The British Shadow Chancellor Kerry McCarthy attended the Pussy Riot trial on Monday to give a bit of extra attention to the three members of the all-female protest group who face up to seven years in prison for a church performance in which they
denounced President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill.
It seems strange to me that they have been charged with this offense, McCarthy told The Moscow Times during a break inside the courtroom at Moscow's Khamovnichesky District Court. In the U.K., they would have been charged with a breach of peace and told off or fined.
When McCarthy started following the trial, she saw that the defendants weren't able to call their witnesses and that other violations of their rights were taking place, she said.
Asked whether she saw the trial as politically
motivated, she replied, Everything I've read about it would lead me to think that.
Pussy Riot's alleged crime was to have performed what they dubbed a punk prayer in the cathedral of Christ the Saviour in February, a 40 second performance of a song calling on the Virgin Mary to join
forces with them against Vladimir Putin.
The trial has in large part been about whether the band were demonstrating religious hatred by their actions, or whether - as the women maintain - it was a political protest. The
prosecuting lawyer somewhat bizarrely argued in his closing statement that it wasn't a political statement as no politicians were named, although the song is called Virgin Mary, Chase Putin Out.
The band argue, perhaps a little
facetiously, that the song isn't anti-religious because they're enlisting the Virgin Mary onto their side. The female lawyer representing the nine victims in court (that is, those who say they were insulted or traumatised by seeing the performance) was
outraged by the band's suggestion that Mary was a feminist, and said that feminism is a mortal sin .
There have, however, been many criticisms made of the trial process: the fact the defence weren't allowed to
call the witnesses they wanted to, and not allowed to examine the prosecution witnesses/victims properly either. I wasn't there for the victims' testimony but people have reported that the judge was very quick to shut down questions, and simply didn't
allow the sort of cross-examination that the defence wanted.
There have also been many concerns raised about the way the women are being treated: they say they are only getting a few hours sleep a night, they aren't being fed
during their 12 hour days at court, and Nadya and Masha have not been able to see their two small children. There has also been an order made barring Nadya's husband, Peter, from visiting her, after - I was told - he was seen to be too active in calling
for their release.
Comment: The bit about
forgiving those who trespass against them
11th August 2012. Thanks to Alan
Kerry McCarthy's remarks on the trial are interesting, but I don't think she quite sees the point about Pussy Riot's claim that the Virgin Mary would agree with them. It isn't facetious . Whether or not they believe the doctrines of the opening
words of their prayer - Bogoroditse Devo ( Virgin Mother of God ) - or even in her historical existence, the fact is that in the longest speech attributed to her in the New Testament Mary talks of God putting down the mighty from their
thrones and raising up the humble, filling the hungry with good things and sending the rich away empty . Looks like that's another Madonna they've got on their side.
Furthermore, Patriarch Kirill, his absurd spokesprat Fr
Chaplin - can't resist saying he's a right Charlie! - and the allegedly offended lay people in the cathedral ought to be well aware of this, since, like Anglicans and Catholics, they say or sing this text, called the Magnificat, daily in their services.
They also say that prayer by Mary's kid, but don't seem to have taken on board the bit about forgiving those who trespass against them.
When it comes to the lawyer calling feminism a sin , words almost fail me. Does this
idiot ever look in the robing room mirror? She's (1) a woman and (2) a lawyer. How does she think she manages to be both without the work of feminists?
Extract: Russian Orthodox Church defiant over Pussy Riot trial
Younger Orthodox Russians I spoke to, many of whom
support Pussy Riot, disagree. They feel that their Patriarch is not maintaining the neutrality expected of him and is in fact legitimising the activity of the state.
The Church connects people to God but now these two bodies - the Church and
the government - are linked and it should not be like this, says Nikolai Polozov, a committed Orthodox Christian and the lawyer acting for Pussy Riot.
And yet the Church feels someone is out there to get them. As it struggles to boost its low
attendances (fewer than 10% of Russians attend church regularly), it talks of a smear campaign being waged against the Patriarch.
TalkTalk, which provides web access to 4million subscribers, already offers new customers the option of activating blocking for websites with adult themes. Now it has said it will be the first company to ask both new and existing subscribers whether they
want to block adult content.
TalkTalk's filter, HomeSafe, blocks sites categorised as unsuitable for under-18s, including those related to pornography, suicide, self harm, gambling, dating, drugs and weapons. But it also blocks websites for strong
language, references to sex and any sites that happen to contain a few words that trigger automated classification software.
It has been available to customers since May last year, but only if they requested it. From March this year, new
subscribers have been asked to choose whether or not they want the filter.
Now the company wants to force all of its customers to decide whether they want access to adult material, with a view to making them choose their settings once a year.
It is believed other internet providers will introduce a system in October which will be more tailored to devices and individuals.
Freedom of Expression Awards 2012 28th March 2012, London
Winner: Idrak Abbasov, journalist, Azerbaijan
Idrak Abbasov is an
Azerbaijani journalist whose investigative work has put his life in danger. Abbasov reports for newspaper Ayna-Zerkalo, contributes to the Institute for War & Peace Reporting website, and he is one of the founding members of Azerbaijan's Institute
for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) .
Han Han, blogger, China
The author of China's most widely read blog, 29-year-old Han Han has been called the world's most popular blogger . He is also famed
for being a cultural critic, race-car driver, actor and novelist. But despite his rock star status he has long been considered a thorn in the side of the Chinese government.
Lucia Escobar, journalist, Guatemala
Lucia Escobar's story highlights the state of press freedom in Guatemala, where journalists are regularly intimidated by paramilitary groups. Escobar is a freelance columnist for El Perio'dico, a publication based in Guatemala City, and also operates
an online radio station, Radio Ati.
Kayvan Samimi, journalist, Iran
Iranian journalist Kayvan Samimi has been instrumental in keeping dissent alive in the Islamic Republic.
