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Middle East Censorship News

2010: April-June

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30th June   

Update: Hotbird Jammed Shut...

Eutelsat asked why they gave in to Iranian jamming and censored the BBC and Voice of America
Link Here

The French satellite operator, Eutelsat, should share any policies and procedures it has in place explicitly to safeguard freedom of expression when dealing with governments that systematically engage in censorship, Human Rights Watch said. It should also explain its decision to suspend certain Persian-language programming from its most popular satellite after Iranian authorities began jamming its signals earlier this year.

In a letter sent to Eutelsat on June 25, 2010, Human Rights Watch repeated its requests for more information regarding the company's efforts to counter Iran's jamming of satellite signals carrying Persian-language broadcasts from BBC Persian TV and Voice of America. Human Rights Watch sent an initial letter to Eutelsat on February 8 asking the company to explain its decision to suspend the programs from its popular Hotbird 6 satellite.

A follow-up letter with additional questions, including a request for information regarding Eutelsat policies and procedures in place to protect freedom of information, was sent to Eutelsat on March 17.


20th June   

For Better Correction...

Iran discovers pixelisation to censor foreign films for TV
Link Here

An official of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) has said that new software has increased the capability of the IRIB for censoring of foreign films.

Ali Ramezani, who is charge of providing foreign films and programs for Iranian TV, told the Mehr News Agency that new precision software has been acquired since 2008, enabling them to better correct foreign films: Afterwards, the films face fewer cuts .

Those scenes depicting that which is forbidden in Iran such as alcoholic drinks, or film characters in skimpy dress were previously cut by the IRIB prior to broadcast. Nowadays, they use the new software to erase the forbidden items or to cover the bodies of female characters in foreign films purchased for broadcast on Iranian TV.

In addition, love scenes are entirely cut from foreign films and TV series. Sometimes, the plots of films are deeply damaged by the changes made in adapting the productions for viewing in Iran.

Ramezani said that at least 75 minutes out of a 90-minute purchased film must meet Iranian TV's moral and religious standards for broadcast. Otherwise, it will not be aired on Iranian TV.

Iranians prefer to watch the unedited bootleg versions of foreign movies and TV series on their home TV sets and the Iranian black market does a good job of satisfying the demand for these.


18th June   

Update: Improper Propaganda Ban...

Turkish newspaper ban criticised by European Court
Link Here

Turkey was criticised for media censorship by the European Court of Human Rights, in a case concerning the suspension of weekly newspapers for spreading terrorist propaganda .

In January 2008, Turkish authorities suspended two newspapers, Yedinci Gun and Toplumsal Demokrasi , for a month for violating anti-terrorism laws.

They were accused of spreading extremist propaganda promoting the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a separatist group seeking Kurdish independence.

Twelve people -- including owners, executive directors, editors-in-chief, news directors and journalists -- were criminally prosecuted and the proceedings in their cases are still pending.

The court concluded that the aim was to prevent the publication of similar articles in the future, thus hindering the professional activities of the 12 applicants.

Less draconian measures could have been envisaged, such as the confiscation of particular issues of the newspapers or the restriction on the publication of specific articles, the ruling said: The domestic courts had unjustifiably restricted the essential role of the press as a public watchdog in a democratic society, it added.

The 12 applicants were awarded 1,800 euros (2,200 dollars) in damages.


16th June   

Bells and Flashing Lights...

Film Censorship in Kuwait
Link Here

Deep within the Kuwait Ministry of Information's sprawling, high-security complex, seven government films censors gather for a screening of The Last Song , a drama starring Miley Cyrus. Seated in plush velvet seats in front of a large, cinema-style screen, the censors graze on soft drinks and snacks.

It feels like a typical, lazy, weekday matinee — until Cyrus leaps into the arms of her co-star and leans in for a long and passionate kiss. Watching the screen, the censors drop their sandwiches and reach for the white buttons attached to their armrest, activating a bell and flashing light. The bell alerts John Prasard, working upstairs in the cinema's projection room, to cut the scene.

