In light of the game possibly containing a swastika, Activision Blizzard has decided to recall the game Wolfenstein from stores in Germany according to Kotaku.
A translation of a story on the 4players .de website, the original source of
the story, notes that although the imagery is not a conspicuous element in the normal game, the publisher has decided to decided to take this game immediately from the German market. All versions are being recalled.
Hash-smoking soldier puppets in Afghanistan may have been too controversial for Danish public broadcaster DR's Christmas lineup
A satirical puppet show about Danish troops in Afghanistan that was to be part of public broadcaster DR's
Christmas lineup has now been dropped by the station, which stated the programme was not funny enough.
But the writers and directors for the show, H*A*S*H along with many critics who saw the pilot episode believe there may be
political motivations behind DR's decision. The episode was shown in August during a TV festival, but DR made no comments about the show not being funny at the time.
I don't know whether this is censorship or not but it's very strange, said
Christian Dyekjær, H*A*S*H's director: I also don't know whether it was a political decision, but I can't help thinking it could be.
The Red-Green Alliance party is calling for an investigation into the matter to determine whether
DR's decision was politically influenced.
Two Chinese dissidents caused a furore when they addressed a symposium ahead of the Frankfurt Book Fair, causing much of the Chinese delegation to walk out. The Chinese delegates only returned after the book fair's director Juergen Boos apologized.
Bei Ling and Dai Qing travelled to Frankfurt although their invitations to the China Symposium as guests of the book fair had been revoked after pressure from Beijing.
China's former ambassador to Germany, Mei Zhaorong, said they felt
unfairly treated: We didn't come for a lesson on democracy, these times are over, Mei said from the podium, adding that Dai Qing and Bei Ling were welcome to participate in the discussion but did not represent China's 1.3 billion citizens.
Beijing had objected to the pair being invited to the forum, being held in the run-up to the Frankfurt Book Fair, where China is guest of honour. The revocation of the dissidents' invitations triggered fierce criticism in Germany, where the organizers
were accused of bowing to China's censorship.
The Granddaughter of the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini has blocked the release of a film which has received critical acclaim at the Venice Film Festival because a character in it refers to her as the Mussolini whore who wants all Romanians to
Alessandra Mussolini, a right-wing politician and a former actress, threatened the distributors of the film Francesca with legal action. She is demanding that the offending dialogue is removed or she says she will attempt to
block it from nationwide release in Italy, due next month.
Ms Mussolini, who in 2007 caused a political outcry by claiming that all Romanians living in Italy were criminals , faxed a letter to the distribution company Fandango and festival
organisers. In it she threatened to start legal proceedings for defamation unless the dialogue was either cut or the film cancelled from the festival's schedule, where it is a contender for the Orizzonti award, second to the festival's main Golden Lion
She has declared that she wants to ban the movie from being distributed in Italy. If what I've read about the movie is true, my lawyer said he could ask, apart from damages, for it to be banned. Its tone is unacceptable, even if it's
art, she was quoted as saying by Italian newspapers.
The film was written, directed and produced by the award-winning filmmaker, Bobby Paunescu. Speaking to The Independent, he suggested that Ms Mussolini who was not at the film's premiere
had clearly missed the point. Paunescu said the film was a critique of the xenophobic treatment of immigrants in Italy and accused Ms Mussolini of intimidation . He said he was angry that the public have not been able to see it so far.
The attempt to block its release was dangerous , he added.
Portugal's Prime Minister Jose Socrates is embroiled in a row after a national TV channel shelved a programme dealing with alleged government corruption.
Chief editors of the privately run TVI channel resigned after the broadcast - due on Friday
- was dropped.
Opposition politicians have accused the ruling Socialists of censorship. But Socrates, who is running for re-election, denies influencing TVI.
The shelved programme dealt with the so-called Freeport case, involving claims
that government officials took bribes during the construction of a shopping mall south of Lisbon in 2002. Socrates, who was environment minister at the time, has denied any wrongdoing.
The deputy leader of the main opposition party, the
centre-right PSD, accused the government of an attack on freedom of speech. We have a prime minister and government who coexist very, very badly indeed with the freedoms and who don't mind using any means in order to control or silence those who
criticise them, said Jose Aguiar Branco in a statement to Reuters news agency.
An Arab organisation is to be put on trial in the Netherlands over its publication of a cartoon deemed offensive to Jews, prosecutors say.
The cartoon, published by the Arab European League (AEL) on its website, questions the Holocaust.
