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South Asia Censorship News

2011: Jan-March

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20th February   

Updated: For Fear of Violence...

Dancing girls in Lahore forced out of work
Link Here

Performances by the famous dancing girls of the Pakistani city of Lahore have come to an end because of increasing cfears of violent attacks.

As the BBC's Haroon Rashid reports, Pakistan's deteriorating law and order situation - including bomb blasts near the bazaar where the girls operated - has forced them into prostitution and other risky ventures.

This old neighbourhood of crumbling buildings is no more a place for men to stray from their arranged marriages and spend time with beautiful women trained in the arts of song, dance and seduction.

Just a few days ago, the women of this area, popularly known as Heera Mandi, used to attract men by wearing these anklets. The vast majority of dancing girls did exactly as their name suggest - dance for a male clientele. Only a handful worked in the sex trade.

Lahore police spokesman Shahzad Asif Khan says that officers were unable to provide the women with adequate security: This was a centuries-old culture. But unfortunately, over a period of time - and especially in the last seven or eight years - extremism has grown. In the last 10 months alone, there have been cracker blasts forcing the few remaining women to leave. The dancing girls' culture is almost non-existent now.

ActionAid researcher Daud Saqlain fears the future will not bode well for former dancing girls, some of whom have been forced into prostitution because hardliners objected to them performing relatively innocuous dances in public: Over the last decade we have seen the unfortunate growth of home-based sex work. Because of poverty and limited opportunities, some women have had no choice but to switch from dancing to sex work.

While some women have moved to other areas of the city, others have headed to far-off places such as Britain and the United Arab Emirates. Many former dancers have not turned to prostitution but have adjusted to the security threat by setting up their own websites to attract affluent customers to privately owned houses in middle-class areas.

Historian Dr Mubarak Ali told the BBC that the end of the dancing girls tradition was another nail in the coffin of Lahore's artistic and cultural heritage, which had been whittled away by radicalisation since the 1970s: Lahore before partition was a very cosmopolitan city . Women rode bikes and no-one objected to it. But the winds of change started blowing because of the support given by former dictator Gen Zia ul-Haq to religious groups.

All Pakistani music festivals, theatre performances and other events have stopped being hosted here because of the fear of terrorism.

Update: Dance banned from Lahore's theatres

20th February 2011. Based on article from

The Lahore Arts Council's (LAC) decision to ban all dance performances besides classical dance in commercial theatre plays has infuriated producers and artistes who believe the LAC is trying to damage their business. The decision was made to facilitate quality theatre, claimed an LAC spokesperson when asked about the ban.

How many films are made in Pakistan annually? From the handful that are made how many have songs that we can use in our plays? If we don't have performances on Indian songs and cannot include any dance performances other than classical dance, then what are we left with, said the chairman of Commercial Theatre Producers Association, Chaudhary Zulfiqar Ahmad.

Some artistes and producers don't follow certain moral standards when including dance performances in their plays, they should be banned -- not the dances. Only a limited section of audience appreciates classical dance while large numbers of theatregoers have little or no interest in such performances. This ban will have major financial repercussions on commercial theatre at the LAC, he added.

Suggesting a remedy to the vulgarity in commercial theatre, Ahmad said that the arts councils should strictly censor the scripts and not impose a ban. The script of a play is first approved by the LAC and the Punjab Arts Council and only then is it sent to the Home Department for clearance. Writers on the panel of the arts council approve the scripts. Each script submitted mentions the dance performances included in a play. If the arts council has objections to any dance performance or dialogue, it should censor that instead of making a rule to ban all dances featuring Indian songs. As far as Indian songs are concerned, many of them are sung by Pakistani singers and are popular here. If we can allow them in the form of CDs, DVDs and screen them in our cinemas, why then can't we include them in our stage plays, questioned another producer who is doing plays at Alhamra, he spoke condition of anonymity.


13th February   

How I made those unkindest of cuts...

BBFC examiner relates his experiences to an Indian audience
Link Here

One may sensibly query if there is any relevance to a censorship body in the 21st century when the internet remains a relatively untrammelled, free-floating entity, difficult to control or regulate.

