European News

 2009: Jan-March

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31st March   

Prime Ministerial Belly Aching...

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RTE news report censored over caricature of Irish prime minister
Link Here

Brian Cowen caricature on RTE news Irish painter Conor Casby has turned himself in to police after hanging unflattering nude portraits of the Irish prime minister Brian Cowen in Dublin galleries.

The Irish state broadcster, RTE, reported the story on its news programme and included one of the portraits.

Pressure has been brought to bear and RTE ended up pulling the report from their website and issuing a public apology during a subsequent news bulletin.

The apology and withdrawn news report has caused an uproar amongst the Irish online community. There is now an over-6,000-member-strong Facebook group railing against the police investigation, Twitter abuzz (search for #picturegate), and bloggers infuriated over the spectre of censorship.

Damien Mulley wrote: Last night part of the freedom of the press was murdered in front of our eyes, in prime time hours. We should be crying at that apology. Hope is quickly diminishing in Ireland and more of it went tonight. The country is going to hell in a handcart and now they're attacking satire in a most brutal way. RTE News has been shut down. RTE cannot report news anymore without having to secondguess themselves and the reaction from Government press officers.

Allan Cavanagh of Caricatures Ireland wrote: When the government can so clearly meddle in the broadcast decisions of the national broadcaster this should cause all of us concern. The news was changed today to reflect the offended sensibilities of those in power. This has been par for the course for years no doubt; but when something as frivolous as a report on a funny painting can be withdrawn from the RTE archive, that is cut and dried censorship of the innocuous. We are now not allowed to laugh at Brian Cowen. -

 

29th March   

Protectionism or Morality...

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Sweden looks to block internet access to foreign gambling websites
Link Here

Sweden flagThe Swedish government is consulting about its proposal to block the internet sites of foreign gambling companies.

Gambling is regulated by the state in Sweden. There are a small number of gambling companies, all of them operating with the permission of the Swedish state.

The consultation process is not yet complete but already it stands clear that several important agencies are very negative to the proposal.

The idea gets the thumbs-down from both authorities and ISPs. Censorship , the ISP Bahnhof writes in their response to the report: Is it really a good idea that the state shall decide which internet sites that are allowed for people to reach , says CEO Jon Karlung to newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

Today do several ISPs voluntarily block internet sites that depict child pornography. But there are no state filtering, and Jon Karlung thinks this is an important issue: For the first time is state censorship of the internet proposed in Sweden.

Also the Swedish Post and Telecom Agency, the High Courts and Agency for Administrative development have issues concerning the blocking of internet access. They wrote in their response that the regulation could bring limitations in the freedom of speech for individuals. It is not illegal, yet, to visit the internet sites of foreign gambling companies, and the agency thus asks why a legal activity should be stopped.

The High Courts in the counties of Skåne and Blekinge calls the proposal disproportional and point to the risk that one kind of state filtering of internet access leads to also the block of other types of internet sites.

At the same time the Agency for Administrative Development writes that the proposal will mean a ban for Swedish citizens to use parts of the internet and asks for a greater discussion about the consequences of the proposal.

 

29th March   

Trafficking in Legislation...


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EU proposes new laws against trafficking and child sex abuse
Link Here

EU flagThe European Commission has today adopted two proposals for new rules to step up the fight against trafficking in human beings and child sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and child pornography. These new proposals replace existing legislation which has been in place since respectively 2002 and 2004. The new proposals will guarantee full alignment with the highest European standards, provide better assistance for victims and tougher action against criminals responsible for child sexual abuse and trafficking. The proposals also deal with the rapidly changing technologies in the cyberspace.

The two proposals for Council Framework Decisions would oblige EU countries to act on the three fronts of prosecuting criminals, protecting victims and preventing the offences.

The proposal to fight trafficking in human beings approximates national legislations and penalties, makes sure that offenders are brought to justice even if they commit crimes abroad. It will allow police to use phone tapping, eavesdropping and other similar tools used to fight organised crime. Victims will receive accommodation and medical care and if necessary police protection so that they recover from their plight and are not afraid to testify against their perpetrators. They will be protected from further traumatisation during criminal proceedings, deriving for example from probing questions about the experience related to their forced sexual exploitation. Victims will receive free legal aid throughout the proceedings including for the purpose of claiming financial compensation. The proposal encourages sanctions against clients of people forced to offer sexual services and against employers exploiting trafficked people. The proposal also establishes independent bodies to monitor implementation of these actions.

The proposal to fight the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children makes it easier to punish those who abuse children by providing criminal sanctions for new forms of abuse like 'grooming' - luring children through internet and abusing them, viewing child pornography without downloading files or making children pose sexually in front of webcams. "Sex tourists" travelling abroad to abuse children will face prosecution when they come home. Child victims will be able to testify without having to face the offender at court to spare them from additional trauma and will be helped by a free lawyer. Every offender should be assessed individually and have access to tailor made treatment so that they don't abuse again. The prohibitions from activities involving contact with children imposed on offenders should be effective not just in the country where they were convicted but across the EU. Systems to block access to websites containing child pornography will be developed

The proposals will be discussed in the EU Council of Ministers and once approved should be translated into national legislations.

 

29th March   

Offsite: Searching for Responsibility...

Italian trial to test Google's responsibilities over YouTube content
Link Here  full story: Google on Trial...Google sued for YouTube bullying video

Google logoTBack in 2006, a group of four Turin youths insulted and physically abused a young classmate with Down syndrome so severely that the terrified boy soiled his pants. One of the four filmed 191 seconds of the unsettling episode and uploaded it to Google Video, where it remained for about two months before the company finally pulled it.

Now, two and a half years later, a judge working from a dusty and worn Fascist-era courtroom in Milan will help decide whether companies like Google Video should be responsible for the content they host. At stake could be the way business on the Internet evolves over the coming years.

A hearing on Wednesday confirmed that Italy is a legitimate venue for the trial, and a further hearing is scheduled for next month.

See article from reuters.com

 

25th March   

Updated: Easy Targets...

German president joins the tirade against computer games
Link Here  full story: Killergames...German politicians target video games

Far Cry 2 game Thousands of people converged on the grieving German town of Winnenden on Saturday for a memorial service for the 15 victims of a shooting spree by a 17-year-old.

All Germany mourns with you, President Horst Koehler told a congregation of 900: Each child is born innocent, and when a child dies, it is hope and the future which dies too, Koehler said, calling for curbs on the kind of violent video games believed to have influenced the teenage gunman, Tim Kretschmer.

Koehler backed families of the victims who appealed in an open letter for tighter gun control laws and a ban on violent video games of the kind which Kretschmer regularly played.

He said there should be restrictions on the spread of the innumerable films and videogames of extreme violence, with their display of dead bodies, while individuals should be able to say no to what they feel to be bad.

In their open letter addressed to Merkel and Koehler, the families of five of the victims said: Despite our pain and anger, we can't just do nothing. We want to make sure there is not another Winnenden. They called for teenagers to be denied access to guns, for violent videos to be banned and violence on television to be restricted by the introduction of quotas taking into account the hours when children are likely to be viewing.

 

25th March   

Long Arms of the Law...

Australian block list posting earns wikileaks raid by German police
Link Here  full story: Wikileaks in Germany...Wikileaks under duress in Germany

Wikileaks On the 24th of March 2009, seven police officers in Dresden and four in Jena searched the homes of Theodor Reppe, who holds the domain registration for "wikileaks.de", the German name for wikileaks.org. According to police documentation, the reason for the search was distribution of pornographic material and discovery of evidence. Police claim the raid was initiated due to Reppe's position as the Wikileaks.de domain owner.

Police did not want to give any further information to Reppe and no contact was made with Wikileaks before or after the search. It is therefore not totally clear why the search was made, however Wikileaks, in its role as a defender of press freedoms, has published censorship lists for Australia, Thailand, Denmark and other countries. Included on the lists are references to sites containing pornography and no other material has been released by Wikileaks relating to the subject.

 

23rd March   

Updated: Killer Blame...

