Irish Justice minister Charlie Flanagan has announced the commencement of the Blasphemy (Abolition of Offences and Related Matters) Act 2019 .
The act was passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas before the Christmas recess, and was signed by the
President on 21st December. The Minister said:
This act abolishes the offence of blasphemy, and reflects the outcome of last year's referendum in which the people approved removing the Constitutional requirement that
blasphemy be a criminal offence, by a majority in each of the 40 constituencies, and by 64.85% of voters nationally.
He said that the very notion of criminalising blasphemy, with the risk of a chilling effect on free expression and
public debate, has no place in the Constitution or the laws of a modern republic. He said the right to express differing viewpoints in a forthright and critical manner is a right to be cherished and upheld. He added:
may seem abstract to devote time to abolishing an offence which has not been prosecuted in practice. But it must be remembered that a number of countries still actively prosecute charges of blasphemy. Imprisonment
can carry severe penalties, including terms of imprisonment, brutal physical punishments, and even the death penalty. They have also been applied in a discriminatory manner to justify the persecution of dissidents, the socially excluded, or religious
Such countries justify those regimes by referring to the continuance of blasphemy as a criminal offence in Ireland. That has always been a very disturbing reality. This act not only addresses the situation, but ensures
that Ireland should never again be cited as an exemplar of such outdated concepts. Public showing
The act also amends the Censorship of Films Acts, to remove blasphemous content as a ground for refusing or restricting the public showing,
or advertising of, a film.
Ireland's Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton T.D. has published the general scheme of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill, to protect children online. Bruton said:
new law is the start of a new era of accountability. It sets out a clear expectation for online services. They will have to comply with binding online safety codes made by an Online Safety Commissioner, who will have significant powers to sanction
companies for non-compliance.
There are already significant regulatory and legal frameworks in place in relation to many online issues, including data protection and criminal justice responses to criminal activities
online. However, there is a serious gap both internationally and in Ireland when it comes to addressing harmful online content. This new law will close this legal gap and establish a robust regulatory framework to deal with the spread of harmful online
The Online Safety Commissioner will be part of a new Media Commission which will replace the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and will also take on the role of regulating the audiovisual sector.
The new Online Safety Commissioner will be responsible for designating which online services should be covered under the new law. These designated services will then be required to comply with binding online safety codes made by the Commissioner.
Each Online Safety Code will set out the steps the designated service provide must take to keep their users safe online and will depend on the type of service that is being offered. Codes will address a wide range of matters,
Combating cyber bullying material and material promoting eating disorders, self-harm and suicide
Ensuring that services operate effective complaints procedures where people can request material is
Ensuring advertising, sponsorship and product placement are not harmful and uphold minimum standards
How companies are mitigating against risks to the prevalence of harmful content on
It is a matter for the Commissioner to design the relevant codes and decide which codes apply to each designated service. Online services will be legally obliged to abide by the codes that apply to them.
Online Safety Commissioner can:
Decide the appropriate reporting requirements of compliance with online safety codes by online services
Request information from online services about their compliance with the online safety codes that
apply to them
Audit the complaints and/or issues handling mechanisms operated by online services
Appoint authorised officers to assess compliance and carry out audits
The Online Safety Commissioner will establish a scheme to receive "super complaints" about systemic issues with online services from nominated bodies, including expert NGOs, and may request information, investigate or audit an online service on the basis of information received through this scheme.
If an online service is not complying with their safety code, the Online Safety Commissioner will, in the first instance, issue a compliance notice setting out what they must do to bring themselves into compliance- including the
removal or restoration of content.
If the Online Safety Commissioner is not satisfied with the response and action taken by the online service, the Online Safety Commissioner can issue a warning notice. Warning notices will set
out what the online service must do to bring itself into compliance and what steps the Online Safety Commissioner will take if it fails to do so.
If the Online Safety Commissioner is not satisfied with the response and action
taken by the online service on foot of a warning notice then the Online Safety Commissioner can seek to impose a sanction on that service.
The Online Safety Commissioner can publish compliance and warning notices.
The Media Commission can only seek to impose a sanction on an online service if the service has failed to comply with a warning notice. The sanctions that the Media Commission can impose include:
Compelling the online service to take certain actions, and,
Blocking an offending online service.
The application of each of these sanctions requires court approval.
France is marking the fifth anniversary of a terrorist attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo with street ceremonies and social media tributes.
