EU Censorship News

 2011: July-Sept



28th September   

Update: Extreme Penalties...

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Italy's bloggers to protest over right to reply bill slipped in seemingly to protect Berlusconi from comments about his indiscretions
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Italy...Censorship affecting bloogers and the press in Italy

Italy flagItalian bloggers are to demonstrate in Rome on Thursday against what one opposition leader called a fascist measure that would make them liable for fines of up to EUR12,000 ( £ 10,000).

The proposed restrictions were slipped into a bill to curb the right of the media in Italy to publish wiretap transcripts gathered during criminal investigations.

Critics argue it was drafted by Silvio Berlusconi's government to protect the prime minister from embarrassment. It seems to be in response to a media report that included transcripts in which the prime minister discussed the quantity and qualities of  sex workers, and boasted he had sex with eight in a single night.

The bill, due to begin its journey through parliament next week, includes a clause that puts blogs on the same footing as news websites. It stipulates that anyone who believes they have been defamed or misrepresented in a blog has a right of reply. The blogger would get 48 hours in which to accede to the demand. In the event of a refusal, he or she would become liable for the fine.

Antonio Di Pietro, the leader of the anti-corruption Italy of Principles party and a keen blogger, called the proposal an insult to freedom and democracy. It is a fascist measure.

 

27th September   

Update: Chequered Flag...

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Max Mosley's case to notify people prior to press exposure fails at the Grand Chamber of the European Court
Link Here  full story: Max Mosley Privacy...Max Mosley, spanking and Nazi sex

European court buildingsFormer motorsport boss turned privacy campaigner Max Mosley has had his appeal to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights rejected. Mosley had hoped to overturn a May ruling establishing that media outlets were not required to notify the subjects of stories in advance of publication. But the court announced that that judgment would be final.

Solicitor Mark Stephens, who represented Index on Censorship, the Media Legal Defence Initiative and other interested parties in the case, said:

This decision by the Grand Chamber and the previous decision by the court underline the recommendation made by the UK parliament's Culture Media and Sport Committee. This is a great day for free speech in Britain and throughout Europe.

Index on Censorship news editor Padraig Reidy commented: I

Index submitted its concerns about Mr Mosley's prior-notification plans as we recognised the threat such an obligation would pose to investigative journalism. While privacy is of course a concern, forcing newspapers to reveal stories would have a serious chilling effect.

 

24th September   

Gambling with Free Speech...

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Romania set to impose internet website blocking in the name of preventing gambling
Link Here

Romania flagRomania is on the verge of censoring the internet supposedly in order to curb the use of  online gambling web sites in that country.

The Romanian Ministry of Finance is going to introduce a new government appointed body of bureaucrats that will oversee online gambling activity there. The body will be authorized to identify websites that are allegedly providing unauthorized gambling to Romanians, and enforce blockage of the web locations.

A government decision made recently requires all ISPs to censor web sites that are blacklisted which include sites that direct Romanians through marketing, advertizing, or promotion to unregulated and unauthorized online gambling locations. There is no formal contact made by the ISP to inform the sites have been blocked or tagged as unauthorized.

Romanian officials from the Ministry of Finance have ignored the arguments from several special interest groups, human rights Non Government Organizations, as well as the internet service providers that Romanian legislation does not require an ISP to comply with orders or requests made by government.

The Ministry of Communication will be government department that will issue blocking orders to Romanian ISPs. It is proposed that there will be a twelve hour window in which the selected service provider must comply or face serious financial penalties for not doing so. There is no recourse for the ISP's as the body set up to ensure compliance has no judicial oversight.

 

23rd September   

Franco Returns...

Spain abandons plan to let politicians vet TV news before airing
Link Here

rtve logoSpain's state broadcaster has buckled in the face of widespread outrage and abandoned a plan to let political representatives review news stories before they air.

The RTVE board, composed of major political party and union representatives, stunned journalists by deciding to give themselves access to the station's internal editing system for news reports. It would allow the politicians to see all the journalists' headlines, videos and interviews while they are being worked on and before they are shown to the public.

The move was swiftly condemned by journalists, party leaders and the public, with some likening it to a return to the practices of the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.

It opens the door to advance censorship, political control and all kinds of pressure, charged the RTVE news committee, made up of representatives of the channel's news services.