It said the decision to prosecute illustrated bias against Muslims.
It said the same standards were not applied to the Dutch MP Geert Wilders, who made a film including cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. However, he is still being investigated separately for inciting hatred against Muslims by making statements
comparing Islam to Nazism.
But Dutch prosecutors said the AEL cartoon was discriminatory and offensive to Jews as a group... because it offends Jews on the basis of their race and/or religion.
The cartoon shows two men
standing near a pile of bones at Auswitch (sic). One says I don't think they're Jews. The other replies: We have to get to the six million somehow.
A spokeswoman for the prosecuting authority said the group could be fined up
to 4,700 euros (£4,100), though in theory a prison sentence was also possible.
AEL chairman Abdoulmouthalib Bouzerda said the charges proved what Muslims have been saying for decades. Freedom of expression is only a pretext to make life
bitter for Muslims... and if [they] try to bring this hypocrisy to light, that right is denied them.
The AEL says it does not deny the facts of the Holocaust but posted the cartoon as an act of civil disobedience. It said it had agreed
to remove it from its site, but reversed that decision to protest over the failure to prosecute Geert Wilders.
The ban by the RAI network on the clip for Videocracy showing at the Venice Film Festival has backfired and led to a surprising uptake in interest in the documentary.
Videocracy is among the most contentious films to be shown at
the two-week event. RAI wrote to the director, Erik Gandini, stating that the film was offensive to Silvio Berlusconi's reputation. The advert showed scantily-attired women and statistics claiming Italy lacked press freedom. Berlusconi's company,
Mediaset, also declined to screen the trailer.
Since then, requests from cinemas in Italy to obtain a print of the film have shot up from 35 to 70 venues, leading to many hundreds more screenings. The ban indicated the level of tension in
Italy regarding everything that goes on TV, Gandini said: I was scared by the ban, and by RAI's Orwellian-style letter, but the day after, there was a huge explosion of interest on the internet. The print numbers have doubled.
A Congolese accountant is to launch a lawsuit in France against Tintin for racism, accusing judges in the cartoon hero's native Belgium of trying to bury his case to protect a national symbol.
Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo is taking legal
action claiming Hergé's controversial Tintin In The Congo is propaganda for colonialism and amounts to racism and xenophobia.
Tintin's little (black) helper is seen as stupid and without qualities. It makes people think
that blacks have not evolved, he said.
Mbutu Mondondo launched a case in Belgium two years ago for symbolic damages of one euro from Tintin's Belgian publishers Moulinsart, and demanded the book be withdrawn from the market. But since then
his lawyer, Claude Ndjakanyi, said there had been no response from Belgian justice.
Georges Remi, the Tintin cartoonist who worked under the Hergé pen-name, reworked the book in 1946 to remove references to Congo as Belgian colony.
But it still contained images such as a black woman bowing to Tintin and saying:
White man very great White mister is big juju man! Moulinsart, Tintin's publishers, argued that the whole row was silly and that book must be seen in its historical context: To read in the 21st century a Tintin album dating back to 1931
requires a minimum of intellectual honesty. If one applied the 'politically correct' filter to great artists or writers, we could no longer publish certain novels of Balzac, Jules Verne, or even some Shakespeare plays.
In Italy state-owned TV channels have refused to show the trailer of the latest documentary by Erik Gandini, Videocracy , which looks at the rise of Berlusconi's TV stations and impact on the Italy's customs and ethics.
In a press statement
state-owned Rai TV executives justified their decision by saying that the documentary is critical of the government.
So what is blasphemy? According to the Oxford Dictionary, it is talk or act reviling a sacred person or thing. In reality, nobody is quite sure what this actually means.
Were those of us who said, back in 1968, that Pope Paul VI was
either wrong, or misguided, or just plain foolish, to publish an encyclical outlawing all forms of artificial contraception committing blasphemy?
Is it blasphemous to say that the Church of Scientology is the creation of a dead charlatan, or to
claim, as French prosecutors have done, that it is more of a mechanism for making money than saving souls?
Was Dan Brown guilty of blasphemy when he said in his 2003 international bestseller, The Da Vinci Code, that Jesus had sex with Mary
Magdalene? This was the contention that also led to calls for the banning of the 1988 movie, The Last Temptation of Christ , directed by Martin Scorsese.
European adult filmmaker John Thompson currently is facing a trial in Germany for producing violent porn.
