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Middle East Censorship News

2012: July-Sept

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Oh My God...

Indian film banned by UAE over religious content about suing God

Link Here29th September 2012

OMG Oh My God! is a 2012 India comedy by Umesh Shukla.
With Mithun Chakraborty, Prabhu Deva and Poonam Jhawer. See IMDb

It is a film about a shopkeeper who takes the religious character God to court after his store is destroyed by a tornado.

It was passed PG by the BBFC for infrequent mild language and slapstick violence.

OMG has now been banned in the UAE due, presumably due to its religious content. Makers of the film learned about the UAE censor board decision just short of the film's release.

Vikram Malhotra of Viacom18 Motion Pictures, the co-producers of the film, said:

We have lost at least Rs 4 crore. It's terrible.

Update: Banned in Malaysia

29th September 2012. From

Bollywood film Oh My God has been officially banned by the Malaysian Censorship Board citing sensitive religious elements as the cause.

Based on a 2001 Australian comedy The Man Who Sued God , Oh My God tells the story of a shopkeeper named Kanjibhai who blames God for causing his shop to be destroyed by a tornado. The man then shows his wrath by fighting all the priests in the town, just to take Him down.



Evolving Censorship...

Hollywood films shown in Egypt are censored of references to Jesus and evolution

Link Here27th September 2012

America. Jesus. Freedom. Those are the opening words in the comedy The Campaign. In Egypt, however, the translation of these words, along with other references to Jesus or anything related to religion, was removed.

Those viewing the film in Egypt who do not speak English, are told the opening line of the film is simply America. Freedom. Jesus is somehow left out.

Again, later in the film, when Will Ferrell's character attempts to tell the Lord's Prayer at a debate and butchers it completely, the translation is gone, absent and not found.

In X-Men , when there is a discussion of evolution to mutants, the screen was void again of any translation.

This is normal, said one Coptic Christian filmmaker in Cairo. He told

They censor all of this regularly because they believe it will offend and is an attack on religion, no matter what the context.

This is not necessarily the government. It could be the translation company censoring themselves ahead of time.



Update: Registered as Repressive...

New Jordan law requires all local news websites to register for government censorship

Link Here19th September 2012
Full story: Internet Censorship in Jordan...Government push for blocking of internet porn

Jordan's King Abdullah has endorsed a new repressive media law.

The legislation requires electronic publications in Jordan to get a licence from the government.

It also gives the authorities the power to block and censor websites, whose owners will be held responsible for comments posted on them.

Human Rights Watch accused the government of using such legislation to go after opponents and critics . The organisation said the dangers of the amendments to the Press and Publications Law arose from its vague definition of the electronic publications which would be affected, the new executive power to block websites, and the unreasonable restrictions on online content, including comments posted by website users.

The legislation's definition of electronic publication is an electronic site on the internet with a fixed address that offers publication services . Any that publish news, investigations, articles, or comments, which have to do with the internal or external affairs of the kingdom must register with the commerce ministry and get a licence from the culture ministry.

The culture ministry will have the authority to block websites that are either unlicensed or deemed to be in violation of any law, and to close the website's offices without providing a reason or obtaining a court order.

The owner, editor and director of an electronic publication will share the responsibility for comments posted on their website, and be obliged not to publish any containing information or facts unrelated to the news item or if the truth has not been checked , or if they violate laws .



Update: Innocence or Naivety?...

Egyptian jailed for reposting Innocence of Muslims on Facebook

Link Here18th September 2012
Full story: The Innocence of Muslims...Muslim world gets wound up by silly movie

27-year-old atheist activist, Alber Saber was arrested in Cairo, Egypt after he posted the now infamous 14-minute trailer for the film Innocence of Muslims on the Facebook wall of his group, Egyptians.Atheists.

Neighbors in his mostly Muslim community of el-Marg in eastern Cairo gathered in protest outside Saber's home with many calling for his death. According to his mother, one person shouted, Why are we standing down here? Let's go upstairs and get him.

Alber Saber was arrested after his mother called the police out of fear of the crowd outside their home. Saber was arrested under the rarely used law that prohibits insulting religion. He was allegedly thrown in a crowded jail cell and the officer allegedly told those in the cell that Saber had insulted the Prophet Muhammad. There are reports that Saber has been attacked in the jail cell and according to one blog, his neck was slashed with a razorblade.

A Facebook page has been created to demand Saber's release. The Free Alber Saber Facebook page now has 2800 'likes'.