Winner: Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, NGO, Bahrain
The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) has played a crucial role in documenting human
rights violations, political repression and torture in the Gulf kingdom. Despite efforts to silence and discredit it, the BCHR has kept international attention on the brutal government crackdown that began last February. It has prevented the Bahrain
government from whitewashing its international image, and at times when news media were severely restricted and foreign journalists barred, it acted as a crucial news source.
Alaa Abd El Fattah, blogger, Egypt
Alaa Abd El Fattah is at the forefront of protests against Egypt's current military rule. Over the last 12 months, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has tried to silence dissent, crushing protests, restricting the media and questioning
and imprisoning activists who criticise its actions.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill, QC, UK
Anthony Lester is a British barrister and Liberal Democrat peer whose work in the field of human rights has transformed
the legal landscape. His support for the libel reform campaign has led to one of the greatest advances for free speech in recent years in the UK, potentially transforming the most infamous and enduring chill on freedom of expression in the country.
Following the introduction of Anthony Lester's private member's defamation bill in May 2010, the government then used it as the basis for its own bill a year later. If it becomes law this year, it will mark the end of London's notorious reputation as a town named sue
, the libel capital of the world, and fulfil Anthony Lester's personal aim of providing a catalyst for reform in an historic moment for free speech in the UK.
Winner: Freedom Fone by Kubatana, mobile phone technology NGO, Zimbabwe
Kubatana is an NGO based in Harare that uses a variety of new and traditional media to encourage ordinary Zimbabweans to be informed, inspired
and active about civic and human rights issues. As an organisation, it continuously seeks innovative fixes to the challenges of sharing independent information in Zimbabwe's restrictive media environment. Freedom Fone is one of Kubatana's solutions. An
open-source software, Freedom Fone helps organisations create interactive voice response (IVR) menus to enable them to share pre-recorded audio information in any language via mobile phones and landlines with their members or the general public. The
software is aimed at organisations or individuals wishing to set up interactive information services for users where the free flow of information may be denied for economic, political, technological or other reasons. Freedom Fone is one of the many ways
Kubatana reaches across the digital divide to inform and inspire the vast majority of Zimbabweans who do not have regular or affordable internet access.
ObscuraCam, smartphone app, USA
ObscuraCam is a free
smartphone application that uses facial recognition to blur individual faces automatically. Developed by WITNESS and the Guardian Project, it enables users to protect their personal security, privacy and anonymity. In 2011 and 2012, uprisings throughout
the Middle East have shown the power and danger of mobile video footage. ObscuraCam helps protect activists who fear reprisals but want to safely capture evidence of state brutality. Launched in June 2011 and based in the USA, ObscuraCam is the only
facial blurring or masking application that has responded to the concerns of human rights groups, citizen activists and journalists. In addition to obscuring faces, the application removes identifying data such as GPS location data and the phone make and
Visualising.org, data visualisation resource, international
Visualising.org was created to help make data visualisation more accessible to the general public. It calls itself a community of creative
people making sense of complex issues through data and design... and a shared space and free resource to help you achieve this goal .Data analysts and graphic designers have set themselves the challenge of sharing a constantly proliferating body of
public data in an accessible form. Raw data on its own might as well be censored; visualisation opens the door to open information that otherwise would be left languishing on hard disks or, if downloaded, unintelligible to the average citizen. The
project offers a place to showcase work, discover remarkable visualisations and visually explore some of today's most pressing global issues. Created by GE and Seed Media Group, Visualising.org promotes information literacy. The portal has had a
Telecomix, internet activists, across Europe
Telecomix is the collective name for a decentralised group of internet activists operating in Europe. Their focus is to expose threats to freedom
of speech online. During one operation, Telecomix activists published a huge package of data which proved that the Syrian government was carrying out mass surveillance of thousands of its citizens' internet usage. Telecomix's revelation that the
technology used was supplied by US firm Blue Coat Systems has prompted serious investigations into the involvement of western technology firms in helping repressive regimes spy on their people. In mid-August 2011, Telecomix's dispersed group of hackers
came together to target Syria's internet. Those attempting to access the internet though their normal browsers were confronted with a blank page bearing a warning: This is a deliberate, temporary internet breakdown. Please read carefully and spread
the following message. Your internet activity is monitored. Following this, a page flashed up describing how to take precautions to encrypt usage.
Winner: Ali Ferzat,
Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat has been called an icon of freedom in the Arab world . He has spent decades ridiculing dictators in more than 15,000 caricatures. His depictions of President
Assad and the police state have helped galvanise revolt in Syria.
Voina, performance artists, Russia
Voina, meaning War , is a collective of radical Russian anarchist artists who combine political
protest and performance art.
Ai Weiwei, artist, China
AiWeiwei is a Chinese artist and activist whose work incorporates social and political activism. He has investigated corruption and cover-ups and openly
criticised the Chinese government's record on human rights.
Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, poet, Burma
Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, a poet, filmmaker and screenwriter, co-founded Burma's inaugural Arts of Freedom Film Festival,
which took place in early January 2012.
Index 40th Anniversary award
Index singles out The Research and Information Centre Memorial, which logs
the brutal repression suffered by millions in former Soviet countries, for their continued dedication to guaranteeing freedom of information. The centre has demonstrated a fierce commitment to protecting human rights. It not only chronicles the crimes of
the Stalinist period, but monitors current threats against those who speak out against injustice. Memorial's remarkable archive includes letters, diaries, transcripts, photographs, and sound files. Individuals with first-hand experience of Stalin's
terror and the Soviet gulag have donated documentation they had hidden during this brutal period.
The London Book Fair is facing claims it has bowed to pressure from Chinese authorities by failing to invite dissident and exiled writers to next month's event and choosing only state-approved authors.
Bei Ling, an exiled poet and essayist, has
written to the British Council, the organisers of the cultural programme of the fair, which is one of the biggest international publishing events in the world, expressing his surprise over its plans to host Chinese state-approved writers and
I was amazed that no independent voice, no exiled or dissident writer from China is being represented at the London Book Fair, he told the Guardian, accusing the fair, which is focusing on China this year, of self-censorship
to keep Chinese authorities on board.