The government seized 30 of Thompson's movies that allegedly depict violence, which is illegal in Germany. Thompson faces up to three years
in prison if convicted. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Thompson has won numerous awards, including Best New Video Series and Best Producer at Venus and is known for his extreme German Goo Girls (GGG) bukkake and swallowing films.
In May, EuroRevenue, the exclusive online licensor of John Thompson Productions content, announced that Thompson's sold 5 million DVDs.
Thompson says that his actors voluntarily participate and the violence is merely theatrical for the cameras an actor playing a role like in any mainstream film.
Prosecutors maintain that Thompson's films trivialize and glorify
violence and violate the dignity of the women appearing in his movies. Prosecutors also claim that since this allegedly violent porn can be downloaded from the Internet that Thompson's undermined age verification rules.
Alice Cooper has been forced to scrap a forthcoming gig in Finland after the venue's owners reportedly objected to his controversial stage show on religious grounds.
According to Contactmusic, the rocker was due to play the Tampere
Areena on December 11, but officials have subsequently declared that the concert conflicted with their Christian-based policies.
Venue boss Harri Wiherkoski has since confirmed the cancellation and attributed the move to objections from
other clients who use the arena.
Gig promoter Kalle Keskinen told Finland's YLE News: [Several religious groups] and others use Tampere Areena for their events, so the venue's management did not want Alice Cooper appearing in the same hall.
The contract which we received from Tampere Areena specifies that no artists may perform there who 'incite evil and the power of darkness.
The promoters now hope to move the gig to the city of Espoo.
Harri Wiherkoski, managing director of Tampere Areena Oy (Tampere Arena Limited) noted, Artists who express suspicious values from Christianity's point of
view cannot be allowed to perform at the venue. He told a Finnish reporter We don't arrange concerts where Satanism or non-god-worshipping occurs.
The venue will not permit performances which may be construed as insulting to
Christianity, spelled out as follows:
Performances including representation of false gods, demons, evilness and forces of darkness and all these kind of symbols, words or markings are highly prohibited. These rules are valid also in all of the
advertisement and material related to the concert. Breaking this rule causes immediate cancellation of the contract, and a 100 000 penalty fee.
Good news from Holland, where the prosecution department has decided to dismiss the cases against the TV show NOVA, and politician Geert Wilders. Both had reproduced the Mohammed cartoons on their websites.
In a statement (Google translation),
the prosecutor said: The cartoons are about the prophet Mohammed, not about Muslims as a group. None of the cartoons are offensive to Muslims or incite hatred, discrimination or violence against Muslims. Because the cartoons are not illegal,
publishing and distributing them is also not illegal.
Italian bloggers went on strike in July to protest against government measures that they claim could kill the internet. They say the Alfano decree restricts the rights of bloggers to express their opinions without fear of comeback.
online and on the streets say the Italian government is trying to muzzle the internet.
If the Alfano decree becomes law, it would put websites on a par with newspapers, giving a right to reply to anyone who believes their reputation has been
damaged by something published on the internet.
Alessandro Gilioli, a journalist and organiser of the blogging strike, says the measures could deter people from going online: They are discouraging the use of the internet, forcing all the
bloggers to rectify any opinion that anybody thinks is hurting his honour or reputation and they are creating big fines, more than 10,000 (£8,500), if you don't publish your rectification in two days.
So that means that if a teenager stays
two days away from the computer and he doesn't rectify his opinion, he is going to pay 10,000. That's stupid and that's incredible and overall that's discouraging people to use the internet.
It is not clear if the law Italy's senate will be
voting on in the autumn will extend to bloggers, or, for that matter, who to ask about it. However Francesco Pizzetti, the president of Italy's Data Protection Authority says he does not believe the law will apply to bloggers: I don't believe they
create a new obligation, so I don't believe they concern bloggers. It concerns the websites of newspapers and of the press generally.
Supporters of the law say it is unfair that bloggers can dole out a verbal bludgeoning online without
regulation or any journalistic obligation to be fair and balanced.
As the Alfano decree suggests, Italian attitudes to the web are fundamentally out of step with other Western countries. You need an ID, for example, to log-on at a wi-fi
hotspot, and there has even been talk of banning anonymity online and obliging bloggers to register with the government.
Ireland is being hauled before the EU Commission over its new blasphemy law.
Swedish MP Karl Sigfrid said that he had lodged a complaint with the Commission, asking it to rule if the new Irish law is consistent with EU treaties. These include EU
provisions on free speech enshrined in the current EU treaty and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Free speech is a necessary condition for scientific debate and is the best way to rational conclusions about what the truth is, Sigfrid, a Moderate Party MP, told the Herald:
It's a very dangerous thing to replace open debate with violence from the Government when someone opposes what the conventional truth is.
