A missionary couple from Britain have been sentenced to a year's hard labour in an African prison for calling the Gambian President a madman.
David Fulton and his wife, Fiona, were convicted of sedition after sending critical e-mails about Yahya
Jammeh, who seized power in the predominantly Muslim country in a bloodless coup in 1994.
Fulton and his wife were also fined £6,250 each. Their lawyer said that they did not plan to appeal but were hoping for a pardon.
who were arrested on November 29, pleaded guilty and issued a public apology in the hope of a lenient sentence but were shocked when the judge handed down the maximum penalty for the shocking offences . The presiding magistrate, said: They have
shown no respect for the country, the Government and the President of the republic. I will send a clear message to the offenders.
Antouman Gaye, the couple's lawyer, said that their troubles began after they sent e-mails to friends and church
contacts in Britain: Some of it was to do with religion, some was to do with the state of affairs in this country. Some e-mails said the President is a madman. It was very risky.
Unfortunately for them, a Gambian person in England who
has a connection with one of these churches got hold of these e-mails and sent them back to the police here.
A new law introduced in India has made Internet pornography a serious crime.
Browsing or downloading pornographic pictures or films will now attract a punishment of five years with a fine of up to Rs 1 million (£14,000). The term may be
raised to seven years on second offence.
The Information Technology (Amendment) Bill that was passed without debate by parliament this week with 45 amendments in the original law treats both purveyors of pornography and recipients in the same
manner. It gives wide powers to the authorities that a computer user may realise only when he is hauled up. The worst is that an inspector can raid and arrest an accused without a warrant.
In the original law enacted in 2000, this power was
vested in officers of the rank of deputy superintendent of police and above.
To satisfy the activists who campaign against child abuse, the bill provides a full section subtitled punishment for publishing or transmitting of material depicting
children in sexually explicit act, etc in electronic form. If any of these are found on a computer, the onus is on the owner to establish that the depicted are not children or will be punished.
Another section of the bill provides for any
government agency to interrupt, monitor or decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer.
Ambiguity has been kept in the provision that empowers the cyber security to monitor the Internet traffic.
contaminant in a computer or network is covered in the new category of cyber terrorism in the bill that would attract imprisonment and might extend to life term since it claims such conduct causes or is likely to cause death or injuries
to persons or damages to or destruction of property .
Cyber terrorism also seeks to cover other acts of terrorism committed electronically like threatening the unity, integrity, security or sovereignty of India or to strike terror on the
people or to access computer sources that are restricted for reasons of security of the state or foreign relations.
The bill also provides for punishment with a jail term of up to three years and a fine for sending any information — that is
grossly offensive or has menacing character or is known to be false — for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, or any electronic mail or message meant to
cause annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or mislead the addressee or recipient.
Identity theft to misuse a person's electronic signature, password or any other unique identification feature or impersonation in electronic activity are
punishable with a three-year imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs 0.1 million.
Thefts of computer source codes and programmes have also been dealt with in the bill.
Batman has landed in Hong Kong but that doesn't mean The Dark Knight will open all over China.
The movie opened in Hong Kong theaters. But Warner Bros. decided not to release the film in mainland China — or even submit it for censors'
approval — because of prerelease conditions and cultural sensitivities, the studio said.
Warner Bros. officials may have been concerned the film — particularly scenes shot in Hong Kong, where Batman nabs a gangster — would offend
Another possible sticking point is a brief appearance by Hong Kong actor-singer Edison Chen, who appeared in lurid photos with several women this year.
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the ongoing legal harassment of BBC correspondent Jonathan Head. Police Lt. Col. Wattanasak Mungkandee filed a third criminal complaint this year against Head on December 23, alleging he had insulted the Thai
monarchy in his reporting.
The latest charges are related to a December 3 article in which Head speculated that the royal palace and figures close to the palace may have provided tacit backing to anti-government protest group the People's
Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which laid siege to Bangkok's main international and domestic airports from November 26 to December 3.
Thai law allows any citizen to bring complaints against anyone they believe has insulted the country's monarchy.
Wattanasak has brought all three complaints against Head in his personal capacity rather than as a senior ranking police official, according to Head. Violations of lese majeste laws are a criminal offense in Thailand, punishable by three to 15 years
It is time for prosecutors and investigators in Thailand to immediately drop these outrageous and punitive charges against our colleague Jonathan Head, said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator: Head's reporting has
raised important questions about Thailand's deteriorating political situation and he should be allowed to report without fear of official reprisals.
Local and foreign journalists have been under attack this year as a political crisis led to
three changes of government in as many months. Head, a well-respected figure in Thai journalism has specifically been targeted. The first complaint against Head was filed on April 9, and was related to comments the reporter made in December 2007 while
moderating another event at the FCCT titled Coup, Capital, and Crown . The discussion touched on the monarchy's role in Thai society in light of the 2006 military coup. The second complaint against Head, filed on May 30, included charges that his
reporting over a two-year period had intended to criticize the monarchy several times and that his writings have damaged and insulted the reputation of the monarchy, according to an English-language translation of the charges obtained by
The May 30 complaint against Head cited 11 different articles from the BBC's Web site, several of which he did not author. Thai authorities have in recent months cracked down on hundreds of Web sites for posting materials considered
offensive to the monarchy. Both the complaints are still pending.