It is shocking enough that the book fair has worked with Gapp (General Administration of Press and Publication, the agency responsible for regulating publications in China). In order to ensure that their
guest country was happy they exercised self-censorship and didn't push for other, non-state-approved writers, although without them you don't get a full picture of literary China, he said.
Azhar Ahmed appeared in court charged with making offensive comments on Facebook about the deaths of six British soldiers. He has been accused of committing an offence under the Communications Act of sending a grossly offensive message.
The District Judge heard no evidence and adjourned the trial until 14 September due to an unexpected legal problem.
Around 20-30 far right protesters appeared at Huddersfield Magistrates Court for the hearing and packed out the public
Tehran has blocked another UK Foreign Office website in Iran as part of its ever-tightening stranglehold of censorship , the foreign secretary has said.
William Hague said UK for Iranians was launched on March 14 to reach out
to its citizens but access from the country was blocked on March 17. Iran had already blocked the main British embassy website in December 2011.
Britain last year closed its embassy in Tehran and expelled Iran's diplomats. It followed an
attack on the embassy building, which Iran described unacceptable behaviour by a small number of protesters . However, British diplomats said they believed it was likely the attack had state backing.
In a statement Hague said the UK for
Iranians website had been established to explain UK policy and engage with Iranians and that the blocking of the site was only a very small part of what Iranians endure daily . He said Iran's government had jammed international television
channels, closed film and theatre productions, rewritten traditional Persian literature and banned the publication of some books and newspapers.
A man has been arrested after allegedly making racist remarks on Twitter relating to critically ill footballer Fabrice Muamba.
South Wales police confirmed the arrest of a man for allegedly making racially offensive comments on Twitter.
Officers did not confirm that Muamba was the target of the remarks.
However, police forces throughout the UK regularly take action against those who post racially offensive remarks on Twitter but rarely feel the need to issue a public statement
indicating it has happened.
Ex-New Zealand cricketer Chris Cairns, who is suing a former Indian Premier League boss over a Twitter posting, has his case heard by the UK High Court in the latest example of libel tourism.
Chris Cairns is taking legal action over a
January 2010 tweet by Lalit Modi alleging that he was involved in match fixing.
The action is taking place in London despite claims by Modi's lawyers that there were only 35 readers of the tweet in England and Wales. Evidence for Cairns put the
figure at around 100.
Padraig Reidy of Index on Censorshop said:
The Cairns case is one of the most clear-cut cases of libel tourism we have seen.
While cricket is an international game,
the alleged libel took place in India, concerned conduct in India, and primarily affects Cairns's reputation in India.
Plans to prevent libel tourism were put forward by the Government last year. The proposed new rules would block
celebrities and businessman from bringing such actions in this country unless it could be proved that publication caused them substantial harm in England and Wales.
BBC World News television has been restored in Pakistan after being taken off air in November 2011.
Welcoming the move, the BBC said it hoped there would be no further disruption to its services.
Pakistani cable operators had blocked the
channel after it broadcast a documentary called Secret Pakistan . The documentary questioned the country's commitment to tackling Taliban militancy, arguing that some in Pakistan were playing a double game.
Last month, Prime Minister Yousuf
Raza Gilani told the BBC he wanted to see the channel back on air.
A former Tory local council candidate has failed in his libel action against Google over comments posted about him on a blog.
Payam Tamiz started legal proceedings against Google after allegedly defamatory comments were written about him on the
London Muslim section of Blogger.com.
Google argued that it had no control over any of the content and had no way of knowing whether the comments posted were true or not.
In a written judgement handed down at the high court on Friday, Mr
Justice Eady said Google should not be regarded as a publisher under the established principles of the common law.
Eady said that even if Google was regarded as the publisher of the offending words, it would be exempted from liability in
accordance with regulation 19 of the European Union's electronic commerce directive 2002.
Scotland's Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act was brought in to crack down on sectarian songs, chants and abuse at football matches, but also applies to such messages posted on the net.
It came into force on 1
March and there is concern in the media in Scotland, and further afield, about how they are to comply with the law
The act also applies to people or organisations based outside Scotland. The law would also apply to Twitter and Facebook if they
allowed offensive material to remain on their sites, as it would to any publishers based in England. The practicalities of getting them into a Scottish court might be more onerous, but nonetheless the threat is there and it would not be the first time
that an English publisher has been up in a Scottish court because of ignorance of the law.
Removing material as promptly as the new law appears to require is going to require intense moderation of sites, or else pre-moderation of message boards,
building in delays which many users used to immediate posting would find unacceptably slow.
The article continues that even the legal defence of innocent dissemination may not apply. This is where websites can claim they are not aware of content posted but do react to complaints. This defence is usually used against civil claims and may not
be effective in criminal cases arising from the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act.
Police have seized copies of a Manchester United fanzine before the match with Liverpool amid claims its cover would stoke the racism row between the clubs.
The Red Issue fanzine featured a cut-out Ku Klux Klan-style mask with the words LFC Suarez is innocent
The magazines, described by police as potentially offensive , were confiscated outside Old Trafford. Ch Supt Mark Roberts said:
Shortly before kick-off we were made aware that a Manchester United
supporters' fanzine being sold outside Old Trafford featured a potentially offensive image.
Officers are now seizing the fanzines and in consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service we will take appropriate action against
anyone either found selling this particular fanzine or provocatively displaying the image in public.
Police have also arrested a man on suspicion of a racially aggravated offence over a T-Shirt which has been confiscated.
Comment: Anti-racist censorship that should make us all see Red
Nobody will be charged over copies of a Manchester United fanzine seized before the match with Liverpool.
The magazines, described by police as potentially offensive , were confiscated outside Old Trafford.