Four RTVE board members from the conservative Popular Party had made the proposal at a meeting. With the abstention of the ruling Socialist Party members of the board, the proposal was passed.

In a sign of protest against the measure, public radio RNE played the music that featured at the start of cinema newsreels during Franco's 1939-75 dictatorship, which contained heavy amounts of propaganda.

 

20th September   

Update: Licensed to Spy...

European Parliament calls for export controls on internet surveillance systems
Link Here  full story: Supporting Internet Censorship...US multi-nationals support repressive censorship

fox replay logoInternet applications such as facebook and Twitter played a large role in the Arab spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. The hardware and software used by the regimes to monitor and block communications between protestors played an equally important role.

The European Parliament has called for the export of eavesdropping and censorship software to be strictly controlled.

MEP Judith Sargentini said: \

Nokia Siemens has supplied Iran with various items of hardware and software. A British company supplied Egypt's Mubarak regime with the equipment necessary to monitor facebook and Twitter, and the Dutch Fox-it company tried to market a number of products in Tehran and other Arab countries.

Christian Democrat MEP Lambert van Nistelrooij said:

What we need to do is create a list with certain products. Companies proposing to do business with countries that have questionable records when it comes to freedom of speech and freedom of expression, can consult the list and know exactly where they stand.

 

18th September   

Update: Pride for Some, Scary for Others...

Apple removes database of celebrity's religion from App store in France
Link Here  full story: iPhone iCensor...Apple is censorial about apps for iPhone

jew or not jewApple Inc has removed an app, called Jew or Not Jew? , from its online App Store in France. The app let users consult a database of celebrities and public figures to determine if they are Jewish or not. The app was selling for 0.79 euro.

Its removal follows a complaint from a French anti-racism group that threatened to sue Apple. SOS Racisme had argued that the app violated France's strict laws banning the compiling of people's personal details without their consent. Under the French penal code, stocking personal details including race, sexuality, political leanings or religious affiliation is illegal.

In a statement, SOS Racisme had called on Cupertino, California-based Apple to remove the app from its online store and be more vigilant about the applications it sells.

Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said the app did violate local law, so it was removed from the French App Store. It is still available outside France, however, and currently sells for US$1.99 through Apple's US App Store.

App developer Johann Levy said he developed the app to be recreational :

As a Jew myself I know that in our community we often ask whether a such-and-such celebrity is Jewish or not. For me, there's nothing pejorative about saying that someone is Jewish or not. On the contrary, it's about being proud.

 

13th September   

Update: High Ideals...

Eutelsat says no to censoring Syria TV channel airing messages by Gaddafi
Link Here

Eutelsat logoFrench satellite operator Eutelsat has said it had no right to turn off a Syrian television station that is broadcasting audio messages by ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Gaddafi, whose whereabouts are unknown, has defiantly spoken several times on Syria-based Arrai TV since losing control of Tripoli on Aug. 23, calling on his supporters to continue their resistance to the new authorities.

Eutel, the world's third-largest satellite operator, said earlier it was in contact with local distributor Noorsat to see whether Noorsat could stop transmitting Arrai and sister channel al-Oruba, which has also give Gaddafi a platform to speak.

We talked to Noorsat and Noorsat removed al-Oruba, Eutelsat spokeswoman Vanessa O'Connor said. That was their decision and their action. Arrai is still broadcasting and as things stand at the moment we have taken it as far as we can. O'Connor added that Eutelsat did not judge or censor content and it was not up to it to make the decision to stop transmissions.

 

1st September   

Germany Undoomed...

Doom and Doom II video games unindexed in Germany
Link Here

Doom II 2 Hell Earth Iconic video games DOOM and DOOM 2 have received a USK 16+ rating in Germany. Both titles were previously indexed by the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons (BPjM), which didn't quite ban them, but made for a commercial backwater due to impossibly restrictive marketing rules.

We are obviously very pleased with their decision, Bethesda Softworks VP of PR and Marketing Pete Hines told Joystiq.

Hines explained that an appeal of the indexing is allowed after 10 years, with DOOM and DOOM 2 having been released in 1993 and 1994, respectively. 

 

28th August   

Street Ban for Street Art...