He pointed out that the EU required entrant applicants, such as Turkey, to ensure freedom of speech
and did not think existing members of the EU should be able to restrict free speech in such a way: It seems like a huge step backwards, Sigfrid added.
He wanted EU citizens to be able to travel freely to countries like Ireland and not have
to face the threat of legal action for freedom of speech which was accepted in Sweden and other countries, he said.
Germany is mulling banning violent computer games so perhaps it is unsurprising that one of the companies threatened is pointing out that there will be some economic consequences for Germany.
Crytek one of the major game producers in Germany have
stated that the ban would be an attack on their continued success as a business so they'd just leave.
Not that they need to be in Germany to do a good job, and not that they're so big that half of Germany will be unemployed if they do leave, but
I think it's an indicator of how serious this issue is. It's not a thing where people can say, oh we can work around that no, it's hardcore censorship and it has serious implications. Crytek's president Cevat Yerli says:
A ban on action games in Germany is concerning us because it is essentially like banning the German artists that create them. If the German creative community can't effectively participate in one of the most important cultural
mediums of our future, we will be forced to relocate to other countries.
The current political discussion will deprive German talent of its place on the global game development stage, and deprive German consumers of entertainment that is
considered safe and fun around the world.
The Council of Europe have added to the clamour of organisation making similar suggestions about keeping children safe on the internet. Perhaps better than most with a little more emphasis on identifying safe areas rather than banning adult content.
Recommendation CM/Rec(2009)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on measures to protect children against harmful content and behaviour and to promote their active participation in the new information and communications
(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 8 July 2009 at the 1063rd meeting of the Ministers' Deputies)
Protecting freedom of expression and human dignity in the information and communications environment by ensuring a coherent level of protection for minors against harmful content and developing children's media literacy skills
is a priority for the Council of Europe.
The risk of harm may arise from content and behaviour, such as online pornography, the degrading and stereotyped portrayal of women, the portrayal and glorification
of violence and self-harm, demeaning, discriminatory or racist expressions or apologia for such conduct, solicitation (grooming), the recruitment of child victims of trafficking in human beings, bullying, stalking and other forms of harassment, which are
capable of adversely affecting the physical, emotional and psychological well-being of children.
Attention should be drawn to the normative texts adopted by the Committee of Ministers designed to assist
member states in dealing with these risks and, as a corollary, in securing everyone's human rights and fundamental freedoms...
There is a need to provide children with the knowledge, skills, understanding,
attitudes, human rights values and behaviour necessary to participate actively in social and public life, and to act responsibly while respecting the rights of others.
There is also the need to encourage
trust and promote confidence on the Internet, in particular by neutral labelling of content to enable both children and adults to make their own value judgments regarding Internet content.
The Committee of
Ministers recommends that member states, in co-operation with private sector actors and civil society, develop and promote coherent strategies to protect children against content and behaviour carrying a risk of harm while advocating their active
participation in and best possible use of the new information and communications environment, in particular by:
encouraging the development and use of safe spaces (walled gardens), as well as other tools facilitating access to websites and Internet content appropriate for children
the further development and voluntary use of labels and trustmarks allowing parents and children to easily distinguish non-harmful content from content carrying a risk of harm
promoting the development of
skills among children, parents and educators to understand better and deal with content and behaviour that carries a risk of harm
bringing this recommendation and its appended guidelines to the attention
of all relevant private and public sector stakeholders.
The Minister for Blasphemy, Injustice, Equality and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern, visited the Irish Film Censors Office (IFCO) new offices in Smithfield, where he launched IFCO's new online DVD consumer advice service for parents.
The IFCO is now
providing parents and the public in general with the same consumer information and advice for DVD releases that it has been providing online for films. This new service is available via their website www.ifco.ie where the age related classification on
every new DVD released in Ireland is published.
John Kelleher IFCO Director commented, This is part of an overall technological enhancement that now enables IFCO's commercial customers to transact their business online. It's an initiative that
has made IFCO's service comparable or superior to similar organisations worldwide, and has been warmly welcomed by the industry.
Denmark broadcast TV is going digital. Many small stations are finding it difficult to meet the censorial guidelines required by the government for digital TV.