Channel 4 will screen an alternative
Christmas message from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, in a move that has provoked widespread condemnation.
President Ahmadinejad's address will focus on spiritual messages of seasonal goodwill, but also contains an attack on bullying,
ill-tempered and expansionist powers.
The speech is being promoted as an alternative to the Queen's traditional 3pm speech, but will be broadcast at 7.15pm.
Channel 4's decision has been condemned by human rights groups, MPs and
Holocaust memorial charities.
Stephen Smith, director of the Holocaust Centre, said the president's message of peace was deceptive, describing him as a wolf in sheep's clothing. This message of so-called peace needs to be treated
The Israeli Embassy has branded President Ahmadinejad's Christmas message a sick and twisted irony. Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor said: In Iran, converts to Christianity face the death penalty. It is perverse that
this despot is allowed to speculate on the views of Jesus, while his government leads Christ's followers to the gallows. In its search for ratings and shock factor, Channel 4 has lost its ethical way.
Human rights campaigner Peter
Tatchell joined the attack, and called on the broadcaster to pull the plug on this criminal despot, who ranks with Robert Mugabe, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and the Burmese military junta as one of the world's most bloody tyrants.
Davies MP, a Tory member of the culture select committee, said that the address was completely unacceptable on every level. His previous comments don't strike me as being in tune with what most people feel at Christmas time. He is an offensive man and
the last person you would want to use for a Christmas message. Channel 4 have lost sight of what a Christmas message should be. They are trying to be controversial for the sake of being controversial, and are treating their viewers with contempt
by pretending this is not a publicity stunt.
Dorothy Byrne, head of news and current affairs at Channel 4, said that the network had a responsibility to give a platform to alternative voices, and said that the president's address will
be preceded by a film mentioning his record on human rights, Israel, the Holocaust and the seizure of the Royal Navy sailors, to allow the public to make up their own mind.
President Ahmadinejad uses the speech to attack world leaders for
ignoring the teachings of Jesus Christ, who is considered a prophet in Islam.
All Prophets called for the worship of God, for love and brotherhood, for the establishment of justice and for love in human society. Jesus, the Son of Mary, is the
standard-bearer of justice, of love for our fellow human beings, of the fight against tyranny, discrimination and injustice. All the problems that have bedevilled humanity throughout the ages came about because humanity followed an evil path and
disregarded the message of the Prophets.
Now as human society faces a myriad of problems and a succession of complex crises, the root causes can be found in humanity's rejection of that message, in particular the indifference of some governments
and powers towards the teachings of the divine Prophets, especially those of Jesus Christ.
The Nobel Peace awarded to Shirin Ebadi inspired her Defenders of Human Rights Center.
Two days ago in Tehran, state security forces raided the offices of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, the organization Ebadi founded, and shut it down on
the very day the office planned to hold the 60th anniversary celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights there.
Some 300 people had been invited. Instead, at 3 pm, dozens of armed men stormed the place and declared it off limits. No
warrants. No explanations. No avenues for appeal. The place was just shut down.
A gift from the ayatollahs, possibly in retaliation for the United Nations' Dec. 18 resolution calling on Iran to address concerns such as eliminating the use of
cruel or inhuman punishments; abolishing public executions and the executions of persons who were under 18 years at the time of their offence; abolishing the use of stoning as a method of execution; and eliminating discrimination against women and
The resolution was based on a UN report that Ebadi and her organization helped draft.
Vietnam has tightened restrictions on internet blogs, banning bloggers from raising subjects the government deems inappropriate.
Blogs should follow Vietnamese law, and be written in clean and wholesome language, according to a government
document seen by local media.
Internet service providers will be held accountable for the content of blogs they host.
The new rules, drawn up by the Ministry of Information and Communications, require internet service providers to report
to the government every six months and provide information about bloggers on request.
The rules ban posts that undermine national security, incite violence or disclose state secrets.
Philippines authorities may soon set up a rating code for violence in television and cable programs, if a bill in the House of Representatives is passed into law.
House Bill 5625 also seeks to impose ban on violent and sexually themed
non-educational programming on TV during most of the day.
CIBAC Party-list Reps. Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales and Emmanuel Joel Villanueva said their bill is in line with the State policy to protect the welfare of children. The two said there are no
laws allowing the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) and the National Telecommunications to block violent and sexually themed non-educational programming.
Under the bill, the MTRCB and NTC shall jointly prescribe, in
consultation with the television broadcasters, cable operators, concerned non-government organizations for children, and interested individuals from the private sector, the rules for rating the level of violence and non-educational sexual themes in
This includes rules for the transmission by television broadcast systems and cables of signals containing specifications for blocking violent and sexually themed non-educational programming.