However the Crown
Prosecution Service (CPS) said that no further action would be taken over the publication. 'Unpleasant and obnoxious'
Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor, CPS North West Area, said he had asked the CPS's Special Crime and Counter Terrorism
Division to see if the magazines were guilty of potential incitement to racial hatred.
I have received advice from a senior lawyer in that division that although the fanzine distributed may have been offensive to some
people, there was insufficient evidence to prove that the content was intended to stir up racial hatred, or that it was or likely to do so, he said.
It is not a crime to possess material that is threatening, abusive or insulting,
or hold views which others may find unpleasant and obnoxious.
It is a crime to distribute this sort of material to the public, if it is intended to stir up racial hatred, or in circumstances where it is likely to have that effect.
Neither will the CPS be pressing any charges in relation to slogans on T-shirts seized at Old Trafford on the same day.
Through reports to the blocked.org.uk site, we have established that Orange UK are filtering access to La Quadrature Du Net's website on pre-paid mobile accounts.
Quadrature Du Net is similar to ORG -- it is an advocacy group that seeks to defend citizen's fundamental rights on the Internet. They have been a leading voice in the growing movement to oppose the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, behind which so
much momentum is gathering. They have provided detailed analyses alongside practical suggestions about how to help with the political effort to oppose the treaty.
Searching for LQDN's website on Orange pre-pay handsets leads to a warning that Orange Safeguard has classified this page as only suitable for people over the age of 18.
LQDN's site does not contain any such material. But it still falls within the parameter of adult-related material.
That La Quadrature Du Net is blocked under such a policy highlights the need for change. The problem of over-blocking is being
exacerbated by a lack of transparency (so that it's not clear what is blocked and to whom) and the problems users experience trying to opt-out.
We're gathering more evidence of the scale of the over-blocking problem through blocked.org.uk site,
and you can help by reporting inappropriate blocks you find. We're currently in the process of meeting the mobile operators and the Mobile Broadband Group to tell them our concerns and outline how we think the problems can be addressed. More efficient
measures need to be implemented in order to allow parents to implement tools to try to manage their children's Internet use whilst ensuring that adults are not subject to unnecessary censorship.
The UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) has seized the domain of a popular music blog in the style of a U.S. Department of Homeland Security domain name seizure.
blog in question was running from a .com domain name, seemingly outside of British jurisdiction. Rackspace hosted the content in question, and its domain was registered with GoDaddy; both are U.S. companies. The site now just carries a threatening
page including the message:
If you have downloaded music using this website you may have committed a criminal offence which carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine under UK law.
In speaking to GoDaddy, a spokesperson confirmed that the company had a presence in the UK, as has Rackspace. This seems to be enough for the UK authorities to demand a domain take down.
The board of Index on Censorship has announced that it has appointed Kirsty Hughes as the organisation's new Chief Executive
A highly-respected international figure, Kirsty will succeed John Kampfner, who leaves at the end of March. She will begin
her work in the middle of April, leading a team of 20 in Index's London office and 12 staff around the world.
Kirsty's distinguished career has taken her from Chatham House to the IPPR and the European Commission. More recently, she was head of
Global Public Policy and Advocacy at Oxfam. Currently Senior Associate Fellow, at the Centre for International Studies, University of Oxford, Kirsty is also an experienced writer, policy analyst and journalist who has written extensively on European and
Kirsty Hughes said: At a time when people around the world are standing up for their right to freedom of expression, often in the most difficult and challenging circumstances, Index has been a vital, internationally
renowned, source of news, analysis, argument, campaigning and hope. I am greatly looking forward to working with the Index team and its partners.
After he has stepped down as Chief Executive, John Kampfner will join the Index board.
Atheists, secularists and supporters of free speech rallied in London to protest what they feel is an increased confidence of Islamists to censor free expression publicly . Around 200 people gathered on the steps of the memorial to King George
V in Old Palace Yard opposite the House of Lords in Westminster.
Anne Marie Waters from the One Law for All group, which protests against sharia law in the United Kingdom, said that freedom of expression was the greatest freedom we have
and included the freedom to offend .
Accusations of Islamophobia against those who reposted the Jesus and Mo webcomic was one of a number of incidents highlighted by speakers. Susan Zhuang from the University College London Atheist,
Secularist and Humanist society spoke of the reaction to the posting of the cartoon to their Facebook profile: maybe we were naive but we never thought it would come to this . The university's student union demanded that the group remove the
cartoon, but the group declined and launched an Internet petition to defend freedom of expression .
The blogger and activist Rhys Morgan, who had been previously threatened with libel for saying that the a clinic operated in Texas by
Staislaw Burzynski was charging hundreds of thousands of dollars to cancer patients for unproven treatments, also spoke of being threatened by his sixth-form college to remove the Jesus and Mo cartoon from his Facebook account. He said that the staff at
his college implied that [he] would be suspended or expelled , claiming that the image offended Muslims. He also said that he had got threats of violence including someone saying that his house would be burned down, and was called a God-hater
The philosophy professor A. C. Grayling and the popular science writer Richard Dawkins both spoke at the rally, with the latter criticising the decision by the organisers of a literary festival in Jaipur, India, to kowtow to a violent
threat by rescinding an invitation to the author Salman Rushdie based on a demand by some local Islamic scholar . (Dawkins joked about how, unlike Islamic scholars, a true 'scholar' studies more than one book .)
that people should stop being so damn respectful . Without freedom of speech, Dawkins said, society would be in a scientific, technological, moral dark age .
From the end of next month new subscribers to TalkTalk broadband will be unable to activate their internet connection until they specify any categories of website access that they would like to block.
The TalkTalk ISP has defined nine categories
of websites, including porn, dating, gambling, gaming, suicide, social networking and weapons + violence, that can be blocked. Subscribers will be alerted automatically either by email or text if the controls are subsequently changed.
already provides subscribers with the opportunity to block access to websites through its HomeSafe service, but currently they not prompted to choose website blocking and the default is for no sites to be blocked. So far 240,000 subscribers have elected
for website blocks to be imposed.