German police union chief calls for ban on killer games
Link Here  full story: Killergames...German politicians target video games

Far Cry 2 game The head of Germany's national police union has called for a ban on violent video games in the wake of a horrific school shooting earlier this month.

Echo Online cites comments made by Heini Schmitt, head of the Hessen German Police Union:

It is known that in every situation in which a violent rampage has occurred, the perpetrator has had a remarked addiction to so-called killergames. The manner of the deed is astonishingly similar to virtual examples.

For him, the fact that roughly a third of children and youths regularly and addictively escape into a virtual world sets off alarm bells. Age restrictions for such games are often ignored. There is admittedly no proof that these frequent escapes into virtual killerworlds can contribute to such insane deeds. But neither can the role killergames be completely dismissed.

When a chance to remove a probable cause exists, it must be used, he insisted: The world would be no poorer if there were no more killergames.

 

21st March   

Update: The Appeal of Wilders...

Wilders appeals against the decision to ban him from the UK
Link Here  full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world

Geert WildersDutch MP Geert Wilders has launched an appeal against the Home Office's decision to ban him from travelling to the UK.

Wilders was scheduled to screen his controversial film, Fitna, in the House of Lords when he was refused entry into the country last month. The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, refused to allow him into the country on grounds of public security.

 

19th March   

Update: Censorshop...

Major German store removes 18+ computer games from its stores
Link Here  full story: Killergames...German politicians target video games

Kaufhof storeMajor German retailer Kaufhof will no longer sell violent video games and films, after a teenager - who was an avid gamer - shot dead 15 people before killing himself last week.

On the basis of what happened in Winnenden, we have decided to take all the games and films deemed unsuitable for below 18 year olds out of our product range, Kaufhof spokesperson Sonja Kittel told AFP: The products which we now have in the stores will be sold until the end of March but by April the sales will be stopped all together.

Thomas Burkhart, director of Kaufhof's media department, said within an hour of the decision, most of the games had been removed from the shelves.

Critics are now saying that Kaufhof, with over 20 000 employees and more than 100 branches in Germany, has overreacted and that this form of self-censorship is not necessary.

Knee jerking politician calls for 18+ certificate for everything Tim Kretschmer ever played

It's politicians that need to be 'sensibilized'

Based on article from welt.de

Minister for Social Affairs Mechthild Ross-Luttmann aims to achieve a general age restriction for addictive computer games. World of Warcraft, for example – available to minors at the age of 12 – might in the near future only be sold to adults. In addition to this, parents need to be further sensibilized. Parents must know what danger potential exists in their children's bedrooms, Ross-Luttmann said.

Computer game expert and author of Digital Paradise Andreas Rosenfelder is rather skeptical about demands like this. I don't see a connection between digital role playing games like World of Warcraft and shooting sprees, he said. World of Warcraft is a game set in medieval times in which the protagonists can take on the roles of dwarfs, elves and wizards. There is no shooting in this game.

In heated debates there can easily be some confusion, Rosenfelder said.

 

16th March   

Updated: Blame Alert...

German gun killer played CounterStrike and had thousands of horror movies
Link Here  full story: Killergames...German politicians target video games

Tim Kretschmer, the German teenager whose shooting rampage has just left 16 people dead  was a fan of the first-person shooter Counter-Strike , according to an early report from the Associated Press:

A 17-year-old who would give only his first name, Aki, said had played poker with Kretschmer, both in person and online, as well as a multiplayer video game called Counter-Strike that involves killing people to complete missions. He was good, Aki said.

Based on article from guardian.co.uk

Michael V, another 19-year-old who lived nearby, said Kretschmer had thousands of horror videos.

Update: Don't they know how angry youngsters can become if you take their games away

13th March 2009. Based on article from gamepolitics.com

From Google-translated segment from Heise:

The President of the German Foundation for Crime, Hans-Dieter Schwind, calls... for a total ban on violent computer games, and a further tightening of the arms law.

The Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann has... expressed demand for a ban on so-called killer games renewed... he said, it generally must be clearly said that the games were available, the obvious just in young people cutting inhibitions...

Romandie News reported via Google translation:

In a report prepared for a long time and voted Thursday by an overwhelming majority, the European Parliament calls for common strategy is developed at EU level providing for severe sanctions for retailers who sell adult games to minors, or owners of Internet cafes that allow children to play games unsuitable for their age group...

Update: Far Cry 2

16th March 2009. See article from timesonline.co.uk

Far Cry 2 game German police investigating the Winnenden school shooting, in which 15 people died before the killer turned his gun on himself, believe one motive might have been a rebuff from a teenage girl who attended a New Year's Eve party at his home. The girl was one of his first victims.

Detectives disclosed yesterday that Kretschmer, who was described by friends and family as quiet and polite, had a secret identity on the internet, where he participated in a discussion about school shootings under the name “JawsPredator1”.

The funny thing is that even when people like that announce what they are about to do in advance, no one believes it, he was said to have written in an online chatroom.

Detectives searching for clues to his character found more than 200 pornographic images on his computer's hard disk, including 120 photographs of female bondage.

The teenage gunman spent the night before his spree playing a violent video game in which a heavily armed mercenary tracks down and kills an arms dealer, police revealed.

Tim Kretschmer spent from 7.30pm to 9.40pm playing Far Cry 2 , in which the player takes on the role of the killer.

Parallels emerged between the video game and the 17-year-old's rampage. In the game it is essential to hijack cars to move around. Kretschmer hijacked a car, held a pistol to the driver's head and asked: Should I have fun and pick off some more drivers? Characters in the game, which is made by the French company Ubisoft and has sold 2.9m copies, wear black camouflage uniforms – the clothing Kretschmer wore on Wednesday.

Far Cry 2 's killer uses a Beretta 92 handgun, the weapon fired 112 times by Kretschmer.

The game, which carries an 18 certificate in Britain, includes sequences in which the aiming, firing and reloading of a Beretta are portrayed in detail. It also rewards players who shoot their victims in the head, the style of killing chosen by Kretschmer.

Kretschmer also played Counter-Strike , another game featuring gunplay, and TacticalOps , a special forces action game, both of which have a 16+ PEGI rating in Britain.

 

16th March   

Martyrs to Censorship...

Martyrs causes controversy in France as the first horror film to be rated 18+
Link Here

Martyrs DVD The film Martyrs , is definitely worth watching if you haven't seen it yet.

It has been given an 18 rating by the BBFC with no cuts for its DVD release in a few weeks, despite being one of the most controversial films ever released in France (in terms of censorship).

See article from en.wikipedia.org

The film was categorized as a new example of new era French horror films akin to Inside (À l'intérieur) by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury with regards to the level of violence it depicts. It received mostly positive reviews. Ryan Rotten at shocktillyoudrop.com claims that the film is the new yard stick against which all forms of extreme genre films should be measured against.

The film received an 18+ rating in France (unsuitable for children under 18 or forbidden in cinemas for under 18s) which the producers of the film appealed. The French Society of Film Directors (SRF) have also asked the Ministry of Culture to re-examine the decision remarking that this is the first time a French genre film has been threatened with such a rating. The Union of Film Journalists has adopted the same position as the SRF, claiming censorship.

The appeal succeeded and the film ended up with a 16+ rating in France.

 

16th March   

Update: Free to Insult Religion...

Dutch High Court finds it not illegal to insult religion
Link Here  full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world

NetherlandsIn a decision which could have positive consequences for Geert Wilders' upcoming prosecution , a supporter of the Dutch extreme right National Alliance has had his conviction for insulting Islam overturned by the High Court.

The man had displayed a poster in his window after the murder of Dutch film maker Theo Van Gogh. It read: Stop the tumour that is Islam. Theo has died for us. Who will be next? Resist now! National Alliance, we will not bow down to Allah. Join now.

Originally given a suspended sentence, he was acquitted by the High Court. The judged concluded that it was not an offence to express insults towards religion. Not even if that happens in such a way that the devotees feel their religious feelings are hurt.

