Dermot Ahern, the Irish Justice Minister, is proposing a referendum this autumn to remove the newly-introduced offence of blasphemy from the Irish Constitution, along with two other referenda that the government is already committed to.
Atheist Ireland, which tirelessly campaigned against the law that made Ireland the laughing stock of the Western world, revealed that the Minister told the Sunday Times:
I was only doing my duty there was an incredibly sophisticated campaign [against me], mainly on the internet.
And that there had been:
A lot of nonsense about that blasphemy issue and people making me out to be a complete right-winger at the time I was only doing my duty in relation to it, because clearly it is in the constitution.
AI thanks everyone who has helped to make the campaign against this new law as effective as it has been to date. It is now important we maintain the pressure on this issue to ensure that the referendum happens as proposed and, more importantly, that
it is won.
AI added: We reiterate our position that this law is both silly and dangerous: silly because it is introducing medieval canon law offence into a modern plularist republic; and dangerous because it incentives religious outrage and because its wording
has already been adopted by Islamic states as part of their campaign to make blasphemy a crime internationally.
A final decision on a blasphemy referendum rests with the cabinet, but if Ahern remains justice minister after this month's reshuffle, he is likely to propose that it be added to the autumn list. The government is already committed to referenda on
children's rights and establishing a permanent court of civil appeal.
There were no plans in the immediate future for a referendum deleting the constitutional prohibition on blasphemy, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern told the Dáil.
Ahern said that he remained of the view that, on the grounds of cost, a referendum on blasphemy should not be held on its own. It should be run, possibly together with one or more referendums.
Labour justice spokesman Pat Rabbitte claimed that the Minister's statement was a backtracking on what he understood the position to be from the Taoiseach in the Dáil.
Ahern repeated that he would be happy to propose to the Government a referendum on blasphemy at the appropriate time: I did indicate that given the fact the programme for government indicated that we would have two or three referendums if my memory
serves me correctly in the lifetime of the Government, it may be appropriate to add on a referendum relating to to the article to which you refer .
Hungarian lawmakers have passed legislation against denial of the Holocaust.
The Hungarian Social Party, which sponsored the bill, along with a wide Christian-Jewish coalition pushed the law through.
The bill passed by a vote of 197-1; however, there were 142 abstentions, signalling the lingering ambivalence of many Hungarian lawmakers over the issue.
Those who publicly hurt the dignity of a victim of the Holocaust by denying or questioning the Holocaust itself, or claim it insignificant, infringe the law and can be punished by a prison sentence of up to three years, according to the new
The main opposition party, Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Union, was among those who abstained.
The European Union has called for Iran to stop censoring the Internet and jamming European satellite broadcasts.
European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels have called for Iran to put an immediate end to its electronic interference - specifically jamming broadcasts coming from Europe.
Iran has been jamming foreign satellite broadcasts, including those from the BBC and VOA, since late last year. Ordinary Iranians also have problems accessing the Internet.
In a statement, the EU ministers said Iran is breaching freedom of expression commitments laid out in an international treaty it had signed.
But at a news conference, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton offered no details about what sanctions, if any, the bloc might impose. She said the specifics would be worked out later: We are very concerned about what is happening in terms of
broadcasting, said Catherine Ashton. We have not yet moved further forward in terms of what further actions to take. As you know, we remain very concerned about what is happening in Iran. And we remain very concerned to ensure the Security Council
debate is able to take forward the issues more broadly of what needs to happen next.
News channel France 24 accused Iran of blocking its website to users there, the latest in a series of international broadcasters to complain of censorship by the Islamic Republic.
France 24 learned today from various sources that its website france24.com was no longer accessible from Iranian territory, the French rolling news station said in a statement, describing the move as censorship .
Australian euthanasia activist Dr Philip Nitschke has been banned from four Irish venues during a European tour of his controversial right-to-die workshops.
The director of Melbourne-based assisted suicide group Exit International had earlier been detained in France on his way to Britain during the tour.
While Dr Nitschke has faced problems booking venues before, he says the level of opposition he's faced in Ireland is extraordinary. He said the cancelled bookings were due to church pressure rallied in a well-orchestrated campaign of censorship as
he sought to educate Irish people on voluntary euthanasia.
I fully respect the Church's right to hold their opinions but I take issue with those who try to ram their opinions down the throats of non-believers and people who elect to reconcile their faith with their right to know about safe suicide, Dr
The workshop has since been rescheduled at Seomra Spraoi in Dublin.
The increasingly popular mixed martial arts fights of the Ultimate Fighting Championship have come under fire from the Bavarian television censors.
The Bavarian TV censor, Bavarian Regulatory Authority for Commercial Broadcasting (BLM), has issued a preliminary order barring UFC programming from the Munich-based network German Sports Television (DSF).
Zuffa, the UFC's parent company, will appeal the order and, if unsuccessful there, file a lawsuit in a German court.
DSF has been restricted to broadcasting UFC programming between the hours of 11pm and 6am. since the BLM approved its request to air in March 2009. But now BLM head Dr. Wolfgang Flieger said, The Committee deems these television formats unacceptable
by the sheer massiveness of the portrayed violence. In these shows you can witness acts of breaking taboos, such as hitting a downed opponent. These acts contradict the general principle of a public-service broadcasting
Two resolutions dealing with violent videogames have been passed by the Switzerland's National Council.
The first resolution, proposed by Christian Democratic Party member and National Councillor Norbert Hochreutener, would make it illegal to sell PEGI 16 or 18-rated games to minors.
The second resolution, backed by Social Democrat Evi Allemann, called for a complete ban of violent and adult-themed videogames.
Alleman's proposal passed on a 19-12 vote. A translated passage from Alleman's motion states:
The Federal Council is asked to submit to Parliament a statutory basis, which allows the manufacture, touting, importation, sale and distribution of game programs, to prohibit, in which cruel acts of violence against humans and
humanlike creatures for the game success.
The passing of the motions will now set off the process of drafting laws to implement the two motions.
Writer Alex Vella Gera is to be taken to court for his text story containing explicit language published on student publication Ir-Realta' .
Student editor Mark Camilleri, 22, is already undergoing criminal proceedings for publishing Vella Gera's story Li Tkisser Sewwi in the October issue of the University campus newspaper. The case has generated much controversy.
The author is now facing the same charges as Camilleri and the court case is expected to be heard on April 20. Camilleri is being charged with breaching Article 208 of the Criminal Code, which deals with the distribution of pornographic or obscene
material among others, which could lead to a prison sentence of up to six months or a fine of up to 465.87.
He is also being charged with Articles 3 and 7 of the Press Act, which in this case deal with printed matter directly or indirectly injuring public morals or decency . Under these charges, guilty parties could face up to three months in prison or
The contentious story, written in 1997, dealt with the male narrator's sexual exploits, written in crude language, and included detailed references to sex with the various women he had. The author said the story had already been published on a blog
around five years ago.
A group which represents 90 authors, artists and other people involved in culture, has written to the Minister of Injustice and the Parliamentary Secretary for Culture urging them to stop the absurd criminal proceedings being taken against editor
Mark Camilleri and author Alex Vella Gera for their article in Ir-Realta.
Grupp said the two government members are politically responsible for the persecution of the author and editor, and for the direct assault on freedom of expression and artistic freedom .
Such actions place our country in the same league as anti-democratic and intolerant regimes, which over the years have garnered a reputation for repressing freedom of thought and expression, whether they use violent means to do so or rely on legal
arguments to justify their actions.
The group also appealed to the justice minister and the parliamentary secretary, in their respective remits, to abolish censorship of the arts, to update laws defining obscenity and to stop the criminalisation of art .
The assistance of Malta's MEPs for the removal of censorship is being sought by the Front Against Censorship which in a letter to the country's representatives in the EU said it was very worrying that the Maltese were still not enjoying some of the most
fundamental European freedoms.
The Front said that 2009 would be remembered as the year when the supposedly modern and European Maltese State escalated its actions against freedom of speech through draconian actions such as the punishment of carnival revellers for dressing up as
Christ, the ban of the play Stitching , the threat of a prison sentence to a newspaper editor for publishing an erotic story and the suspended prison sentence to an artist for a visual which criticised the Catholic religion.