The children's minister, Tim Loughton, praised TalkTalk and said he hoped other internet service providers would offer similar services shortly:
Through the UK Council for Child
Internet Safety we are working with industry and charities to provide tools and information to inform parents and help keep children safe online.
Meanwhile a little propaganda for cyberbullying parents
Parents who are not technology savvy are putting their children are at risk from exposure to unsuitable content on the internet, claim two studies.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (Ceop) Centre and IT firm Westcoastcloud, have warned
that not all parents have put internet blocking controls on their computers.
Further, even the majority of those who have put controls in place have not considered doing the same on other household devices that access the internet.
poll, commissioned by Ceop, showed that about 8% in the UK, aged between five and 15, are regular users of the internet.
But the study from Westcoastcloud, a division of Glasgow-based cloud computing specialist Iomart, revealed that only half of
parents have installed software to protect their offspring while only one in four has installed similar protection on the mobile phones, games consoles and television services.
Technology has transformed people's lives both collectively
and individually, said Peter Davies, chief executive of the Ceop Centre and the senior police officer leading on child protection on the internet for the Association of Chief Police Officers: But too often we see examples of where the child is at
risk because they make simple online mistakes -- because they are lured in or push the boundaries too far and risk their safety.
Merseyside police have launched an investigation into images of a Liverpool fan apparently making racist taunts from the stands, as totally overblown claims of prejudice in sport risked overshadowing events on the pitch.
Patrice Evra of
Senegalese descent, and the Manchester United captain, was repeatedly booed and subjected to chants of there's only one lying bastard . Seventeen fans were ejected from the stadium and two were arrested.
Liverpool FC said it was working
closely with police over a photograph posted on Twitter that appeared to show one Liverpool fan making a monkey gesture.
Perhaps more interesting was to note that the
BBC in some sort of ultra political correctness decided to report the story without actually telling readers what the gesture was, or give any idea of what people were chanting etc.
But the BBC did give a better impression of the amount of police
trouble one can get in for an almost childish insult:
A man has been arrested over an alleged gesture made at the FA Cup tie between Liverpool and Manchester United.
Merseyside Police said a
59-year-old from north Wales was arrested during the evening. Earlier the force said the incident was being investigated by detectives from the specialist hate crime team, which investigates racist and other crimes.
night a police spokeswoman said: The man has been taken to a police station and will be questioned by officers. Merseyside Police would like to thank North Wales Police and Liverpool Football Club for their assistance with this matter.
Police have told a shopkeeper to remove a supposedly offensive window display of mannequin urinating the word sale
Philip Browne, who owns the menswear shop named after him in Norwich city centre received a phone call from a
policeman after the local force received a complaint.
Browne said his show-stopping display had amused shoppers, but that police had told him to remove the dummy. The shopkeeper said: It has been there 10-12 days - it's just Great
Yarmouth-style saucy, end-of-the-pier seaside humour. Everyone has been laughing about it.
But Browne has now been warned he could be breaking the 1986 Public Order Act. he said I think it's very unfair. We've had kids and families laughing
at it. We've had old ladies in their 70s laughing.
Richard Evans, who works at Browne's and designed the eye catching display, says he hoped to grab customers' attention, not to offend anyone
One local resident who did not see the funny
side is Stuart Goodman, who said he had been offended by the display. He said: I'm against censorship. ..BUT... this is disgracefully offensive.
With their weeing mannequin gone but not forgotten, Browne's took the time to laugh at
the situation today, posting a photo response on the business's Facebook page . Cigarette in hand, the dummy can be seen on its knees, sponge in hand, cleaning
the Sale sign off the wall. A caption written by Browne reads: Cleaning his disgraceful mess. Shame upon him!'
The BBFC published it's decision to make cuts to the R18 adult DVD titled The Best of Lucy Law. It cut 2:35s with the comment:
Cuts were required to remove the clear indication that one woman is licking urine
from another, penetration with an object with potential to cause physical harm, and dialogue encouraging an interest in breath restriction. Cuts made in line with current interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act 1959 , BBFC Guidelines and
policy, and the Video Recordings Act 1984.
This decision was published after the R v Peacock case where a jury unanimously cleared films depicting full on urolagnia of obscenity.
Sergio enquired of the BBFC whether anything has
changed regarding the R V Peacock case and received an email from the BBFC:
The role of the BBFC is not to decide the law but to enforce it, and in this we will be guided by the law enforcement agencies. In relation to
this case, the CPS have stated that the fact that a jury has acquitted someone does not mean that the guidance is incorrect.
There are no current plans to revise our Guidelines.
The National Secular Society has submitted a response to the Police Powers Consultation, calling on the Government to remove insulting from Section 5 of the Public Order Act. A change in the law would protect freedom of expression for both the
religious and non-religious. It would also lay down clearer guidelines for the police and direct them to focus on more serious cases.
The submission calls on the Government to recognise that the word insulting sets the bar
for criminal offence far too low. The risk of being arrested can in itself have a chilling effect, preventing people from expressing legitimate views. Section 5 would retain threatening and abusive conduct to cover serious offences and there are other
existing laws to protect the individual.
Section 5 of the Public Order Act currently states that it is an offence to use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or displays any writing, sign
or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.
The NSS submission makes the case that insult is
too subjective and nebulous a concept, and therefore open to abuse, partly because a subjective response is hard to challenge. It also identifies a growing trend to claim offence on behalf of a religion.
Other organisations such
as Liberty, Justice, the Christian Institute and the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights are also calling for the removal of insulting . The law must recognise that groups like the Christian Institute have a right to freedom of
expression but it must also ensure that insulting cannot be used by the religious to prevent debate, analysis or criticism.