 

11th March   

Georgia Don't Wanna Putin...

Georgia's song rejected from the Eurovision Song Contest
Link Here  full story: Georgia Don't Wanna Putin...Georgia song rejected from Eurovision song contest

Eurovision Song Contest logoGeorgia's entry has been ruled unacceptable by organisers of the Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow, because of some of its lyrics.

The disco-funk song, We Don't Wanna Put In , appears to poke fun at Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

However, it is against the competition's rules to allow political content in entries.

A contest spokesman said: No lyrics, speeches, gestures of a political or similar nature shall be permitted.

The event, which is being held in the Russian capital in May, is taking place less than a year after Russia and Georgia went to war over the region of South Ossetia. Relations between the two countries have been tense for several years.

The song, which was chosen by a public vote and jury, was due to be performed by female trio 3G along with male vocalist Stephane.

The song, which has a distinct 1970s feel, contains the chorus: We don't wanna put in, the negative move, it's killin' the groove.

Even the title of the song appears to be play on the politician's name.

The Geneva-based European Broadcasting Union, which runs the contest, said Georgia can rewrite the lyrics of its entry or select another song.

 

10th March   

Update: Censors Out of Favour...

Maltese opinion poll marginally goes against the censors
Link Here  full story: Stage Censorship in Malta...Maltese censors ban stage play Stitching, then get disbanded

Stitching book of the play51.1% of Maltese people oppose the ban on Anthony Nielson's play Stitching imposed by the censorship board, with a majority stating they want the censorship board stripped of its power to determine what adults can watch.

This emerges from a MaltaToday survey conducted among 300 respondents.

Stitching was banned by the censorship board chaired by Therese Friggieri on the grounds that it contains blasphemy against the state religion, contempt for the victims of Auschwitz and references to the abduction, sexual assault and murder of children.

Update: Court Hearing

20th June 2009. See article from timesofmalta.com

A priest told the Court this morning he would have classified Anthony Nielson's play Stitching 18R, meaning all adults with reservations.

Fr Joe Abela, a member on the film analysis and classification board of the Church, was testifying in Unifaun Theatre's case and Malta's decision to ban the play.

The next hearing is in September.

Update: Church Distances Itself from Abela's comment

23d June 2009. See article from di-ve.com

The Archbishop's Curia has distanced itself from the testimony given in court by Fr Joe Abela, chairman of the its film classification board, about the play Stitching , which was recently banned.

In a statement released on Monday, the Curia said that Fr Abela was giving witness on his own behalf and on his own initiative and was not representing the board.

 

10th March   

Update: A Blasphemy Against Free Speech...

Offence of blasphemy still on the books in Malta
Link Here

Malta flagA Council of Europe (CoE) study on freedom of expression and freedom of religion, argues that it is no longer desirable for European democracies to criminalise blasphemy, and calls for the abolishment of such laws.

Malta is one of the few European states that penalises the public vilification of the Roman Catholic religion with a maximum term of sixth months' imprisonment – and three months for other religions.

Only Greece contemplates a higher term – two years' imprisonment – for malicious blasphemy.

The debate on so-called religious insult was brought to the fore by the Board of Film and Stage Classification's decision to ban the play Stitching, for reasons that included blasphemy.

And adding to the dose of ecclesiastical umbrage, only this week seven revellers at the Nadur carnival were arraigned for dressing up as priests – much to the outrage of the bishops. It seems Malta has reverted back to 1959.

The report on European laws on religious insult and incitement to hatred in all the European nations, was prepared by the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe composed of experts of constitutional law.

In their two-year study, the experts concluded that it is neither necessary nor desirable to create an offence of religious insult, that is insult to religious feelings, without the element of incitement to hatred as an essential component.

The Commission argues that pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness means that freedom of expression should not be limited to protect an individual's belief from criticism.
The right to freedom of expression implies that it should be allowed to scrutinise, openly debate, and criticise, even harshly and unreasonably, belief systems… as long as this does not amount to advocating hatred.

The Commission argues that the offence of blasphemy should be abolished” and that democratic societies must not become hostage to the excessive sensitivities of certain individuals… the level of tolerance of these individuals who would feel offended by the right to freedom of expression should be raised. A democracy must not fear debate, even on the most shocking or anti-democratic ideas… persuasion, as opposed to ban or repression, is the most democratic means of preserving fundamental values.

 

5th March   

Incitement to Censor...

Italians extending internet blocking to sites 'inciting' crime
Link Here

Italy flagThe Italian Senate approved - and the lower chamber is ready to pass draft law 733 called Pacchetto sicurezza (Security Package).

Under section 50 bis of this forthcoming law, a public prosecutor which is given serious circumstantial evidence that an online activity of inciting crime has been committed, is allowed to ask the Minister of Home Affair to order the ISP's to shut down the concerned network resource. ISP refusal to comply with Minister's order should be fined with a penalty up to 250,000 Euros.

Crime-inciting is very difficult to handle, since the border between free-speech and law violation is often blurred (would a website supporting freedom rebels of a country be - per se - inciting to commit crimes?).

Italy had a "sound" tradition in trying to enforce citizen's global surveillance systems through ISP's and telco operators, adopting every sort of justifications (from copyright, to child pornography, to online gambling and now to crime-inciting actions). Oddly enough, nevertheless, these good intentions fell always on innocent citizens' shoulders, while true criminals stay absolutely free.

 

5th March   

Update: Striking a Chord...

Wilders surges in Dutch opinion polls after prosecution and ban
Link Here  full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world

Geert WildersBritain's controversial ban on the anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders has helped push his Freedom Party into the lead for the first time, according to Dutch opinion polls.

Geert Wilders began to see a rise in his popularity after an Amsterdam appeals court decided to try him for anti-Muslim comments in January.

New opinion polling now puts Mr Wilders ahead of the Christian Democrats, who lead a coalition government.

How happy I am about this. These are of course just polls, but it is an enormous sign of confidence from the Dutch voter, said Wilders: As far as I am concerned, elections can be held tomorrow, then I will be the next premier.

Polling by Maurice de Hond has predicted that the Freedom Party or PVV would take 18% of the vote to win 27 seats in the 150-seat Dutch parliament. This would put Wilders in the position of being a power broker and prime minister in a traditionally complicated Dutch multi-party coalition.

 

27th February   

Update: BBFC Leading the Game...

BBFC survey reveals that parents want games regulated by the likes of the BBFC
Link Here  full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

BBFC logoThree quarters of British parents want to see video games granted cinema-style age classifications, ratified by an independent body, according to a new survey commissioned by the BBFC.

Nearly 80% of those surveyed said they believed video games could affect the behaviour of some children, while 77% said that game ratings should reflect the concerns of British parents.

The survey, which was carried out by YouGov on behalf of the BBFC questioned 2,143 adults.

It comes as the Government considers the findings of the Byron Review, a paper written by parenting expert and psychologist, Tanya Byron, into the steps that need to be taken to safeguard children in the digital age. The Byron Review recommends that video games designed for people aged 12 and over, regardless of content, should be reviewed by the BBFC for classification prior to release.

In 2007, the BBFC alienated sections of the computer games industry by attempting to ban Manhunt 2 , a game in which players must escape an asylum using whatever weapons they can find. Following repeated appeals by the game's publishers, a cut version of Manhunt 2 was eventually granted an 18 age certificate.

The survey also found that 82% of parents believed it would be helpful if video games used the same age ratings systems as films and DVDs. At present, there are two systems of game rating in Britain: the compulsory one run by the BBFC and the competing voluntary one run by the Pan European Games Information body, known as PEGI.

This poll clearly shows parents support a regulatory system for games that is independent of the industry and UK based, reflecting UK sensibilities and sensitivities, said David Cooke, director of the BBFC said. The BBFC has been classifying games for over 20 years and our decisions reflect the views of the public. Our classification systems and symbols are known and trusted by the public and in a converging media world they want to know what their children are playing as well as watching.

 

27th February   

Unvetted...