Update: Innocence or Guilt...

Bounty on Salman Rushdie increased as he is blamed for the latest troubles

Link Here18th September 2012
Full story: The Innocence of Muslims...Muslim world gets wound up by silly movie

An Iranian religious group has increased a reward offered for the murder of British author Salman Rushdie after managing to blame him for The Innocence of Muslims film.

Rushdie has no links to the film and he dismissed the latest move as idiotic , but Ayatollah Hassan Sanei of the 15 Khordad Foundation said the film would never have been released had Rushdie been killed after the fatwa was declared.

Sanei increased the reward by $500,000 USD, making the total sum $3.3million USD.



A Run on the Rial...

Iran blocks SMS messages with the word dollar during on run on the local currcency

Link Here14th September 2012

Iran's currency, the Rial, plunged nearly 8% to a new record low against the dollar recently, but the dramatic drop was being suppressed within the country on mobile phone text services and some exchange websites. Middle East Online reports.

Text messages that included the word dollar in English or in Farsi were censored, with the message not being received.

The censorship was easy to workaround though, text messages containing the words USD , euro or the $ symbol were all transmitted and received normally.



Update: Shades of Truth...

Shades of Grey sequels banned in UAE

Link Here4th September 2012
Full story: Fifty Shades of Grey...BDSM book scores an international hit

Fans of a best-selling erotic novel face a premature end to their reading pleasure because the second and third instalments of the trilogy have been withdrawn from the UAE bookshops.

Employees at some of the country's biggest bookstores say all three books of the Fifty Shades trilogy, by the British author EL James, were available until about a month ago, when there was a sudden withdrawal of the final two books in the series - Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.

However, the first book in the series, Fifty Shades of Grey , remains on sale.

A saleswoman at Magrudy's in Abu Dhabi's Al Wadha Mall said they were still waiting for books two and three. They're banned. We don't know when we will get them, she said.

At Book World by Kinokuniya, in Dubai Mall, a saleswoman said the store was not allowed to sell the final instalments.

Virgin Megastore, which has a large display of the first book in Abu Dhabi Mall, said the second and third books have not been granted approval in the UAE at the moment . Iain Paul Martin, Virgin's regional senior books buyer, said all the store's books required an approval certificate from the department of media content at the NMC. In this case, books 2 and 3 of the Grey trilogy have not been granted the certificate, he said.

But strangely the National Media Council (NMC), the government authority overseeing censorship, has rigorously denied imposing any such ban, claiming that stores deciding not to sell the book have decided to do so of their own accord. Ibrahim Al Abed, the director general of the NMC, said the council had nothing to do with these things . We do not censor books. It's up to the bookshops who can decide to ban the books, he said.



Update: Miserable Jordan...

200 Websites in blackout protest against impending government censorship

Link Here1st September 2012
Full story: Internet Censorship in Jordan...Government push for blocking of internet porn

Over two hundred Jordanian websites went dark on Wednesday, in a SOPA-like protest of draft legislation that would allow the government to block and censor Internet content. The action was coordinated by a grassroots organization of tech savvy Jordanians and the editors of various Jordanian websites, with blackout screens on dozens of widely read digital news sites and blogs.

The Internet blackout protest was originally planned for September, in response to the demand of a conservative grassroots group, Ensaf, that the government filter pornography sites. The government's tepidly supportive attitude to Ensaf, combined with the many followers it had garnered for its Facebook page, gave rise to concerns that a wide consensus in favor of banning online porn would provide the government with an opportunity to give itself more power to control the Internet.

When the details of the draft legislation was released last week, the activists' fears were confirmed. The proposed amendment to the existing Press and Publication Law, if passed and enforced, would indeed grant the government sweeping powers to censor and block online content, stifling debate and the free expression of opinion. And so the protest was coordinated and carried out within four days.

The draft legislation includes articles that would hold online media accountable for any comments left by their readers, and would prohibit them from publishing any comments deemed irrelevant to the published article. Moreover, online media organizations would also be required to archive all comments left on their sites for at least six months. However, the most troublesome amendment essentially requires online media to register with and obtain a license from the Press and Publications Department, paying a fee of roughly $1,400 (lowered from an initially proposed $14,000), and giving the government the ability to block sites failing to comply. Bringing online news sites in to the folds of the Press and Publications law would therefore require them to be mandatory members of the Jordan Press Association, and undergo the same regulations governing print publications, including appointing an editor-in-chief who has been a member of the association for a minimum of four years.