Kuwait enforces some of the most stringent film censorship regulations in the world. No strong violence, sex, kissing, drugs, black magic, explained Qannas al Adwani, a government film censor. If there are a lot of bikinis, we will not allow it.

Every film that is going to be screened publicly in Kuwait must first be cycled through the Ministry of Information's cinema, and government censors watch hundreds of films a year. The list of offensive material is long and ambiguous, and standards are often unevenly applied.

Even American films portraying the United States in a negative light can be grounds for prohibition. Don't forget one fact: that the Kuwait people are very thankful to the Americans for the U.S. support for liberating Kuwait, said Kuwaiti censor Ahmed bin Yacoub. They still have it inside of them, and they don't want to show anything that really hurts the American people.

Crucial plot-twists remain hidden away in the censors' cabinet, disrupting the film's narrative and confounding the audience. Yet with a prohibition on bars and alcohol, as well as a societal taboo against male-female interaction outside of the family, options for weekend-night entertainment are limited. As a result, many Kuwaitis continue to patronize, however grudgingly, the cinema.

Mousaed Khaled, a Kuwaiti screenwriter and director, no longer bothers to submit his films to the Kuwait Ministry of Information for review, preferring to screen his films in festivals abroad. They don't want people to think, or have a hint to think differently, he said of the government's censors. I would rather live in a place where my children can express themselves freely.

Others, however, argue that censorship protects the nation's religious values. Khaaledah Burhmah, an English literature student at the American University of Kuwait, believes that it is appropriate to censor religious content and sexual material. It is not necessary to see these scenes, she argued. We must respect Islam.

As for the censors, they contend that their work protects Kuwait's children. There is no film rating system in Kuwait, and the censors must ensure that each film released to the public is suitable for all ages.


12th June   

Updated: Googling for Slow...

Turkey puts all Google sites on a slow access proxy implementing selective blocking
Link Here
Full story: Internet Censorship in Turkey...Website blocking insults the Turkish people

Turkey has put all Google services on a bad boys internet list leading to partial, blocking, slow access and timeouts.

The latest access restrictions seem related to the government's ongoing attempts to block YouTube. Access to Google's video service was cut off in 2008 after complaints that videos critical of Mustafa Kamal Ataturk — the founder of modern Turkey — were available on the YouTube site. Criticism of Turkey, or any insult to Turkishness, is a criminal offence in that country.

A Google spokesman said in an emailed statement:

We have received reports that some Google applications are unable to be accessed in Turkey. The difficulty in accessing some Google services in Turkey appears to be linked to the ongoing ban on YouTube. We are working to get our services back up as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, a report at a website called The National Turk, which appears to be based at least in part on news stories from the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, says that:

The Telecommunication and communication Ministry (TIB), a government body that can control Internet accessibility in Turkey is attempting to block certain IP's (Internet Protocol Addresses) belonging to Google due to legal reason . Some ADSL company's and Internet services providers have sent their customers E-mail's and letters informing them of inaccessibility or the slow use of certain Google services [sic throughout].

ISPs in the country have reportedly told users that they would suffer accessibility problems to Google's home page in Turkey, websites that use Google Analytics, and use of the Google Toolbar. Another Turkish news site, Hurriyet Daily News, says that the access restrictions could be a result of the government trying to block specific DNS addresses that relate to Google, as part of its ongoing attempts to block YouTube.

According to reports from Turkish news sources, the government is saying that Google is responsible for the range of IP addresses that are being blocked due to the court order regarding YouTube, and therefore it is up to the company to correct the problem.

Update: Academics to Appeal Against Turkish Google Ban

11th June 2010. Based on article from

Media Freedom Activists Bring Lawsuit against Google Ban

Yaman Akdeniz from Bilgi University and Kerem Altiparmak from Ankara University will appeal to tban on certain Google services imposed by the Telecommunication Communication Presidency.

The Ankara 1st Magistrate Criminal Court had banned access to the global social networking site, the video service owned by Google, with a decision from 4 May 2008. In order to increase the effect of this decision, certain services of Google which are activated under the same IP numbers are blocked now as well.

