Facebook's human rights team said it would not comply with a controversial social media law passed in Ankara this summer.
The bill requires social media companies with more than 1 million daily users in Turkey to appoint representatives in the
country, store user data locally and comply with state content removal requests, among other measures, by Oct. 1 or face steep fines and domestic access blocks on their platforms.
In Turkey, where 90 to 95% of traditional media outlets are run by
the government or government-friendly entities, social media platforms remain one of the few mediums for free expression in the country. Since the passing of a new social media law in late July, the future of free speech on such platforms has been in
limbo as social media giants consider their options to continue operating in the country.
Twitter and Google have yet to respond to the legislation, passing an Oct. 1 deadline to open an office in Turkey and appoint a representative that would be
subject to local tax codes and content removal requests from the Turkish authorities.
The Turkish internet censor will now issue warnings to noncompliant companies before issuing a growing scale of punishments, ranging from fines of $1.3 million
in November to $3.8 million in December, before local advertisement bans are imposed in January, followed by bandwidth throttling in April and May that would eventually render the platforms unusable in Turkey.
The presence of a cat in a play staged in Tehran by the prominent Iranian director Mohammad Rahmanian has unleashed the country's censorship authorities to ban the production.
The six-episode play, Love in Days of Corona [virus] , starring
Mahtab Nasirpour, Sima Tirandaz, and Behnoosh Tabataba'ei, was blocked after three nights due to censorship issues.
In a statement read to the audience at the beginning of the fourth night of the show, Rahmanian announced:
By the 'will' and demand of the Supervisory Council of the Dramatic Arts Center and the Director-General of the Dramatic Arts department, a part of the six-episode play, the 'Lady and the Cute Cat,' starring Behnoush Tabataba'ei, is
facing supervisory issues, and eliminated.
Love in Days of Corona[virus] inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera premiered in the courtyard of Vahdat Hall on Thursday, September 17.
Cuties ( Mignonnes) is a 2020 France comedy drama by Maïmouna Doucouré. Starring Fathia Youssouf, Médina El Aidi-Azouni and Esther Gohourou.
Amy, an 11-year-old girl, joins a group of dancers
named "the cuties" at school, and rapidly grows aware of her burgeoning femininity - upsetting her mother and her values in the process.
The Turkish government has said it will order Netflix to block local access to the
movie Cuties. The country's TV censor claims the film contains images of child exploitation. Turkey's Family Ministry had previously said the film may cause children to be open to negligence and abuse, and negatively impact their psychosocial
Cuties is due to launch in the country on September 9. The movie was at the center of a furor last month when Netflix launched the film's international poster, which was widely criticized for sexualizing children. Netflix quickly
apologized and removed the offending artwork, but not before the film was lynched on social media.
Update: BBFC rated
10th September 2020.
The Netflix UK release has been BBFC 15 rated uncut for rude humour,
threat, dangerous behaviour, bullying, violence.
Egyptian member of parliament John Talaat submitted Sept. 5 a parliamentary question to Minister of Culture Inas Abdel Dayem in regard to the role of the Censorship of Works of Art (CACWA) in the content broadcast on Netflix.
Some of these works carry transgressions and abuses that the Egyptian society does not accept, and the censorship standards must be strictly applied to any artwork that is allowed to be broadcast in Egypt, Talaat said in a Sept. 5 statement.
Aug. 25 article in Al-Masry Al-Youm , journalist Suleiman Joudeh called on the Ministry of Culture and official bodies to review the works broadcast on Netflix .
Netflix's works have sparked controversy time and again, the latest of which was the film
Cuties that topped Egypt's Google search list on Sept. 13, after it arrived at the platform and was criticized for depicting children in a sexual and inappropriate way.
The Kuwait News Agency reports that the country's parliament approved an amendment to publishing censorship laws on August 19 that removes the need for regulatory approval for books before they enter the Kuwaiti market.
With the amendment now in
place, book importers and international publishers just have to provide book titles and author lists to the Ministry of Information, with the understanding that they bear legal responsibility if a book's subject matter contravenes Kuwaiti law.