Adult films being sold in Finland without notifying the censor
Link Here

VET logoMost porn movies for sale in Finland are technically illegal

The Finnish Board of Film Classification has to be notified of every audio-visual programme to be distributed or exhibited in Finland. Films meant for adults do not need classification, but they do have to be equipped with the age-rating marking (K-18).

Today, on most pornographic films that are for sale in Finland no notification has been made. According to inspector Leena Karjalainen, as many as four out of five films could be illegal in this respect.

In 2008, the number of pornographic movies on which a notification had been submitted to the Board was 14,000, indicating a fall on 2007 figures of some 10,000. According to Karjalainen, distributors simply no longer bother to make such notifications. On the basis of the notifications, the Board may request a copy of the programme if it is suspected to contain material against the Penal Code.

Helsingin Sanomat interviewed some distributors of blue movies, who said that today pornographic films which are being sold in Finland are more obscene than before.

Karjalainen reports that around half of the 1,300 blue movies classified by the Finnish Board of Film Classification in 2008 contained pornography forbidden by the Penal Code, in other words audio-visual material depicting violence in a sexually obscene manner.

Unclassified movies are sold in sex shops, flea markets, second-hand bookshops, and on the Internet. The US-based adult magazine Hustler reports that unclassified porn movies are sold for example on Huuto.net, the largest Internet auction site in Finland, which belongs to the same media conglomerate as Helsingin Sanomat.

According to Karjalainen, the Finnish Board of Film Classification has also been informed of films defined as forbidden in the Penal Code that are available on Huuto.net. These findings have been reported to the police

 

25th February   

Update: Appeal Watch...

Ireland rates Watchmen as 16 after an appeal
Link Here  full story: Watchmen...Watching the censors watch Watchmen

Watchmen poster Irish cinemagoers aged 16 and over may see the violent new US action film Watchmen following a decision by the Film Appeals Board.

John Kelleher, director of the Irish Film Classification Office (Ifco), had given the film an 18 certificate – in tandem with a similar classification in the UK.

However, a more lenient rating has since been granted following an appeal by the film's distributor, Paramount Pictures. The film goes on release in Ireland, Britain and the US on March 6th.

Kelleher's office advises viewers on its website  that Watchmen contains strong, visceral hyper-realistic violence, including one brutal sexual assault.

We are delighted that Watchmen has been classified as 16, said Niamh McCaul, general manager of Paramount's Irish office. It increases our potential audience and more importantly will give access to fans that are 16 and over.

BBFC explain their uncut 18 rating for the film

See article from bbfc.co.uk

BBFC logoWatchmen is the latest film from director Zack Snyder and the team behind 300. Based on a famous graphic novel from the 1980s it tells the story of an alternate America in which the Vietnam War was won, Nixon was elected for a third term and costumed superheroes are part of the fabric of society. It was passed ‘18' for strong bloody violence.

The BBFC Guidelines at ‘15' state that ‘violence may be strong but may not dwell on the infliction of pain or injury'. In Watchmen however there are a number of scenes that focus on strong detailed violence and its gory result. In one such example, a man is stabbed through the arm, with it forcefully twisted and broken as the knife is shown penetrating his arm and emerging from the other side. In another, a man is shown being struck in the head with a meat cleaver followed by repeated bloody sight of the cleaver striking the head. Both of these scenes, in addition to one or two others, were considered inappropriate at ‘15' and better placed at the adult ‘18' where detail of strong violence is permitted.

Watchmen also contains an attempted rape scene, strong language and sexual activity without strong detail.

 

22nd February   

Update: Italian Censorship Mafia...

Proposed law to censor dissent on the internet
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Italy...Censorship affecting bloogers and the press in Italy

Italy flagA new bill has come before the Italian Senate, giving the interior ministry the power to order Internet providers to remove criminal content within 24 hours or face a fine of up to 250,000 euros.

Senator Gianpiero D'Alia introduced the measure after the Italian press reported on the existence of Facebook fan groups for convicted Corleone-born Mafia bosses Salvatore Riina and Bernardo Provenzano, who have been convicted of dozens of homicides and are serving multiple life sentences in prison.

After Facebook expressed its concern about Italy's proposed law to force Internet providers to block access to websites that incite or justify criminal behaviour, D'Alia replied that the aim is not to block sites like Facebook or YouTube in their entirety if they contain criminal content. Rather, the senator explained, the law is intended to force them to remove individual pages or groups.

However, the text of the bill is misleading, as it does not distinguish between blocking pages and entire websites. This makes the law extremely flawed, as Marco Pancini, the European Public Policy Counsel for Google, which owns YouTube, has said. Internet providers are not able to eliminate single elements from websites, and this means blocking entire platforms in a situation where Internet providers themselves are not left with any choice but to respect orders for the removal of an unlawful site.

 

22nd February   

Updated: Stitched Up...

Malta's theatre censor bans the Neilson play, Stitching
Link Here  full story: Stage Censorship in Malta...Maltese censors ban stage play Stitching, then get disbanded

Stitching book of the playThe Maltese censorship board has banned a play by the Unifaun Theatre Company, which was scheduled for February.

The play, Stitching by Anthony Neilson, has been described by the Daily Telegraph as shocking , and by the Independent as brave and Brutal.

It deals with a couple trying to piece together their relationship and is directed by Chris Gatt. Rehearsals have been underway for weeks now – and Unifaun artistic director Adrian Buckle lamented that the company is considerably out of pocket, having paid for performing rights and other expenses, unable to wait any longer for the board's decision.

But it is not the financial implications of the Film and Theatre Classification Board's decision that has disturbed him: I simply do not see why it should be banned because it is shocking. People know what to expect from our plays and it is certainly not as shocking of some of the others that made it through the censorship board. Nowhere else in Europe are plays banned… This actually goes against European law.

A Council of Europe (CoE) report some years ago was highly critical of the face that there was still censorship in Malta, especially with regards to theatrical performances. The report said such censorship was not consistent with the beliefs of the Council of Europe and those of the European Union, because it represented control over creative expression.

Unifaun is trying to appeal the decision. A reaction is being sought from the board.

Update: Censor Unseen

15th February 2009. See article from timesofmalta.com

Speaking at a press conference this morning, director Chris Gatt and producer Adrian Buckle said the chairman of the Board of Film and Stage Classification, Therese Friggieri, never asked to see the play before banning it.

Mr Gatt said that although words in the play may sound shocking , the production played out in a completely different manner.

They insisted that in this day and age, the ban on the play was an infringement of their rights.

The play is about a couple in crisis coming to terms with a loss, and deals with themes that include death and abortion.

Update: Maltese Censor Insults Human Dignity

17th February 2009. See article from timesofmalta.com

The play Stitching is an insult to human dignity from beginning to end, the chairman of the Classification Board insisted

The play was banned by the board last month but the producers have said they will defy the ban.

Teresa Friggieri in a short statement this morning insisted that the play cannot be staged: The producers know they are breaking the law, it is their business. They also know that legal proceedings which they themselves started, are now in progress, and they should at least have the decency to await the outcome of that process.

Friggieri said the reasons for the ban had been handed to the producers' lawyers in writing. They were that: The play has graphic references to child abuse; the play includes anti-Semitic comments; it includes swearing; sadism and cruelty against innocent victims and other perversions.

Update: Decadent Censors

18th February 2009.  See article from timesofmalta.com

Teresa Friggieri, chairman, said that although plays were normally assessed by one person, in this case it was reviewed by three people - Cecilia Xuereb, Dione Mifsud and herself, who decided it should be banned and disallowed.

After the producers requested a review of the board's decision, Friggieri said the script was seen by another three persons - Marthese Scerri, Joe Camilleri and Tony Muscat who independently confirmed the original decision.

Friggieri said the board denied violating the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights since freedom of expression was not absolute and was subject to several limitations in the interests of morality, and public decency. In this case, the script not only contained obscene language, but in some cases it also offended religious sentiment. It included decadent material, shameful and perverted content of a sexual and sadomasochistic content and even paedophilia. It also included references to the Auschwitz victims which exceeded all limits of public decency.