Most viewers' instinctive reaction would be an emphatic no . But what is a regulatory body to do when, for instance, a film with immense appeal to young people (Rules of Attraction) contains a scene showing a young woman slowly undressing before sitting in a bathtub, taking off her rings and slitting her wrist vertically with a razor blade in an extreme close-up shot. A suicide prevention specialist said few know of how lethal vertical cuts on wrists can be, leading to a speedy and certain death. The scene in the film, played to the beguiling soundtrack of Nilsen's Can't live, if living is without you . . ., presented a glamourised suicide scene and showed what was, in the Board's parlance, an imitable harmful technique .

An example emerged recently in a low-budget American work called Terrorists, Killers and Other Wackos : a collection of clips collected from the floors of editing rooms, cobbled together and set to a jaunty soundtrack. Nothing was sacrosanct: real deaths, suicides, executions, horrific injuries, a close-up of a man having his hand sliced off at the wrist. All served up without any documentary or other context and with the express intent to entertain. It made for jaw-dropping, eye-watering viewing, and the DVD would almost certainly have found a ready market, probably among feckless young men at drink-driven parties. It was also acknowledged that the work was very unlikely to lead to anyone rushing out to copy or imitate the gory actions on view. However, there was an extremely disturbing quality to such unashamedly exploitative material that made it impossible to release without some amount of soul-searching and debate. However, despite my own revulsion at the film, I continued to find it tough to accept that the organisation I worked for had a remit that included protecting the moral fabric of the nation. Who was I to tell people what they could and couldn't watch, all the while being relatively undisturbed myself by watching the same material? Most BBFC cuts are made in the porn category (sensibly, an entirely legal product in the UK, although hardcore material can only be sold in licenced sex shops). The Obscene Publications Act 1959, brought in to unsuccessfully proscribe D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, is also still much in use, notably in the area of porn. It is, thankfully, a law that is almost never used to proscribe printed material any more, but the moving image is apparently still fair game.

Are people really likely to be depraved and corrupted merely by watching porn performers do odd things to each other on screen? All but the very prudish would probably---at least, secretly--- think not. But such acts as the dripping of hot wax on certain body parts have remained on the Department of Public Prosecution's list of obscene material for a long time and there will be little appetite in government to take on what could turn into a rather (forgive the pun) sticky issue.

And so the BBFC soldiers on into the 21st century, doing what it does with sincerity and good intent.

...Read the full article


11th February   

Updated: Separatist Banners...

Pakistan to disband the central film censor in favour of provincial boards
Link Here

Pakistan has decided in principle to devolve the Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) to provinces.

According to documents available with The Express Tribune, Cabinet Secretary Nargis Sethi chaired a meeting of the federal and provincial bureaucracy to discuss matters related to devolution of the culture ministry.

Participants unanimously decided to transfer film censor boards located in Lahore and Karachi to the respective provincial governments along with assets and staff. Other provincial governments will establish their own boards. Provincial governments will also make any required legislation.

Participants also decided that those laid off in the Federal Film Censor Board, Islamabad, and other provinces will be transferred to provincial governments according to their domiciles.

Update: Recentralised

11th February 2011. See  article from

The Implementation Commission is facing a lot of problems in the devolution of some of the subjects to provinces under the 18th Amendment. The Central Board of Film Censorship (CBFC) is one such gray area.

Sources in the ministry of culture informed The Nation that efforts were underway to keep the central board of films censorship intact as an autonomous department.


7th February   

School for Censors...

School gets court injunction to ban Indian film over supposed damage to reputation
Link Here

Ashvin Kumar's film on Doon School, Dazed In Doon release has been held up by a court order issued in Dehradun .

Says Ashvin: The petition filed by the Doon school alleges that its reputation will be damaged if the film is screened. The court has granted an order that forbids me from screening, distributing and exhibiting the film.

Earlier, the headmaster wrote a letter to the I&B Ministry asking them not to issue a censor certificate.


6th February   

Update: Negotiations Jammed...

Deadline passes for RIM to enable Indian snooping on business networks
Link Here
Full story: BlackBerry Mobile Phones...Winding up countries who can't snoop on users

Indian Blackberry users could face a ban after the phone's maker failed to meet a government deadline to grant access to encrypted business communications.

Officials in Delhi claim they need to read encrypted Blackberry messages to help guard against terrorist attacks. They have been locked in negotiations with Research In Motion, which makes the popular device, since last summer.

However as a January 31 deadline passed, RIM said it would not lift encryption for its business clients. Standard subscriptions with a telephone company can be snooped upon but businesses using their own server can retain the key without providing it to RIM for snooping purposes.

