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Middle East Censorship News

2013: Jan-March

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Offsite Article: Brave Cartoonery...

Link Here30th March 2013
Full story: Blasphemy in Egypt...Unswaying belief in injustice
Dooa Eladl is an Egyptian cartoonist who calls herself a Muslim anarchist. Her work appears in the prominent newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm She has become one of Egypt's best-known, and bravest, political cartoonists.

See article from



Update: Blurring History...

Israeli newspaper blurs out women in iconic historical image

Link Here28th March 2013

The special Passover holiday supplement of the haredi newspaper BaKehillah blurred out Jewish women's faces in the iconic photograph of the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto after the uprising.

In BaKehillah's version of the photograph, all the faces of the women and girls are blurred out, and the little girl in the front left of the original photo is completely cropped out.

BaKehillah's editor responded to questions about the censorship by acknowledging it was done for modesty reasons. Avraham Dov Greenbaum told Ynet:

We honor the memory of the martyrs of the Holocaust, and unlike [you in the secular press] - respect our readers and bring them only what they need and want to see.



You Have 7 Days Or Else...

Saudi authorities demand the capability to snoop on Skype communications

Link Here27th March 2013

Encrypted messaging services such as Skype, Viber and WhatsApp could be blocked in Saudi Arabia. The telecommunications censor is demanding a means to snoop on such applications.

Saudi newspapers are reporting that the companies behind the applications have been given a week to respond. No explanation has been given of why the demand has been made.

Internet communications has had a big impact in Saudi Arabia, which has the highest take-up of Twitter in the world, reports the BBC's Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher. He adds  that this latest threat would potentially deprive people of what has become an essential means of simply communicating with friends and family.

One Saudi user told the local media that she would feel uncomfortable talking to her relative on Skype without her hijab (headscarf) if she believed someone might be listening in on her.

Expatriate workers have messaged newspapers pleading with the Saudis not to stop their only affordable means of communication to their families back home.



Updated: Police Censorship...

Jews of Egypt film banned the country's authorities

Link Here21st March 2013

Jews of Egypt is a 2013 Egypt documentary by Amir Ramsis YouTube icon IMDb

The film is described on IMDb::

A documentary that captures fragments of the lives of the Egyptian Jewish community in the first half of the twentieth century until their second grand exodus after the tripartite attack of 1956. An attempt to understand the change in the identity of the Egyptian society that turned from a society full of tolerance and acceptance of one another to a rejection of the minorities. How did the Jews of Egypt turn in the eyes of Egyptians from partners in the same country to enemies?

Egyptian authorities have stopped the screening of the documentary a day before it was due to debut in local cinemas. The film producer said that no reasons were given. Film producer Haytham el-Khamissy said he heard from the chief of the censorship authority that a security agency asked to view the movie before granting it a license to be shown in theatres.

Update: Unbanned

21st March 2013. See  article from

Egypt's censors have now given permission for the screening of a historical documentary about the country's Jewish community, the director said, following a delay caused by a security agency that expressed reservations about the title.

Jews of Egypt will screen on March 27, director Amir Ramses said. The film will be screened at two cinemas in Cairo and a third in Alexandria. The film depicts changes in Egyptian society's acceptance of its Jewish minority in the first half of the 20th century.

When reviewing the most recent request for a license, Abdel Sattar Fathy, chief censor, said he had come across a security note stating that the film was not for public screening due to it being a documentary. Fathy said he then followed up with the security apparatus:

They told me that the name of the film could cause great doubt in the general situation in the country, [and] the current complicated conditions in the street.



Read All About It (If You Can)...

Closure of Google Reader is bad news for censored folks in Iran

Link Here15th March 2013

Google Reader users are angry that Google is snuffing out its RSS newsfeed viewer. But as Quartz's Zach Seward points out , censored folks in Iran used Google Reader quite a bit to get around internet censorship. The news articles from censored websites are accessed by Google servers in the US (or other free countries) and are packaged by Google for access via

Theoretically this could be stopped by blocking the whole, or part, of but maybe this is step too far even for a repressive country like Iran.