Update: Decadent Censors

22nd February 2009.  See article from timesofmalta.com

The Unifaun Theatre Company is prepared to take its case against the banning of Stitching to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if necessary.

Unifaun lawyer Michael Zammit Maempel said the producers planned to cite the Handyman v UK case in the European Court of Human Rights (1976), which resulted in the ruling that freedom of expression is applicable not only to 'information and ideas' that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the state or any sector of the population. Such are the demands of pluralism, tolerance and broad mindedness without which there is no 'democratic society'.

 

21st February   

Update: Fitna for Italy...

Fitna shown in the House of Lords but without Wilders
Link Here  full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world

Italy flagFitna was shown in Rome and Wilders was present proving that Italy is a much more free society than Great Britain which constrains and cajoles in the name of the intolerant New Labour creed that tolerates no dissent from its worldview.

The event in Rome took place in an environment of massive security with the Italian army and the Caribinari securing the immediate vicinity of the conference.

 

17th February   

Deserving of a Good Slapping...

German TV presenter cops a feel on live TV
Link Here

German TV presenter copping a feelA German TV presenter is under fire after he grabbed his colleague's breast on a live prime time show.

Hans Blomberg was announcing the results of a public vote for a song contest when he fondled his colleague, 28-year-old Susanka Bersin.

As the results came in, Blomberg joked: But the two most beautiful points remain with me – before he grabbed at Bersin's cleavage.

Bersin was shocked and immediately slapped him in the face.

Blomberg said he did not understand what all the fuss was about. He said: The real scandal was that she slapped me – not my boob grabbing!

Blomberg's boss Karsten Kroeger said: He had gone too far, no doubt about that. However it has been announced that the presenter will not be sacked.

 

14th February   

The Unwanted Face of Censorship...

Italian government proposes law to ban faces it doesn't like.
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Italy...Censorship affecting bloogers and the press in Italy

Facebook logoFacebook has responded to a proposed Italian law that could see the social networking site forced to censor its members' postings and groups.

The row started when Italian media noticed fan groups for convicted mafia members on Facebook. The rumpus led Italian senator Gianpiero D'Alia to draft a law which would give the Interior Ministry the power to order internet service providers to remove web pages it doesn't like.

But a Facebook spokesdroid told Bloomberg that this would be like closing an entire railway network just because of offensive graffiti at one station. She added that Facebook would always remove any content promoting violence and already had a takedown procedure in place.

 

12th February   

Emergency Measures...

European Parliament suggest a red button for parents to disable games
Link Here

Emergency Stop buttonParents should have a red button to disable a game they feel is inappropriate for their child, says the European Parliament Internal Market Committee.

The aim is not to demonise games, which have a broadly beneficial effect on the mental development of children, but to help parents choose suitable content for their offspring.

However, not all games are suited to all age groups and the possibility of harmful effects on the minds of children cannot be ruled out.

To help parents choose, MEPs would like to see more public awareness of the content of video games, parental control options and instruments such as the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) age rating system.

Different approaches to strengthening control of video games should be explored, argues the committee, but it does not propose specific EU legislation. MEPs believe Member States should ensure their national rating systems do not lead to market fragmentation. Harmonisation of labelling rules would be of help. Member States should also agree on a common system based solely on PEGI.

Members of the committee are particularly worried about on-line games, which are easy to download onto a PC or a mobile phone, making parental control harder. Until PEGI on-line is up and running, the report proposes fitting consoles, computers or other game devices with a red button to give parents the chance to disable a game or control access at certain times.

The presence of violence in video games does not automatically lead to violent behaviour, according to the report, which draws on recent studies. However, prolonged exposure to scenes of violence can have an adverse effect on the player and even potentially lead to violent behaviour. An amendment tabled by the Civil Liberties Committee calls on the Member States to frame specific civil and criminal legislation on the retailing of violent TV, video and computer games and argues that special attention should be devoted to on-line games.

Controls on video games need to be tightened up so that children do not have access to inappropriate games. For this reason, and also to prevent the potentially harmful effects of games, especially the danger of addiction or violent behaviour, retailers and parents should take appropriate steps. MEPs back the idea of a code of conduct for retailers and producers of video games. But above all, internet café owners are singled out and reminded of their responsibilities.

 

11th February   

Update: Fitna for Censorship...

Home Office bans Geert Wilders invited to show Fitna in the House of Lords
Link Here  full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world

Fitna Geert Wilders has been refused entry to the United Kingdom to broadcast his controversial anti-Muslim film Fitna in the House of Lords.

Wilders said he had been told that in the interests of public order he will not be allowed to come to Britain.

He responded to the decision in fighting mood, telling reporters that he still intended to travel to London.

He said: I shall probably go to Britain anyway on Thursday. Let us see if they put me in chains on arrival. It is an unbelievable decision made by a group of cowards.

The film features verses from the Koran alongside images of the terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September 2001, Madrid in March 2004 and London in July 2005. The film equates Islam's holy text with violence and ends with a call to Muslims to remove hate-preaching' verses from the Koran.

Last night, Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said he had called British foreign secretary David Miliband to protest against the decision.

He said: It is disgraceful that a Dutch parliamentarian should be refused entrance to an EU country.

A spokesman for the Lords said that the invitation to show his film remained open.

Home Office sources confirmed Mr Wilders had been refused entry to the UK.

A Home Office spokesman told The Daily Telegraph: The Government opposes extremism in all its forms. It will stop those who want to spread extremism, hatred and violent messages in our communities from coming to our country. That was the driving force behind tighter rules on exclusions for unacceptable behaviour that the Home Secretary announced on in October last year.

 

10th February   

Bullshit!...

Ofcom dismiss suggestions that Swedes are less offended by strong language
Link Here

Bullshit! Season 5 DVD Penn & Teller: Bullshit!
TV6 Sweden, 27 September 2008 at 19:55


ITV6 is a Swedish language channel licensed by Ofcom but restricted to Swedish viewers

Penn & Teller: Bullshit! is a US entertainment series, originally broadcast on the US subscription channel Showtime. The series is hosted by the two American comedians/magicians Penn Jillette and Teller (known as Penn & Teller). The programme is described on the official Showtime website as a “high-octane, weird, wacky, entertaining journey through some bizarre territory that no one else is brave enough to touch” and aims to cause controversy by applying Penn & Teller's critical approach to various beliefs and philosophies. The episode complained of was called War on Porn and was broadcast in English with Swedish subtitles.

Ofcom received a complaint from a Swedish viewer about the sexual content included in the programme. The viewer was particularly concerned that the programme was inappropriately scheduled before the watershed on a Saturday evening, when young children were likely to be watching.

The programme featured frequent, but brief, clips of adult sexual content. These included shots of men and women simulating sexual intercourse, women touching themselves and other women in a sexual manner, shots of naked breasts and footage of an adult industry convention - including shots of sex toys, such as dildos and whips.

The programme also contained varying levels of offensive language. It was broadcast in English with Swedish sub-titles. The original sound-track in English contained several uses of the word “fuck” together with references to “cunt” and “motherfucker.” It also featured milder language such as, “dick”,“tits”,“cock”, and “pissed”.

The English translation of the Swedish subtitles indicated that they also included references to the word “fuck” and “cunt”, together with references to milder language, such as “cock” and “tits.”

Viasat said with regard to the offensive language featured in the programme, the broadcaster pointed out that although the language is offensive in English the same words are not regarded as offensive in Swedish. It stated that, although English offensive language is used throughout the programme, the majority of this offensive language was either not translated into Swedish or translated into mild or inoffensive language in the subtitles. Viasat also highlighted that the broadcast of offensive language in Sweden is not restricted to post-watershed programmes, and the viewer expectations of a Swedish audience are different from those of an English speaking audience. Viasat therefore believed the programme was suitable for the time of broadcast with regard to language.

Concerning the sexual content, however, Viasat acknowledged that the scheduling of the programme was in breach of its compliance procedures.