RIM said that complying with the January 31 deadline had proven technically impossible because does not have the ability to unencrypt messages on business private networks.

It is unclear what steps the government may take as a result of the missed deadline, but senior officials have warned that they would not take no for an answer.


5th February   

Updated: Burning an Effigy of the Film Censors...

Indians protest against banning of a film by preventing the screening of other films
Link Here

Almost half the cinemas in Telangana were forced to stop screening of films in protest against the censor ban of N Shankar's film, Jai Bolo Telangana , a film based on the decades-old Telangana agitation.

Posters of films in which Seemandhra actors worked were burnt at a couple of places while Telangana activists staged protests in front of cinema halls demanding the clearance to Jai Bolo Telangana .

Unconfirmed reports said that in Mahabubnagar district, protestors burnt the reels of two movies, Wanted and Golconda High School .

The shut-down call given by the Kakatiya University Student Joint Action Committee (KUJAC). Students burnt posters of movies and an effigy of the Censor Board.

Update: Passed adults only after cuts

5th February 2011. Based on article from

Jai Bolo Telangana , the controversial movie on Telangana separatist struggle, was finally cleared by the censor board on Thursday, but surprisingly with an A certificate.

All those who have been waiting to watch a hardcore Telangana agitation movie could be in for a surprise. Jai Bolo. .. is reportedly as much a love story in the backdrop of the fight for a separate state.

The censors who watched Jai Bolo Telangana for the second time suggested 10 cuts for the film. Sources said some of the dialogues had to be snipped, which the members felt were 'obscene'. Some visuals were also considered 'obscene'.

Censors also insisted upon the producer/director N Shankar to include a disclaimer in the beginning of the movie so that the film could be understood in the 'right context'.

It was decided to give the film an 'A' certificate because the subject is such that only mature minds can understand, CBFC Hyderabad regional officer Dhanalaxmi told TOI.

The censor certificate will be issued once the director executes all the suggested cuts, as he as agreed to do.

Meanwhile, earlier during the day lawyers from Telangana region staged a protest at the Central Board of Film Certification's (CBFC) Hyderabad regional office at Masab Tank demanding that the film be cleared without any delay. They also wanted that it should be given a U certificate for all ages.


3rd February   

Nutters Thwarted...

Indian actress cleared of obscenity over TV dance performance
Link Here

Mallika Sherawat has won a case against her for a supposedly obscene dance performance.

On a live TV New Year's eve party in 2006, Mallika had performed at a suburban five-star hotel in Mumbai. But the performance, in a skin-coloured body suit, did not go down well with morality campaigner Vinod Jain who filed a formal complaint against Mallika and fought the case in a sessions court, alleging that she dressed obscenely and even her dance was obscene.

Speaking to the Mumbai Mirror, Jain said that he would carry on fighting the case at the High Court.


28th January   


Pakistan bans British made film set in Islamabad for swearing and drinking
Link Here
Full story: Banned Films in Pakistan...Sensitive issues of image and religion

Slackistan is a 2010 UK drama by hammad khan...
Starring Aisha Linnea Akthar, Rafey Alam and Osman Khalid Butt IMDb

Islamabad, Pakistan. A group of privileged and westernised twenty-something friends while away their days and nights driving around town, partying, surfing the internet and smoking shisha pipes. As the country outside their world starts to crack, Hasan and his friends must face up to their relationships, angst and life choices before it is too late.

Slackistan , a British-made movie about young people living in Islamabad, has been banned in Pakistan because of scenes showing swearing and drinking.

The Guardian notes the contentious issues as: the words 'Taliban' and 'lesbian', swear words in English and Urdu, scenes showing characters drinking (filmed with fake alcohol, incidentally) and a joke about beards (as in "my beard is longer than your beard") made between characters talking hypothetically about a fancy dress party. These are not the CBFC's only objections, but the main ones it highlighted.

Its director, London-based Hammad Khan, has told the BBC he is refusing to make changes demanded by Pakistan's Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC).

The CBFC also called for religious references to be taken out.

The low-budget film follows the young Pakistanis as they spend their time dating, drinking and going to parties despite attacks on their city by militants linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.


21st January   

Moral Policing...