Parliament's decision on the proposed new law is pending.



Miserable Gaza...

Gaza set to block internet porn

Link Here1st September 2012

The ministry of communications of the Hamas government in Gaza has announced that it will block access to pornographic websites starting in September, the Ma'an news agency reported.

Gaza communications minister Osama al-Issawi explained that the move was meant to protect Palestinian society and preserve the fabric of society in the Gaza Strip.

Ministry licensing head Kamal al-Masr said they the authorities had asked the 10 main Internet providers operating in Gaza to block the sites from Sept. 1, after a government decision a week earlier.



Update: Beirut Hotel...

Banned in Lebanon for its political subplot about assassinated PM

Link Here30th August 2012
Full story: Banned Films in Lebanon...Beirut Hotel

In Beirut Hotel , Zoha, a Lebanese nightclub singer, and Mathieu, a Frenchman on a business trip who may or may not be a spy, repeatedly get together in Mathieu's hotel room in Beirut and have raunchy sex. The film, the third feature by the Lebanese director Danielle Arbid, was banned in her home country.

The reason: not so much the erotic scenes as one the film's subplots, which concerns the 2005 assassination of the former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, which is an explosive topic in the country. The censors claimed that the film's depiction of the political situation would endanger Lebanon's security.

The Lebanese have only been able to watch the film by satellite (it aired on the cable channel Arte; some one million viewers tuned in), but it's been making the festival rounds around the world.

Beirut Hotel presents a cosmopolitan yet hostile country where citizens and visitors alike are constantly watched and monitored, where news of kidnappings rule the airways, and people are silenced (read: murdered) for political reasons.

Danielle Arbid has had to battle the Lebanese censors for all three of her feature films. According to the New York Times, following the decree that banned Beirut Hotel, the filmmaker moved to France in disgust.



Miserable Dominion...

Saudi objects to proposed top level domains about sex and religion

Link Here15th August 2012

The Saudi Arabian government is objecting to a number of proposed new Internet top level domains, including .gay, .bar, .baby and .islam.

The country claims that the .gay domain would promote homosexuality and would be offensive to many societies and cultures.   Saudi's internet censor spouted: Many societies and cultures consider homosexuality to be contrary to their culture, morality or religion.

Saudi Arabia's Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) filed objections to 31 domain extensions with anything having to do with sex, gambling, drinking and religion, primarily on cultural and religious grounds.

Saudi has objected to domains including .porn, .sexy, .adult, .hot, .sex, .dating and .virgin laughably claiming that:

pornography undermines gender equality and threatens public morals.

The country is more sensibly objecting to .islam because the applicant is a private company that cannot represent the whole or even a majority of the worldwide Muslim community. It argues that all religious communities should have a say in any approval of any related domain extensions, or they should be banned altogether.

The suffixes are some of the 1,930 top-level domain names currently being considered by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization in charge of managing Internet naming standards.  ICANN opened up the application process to the public, charging $185,000 for each nomination, and announced the list of candidates in June. So far, the group has received 6,185 comments from individuals, organizations, companies and governments, including 166 from the Saudi Arabian government

The public can submit objections until September 26.



Imagine a World Without John Lennon's Lyrics...

Turkey censors the Olympics Closing Ceremony

Link Here15th August 2012

An incomplete translation of John Lennon's song Imagine during Turkish state TV coverage of the Olympics closing ceremony has been spotted by the country's independent media groups.

A reporter from state-run TRT television translated the famous song live, but omitted the last part of the lyrics when he came to the lines:

Imagine... nothing to kill or die for.
And no religion too.

the newspaper Hurriyet reported this as:

TRT refuses to imagine a world without religion, and censors Lennon.



The Wrong Type of History...

Egypt book censors ban A History of the Modern Middle East

Link Here14th August 2012

Egyptian authorities have banned the import of A History of the Modern Middle East by eminent American academics William L Cleveland and Martin Bunton, now in its 12th edition.

Khaled Fahmy, chair of history at the American University in Cairo (AUC), said that he received an email from the university informing him that the book he had requested for his modern Arab history course had been banned from entering the country. The short email did not give any reasons for the ban. Fahmy expressed dismay at the ban:

It's strange how we as a society give the responsibility of the Egyptian National Security to some clerks in the Print Censorship Authority, who prove everyday that they lack the basic knowledge of the priorities of scientific research, as well as their disregard of national security too.



Strategically Placed Jugs...