The Front said censorship on arts and entertainment went against the core European principles of liberty and freedom of expression: We are humbly urging you to present this case of affairs to the European Parliament in order to raise the alarm on a
European level regarding Malta's repressive and outdated censorship laws.
You might think that French officials would have raised their glasses in celebration of a project to create the first Gallic television channel dedicated to wine. Instead, they appear intent on driving the station into exile, possibly to Britain, after
deciding that it will fall foul of the toughest laws on alcohol promotion outside the Muslim world.
Edonys, a private group which hopes to start broadcasting later this year, has been warned by France's Higher Audiovisual Council that it will receive authorisation only if it drops plans for programmes featuring wine-tastings and expert discussions. The
broadcasting authority deemed these illegal under a law that prohibits all direct or indirect propaganda in favour of alcoholic drinks on television.
However, the station is refusing to amend its schedule and executives are now looking for a base outside France. Britain, Luxembourg and Belgium are among the options.
He said that the station would instead target wine-lovers in Belgium and other francophone countries with looser regulations. He said that Edonys also intended to start broadcasting English-language programmes for the UK and Northern European countries
next year. It is likely to be a pay channel available by cable or satellite.
Although the Polish government said it had abandoned the idea of blocking web sites with supposedly dangerous content, it is still seems determined to censor the internet.
Deputy Finance Minister Jacek Kapica has come up with an alternative solution to the online betting problem, which would enable him to exercise absolute control over the web, say critics. Kapica's idea is to create a special unit within the customs
service, which would control the web and block sites if a court decided that they contained 'dangerous' content or would enable internet users to gamble online, according to the Dziennik Gazeta Prawna daily.
The censors would be appointed by the Finance, Justice and Infrastructure Ministries.
The minister's idea is, in fact, a return to the previous government's proposal to create a black list of web sites with dangerous content which should be blocked. The proposal was severely criticized by internet users who claimed that the draft
bill would violate the freedom of expression on internet. After the protest PM Donald Tusk assured internet users that the government would abandon the idea and in the future consult them on legislation concerning internet.
Environmental organisations in Spain have condemned a decision by the environment ministry to censor a television documentary on the construction of illegal housing on the Mediterranean.
The programme -- to be aired on TVE public television -- shows an infinite number of ecological disasters caused by the actions or failures of various administrations and which led to the creation of an artificial and devastated coastal landscape,
Ecologists in Action said.
The newspaper El Pais said the programme referred to the involvement of local officials and companies in illegal activities and corruption in the construction of housing along the Mediterranean coast.
It said the ministry acknowledged that it requested the cutting of two minutes of the programme that alleged that the situation is the result of poor urban planning and over-building.
Ecologists in Action condemned the unacceptable decision as censorship, and together with Greenpeace it called for the full version of the programme to be broadcast.
Francisco Lacerda, a professor of phonetics at Stockholm University, is one of two scientists threatened with legal action after the publication of a scientific article condemning the use of lie detectors. The Israeli company Nemesysco, which
manufactures detectors, has written in a letter to the researchers' publishers that the researchers may be sued for libel if they continue to write on this subject in the future.
One year ago, Francisco Lacerda, a professor of linguistics at Stockholm University, and Anders Eriksson, professor of phonetics at the University of Gothenburg, published an article in the International Journal of Speech Language and the Law, a magazine
for voice experts working for the police and security services. The article entitled "Charlatantry in forensic speech science" gave an overview of the last fifty years of research in the field of lie detectors. The article's conclusion is that
there is no scientific evidence to show that lie detectors actually work.
computerbase.de is reporting that the Collector's Edition of the much derided Ubisoft's Silent Hunter 5 PC game has been recalled in Germany due to the appearance of anticonstiutional symbols in the game.
This would indicate that some type of Nazi symbol or imagery was left in the local edition of the game, which is verboten according to German laws.
Edge received confirmation from Ubisoft that the game's standard edition was not recalled, only the special edition.
Germany's state broadcaster is locked in a row with the Church of Scientology which wants to block an upcoming feature film that depicts the organisation as totalitarian and unethical.
Bis Nichts Mehr Bleibt , or Until Nothing Remains , dramatises the account of a German family torn apart by its associations with Scientology. A young married couple joins the organisation but as the wife gets sucked ever more deeply into
the group, her husband, who has donated much of his money to it, decides to leave. In the process he loses contact with his young daughter who, like his wife, is being educated by Scientology instructors.
Scientology leaders have accused Germany's primary public TV network, ARD, of creating in top secret a piece of propaganda that sets out to undermine the group, and have demanded to see it before it is broadcast.
According to the makers of Until Nothing Remains , the 2.5m (£2.3 m) drama, which is due to air in a prime-time slot at the end of March, is based on the true story of Heiner von Rönns, who left Scientology and suffered the subsequent
break-up of his family.
Scientology officials have said the film is false and intolerant. Jürg Stettler, a spokesman for Scientology in Germany said: The truth is precisely the opposite of that which the ARD is showing. The organisation is investigating legal means
to prevent the programme from being broadcast. Stettler said the organisation was planning its own film to spread our own side of the story .
Adam Nergal Darski, frontman for Poland's heavy metal band Behemoth , has been formally charged for destroying a copy of the Bible over two years ago.
While it is a crime in Poland to destroy any religious iconography, there must be at least two formal complaints before a charge is laid. The first charge was made in 2008 and recently an undisclosed number of additional complaints were lodged against
At the first hearing Darski said what he does on stage is part of artistic license and it wasn't intended to offend religious feelings. This was countered by an expert on religious history and studies from Jagellonian University in Krakow, who stated
that every copy of a Bible could be considered a religious icon.
The case will now go to court, and if found guilty, Darski could face two years in prison.
Last month it was reported that the national conservative Polish political party Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc (PiS), was orchestrating efforts to prosecute Darski for offending people's religious beliefs.
An Italian football coach has been banned for taking God's name in vain
According to the disciplinary watchdog of the Italian football league, the Verona club's coach proffered a blasphemous expression that was to make him the first victim of a zero-tolerance policy on irreverence.
Di Carlo, whose side narrowly avoided relegation last season, was banned from the touchline for a game after the outburst.
The Italian federation, Federcalcio, decided last month that the time had come for disciplinary action to be taken against players and coaches heard taking God's name in vain. The president, Giancarlo Abete, declared it would intervene with official
decisions to make clear that blasphemy is within the definition of 'offensive, insulting or abusive language' in the rules [that warrant sending-off] .
Chievo's coach was not the only one caught out; one of his players, Michele Marcolini, was deemed to have said God as he left the field after a red card.
Italian journalists and opposition politicians accused state broadcaster RAI of censorship after it announced it was suspending political talk shows ahead of key regional elections this month.
The board of RAI, dominated by supporters of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, voted to suspend the shows ahead of the March 28-29 polls to avoid possible sanctions from a parliamentary committee.
RAI is required by law to guarantee equal airtime to politicians of all sides and can face sanctions if it is found to have breached the rules. To avoid the problem, the broadcaster will temporarily replace some of the talk shows -- a staple of Italy's
political and media diet -- with a series of moderated debates between the candidates.
This puts an unprecedented silencer on the freedom of the press, said Giovanni Floris, presenter of the weekly political talk-show Ballaro . We're going to do anything and everything we can to beat this and go on the air.
The accusations of censorship were dismissed as ridiculous by Enzo Fassano, a legislator for Berlusconi's People of Freedom party (PDL) and a member of the committee that oversees RAI: All this amounts to is a few presenters taking a break for
a couple of weeks so the candidates can debate fairly .
The consumer union Federconsumatori said it would explore whether suspending the talk shows may violate RAI's public service obligations. This situation puts us on the same level of democracy and free press as Zimbabwe, said Federconsumatori's
head, Rosario Trefiletti.
Many with red crosses painted on their mouths, a crowd of about 300 people, including politicians and personalities from various cultural fields, walked down Valletta's main thoroughfare to protest against censorship in a Maltese society that does not
tolerate what is out of the norm .
Organised by 11 student organisations who came together to form the Front Against Censorship, the protest attracted a strong presence of actors, students, writers and theatre personalities.
We came here to make history. We believe that no one has the right to determine what other people can read, Ingram Bondin, from Front Against Censorship, said.
In the sight of the protest were five laws on censorship, which, the promoters insisted, are antiquated and outdated and carry harsh prison sentences.