It also assigns the
MTRCB and NTC to jointly pass rules and regulations which shall prohibit the broadcast on commercial television and public telecommunications entities of programming that contain violent and obscene scenes for children based on the established ratings
code, including the broadcast by cable operators, from the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m
The Bali People's Component (KRB) organization has finished its draft judicial review of the recently signed anti-pornography law, the first legal challenge to the controversial measure.
We have decided to submit this legal motion on Jan. 7
asking the Constitutional Court to conduct a judicial review of the law, said KRB Coordinator I Gusti Ngurah Harta.
He said the move was part of the KRB's ongoing commitment to fight the law, which many Balinese regard as a threat to their
cultural legacy and the integrity of the nation.
This highly-anticipated draft is the first legal challenge to the contentious porn law, which critics have slammed as an allowance for extremists to force one-sided morality against pluralist
The law vaguely defines pornography as any material that incites sexual desire, a clause that has triggered debate nationally.
The 50-page draft outlines the legal arguments around whether or not the law violates key
constitutional rights, and looks at the issue from social, economic, artistic and cultural perspectives.
This law has trampled on at least five constitutional rights granted to all Indonesian citizens," said KRB's chief legal adviser,
The integral constitutional rights arguably under threat are the right to be treated equally in any legal process, the right to demand a legal certainty from and during legal prosecution, the right to be free from fear and intimidation,
the right to acquire beneficial gains from arts and culture and the right to pursue legal vocations.
Ngurah Harta said the legal struggle would take at least four months and would require vast financial and moral support from those willing to
commit to the cause. He said those wishing to be plaintiffs may contact KRB at 081236131311 or at email@example.com . People wishing to contribute financially can transfer donations to
Bank Central Asia KCP Sanur Raya, account number no: 6700194343 of I Wayan Semara Cipta.
Anti Bikini, Anti Alcohol Indonesia puts off Western Tourists
Indonesia's tourism ministry
said on Tuesday it expects a decline in tourist spending next year because of the global economic crisis.
Some tourist areas, including the resort island of Bali, are heavily dependent on tourism for jobs and growth. A recent shortage of alcohol
in Jakarta and Bali, and concerns over Indonesia's new anti-porn law -- seen by some as a threat to artistic, religious and cultural freedom in the diverse archipelago -- have led some tourists to complain or even threaten to stay away.
understand that for foreigners alcohol is like tea or coffee for us, if there's no alcohol then tourists are reluctant to come here, Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik told a press briefing, adding that the issue was being resolved, particularly
in top-tier hotels.
The Bali People's Component, known as the KRB, has finalized a judicial review challenging the recently ratified anti-pornography law and plans to present the review to
the Constitutional Court on Jan. 9.
In its 50-page legal challenge, the KRB argues that the law has trampled upon at least five constitutional rights granted to all Indonesian citizens, said I Dewa Gde Palguna, chief legal advisor of the
KRB, in that it denies Indonesian people in 21 separate professions their basic right to the freedom of expression, among other things. Some of the at-risk professions include dancers, playwrights, reporters, composers and gymnastics instructors,
The KRB has estimated that the court will need about four months to come to a decision.
A TV station in New Zealand has come under for fire because it aired two ads for Grand Theft Auto IV during a family movie that continued into post-watershed hours.
According to the New Zealand Herald, a violent advertisement for the
game appeared twice during an airing of Santa Clause 2 .
TVNZ spokeswoman Megan Richards said it was understandable parents might have decided to let their children stay up to watch the G-rated movie—which ran until 9.35pm. But she said
advertisements for the R18 game technically ran at the correct time, after the 8.30pm watershed.
The Herald revealed that no one has officially complained about the ad's appearance to the network, but, it seems safe to say that it's only a matter
of time before someone does.
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) has just received secret blocklists leaked from Thailand's Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.
Under conditions imposed by the Computer-Related Crimes Act 2007, no website may be legally
blocked without a court order. In fact, this pesky legal stipulation is not rigorously adhered to and both the Royal Thai Police and the more than 100 Thai ISPs typically block as they wish.
However, the leaked blocklists totalling 1300 sites
blocked between June and December 2008 are accompanied by court orders detailing applications of the Ministry which authorise most of the websites censored. The court orders to ISPs cite reasons of lese majeste and national security..
orders are not customarily sealed from public view. In fact, maintaining such documents via an open judicial process as a matter of public record is a crucial democratic cornerstone.
Every site requested for blocking has the stated reason of lese
majeste, however, it is obvious that many sites were blocked for quite different reasons. It would appear, in fact, that the court did not examine each site before issuing its order but instead relied on MICT's judgement.
Although we have not yet
found the opportunity to examine each website censored, as in the past, an eclectic mix of censorship has been revealed resulting in overblocking of many benign webpages.
Along with the obligatory YouTube videos and their mirror sites alleged to
be lese majeste in Thailand, numerous blocks to Thai webboard pages, particularly at popular discussion sites, Prachatai (45 separate pages) and Same Sky (56 separate pages). Also blocked are weblogs referencing Paul Handley's unauthorised Biography of
Thailand's King, The King Never Smiles, and its translation into Thai along with Thai Wikipedia entries.