Stockholm bans adverts for street art festival
Link Here

Sweden flag A few years ago, the Swedish capital started to welcome a festival dedicated to street art and its practices. This year, the event took place on 13 and 14 August, reminding people of this somewhat controversial form of art. Exhibitions, debates, concerts and performances took place.

If the event attracts every year more and more visitors, it is not through the help of the municipality as the city of Stockholm has banned advertisements for Art of the Streets .

According to the event's organisers, this decision is clearly linked to censorship. The Art Newspaper has indicated that, to work around the interdiction, they rented a small plane and flew over then town with a banner that read Graffiti can't be stopped .

 

27th August   

Symbol of State Control...

Wolfenstein game censored from Swiss app store due to the appearance of swastikas
Link Here

BAM Wolfenstein 3D id Software has reported that Wolfenstein 3D Classic is no longer available in both the Swiss and Austrian versions of the iOS App Store.

John Carmack, technical director of id Software, tweeted: The iOS App Stores in Switzerland and Austria just lost Wolfenstein Classic due to the offensive swastikas. :-(

 

23rd August   

Facebook Not Liked by German Privacy Office...

German state bans use of Facebook 'Like' button
Link Here

Facebook logo The north German state of Schleswig-Holstein has banned the use of the Facebook Like button.

The Independent Centre for Privacy Protection (ULD) under Commissioner Thilo Weichert announced the ban on 19 August. The ULD explains:

Whoever visits facebook.com or uses a plug-in must expect that he or she will be tracked by the company for two years. Facebook builds a broad individual and for members even a personalised profile. Such a profiling infringes German and European data protection law.

The ruling requires any websites operating within Schleswig-Holstein to deactivate any Like plug-ins, as well as shut down any fan pages. Any site owners not complying by 30 September 2011 could face a fine of EUR50,000 ( £ 44,000).

The ULD also warns of the pitfalls of social networking and advises to keep their fingers from clicking on social plug-ins such as the like -button and not to set up a Facebook account if they wish to avoid a comprehensive profiling by this company.

 

19th August   

Update: Victory at the Inquisition...

Court acquits a death metal band frontman who ripped up a Bible
Link Here  full story: Blasphemy in Poland...Under duress for minor comments about religion

Satanica Behemoth A judge in Poland has ruled a death metal singer who tore up a Bible during a show was entitled to do so as an artist acting in a way consistent with the genre. Adam Darski, who goes by the stage name Nergal and is the frontman for the death metal band Behemoth, was charged with offending religion after he ripped up the Bible during a 2007 concert in the Polish town of Gdynia.

He was found innocent by a court last year but prosecutors appealed, and again the court cleared him.

Concert video footage shows Darski throwing the torn pages to the audience and asking fans to burn them. According to Polish news agency PAP, he also called the Bible a deceitful book and the church a criminal sect .

In his ruling Judge Krzysztof Wieckowski said he considered Darski's actions a form of art consistent with the style of his band. He added that the court had no intention of limiting freedom of expression or the right to criticise religion.

The musician said on his band's website : I'm so glad to see that intelligence won over religious fanatics in my home country.

 

15th August   

Go Home Yankee Hipster...

Art defaced and US artist beaten up as political message is not appreciated in Copenhagen
Link Here

shepard fairey advert An American graffiti artist has been beaten up in Copenhagen after accusations that his new mural was government propaganda.

Shepard Fairey made a name for himself for designing the 'Hope' posters that helped elect Barack Obama. But when he employed a similar political tactic in Denmark, the reception was less appreciative, and he was beaten up after the opening of his exhibition at a Copenhagen gallery, V1.

I have a black eye and a bruised rib, Fairey told the Guardian. According to reports, Fairey and his colleague Romeo Trinidad were punched and kicked by at least two men outside the Kodboderne 18 nightclub. Fairey claims the men called him Obama illuminati and ordered him to go back to America .

The LA-based artist believes the attack was sparked by his mural commemorating the demolition of the legendary Ungdomshuset (youth house) at Jagtvej 69. The building, a long-term base for Copenhagen's leftwing community, was controversially demolished in 2007. In the intervening years it has become a potent symbol of the standoff between the establishment in Copenhagen and its radical fringe.