Yaman Akdeniz told bianet that he was not sure whether this problem could be overcome. The access to Google Analytics has become very troublesome, Akdeniz said to name just one example. Google Analytics offers web analytics for enterprises to gain insights into website traffic and marketing effectiveness.

Akdeniz emphasized that the actual problem is based on the latest implementations of TI.B to make access to Google services more difficult and even fully block access in certain situations: This application is exaggerated. YouTube has been blocked anyways. New measures to make access even more difficult are harming the other Google services. This is nothing else but censorship. This is an extreme and contradictory application which is unacceptable in a democratic society.

Reporters without Borders (RSF) also condemned the increasing censorship on Google in Turkey: It is time the Turkish authorities demonstrated their commitment to free expression by putting an end to the censorship that affects thousands of websites in Turkey and by overhauling Law 5651 on the Internet, which allows this sort of mass blocking of sites .

Update: Turkish president tweets against Google ban

12th June 2010. Based on article from

Various news publications are reporting that Turkish President Abdullah Gul used Twitter to say that he doesn't agree with the bans and has asked officials to look for ways to get rid of them.

According to Reuters, in a series of Tweets, Gul said:

I know there are lots of complaints about bans on YouTube and Google.

I am definitely against them being closed down. I have ordered responsible institutions for a solution. I asked for a change in regulations on merit.

What's next? Whoever blocked Google will now block Twitter as well?

Update: Appeal Denied

8th July 2010. Based on article from

The Ankara 1st Criminal Court of Peace has not accepted an appeal of the Internet Technology Association (I.NETD) against the ban of the video sharing website YouTube in Turkey.

Evaluating the appeal by the Internet Technology Association, the judge Hayri Keskin insisted on rejecting it as long as objectionable violations of the law continue on the site.


6th June   

For Neda...

Iran attempts to censor documentary about protestor that was shot
Link Here

Iran is jamming satellite broadcasts in attempts to stop people seeing a new film telling the story of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman who was shot dead during the mass protests that followed last summer's disputed presidential election.

Viewers in Tehran complained of jamming and power cuts when the Voice of America Persian TV network broadcast the documentary For Neda , featuring the first film interviews with the family of the 27-year-old.

The 70-minute film, made by Mentorn Media for HBO and being screened in the US this month, has rapidly gone viral in Iran in the run-up to the anniversary of the disputed elections that triggered the protests.

Neda became an instant symbol of Iran's struggle for democracy. On 20 June, within hours of her killing – described as probably the most widely witnessed death in human history – mobile phone images of her bloodstained face were being held up by demonstrators in Tehran and all over the world.

The film was directed by Antony Thomas and co-produced by Saeed Kamali Dehghan, a former Guardian correspondent in Iran. Kamali Dehghan risked arrest to interview Neda's parents and siblings and obtain unseen footage of her life.

Witnesses have said that she was shot in the heart by a sniper with the Basij militia force.


31st May   

Dressed to Censor...

Juliette Binoche taunts Iran during the Cannes festival and gets her film banned in Iran
Link Here

A rumbling row over censorship between the Cannes film festival and Iran flared anew as Tehran banned celebrated director Abbas Kiarostami's new movie due to star Juliet Binoche's attire .

The actress award last weekend for her role in Certified Copy, a tortuous tete-a-tete about love and marriage in which she remains determinedly fully clothed throughout.

If Juliette Binoche were better clad it could have been screened but due to her attire there will not be a general screening, Deputy Culture Minister Javad Shamaqdari was quoted as saying by local newspapers.

Binoche and Kiarostami heaped criticism however against Tehran throughout the festival, for the way it treats its film-makers and for its tough censorship stance.

On picking up the best actress prize, the French star brandished a sign with the name of Jafar Panahi, the Iranian film-maker jailed in Tehran in March for planning a film against the Islamic regime.

After years of friction between the Cannes film festival and Tehran, organisers may have added insult to injury this year by inviting jailed Panahi to join the festival jury that decides on the winners of its awards. At the festival's gala opening, the jury headed by Alice in Wonderland director Tim Burton called for his release and left a seat symbolically empty for him on stage.