The webpages of respected Thai Buddhist social critic, Sulak Sivaraksa who is currently on bail for his fourth accusation of lese majeste,
and Matthew Hunt, respected Thai journalist, anticensorship activist and FACT signer, are also blocked as are pages of the respected international newsmagazine, The Economist.
A total of 860 YouTube videos have been blocked, far in excess of the
blocking conducted by The Official Censor of the Military Coup; a further 200 pages mirroring those videos are also blocked.
Curiously, bum fight movies, Hillary Clinton's campaign videos, and 24 Charlie Chaplin videos have also been
blocked, perhaps due to their Web location at Clown-Ministry.
government has blocked more than 2,300 Web sites over the past year, often for criticising the constitutional monarchy political system, a senior official said.
The sites, more than 90% of which were registered abroad, were also blocked for
pornographic content and supposedly threatening national security, said Sue Lo-uthai, an official at the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology: Most of the cases are lese majeste ones which have rapidly increased this year. I personally
believe that the reason behind the increase is the political conflict in Thailand .
The Saudi film industry took another step forward last week with the public screening of a locally produced movie, suggesting the government could be moving towards lifting a three-decade old ban on cinemas.
The premiere of Mnahi , which
was produced by Saudi-owned Rotana studios, marks the second public screening of a Saudi film in a little more than a year, after Sabah al Lail was opened to the public on a commercial release in October 2007 during the Eid al Fitir holiday.
Rotana Studios is owned by Prince Waleed bin Talal, a Saudi billionaire, and it is believed his connections with the royal family played a major role in the movie's public showing.
I am correcting a big mistake, that is all, Prince al
Waleed had told the New York Times in a 2006 interview prior to the launch of Rotana Studios' first movie, Keif al Hal : I want to tell Arab youth you deserve to be entertained, you have the right to watch movies, you have the right to listen
to music. There is nothing in Islam – and I've researched this thoroughly – not one iota that says you can't have movies. So what I am doing right now is causing change.
Movie theatres existed in Saudi in the 1960s and 1970s, but they were
banned in the early 1980s after conservatives consolidated their support.
Ayman Halawani, General Manager of Rotana Studios, said in a press statement that Saudi cinema will not only produce but it will market its movies in its home country
and among its viewers, and here lay the significance of this event.
A locally-produced comedy,
Menahi , premiered in two cultural centres in Jeddah and Taif this month before mixed-gender audiences, a taboo in Saudi Arabia whose strict Islamic rules ban unrelated men and women from mixing.
Turnout for the movie, produced by
billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal's media company Rotana, was so big the film had to be played eight times a day over a 10-day period.
While the kingdom's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Shaikh has not commented on the issue, the head of
Saudi Arabia's religious police condemned cinemas as a pernicious influence.
Our position on this is clear - ban it. That is because cinema is evil and we do not need it. We have enough evil already, said Ibrahim al-Ghaith, the head of the
religious police, whose official title is the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. He later toned down his remarks, saying that cinema could be tolerated if it does not violate Islamic law.
The hereditary sultan of the Special Region of Yogyakarta (the smallest province of Indonesia) has declared his opposition to the new anti-pornography law which.
Sultan Hamengkubuwono X is regarded as semi-divine by many Muslim Javanese. He is
also a candidate for presidential elections due around July.
He said the bill threatened national unity based on respect for the cultural and religious diversity of the mainly Muslim archipelago. He said the anti-porn law introduced recently with
the backing of Muslim parties was the most terrible thing in the process of building our nation. If all Indonesian women wear Islamic veils no one will wear their traditional clothes, from Aceh province to Papua.
He added: The leader of
our nation must be able to build tolerance between the citizens so they live side by side in peace. For me, this cannot be negotiated,"
The law criminalises all works and bodily movements including music and poetry which could be
deemed obscene and capable of violating public morality, and offers heavy penalties.
Critics from the Christian and Hindu minorities as well as many moderate Muslims say it threatens regional traditions such as certain costumes and dances, and
encourages vigilante attacks.
A defamation of religion resolution stating that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism passed in the U.N. General Assembly – but with fewer votes than in previous years.
Over the past
year opponents ranging to media watchdogs and free speech advocates to Christian and humanist groups have stepped up lobbying against the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)-driven campaign.
Thursday's vote passed by a margin of 86-53,
with 42 countries abstaining. The result showed a significant erosion of support since a similar resolution passed in the General Assembly last December by a vote of 108-51, with 25 abstentions.
For the first time, the number of countries
supporting the resolution fell behind the number of those voting against or abstaining.
Defenders of free speech take some consolation in the increased votes for our cause, Hillel Neuer, executive director of the human rights watchdog UN
Watch, said: But the adoption of yet another totalitarian text is a stark reminder that human rights at the U.N. is under assault.