On 1 November, the two million or so antennae-based televisions across Denmark will be
forced to switch to digital service if they want to watch any television. City TV station Kanal Kobenhavn is one such station that needs to make significant changes if it wants to keep its broadcasting license.
Among the most affected are public
stations like TV2 and DR, as well as countless small local stations. Kanal Kobenhavn's trouble is with its non-commercial broadcasts such as the pornography it shows late at night. The station has been showing these sexy movies for 25 years, but the new
regulations forbid any content that contains pornography or gratuitous violence.
In a touch of state control over freedom of expression, the government has decided to ban any station broadcasting material deemed to cause serious harm to
minors' physical, mental or moral development.
The Copenhagen Post reports there are presently 286 local television stations around Denmark. Only nine of these are labeled non-commercial by the Culture Ministry's Agency for Libraries and
Media. This means nearly all Danish television will be much tamer and more morally rigid as of the first of November.
The American Jewish Committee has said that it was suing the German branch of online retailer Amazon for selling books which it said questioned the Holocaust and trivialised the Nazis.
According to AJC research, around 50 works including
Der Auschwitz-Mythos Legende oder Wirklichkeit (The Auschwitz Myth Legend or Reality) by Wilhelm Staglich were on sale on Amazon.de this month.
Some of these books, the AJC said, were classified by the German authorities as being
unsuitable for under-18s.
It is unacceptable that books are for sale on Amazon.de that normally are only available under the counter in far-right extremist shops, the AJC said in a statement: We cannot let the spread of internet sales
erode laws that ban Holocaust denial and incitement to hatred of minorities in Germany .
A spokeswoman for Amazon Germany said that of course it did not sell any books that were banned or classified as unsuitable for under-18s. She
added that in the interests of freedom of speech, it was not keen on stopping selling certain titles: We think that the best response to questionable literature is not removing them but more discussion, a spokeswoman told AFP.
that the company had recently tightened up its rules regarding books that glorify or trivialise the Nazis and that certain books had been withdrawn from sale as a result.
A garden gnome giving the Nazi salute has landed a German artist in trouble with the authorities in Nuremberg.
Prosecutors are investigating whether the gnome, which went on show in one of the city's galleries, breaks the strict law banning Nazi
symbols and gestures.
The Bavarian city is particularly sensitive about the Nazi era because Adolf Hitler used it for big rallies and leading Nazis went on trial there.
The artist, Ottmar Hoerl, says his gnomes poke fun at the Nazis: I'm astonished that a single garden gnome, in what is for me an obscure gallery in Nuremberg, has unleashed such a public discussion because of an anonymous denunciation by someone
The artist has been president of Nuremberg's Academy of Fine Arts since 2005: I didn't put it in the art gallery. Someone must have bought it and put it there. But I don't know what all the fuss is about. With my gnomes I'm highlighting
the danger of political opportunism and right-wing ideology. I get the feeling that this gnome has reopened an old wound.
Last year hundreds of Hoerl's "Nazi" gnomes went on show in the Belgian city of Gent, in an exhibition called
Dance with the Devil. He said that Belgians had well understood the political meaning when one portrays the master race as a garden gnome.
A spokesman for the Nuremberg public prosecutor's office, Wolfgang Traeg, said we're
checking to see if garden gnomes fall into the same clear category as posters that show the swastika crossed out. He said the aim was to establish whether the artist and the gallery owner had intended the gnome as an endorsement of the Third Reich or
as a rejection of Nazi ideology.
German prosecutors have decided to take no action
against an artist who created a garden gnome raising its right arm in a Nazi salute. They say the gold-painted gnome was mocking the Nazis rather than promoting their return and therefore was not illegal.
However, the prosecutors in Nuremburg,
Bavaria, warned against any attempt to copy the idea behind the exhibit. Nazi symbols and Hitler salutes have been illegal in Germany since the end of World War II.
Actor Stephen Fry has launched a scathing attack on Irish politicians over their decision to criminalise blasphemy.
The star stunned fans on his Twitter networking page when he left a post blasting the State and comparing it to the UK.
Bollocks to Ireland for being as crap as Britain, it read.
Fry was quick to clarify the message in a later post, stating he was referring to politicians and not the nation as a whole: When I say 'Ireland' I mean the politicians who
are trying to vote this in [the blasphemy bill] not the country itself obviously.
Fry is just one in a long line of high-profile media personalities to have criticised Justice Minister Dermot Ahern for his proposal to add a new crime in an
amendment to the Defamation Bill.