Fairey's installation, painted on a building adjacent to the vacant site, depicted a dove in flight above the word peace and the figure 69 .

But the mural appeared to reopen old wounds, with critics accusing Fairey of peddling government-funded propaganda. The city council is using the painting -- directly or indirectly -- to decorate the crater-like lot at Jagtvej 69, said local activist Eskil Andreas Halberg.

Within a day of completion, the mural was vandalised by protesters, with graffiti sending messages of no peace and go home, Yankee hipster .

 

13th August   

Updated: Swiss Police Recommend...

The video game Darkness II, even though there are no police in it
Link Here

darkness ii A Swiss police association is calling for a ban on The Darkness II because the game includes moments of police being shot and killed, a Swiss newspaper reports.

Politicians, game producers and sellers have been advised that such games be immediately removed from circulation, according to The Swiss Christian Police Association.

When police in England are the target of mobs running amok, it is important that police are not portrayed as the enemy, said Felix Ceccato, president of the association.

However the game's publisher, 2K Games, said: Reported stories regarding police officers in The Darkness II were erroneous. To be clear, there are no police officers in the game.

 

12th August   

Update: Don't Forget the Censorial Flipside...

Google challenges the right to be forgotten in Spain
Link Here  full story: The Right to be Forgotten...Bureaucratic censorship in the EU

Google logo The Spanish government has ordered Google to delete information about 90 individuals from its search engine indexes. Spain said it believes that the individuals have a right to be forgotten. The 90 are thoie that lodged complaints with the Spanish data protection agency.

But Google said preventing some data being accessed through search engines would have a profound chilling effect on free expression without protecting people's privacy

A court will determine whether the individuals' details should be deleted.

The issue rose when Spain published an official database online. The database contained personal information about Spanish citizens that is maybe best not published on the internet. And indeed the Google search engine indexed the site and made the information available in the usual search engine results.

Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission and EU Justice Commissioner seems sympathetic with the right to be forgotten. She said:

I do not approach this subject of the 'right to be forgotten' lightly. I know that there is a balance to be struck with freedom of expression. It may also call for some flexibility in the way this balance is struck, but I cannot accept that individuals have no say over their data once it has been launched into cyberspace.

 

9th August   

Less Heavy Rain...

France to get a cut version of last year's Heavy Rain game
Link Here

Sony Heavy Rain PS3 A toned down version of the 2010 video game, Heavy Rain, spotted on pan-European ratings board PEGI is exclusive to France, Sony has told Eurogamer. This is just a small initiative for France only, a Sony spokesperson said.

Heavy Rain Edition Modifiee is redesigned to be suitable for those aged 16 and over only, whereas the original is PEGI 18 rated.

The uncut version of the game is BBFC 15 rated in the UK.

 

8th August   

Dishing Out Rights...

European Court supports the right of Swedish tenants to install a satellite dish against the wishes of their landlord
Link Here

European court buildings The European Court of Human Rights has backed two Swedish tenants who wanted a satellite dish against the wishes of their landlord.

In an important ruling, lawmakers in Strasbourg have warned that banning dishes on listed buildings, social housing and even private homes could breach the right to freedom of expression by preventing people from practicing religion.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Britain's discrimination watchdog, has now published new guidance warning that landlords could be at risk of being sued if they try to stop their tenants putting up a satellite dish.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps whinged that the ruling, under the Human Rights Act, threatened to drive a horse and cart through planning laws.

The European Court of Human Rights made the judgement after a Swedish couple were evicted for refusing to take down a dish The judges ruled that the Swedish government had failed in its obligation to protect the couple's right to receive information. It found that satellite dishes come under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The European Commission's Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein said:

The right to use a satellite dish [is] one of the many concrete benefits for European consumers of the free movement of goods and services within the internal market.

Satellite dishes are an increasingly popular tool for receiving multiple services via satellite: they facilitate mutual exchanges between our various cultures by overcoming national borders, and familiarise the general public with the new remote communications technologies. Their use must therefore be free from any unjustified obstacle.'

 

4th August   

Update: Speaking of the Unmentionable...

Norway debates whether commentators should refrain from criticism of islam
Link Here

Norway flag After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a debate erupted in Western countries over how to approach the more moderate but influential voices of Islamic fundamentalism: Outlawing them, tolerating them or engaging them in dialogue.