He also noted that Islamic states were using a major U.N. conference on racism, scheduled for next spring,
to advance their campaign. Proponents are arguing that the defamation of Islam and Islamophobia are contemporary forms of racism, and should thus fall under purview of the racism conference, commonly known as Durban II.
dire threat is coming from Geneva where a Durban II committee headed by Algeria has this week been seeking to amend international human rights treaty law to ban ‘defamation of religion,' especially Islam, Neuer said.
The shift in voting from
last year to this came primarily from 16 developing countries which voted in favor in 2007 but chose to abstain on Thursday. Two of them, Benin and Burkina Faso, are OIC members. (The others are Central African Republic, Congo, Costa Rica, Dominican
Republic, East Timor, Grenada, Haiti, Mauritius, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uruguay, Vanuatu and Zambia.)
Three countries which voted in favor in 2007 – Belize, Cape Verde and Liberia – moved to opposing the resolution this year.
And one country, OIC member Nigeria, abstained last year but voted in favor this year.
One of South Korea's best-known actresses, Ok So-ri, has been given a suspended prison sentence of eight months for adultery.
She admitted the offence and the court suspended the sentence for two years.
The trial took place after Ms Ok
failed to get the constitutional court to overturn the strict law that makes adultery a criminal offence. In her petition she said the law was an infringement of human rights and amounted to revenge.
The law has been challenged four times, but the
country's top judges have always ruled that adultery is damaging to social order, and the offence should therefore remain a crime.
South Korea is one of the few remaining non-Muslim countries where adultery remains a criminal offence. A person
found guilty of adultery can be jailed for up to two years. More than 1,000 people are charged each year, although, as in this case, very few are actually sent to jail.
Its opponents claim the law is often abused as a means of revenge or securing
greater financial divorce settlements; and say in reality those who suffer under the law are most often women
In this case, Ms Ok was sued by her former husband, Park Chul. She admitted having an affair with a well-known pop singer, and blamed it
on a loveless marriage to Park.
Judges in Seoul also gave Ms Ok's lover a six-month suspended term.
Turkey's prime minister has criticised a Turkish internet petition which apologises for the great catastrophe of 1915 when Armenians were massacred.
The petition was launched by more than 200 Turkish academics and newspaper columnists .
Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: I find it unreasonable to apologise when there is no reason.
Hundreds of thousands of Armenians died at the hands of Ottoman Turks in 1915. Turkey denies that it was genocide . Erdogan
said the petition risked stirring trouble. He called it irrational and wrong .
The petition was also condemned by some 60 Turkish former ambassadors, who called it an act of betrayal.
Many international historians say the
massacres and deaths of Armenians during their forced removal from what is now eastern Turkey were genocide.
The intellectuals behind the petition say they want to challenge the official denial and provoke discussion in Turkish society
about what happened.
The petition is entitled I apologise . A short statement at the top reads: My conscience cannot accept the ignorance and denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected to in 1915. I reject
this injustice and - on my own behalf - I share the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers - and I apologise to them.
Lawyers and judges have been accused by MPs of using Soviet-style English libel laws to help the rich and powerful to hide their secrets.
The Saudi financier Khalid bin Mahfouz was condemned as a libel tourist for persuading a
London judge to award damages against an American author over a book never sold in Britain.
Bridget Prentice, the Justice Minister, told MPs that the Government would announce a consultation on libel and the internet, and the high cost of
The Labour MP Denis MacShane, said in Westminster Hall: The practice of libel tourism, as it is known – the willingness of British courts to allow wealthy foreigners who do not live here to attack publications that have
no connection with Britain – is now an international scandal. It shames Britain and makes a mockery of the idea that Britain is a protector of core democratic freedoms.
The US Congress is proposing a law to stop English courts pursuing
American writers for fines over books freely available in the United States. The case arises from the Kafkaesque position of the writer Rachel Ehrenfeld, whose book, Funding Evil, examined the flow of money towards extremist organisations that preach
the ideology of hate associated with Wahhabism and other democracy-denying aspects of fundamentalist Islamic ideology, MacShane said.
Ms Ehrenfeld's book, published in America, not Britain, named a Saudi billionaire called Khalid bin
Mahfouz. Although the book was published in the United States, and was not on sale in any British bookshop, he found lawyers to sue in Britain. A British judge imposed a fine and costs on Ms Ehrenfeld, and said that her book should be destroyed, even
though she was not in the court. No American court would have entertained such overt censorship.
Thanks to Alan
Damages were awarded
against Rachel Ehrenfeld, who had refused to appear because British courts gave her less protection than the first amendment to the US constitution. Judgment was consequently given in default.
The author is now refusing to pay and American
congress people are pushing for a specific US law to prevent any attempt to enforce British libel judgments across the pond.
The freedom of expression rapporteurs of the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Organization of American States (OAS), and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) have released a joint
declaration on defamation of religions, and anti-terrorism and anti-extremism legislation.
After meting on 9 December in Athens, the four media freedom 'watchdogs' adopted their annual international mechanism for promoting freedom of expression.
This year's document coincides with the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and covers the dangers to freedom of speech inherent in national legislation regulating the fight against defamation of religions and blasphemy
laws, as well as against extremism or other terrorism-related speech offences.