Ofcom Decision

Ofcom recognises that Swedish audiences may have different expectations regarding the use of offensive language before the watershed. However, Viasat is a broadcaster licensed by Ofcom and therefore it is required to comply with its licensing obligations in the United Kingdom . This includes ensuring that all of its broadcast output complies with the Code. Rule 1.14 of the Code states unequivocally that the most offensive language must not be broadcast before the watershed… Ofcom therefore concluded that the broadcast of “fuck” and “cunt” before the watershed was clearly unacceptable.

Ofcom noted Viasat's acknowledgement that the programme was broadcast at an inappropriate time and so also found Viasat in breach of rules on that score too.

 

10th February   

Update: Safer Internet Day...

EU announce agreement with social networking sites over child users.
Link Here  full story: Safer Internet programme...EU get their hooks into social networking

EU flagThe European Commission has marked the sixth Safer Internet Day by unveiling details of an agreement on net safety that many web firms have signed up to.

Under the terms of the agreement the sites, which includes Bebo, Facebook, YouTube, Habbo Hotel and Yahoo! Europe, will take steps to proactively protect younger users.

These include prominent display of a Report Abuse button, switching online profiles of those under 18 to private by default, making profiles of those under 18 not searchable and discouraging registrations from those too young to use a site.

Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for information society and media, said the agreement was an important step forward towards making our children's clicks on social networking sites safer in Europe.

In a statement she said the potential for social networking sites to flourish should only happen when children have the trust and tools to stay safe while they use such web destinations. She added: I will closely monitor the implementation of today's agreement and the Commission will come back to this matter in a year's time.

Playing Euro Games

Based on article from gamepolitics.com

We don't have any details on this yet, but the European Parliament has a notation on its website indicating that it will release some type of content and/or retailer guidelines later this week:

Video game safety: The Internal Market Committee will set out a series of recommendations to improve the protection of children from potentially harmful video games on Wednesday.

 

7th February   

Update: Ashtray Placement...

Finland draft law banning smoking in the media
Link Here  full story: Adult Rating for Smoking...Anti-smoking lobby for 18 for smoking in films

Finland flagIf enacted, a new tobacco law in Finland will force television shows, films and theatre productions to be written without scenes of people smoking tobacco products.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health claims the proposed changes won't curb or censor freedom of expression.

Ilkka Oksala, a ministry official, says the law is designed in such a way that smoking advertising restrictions cannot be circumvented through indirect means, i.e. product placements in films and plays.

The tobacco act amendment, which seeks to curtail images of people smoking in newspapers, on television as well as on stage, is expected to come before Parliament for a decision this spring.

 

6th February   

Update: Prosecution Bullies...

Italian case threatens the fundamentals of YouTube
Link Here  full story: Google on Trial...Google sued for YouTube bullying video

YouTube logoThe Privacy Trial of the Century is already waving jail time at three current Google execs and its former chief financial officer. And now there's an added complaint against the company itself.

In September 2006, someone posted a three-minute cell-phone video to Google's Italian website in which four Turin teenagers make fun of a classmate with Down's Syndrome. And in July, after two years of investigation, Italian authorities filed criminal charges against four Google execs. The four are charged with defamation and failure to exercise control over personal data.

The trial of the Google execs was set to begin this week in Milan, but after a short hearing the judge delayed proceeding until February 18. During the hearing, the City of Milan filed a complaint against Google itself. An Italian legal mind tells the IAPP that local law allows public entities to file for compensation when a claim involves someone with disabilities.

The video in question showed a 17-year-old with Down's Syndrome as four other 17-year-olds hit him over the head with a box of tissues. It was uploaded on September 8, 2006, and almost a month later, Google received two takedown notices - one from an individual user and one from the Italian Ministry.

The search giant removed the video within a day of receiving the complaints. But Italian authorizes argue that company execs broke the law by allowing the posting in the first place.

Google declined to discuss the trial, but provided the following statement: As we have repeatedly made clear, our hearts go out to the victim and his family. We are pleased that as a result of our cooperation the bullies in the video have been identified and punished. However, we feel that bringing this case to court is totally wrong. It's akin to prosecuting mail service employees for hate speech letters sent in the post. What's more, seeking to hold neutral platforms liable for content posted on them is a direct attack on a free, open internet. We will continue to vigorously defend our employees in this prosecution.

 

5th February   

Insulting Religion...

Norway rejects an extension of hate laws to include blasphemy
Link Here

Norway flagmediawatchwatch.org.uk is reporting good news from Norway.

Dagbladet reports that the Norwegian parliament has voted overwhelmingly to reject a proposal to extend existing anti-hate laws to include blasphemy. (At least, that's as much as can be gleaned from the Google Translation)

 

5th February   

Cured at the Stroke of a Pen...

Sadomasochists, festishists and transvestites all 'cured' in Sweden
Link Here

Sweden flagExciting news from our friends in Sweden, from the mailing list for the group Revise F65 which has been dedicated to educating and motivating the medical community to stop treating kinky sex as if it was a disease. They've succeeded! Kinky sex will no longer be viewed or treated as pathological in Sweden, and European activists are getting closer to convincing doctors in Norway to do the same.

Fetishism and Sadomasochism, along with four other sexual behaviours, has been struck from Sweden's official list of medical diagnoses since January 1st, 2009.

On the 17th of November 2008, the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) announced that six diagnoses of sexual behaviours will be deleted from Sweden's official version of medical ICD diagnoses. The six diagnoses include

  • sadomasochism
  • fetishism
  • transvestism
  • fetishistic transvestitism
  • gender identity disorder in youth
  • multiple disorders of sexual preferences.

It all started 23rd of November 2006 when Mika Nielsen wrote an article in the biggest Gay and Lesbian swedish online newspaper QX . She encouraged the Swedish sexual political movement to follow the example of the Norwegian "Revise F65" pioneer group and start the work to remove transvestism and BDSM-diagnoses from the ICD-10.

Svein Skeid, leader of Revise F65 said: We really hope that we can celebrate a victory regarding these diagnoses during Christopher Street Days in Oslo in the end of June 2009!

 

5th February   

Offsite: Nek on the Block...

Gregorius Nekschots' Speech at the Danish Free Press Society
Link Here

Solidarity with Gregorius NekschotsIn Western culture, rationalism, science, humanism and democracy, in a lengthy and painful process, created the separation between Church and State. Freedom of Speech became a constitutional right in many countries. Thus, ridiculing Christianity, without fear of losing one's life, has been possible for quite some time.

When large numbers of migrants with a different cultural and religious background came to Western Europe, things fundamentally changed. Poorly educated – and without exception raised under dictatorial regimes – a lot of immigrants with an Islamic background cannot agree to our separation between religion and politics, no matter how self-evident this separation appears to us.

...Read the full article

 

4th February   

Europeans Groomed...

European parliament recommends more child protection laws
Link Here

EU flagThe European Parliament has asked the EU to make online grooming a criminal offence.

As part of a report adopted in Strasbourg by a vote of 591-2 in favour, MEPs called for the criminalisation of all types of sexual abuse of children, including online grooming. The report was drafted by MEP Roberta Angelilli of Italy.

Grooming refers to adults befriending children online in order to steer them towards sexual conversations.

The report also proposed to make providing online chat rooms and forums where paedophile activities take place a crime. It also proposes that EU citizen who commit a sex crime outside the EU should be subject to uniform extraterritorial criminal legislation.

 

4th February   

Embarrassed by Freedom...

An EU internet freedom law would embarrass censorial member states
Link Here

EU flagAn EU law to reinforce freedom on the Internet would be unnecessary and put European companies in a difficult position, the union's top telecoms and media regulator said.

The US recently drafted a Global Online Freedom Act. Some European Parliament members want the EU to follow suit, saying authoritarian nations are increasingly censoring the Web by blocking sites and intimidating users with cyber police.

Should the EU have specific legislation on Internet freedom? I am not convinced so far that hard law is the best way to deal with the challenge, EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding told a meeting in the European Parliament.

I believe that we should not put European companies in an invidious position where their choice appears to be to break the law or leave the market to more unscrupulous operators, Reding said.