Video shows examples of TV censorship in Iran

Link Here28th July 2012

Iranian journalist Reza Valizadeh, who worked for some four years as a reporter, presenter, and producer with Iran's radio and television, explained in a 2010 interview with Persian Letters how foreign movies and documentaries are altered on state TV to make them appropriate and Islamic in the eyes of Iranian decision makers.

Romantic dialogue is often changed. For example, it isn't proper for a woman to say to her partner, 'I love you.' It isn't considered decent. It's clear how dialogue about sexual proposals is dealt with -- they are changed to marriage proposals. Also, we see that beer becomes lemonade on state television and whiskey becomes orange juice. Also, dialogue about politics is often changed.

The Gooya website has reposted some images by an Iranian film publication, Cafecinema, depicting censorship on state television, which is tightly monitored by hard-liners.

Notice that in some cases the women's necklines have been covered through different methods and in other cases the woman has been excised completely, apparently because of her closeness to men in the shots. Alcohol has also been removed in one of the images.



Update: Women Get a Bad Deal...

Film poster de-womaned in Jerusalem

Link Here24th July 2012
Full story: Invisible Women in israel...Women removed from the media lest men get offended

Two actresses have censored from advertisements for the Israeli movie The Dealers , displayed on billboards in Jerusalem.

Other ads for the film, a comedy about friends from Jerusalem looking for a way to make money, feature four men and two women.

As a result of the exclusion, some protesters have threatened to boycott the movie. Critical comments posted on the Facebook page of film distributor United King Films included:

The movie is boycotted until you fix the advertising in Jerusalem

If you continue to exclude women, we will exclude ourselves from your movies!

United King said the company that operates the billboards had asked for the actresses to be removed from the ad:

Unfortunately, the censorship of women's images from billboards is the result of a decision we consider unacceptable, and is not in our interest. In the past two years we have unsuccessfully struggled against this unacceptable directive.

Previously the Jerusalem International Film Festival, held earlier this month, had its posters defaced all around the city after choosing a woman on a bicycle as its symbol. Many in Israel's secular majority, in Jerusalem and elsewhere, have reacted indignantly. In a Haaretz article a PR person is quoted as saying:

It is not surprising that the middle class and young secular people are abandoning Jerusalem. What remains of this charming city that should have been a magnificent city is injustice and dreariness and the repression of women.



Update: Negative Thinking...

Jordanian nutters campaign for website blocking

Link Here18th July 2012
Full story: Internet Censorship in Jordan...Government push for blocking of internet porn

A few people, (described as 'dozens') took to the streets in Jordan to urge the government to block pornographic websites in the country, the Jordan Times reported.

Internet in the country has mostly been uncensored by authorities, however nutters have launched campaigns on Facebook calling on authorities to block sites they claim inflict any negative physical or psychological impact on the younger generation, the newspaper reported.

The government should immediately instruct telecom companies and internet services providers to block these websites, spouted Ammar Al Saket, who launched a campaign on Facebook.



Update: Mulling New Blasphemy Law...

Saudi considers extreme punishment for religious insult via social media

Link Here17th July 2012
Full story: Blasphemy in Saudi...Blasphemy laws used to settle private scores

Saudi Arabia is studying new laws to criminalise insulting Islam, including in social media, and the law could carry heavy penalties, a Saudi paper said on Sunday.

Within the next two months the Shura Council will reveal the outcome of study on the regulations to combat the criticism of the basic tenets of Islamic sharia, unnamed sources with knowledge of the matter told al-Watan, adding that there could be severe punishments for violators.

Criticism penalised under the law would include that of the religious character Mohammed, early Muslim figures and clerics, it said.

The (regulations) are important at the present time because violations over social networks on the Internet have been observed in the past months, the sources said. Refering to the case of thw  Saudi blogger and columnist Hamza Kashgari. He was was arrested for tweeting comments deemed as insulting to Mohammad. Kashgari said that there were things he liked and disliked about him.



An Insult to Freedom...

Iraqi Kurdistan draft blasphemy law targeted at criticism of all religions

Link Here16th July 2012

Parliamentarians in Iraq's Kurdish region are drafting a blasphemy law that, unlike those in other Muslim-majority nations, will target criticisms of other religions as well as islam.

Prompted by rioting after a controversial sermon by a Kurdish mullah in May, the bill would make acts of blasphemy, broadly defined as offending God or the prophets, or deliberately damaging holy books or religious buildings, against any religion punishable by up to 10 years in prison, according to Rudaw News.