The signatories agreed that the concept of defamation of religions does not accord with international standards accepted by pluralistic and free
societies. They said that international organizations should abstain from adopting statements supporting criminalization of defamation of religions.
They also stressed that restrictions on freedom of expression should never be used to
protect institutions, abstract notions, concepts or beliefs, including religious ones, and that such restrictions should be limited in scope to advocacy of hatred.
The four freedom of expression rapporteurs also advised that the definition of
terrorism should be restricted to violent crimes which inflict terror on the public, and that vague notions such as providing communications support' or promoting extremism or terrorism should not be criminalized unless they constitute
incitement. They said that the role of the media should be respected in anti-extremism and anti-terrorism legislation.
Chinese government officials have defended their decision to block several foreign news websites, including the BBC, as the country moves away from its pledge for uncensored internet access during the Beijing Olympics.
The BBC, Voice of America,
Hong Kong's Ming Pao News and Asiaweek have all had their websites blocked in China since early December. Restrictions had previously been lifted in August, when foreign journalists demanded full access during the Olympics.
A Chinese foreign
ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao, said the Chinese government could not deny that it had issues with some sites: For instance, if a website refers to 'two Chinas' or refers to mainland China and Taiwan as two independent regions, we believe
that violates China's anti-secession law, as well as other laws .
China has previously blocked several high-profile websites but has not acknowledged an official ban, preferring to show users an error message for those sites instead.
Access to the BBC's English-language site was briefly lifted in March, although the Chinese-language site remained blocked.
Legal advocates have petitioned an Indian court to ban Google Earth following intelligence indicating the satellite imaging site was used to plan last month's terrorist attacks in Mumbai that killed 170 people.
Advocate Amit Karkhanis told
India's High Court the free service aids terrorists in plotting attacks by providing detailed images used to acquaint radical militants with their targets. He asked that Google blur images of sensitive areas in the country while the case proceeds.
It's by no means the first time government authorities with a world power have taken aim at the popular satellite imaging service. But in those cases, the calls were mostly to blur or censor specific images of sensitive areas. India's request
goes much further by requesting Google Earth be banned outright.
Playboy magazine issued an apology after it put a nude model supposedly resembling the Virgin Mary on the cover of the Mexican edition of the publication at the time of a festival dedicated to the mother of Jesus.
The magazine, which hit
newsstands on Dec 1 as ceremonies began leading to the pilgrimage to the Mexico City shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, showed a model wearing nothing but a white cloth over her head and breasts.
The model, Maria Florencia Onori, is pictured
standing in front of a stained glass window with the cover line, We Love You, Maria in Spanish.
In a statement, Chicago-based Playboy Enterprises Inc said the Mexican edition of the magazine is published by a licensee, and the company did
not approve or endorse the cover: While Playboy Mexico never meant for the cover or images to offend anyone, we recognise that it has created offence, and we as well as Playboy Mexico offer our sincerest apologies .
Playboy Mexico printed
100,000 copies of the issue.
A draft law to toughen control over electronic media, including in the Internet, as part of efforts against extremism has been withdrawn from Russia's lower house of parliament for further discussion.
The Russian Vedomosti daily suggested that it
may have been pulled at the request of the government.
In November, during his state-of-the-nation address, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pledged a commitment to free speech, saying that, No government officials will be able to hamper
discussions in the Internet.
The bill proposed by the dominant, Kremlin-backed United Russia party allows the closure of websites for publishing for a second time materials promoting extremism. It would also order Internet providers to
block access to the website.
He wrote the book, he says to condemn the recent violence between Hindus and Christians in Kandhamal, but Lenin Kumar was arrested by the Orissa police on charges of writing and publishing inflammatory material that could cause communal unrest.
A day later, his bail plea was rejected and he was remanded to judicial custody. Lenin's wife, Rumita Kundu, has also alleged that the police tortured her husband.
Now, civil right activists, writers and journalists are up in arms
against the state Government and are planning a protest march to Raj Bhawan.
Lenin Kumar, editor of a quarterly Oriya magazine, Nishan, was arrested under sections 295 and 1539(A) of the Indian Penal Code for his book Dharma Nare Kandhamalare
Raktara Banya (Bloodletting in Kandhamal in the name of religion).
Two others who helped him print and circulate the book have also been arrested and their bail pleas rejected as well. At least 700 copies of the book were seized from the
printing press and the press sealed.
A new target in Iran's long-running grievance about its negative portrayal in popular western cinema is, The Wrestler , a film directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Mickey Rourke, due for release in the US on December 17.
Newspapers and websites have alerted readers to the
anti-Iranian film by highlighting a scene in which Rourke's character, Randy "the Ram" Robinson, violently breaks a pole bearing an Iranian flag across his knee, after his opponent tries to use it to put him in a stranglehold.
Perhaps to avoid offending Iran's clerical rulers, no mention has been made of the screen name of Rourke's antagonist, the Ayatollah, played by Ernest Miller.