Legal action against a particular book will now only be triggered by an official complaint from the public. Furthermore, a book ban can only be given by the courts, as opposed to the Ministry of Information.
The move has been hailed by Kuwaiti writers, and international and regional literary bodies.
And just to emphasise the significance of the change, the Guardian reports that the
Kuwait book censors had banned 5000 books in the 7 years prior to this change. These banned books included One Hundred Years of Solitude and Hunchback of Notre Dame .
Turkey's Radio and Television Supreme Council, or RTÜK, recently confirmed that they had requested Netflix remove a gay character from the Turkish teen drama Ask 101 (Love 101) -- and that Netflix had complied.
Main character Osman, played by
Selahattin Pasali, had been originally conceived of as gay, but it appears that any scenes which actually say so have now been cut.
An anonymous RTÜK official said the problem about that character has been removed.
On July 18, reports from Turkish media indicated that Netflix was canceling the
popular drama Ask 101 (Love 101). RTUK, the country's broadcasting regulator, demanded that the streaming platform should censor the character in the series.
The director of the series, Ece Yörenç, told Fasikül, a Turkish entertainment website, that
it was "very scary" that the production of series can be halted because of a gay character. The director argued that RTUK was unreasonable because no gay intimacy even takes place in the show.
Netflix is yet to release an official statement
regarding Love 101 or whether they will continue their service in Turkey despite the increasingly strict censorship laws.
An Egyptian belly-dancer has been given three-year jail term for her social media postings that supposedly 'incited debauchery'
Sama el-Masry was accused of posting suggestive images that violated family values. She says she will appeal against her
sentence and that the images had been stolen from her phone.
She was also fined 300,000 Egyptian pounds (£15,000) for supposedly inciting debauchery and immorality. Shew was a victim of a government crackdown on social media postings.
arrested in April during an investigation into videos and photos on social media, including the popular video-sharing platform TikTok, that the public prosecution described as sexually suggestive.
Designated Survivor Episode 2.7: Family Ties is a USA action mystery thriller by Milan Cheylov. Starring Kiefer Sutherland, Natascha McElhone and Paulo Costanzo.
Leading into a NATO summit in DC, the team learns that Turkish president Fatih Turan, who Tom does not much like, wants to raise significantly the leases on strategic air fields in Turkey, they believing to build up
a war chest for an upcoming election. If Tom doesn't agree, Turan may hand the leases over to the Russians which would give them the upper hand in the Middle East.
Netflix has removed an episode of political thriller series Designated Survivor
in Turkey following a demand from the country's censor board. Netflix said in a statement:
Following a demand from the Turkish regulator, we have removed one episode of Designated Survivor from Netflix in Turkey
only, to comply with local law.
The episode remains on the service in all other territories.
Season 2 episode 7 is title Family Ties and depicts a fictitious Turkish president, played by Troy Caylak, as its antagonist. Kiefer
Sutherland leads the show as U.S. president Tom Kirkman.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has proposed a draft law which seeks to attach a series of online censorship measures to an economic aid package aimed at stabilising an economy hit by the coronavirus crisis.
The new law defines
social media platforms very widely, as the people or legal entities who allow users to create, view or share data like text, images, voice, location online with the purpose of social interaction, and states that they will be held responsible for any
inappropriate content that their users post on their platforms. The law will apply to any platform with more than 1 million users in Turkey. The draft law states:
A foreign based social network provider that has access to more than 1 million
people in Turkey is responsible for assigning at least one authorised person as a representative in Turkey to register the notifications, declarations or requests sent by institutions, associations, legal and administrative offices and also to be
responsible for sharing the identity and communication information of this person [who has posted inappropriate content] with the institution.
The Turkish government is aiming to effectively end anonymity on social media platforms. This is very
similar to what Western governments have attempted and failed to do already, because anonymity has always been a core part of the internet, and it is unrealistic to expect all social media sites to implement systems to confirm the ID of their users.