Now, in the wake of the July 22 attacks in Norway, a similar discussion has broken out in Europe over how to handle a potentially threatening group with a similar world view but an opposite perspective: the continent's many angry but generally non-violent voices of anti-Muslim conservatism.

This has led some politicians to suggest that the tone of the debate be moderated in order to prevent inflaming extremists into further such attacks or inspiring young people to take up the cause.

Thorbjorn Jagland, a former Norwegian prime minister and current chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize committee, said in an interview that European right-wing politicians need to be careful about the words they use, lest they inflame moderates: We should be very cautious now, we should not play with fire. Therefore I think the words we are using are very important because it can lead to much more.

He specifically suggested that politicians such as British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel avoid future attacks on multiculturalism, something both leaders have expressed this year, apparently in order to cement the support of their parties' right-wing members.

Jagland's remarks were quickly rejected by free-speech advocates and conservatives in Britain, Norway and elsewhere.

But they do echo the stance taken by many leaders in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, in which fundamentalist preachers without terrorist connections were told to tone down their messages and avoid certain inflammatory concepts. Some called for the banishment of fundamentalists while free-speech advocates fought a campaign to allow them to speak.

 

1st August   

Update: Games Retailer Solves Norway's Extremism Problems...

Games retailer removes violent video games from sale
Link Here

Call Duty Modern Warfare Xbox Norwegian retailer Coop Norway has temporarily taken 51 gaming and toy brands off its shelves in response to the murders committed by Anders Behring Breivik last month.

Breivik referred to Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and World Of Warcraft in his manifesto.

Geir Inge Stokke, director of Coop Norway Retail told the Norwegian press.

Others are better suited than us, to point to the negative effects of games like these. At the moment it's [appropriate] for us to take them down. I wouldn't be surprised if others do the same. We have to think very carefully about when to bring these goods back. The economy involved is of no importance.

Other titles removed include several other Call Of Duty titles, Homefront , Sniper Ghost Warrior , and Counter-Strike Source . Toy guns have also been taken off sale.

 

1st August   

The Art of Politics...

Spanish government moves to protect bull fighting as an artistic discipline
Link Here  full story: Bull Fighting...Entertainment vs animal rights

Photographic fighting posters Robert Harding The debate over bullfighting has been reignited in Spain after the government recognised the spectacle as an artistic discipline and cultural product , delighting enthusiasts but outraging animal rights campaigners.

Prime minister Jose' Luis Rodri'guez Zapatero's socialist government announced that the ministry of culture will from now on be responsible for the development and protection of bullfighting, which previously fell within the remit of the interior ministry.

The move follows pressure from bullfighting organisations keen to protect their livelihood following a controversial vote to ban bullfighting in the Catalonia region last year.

The ministry of culture said in a statement: As it is understood that bullfighting is an artistic discipline and a cultural product, it was considered that the ministry of culture was the correct place for its development and protection.

The Catalan ban, which will come into effect next January and will not be affected by Friday's decision, will be the first to be introduced in mainland Spain.

 

31st July   

European Court of Censor Rights...

European court endorses Cypriot TV censor's fining of Sigma TV
Link Here

European court buildings Fines imposed by the Cypriot TV censors supposedly to protect children and consumers, and to punish the airing of discriminatory content, did not violate the right to free expression, Europe's highest human rights court ruled.

Sigma Radio Television challenged the imposition of fines for inappropriate content and practices by the broadcasting regulatory body, leveled 27 times from 2000 to 2002. Infractions included undisclosed product placement, lack of objectivity in news reports, disrespecting victims of crime, and the airing material unsuitable for children and youth. Sigma was also penalized for broadcasting statements offensive and disrespectful ... of Arabs, Russian women and women in general.

The Cyprus Supreme Court dismissed challenges to all but four of the fines.

The company appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in 2004 and 2005, alleging that the penalties violated its rights to a fair trial and to free expression.

A seven-justice panel of the human rights tribunal, based in Strasbourg, France, said first that the Cyprus Supreme Court's judgments had been independent and impartial, and thus protective of due process. On the free-speech claims, the court ruled that the regulator's interference was proportional, as it aimed to protect consumers and vulnerable groups such as children. The human rights court paid special attention to the charges of racist and discriminatory remarks, ruling that a fine of about $5,000 was appropriate to protect the rights of others.