Iranian users won't be helped by replacement software popping up in the wake of Google Reader, because these can then be easily blocked.

Google is a business, not a public utility, and its decision to kill Reader makes business sense. But was maintaining Reader really so much of a drain on Google's vast resources that it couldn't have let the little remora keep hanging on as long as possible, as a kind of pro-bono, don't be evil brand-burnishing project? Google didn't design Reader to be used this way, and couldn't have predicted that it would be, but there it is. Why extinguish the benefit?



Update: Iran Blocks Unlicensed VPNs...

Where Iran leads, the EU will have to follow if it wants to block internet porn

Link Here11th March 2013
Full story: Iranian Internet Censorship...Extensive internet blocking

AN Iranian official Ramezanali Sobhani-Fard has told Reuters:

Within the last few days illegal VPN ports in the country have been blocked. Only legal and registered VPNs can from now on be used.

So, those looking to tap into Facebook, YouTube, various news sites and, yes, even Google's search engine itself (among other banned websites) will have to find different methods for doing so -- which do exist, according to an Iranian interviewed by Reuters who said he was using an unnamed software tool to bypass Iran's blocks.

 Iran's Mehdi Akhavan Behabadi explained further in the Tehran Chronicle:

We have started distributing official VPN services for Iranian users. Those need this service to open safe connections can apply in the program and we will review their cases one by one. If their request was approved, then we will introduce legal providers and licensed clients can buy their needed services.

By launching this program, Iranian government can prosecute users who are violating state laws and Internet Filtering Committee will be able to take offenders to national courts.



UAE Recommends...

Ram Gopal Varma's film, The Attacks of 26/11

Link Here1st March 2013

The Attacks of 26/11 is a 2013 India drama by Ram Gopal Varma.
With Nana Patekar, Atul Kulkarni. IMDb

UAE has banned the cinema release of Ram Gopal Varma's The Attacks of 26/11

The film  depicts the terrorist attacks on a Mumbai hotel in 2008.

However the film has been cleared by film censors in Bahrain and Oma.



Stamping Down on Easy Offence...

Egypt complains about French historical statue with French archaeologist with his foot on pharoah's head

Link Here27th February 2013

A statue in Paris of Jean François Champollion, the French archaeologist who deciphered hieroglyphics, has been condemned as derogatory and shameful by Egyptian Egyptologists.

Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi carved the marble statue depicting Champollion standing with his left foot on a pharaohs head in 1875. It was put on display in the Parc Egyptian created by French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette for the Universal Exhibition of 1877. In 1878, the statue was placed in its current location in the courtyard of the Collège de France.

The statue has triggered the anger of Egyptian Egyptologists and the antiquities ministry. Some Egyptian archaeologists sent a petition to the foreign and antiquities ministries condemning the statue as derogatory toward Egyptian Civilization. They urged the French government to remove this shameful statue.

Omar Al-Hadary, chairman of the Tourism and Antiquities Committee of the Revolutionary Youth Federation, asked the antiquities ministry to stop all French archaeological missions to Egypt until an official apology is made and the statue removed.



Masking Government Repression...

Bahrain bans V for Vendetta masks

Link Here26th February 2013

Bahrain has banned imports of a Guy Fawkes mask that is regularly worn by anti-government protesters.

Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Hassan Fakhro issued a decree in an attempt to stop the sale of the so-called revolution masks . The decision was taken based on a request by the Interior Ministry and in public interest , according to information published in the Official Gazette. It states the ministry has instructed the country's border authorities and ports to step up their efforts to prevent the masks - popularised by the movie V for Vendetta - from being imported.

Bahrain is the second country in the Gulf to have launched a crack down on the product. The UAE last year issued a strict warning for people not to wear the masks ahead of its National Day on December 2, claiming they symbolised resistance to state authority.



Barbie, Buddha and Bart...

Buddha images banned from Teheran shops

Link Here18th February 2013

Buddha images have joined Barbie dolls and characters from The Simpsons TV cartoon as banned items in Iran.