They are calling on the authorities to repeal the law banning anyone from making any form of artistic criticism of the country's official religion and to eliminate the Stage and Film Classification Board's power to censor or ban plays and films.
They also want to remove a clause in the Press Act stipulating that print material cannot carry any criticism of public morals and to abolish the Broadcasting Authority's power to ban adult programmes after 9 p.m.
The promoters of the protest also want to see changes to the Pornography Act which, they believe, contains a blanket definition of sex.
Three Google executives were convicted in Italy of allowing film of an autistic schoolboy being bullied to be posted online in a ruling that could profoundly change the way in which video clips are put on the internet.
The three Google executives David Drummond, senior vice-president and chief legal officer, George Reyes, Google's former chief financial officer, and Peter Fleischer, global privacy counsel were each given a six-month suspended prison sentence, but
were cleared of defamation charges. A fourth defendant, Arvind Desikan, senior product marketing manager, was acquitted.
Alfredo Robledo, the prosecutor, said that he was very satisfied with the verdict in the case, adding: Protection of human beings must prevail over business logic. Robledo said that the video, which was posted on September 8, 2006, had
remained online until November 7 and should have been taken down immediately.
Google said that it would appeal against the ruling. The American company said that the decision attacked the principles of freedom on which the internet is built. Bill Echikson, a Google spokesman, said: It's the first time a Google employee has been
convicted for [violation of] privacy anywhere in the world. It's an astonishing decision that attacks the principle of freedom of expression.
Italian bloggers also criticised the verdict, with one blogger on the La Stampa website declaring: From today we are less Western and more Chinese.
Matt Sucherman, vice-president of Google and its deputy general counsel for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, conceded that the video was totally reprehensible , but said that Google had taken it down within hours of being notified of it by
Italian police and that none of those convicted had had anything to do with it. He said: They did not appear in it, film it, upload it or review it. None of them know the people involved or were even aware of the video's existence until after it was
Sucherman said that the ruling by the judge, Oscar Magi, meant that employees of hosting platforms like Google Video are criminally responsible for content that users upload. If social networks and community bulletin boards were held responsible for
vetting every single piece of content that is uploaded to them every piece of text, every photo, every file, every video then the web as we know it will cease to exist and many of the economic, social, political and technological benefits it brings
A new bill to censor Germany's internet has been signed into law by Germany's president. There's only one problem: The government has decided it no longer wants it. They are now in the awkward position of relying on opposition help to repeal the
The German coalition government, which pairs Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives with the business-friendly Free Democratic Party, has decided it no longer wants the law, which was massively opposed by Internet users. Instead of blocking access to
Web sites, it now wants to delete offensive Internet content instead.
The SPD is now set to introduce a bill before the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, on Feb. 25 which would repeal the new law, thereby overturning the legal basis for blocking Internet access.
The original Access Impediment Law was hugely controversial in Germany. There was massive opposition from Internet activists, who saw it as an attempt to censor the Web and an attack on the right to freedom of expression. Users feared that access to
harmless sites could also be blocked and that the access restrictions could easily be circumnavigated by savvy surfers.
The issue also caused a certain amount of political fallout. Then Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen, a member of the CDU who is now German labor minister, was behind the initiative to combat child pornography. Critics dubbed her Zensursula, a
portmanteau word combining her name and the German word for censorship. The issue also cost the SPD support among Internet users and helped boost the newly founded Pirate Party, which campaigned in the 2009 election on an Internet freedom and civil
rights platform and got an impressive 2% of the total vote.
A display by a Spanish artist, including a candelabrum growing out of the barrel of an Uzi sub-machinegun and a sculpture of a haredi figure standing on a priest, who kneels on a prostrate Muslim, has drawn fire from the Foreign Ministry.
The Israeli Embassy in Madrid issued a statement protesting the display at the International Art Fair in the Spanish capital.
Values such as freedom of speech and creative freedom are sometimes used to disguise stereotyping, prejudice and provocation for the sake of provocation, the statement said. The sculptures are two of five works on display by the well-known artist
Merino denied that he had tried to provoke. The aim was to display the wonder in the co-existence of the three religions, each making a common effort to reach God, he told reporters.
The British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom today defended scenes that portray extreme violence against women in his latest film, saying that he felt the need to stay true to the pulp fiction novel on which it is based.
The Killer Inside Me , an adaptation of the 1952 novel by Jim Thompson depicts brutal scenes of rough sex and murder.
One scene sees the main character, deputy sheriff Lou Ford played by Casey Affleck bludgeon his prostitute girlfriend (Jessica Alba) almost to death until her face is unrecognisable, while later another woman (Kate Hudson) is punched repeatedly. She
chokes to death as her killer and lover slips on her urine.
The attacks, accompanied by the music of Gustav Mahler and the opera Norma by Vincenzo Bellini as well as jaunty swing tunes, are captured in close-up camera shots. Those and the sound of gurgling blood and cracking bones leave little to the imagination.
Speaking today a press screening of the film at the Berlin film festival, which saw people walking out and booing, Winterbottom said he had deliberately intended for the film to shock: It was intentionally shocking. The whole point of the story is,
here is someone who is supposed to be in love with two women who he beats to death, and of course the violence should be shocking. If you make a film where the violence is entertaining, I think that's very questionable .
Winterbottom appeared to be mildly irritated by the criticism, which observers in Berlin say may lead to scenes being cut before it can be made available to a wider audience: Loads of films promote violence as entertainment, but I don't think this one
does and neither would I want to do something that's going to encourage violence.
If the Chinese artist Ko Siu Lan had expected more democracy by studying in France, he must have been gravely disappointed by an incident of censorship that raises questions about the country's dedication to freedom of expression.
As Le Monde and Agence France-Presse report, the thirty-two-year-old student at Paris's art academy Ecole des Beaux-Arts hung a set of banners on the academy's facade that play on a 2007 election slogan from president Nicolas Sarkozy: Travailler plus
pour gagner plus (Work more to earn more).
By contrast, Ko's black banners feature the words EARN, LESS, MORE, WORK. But her installation was dismantled after hanging only a few hours on the Beaux-Arts building located in the city's sixth arrondissement. The reason? The academy judged that
the work could be viewed as making an attack on the neutrality of the public service while instrumentalizing the establishment.
The artist denounced a brutal censorship, without discussion. The school has proposed to reinstall the work inside the buildinga solution that Ko does not find satisfactory. The artist is not alone.
The mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë also denounced a targeted censorship that is particularly frightening, since it calls into question the role and legitimate expression of artists in the city and our collective life.
The French socialist partyParti socialiste (PS)also denounced the act as censorship but demanded that the work be reinstalled on the Beaux-Arts facade. It's clearly an act of censorship for political reasons toward a work of art, said the PS
party. While expressing its total condemnation of the work's dismantling, the party expressed its complete solidarity with both the artist and the curator of the exhibition.
A proposed Register of Prohibited Internet Pages and Services built censorship controversy among bloggers and internet users in Poland.
The register is supposedly a measure against child pornography and other illegal content. But it is written in such a way that has bloggers fearing for their freedom of expression.
The register's critics suggest the confusing legislation will be overused affecting innocent bloggers and internet users.
The bill which suggests the new register does not state which content will get a webpage on the register and predicts the introduction of a mandatory hindrance in access to pages and services that include illegal content, Finance Ministry
spokesperson Magdalena Kobos said, though it remains unclear what kind of hindrance that should be.
The Ministry suggests self-censorship to users who want to keep off the register, though it worded this basic instruction somewhat differently.
Polish Internet surfers appeared to have won a vital battle against censorship plans of the Polish center-right government when Prime Minister Donald Tusk wrote an open letter to the online community saying the Cabinet's plans could be revisited.
The debate comes in response to protests from tens of thousands of Polish surfers who joined groups on community portals speaking out against a government-drafted bill that, if upheld by the Constitutional Tribunal, will create a register of banned
websites and services.
The government's plan, adopted by Parliament last year and sent for a constitutional probe by the president, is part of a wider set of radical anti-gambling measures that Tusk ordered in response to a lobbying scandal involving senior members of his
Surfers fear freedom of speech may fall victim to the government's crackdown as the bill may tempt the public administration to ban not just gambling sites, but whatever content it disagrees with.