Reding said the U.S. State Department and Department of Justice were cautious about the Global Online Freedom Act as even democratic countries in Western Europe could be subject to restrictions foreseen in the draft bill.

Suggestions that EU money could be used to research and develop anti-censorship software were attractive and would be followed up, Reding said.

 

30th January   

Update: Leaked Lists...

Finland's list of blocked websites leaked
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Finland...Finland internet filter expands beyond its remit

Finland flagA list of websites deemed to contain pornographic images of children has been leaked to the public. The newspaper Savon Sanomat reports that a list of some 800 web addresses put together by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) was available online for about a week.

However police have been under fire because the list also contains several harmless sites. The list still includes the critical Finnish anti-censorship site lapisporno.info.

The NBI says the party responsible for leaking the list of websites could face charges of distributing child pornography.

 

25th January   

Update: Pegging for PEGI...

MEP compiles reporting backing PEGI for all member states
Link Here  full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

PEGI logoA report by a member of the European Parliament has backed the self-regulatory Pan European Game Information (PEGI) age rating system that is used by the video game industry in Europe.

Dutch politician Toine Manders, who also sits on the European Parliament’s Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, compiled the report with recent trends towards online gaming in mind.

As well as acknowledging the fact that video games are largely non-violent and can be valuable educational tools, Manders also suggested that parents need to be better educated about video game content.

The report goes on to state the importance of an age-verification system that pays particular attention to online games and downloadable content, claiming that European member states should all back the PEGI system.

 

24th January   

Flem Flam...

Belgium intends to impose state internet blocking
Link Here

Belgium flagBelgium declared last week that it intends to join the ranks of European nations operating a hidden list of blocked websites.

The move is controversial, as it would build on existing powers to block websites – but essentially hand jurisdiction over what gets blocked on a day to day basis to the police.

In all likelihood, that means federal police special division Federal Computer Crime Unit (FCCU). They would get the authority to compose the blacklists of to be blocked websites, without any legal safeguards or external oversight mechanisms. The fact that the FCCU has already suggested that this practice should also be applicable in other cases has raised concerns amongst those concerned with uncontrolled and over-zealous censorship of the internet.

The Flemish League for Human Rights has criticised the proposal, saying: The decision to block websites must remain under exclusive authority of the judicial branch. It is unacceptable that the police gets a wild card to block certain websites at will.

The Belgian proposal has the backing of Minister of Enterprise and Administrative Reform, Vincent Van Quickenborne. He is looking to ban child pornography on the internet through a protocol between ISPs and the Government. However, it has also been suggested that the protocol might extend to other illegal sites, such as hate and racism websites or internet fraud.

 

24th January   

Update: The Dark Knight to Take the Rap?...

Crazed knife attacker styled on The Joker kills babies in a creche
Link Here

A man resembling the Batman villain The Joker killed two children and a child care worker during a knife attack on a creche in the Belgian town of Dendermonde on Friday.

The 20-year-old assailant had a painted white face, eye shadow and ginger hair, and was wearing a bullet proof vest, witnesses said.

He tricked his way into the Fabeltjesland day care centre at 10am by claiming to have a meeting with one of the members of staff. He then drew a 12in knife and began to slash at children aged between a few months and two years old.

There were 21 infants in the creche and six supervisors. All of the victims were stabbed in the throat or head. Parents gathered in the Dendermonde town hall and, with psychologists in support, identified the victims using photographs.

Nine children escaped unharmed. Three of the creche's child care workers were injured as they tried to fend off the attacker.

Theo Janssens, Dendermonde's deputy mayor, said that the man just went crazy.

The knifeman was pursued by a police helicopter and arrested in a nearby supermarket still in possession of the weapon used in the attack. Alphonso De Baaker, a retired teacher, said the attacker had a history of mental illness.

 

22nd January   

Update: Fit for Trial...

Geert Wilders to be tried for comparing the Koran with Mein Kampf
Link Here  full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world

Fitna The Far-right Dutch politician who produced a film, Fitna , claiming links between the Koran and terrorism is to be put on trial for his public statements against Islam.

Geert Wilders, the leader of the Freedom Party (PVV), said he was surprised that the Amsterdam Appeals Court is to allow his criminal prosecution for inciting hatred and of discriminating against Muslims by comparing their religion to Nazism.

Mr Wilders' views constitute a criminal offence. [He] has insulted Islamic worshippers by attacking the symbols of the Islamic faith, the court stated, referring to his comparison of the Koran to Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf .

Wilders said he was stunned by the judgment: This was the last thing I expected. The fact that I can no longer speak openly but have to go before the court makes this a very black day, not just for me but for freedom of expression in this country . What I do is to express my opinion on behalf of half a million people who voted for me and who think it should be possible to criticise Islam. We are fed up with the 'Islamisation' of the Netherlands.

The decision by the Amsterdam Appeals Court, the second-highest legal authority in the country, overturns an earlier ruling by the Dutch Prosecution Service, which last June dismissed hundreds of complaints against Wilders on the grounds that his utterances had been made in the context of public debate , a position that was endorsed by the Dutch Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, a Christian Democrat.

 

22nd January   

Update: Religious Feelings...

Christian parties want to maintain Dutch blasphemy law
Link Here

NetherlandsThe parties in the governing coalition are divided on whether legislation forbidding blasphemy should be repealed. A majority of MPs are in favour of scrapping the law. This makes it unclear how the question can be resolved as MPs cannot force the issue without causing a government crisis.

A motion to scrap the blasphemy law was tabled by the democrat party, D66, and supported by the coalition partner, Labour, and all opposition parties except for the small right-wing religious party, the SGP. However, the Christian Democrats and the Christian Union, both members of the coalition, voted with the SGP to keep the law on the statute book.

Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin has already said he is in favour of repealing the blasphemy legislation. He wants to include religious groups in legislation designed to protect people from discrimination. However, it looks unlikely that such a change would get the backing of a majority in parliament.

 

21st January   

Updated: Toilet Humour...

Bulgarians whinge at Czech artwork
Link Here

David Cerny's take on EUA Czech artist has unveiled a humorous sculpture of the 27 European Union nations that has caused a diplomatic row

David Cerny told The Times tonight that it is to test whether the EU had a sense of humour.

He admitted that he had misled his own government, which commissioned him to make the 10 million Crown (ฃ350,000) artwork as a showpiece of its presidency of the EU, by making it with his friends instead of artists from the 27 countries.

Cerny added that he apologised to Bulgaria after its ambassador formally complained about its depiction as a map of toilets and he also strongly denied that Germany’s interlinked autobahns were made to look like a swastika, as some observers have unconvincingly suggested.

The artist, who has a long history of controversial projects, said that he planned to travel to Brussels for the official launch in the atrium of the European Council after senior Czech officials agreed to go ahead despite the double embarrassment of Cerny’s hoax and the complaints from other governments.

But Betina Joteva, first secretary for the Bulgarian government office to the EU, insisted that the image of her country was removed. “I cannot accept to see a toilet on the map of my country. This is not the face of Bulgaria,” she said.

Slovakia was also understood to have complained about its depiction as a body tied up with rope said to represent Hungary, its neighbour and rival. British diplomats were said to be relaxed about the empty space on the giant sculpture intended to signify that the UK was absent from the EU.

I am seriously very pro-European, Cerny told The Times: It would be a great pity if Europe would not be able to take this as a bit of satire and irony. If we are strong as Europe it should be OK for one nation to make fun of other nations.

Update: Toilet Cover

16th January 2009

The Czech ambassador sent us a letter telling us that they will either remove or cover up the offending item, Betina Joteva, first secretary for the Bulgarian EU embassy, told AFP.

Earlier Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra, officially opening the exhibit said: I apologise to Bulgaria and its government if it feels offended, and I think we are certainly ready to engage in a dialogue.

If you stand by your request to remove it, of course we will certainly do that, he added, addressing a Bulgarian diplomat attending the ceremony.

