via a server outside the country, a feature designed to speed browsing.

The Opera browser is now the most popular in the country with a market share of 32%, beating out rival products from Google, Microsoft and Apple, according to statistics for March from Web analytics firm StatCounter.

The new version of Opera introduced last year, Opera 10, allows users to view otherwise inaccessible Web pages using its Opera Turbo feature designed to speed up browsing over slow connections.

Kazakhstan introduced a law last year allowing local courts to block access to Web sites whose content has been deemed illegal, a step that human rights groups say amounts to censorship.

Some of the most popular blogging websites such as and Google-run are now inaccessible to most of Kazakhstan's 3.2 million Internet users.


6th April   

Old Ways...

Russian MP submits draft law to ban quotes from terrorists
Link Here

The media should be banned from quoting terrorists' statements, according to a deputy from the ruling United Russia party.

Robert Schlegel has submitted a respective draft law to the State Duma.

The suggested amendment to the Law of the Russian Federation On Mass Media would prohibit the reproduction of any materials on behalf of those on a wanted list for terrorism or convicted of terrorist activities.

The move comes a week after two suicide bombings in the Moscow Metro claimed 40 which was then followed by a chain of terrorist attacks in the Russian North Caucasian republics of Dagestan and Ingushetia.


29th March   

Updated: Old Ways Return to Russia...

Russia bans Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf
Link Here

Russian prosecutors have banned the 1925 semi-autobiographical book, saying its outline of racial supremacy encouraged extremist and violent behaviour.

The ban was initiated after a regional office of the prosecutor sought new ways to combat extremism and found the book was being distributed in the Ufa region.

Hitler dictated the book to his aide Rudolf Hess while in prison in Bavaria after the failed Munich Beer Hall putsch of 1923. It sets out his doctrine of German racial supremacy and ambitions to annex huge areas of the Soviet Union.

Mein Kampf has been banned in Germany since the Second World War.


2nd March   

Update: A Destructive Character...

Kazakhstan sets up internet censorship centre
Link Here
Full story: Internet Censorship in Kazakhstan...New internet censorship law

Kazakhstan has created a new centre dedicated to censoring blacklisted websites ranging from pornography to those deemed to promote political extremism, an official announced.

The Central Asian country has been criticised for restricting freedom of expression even as it seeks to woo foreign investment.

The new service, called the centre for computer incidents, is similar to Internet watchdogs that exist throughout the world, the head of Kazakhstan's state communications agency, Kuanyshbek Esekeyev, told parliament. Esekeyev said the authorities had many questions regarding 'religious and political extremism on the Internet.

He said the centre's function would be to monitor websites which have a pornographic or extreme character . At the current time work is being carried out with an entire blacklist of sites which have a destructive character for society.


25th February   

Update: Potential to Destroy Belarus...

Council for Morality bans Rammstein gig in Belarus
Link Here
Full story: Rammstein Censored...Rammstein wind up nutters and censors

According to Deutsche Welle, the metal band Rammstein has again managed to achieve worldwide infamy: this time, they've been declared a danger to the citizens of Belarus by that country's officials.

The ominous-sounding Council for Morality announced earlier this week their intent to ban Rammstein from entering the former Soviet republic – claiming that their music promotes violence, masochism, homosexuality and other abnormalities, and could potentially destroy the Belarusian state system.

This came despite assurances from the band's promoters that they do not intend to spread violent, perverse, cruel or Nazi ideology in their concerts.


17th January   

School of Politics...

Gritty Russian TV school drama winds up the politicians
Link Here

A raw TV drama about the lives of students in a Russian high school has sparked condemnation from teachers and politicians.

School , which premiered this week on Russia's Channel One, has painted a rough, violent picture of what students endure in school.

The series has depicted fights in school halls, classmates sharing beer and one teen boasting about making a girl pregnant, as well as references to internet porn.

Communist Party deputy Vladislav Yurchik declared the show was planned sabotage against Russian young people and called for its cancellation.

Olga Larionova, head of the Moscow education department, agrees with Yurchik, urging the channel to yank the series.

Valeria Gai Germanika, the young director of the show, says she's just showing reality: School was really like that, the 25-year-old auteur told Agence France-Press.

Channel One says it stands behind the series, releasing a statement that the show aims to understand the problems of schools, not to hide them.


13th January   

Tajik Censorship...

Criticism banned as Tajikistan government prepare for elections
Link Here

The government of Tajikistan has blocked websites criticising it ahead of the 28th February parliamentary election, telecommunications industry sources have said

The government has a record of stifling dissent by shutting down all critical media, citing tax issues and other irregularities. The West has never judged elections in the poverty-stricken mainly Muslim country to be free or fair.

Following the government's order, access to certain (Web) resources ... has been blocked, said a source at an Internet service provider. A source at another provider confirmed the government was behind the move.

Among blocked websites were, which publishes regional news and hosts a popular political discussion board, and, which focuses on President Rakhmon and his family. Rakhmon wields sweeping powers and mainstream media never criticise him.


12th January   

Update: Enemies of the Internet...

Proposed new repressive internet law in Belarus
Link Here

The international human rights organisation Reporters Without Borders have made a statement of protest expressing their concern over the plans of the Belarusian government to tighten control over Internet.

The matter concerns the decree On Measures for Revising Use of the National Segment of the World Wide Web which appeared in the press on December 14, 2009. The organisation attracts attention to the fact that the freedom of speech in Belarus is considerably limited even without that.

We must emphasize our concern about this bill, which threatens online free speech and everyone's right to express their views anonymously without fear of government repression, Reporters Without Borders said. After placing most of the traditional media under its control, the regime is pursuing an offensive against new media.

The press freedom organisation added: The president's attempts to be reassuring cannot hide the repressive nature of this bill, which is liable to make netizens censor themselves. It should be abandoned so that Belarus is not added to the list of countries such as North Korea, China and Iran that Reporters Without Borders has identified as Enemies of the Internet.

The scandalous internet law proposal mentions blocking websites by the decision of state organs, identification of web users, responsibility for dissemination of information on the web, and state registration of online media.

According to the first version of the decree, hosting of Belarusian websites is obligatory transferred to Belarus, and in order to access internet even in dial-up mode, Belarusians would have to show passport to the provider first.


9th January   

Afternoons Filtered Out...

Russia to ban adult internet content in the afternoon
Link Here

Russian Parliament members are weighing legislation that would ban all online adult content during the day.

The nationwide plan would black out all adult content from noon to 6 p.m. and essentially regulate the industry, although it appears any such law would be impossible to police.

Some in the Duma, or Russian Parliament, reason that latchkey kids are able to surf the web unattended while their parents are working during the day. As a result, lawmakers have chosen to ban the content during one-quarter of the day.

But Internet experts point out that filtering content through a software solution does the trick as well.

Lawmakers are planning to vote on the piece of legislation at the end of the month.

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