Polish surfers have just scored a major victory under the weight of their online protests, Prime Minister Donald Tusk decided to abandon plans for Internet censorship, which are just one step from becoming the law.
In a statement on the prime minister's website, his office have said that after consultations between Tusk and NGOs the government decided to scrap the register of banned Internet websites, originally designed to block gambling sites.
A resolution has passed unanimously in the Commission for Legal Affairs and would make it illegal to sell games rated PEGI 16 or 18 to under-age minors. Swiss parliament will now have a chance to vote on the measure.
A second, and more troubling motion, would call for a complete ban of violent and adult-themed videogames within the country. This motion passed too, though with a closer vote of nine to three, and will also head off to parliament for vote.
One of the backers of this proposal is Social Democrat Evi Allemann who said:
Such games do not make each one a killer, but they increase the willingness of those who are already vulnerable. A blanket ban on such games therefore seems appropriate and proportionate, especially since they do not have any worth
protecting cultural and social content and there are thousands of other exciting games that work without such extreme violence.
Surely a nutter that will wind up the game playing public.
Some countries are tax havens. Set up a company there, or transfer your money, and pay less in taxes. Switzerland is renowned for being a good place to open a bank account if you want your money to be ultra-safe and ultra-secret. Now, if some Icelandic
MPs have their way, Iceland might become the world's first (and only) haven for journalists and a preserve for freedom of speech.
Proposal for a parliamentary resolution for Iceland to strongly position itself legally with regard to the protection of freedoms of expression and information. Parliament resolves to task the government with finding ways to
strengthen freedoms of expression and information freedom in Iceland, as well as providing strong protections for sources and whistleblowers.
In this work, the international team of experts that assisted in the creation of this proposal should be utilized.
To this end,
the legal environment should be explored such that the goals can be defined and changes to law or new law proposals can be prepared.
the legal environments of other countries should be considered, with the view to assemble the best laws to make Iceland leading in freedoms of expression and information.
the first Icelandic international prize should be established, The Icelandic Freedom of Expression Award.
With the goal of improving democracy, as firm grounding will be made for publishing, whilst improving Iceland's standing in the international community.
The legislative initiative outlined here is intended to make Iceland an attractive environment for the registration and operation of international press organizations, new media start-ups, human rights groups and internet data
centers. It promises to strengthen our democracy through the power of transparency and to promote the nation's international standing and economy. It also proposes to draw attention to these changes through the creation of Iceland's first internationally
visible prize: the Icelandic Prize for Freedom of Expression.
Just as countries, like Canada and the UK, are in the midst of what can only be called a crisis with respect to freedom of expression, it is good to hear that there is a chance -- a good chance -- that freedom of speech and expression will find a refuge,
if necessary, in Iceland.
French lawmakers will vote today on a proposal to filter Internet traffic. Part of a new security bill, the measure is supposedly to catch child pornographers. Once the filtering system is in place, though, it will allow the government to censor other
The National Assembly has already spent two days debating the grandly titled Bill on direction and planning for the performance of domestic security, known as Loppsi II in French, with deputies voting to reject all the amendments that sought to
limit the Internet filtration provisions.
If adopted as such, the law will oblige ISPs to block the access to the sites included on a list established by the French administration without any judicial control, under the pretext of the protection of children. When the need to fight against the
dissemination of images and representations of minors according to the provisions of article 227-23 of the criminal code justifies it, the administrative authority notifies the persons mentioned at item 1 (i.e.ISPs) the Internet addresses of online
public communication services that are subject to the provisions of this article for which these persons must prevent the access without delay says article 4 of the law.
Lionel Tardy also proposes to force the administrative authority to specify to the ISPs which are the filtering techniques they can use to block paedophilic sites. The law must not resume to ordering the blocking of the access to certain Internet
sites, but indicate to ISPs what techniques they may use. The obligation they bear should be an obligation of means and for that, the means that can be put in force must be listed said the deputy.
Deputies had sought to amend the text to require blocking only of specific URLs or documents, not of entire sites, so as to reduce collateral damage, and to require that a judge review the list of blocked URLs each month to ensure that sites were
not needlessly blocked. Those amendments were, however, rejected, as was one making the filters a temporary, experimental measure until their effectiveness was proven.
Similar arguments on over-blocking were raised by Aurélien Boch from Internet users association OBEDI who explained: when an address is filtered, all the sites hosted by the same server will be filtered whether it is the site of Nouvel
Observateur or a pornographic site. He also pointed out that as the list will be secret, it will be impossible to verify which sites are filtered .
Silvio Berlusconi's supporters in the Italian parliament have outraged opposition MPs and journalists with a controversial clampdown on political talk shows ahead of next month's regional elections.
The ruling PDL Party's majority on the parliamentary watchdog that oversees public broadcaster RAI forced through rules that mean the state broadcaster's most popular talk shows will have to scrap their political content or face a transfer from
mid-evening to graveyard shifts. Programmes such as Ballarò and Annozero, which have frequently held Berlusconi to account for alleged sex scandals and even Mafia links, will be the main victims of the month-long clamp down that prompted
accusations of censorship.
Political content will be allowed but only if all 30 or so parties standing in the elections are represented on every show, which programme-makers said would make their formats unworkable.
The Prime Minister began his surprise intervention by hitting out at his perceived nemesis, the left-wing judiciary, before launching into a spectacular rant against the programme and RAI. Earlier that month Berlusconi described RAI's other flagship
debate show Annozero as a criminal use of public television after it broadcast the first live interview with the call-girl Patrizia D'Addario, in which she dismissed the premier's claims he was unaware she was a call girl when they slept together.
During the debate over the French security bill (LOPPSI), the government opposed all the amendments seeking to minimize the risks attached to filtering Internet sites.
The refusal to make this measure experimental and temporary shows that the executive could not care less about its effectiveness to tackle online child pornography or about its disastrous consequences.
This measure will allow the French government to take control of the Internet, as the door is now open to the extension of Net filtering.
Moreover, whereas the effectiveness of the Net filtering provision cannot be proven, the French government refuses to take into account the fact that over-blocking - i.e the collateral censorship of perfectly lawful websites - is inevitable2.
Protection of childhood is shamelessly exploited by Nicolas Sarkozy to implement a measure that will lead to collateral censorship and very dangerous drifts. After the HADOPI comes the LOPPSI: the securitarian machinery of the government is being
deployed in an attempt to control the Internet at the expense of freedoms , concludes Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for La Quadrature du Net.
The word censorship was not mentioned once in a draft cultural policy document published by a working group commissioned by Education Minister Dolores Cristina. But the authors of the report clearly hint at plans to remove the censorship board from the
remit of the Commissioner of the Police, and place it under the wings of Education Ministry.
The working group, chaired by the Malta Council for Culture and Arts (MCCA) executive director Davinia Galea said: In terms of freedom of expression, the Ministry responsible for culture shall initiate the process of updating Maltese legislation in
this regard to make it reflect 21st century reality, the report states. This will commence by placing responsibility of the classification board within the Ministry responsible for culture.
Changes in legislation proposed within the policy such as that of classification and the legal status of artists, will now require parliamentary approval.
Music spontaneity will, after all, be allowed during the Nadur carnival celebrations as police are no longer insisting that performing rock bands submit their planned repertoire for vetting.
In a statement the police said they had reconsidered the decision but did not explain what exactly led to this change of strategy.
The statement was issued in reaction to a story published in The Sunday Times in which a concerned band member said the Nadur local council and police were requesting to vet lyrics before the event in an attempt to eliminate offensive or vulgar language.
The police denied ever asking for the lyrics and said the original decision, to see the song repertoire, was taken with the cooperation of Nadur mayor Miriam Portelli. Portelli had explained it was the police who had suggested vetting lyrics but she did
not know why.
Dressing Up as Jesus
The council urged those attending the spontaneous carnival to respect public order and decency. The Nadur carnival, which kicks off on Friday, has established a reputation for spontaneity. The celebrations traditionally attract thousands of people to
Gozo for the five-day festivities, creating a series of management problems.
Last year, controversy arose when some revellers dressed up as Jesus Christ and as nuns. Amid condemnation from the bishops, the revellers ended up in court for choosing costumes deemed to be illegal and offensive to the Roman Catholic religion. One
young man was given a one-month suspended jail term for dressing up as Jesus. This was deemed as excessive censorship by some who argued it threatened the spontaneous character of the Nadur carnival.
