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.
Belarus Free Theatre is an underground group based in Minsk. Underground not because it's cool and edgy, but because Belarus is a dictatorship and any opposition, artistic or otherwise, can be swiftly and harshly silenced. Citizens of Belarus
are subject to extreme censorship and human rights violations, to which other governments turn a blind eye. Resistance activists have mysteriously disappeared or been kidnapped, imprisoned and killed.
The BFT runs plays that tell people what's
going on in their country. It is subject to continual harassment and death threats. But it doesn't stop. Most of its actors have been expelled from the state theatre for their involvement with the BFT, and are classified by the KGB as unstable
elements . Producer and writer Natalia Koliada and playwright Nikolai Khalezin have become human rights activists as well as theatre practitioners. They feel that their country has been forgotten.
The BFT has to perform in secret, at
considerable risk: performances have been raided by police and multiple arrests made. Audience members are contacted by text message and told to meet at a secret location, from whhich they are taken to the show. At the moment the company uses a
near-derelict house where two rooms have been knocked together; the audience, some of whom have travelled for hours to be there, squeeze on to benches at one end of the space and the play is performed at the other. The anticipation is palpable. At the
end, the applause comes with a wave of relief, not just because the police didn't storm the building.
Many of the audience have seen nothing like this before; to hear the problems of their country spoken about honestly makes them feel a little
braver and less alone.
Index on Censorship has learned that Natalia Kolyada, a founder member of the Belarus Free Theatre, has been detained by authorities in Minsk.
Kolyada has been unable to contact other members of the dissident theatre group.
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
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.
Baku's Appeal Court has ordered the release of blogger Adnan Hajizade, he had served half of his two-year sentence on controversial charges of hooliganism. His co-defendent, blogger, Emin Abdullayev remains in prison serving a two and a half year term.
The case of the two young Azeri bloggers sparked an international outcry. The men had been actively using social media to mobilise opposition against the government, speaking out on a variety of issues, including government corruption, misuse of
oil revenues, censorship and education.
Several weeks prior to their arrest, the pair posted a video on YouTube mocking the government's decision to spend a vast amount of money on importing two donkeys from Germany. Locals believe the
tongue-in-cheek video angered the regime and was the real reason for their arrest.
After the Baku Appeals Court
released blogger Adnan Hajizade, the Committee to Protect Journalists urged Azerbaijani authorities to release two other imprisoned journalists, Emin Milli and Eynulla Fatullayev. Both Milli and Fatullayev have their appeals pending at the same court.
The Baku court overturned a lower court's decision to deny Hajizade early release, and ordered him to be freed on parole, local and international press reported. According to Reuters, the court did not acquit Hajizade.
Milli and Hajizade, bloggers and youth activists, in July 2009 after they tried to report an attack on them at a local restaurant to authorities. A district court in Baku convicted them in November 2009 on charges of hooliganism and inflicting of minor
bodily harm. Hajizade was given a two-year prison sentence; Milli was given two and a half years. CPJ has concluded that Hajizade and Milli were jailed in retaliation for a satirical video they produced and posted on YouTube in June 2009.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
A banned Ukrainian television station, which had its broadcast frequencies cancelled after a court found in favour of supposed irregularities in the manner in which the stations were awarded their licences, has decided to defy the court ruling and
continue its terrestrial broadcasts.
Channel TVi called the action by the National Council of Ukraine on Television and Radio Broadcasting - which issues the licences - unfounded persecution .
TVi Chief Executive Mykola Kniazhytskyi
said in a statement sent to the International Press Institute: In accordance with current legislation of Ukraine, we do not consider the decision of the National Council of Ukraine on Television and Radio Broadcasting to revoke amendments to our
license a sufficient cause for termination of our terrestrial broadcast. We will continue to broadcast … [and work] to prevent further imposition of censorship in Ukraine.
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
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 gzt.ru. 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 gzt.ru.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 Gazeta.ru 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 .
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Turkmenistan reopens the circus previously thought to be an alien culture
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.
The Belarus Ministry of Information has banned the newspepr Silnye Novosti Gomelya .
An order was signed by minister Aleh Pralyaskouski. He claimed the decision was about work experience of the editor, and his qualification doesn't meet
requirements of the guide Positions of periodic press staff .
Director of Pechatnoe Slovo Pyotr Kuznyatsou believes: Denial of registration of a paper is prohibition to profession of a journalist. One cannot get a five-year work
experience as an editor if he or she is forbidden to head a newspaper.
According to the journalist association BAJ, at least eight newspapers have now been banned or denied registration.