Any media organization found guilty of publishing or broadcasting blasphemous content would be closed down for a minimum of six months.

Opponents insist the bill, if passed, will unlawfully censor media in the Kurdistan region.

Basher Hadad, head of the committee charged with drafting the bill, told Rudaw News that the law will protect Christians and other religious minorities in addition to Muslims:

The name of Islam is not mentioned in this law. What it does prohibit --- insulting God, the prophets, holy books --- is common to all religions. This law prohibits Muslims from insulting Christians, Yazidi or other religious minorities, too.



Update: Orthodox Homophobia...

Russian christians organise petition to ban Facebook over same sex marriage icons

Link Here14th July 2012
Full story: Internet Censorship in Russia...Russia and its repressive state control of media

According to Russia Today, nutters from the Orthodox Church are angry at the Facebook's decision to launch same-sex marriage icons, calling them gay propaganda .

The nutters apparently claim that the icons could make young people tempted to explore homosexuality. In fact, the church in the city of Saratov, southern Russia, asked issued an ultimatum requesting that the social network stop flirting with Sodomites .

The nutters have organised a petition to get Facebook banned in the country. Vladimir Roslyakovsky, leader of the Orthodox public organization, spewed:

We demand only one thing: Facebook should be blocked in the entire country because it openly popularizes homosexuality among minors.

The US goal is that Russians stop having children. [They want] the great nation to turn into likeness of Sodom and Gomorrah, Roslyakovsky said. But I am confident that Russian laws and reasonable citizens will be able to protect their children from a fierce attack of sodomites.



Update: Turkish Repression Inspires Dissent...

Musician jailed for quoting revolutionary leaders as inspiration

Link Here4th July 2012
Full story: Music Censorship in Turkey...Musician under duress from Turkish authorities

Ferhat Tunc, one of Turkey's most popular and outspoken musicians, last week found himself on the wrong side of the law, when a court sentenced him to two years in prison.

In 2011, Tunc, an Index on Censorship Free Expression prize winner, stood an independent parliamentary candidate for Labour, Democracy and Freedom Bloc. During a speech in Tunceli, where he was standing for election, he referred to three political figures, Ibrahim Kaypakkaya, Mahir Cayan and Deniz Gezmis, whose revolutionary spirit he announced to have shared in his own political struggle.

These long-deceased political figures have become symbols for some of Turkey's socialists over the last four decades. Their images often appear on t-shirts, souvenirs and Istanbul's walls in the form of graffiti. All waged an armed war against Turkish state and were captured and executed as a result. But they have little following in society (radical left parties rarely get more than 0.1% of votes) and like Che Guevara, their names often stand for youthful romanticism, rather than hard politics.

But according to the Malatya court, the enunciation of their names is a direct reference to the outlawed Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP). Tunc, has now been convicted of propagandising for the group.

The singer has said he will appeal and his lawyer, Ercan Kanar announced they would bring the case to the European Court of Human Rights.



Update: Erotic Award Winner 2012...

Pioneer: Global Network of Sex Work Projects

Link Here4th July 2012
Full story: Naked Blogger...Brave Egyptian blogger shows freedom loving spirit


Winner: Global Network of Sex Work Projects (UK)

The NSWP was established in 1990, as an informal, sex worker-led network, to advance male, female and transgender sex workers' human rights and health, and influence policies worldwide. They have built a community and are leaders among sex workers. They facilitated the development of many regional sex work projects. The NSWP participation in the global response to HIV/AIDS was largely responsible for the term sex worker replacing prostitute in many languages, lessening stigma and encouraging pride in the work. They are based in Edinburgh.

Runner Up: Aliaa Magda Elmahdy (Egypt)

Student, atheist and blogger, Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, posted nude pictures of herself on her blog to show her screams against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy . Sharing and embracing her body, her femininity, particularly at a time when Islamists in Egypt are trying to secure power, was the ultimate act of rebellion. Today, the nude pictures have been taken down but their powerful ripple, a fist upwards to freedom, remains.

Runner Up: Megan Andelloux (USA)

Megan is the founder and director of The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health in Pawtucket, RI. It is a sexuality resource centre designed to provide adults with a safe, physical space to learn about sexual pleasure, health, advocacy issues and discussions on a wide range of topics: De-Mystifying Pudendal Neuralgia , for example. The centre has publications and resources from today's and yesteryear's great sexual thinkers, a huge inventory of sex toys, and the largest handmade vulva doorframe in America. Megan lectures internationally on sexual pleasure, politics, and erotic justice.

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