27th May   

Does Not Fit Cultural Values...

UAE ban Sex and the City 2 set in Abu Dhabi
Link Here

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) film censors of the National Media Council have decided that the new movie Sex and the City 2 will be banned from being shown in UAE cinemas.

A senior spokesman for the UAE National Media Council told Time Out Dubai that the ban was for various reasons: Among them are that the film's website stated that filming was done in Abu Dhabi even though they were denied permission to do so and that they continue to attribute the locations shot in Morocco as being in Abu Dhabi, which is false, as the theme of the film does not fit with our cultural values. Also, they persisted in using Abu Dhabi's name in the movie despite the fact that no official permission was given to them to do so.

While the movie was being banned in its setting, the UAE -- in Hollywood, it was being described as an anti-Muslim movie, by the Hollywood Reporter. The Hollywood Reporter's review of the movie stated that [Carrie] and her friends run up against the puritanical and misogynistic culture of the Middle East... The rather scathing portrayal of Muslim society no doubt will stir controversy, especially in a frothy summer entertainment, but there's something bracing about the film's saucy political incorrectness. Or is it politically correct? SATC 2 is at once proudly feminist and blatantly anti-Muslim, which means that it might confound liberal viewers.


22nd May   

Update: Slaves to Oppression...

Bahrain bans AJ-Jazeera
Link Here

Bahrain has suspended local operations of the Qatari broadcaster al-Jazeera and barred a crew from travelling to the Gulf Arab state.

Al-Jazeera, with a record of tense relations with Arab states over its coverage of sensitive political topics, recently aired programmes on poverty and the treatment of Asian labourers, both sensitive matters in Bahrain.

Bahrain has temporarily frozen the office of the Qatari al-Jazeera satellite TV channel for breaching the professional media norms and flouting the laws regulating the press and publishing, the official Bahrain News Agency said.


22nd May

 Offsite: Jailhouse Rock...

Link Here
Kurdish music in turmoil of censorship and court cases

See article from


14th May   

Update: Ongoing Emergency...

Egypt plans to ease press censorship
Link Here
Full story: Press Freedom in Egypt...Press under duress in Egypt

Egypt's government plans to ease press censorship for two years and end property confiscation by the state, Al Ahram newspaper reported, without saying how it obtained the information.

Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif will present the proposals to parliament in Cairo, the state-run newspaper said.

The measures temporarily ease an emergency law that was introduced after Islamist militants assassinated President Anwar Sadat in 1981. The emergency law will still be applied against terrorism and narcotics suspects, Al Ahram said.


12th May   

Update: Taking Censorship as Read...

Unprecedented censorship at the Tehran Book Fair
Link Here
Full story: Book Censors in Iran...Iranian literary censors

Reports have emerged about the banning of some books and pressure on independent publishers at the Tehran Book Fair.

Iran's Writers Association has said in a statement that a number of prominent publishing houses have been banned from attending the fair and the licenses of several have been cancelled. According to the statement, several of the publishers have also been summoned by security officials.

Censorship in the Islamic Republic is nothing new, but as the Writers Association points out, the summoning of publishers and revoking licenses is unprecedented.

The group has condemned the state pressure on independent book publishers and warned about the increased censorship and cultural crackdown in Iran.

Iranian news websites report that only books that have been published since President Mahmud Ahmadinejad took power in 2005 have been allowed to be presented at the book fair.

The Bamdadkhabar website cites a report by the ILNA news agency according to which books by renowned Iranian writer and critic Houshang Golshiri and prominent female poet Forough Farokhzad have been banned at the fair.

Books by Iranian reformist cleric and currently visiting research professor at America's Duke University, Mohsen Kadivar, have also reportedly been banned at the fair.

Bamdadkhabar quoted an unnamed publisher, who did not want to be named because of security fears, as saying that authorities have warned against political discussions and propaganda against the system at the booths and said they will be dealt with in a tougher manner than one can imagine.