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 Livejournal.com and Google-run Blogger.com are now inaccessible to most of Kazakhstan's 3.2 million Internet users.
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.
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.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is disturbed by reports that the Kyrgyz government has pressured several radio and television stations to stop carrying programming from the Kyrgyz service of the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
At least four private radio stations and one television channel halted RFE/RL programming on March 10, said Tyntchtykbek Tchoroyev, director of the Kyrgyz service. The service, also known as Radio Azattyk, provides both radio and
The stations had been transmitting the programming since December 2008, when the state broadcaster, the National Television and Radio Corporation (KTR), stopped carrying RFE/RL programs. At the time, KTR said it would
resume the broadcasts if RFE/RL agreed to clear its content with the government in advance. RFE/RL would not agree to that condition.
Kyrgyz authorities have recently warned local stations that they may face additional hurdles in their license
renewals if they continue to carry Radio Azattyk programming, RFE/RL said in a statement.
Some local stations in southern Kyrgyzstan are still carrying RFE/RL programs, Tchoroyev said.
We are deeply disturbed by reports that Kyrgyz
authorities have threatened local stations' licenses should they continue to carry RFE/RL programming, said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova. Media outlets must be free to carry whatever content their listeners, not
state regulators, demand. The government of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev must uphold its commitments to press freedom and curb its knee-jerk reaction to criticism in the media.
In an official letter, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE) has urged the Kyrgyz government to stop censoring online media.
Kyrgyz authorities are putting unprecedented pressure on independent media. Ordinary Kyrgyz are also outraged by fee hikes of essential services, encouraging the
In its letter, the OSCE has called on the Kyrgyz government to respect its international obligations to protect freedom of speech and to restore access to a number of online media sources and to Azattyk Radio (the Kyrgyz Service of
Similarly, Press freedom violations seem to be increasing in frequency and intensity, Reporters Without Borders and other groups have lamented.
Since 10 March, agencies like ferghana.ru, centrasia.ru and paruskg.info (whose
editor Gennady Pavlyuk was murdered last December) have been blocked.
Local sources report that independent media have been pressured not to report certain news or lose their licence. Consequently, many have refrained from publishing articles
critical of the government.
The opposition press has also been targeted. All 7,000 copies of the newspaper Forum were seized by the police in Bishkek on 15 March without any explanation, whilst its editor, Ryskeldi Mombekov, and five other
journalists were detained.
Authorities in Kyrgyzstan should halt their ongoing crackdown on independent and opposition news outlets, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. A Bishkek court suspended a pro-opposition newspaper on Wednesday—the third such suspension this
month—while financial police confiscated newsroom computers belonging to an independent Web-based television channel on Thursday, effectively taking it off the air.
We are deeply disturbed by the actions of Kyrgyz authorities to systematically
unplug their citizens from independent and opposition news sources, CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said.
On Wednesday, the Oktyabrsky District Court in Bishkek suspended the pro-opposition, Kyrgyz-language
newspaper Forum, according to the regional news Web site Ferghana. The court acted on a complaint filed by the Oktyabrsky District Prosecutor's Office in Bishkek, which said a March 30 Forum article contained appeals to forcibly overthrow the
constitutional order, the Bishkek-based news agency AKIpress reported.
Prosecutors are continuing to investigate the paper in connection with the piece, titled When the motherland falls upon hard times, may all her sons turn into lightning
bolts, said Sultan Kanazarov, Ferghana's Kyrgyzstan bureau chief. Forum has been suspended for the duration of that investigation, he said.
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.
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
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.
A prominent photographer and film-maker in Uzbekistan has been found guilty of slandering the nation through her work.
Umida Akhmedova had been facing up to three years in prison for a series of photos and a film portraying people in
Uzbekistan as backward and poor.
But after announcing the guilty verdict, the judge said the photographer would automatically be pardoned under an amnesty.
Ms Akhmedova said she would still appeal against the conviction.
the Uzbek government decided to prosecute the photographer for an album of work, published in 2007, depicting rural life scenes in Uzbekistan, and for a documentary film. The film, The Burden of Virginity , focused on the experiences of young
women immediately before and after marriage.
But a panel of experts appointed by the government ruled that her work would damage Uzbekistan's spiritual values. The panel concluded in its report that the photo album does not conform to aesthetic
demands , a throwback to Soviet jargon, and that it would damage the country's spiritual values .
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 centrasia.ru, which publishes regional news and hosts a popular political discussion board, and
ariana.su, which focuses on President Rakhmon and his family. Rakhmon wields sweeping powers and mainstream media never criticise him.
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.
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.