This part of the law seems intended to make it easier for the Turkish government to access data about social media users based in Turkey. Presumably, this would make it easier for them to obtain data on anonymous users of social media who are heavily
critical of the Turkish government. Turkey's Interior Ministry reported that 2,000 social media users had been identified and arrested for provocative social media posts related to the coronavirus outbreak at the end of March.
The law also seeks to
impose fines on social media providers who do not respond to takedown requests. Such fines can be from as little as 100 Turkish lira ($15) to as much as 5 million lira ($746,500).
One of the problems with this law will be how the Turkish government is
going to force foreign social media companies to set up legally responsible offices in Turkey which they are already threatening with substantial fines. In 2016, the Turkish government asked PayPal to move their server operations to Turkey, but instead
of complying, PayPal simply abandoned the market.
A High Court justice has dismissed a Russian Today complaint that a massive £200,000 fine imposed by Ofcom last year was disproportionate. The court endorsed the TV censor's decision to fine RT for a breach of its impartiality rules.
RT had issued
legal complains that Ofcom's decisions were a disproportionate interference with RT's right to freedom of expression and said other stations had received smaller fines for more serious breaches.
Following an investigation in 2018, Ofcom found that
RT had broken TV impartiality rules in seven programmes discussing the Salisbury nerve agent attacks. Ofcom said RT had failed to give due weight to a wide range of voices on a matter of major political controversy.
Earlier in March, the Egyptian parliament started discussing a draft amendment to the Penal Code that aims to provide harsher penalties including imprisonment for using lewd or offensive words, especially in artworks. The suggested amendment may send
the offender to prison for three years for offending public sensibilities through lewd language, instead of a fine of 500 Egyptian pounds ($32) currently determined by law.
The draft law needs to go through parliamentary subcommittees, but no date has
yet been set.
The bill comes in the wake of a major controversy over mahraganat , a hybrid music genre that combines folk with electronic music and uses colloquialism in its lyrics. This genre of music, whose name literally means festivals
in Arabic, originated in the Cairo slums in the early 2000s. Its beat resembles that of American rap and, like rap, its lyrics contain sexual innuendos, racy words and obscenities.
These songs have entered every household in Egypt through the
internet and smartphones, Amer told Al-Monitor. A mother, a sister, a wife or daughter should never be exposed to such words because they are offensive and often sexist.
The lyrics of one of these songs -- Bent el-Geran (The Neighbor's Daughter)
by Hassan Shakosh and Omar Kamal -- ignited on Feb. 14 the debate on mahraganat. The song's lyrics suggest alcohol and hashish -- both of which are forbidden in Islam -- to get over a heartbreak.
The suggestion of alcohol and hashish angered many
critics, the powerful Egyptian Musicians Syndicate and parliamentarians, including Amer. They argued that the song was an attack on the public taste and encouragement of immorality.
Onward is a 2020 USA children's cartoon comedy by Dan Scanlon. Starring Tom Holland, Chris Pratt and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Set in a suburban fantasy world, two teenage elf
brothers, Ian and Barley Lightfoot, go on an journey to discover if there is still a little magic left out there in order to spend one last day with their father, who died when they were too young to remember him.
Disney's latest Pixar
cartoon Onward has been banned by several Middle Eastern countries because of a reference to lesbian parents. The film will not be shown in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Police officer Specter, voiced by Lena Waithe, has been heralded as
Disney-Pixar's first openly gay character. Her lines include: It's not easy being a parent... my girlfriend's daughter got me pulling my hair out, OK?
Other Middle East countries, Bahrain, Lebanon and Egypt are showing the film.
according to Deadline, Russia censored the scene in question by changing the word girlfriend to partner and avoiding mentioning the gender of Specter, who is a supporting character.
Meanwhile in the US the christian website LifeSiteNews has launched
a petition calling for a boycott of the movie. Gualberto Garcia Jones Director of Advocacy for LifeSite whinged:
It's a relentless onslaught against our children's innocence. And, we parents have got to be just as
relentless in rejecting Disney's attempt to sexualize our children.
The petition has been signed by about 55,000 people and states:
By forcing the LGBT agenda on us, you are seriously disrespecting our
values. The days are now over where we would give you our hard-earned dollars just so you can turn around and offend us and our children's innocence. Please do not pursue this agenda again in the future.