Khabaronline also reported that on the first day of the book fair all books related to the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri and Ayatollah Sanei were collected from various stalls and were being kept at the cultural office of Tehran's Mosala, where the book fair is being held.


7th May   

Tables Turned...

Egyptian christians whinge at popular Arabic novel
Link Here

Egyptian Christians have called for government action against the author of a widely read novel they say insults Christianity, in an unusual case that puts freedom of expression in Muslim-majority Egypt under fresh scrutiny.

Government investigators are looking into the complaint filed by a group of Egyptian and some foreign Copts against Youssef Ziedan, a Muslim who wrote the 2008 award-winning novel Azazeel ( Beelzebub ).

Egyptian law prohibits insults against Islam, Christianity and Judaism, and Ziedan could be sent to jail for up to five years if prosecuted and found guilty.

They accuse me of insulting Christianity ... It's a serious crime and this is a big shock to people, especially since the novel has been so successful, Ziedan said.

Azazeel , which won the 2009 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, backed by the Booker Prize Foundation, tells the story of a 5th-century Egyptian monk who witnesses debates over doctrine between early Christians.

Mamdouh Ramzi, a Coptic lawyer who is among the group that have complained about Ziedan, said the novel is offensive to Christians: He insulted priests and bishops and said many things with no proof or evidence from books or history ... He is not a Christian man, what does he know about the Church?

The case has been joined by Coptic groups in the United States, the Netherlands, Canada and Austria.


3rd May   

IDed as Repressive...

UAE introduce ID cards to track people's internet use
Link Here

People will be barred from accessing the internet publicly in the UAE without a national identity card under an initiative by the Interior Ministry to supposedly crack down on cyber crime and child sex abuse, UAE daily Emarat al-Youm reported.

The initiative will allow authorities to monitor everyone who accesses the internet from public locations such as internet cafes, coffee shops and malls, the Arabic newspaper said.

The newspaper said the restrictions would be come into force soon , without being more specific.

The UAE aims to issue mandatory national ID cards its citizens and expatriates by the end of 2010 under a population registration programme. The single card is expected to later replace other forms of identification in the UAE such as labor permit, health card and driving license.

Major General Nasser Lakhraibani-Naimi, Interior Ministry secretary-general, claimed the initiative would develop levels of awareness and protection of children against the potential risks from the use of the internet .


30th April   

A 1001 Tales of Nutter Censorship...

Egyptian book burners try to get A Thousand and One Nights banned
Link Here
Full story: Salo in Australia...End of long time ban on Pasolini's film

A group of nutter Egyptian lawyers have filed a communiqu้ to the Prosecutor General in order to confiscate A Thousand and One Nights book and imprison its publishers.

They claim that the heritage script is offensive to public decency .

The lawyers filed their complaint as per article #178 of the penal code, which fines and punishes with imprisonment for a period of two years anyone who published literature, pictures, offensive to public decency .

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) has said that the failure of the Egyptian government to take a clear stance regarding the religious and political Hesba cases (private actions) has encouraged more religious extremists and publicity seekers to join the “Actio popularis” team.

Gamal Eid, ANHRI executive director said, Demanding the confiscation of a heritage book and a creativity piece , such as A Thousand and One Nights, is a crime in essence . We will not be silent regarding these cases . ANHRI legal aid unit for freedom of expression will lead the defense of these writers and intellectuals who are exposed to an unfair crackdown by those publicity seekers. These writers and intellectuals insist on handing over historical and cultural treasures to the Egyptian reader and making them accessible to the Egyptian citizen just like other citizens in other countries that respect freedom of expression and freedom of creativity.


24th April   

City of Restricted Life...

Cinema and DVD censorship in UAE
Link Here

Huddled around a camp fire in the dunes, a group of young Emirati men drink vodka from plastic cups. Later, in the VIP area of a club, they swig magnums of champagne, eyeing the Western girls in miniskirts dancing by their table.

This week, these scenes will be on big screens all over Dubai. They're from City of Life , the nation's first big-budget feature film, written and directed by Emirati Ali Mostafa.