Section 5 has been used against religious campaigners against homosexuality, a British National
Party member who displayed anti-Islamic posters in his window and people who have sworn at the police. A teenage anti-Scientology protestor was arrested, as was a student for calling a police horse gay . Both were released without charge but
changing the law would make guidance for the police clearer. At the moment, there is evidence that some officers are not clear about what does or does not constitute an insult.
The removal of the word insulting from section
5 would also bring English law into line with Scottish law, which works effectively without criminalising insulting . For example, the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2011 explicitly excludes insult
from the list of banned behaviour.
Ofcom has revoked the licence for Press TV to broadcast to the UK.
Ofcom cites The Communications Act 2003. Under section 362(2) of the Act, the provider of the service for the purposes of holding a licence is the person with general control over
which programmes are comprised in the service.
In the course of correspondence and meetings with Ofcom, statements made by Press TV Limited about the operation of the Licensed Service failed to
satisfy Ofcom that the Licensee had general control over which programmes and other services were comprised in the Licensed Service. Ofcom therefore concluded that Press TV Limited had ceased to provide the Licensed Service in accordance with section
362(2) of the Act and that, accordingly, it was appropriate to revoke the Licence.
A talk on sharia and human rights by NSS Council Member Anne Marie Waters' at Queen Mary College, London was cancelled at the last moment because of an Islamist who made serious threats against everyone there.
The talk was due to take place on 16
January but before it started, a man entered the lecture theatre, stood at the front with a camera and filmed the audience. He then said that he knew who everyone was, where they lived and if he heard anything negative about the Prophet, he would track
The man also filmed students in the foyer and threatened to murder them and their families. On leaving the building, he joined a large group of men, apparently there to support him. Students were told by security to stay in the lecture
theatre for their own safety.
Jennifer Hardy, President of Queen Mary Atheism Society, who organised the event said:
This event was supposed to be an opportunity for people of different religions and
perspectives to debate, at a university that is supposed to be a beacon of free speech and debate.
Only two complaints had been made to the Union prior to the event, and the majority of the Muslim students at the event were
incredibly supportive of it going ahead. These threats were an aggressive assault on freedom of speech and the fact that they led to the cancellation of our talk was severely disappointing for all of the religious and non-religious students in the room
who wanted to engage in debate.
My One Law for All Co-Spokesperson Anne Marie Waters was to speak at a meeting on Sharia Law and Human Rights at the University of London last night.
It was cancelled by the Queen Mary Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society organisers
after police had to be called in due to Islamist threats. One Islamist filmed everyone at the meeting and announced he would hunt down those who said anything negative about Islam's prophet. Outside the hall, he threatened to kill anyone who defamed the
prophet. Reference was made to the Jesus and Mo cartoon saga at UCL.
The University's security guard -- a real gem --arrived first only to blame the speaker and organisers rather than those issuing death threats. He said: If you will have these
discussions, what do you expect? Err, to speak without being threatened with death maybe?
The Duchess of York, who faces charges in Turkey for going undercover and secretly filming children at a state-run home for a 2008 documentary, canceled a recent trip to the United States because of the case, a source and her spokesman said.
United States and Turkey have an extradition treaty and the cancellation raised the question of whether Sarah Ferguson is avoiding the United States because she fears being sent to Turkey.
The duchess was accompanied by one of her two daughters,
Princess Eugenie, to film the ITV Tonight program in Turkey. An ITV press statement at the time of the film's broadcast in 2008 said the duchess, as part of a reporting team, had gone undercover in one of Turkey's worst institutions -- capturing
images that will shock and horrify. The hard-hitting program was intended to help investigate the treatment of mentally and physically disabled children, ITV said.
Ferguson feels the work she did in Turkey was completely valid
and consistent with her ongoing support for humanitarian causes, spokesman James Henderson told CNN. Ferguson is consulting rights lawyers as well as attorneys in Turkey as she decides what to do next, he said.
The Ankara prosecutor's office in
Turkey accused the duchess of violating the private lives and rights of five children while filming a program for Britain's ITV network, Turkey's semiofficial Anatolian news agency reported last week. Discussing the case, the Ankara chief prosecutor
asked for a prison term of up to 22 years, six months, Turkish state TV reported.
What Ferguson is accused of in Turkey would not constitute a crime in Britain.
The Home Office confirmed that it has received a formal request for mutual
legal assistance concerning Sarah, Duchess of York.
Britain's Child Exploitation and Online Protection (Ceop) centre said more can be done to safeguard children who use the Twitter website.
Apparently social networking sites Facebook and Bebo both report far more incidents of illegal
activity to Ceop than Twitter does. Perhaps the 140 character tweets are not the most likely communication method for grooming and the like.
Peter Davies, head of Ceop, said:
Providers of online services have a
responsibility to safeguard their environment in order to minimise the risk to children and close down opportunities for offenders.
Many companies work closely with us to enhance their ability to do this, including Facebook and
The centre does receive reports relating to material on Twitter but it's important to say these amount to a very small proportion of 1,000 reports a month relating to a wide range of online environments.
Twitter have removed illegal images and other content on our request.
We believe more can be done around the moderation of Twitter feeds and the strengthening of Twitter's reporting mechanisms.
It's important that all providers have in place robust and effective reporting mechanisms so that when illegal, offensive or inappropriate material is posted it is quickly removed and reported to law enforcement as necessary.
Open Rights Group (ORG) are researching into the accuracy of the website blocking employed by mobile phone companies. The group wrote in its newsletter:
Last month, we asked ORG supporters to help us find sites
that were being blocked by the default Adult filter on their mobile phones. Lots of you replied and asked to get involved. And thanks to that extraordinary team - we've launched a tool to report what sites are being blocked and by whom.
We are getting regular reports and testing blocks on every mobile network. We're seeing just how bad mobile blocking is, and how bad the networks are at dealing with complaints. Forums and joke sites get banned. So do churches. Some
MPs want to extend default adult censorship to Internet at home as well: but we are already seeing how bad it is on mobile networks. ORG has already been invited to talk to O2 about their systems, as a result of this campaign.