But the Miller character's wrestling attire, a skimpy leotard in the pattern of an Iranian flag with the alef character - representing the first letter of the word Allah - emblazoned front and back on his loins, has been condemned by Borna News,
a state-run website.
The pole-breaking scene occurs against the explicitly nationalistic backdrop of an animated crowd chanting, USA, USA. It is intended to represent the final triumph for Rourke's character, who comes out of retirement
following a heart attack for one last confrontation with the Ayatollah, a rival from his wrestling heyday.
While there is virtually no chance of The Wrestler being given official screening permission in Iran, many Iranians have become familiar
with it through promotional trailers shown on broadcaster, Voice of America's Persian-language satellite television channel.
With blogging on the rise in Vietnam, authorities plan tighter curbs and tougher monitoring.
Vietnamese authorities plan to police the content of dissident blogs through random checks and self-policing by the country's blogging community, a
senior Vietnamese Internet security expert has said.
There should be a legal corridor to assure better operation of the blogs, the director of the state-run Bach Khoa Internet Security Center, Nguyen Tu Quang, told RFA's Vietnamese
service. We'll manage them by randomly checking—we don't need to control all the blogs.
Earlier this month, Information and Communication Deputy Minister Do Quy Doan was quoted as saying Hanoi would seek cooperation from Internet giants
Google and Yahoo! to help regulate the country's flourishing blogging scene.
The government will announce new rules this month, stressing that Weblogs should serve as personal online diaries, not as organs to disseminate opinions about
politics, religion, and society, senior officials were quoted as saying.
Quang said under the draft rules being debated violators could face up to U.S. $12,000 in fines and up to 12 years of jail time.
Authorities currently block some Web
sites run by overseas Vietnamese that espouse views critical of the government, and they often seek to shut down anything seen as encouraging public protest.
In September, blogger Dieu Cay was jailed for 2.5 years on tax evasion charges after he
tried to persuade people to protest at the Olympic torch ceremonies in Ho Chi Minh City last summer.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was strongly criticised after signing a repressive anti-pornography law which opponents have said threatens national unity.
The law, backed by Islamic parties in the capital Jakarta, criminalises all
works and bodily movements deemed obscene and capable of violating public morality, and offers heavy penalties.
It prompted protests across Indonesia, with critics saying it could threaten art and traditional culture from temple statues on
Bali to penis sheaths on tribesmen in Christian and animist Papua province.
The president's signing of the law late last month was made public last Tuesday.
Yudhoyono could have chosen not to sign it because there are still several
provinces which strongly oppose the law, lawmaker Eva Sundari of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) told AFP. The opposing provinces, such as Papua, Bali, Yogyakarta, North Sulawesi and East Nusa Tenggara, say that the law
threatened their culture and national unity.
I Gusti Ngurah Harta, head of the Bali People's Component, an organisation of local intellectuals and artists, said: We are disappointed that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has signed the
law. We will not vote for him in the elections next year.
Bantarto Bandoro, political analyst from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said: Yudhoyono's decision could shake the foundation of his presidential campaign for
next year's election.
The law contains provisions for between six months and 12 years' jail for producers and distributors of pornography and up to four years in prison for downloading pornography.
In recent months, long-time users of video-sharing website YouTube have noticed that the Google-owned site's definition of acceptable content has narrowed considerably.
In addition to its longstanding campaign to crack down on illegally copied
material, in September the site outlawed videos depicting drug abuse and last week tightened its guidelines further to restrict profanity and sexually suggestive content.
In other words, before the money wagons roll in, some law and order needs
to be imposed.
Ofcom received 42 complaints regarding a sketch in the Harry and Paul show which depicted a so-called upper class character, played by Harry Enfield, encouraging a Northern man - whom he treats as his dog - to
mate with his neighbour's Filipina maid. The scene showed the Northerner , known as Clive, failing to show interest in the maid and the Harry Enfield character shouting encouragement and urging Clive to mount her before sending the
maid back to the neighbour's home.
The complainants expressed concern that the sketch was offensive to the Filipino community and women in general, by presenting the Filipina as an object of sexual gratification.
Ofcom recognises the sensitivities involved when comedy makes reference to or represents any particular ethnic community in the United Kingdom . In this case it was a Filipino who featured in the broadcast. We therefore considered this
material in the light of Rule 2.3 (generally accepted standards) which says that …broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context…
This particular sketch was one of a number which ran throughout
the series in which Harry Enfield plays an extreme comedy stereotype of an upper class toff living in the South of England. This caricature has little sensitivity to those outside of his social class. Consequently, he treats Clive like his dog. It
is in this context that the sketch showed the Harry Enfield character encouraging Clive to mate with his neighbour's domestic help, for whom he also has little or no respect.
Whilst Harry and Paul is a new series, Harry Enfield and Paul
Whitehouse are long established comedians whose style of humour often focuses on presenting characters in an exaggerated and stereotyped way for comic effect. The comedy frequently comes from the absurdity of the situation.
In terms of the degree
of offence and the likely expectation of the audience, we considered whether the material was justified by the context of the sketch as a whole.