Authorities are currently confiscating statues and other images of the Buddha from shops in the Iranian capital to stop the promotion of Buddhism in the country , according to a report in the independent Arman daily. This appears to be the first time that Iranian authorities are showing an opposition to symbols from the East.

Saeed Jaberi Ansari, a censorship official for the 'protection of Iran's cultural heritage', called the Buddha images symbols of cultural invasion. He said authorities will not permit a specific belief to be promoted through such items.

As I understand, none of customers cared about Buddhism, they only bought it for decoration, said Reza Sanaei, a shopkeeper who sells the statues.



Update: A Legal Fix...

Irvine Welsh's Porno is unbanned in Turkey

Link Here17th February 2013
Full story: Book Censorship in Turkey...Freedom of speech under duress

Irvine Welsh has told of his delight after a ban on the sale of his book Porno in Turkey was overturned.

The follow-up to his best-selling hit Trainspotting was banned a decade ago because of its supposedly obscene content.

Turkish company Studio Image Publishers was taken to court along with the book's translator in 2002 and charged under obscenity laws with publishing pornographic material . They were found guilty and fined more than £ 1 million, but appealed against the verdict.

However, the ban has now been lifted following a lengthy legal battle and the book is back on the shelves.



Court Bellyaching...

Egyptian court bans belly dancing channel

Link Here17th February 2013

An Egyptian court has banned the belly dancing channel, Al-Tet.

The court banned the channel for supposedly broadcasting on satellite without a license, but presumably the authorities wouldn't have agreed a licence anyway. The court ruling also accused the channel of airing provocative advertisements for sexual products and for facilitating escort-like services.

In May, the owner of Al-Tet, Baleegh Hamdi was arrested on suspicions of facilitating prostitution through his channel, but was later released.



Updated: Suffering a Judgement Block...

Judge sentences Egyptian people to 30 days without YouTube

Link Here16th February 2013
Full story: The Innocence of Muslims...Muslim world gets wound up by silly movie

A Cairo court has ordered the government to block access to the video-sharing website YouTube for 30 days for carrying an anti-Islam film. Muslims across the world rioted in protest against the film.

Judge Hassouna Tawfiq ordered YouTube blocked for carrying the film, which he described as offensive to Islam.

The ruling, however, can be appealed and, based on precedent, might not be enforced. Similar orders to censor pornographic websites deemed offensive have not been enforced in Egypt because of high costs associated with technical applications but blocking YouTube might be easier to enforce.

Human rights lawyer Gamal Eid said the decision to ban YouTube stems in large part from a lack of knowledge among judges about how the Internet works:

This verdict shows that judges' understanding of technology is weak. The judges do not realise that one wrong post on a website does not mean you have to block the entire website.

Update: Ban Contested

16th February 2013. See  article from

Egypt's telecoms censor says it is not viable for it to follow a court order to block YouTube in the country, and is appealing the ruling.

The order banning YouTube and some other websites for 30 days was issued by a Cairo court after it was brought to its notice that there was a proliferation of links to clips of the controversial Innocence of Muslims video, which is said to portray the religious character Muhammad in a derogatory manner.

It appears that YouTube's willingness to censor the video in Egypt did not go far enough for the Cairo Administrative Court, said civil rights groups Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The country's Ministry of Information Technology and Communications and the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority decided after a meeting that to block YouTube would technically affect the use of Google search in Egypt with economic consequences to the country, according to a ministry statement.

The proposed ban on YouTube has also been criticized by the U.S. It's actually not quite clear to us at this moment how and whether that's going to be enforced across Egypt, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: But as a general matter, you know that we reject censorship as a response to offensive speech.



Send More Censors...

Saudi government is having trouble snooping on 3 million tweeters

Link Here15th February 2013

Saudi Arabia's minister of media and censorship says observing the interactions of three million Saudis on Twitter is becoming difficult and calls for public involvement. Abdel Aziz Khoga, has also confirmed censorship of Twitter imposed by a series of government bodies, the Saudi Al-Watan Online reported.

Khoga called on Saudi citizens to raise their awareness and contribute to the censorship initiative taken up by the ministry. People have to take care of what they are writing on Twitter, the minister said. It is getting harder to observe around three million people subscribing to the social network in the kingdom, Khoga added.