On 7 January 2015, militant Islamists shot dead 11 people in the magazine's Paris office, before
murdering a policeman outside.
On Tuesday, former French President François Hollande, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet were among those to pay their respects to the victims outside Charlie Hebdo's former offices in
the capital. Several tributes took place, including readings of commemorative plaques, wreath-laying and a minute's silence.
The weekly magazine, which published a special issue marking the anniversary with contributions from the victims' relatives,
It was five years ago, it was a century ago, it was yesterday. We do not forget and we will always continue: to speak, to write, to draw.
Update: France plans centre
dedicated to satirical cartoons
France is planning to create a "house of press cartoons and satirical cartoons", according to a statement issued by the culture ministry. The French culture minister Franck Riester said the project was "conceived and wanted" by Georges Wolinski--one of five caricaturists killed in the 2015 attacks. The centre's aim is to create "a place for meetings" to enable the creation and promotion of satirical cartoons and support their creators.
The statement refers to press cartoons as "a witness of our time, our freedom and the dangers that threaten us" and "a powerful form of expression and creativity to the service of the
independence of the media and therefore of the vitality of our democracies".
Riester has tasked Vincent Monadé, currently head of the Centre National du Livre (the National Centre of the Book),
to present proposals for the venue by the end of May.
Today is the fifth anniversary of the massacre at Charlie Hebdo. Five years since one of the darkest days in the modern history of the French Republic, when 10 journalists and cartoonists, as well as a maintenance worker and a police officer, were
massacred by two Islamist gunmen for the crime of blaspheming against Muhammad.
German public broadcaster WDR 2 issued an apology for showing a video of a children's choir singing a humorous, traditional tune rewritten with satirical lyrics.
The song, titled My grandma is an old environmental pig, triggered heated
reactions on Twitter. One user described the lyrics as disrespectful, whilst a WDR news editor said the remake of the traditional tune was scandalously good.
The lyrics, including verses about grandma riding a motorcycle that burns a thousand liters
of gasoline every month and eating a cutlet every day because meat from the discount supermarket is so cheap, include the refrain, My grandma is an old environmental pig. The video ends with a quote from teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg: We will
not let you get away with this.
In response to complaints the broadcaster deleted the video saying:
We are concerned by the allegation that the children involved may have been 'instrumentalized'. This is absolutely
not the case, but we decided to delete the video.
But of course that was not the end of the matter. The decision to take down the video was widely criticised. In an open letter about 40 TV authors have expressed their solidarity with
the makers of the video, demanded it be immediately reposted and accused the WDR director of falling into the trap set by right-wing trolls and abandoning his staff.
In fact the WDR editor's office also supported the producers of the video and
sharply criticized the censorship saying:
We are stunned that the program director of WDR 2 has a video with a satirical children's song deleted, and above all about the fact that director Tom Buhrow gives in so easily to
a shitstorm apparently orchestrated by right-wing extremists, hastily distances himself editorially and not only apologizes in person, but also publicly (and repeatedly) in the process, instead of backing them up in the face of staged outrage against WDR
and the other public broadcasters. According to the editors' representatives, the internal freedom of broadcasting had thus been violated.
Norway Today has reported about the latest attempt by Chinese citizens to censor material in other countries It involves a delegation of more than 40 Chinese cross-country skiers, along with 15 coaches and managers, who are in the Norwegian
municipality of Meråker to train for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics:
The Chinese visitors have whinged about books in the local library that are banned in China. Among the books the delegation wanted removed is one about the Falun Gong movement that
has been banned in China since 1999.
Thankfully the library has refused categorically to remove any books. The library manager said:
We have freedom of speech in Norway so that was completely out of the
question. It's only a small incident, easily overlooked. But if it can happen in a tiny local library in the depths of Norway, just because a few Chinese skiers were training there, it is highly likely to start happening in other places, where more
Chinese citizens are present, and where China has greater economic and political influence.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said that he will legislate if necessary to get parental controls in place to block kids from porn. He said in a speech to UNESCO:
We do not take a 13-year-old boy to a sex-shop, not
anything goes in the digital world.
We will clarify in the penal code that the simple fact of declaring one's age online is not a strong enough protection against access to pornography by minors.
measure will give the websites a period of six months to set up parental control by default . I know it hurts a lot of platforms, a lot of digital operators, but if in six months we have no solution, we will pass a law for automatic parental control,
Macron's reference to age 13 is not casual, because that is reportedly the average age of access to erotic content for the first time in France.