India's film censor speaks about her trade
Link Here

Sharmila Tagore, chairperson of India's Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), claims the body isn't into moral policing:

We see ourselves as more of a certification body than just censor board. We are not into moral policing; we follow a middle path. There are certain things we let go, as we have to be a little more tolerant and mature. Times are changing and we have to change with it.

I do believe in censorship and I do believe in freedom of expression, but at the same time there has to be a reasonable restriction. You really can't go back; the change of being liberal is here to stay for a longer time.

There was a time when slangs or abusive language used to raise eyebrows of the censor board and the bosses would cut such scenes out, but now movies like Omkara, Kaminey, Ishqiya and No One Killed Jessica have paved way to silver screen without any cuts, but of course with an A-certificate.

Trying to explain the supposedly liberal attitude of the CBFC, Sharmila said:

See an Omkara wouldn't have been Omkara minus all those dialogues, especially where the movie opens, because it is a part of popular language; so we try to understand that.

Concerning sex, love-making scenes and violence in Indian cinema, Sharmila feels the censor board has become 'lenient' because Indian movies are frequently at international film festivals, reaching out to far more people and competing with foreign films; hence the change in perception and a flexible approach is must.

For the past two years, Sharmila has been trying hard to get a fifth category in the certification - for the 15-plus children - because she feels they are maturing early. At present the CBFC has four categories - Universal or U for all age group, Parental guidance of U/A, Adults only or A and Restricted to any special class or S.

She explained the need for a 15 rating:

Most of the filmmakers want their movies to be certified under U/A. But that is just not possible. If you are using a slang, I can't give you a U/A This is why I am pushing hard to get another category because 15-plus kids speak that language. They use the 'F' word more often and all those slangs; so yes, there is definitely need of that fifth category.


15th January   

Updated: Censorship in Motion...

RIM agree to censor porn for Blackberry phones in Indonesia
Link Here
Full story: BlackBerry Mobile Phones...Winding up countries who can't snoop on users

Facing a BlackBerry ban in Indonesia, Research In Motion. says it will comply as soon as possible with a government demand that it block pornography from its smartphones.

RIM has until Jan. 21 to begin filtering porn sites or face legal action including revocation of its permit to operate in the country, one of RIM's fastest-growing international markets. Communication and information technology minister Tifatul Sembiring said that may include a complete blocking of the BlackBerry's web browsing capability.

RIM is in talks with domestic phone carriers to find a remedy, the Waterloo, Ont-based company said in a statement. It did not respond to a request for further comment.

Update: Better in Malaysia

15th January 2011. See  article from

Malaysia will not ban the use of the Blackberry smartphone as of now as it has not caused any problem with regard to security, culture and administration, said Information Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim.

However, he said, if there were sections of society with the facts to prove that the Blackberry phone were causing problems, the ministry through the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), would investigate the matter under the country's existing laws.

He was referring to reports that the Indonesian government planned to ban the use of the Blackberry phone in the republic if its order for the service provider to implement pornography blockers and to create a server is not adhered to implemented.

Update: Worse in India

15th January 2011. See  article from

The Indian government, which fears that the heavy encryption on RIM's BlackBerry smartphones makes them convenient for terrorists to use undetected, has asked RIM to grant access to its messenger services before Jan 31, 2011.

According to WSJ:

The lawful access capability now available to RIM's carrier partners meets the standard required by the government of India for all consumer messaging services offered in the Indian marketplace, RIM said in a customer update seen by Dow Jones Newswires.

No changes can be made to the security architecture for BlackBerry Enterprise Server [corporate email] customers since, contrary to any rumors, the security architecture is the same around the world and RIM truly has no ability to provide its customers' encryption keys, RIM's customer update said.

RIM continues to work closely with the government and RIM's carrier partners in India…We are pleased to have delivered a solution well before a mutually agreed milestone date of January 31, 2011, RIM said.


15th January   

Political Censorship...

Indian censor bans film critical of Sri Lanka during war against Tamils
Link Here

India's Chennai Regional Censor board has banned the release of Sengadal , a film based on Sri Lankan war and problems faced by Tamil fishermen in Indian ocean. The film, according to sources, speaks elaborately on the atrocities of Sri Lankan army against the Eelam and Indian Tamils.

Leena Manimekalai, the director has termed the Boards decision as a double standard. It is completely against the rights to freedom of expression. She also said that the movie is purely based on the truths and facts of Sri Lanka's war against the Tamils.

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