The European Court of Human Rights determined that imposition of the penalties had violated no human rights.

 

26th July   

Update: First the Torrent Sites, Then the Proxy Sites, Then...

Web blocking censorship spreads in Italy
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Italy...Censorship affecting bloogers and the press in Italy

Italy flag Italian ISPs were forced to block a legal proxy-server website after the authorities found that proxyitalia.com could be used to access BtJunkie , The Pirate Bay , and other websites banned under Italy's copyright enforcement regime.

Italy's cybercrime police unit, the Guardia di Finanza (GdF), banned the general-purpose proxy service at the request of Cagliari deputy prosecutor, in a move which provoked widespread condemnation in the Internet community:

A UK ISPA Spokesperson said:

Blocking access to proxy servers and VPNs is not an effective means of tackling copyright infringement online and will prevent access for legitimate uses of this technology such as mobile working and securing public wireless networks.

 

25th July   

Update: Well Pissed...

Pernod fail in an attempt to censor French book describing a culture of drinking at the company
Link Here
Dealer legal Eric Coder A French court has rejected an attempt by the drinks company Pernod Ricard to censor a book that claimed potential sales staff were expected to prove they could hold their drink by knocking back glasses of pernod.

Some job applicants said they were subject to a crash test in which they had to drink up to 20 shots before they were given the job.

The allegations are contained in the book Dealer Legal by the French journalist Max Coder, who spoke to several company employees.

The court of appeal upheld an earlier judgment that declared Coder had acted in good faith when he described how potential employees were expected to show they could hold their drink. Pernod Ricard had claimed defamation and sought Euro 500,000 in damages.

In its defence, the company said it had published a memo to its sales staff stipulating that the excessive consumption of alcohol is not and should not be, here at Ricard, an attitude that leads to professional success .

The court of appeal said this advice did not go far enough in outlining the alcohol limits and said those sued in the complaint should be given the benefit of [having acted in] good faith .

Pernod Ricard was ordered to pay EUR2,000 legal costs to the author and co-author of Dealer Legal, the editor and a company salesperson quoted in the book.

 

25th July   

Update: Gay Switch...

Lithuanian advertising law undergoes attitudinal change
Link Here
Lithuania Lithuania's Parliament has banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in advertising.

The move was a turnaround from earlier drafts of the same bill, which banned homosexual topics in advertising.

The new language says that advertising and audiovisual commercial communications must not publish information that humiliates human dignity, discriminating or encouraging discrimination based on ... sexual orientation.

The Lithuanian Gay League credited MP Valentinas Stundys and Deputy Speaker Algis Caplikas with engineering the about-face.

 

21st July   

Update: Cultural censorship...

Malta announces review of censorship laws
Link Here
Malta flag Malta's controversial censorship of films, plays and literature is under review, Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco has announced.

The review comes as Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and Culture Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco launched the National Culture Policy, which sets out the government's vision for culture taken in a broad sense.

Dr de Marco said responsibility for classification and censorship would move from the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs to the ministry in charge of culture, that is, the Office of the Prime Minister. He announced that lawyer Jeanine Rizzo was assessing the relevant legislation to see what could be done.

Stakeholders are being consulted for their feedback and different scenarios are being considered.

 

16th July   

Updated: Nob...

Hotel sharing name with redlight area gets second opportunity to sue media for defamation
Link Here
Nob Nation Impressionist Oliver Callan told a court that he had never heard of Waterford's Maryland House when he wrote a sketch for RTE's Nob Nation which is at the centre of a libel action.

Callan said he believed Maryland was a district of Waterford that was well-known for prostitution but he had never heard it was a guesthouse or hotel in the city. Had he known of its existence he would not have made such a reference.

He also apologised for any offence he may have caused as he believed comedy should not set out to offend.

He was giving evidence in an action against RTE by Vincent O'Toole, owner of the Maryland House, who claims he was defamed in the Nob Nation sketch on 2FM's Gerry Ryan Show in August 2008.