In reaction to this, last year, a group was set up on Facebook with a page entitled Friends of Jesus: Nadur 2010 which said it was organising a peaceful protest against a modern-day inquisition . The group said it hoped to encourage hundreds of
people to dress up as Jesus in an attempt to overwhelm any fear of retribution by numbers .
We're barely into the new decade and already reading about freedom issues in Italy is like scanning a long war bulletin. The situation was poor 20 years ago, but it has worsened since Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's entrance in politics. In the last
six months it has taken the steepest downhill path one could imagine. In the 80s and '90s Berlusconi's television channels represented editorial innovation and business success. But in the last 10 years Italian's appetite for the Berlusconi style of
programming has waned.
No doubt prompted by the economic success of Murdoch's Sky Italia satellite platform, Berlusconi has begun using his government to pass laws that damage Sky TV to the sole advantage of the bottom line of his TV media empire. He is passing laws to protect
his privacy, while at the same time classifying as top secret information about illegal wiretaps on intellectual and political leaders of the opposition. Nevertheless, during his recent visit to Israel, Berlusconi accused the Italian press of
orchestrating the harshest ever media campaign against a prime minister.
In a law which took effect last week, movies and shows forbidden to under 14s will be banned on any TV platform up to 10.30 pm, even if it's pay per view. This is a clear blow to Murdoch's Sky, as they have just launched a series of pay-per-view 24/7
porn channels. Looking through this legislation I realised something funny: while movies like Grease are to banned, live shows with almost naked girls will still be legally broadcasted. In fact this law was always in place, it has just been extended to
the new satellite platform, but as an Italian I had never noticed its impact, as I am pretty used to seeing semi-erotic dances on most of Italian channels, at any time of the day. Indeed, Berlusconi made his fortune on "immoral" TV. As an
anonymous commenter wrote on the site of Republica, if this law was to be respected, we would need to shut down all of Berlusconi's television stations from 7am to 10.30 pm.
A low-budget horror film has caused a stir among politicians in Italy after teenage cinemagoers were traumatised by the movie.
Paranormal Activity, a box-office hit in Italy, has caused terror among youngsters.
An Italian news agency reported that emergency services took dozens of calls, especially in southern Naples, from cinemagoers shocked by the film.
Several panic attacks lasting more than half an hour took place, an emergency response worker said: The most serious case is that of a 14-year-old girl who was brought to the hospital in a state of paralysis.
The Italian parents' association noted that admission to the movie is restricted in the United States, Britain, Germany and The Netherlands and asked for an age limit of 18 in Italy.
Defence minister Ignazio La Russa said: For the past two weeks a trailer has been shown obsessively on TV, and is terrifying thousands of children.
Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of the Italian fascist dictator and head of a parliamentary committee on children, said the film had highly distressing content and was causing panic attacks and psychological problems among youths. I don't
think we can ban Paranormal Activity now, but surely we need to study how to warn parents of the risks their children are incurring.
The BBFC have passed the UK cinema release 15 uncut with the following comment:
Paranormal Activity is a US horror film that presents as a case history conveyed through hand-held camera footage seemingly filmed by the performers and which relates how a young American couple are threatened by
paranormal manifestations in their new house. It was passed 15 for strong language and threat.
At 15 , BBFC Guidelines for language state that There may be frequent use of strong language (eg 'fuck'). and this film contains strong language that fits within this guideline and the frequency of which exceeds the
As for horror, this film's content exceeds the 12A/12 Guideline which states that Moderate physical and psychological threat may be permitted, provided disturbing sequences are not frequent or sustained. . This film
features frequent strong threat and menace from the opening minutes until the final scene as the couple's camera records offscreen sounds and manifestations that graduate in frequency and intensity to the point where the threat becomes tangible and
physical. The film's hand-held camerawork lends the horror and intensity a greater sense of realism and immediacy as the film's power is not reliant on gore or special effects but instead, credibly depicts an unknown force with growing power overwhelming
the lives of a young couple in a realistic domestic setting. The lack of sadistic or sexualised elements meant that the film is permissible at 15 , but the strength, frequency and sustained nature of the threat and terrorisation meant that it was
not allowable at 12A/12 .
Paranormal Activity also contains an oblique moderate sex reference to unseen sexual activity, additional mild sex references and mild language.
Italian lawmakers on committees in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies (upper and lower houses of parliament) have requested sweeping changes in a proposed broadcasting law, particularly in the section governing the internet, which had aroused widespread
Deputy Communications Minister Paolo Romani, who was responsible for promoting the broadcasting law, said the government would take rigorous account of the lawmakers' suggestions.
Blogs with amateur videos, online newspapers, search engines and the online versions of magazines are free, and editorial responsibility does not fall on providers who host content generated by others, Alessio Butti, the government lawmaker who
drew up the text approved by the Senate committee, told reporters.
The Chamber and Senate Commissions have proposed significant and positive changes to the draft broadcasting law, Marco Pancini, senior European public policy counsel for Google Italy, said in a prepared statement. Under the original draft of the
broadcasting law, which the government says enacts a European Union directive, YouTube risked being treated as a conventional television broadcaster, requiring a special licence from the government and assuming editorial responsibility for all material
uploaded to its website.
Paolo Nuti, president of the Association of Italian internet Providers (AIIP), said he welcomed the change of heart expressed by the parliamentary committees but pointed out that their recommendations were not binding on the government.
Bloggers were also quick to welcome the government's apparent U-turn. This is a new U-turn made necessary by the incompetence of the geriatric ward that, unfortunately for us, on both sides of the political spectrum, occupies Italy's seats of power,
said Andrea Guida, writing on the blog geekissimo.
A blogger has agreed a 100,000 settlement after libelling Niall Ó Donnchú a senior civil servant, and his girlfriend Laura Barnes. It is the first time in Ireland that defamatory material on a blog has resulted in a pay-out.
In December 1, 2006, a blogger who styles himself as Ardmayle posted a comment about the couple and the sale of James Joyce manuscripts under the headline Barnes and Noble . Following a legal complaint, he took down the blog and in February 2007
he posted an apology which had been supplied by Donnchú's and Barnes' lawyer, Ivor Fitzpatrick solicitors.
I subsequently discovered that these remarks were inaccurate, Ardmayle said. I unreservedly apologise to both Laura Barnes and Niall Ó Donnchú respect of this post.
However, the pair subsequently issued separate proceedings. It is understood that the 100,000 settlement was agreed shortly before the case was due before the High Court. A full defamation trial before a jury can cost 700,000-800,000 in legal costs
for both parties.
It is understood that the blogger has paid only a small proportion of the 100,000 damages, and was recently made redundant from his job. In addition to the settlement, he must pay his own legal costs.
The case is likely to have a chilling effect on the Irish blogosphere, which generally takes a casual attitude to defamation and people's reputations. The Ardmayle action was settled before a new Defamation Act came into effect on January 1.
There's nothing new in online defamation; the same basic legal principles apply online as they do offline; the medium may change, but the legal consequences of the message remain the same. But the story does raise some interesting legal issues. Mark
Coughlan on TheStory.ie pointed out that, before the storm blew up this week, Ardmayle had been little known, to say the least , and he quite rightly queried the actual damage the blog had done to the plaintiff's reputations. UCD law lecturer TJ
McIntyre picked up that point:
The level of damages in defamation reflects the extent of publication i.e. the extent to which the defamatory material was actually read. This is not (despite the best efforts of plaintiffs' lawyers) the same as the extent to
which it might have been read. Consequently (leaving aside other factors such as the gravity of the allegations) damages should be greatly reduced where the audience can be shown to be negligible. Potential readability worldwide notwithstanding.
The Dutch Senate has passed laws prohibiting sex with animals and the distribution of materials depicting bestiality.
The voting by the Dutch Upper Chamber passed the bill with a small majority of 39 for and 34 against. The nays were the members of the fractions of Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) CDA and People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, (VVD).
A Dutch source told XBIZ that the opposing parties voted against the bill feeling they were impossible to enforce and would not stem animal abuse, which was a central focus of the legislation: They [the nay voters] think its more a political law based
on Dutch standards and values instead of facts .