Offsite Article: An interview with Aliaa Elmahdy...

Link Here15th February 2013
Full story: Naked Blogger...Brave Egyptian blogger shows freedom loving spirit
The Egyptian Feminist and Blogger Who Was Kidnapped for Posing Nude

See article from



Offsite Article: Closed Curtain...

Link Here13th February 2013
Banned Iranian director's film depicts crushing state oppression at Berlin festival

See article from



Update: US De-Pressed...

Propaganda channel, Press TV, censored from satellite broadcast to North America

Link Here11th February 2013
Full story: Press TV...Political censoship merges with TV censorship

Press TV reports that it has been taken off the air in North America. It has been dropped from the Galaxy 19 satellite platform that allowed broadcasts both in Canada and the US.

Press TV is a prominent Iranian news station intended to broadcast propaganda that reflects an Iranian government standpoint.

Intelsat, the Luxembourg-based company that owns Galaxy 19, has made no comment on the decision.



Update: Blocked and Abused...

Turkey found to be abusing human rights in blocking many Google Sites so as to block just one that was the subject of a complaint

Link Here5th February 2013
Full story: Internet Censorship in Turkey...Website blocking insults the Turkish people

In the case of  Yildrim v Turkey  the European Court of Human Rights decided that a Court order blocking access to "Google Sites" in Turkey was a violation of Article 10.

Yildrim owned and ran a website hosted by the Google Sites service, on which he published his academic work and his opinions on various matters.  On 23 June 2009 the Denizli Criminal Court of First Instance ordered the blocking of an Internet site whose owner had been accused of insulting the memory of Atatürk . The order was issued as a preventive measure in the context of criminal proceedings against the site's owner.

The blocking order was submitted for execution to the Telecommunications Directorate (TiB). Shortly afterwards, the TiB asked the court to extend the scope of the order by blocking access to Google Sites, which hosted not only the site in question but also the applicant's site. The TiB stated that this was the only technical means of blocking the offending site, as its owner was located abroad.

The TiB blocked all access to Google Sites and Yildrim was thus unable to access his own site. All his subsequent attempts to remedy the situation were unsuccessful because of the blocking order issued by the court.

The court decided that \the effects of the measure in question had been arbitrary and the judicial review of the blocking of access had been insufficient to prevent abuses. There had therefore been a violation of Article 10 of the Convention.  The court held that Turkey was to pay the applicant 7,500 euros (EUR) in respect of non pecuniary damage.



Update: High Flying Censor...

EgyptAir to further censor its in-flight movies after senior politician gets easily offended

Link Here25th January 2013
Full story: Sharia in Egypt...Threatening nightlife and tourism

Egypt's national airline said it will analyse its onboard movies to make sure they respect Egyptian values and customs , following a complaint by a senior Muslim Brotherhood member who 'took offence' at a film screened during one of its flights.

EgyptAir said the film had been turned off at the request of Ahmed Fahmy, the speaker of Egypt's upper house of parliament and a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood's 'Freedom' and 'Justice' Party. In a statement, EgyptAir said he had expressed reservations about one of the scenes in the movie.

Local media identified the film as Arees Mama, or Mother's Suitor , a decades-old movie starring the Egyptian actress Nelly.

The case is likely to fuel concerns about the extent to which the Muslim Brotherhood, which propelled President Mohamed Mursi to power in an election last year, could use its new position of power to curb freedom of expression.



Offsite Article: Iran creates fake blogs in smear campaign against journalists in exile...

Link Here 25th January 2013
BBC Persian staff victims of online identity theft designed to discredit them, with family in Iran facing harassment as well

See article from



Offsite Article: Under Morsi, criminal defamation suits soar in Egypt...

Link Here 24th January 2013
A few months after the revolution, criminal defamation made its way into the new constitution. Article 31 states: Insulting or showing contempt toward any human being is prohibited.

See article from



Update: Turkey Proves Itself to be Fascist...