The court has heard O'Toole previously successfully sued the Sunday World over a similar claim and was awarded EUR50,000 in damages.

A sketch in Nob Nation included the line: The Maryland is a byword in Waterford for prostitution although the original establishment from whence the term is derived has ceased business.

O'Toole alleges that the words suggested he was a brothel-keeper, that his home was the haunt of undesirables, and that he was or is involved in racketeering.

Update: Easy Money

16th July 2011. See  article from  thejournal.ie

A Waterford guesthouse owner has been awarded EUR70,000 by the High Court after being innocently defamed by a comedian in a radio sketch.

Vincent O'Toole, owner of the Maryland House, claimed he was defamed by comedian Oliver Callan in a Nob Nation sketch that was broadcast on 2FM's Gerry Ryan Show in 2008. In the sketch, Callan wrote: The Maryland is a byword in Waterford for prostitution although the original establishment from whence the terms is derived has ceased business.

Senior counsel for O'Toole, John Gordon, asked the jury to put themselves in his 84-year-old client's shoes; asking how they would feel if, in their declining years, their home and guesthouse was described as a brothel, reports Newstalk.

Callan told the court that when he wrote the sketch, he thought the Maryland was a district of Waterford, and had not known that it was, in fact, a guesthouse in the city. He said he was very sorry for the distress the incident had caused O'Toole, reports the Irish Times.

 

15th July   

Except for Filesharers?...

OSCE calls for a human right to internet access
Link Here
osce  logo A new report from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says Internet access should be a fundamental human right, like freedom of expression.

The study also argues that Internet blocking and content filtering mandates and technologies are, in most cases, cannot be reconciled with the free flow of information and freedom of expression, both of which are basic commitments made by the 56 members of the OSCE.

Everyone should have a right to participate in the information society and states have a responsibility to ensure citizens access to the Internet is guaranteed,' the report reads.

The study, authored by Istabul Bilgi University's Yaman Akdeniz and commissions by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic' examines the level of Internet content regulation in the OSCE region and evaluations how member states' laws embody their OSCE commitments and international standards.

Legislation in many countries does not recognize that freedom of expression and freedom of the media equally apply to Internet as a modern means of exercising these rights, said Representative Mijatovic', in a statement. In some of our states, 'extremism , terrorist propaganda, harmful content, and hate speech are vaguely defined and may be widely interpreted to ban speech types that Internet users may not deem illegal.'

The report also noted that many countries permit the complete suspension of Internet access and services during a declared state of emergency, war, or in response to other security threats.

Foreign Office to discuss UK policy on freedom of expression on the internet

Based on article from computing.co.uk

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will host a multidisciplinary meeting next week exploring the UK's policy towards freedom of expression on the internet.

The first meeting, which will be led by Jeremy Browne, minister for state at the FCO, takes place on 20 July. It will include representatives from human rights campaigners.

No doubt the meeting will discuss how Britain's three strikes and your cut off from the internet stacks up with the call for a human right to internet access.

 

14th July   

Censors Call Truce in their War Against Games...

Gears of War 3 surprisingly passes German censors unscathed
Link Here
Gears War 3 Xbox 360 In an ironically negative news item, Gears of War 3 has made the news for NOT being censored in Germany.

Gears of War 3 will become the first game in the series to see a German release, after the fun-loving chaps at the German Bundesprufstelle fur Jugendgefahrdende Medien (BPJM) ratings board approved the full version of the game for release.

Publisher Microsoft Game Studios opted not to release the first two Gears titles in Germany due to its strict laws concerning violence in games. Many games have to be severely cut in order to be approved for release in Germany, or risk being subject to the dreaded indexing process. This involves a marketing blackout, and forbids German stores to display copies on their shelves, or even promote the fact that an indexed game is available for sale.

This means that just like their neighbors in the rest of Europe, German gamers over the age of 18 will be free to buy Gears of War 3 when it's released this September.

In the UK, Gears of War 3 was passed 18 uncut with the BBFC comment: Contains strong bloody violence.

 

13th July   

Update: Blockage Optional...

European Parliament committee rules that EU states can impose website blocking but it is not to be made mandatory
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in EU...EU proposes mandatory cleanfeed for all member states

EU flag The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) of the European Parliament has adopted a compromise text agreed with the Council and the Commission on the draft Child Sexual Exploitation Directive. The compromise text allows Member States to introduce mandatory blocking measures for Internet sites containing child abuse images, but does not require them as the Council had proposed.