The new laws will dramatically curtail the revenues of content producers who have relied on the niche for years. The source said, We are busy with some other major animal producers to combine our forces. First to sue the government for millions to
compensate for our lost business which was always legal. We have invested much so we have right on some kind of compensation.
But we still have some time to decide. The law is accepted but they are now working on all law conditions. That could take several weeks or even months and until they make it official it will still be legal to operate.
A protest opposing Malta's censorship laws will be organised at City Gate on February 24, with organisers seeking as many people as possible to make their voices heard.
The organising group, Front Kontra ċ-Ċensura , was set up in the wake of a 21-year-old editor of a student newspaper facing Court charges over an article.
The October edition of Realtà featured a short story Li Tkisser Sewwi by Alex Vella Gera whose explicit content led the university to remove it from campus and to report its editor, Mark Camilleri, to the police.
The Front includes the Realtà Collective, the newspaper's producers, and a number of other groups, including the youth wings of Alternattiva Demokratika and the Labour Party as well as Unifaun Theatre Productions, whose production of the play Stitching
was banned in early 2009.
The group's Facebook page has attracted over 3,000 members and it hopes that it will similarly attract large numbers its upcoming protest.
The group plans to organise a National Protest Against Censorship to attract a larger crowd. Starting at City Gate at 1700h on February 24, the group aims to move down Republic Street to the Palace, where it will present proposals to remove
artistic censorship to MPs as they enter the building.
In the meantime, Camilleri is awaiting his arraignment in Court. He faces a possible jail term for distributing obscene or pornographic material and for injuring public morals or decency.
Ofcom has welcomed the formation of a new organisation to shape, coordinate and influence European telecoms regulation.
Called the Body of European Regulations in Electronic Communications (BEREC), it is made up of 27 regulators from the European Union member states. It meets for the first time today in Brussels to elect a Chairman and Vice Chairmen, who will serve a 12
month term. BEREC replaces the European Regulators' Group, with beefed-up powers formalised under European legislation, but remains very clearly a body of independent national regulators.
The formation of BEREC is a major step forward and will improve the consistency and quality of regulation across the EU. BEREC establishes authority in the group of national regulators, working together to the common goal of serving the interests of
consumers and the communications sector as a whole, said Ed Richards, Ofcom's Chief Executive.
BEREC also has an important responsibility to act as an authoritative and independent adviser to the Commission and the European Parliament on regulatory matters.
The first meetings of the Board of Regulators of BEREC and the Management Committee of the Office were held in Brussels on 28 January 2010. The 27 heads of the NRAs laid down the cornerstone for the institutional structure that will deliver the results
that the legislators intended. They also discussed ways to ensure that the both BEREC and the Office will be operational as soon as possible to respond to the needs of the single market.
Although, the increased participation of BEREC in the new Article 7 procedure and the possibility to give opinions on cross-border disputes will need to wait until May 2011, the date for the transposition of the new framework to be completed, BEREC is
able to carry out many tasks without the need to wait so long. BEREC is already able to:
disseminate best practice, assist NRAs, advise the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council, and assist the institutions and the NRAs in their relations with third parties
deliver opinions on draft recommendations and/or guidelines on the form, content and level of detail to be given in notifications, in accordance with Article 7b of Directive 2002/21/EC (Framework Directive)
be consulted on draft recommendations on relevant product and service markets, in accordance with Article 15 of the Framework Directive
deliver opinions on draft decisions on the identification of transnational markets, in accordance with Article 15 of the Framework Directive
be consulted on draft measures relating to effective access to the emergency call number 112
be consulted on draft measures relating to the effective implementation of the 116 numbering range
deliver opinions on draft decisions and recommendations on harmonisation, in accordance with Article 19 of the Framework Directive
deliver opinions aiming to ensure the development of common rules and requirements for providers of cross-border business services
provide assistance to NRAs on issues relating to fraud or the misuse of numbering resources within the Community in particular for cross-border services
monitor and report on the electronic communications sector
issue reports and provide advice and deliver opinions to the European Parliament and the Council, on any matter regarding electronic communications within its competence.
Berlusconi censorship proposals targeted at Murdoch's revenue
21st January 2010. From businessweek.com
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has proposed new media rules would forbid the sale of pay-per-view pornography and other adult programming during daylight hours, a measure that would hurt revenue at News Corp.'s Sky Italia.
Rupert Murdoch's Italian satellite unit is the country's largest pay-television service and has five pay-per-view channels with adult content during the day and 22 at night. Sky Italia had 45 million euros ($63 million) in sales from porn programming,
half of all pay-per-view revenue, according to a report in October in L'Espresso magazine.
Berlusconi is the country's biggest media owner and controls Mediaset, the largest private TV broadcaster and a Sky Italia competitor.
This rule goes against personal freedom, Marco Crispino, chief executive officer of pay-per-view sports and porn broadcaster Conto TV, said in an interview. The Cascina, Italy-based company's porn channel is going rather well, but if they block
transmission it would hurt us economically. We made investments, bought broadcast rights, Crispino said.
Undersecretary of Communications Paolo Romani promised to change the regulations, Luca Barbareschi, a lawmaker in Berlusconi's People of Liberty party, said late yesterday in an interview: They need to be changed because they are a folly, Barbareschi, who is also a film star, said.
We can't make rules that favor just one person, he said, referring to Berlusconi.
The regulations would lower the number of advertising minutes per hour allowed on pay-TV channels to 12 from 18 by 2012, while Mediaset's free-to-air broadcast channels will be able to increase advertising minutes to 12 from 6 per hour. That would also
limit revenue at Sky Italia.
Update: Media regulator criticises censorship bill
27th January 2010.
An Italian government decree seeking to regulate video content on television and the Internet drew criticism from the head of Italy's telecommunications regulator, media reports said.
The new regulations, set for approval on February 5, would require satellite TV channels to obscure pornographic content during daytime and may require websites hosting video to seek a licence from the communication ministry.
The pre-emptive authorisation (of web video) ends up being a bureaucratic filter, said Corrado Calabro, head of the telecommunications authority.
The new rules have already incensed opposition and telecoms industry figures.
Former communications minister Paolo Gentiloni, an opposition politician, called it a real scandal, peppered with gifts to Mediaset , the television group owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, by hobbling suppliers of alternative
entertainment at a time when Mediaset's audiences are shrinking.
Google, owner of YouTube, has expressed concern over the decree, saying it amounts to censorship and would subject the video-sharing website to the same responsibilities as a television network newscast.
German rock band Rammstein is having more than a bit of difficulty with German censorship authorities over what songs they can and cannot play at a couple of upcoming concerts.
According to The Gauntlet, officials in the German Family Ministry will not permit the group to play any of the songs that had already been specifically blacklisted when they perform at Dortmund's Westphalia Hall.
In addition, the government agency is asking that each member of the group sign a written explanation before the concerts that the indexed songs are not played.
If Rammstein decides to call the ministry's bluff, they could face a fine of up to 10,000 . In accordance with the country's Youth Protection Act, any fans under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian of a person to attend the concert. Fans
without a parent or guardian in attendance will be sent home.
The concerts, part of the band's promotional tour for their album Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da, are both sold out, and organizers are expecting well over 10,000 fans to show up
New rules to be introduced by government decree will require people who upload videos onto the Internet to obtain authorization from the Communications Ministry similar to that required by television broadcasters, drastically reducing freedom to
communicate over the Web, opposition lawmakers have warned.
The decree is ostensibly an enactment of a European Union (EU) directive on product placement and is due to go into effect at the end of January after being subjected to a nonbinding appraisal by parliament.
Opposition lawmakers held a press conference in parliament to denounce the new rules -- which require government authorization for the uploading of videos, give individuals who claim to have been defamed a right of reply and prevent the replay of
copyright material -- as a threat to freedom of expression.
The decree subjects the transmission of images on the Web to rules typical of television and requires prior ministerial authorization, with an incredible limitation on the way the Internet currently functions, opposition Democratic Party lawmaker
Paolo Gentiloni told the press conference.
Article 4 of the decree specifies that the dissemination over the Internet of moving pictures, whether or not accompanied by sound, requires ministerial authorization. Critics say it will therefore apply to the Web sites of newspapers, to IPTV and
to mobile TV, obliging them to take on the same status as television broadcasters.
Italy joins the club of the censors, together with China, Iran and North Korea, said Gentiloni's party colleague Vincenzo Vita.