Ten years ago, no way would I have been able to show that, Mostafa tells Time Out. I'm surprised I'm able to show it now.

Mostafa defends his depiction of decadent Emiratis by declaring: I did what I thought was real. He concedes the film could have delved even further, but reasons: I didn't need to make a film that was so unnecessarily controversial that no [Emirati] could ever make a film again. I'm just scratching the surface.

While some locals may take offence at these scenes, the fact that they've not been cut before the film hits multiplexes shows a marked change regarding the UAE's censorship of celluloid. Of course, there remain non-negotiables . A public cinema must not offend the nation's social and religious values, meaning any sexual or nude scenes are immediately cast to the cutting room floor. Also up for the chop is anything that could be offensive to religion (not just Islam) and anything that criticises the rulers of the UAE and surrounding Arab nations.

Mohammed Mutawa, a senior staff member in the censorship department at the National Media Council (NMC), sums up the difficulty of his job when he tells us that 90% of material – films, music, video games – is from outside our culture . Inevitably, elements of this imported material will conflict with the UAE's social values.

Still, the department rarely bans films, with sometimes humorous results. Morgan Freeman is entirely missing from the UAE version of Bruce Almighty because censors cut all depictions of God. Contrary to popular belief, Sex and the City was not banned here. But because all scenes of a sexual nature were cut, cinemas decided not to screen it – probably because there were only about 30 minutes of the film left to screen.

City of Life director Mostafa says he thinks the psychology of seeing it on the big screen has drawn objections to the more risqu้ parts of his film. True, there seem to be different rules for public and private viewing here.

Juma Alleem, director of the NMC's censorship department, confirms it is not illegal to possess an uncensored film on DVD in the UAE because it is a personal effect. There is no official intervention because it is for personal use. He also tells us that DVDs for sale in the UAE aren't as censored as in the cinema because he lacks the technology to cut them. Therefore, if there are only one or two sexual scenes, a DVD is released. If there are too many obscene scenes , it is banned. That's why Watchmen , for example, was near incomprehensible in the cinema, but it's possible to buy the DVD and see the film in its entirety – sex scenes and Dr Manhattan's perennially naked presence included.


14th April   

Update: Blackberry Squashed...

Bahrain bans Blackberry groups for inline news dissemination
Link Here

Bahrain recently banned the use of BlackBerry chat groups citing supposed concerns over the chaos and confusion that would result from sharing and distributing local news through these groups, according to Abdullah Yateem, the Culture and Information Ministry assistant undersecretary for press and publication.

With this move Bahrain set a precedent in taking legal action against the users of BlackBerry chat groups.

An immediate result of the ministry's action was the suspension of daily news provided by Breaking News , started by Muhannad Sulaiman, a Bahraini journalist, to more than 13,000 BlackBerry subscribers.

The chat groups feature is widely used in Bahrain to deliver a variety of updates ranging from news headlines to political statements. The subscribers to these groups affected by the ban are in the thousands.

BlackBerry chat groups are now required to acquire licensing from the Ministry of Culture and Information before they are allowed to resume operation.


3rd April   

Flying Kites for Censorship...

Nutters get The Kite banned from Lebanese TV
Link Here

Private Lebanese TV channel NTV has refused to broadcast the feature film The Kite , directed by Randa Chahal Sabbag. Winner of the Silver Lion award at the Venice Film Festival in 2003, the film tells the story of an impossible love affair between a young Lebanese Druze woman and a Druze man in the Israeli army (the Druze religious community practice a form of Islam derived from Shi'ism, live in Lebanon, Syria, and Israel).

Two political leaders from the Druze community, Walid Joumblatt and Talal Arslan, as well as several of the community's religious authorities convinced the channel's executives to postpone broadcasting the film. Their efforts were motivated by what they saw as the film's potential to offend members of the Druze community. Earlier in the day, several dozen protesters had gathered near the home of the channel's owner and next to the channel's headquarters to demand the cancellation of the film's scheduled broadcast.

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