Article 21: Measures against websites containing or disseminating child pornography:

  1. Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure the prompt removal of webpages containing or disseminating child pornography hosted in their territory and to endeavour to obtain the removal of such pages hosted outside of their territory.
     
  2. Member States may take measures to block access to webpages containing or disseminating child pornography towards the Internet users in their territory. These measures must be set by transparent procedures and provide adequate safeguards, in particular to ensure that the restriction is limited to what is necessary and proportionate, and that users are informed of the reason for the restriction. These safeguards shall also include the possibility of judicial redress.

Civil liberties groups will be pleased at having defeated mandatory blocking across Europe, but disappointed at having failed to ensure that judicial authority is required before an ISP can be forced to block an Internet address.

The draft Directive is due to be adopted in the Autumn.

 

5th July   

Fair Comment...

France court finds that 'daughter of a dictator' was fair criticism of Uzbekistan's repressive regime
Link Here

France flag The decision by a French court on July 1, 2011, to dismiss a defamation suit brought by the daughter of Uzbekistan's president against an online French news agency highlighted Uzbekistan's repressive approach to criticism, Human Rights Watch said today.

The Press Court in Paris dismissed the lawsuit brought by Lola Karimova, daughter of President Islam Karimov, against Rue89. Karimova had sought moral damages against Rue89.com for a May 2010 article that called her the daughter of dictator Karimov, and alleged she was whitewashing Uzbekistan's image through charity events.

Uzbekistan is widely known for its atrocious human rights record, including repression of free speech, said Mihra Rittmann, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. Political figures like Karimova should never be able to abuse defamation laws to silence open and critical debate about government actions.

Karimova filed the suit in August 2010, seeking EUR30,000 (US$43,000) in damages over an article with the headline, AIDS: Uzbekistan Cracks Down at Home but Puts on Show at Cannes. The article says that Karimova paid the actress Monica Bellucci EUR190,000 (US$272,000) to appear at a charity event.

President Karimov's government has a well-documented record of serious human rights violations, including severe political repression. Torture and ill-treatment are systematic in the criminal justice system. Opposition political parties cannot operate freely in Uzbekistan, and there has not been a single election since Uzbekistan's independence in 1991 that international observers found to be free or fair.

 

4th July   

Updated: Obscure Censorship...

Italy set to impose a mechanism for internet censorship in the name of copyright control
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Italy...Censorship affecting bloogers and the press in Italy

Italy flag The Italian government has launched a fresh attack on freedom to access information. In a few days, an obscure administrative body could get huge powers to censor the internet.

The party-nominated Communications Authority is about to agree on a mechanism that could even lead to the closure of any foreign website, from Wikileaks to Youtube to Avaaz!, if suspected of violating copyright laws.

Experts are already denouncing the unconstitutionality of this regulation, but it will take an avalanche of public opposition to stop this new assault.

The Avaaz website team write:

Next week the Authority will vote the law, and if we build a massive public outcry against internet censorship, we could tip the balance. Let's flood the members of the Authority with messages urging them to abstain from adopting the regulation and preserve our right to access information on the Internet. Act now and forward this email to everyone!

www.avaaz.org/en/it_internet_bavaglio/?vl

Over the years, Berlusconi has sought to control information on the Internet, but so far his attempts have failed. Now, away from the headlines, his government has a real chance to expand its tentacles into the Internet unless citizens speak up.

Update: Opposition

4th July 2011. See  article from  agi.it

IdV party's Di Pietro has announced moves to counter the AgCom broadcasting watchdog's issue of new rules for the net.

In a statement published via facebook, the opposition MP said: the net is the last remaining preserve of free information and must not be subject to censorship. We [the IdV party] have filed questions in Parliament concerning AgCom's latest provisions.

Update: New Powers

6th July 2011. See  article from  technorati.com

The Italian telecommunications agency AGCOM has given itself a new power: starting from July 6th the agency can shut down access to any website accused by copyright holders to break their rights. No judge will be consulted and the supposedly offending sites have no possibility to defend themselves.