The decree was also condemned by Articolo 21, an organization dedicated to the defense of freedom of speech as enshrined in article 21 of the Italian constitution. The group said the measures resembled an earlier government attempt to crack down on
bloggers by imposing on them the same obligations and responsibilities as newspapers.
The group launched an appeal Friday entitled Hands Off the Net, saying the restrictive measures would mark the end of freedom of expression on the Web. The restrictions would prevent the recounting of the life of the Italians in moving
pictures on the Internet, it said.
Google has announced it will counter regulations being drafted by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government that would police content on Google-owned YouTube.
The Internet measures are contained in a radical package of TV legislation now being pushed through parliament. The sweeping bills are also drawing fire from TV and film industry workers, who have called a national strike today to protest against other
aspects of the package, including the elimination of quotas that support local indie productions.
Google's European public policy counsel, Marco Pancini, has requested an urgent meeting with Paolo Romani, the communications undersecretary who drafted the decree designed to give the government control over video content uploaded onto the Internet,
similar to the authority it already has over broadcasters.
We are concerned over the fact that Internet service providers, like YouTube, that simply make content available to the general public, are being bundled together with traditional television networks that actually manage content, Pancini told paper La
Stampa. It amounts to destroying the entire Internet system.
Spain has stepped up its fight against what the government sees as forces that push girls into anorexia or bulimia, with the introduction of a law banning so-called cult of the body advertising on television before the Spanish watershed.
Sellers of plastic surgery, slimming products and some beauty treatments will be prevented from advertising before 10pm.
The ban is extended to other advertisers who transmit a message to children that what matters most is how they look, or that their chances of success are linked to the type of body they have. The ban comes in a new broadcasting law that has been approved
by the lower chamber of parliament and is being reviewed by the upper house.
It states: Broadcasters cannot carry advertisements for things that encourage the cult of the body and have a negative impact on self-image such as slimming products, surgical procedures and beauty treatments which are based on ideas of social
rejection as a result of one's physical image or that success is dependent on factors such as weight or looks.
The beauty and hygiene sector is the third biggest spender on TV advertising in Spain it spent about 500m in 2008. That year, TV stations broadcast 7,000 advertisements for dieting products and special treatments for slimming, cellulitis or other body worship
products, as they are known in Spain. A further 55,000 advertising slots went to beauty products.
Animal support organisation Dyrenes Venner (Friends of the Animals) is campaigning for bestiality to be outlawed in Denmark.
The organisation has placed full page advertisements in tabloid newspapers BT and Ekstra Bladet, as well as Christian newspaper Kristeligt Dagbladet, calling on people to sign a petition in favour of a ban. The organisation said the introduction of such
legislation would send a strong ethical signal to society.
In addition to a ban on sex with animals, Dyrenes Venner also wants to see the legislation cover animal pornography, animal sex shows and animal brothels.
Almost 3000 people have signed the petition in the last week and campaigners hope to attract 100,000 signatures in total.
Animal welfare spokesperson for the Danish People's Party Malene Harps? has previously tabled a proposal to ban animal sex, but was unable to secure a parliamentary majority for it. She supports the latest campaign.
La Cour de Cassation in France, or the country's Supreme court, has overturned a decision made by an industrial tribunal and an appeals courts which had both upheld the dismissal of an employee who downloaded pornographic images at work.
The case dates back to 2002, when a worker at the carmaker Peugeot Citron in the western city of Rennes was fired after pornographic images he had downloaded were discovered on computer at work.
He took his case to an industrial tribunal and to the Court of Appeal in Rennes, but in both instances the ruling went in favour of the employer.
His last chance was la Cour de Cassation which, it has been revealed, last month ruled in his favour.
It accepted his arguments that the employer had no right to access what were private and personal files and that saving images on his computer had in no way had an impact on his ability to do his job.
The saving of three files containing pornographic pictures, which were not criminal in nature, did not constitute grounds that would justify dismissal, the Court ruled, adding that the outcome of the case would have been different had the images
been unlawful such as ones of a paedophiliac nature.
In effect the ruling found that the employee had been unfairly fired and the case has been referred the matter back to the appeals court to determine how much compensation he is now entitled to.
Some Italian parents are giving a big thumbs down to Avatar , the second highest grossing movie of all time.
The MPAA gave Avatar a PG-13 rating for intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking.
When Avatar begins playing in 910 Italian theaters, it'll do so without restriction.
As reported by Variety, the organization at the center of the debacle is Mogie. They claim, the decision represents a discrimination against the protection of Italian children.
In the UK, the cinema release was rated 12A (under 12s allowed if accompanied by an adult). The BBFC explained their decision:
Avatar is a 3D science fiction action adventure film about a man whose genetically engineered human-alien hybrid has been grown on a planet and is intended to persuade the indigenous population to relocate and allow the
human military to drill for valuable minerals. It was passed 12A for moderate violence and intense battle scenes.
At 12A , violence guidelines state that Moderate violence is allowed but should not dwell on detail. There should be no emphasis on injuries or blood, but occasional gory moments may be permitted if justified by the
context . This film contains some battle scenes where characters are killed or injured and which show arrows piercing bodies, fight scenes where characters are occasionally heavily kicked or punched, and a fight scene between a man wearing a large
metal body armour suit and repeatedly stabbing a fantastical creature. However, these scenes do not generally feature gory images, lack stronger detail and do not emphasise injuries or blood as blows or points of impact are generally impressionistic or
occur offscreen, so these scenes are allowable at 12A but exceeded PG allowances.
As for the intense battle scenes, PG guidelines note that Frightening sequences should not be prolonged or intense. Fantasy settings may be a mitigating factor . The occasional intense battle scenes towards the end of
the film are prolonged and intense and include scenes where the heroic characters are attacked or threatened. Although the context is clearly fantastical, it does not mitigate against the aggressive tone and overall impact which may disturb a child aged
around eight or older, so these scenes are not allowable at PG although such scenes are not frequent and are not the sort of sustained disturbing sequences that would exceed the 12A horror guideline.
Avatar also contains some moderate and mild language; occasional scenes showing an older character smoking, which is not promotional or glamorous; a mild and oblique verbal drug reference and a very mild sex reference when a
female character states that she and a male character are mated .
Maltese laws related to freedom of expression need to be updated to reflect 21st century reality according to a draft National Cultural Policy to be launched in the first week of February.
A spokesman for the Culture Ministry told The Sunday Times the draft policy had been approved by Cabinet and included the recommendation that the ministry should start a process of updating Maltese legislation.
The news comes just two days after police confirmed they will be charging a 21-year-old history postgraduate, who is also editor of student publication Realta with offences connected with distributing obscene or pornographic material after he published a
graphic short story containing sexual violence. Mark Camilleri could face a prison sentence if convicted.
Camilleri said he never expected so much hassle when he chose to publish the first-person narrative about sexual violence. He said the University authorities acted irresponsibly and hypocritically , and when he tried to contact them to
discuss the issue, he was always ignored: They are meant to be working in the students' interest, but instead they are doing a disservice to students. They didn't even have the decency to meet us.
The University rector banned the newspaper Ir-Realta and reported the case to the police after it carried an article in Maltese written by Alex Vella Gera. Dr Lauri said: We are not passing judgment. But since there was a possibility he broke
regulations, it was our duty to inform the police. If it emerges that he didn't break the law, then we are fine.
Camilleri's case has already been taken up in solidarity by lawyers Alex Sciberras and Lara Dimitrijevic. If they lose the case, they are prepared to take it to the European Court of Human Rights.
Silvio Berlusconi's government is exploiting the violent attack against him in order to restrict internet freedom.
Early last month, at a political rally in Milan, Italy's prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was hit with a plaster statue by a man with a long record of mental problems. His injuries were minor, he suffered a broken nose and lost a lot of blood.
Following the violent attack, Berlusconi's opponents took to social networking sites and Kill Silvio briefly became a popular Facebook group. Italian ministers blamed bloggers for creating a climate of hatred and made calls for tighter
regulation. The government is now pushing for a bill that would restrict internet freedom by making it compulsory, even for blogs, to get a government permission before posting political comment on the web.
Such a measure was first envisaged in August when the press revealed that prominent members of the Lega Nord party part of Berlusconi's ruling coalition had created a Facebook group inciting Italians to kill illegal immigrants.