Update: Down the Pan

17th January 2009. See article from telegraph.co.uk

The controversial representation of Bulgaria as a "Turkish" lavatory is to be removed from an art installation in a European Union building on Monday.

The decision to take down the exhibit was confirmed on Friday evening by David Cerny, the controversial Czech artist whose creation has generated a furious debate over free speech at the heart of the EU. We are going to put Bulgaria into storage on Monday, he told The Daily Telegraph: Its removal will become a symbolic part of the object itself and part of the mirror the installation holds up to Europe.

Italy on Friday became the latest country to use Brussels diplomatic channels to raise objections to the art work.

Italian diplomats are upset by Italy's depiction as a soccer pitch on which mechanical football players, wearing the national team colours, appear to be animatedly performing a sex act with footballs to enthusiastic crowd sounds.

They are not happy at all, said a Brussels diplomat. Other sources confirmed that Italy regards the art work as bad taste but said that the Italians would hold off from an official protest until after consultations with Rome and other countries.

Update: Cover Up

21st January. See article from news.bbc.co.uk

Part of a work of art that depicts Bulgaria as a toilet has been covered up, following the country's protest.

The Bulgarian entry was shrouded by a black sheet on Tuesday.

A Czech government spokeswoman told BBC News that the shroud had been put in place by the Czech side.

We proceeded to a technical solution, which we found together in intensive talks with the Bulgarian side over a few days, Michaela Jelinkova said.

 

19th January   

Offsite: Vodamoan...

Vodafone's internet filter blocks innocent Czech tech blogs
Link Here

Vodafone logoLast summer, the British cell phone carrier Vodafone announced it would be offering a new filtering service for its Czech customers. Child pornography and promotion of racism [are] such socially dangerous content that we have access to it automatically blocked for all of our customers, said Philip Premysl, senior manager of corporate social responsibility of Vodafone in the press release.

But six months later, that filter also blocked pages on tech blogs, a chat server and a transportation site all based in the Czech Republic. Tech bloggers Radim Hasalik and David Biksadsky started a Facebook group called Stop Internet Censorship (in the Czech language) to protest the poor filtering by the cell carrier.

Vodafone spokesman Miroslav Cepicky told me the carrier offers two tiers of filtering on its mobile Net services: one is the default filtering of child porn sites; the other allows parents to put on a "child profile" that blocks sites related to erotica, violence, drugs and alcohol, gambling, and weapons.

Few would argue that illegal child pornography sites shouldn't be blocked, but how does Vodafone decide on the blacklist? That list comes from the Internet Watch Foundation, an independent group funded by the European Union and the online industry, including telecommunication companies, internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile providers. About 95% of of UK Internet traffic is filtered via IWF blacklists, and many ISPs depend on IWF to decide which sites should be filtered rather than making the decisions themselves.

...Read full article

 

17th January   

Cartoon Censors...

Romanian TV censor gets wound up by nudity in daytime cartoon
Link Here

Hungarian Folk TalesRomania's TV censor has issued a warning to a children's channel for broadcasting cartoons which contained nudity.

The National Audio-Visual Council asked Minimax television to stop airing indecent episodes of the Hungarian Folk Tales series.

In one episode, a princess strips naked to negotiate with a farmer for some dancing piglets. The princess ends up in bed with two men to decide which one she will marry. In another episode, a girl shows her naked body as a gift for the emperor.

The cartoon series is broadcast every day at noon in Romania and is watched by young children.

Romanian authorities cannot fine Minimax, which is licensed in the Czech Republic, but says the channel will be blocked if the cartoons are shown again before the watershed.

 

16th January   

Thin End Filter...

Germany to adopt a Clean Feed mandatory internet filter
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Germany...Germany considers state internet filtering

Germany flagGermany has announced that it will introduce compulsory Internet censorship starting in March.

The censorship scheme will block access to child pornography, and will follow a similar model to Norway, where the Government decrees a list of child pornography sites to be blocked by ISP’s.

Germany Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen addressed concerns that the censorship regime could exclude other content by confirming that it may be extended: We must not dilute the issue. Child pornography is a problem issue and clearly identifiable. [However] you can not exclude what the federal government may wish to block in the future.

 

15th January   

Diary: G๖teborg International Film Festival 2009...

With Magic Bullet featuring 55 hours of Swedish censor cuts
Link Here  full story: Magic Bullet...Film festival entry shows the futility of film censorship

Magic Bullet logoG๖teborg International Film Festival 2009
G๖teborg, Sweden
23rd Jan - 2nd Feb

Up until the mid-1990s, things were quite different. Censorship in Sweden was extremely tough and most movies featuring violence were trimmed, martial arts- and splatter movies were usually banned. In the 1980s, a movie like RoboCop was cut to shreds, and before that even James Bond movies were censored!

On the other hand, Sweden has never been squeamish about language, sex and nudity, meaning that films that got into trouble abroad - in countries like the U.S.A. and England - passed without any cuts at all in Sweden.

Sometimes, they even got - and still get - lower ratings than in the rest of the world. A recent example is Kevin Smith's Zack and Miri Make A Porno , a foul-mouthed comedy about pornography. This one was rated "11" in Sweden, meaning you can get in if your eleven - or together with and adult if you're younger. Smith's film is considered harmless.

Also, art-house movies have never gotten into trouble in Sweden, especially not the ones directed by famous, respected directors. This means that Pasoloni's infamous Sal๒ played theaters without any cuts and was regarded an important movie about fascism.

The Gothenburg Film Festival; Scandinavia's largest film festival, starts on January 23. During the festival, artist Markus ึhrn's movie Magic Bullet will be screened. ึhrn has taken every cut made by the Board from 1934 until 2002 and edited them together to a 55 hour long odyssey of upsetting and offensive images. 55 hours!

I don't know if it really is every single cut made, but that's what ึhrn claims on the movie's homepage. Since his movie - or piece of art? - spans several decades, we'll see what was considered offensive during certain time periods. Magic Bullet is supposed to contain everything from violence in cartoons (Donald Duck with a machine gun), ultra-violence from horror and action movies, violent hardcore porn, and rather innocent scenes of nudity.

During the festival, there will also be several seminars and discussions about movie censorship.

 

15th January   

Paying for Censorship...

Romania blocks porn sites for not being pay per view
Link Here

Romania flagThe Romanian Authority for Communication (ANC) requested ISPs last week to block the access to 40 websites hosted in Romania, considering they don't meet the criteria imposed by article 7 of Law no.196/2003 on preventing and fighting pornography.

Article 7 of the law states that the natural and legal persons creating pornographic sites are obliged to password them, and the access to these will be allowed only after paying a fee per using minute, established by the creator of the site and declared at the fiscal bodies.

ANC President Liviu Nistoran declared that the list would not be made public, to avoid encouraging their accessing in the following period; however, we will ensure that the access to such websites is blocked. Internet providers are obliged to block users' access to the respective websites within 48 hours. Failure to block users' access is punishable by fines applied by the Police ranging from 10 000 to 50 000 RON (approx. 2500 - 12500 Euro).

As revealed by online newspaper Hotnews, the list was copied from a complaint submitted by a person on 28 November that contained 46 websites. Until 2008 only nine complaints were received on this law and just one website was blocked for a short period in 2005.

A scanned version list sent to the ISPs became available online at the end of last week on several blogs. The list contained a well-known User Generated video-sharing website (220.ro) , another domain name was just a redirect to a .com website and a lot of websites hosted on some free hosting accounts based in Romania.

But the blocking system caused other legal websites to be blocked as well, with no official information on why this was happening. It is clear that only part of the over 1000 ISPs in the country implemented the measure requested by ANC, according the various reports from users from all over the country.

The measure to block access to websites via the ISPs was characterised by EDRi-member APTI Romania and other national civil liberties groups and ISP associations as a very dangerous measure and a direct attack to the freedom of expression. They have asked in a public letter to ANC the immediate revocation of the list, as an illegal and useless measure. They concluded that the present measure is just a censorship act, without providing any benefits to the a Safer Internet for children.

 

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