Ahern wants to define blasphemy as matter: That is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion [and] intended to cause outrage.
The President has convened the Council of State to review the Government's controversial new Criminal Justice Amendment Bill. She will also seek the council's views on the new Defamation Bill, which aims to reform the libel laws and which also introduces
a new offence of blasphemous libel.
Mary McAleese has decided to seek the views of the 22-member Council of State before deciding whether to refer the legislation to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality.
The Council of State is
an advisory group which includes the Taoiseach, the Tanaiste, the Ceann Comhairle of the Dail, the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, the Chief Justice, the President of the High Court and the Attorney General.
The Irish Department of Finance has published recommendations for around 5.3bn worth of public spending cuts; 37m across Arts and Culture, which includes the transfer of the Irish Film Board's functions to a new enterprise agency and discontinuation of
the investment fund.
The report proposes a Mega Censor:
The merger of ComReg with the new Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (the result of merging the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission and the regulatory functions of the RTÉ Authority) because of the
growing convergence between the communications and broadcasting industries.
Transferring the Irish Film Classification Office (IFCO) into the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI)
Orelsan is known as the French Eminem: a middle-class teacher's son from a dull town in lower Normandy who raps about the rural drug epidemic, boredom and the hopelessness of French provincial teenagers.
But ever since the political class
expressed outrage at a song from Orelsan's back catalogue in which he once sang about grotesque violence against a girlfriend who cheated on him, the 26-year-old rap star has become the centre of a national debate over censorship.
The row has
just escalated as politicians from all political parties waded in to express disgust that Orelsan had been dropped from the lineup of one of France's most important summer music festivals, the Francofolies at La Rochelle.
Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling
centre-right UMP party, which earlier this year led criticism of Orelsan's song, Sale Pute (Dirty Slut), has now issued a statement saying it was intolerable to censor an artist. The party rounded on the Socialist Ségolène
Royal, head of the western region where the festival takes place, saying she was attacking freedom of expression.
Earlier this month, Royal told a local paper she was happy Orelsan's appearance had been pulled and that she had written to
the festival for clarification on his part in the lineup.
Jack Lang, the Socialist and former culture minister, warned of a culture of moral censorship in France. He said the move to axe Orelsan was symptomatic of broader attacks
against freedom of expression by local councils of all political persuasions. Last month, Orelsan's new album was pulled from all Paris's municipal libraries, prompting the League for Human Rights to appeal to Paris's Socialist head of culture to think
Orelsan today told French radio his removal from the Francofolies festival was really abhorrent . He stressed that he no longer sang Sale Pute on stage, having removed it from his website, and that those censoring him had not seen
his act. He said he wanted a meeting with the new culture minister, Frédéric Mitterrand.
The new blasphemy law will send Ireland back to the middle ages, and is wretched, backward and uncivilised, Prof Richard Dawkins has said.
The scientist and critic of religion has lent his support to a campaign to repeal the law, introduced
by Atheist Ireland, a group set up last December, arising from an online discussion forum. The law, which makes the publication or utterance of blasphemous matter a crime punishable by a 25,000 fine, passed through the Oireachtas last week.
message read out at Atheist Ireland's first AGM, Prof Dawkins said: One of the world's most beautiful and best-loved countries, Ireland has recently become one of the most respected as well: dynamic, go-ahead, modern, civilised a green and pleasant
silicon valley. This preposterous blasphemy law puts all that respect at risk. He said it would be too kind to call the law a ridiculous anachronism: It is a wretched, backward, uncivilised regression to the middle ages. Who was the bright spark
who thought to besmirch the revered name of Ireland by proposing anything so stupid?
At the AGM, Atheist Ireland members voted to test the new law by publishing a blasphemous statement, deliberately designed to cause offence. The statement
will be finalised in the coming days.
Labour Senator and barrister Ivana Bacik said the establishment of Atheist Ireland was long overdue . More than 150 people attended the meeting in Dublin and the group ran out of membership application
forms. I think it's also good to see an organisation that has the word atheist in the title because for a long time many of us were in the closet, she said: It's not fashionable or popular to declare oneself to be an atheist. There are many
people in Ireland who would like to describe themselves as atheists and I'm one of them. I think I may be the only self-confessed or card-carrying atheist in the Oireachtas.
The group also launched a website
www.countmeout.ie which provides information on how to formally leave the Catholic Church.
Swedish top newspapers have threatened to boycott a Britney Spears concert in Stockholm because of restrictions the pop star has imposed on their photographers.
Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen and Aftonbladet, the country's top
four papers, say they will not send photographers to the show unless Spears agrees to scrap certain conditions on how the images can be used.
The contract allegedly bars the papers from reselling the pictures and from publishing them more than 30
days after the concert.
The contract also reportedly prohibits newspapers from publishing pictures from the show that the concert's organisers deem unflattering. However, if a picture is favourable, the contract demands that Spears' manager be
given ownership rights to it.
Roger Turesson, photo editor for Dagens Nyheter, said: The next step would be to tell critics they can't write anything critical.
The Irish government lost a vote in the Seanad on the Defamation Bill but managed to save the legislation by calling for a walk-through vote which gave enough time for two missing Senators to be found.
The Government defeat came on an amendment
to the Bill proposed by Senator Eugene Regan of Fine Gael proposing to delete the provision in the legislation making blasphemy a crime.
In an electronic vote whereby Senators press a button, the Government was defeated by 22 votes to 21 in the
60-member upper house.
However, Fianna Fáil whip Diarmuid Wilson immediately requested a walk-through vote which takes about 10 minutes to complete. In that period two Senators, Geraldine Feeney of Fianna Fáil and Deirdre De Burca
of the Green Party, had time to get to the chamber and the amendment was defeated by 23 votes to 22. The Bill itself was then passed by the same margin.
The controversy surrounded a clause in the Defamation Bill dealing with the crime of
blasphemy which Minister for Injustice Dermot Ahern insisted had to be included for constitutional reasons, although this was disputed by Opposition parties and Independents.
Senator Dan Boyle of the Green Party said that while he accepted the
reason blasphemy was included in the Bill, the effect would be to codify an offence that most people did not believe in and that made a nonsense of the legal process.
This is what the Dáil has imposed on their citizens:
36. Publication or utterance of blasphemous
(1) A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding 25,000.
(2) For the purposes of this section, a person publishes or
utters blasphemous matter if (a) he or she publishes or utters matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion, and (b)
he or she intends, by the publication or utterance of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.
(3) It shall be a defence to proceedings for an offence under this section for the defendant to prove that a reasonable person would find genuine
literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value in the matter to which the offence relates.
Germany has banned any public display of the immensely popular game CounterStrike .
As a result, tournaments have been cancelled - including the Convention-X-Treme tournament, as well as several Friday night game events. LAN parties
are no longer permitted to play the game. Of course, in private dwellings, people are still able to play for now.
The move has come as a response to a wave of school shootings that the government has blamed squarely on violent video games. In
fact, ministers have proposed that the production and distribution of all violent video games should be banned.
It remains to be seen whether the minister's requests will be granted, and that video games will be subject to further censorship. This
is clearly a first step along that path.
information to that effect is sketchy so far, talk of a ban would be consistent with our May report on the forced cancellation of a LAN event in Stuttgart which featured Counter-Strike and Warcraft III competitions.
aren't taking these repressive measures lying down, however. An estimated 400 gamers assembled for a June protest march in Karlsruhe. German gamer Matthias Dittmayer e-mailed GamePolitics to let us know that more gamer demonstrations are planned for
later this month:
Because of this [censorship] there was the (as far as I know) first demonstration of gamers in Germany with up to 400 gamers. The next 3 demonstration in Cologne, Karlsruhe and Berlin are announced for the 25th of July.
Gardaí in Carlow have seized a huge consignment of pornographic films in a series of raids on an adult shop in the town.
Gardaí secured a court order to take into police ownership more than 1,500 items including DVD
discs and hundreds of plastic covers with explicit and supposedly obscene sexual images. The material will be destroyed by a specialist company with a waste disposal licence.
Gardaí admitted they were unable to identify the
owners of the shop, who are hiding behind bogus, shell companies . Their application to have the material impounded was not contested in court.
The gardaí passed information gathered in their ongoing investigations to the Criminal
Assets Bureau. Under existing legislation, outlets which rent or sell films in video or DVD format must have a retail licence from the Irish Film Censors Office, and all films must bear a sticker verifying that they have been classified.
[and of course the IFCO have banned hardcore, although there is an ongoing court challenge]
A sample selection of the films seized was submitted to the Irish Film Classification Office, which confirmed they had
not been classified for viewing in Ireland and were prohibitable under terms of the Video Recordings Act 1989. Garda sources confirmed that similar films are on sale at shops in towns and cities throughout the State.