From 1 January 2010 the new Irish blasphemy law becomes operational, and we begin our campaign to have it repealed. Blasphemy is now a crime punishable by a 25,000 fine. The new law defines blasphemy as publishing or uttering
matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted.
This new law is both silly and dangerous. It is silly because medieval religious laws have no place in a modern secular republic, where the criminal law should protect people and not ideas. And it is dangerous because it incentives
religious outrage, and because Islamic States led by Pakistan are already using the wording of this Irish law to promote new blasphemy laws at UN level.
We believe in the golden rule: that we have a right to be treated justly, and that we have a responsibility to treat other people justly. Blasphemy laws are unjust: they silence people in order to protect ideas. In a civilised
society, people have a right to to express and to hear ideas about religion even if other people find those ideas to be outrageous.
In this context we now publish a list of 25 blasphemous quotes, which have previously been published by or uttered by or attributed to Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Mark Twain, Tom Lehrer, Randy Newman, James Kirkup, Monty Python, Rev Ian
Paisley, Conor Cruise O'Brien, Frank Zappa, Salman Rushdie, Bjork, Amanda Donohoe, George Carlin, Paul Woodfull, Jerry Springer the Opera, Tim Minchin, Richard Dawkins, Pope Benedict XVI, Christopher Hitchens, PZ Myers, Ian O'Doherty, Cardinal Cormac
Murphy-O'Connor and Dermot Ahern.
Despite these quotes being abusive and insulting in relation to matters held sacred by various religions, we unreservedly support the right of these people to have published or uttered them, and we unreservedly support the right of
any Irish citizen to make comparable statements about matters held sacred by any religion without fear of being criminalised, and without having to prove to a court that a reasonable person would find any particular value in the statement.
We ask Fianna Fail and the Green Party to repeal their anachronistic blasphemy law, as part of the revision of the Defamation Act that is included within the Act. We ask them to hold a referendum to remove the reference to blasphemy
from the Irish Constitution.
We also ask all TDs and Senators to support a referendum to remove references to God from the Irish Constitution, including the clauses that prevent atheists from being appointed as President of Ireland or as a Judge without
swearing a religious oath asking God to direct them in their work.
If you run a website, blog or other media publication, please feel free to republish this statement and the list of quotes yourself, in order to show your support for the campaign to repeal the Irish blasphemy law and to promote a
rational, ethical, secular Ireland.
A few of my favourites
Tom Lehrer, The Vatican Rag, 1963: Get in line in that processional, step into that small confessional. There, the guy who's got religion'll tell you if your sin's original. If it is, try playing it safer, drink the wine
and chew the wafer. Two, four, six, eight, time to transubstantiate!
James Kirkup, The Love That Dares to Speak its Name, 1976: While they prepared the tomb I kept guard over him. His mother and the Magdalen had gone to fetch clean linen to shroud his nakedness. I was alone with him I laid
my lips around the tip of that great cock, the instrument of our salvation, our eternal joy. The shaft, still throbbed, anointed with death's final ejaculation. This extract is from a poem that led to the last successful blasphemy prosecution in
Britain, when Denis Lemon was given a suspended prison sentence after he published it in the now-defunct magazine Gay News. In 2002, a public reading of the poem, on the steps of St. Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square, failed to lead to any
prosecution. In 2008, the British Parliament abolished the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel.
Conor Cruise O'Brien, 1989: In the last century the Arab thinker Jamal al-Afghani wrote: 'Every Muslim is sick and his only remedy is in the Koran.' Unfortunately the sickness gets worse the more the remedy is taken.
Frank Zappa, 1989: If you want to get together in any exclusive situation and have people love you, fine - but to hang all this desperate sociology on the idea of The Cloud-Guy who has The Big Book, who knows if you've
been bad or good - and cares about any of it - to hang it all on that, folks, is the chimpanzee part of the brain working.
Salman Rushdie, 1990: The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas - uncertainty, progress, change - into crimes. In 1989, Ayatollah
Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie because of blasphemous passages in Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses.
Amanda Donohoe on her role in the Ken Russell movie Lair of the White Worm, 1995: Spitting on Christ was a great deal of fun. I can't embrace a male god who has persecuted female sexuality throughout the ages, and that
persecution still goes on today all over the world.
George Carlin , 1999: Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every
minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to
live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time! But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He's all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can't handle
money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit!
Jesus Christ, in Jerry Springer The Opera , 2003: Actually, I'm a bit gay. In 2005, the Christian Institute tried to bring a prosecution against the BBC for screening Jerry Springer the Opera, but the UK courts refused
to issue a summons.
Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, 2006: The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive,
bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. In 2007 Turkish publisher Erol Karaaslan was charged with the crime of
insulting believers for publishing a Turkish translation of The God Delusion. He was acquitted in 2008, but another charge was brought in 2009. Karaaslan told the court that it is a right to criticise religions and beliefs as part of the freedom of
thought and expression.
Pope Benedict XVI quoting a 14th century Byzantine emperor, 2006: Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith
he preached. This statement has already led to both outrage and condemnation of the outrage. The Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the world's largest Muslim body, said it was a character assassination of the prophet Muhammad . The
Malaysian Prime Minister said that the Pope must not take lightly the spread of outrage that has been created. Pakistan's foreign Ministry spokesperson said that anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence .
The European Commission said that reactions which are disproportionate and which are tantamount to rejecting freedom of speech are unacceptable.
Finally, as a bonus, Micheal Martin, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, opposing attempts by Islamic States to make defamation of religion a crime at UN level, 2009: We believe that the concept of defamation of religion is not
consistent with the promotion and protection of human rights. It can be used to justify arbitrary limitations on, or the denial of, freedom of expression. Indeed, Ireland considers that freedom of expression is a key and inherent element in the
manifestation of freedom of thought and conscience and as such is complementary to freedom of religion or belief. Just months after Minister Martin made this comment, his colleague Dermot Ahern introduced Ireland's new blasphemy law.
Malta's Board of Film and Stage Classification submitted in court a list of policy guidelines used by local censors to decide on ratings for films and theatre productions.
This was at the request of Mr Justice Joseph Zammit McKeon in the ongoing Constitutional case regarding this year's ban on Stitching .
This is the first time that the board's internal policy guidelines have ever been made public, and what immediately leaps to the eye is an apparent contradiction between the directions given to classifiers with regard to theatrical performances, and the
way these same performances are classified in practice. In the section subtitled Stage Performances , the final sentence reads: As with films, the classifier must take a decision after considering each work globally, as much for its visual
impact, as for the message the work tries to put across. But members of the same board never watch a performance before deciding what rating to give a stage play. The reason for this is that the classifiers' rating has to be issued before any play
can be performed in a Maltese theatre: a fact which makes it physically impossible to rate any play on the basis of its visual impact. Instead, the censors limit themselves to reading the script: which as a rule gives little or no indication of the
play's effect on a visual level.
In fact, individual members of the censorship board have testified in court that they had not watched Andrew Nielsen's Stitching before deciding to ban it altogether. In justifying the ban, the Film and Stage Classification Board chairperson
Theresa Friggiri cited four taboo topics that led to the decision: blasphemy; obscene contempt for the victims of Auschwitz ; dangerous sexual perversions leading to sexual servitude ; and reference to the abduction, sexual
assault and murder of children ... the latter including a eulogy to the child murderers, Fred and Rosemary West. However, it remains difficult to grasp how the censors could have reached this decision after considering the work globally, as
much for its visual impact as for the message it tried to get across .
The cinema section therefore features a number of specific criteria by which to rate a film. The criteria for film are: theme; language; violence; nudity; sex; horror; drugs; faith and religion. For each of the five possible film ratings U, PG, 12, 16,
18 the application each criterion is re-evaluated for the age-group concerned. Language, for instance, is taken into consideration before giving as U certificate, but not for 18, and so on.
No such detail is provided in the theatre section, which by way of contrast occupies only the final few paragraphs of the entire document. This section, which loosely refers to film and theatre being different media which require different approaches,
appears to allow the Board maximum discretion in the absence of any clear guidelines whatsoever. A typical example concerns the guidelines for nudity on stage, which consist in a single sentence: While nudity may be permissible on film, this is not
normally accepted on stage. But the guidelines offer no indication of what circumstances may make nudity acceptable on stage.