By investigating freedom of speech campaigners who spoke of 'fascist developments in Turkey'

Link Here12th January 2013
Full story: Music Censorship in Turkey...Musician under duress from Turkish authorities

Freedom of speech campaigners, PEN Turkey, came to the support of famed pianist Fazil Say who was prosecuted in Turkey for trivial insults about religion.

Their denouncement of Turkish repression got the campaigners themselves into trouble for supposedly insulting the Turkish state.

PEN Turkey write on their website:

As a result of an announcement constituting support for Fazil Say that we gave as the PEN Board on 3 June [2012], we were called to the prosecutor's office to submit an official statement under Article 301. On 10 January 2013, we submitted an official statement. In the announcement that is the subject of the complaint, we said the following:

As the Turkey Centre of the international writers association PEN, we strongly condemn and meet with consternation the [news] that our esteemed composer and pianist Fazil Say has been called up to court. The international community has been put on alert in the face of fascist developments in Turkey.

In the official statement we submitted as the board, we outlined that the above words were an expression of thought and a criticism, that they were not intended as being aimed as an insult. We emphasised that the right to criticise, a constitutional and legal right, was being exercised. As a result, it was requested that a decision not to prosecute would be given.

PEN Board



Update: Immoral Censorship...

Turkey seeks to censor John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men on moral grounds

Link Here3rd January 2013
Full story: Book Censorship in Turkey...Freedom of speech under duress

The Publishers Union of Turkey has protested against a request by a national education ministry commission in Izmir province to censor John Steinbeck's masterpiece Of mice and man. The union said in a statement:

We are finding it hard to understand that actually ministry officials formed a commission to investigate the book for moral standards and then propose censorship on it. This is another embarrassing example of the censure mentality in Turkey. And hopefully it will be the last one.

Steinbeck's masterpiece is actually listed among the 100 basic readings by the education ministry. It is also one of the most read novels in Turkey at all times.

The union urged the education minister Omer Dincer to implement of laws to prevent such absurd commissions, saying that such censure practices violated the freedom of expression.

Sel Publishing House, handling the Turkish translation, reiterated the union's protes complaining that universally acclaimed masterpieces could just be prosecuted in Turkey for subjective moral reasons. Sel said in a statement:

The commission already identified the passage needing censorship on a page by page and publisher house to publisher house manner. The identified passages have been submitted to ministry's support service unit.



Update: Super Morsi...

Egypt is quick to return to dictatorship as it takes action against political satirist

Link Here2nd January 2013
Full story: Press Freedom in Egypt...Press under duress in Egypt

A popular Egyptian political satirist is being investigated by prosecutors for allegedly insulting the president. A formal complaint was brought against Bassem Youssef for undermining the standing of President Mohamed Morsi in his television show.

Separately, an independent newspaper says it has been accused by the presidency of circulating false news and is being investigated.

The cases come amid increasing worries about press freedoms in Egypt. Many journalists have joined critics of the new Islamist-backed constitution, saying it does not offer enough guarantees of press freedoms.

Bassem Youssef is a doctor who shot to fame after winning a huge number of followers with his witty lampooning of public figures in amateur videos posted on the internet following the uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak's rule. He became a household name when his satirical show began to be broadcast three times a week on one of Egypt's independent satellite stations. He has poked fun at everyone from fellow television presenters to well-known Muslim scholars and most recently President Morsi himself, the BBC's Shaimaa Khalil reports,

But sketches in which he portrayed Morsi as a pharaoh, calling him Super Morsi for holding on to executive and legislative powers, and, separately, putting the president's image on a pillow and parodying his speeches have angered one Islamist lawyer, whose formal complaint has resulted in the investigation.

Update: Arrest warrant

31st March 2013.  See  article from

An arrest warrant has been issued for a popular Egyptian political satirist for allegedly insulting Islam and President Mohammed Morsi. Bassem Youssef has faced several complaints over his show El Bernameg (The Programme). He has poked fun at a wide range of figures, from fellow television presenters to well-known Muslim scholars and recently Morsi himself.

As well as insulting Morsi and Islam, Mr Youssef is also accused of spreading false news with the aim of disrupting public order .

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