In 2008, 261 cases of
unclassified films were brought to the attention of the Irish Film Classification Office, which a spokesman said would represent a sample of much larger numbers confiscated by the gardaí.
The shop in Carlow, Temptations, running
since 2006, continues to trade on Tullow Street.
The creators of the Father Ted television series have denounced Ireland's proposed blasphemy laws as insanity and pledged to support a campaign to repeal them.
Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan backed moves by a group of Irish
secularists to challenge the bill against blasphemy introduced in the Dáil last week. Atheist Ireland said this weekend that it will publish a statement blaspheming all the major religions in Ireland, including Christianity and Islam. The group
said it would be a calculated challenge to the law.
Under the Irish constitution, the state is obliged to have blasphemy laws. The bill going through the Dáil would amend the Defamation Act of 1961, which includes blasphemy as a crime. To
abolish blasphemy laws, the government would have to hold a referendum to amend the constitution. The duo described the blasphemy law contained in the new bill covering defamation in Ireland as a return to the Middle Ages.
Linehan told the
Observer that the justice minister Dermot Ahern, who introduced the bill, should be challenged to define what he meant by blasphemy . This is insanity. Please, Mr Ahern, define the things we can't say, please! Can we say, 'Jesus is gay'? Or can we
ask, 'Is God in a biscuit? Could he tell us what it means? It is just insanity. After all, there are things contained in the holy books of one religion that are blasphemy to another religion. The logic behind this comes from Alice in Wonderland. He
said the Irish blasphemy law was part of a trend in the west where freedom of expression was being attacked to placate the craziest people on earth.
Linehan said that technically, under the new bill, certain scenes from Father Ted could be deemed blasphemous:
In Ted we kind of generally avoided central tenets of belief, because it was not what the show was about. It was about a very bad priest who didn't think about religion a lot. Writers should not be looking over their shoulders. If you are writing a
satire today, the Irish government are making it harder to do that.
43 years after it was blocked by communist censors, one of the funniest films shot in East Germany has finally seen the light of day.
Hands up or I Shoot , a comedy that quietly mocked the East German police state has now gone on general
Directed by Hans-Joachim Kasprzik, the film plays on the ideological creed that crime a permanent feature of capitalism was only a transitory phenomenon under socialism. When true communism arrived, crime would become extinct.
The hero, Holms, played by Rolf Herricht, is a cop in a village without crime, a sign surely that East Germany was getting ever closer to communist paradise. How could the censor even raise his eyebrow let alone his red pen? Holms is ambitious and
frustrated; he craves a car chase, a successful case, an opponent worthy of the name. So he engages some layabouts to steal the monument from the main square of his village. He goes in hot pursuit and on the way falls in love.
All harmless stuff,
one might think. Nothing doing. The Central Committee of the Communist Party insisted on changes in the dialogue. And in the editing. And in the voice of the narrator. Even this hatchet work was not good enough: the film was banned in 1966 and has not
been seen since.
The Irish Minister for Injustice, Dermot Ahern, is to cut proposed fines for blasphemy from 100,000 to 25,000, under changes to be made to the Defamation Act next week.
Ahern claimed the legislation, which passed its committee stage in the
Dáil yesterday, has been drafted to make it virtually impossible to get a successful prosecution [for blasphemy] out of it.
A blasphemy prosecution has not been won for a century, while powers already in force under the 1961
Defamation Act have never been used.
The Government is currently amending Ireland's defamation laws, which passed its committee stage in the Dáil last evening.
Under Article 40 of the Constitution, the publication or utterance
of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is a criminal offence.
Ahern insists blasphemy must remain a crime, unless the reference to it in the Constitution is removed. It is already there in the 1961 Act, and it is in the Constitution
and we have to comply with the Constitution. You are in derogation of your duty if you ignore the Constitution, he told Opposition TDs.
The inclusion of the blasphemy clause was accepted by Government TDs and passed by nine votes to six
during yesterday's committee stage debate.
Fine Gael TDs, Charlie Flanagan, Denis Naughten and Jim O'Keeffe, and Labour's Pat Rabbitte criticised the Minister, suggesting he abandon the blasphemy clause, or that he hold a referendum to remove the
reference to it in the Constitution.
Naughten said the legislation will be impossible to enforce because it is entirely subjective, and it could threaten Ireland's future economic interests. Islamic countries could retaliate if the DPP did not
prosecute some future alleged insult against Islam, he warned.
The fact that the legislation will be unworkable is the classic Irish solution to an Irish solution, said Charlie Flanagan.