It came as little surprise to Kuwaiti artist Shurooq Amin that her latest exhibition was shut down by the authorities just a week after it opened. Her work has always sparked controversy.
Amin's most recent defiant display, Like Russian Dolls We
Nest in Previous Selves , opened on 8 January. It was planned to run for a month at the Contemporary Art Platform (CAP). But a week after opening, the exhibition was dramatically shut down and her work ordered to be removed.
released no official statement , the gallery said they were told they hadn't obtained a prior licence from the concerned authorities and that there were claims that the exhibition contained elements in violation of the publishing law of the Ministry of
In Like Russian Dolls We Nest in Previous Selves , a set of portraits show women sitting on thrones, some in revealing clothing and languid poses with bottles of what appears to be alcohol.
In the main gallery space, mannequins were
positioned to look like visitors viewing the artwork. In a country where alcohol is illegal, the bottles might be controversial enough. But the conservatively veiled mannequins looking at the portraits of the scantily clad women may also have
Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan is a 2020 India gay comedy by Hitesh Kewalya. Starring Ayushmann Khurrana, Jitendra Kumar and Gajraj Rao.
Presenting the life of two gay men who are in love,
Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan depicts their struggle to convince their families to accept the relationship. But things are never as easy as they seem and one of the boy`s family decides to get him married to a girl. Will their `unconventional` love
A major Bollywood gay film has been banned in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Touted as India's first gay male romantic comedy, Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (Be Extra Careful About Marriage) stars popular actor Ayushmann Khurrana
as an openly gay man, who battles traditional attitudes to be with his boyfriend.
Film director Hitesh Kewalya said: Yes, it's banned adding that he had no further details about the move.
Meanwhile the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB)
CEO Ezekiel Mutua has also banned the screening of Shubh Mangal Zyada Savdhan'. In a statement he maintained that the 'gay-themed is not in line with Kenyan constitution and the institution of family, hence the decision to ban its screening. He added:
The film is worse than the ones we have banned in the past as it has scenes involving children in homosexual practices and openly attempts to legitimize same-sex marriage.
Homosexuality is illegal
in Kenya. Further, Kenya is a God-fearing nation which places a great premium on family, an institution derived from a union between two people of the opposite gender.
Kenya will not be the dumping ground for all manner of filth
that seeks to destroy the institution of family and our cultural identity.
For comparison the film was passed 12A uncut by the BBFC for implied strong language, suicide references, discrimination theme
Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani amended Article 136 of the country's penal code to make the publication or sharing of 'false news' punishable by up to five years in prison or a 100,000 Qatari riyal fine (US$27,500)
CPJ Senior Middle East
and North Africa Researcher Justin Shilad said:
Instead of standing up for press freedom in the Gulf region, where the free flow of information is under threat, Qatari authorities have jumped on the 'false news'
bandwagon. Qatar should rescind this repressive law and focus instead on legislation that enshrines press freedom in line with its international human rights law commitments.
On 1st January 2020 Netflix started streaming Messiah, a series about a mysterious figure, Al-Masih, played by Belgian actor Mehdi Dehbi. It is not clear whether he is a divine entity ... or simply a charlatan.
But according to an on-line
petition, Al-Masih is, in fact, the Muslim version of the antiChrist. The Royal Film Commission of Jordan has asked Netflix not to stream the drama in the country. The Jordanian government organisation's Managing Director, Mohannad al-Bakr, held a press
conference with local media. He said:
While still standing firmly by its principles, notably the respect of creative freedom, the RFC -- as a public and responsible institution -- cannot condone or ignore messages that
infringe on the Kingdom's basic laws.
The RFC's announcement represents an about-face for the organisation. Its statement acknowledges that Messiah was partially shot in the Kingdom in 2018, and that, after it had reviewed synopses
for the series' episodes, it approved the shoot and granted the show a tax credit.
A spokesperson for Netflix indicated that they have not received a formal legal request to remove the series from the streamer's Jordanian service.