Meanwhile thank to a reader who wrote to MelonFarmers:
Just to let you know; the mobile network Three are blocking access to your site through their 3G networks - The site works fine on Wi-Fi, but on 3G you
get asked to contact Three to get a pin to unblock the site, as they have it listed as an Adult content site.
They charge 99p to allow access to adult sites (And it's not straightforward, takes a while to find
the right place to do it.).
They have also blocked Movie-Censorship.com, same reason as above.
A British student can be extradited to the United States to face charges of copyright infringement over a website he ran offering links to pirated films online, a court has ruled.
Richard O'Dwyer, whose site TV Shack made more than
£ 150,000 in advertising revenues, according to US prosecutors, is thought to be the first person extradited to America on such charges. If convicted in New York, he faces jail.
Speaking after the hearing at
City of Westminster Magistrates' Court, the 23-year-old said he felt like a guinea pig for the US justice system. His lawyer argued that his site hosted no illegal content, but merely directed users to where it was held online, and said that his
client would appeal the ruling.
The International Union of Sex Workers is delighted by the unanimous verdicts of not guilty on all counts in the trial of Michael Peacock that concluded at Southwark Crown Court on Friday 6th January.
Michael's courage and determination in
pursuing this case was the first challenge to the Obscene Publications Act 1959 for many years. Understandably, most people charged with offences under this Act plead guilty as an innocent plea followed by a court case that returns a guilty verdict will
result in a harsher sentence. This has the effect of leaving police and CPS opinion of what is obscene untested.
The DVDs that were the subject of this prosecution were sold through Michael's website, sleazymichael.com, and on Craigslist.
They contained scenes of male fisting, urination and BDSM. Michael was charged with six counts of publishing obscene articles likely to deprave and corrupt . The jury saw a substantial amount of the content which the police and CPS deemed illegal
and required less than two hours deliberation to return unanimous not guilty verdicts on all counts. Therefore material showing the activities depicted is no longer defined as obscene in law.
It's time to decriminalise sex between consenting
adults. Lady Chatterley trial of 1960 (R v Penguin Books) is still quoted as precedent in obscenity trials; the jury's response in R v Peacock shows public opinion has clearly moved on considerably.
Catherine Stephens, activist with the
International Union of Sex Workers, says:
In a week that has also seen the collapse of the Sheila Farmer trial for brothel keeping, it is time to decriminalise the sexual activities of consenting adults, whether or not
they are in front of a camera. These two trials were an appalling waste of public resources: the law as it stands does nothing to enhance the safety either of the general public or those who work in the adult industry and often actively increases the
dangers we face.
Michael Peacock says:
Responsible treatment of pornography would allow adults who want to access sexually explicit materials freedom to do so and protect those who are underage or
do not wish to view such content. The current legal framework fails to do either of these things. I give my thanks to my legal team at Hodge Jones Allen, the judge who heard my case and the twelve people who served on the jury whose maturity and
commonsense has changed the law.
Hazel Eracleous, Chair of Backlash comments:
Backlash is delighted that a jury decided it is no longer appropriate to prosecute people based on consensual adult
sexual activity. We support the rights of adults to participate in all consensual sexual activities and to watch, read and create any fictional interpretation of such in any media. We will continue to raise awareness of the unseen consequences of these
draconian laws, provide legal advice and defend those same consenting adults caught up in the Extreme Pornography and Obscene Publication laws.
Myles Jackman, solicitor at Hodge Jones Allen with a specialist interest in obscenity
This case shows the Obscene Publications Act is no longer effective in the age of the internet.
Jerry Barnett, Chairman of the Adult Industry Trade Association (AITA), says:
We congratulate Michael Peacock on his victory. The idea that depictions of consenting adult sexual activity can be deemed obscene is a throwback to an earlier age. The adult industry continues to develop and adopt technologies that
prevent children from accessing sexual content. We see no need for adults to be protected from it -- a free society should protect the rights of adults to participate in any consenting sexual act they choose.
The judgement seems to have captured little attention from the newspapers with the exception of the Guardian/Observer which has published several items about the news.
of Sheffield Hallam University, who lectures in sex, communication and culture, and who attended the trial, said:
I think the law does not make sense. All the evidence that was heard was about whether the material had
the ability to harm and corrupt. The question now is, what does that actually mean? What is significant is that the jury understood [the issues at stake].
Attwood, like others experts in the field, believes that the law has been
overtaken by new understandings of the way in which people think about sexuality and the depiction of sex including whether a process actually exits that leads to moral corruption .
Others who have been deeply critical of the attempted
prosecution include solicitor and New Statesman legal blogger David Allen Green. Writing during the case he said:
Obscenity is a curious criminal offence, and many would say that it now has no place in a modern liberal
society, especially when all that is being portrayed in any obscene material are the consensual (if unusual) sexual acts between adults.
Jeremy Clarkson, the TV presenter, has been ludicrously criticised for making trivial tasteless comments about the Morecambe Bay cockle picking tragedy in which 23 Chinese migrant workers died.
In a column for The Sun newspaper, Clarkson
mocked the sport of synchronised swimming as Chinese women in hats, upside down, in a bit of water , adding: You can see that sort of thing on Morecambe Beach. For free.
Hardly worthy of mention but Tracy Brown, a Morecambe town
councillor had a little whinge. She said:
I choose to ignore such comments and treat them with the contempt they deserve. In fact, this is beneath contempt. He is just trying to make himself look big at other people's
expense. Many people around here were deeply affected by the tragedy.
But then the tiff escalated to international levels: Ms Dai Qingli, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Embassy, went well overboard. She said:
We deplore and oppose Mr Clarkson's comments, which are insulting and show a woeful disrespect of decency and moral standards. We regret that The Sun has publicised such remarks.
Michael Peacock has been acquitted of all charges after a unanimous jury decision to find Peacock not guilty on 6 counts of obscenity.
Michael Peacock (referred to in the gay porn world as Sleazy Michael) had been charged for
distributing supposedly obscene DVDs including representation of gay fisting, urolagnia and BDSM.
The trial was heard before the Southwark Crown Court. The films in question feature: gay fisting (the insertion of five fingers of the fist into the
rectum of another male); urolagnia (in this case men urinating in their clothes, onto each others' bodies and drinking it); and BDSM (in this case hard whipping, the insertion of needles, urethral sounds and electrical torture ). Also there was an
example of a staged non consensual scene.
The Obscene Publications Act 1959 features the contentious and ambiguous deprave and corrupt test, whereby an article (for example a DVD) is obscene if it tends to deprave and corrupt the reader,
viewer or listener. The Test is defined in Section1 of the Act as:
An article shall be deemed to be obscene if its effect or (where the article comprises two or more distinct items) the effect of any one of its items
is, if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it.
Peacock was represented by Nigel
Richardson and Sandra Paul of Hodge Jones and Allen
Myles Jackman, a solicitor specialising in obscenity law, said this outcome was a significant victory for common sense suggesting that the OPA has been rendered irrelevant in the digital age
In a tweet, Jackman said that SCD9, the Metropolitan Police unit dealing with human exploitation and organised crime, will meet with the Crown Prosecution Service and the British Board of Film Classification to review guidelines on
And of course the authorities will be considering whether the law itself now needs changing. No doubt nutter campaigners will now be pushing for something new to replace the OPA now that it no longer supports their censorial views.
Speculation: So what may be the outcome at least in terms of BBFC censorship of R18s?
The BBFC have been cutting all such material citing the current
interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act. But now of course this will change. The BBFC will still be at liberty to cut scenes off their own bat. And indeed the board has been regularly cutting scenes involving penetration by objects that could
possibly result in harm justified via its own guidelines.
I think there will be a few changes welcomed by all sides. The current prohibition of female squirting leaves everyone totally baffled as to why. This prohibition can now be rapidly
dropped. Perhaps urolagnia can now be generally allowed albeit with restrictions when it is considered by the censors to be degrading.
Perhaps something similar with fisting which could be generally allowed with a proviso that it must not be seen
to be causing any discomfort to those participating.
The BDSM issue is not going to be easy. The current ban is at least easy to explain. To allow any level of hurt beyond trifling may prove very difficult to define. Maybe it is still banned by
legislation examined during the notable Spanner Case, the judgement of which basically disallows people from giving consent to be hurt. So perhaps the BBFC will just switch justifications but continue to ban BDSM.
And I don't suppose that the
non-consensual scene will impact BBFC guidelines at all. This will no doubt continue to be banned from R18s.
Index on Censorship Chief Executive John Kampfner will be stepping down at the end of March. His announcement brings to an end a three-and-a-half year tenure that has seen Index become one of the world's leading free expression advocacy organisations.
John will be working with Google as a part-time consultant on free expression and cultural issues and with the Global Network Initiative from 1 February, as well as undertaking various journalism and book-writing ventures.
Dimbleby, Chair of Index on Censorship, said:
I'm very sad to see John depart. He has transformed Index's profile and practices, turning it into the 'go to' destination for anyone interested in free expression and
censorship questions in the UK and around the world. His successor will have a great opportunity to build on those achievements. I am delighted that John wishes to be involved with our work in other ways in future.
John Kampfner said:
It's been a fantastic privilege to run an organisation of such passion and stature. I'm particularly proud of the work we've done to transform English libel law, our strong editorial work and our campaigns for freedom
of expression around the world. I said originally that I wanted to help take Index to a new level, which I believe has been achieved. I pay tribute to the dedication of our staff and trustees and wish them all success in the future.
The 3rd January 2012 marks the first day of the most significant obscenity trial of the decade; which will ultimately clarify the law on the representation of gay fisting, urolagnia as well as BDSM.
The defendant in the case, Michael Peacock, is
charged on indictment with numerous offences under the Obscene Publications Act for distributing supposedly obscene DVDs.
The Obscene Publications Act 1959 features the contentious and ambiguous deprave and corrupt test, whereby an article
(for example a DVD) is obscene if it tends to deprave and corrupt the reader, viewer or listener. The Test is defined in Section1 of the Act as:
An article shall be deemed to be obscene if its effect or (where the
article comprises two or more distinct items) the effect of any one of its items is, if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter
contained or embodied in it.
In this trial, which will be heard before the Southwark Crown Court, the films in question feature: gay fisting (the insertion of five fingers of the fist into the rectum of another male); urolagnia (in
this case men urinating in their clothes, onto each others' bodies and drinking it); and BDSM (in this case hard whipping, the insertion of needles, urethral sounds and electrical torture ).
These activities feature on the current list of
what the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) currently consider to be obscene. Ultimately though, it is a matter for a jury to decide whether these acts are obscene by virtue of whether they deprave and corrupt the viewer.
Interestingly this case
seems to have found unofficial tacit support from the BBFC; and the Metropolitan Police's Abusive and Extreme Images Unit (the Met's old obscene publications squad is now part of SCD9): on the basis that this case will establish whether the depiction of
fisting and urination pornography is legal or not.
Hence, if the jury decides that such pornography is not obscene, on the basis that it does not deprave and corrupt the viewer; then it is entirely likely that both the producers and distributors
of pornography will make such material available for sale, for example via licensed sex shops.
Consequently, this significant obscenity prosecution will either reaffirm or rearrange the boundaries of obscenity law.
Mr Peacock is represented
by Hodge Jones and Allen LLP..
The #ObscenityTrial involving the issue of fisting (among others) goes into day three today.
If you're not already doing so, be sure to follow on twitter the excellent activist and scholar,
@lexingtondymock . I'd also suggest following the journalist @NichiHodgson . Both have been
providing fascinating coverage through their live tweets from the courtroom.
Many of the exchanges today would be comical, were they not so serious.