As noted above, this item featured established comedians and the sketch was typical of the material
presented by Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse in this, and other series. Therefore it is Ofcom's view that the material would not have exceeded the likely expectation of the vast majority of the audience.
Further, in Ofcom's view, there was no
intention to ridicule women or the Filipino community in this sketch. The target of the humour was very clearly the upper class character played by Harry Enfield who holds such a deluded view of his social superiority that he treats individuals with
lower social status with ridiculous disdain. The Filipina domestic help was featured as a character in the sketch to highlight this extreme and ridiculous behaviour.
Comedy often, and rightly, engages with challenging and sensitive subjects such
as social class. In this respect Ofcom must regulate potentially offensive material in a manner that also respects freedom of expression – the broadcasters' right to transmit information and the viewers' right to receive it. Ofcom must therefore seek an
appropriate balance between protecting members of the public from harm and offence on the one hand and the broadcaster's right to freedom of expression on the other, taking into account such matters as context.
Although this sketch may have
caused offence to some individuals, it explored the issue of social class in an absurd way which was not intended to reflect real life. In our view this was the approach and effect of this sketch. On balance, it is Ofcom's view that the material did not
breach generally accepted standards because it was justified by the context.
Croatia's prime minister has ordered an inquiry following arrests of several opposition activists who made plans via the social networking website Facebook.
This is not about this or that government or party, but about freedom, Croatian PM
Ivo Sanader said.
Police in Zagreb questioned a Facebook activist who had put up posters ahead of an anti-government protest planned for Friday, Croatian TV reported.
In the Zagreb case, an opposition Facebook group with nearly 60,000
members included volunteers who had downloaded posters over the internet, Croatian TV reported.
The man arrested in the Croatian capital was charged with disturbing the peace, under an old law from 1990 which applied to the then-Yugoslavia, the
In a statement Sanader said he had asked Interior Minister Tomislav Karamarko and Police Director Vladimir Faber to submit a report today on the latest events and arrests in Zagreb and Dubrovnik and to take appropriate steps if
police did not respect regulations. No-one should be detained or arrested in Croatia for expressing different views.
The activist in Dubrovnik had set up a Facebook group called I bet I can find 5,000 people who dislike Sanader. Police
argued that his group had illegally shown a photo montage of Sanader in a Nazi uniform.
Sanader said he deplored any use of Nazi symbols for the purposes of political satire.
A Turkish prosecutor says the United States should identify the individuals responsible for posting YouTube videos.
Ankara public prosecutor Kursat Kayral has asked U.S. officials to identify whoever posted videos on the video-sharing Web site
that offered derogatory views of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey.
Kayral said the videos not only insult Ataturk, but also Turkey and its flag. He has asked U.S. officials to hand over the identities of the
responsible individuals once they are determined.
Hurriyet said if Turkey is able to ascertain the identities of those responsible, they will likely face arrest if they ever step foot on Turkish soil.
The social networking site Ning has announced that it will discontinue hosting adult-oriented networks in its Red Light District as of January 1.
Ning was designed to allow anyone to create a social network on its platform. Network creators
were allowed to do their own moderating.
Ning claims the decision was informed by the practical, not the philosophical. CEO and co-founder Gina Bianchini described the move as a logical step, taking into account all the problems adult content has
caused for the site, including sub-par ad revenue, an increase in illegal adult social networks, and numerous DMCA take-down notices.
We're not discontinuing the Red Light District because we no longer believe in the freedom to create your own
social network for anything as long as it's legal. We do. Practically though, supporting adult networks no longer makes sense, Bianchini wrote on the Ning blog.
Nathalie Lubbe Bakker was fired from her job after government officials rang the bar owner to complain about the claims relating to Pieter De Crem.
Miss Lubbe Bakker, also a Belgian, said she was shocked when she recognised the defence minister
among a rowdy party of her countrymen who stumbled into the B-Café.
Writing on her Living in New York blog the next day, Miss Lubbe Bakker claimed the minister's sang bawdy songs and made persistent demands to take
over the serving of drinks behind the bar. She went on to claim one of de Crem's officials told her he was in the city to attend a United Nations meeting.
Four days later, after her posting had been picked by Belgium's De Standaard newspaper,
Miss Lubbe Bakker reported on her blog that she had been sacked after a defence ministry telephone call to her boss: I was astonished to learn from a well-informed source that the defence minister's spokesman had telephoned the bar's owner.
What the contents of that conversation were are unknown to me but when my next shift finished, he dismissed me on the spot without any explanation.
Now de Crem has faced questions over the barmaid affair in the Belgian parliament.
While admitting a call was made to Miss Lubbe Bakker's boss, the minister insisted there was never any insinuation that she should lose her job.
De Crem went on threaten legal action against bloggers and warned Belgian MPs every one of you is
a potential victim. I want to take this opportunity and use this non-event to signal a dangerous phenomenon in our society, said during a debate last Friday.
We live in a time where everybody is free to publish whatever he or she wants on
blogs at will without taking any responsibility. This exceeds mud-slinging. I find that it's nearly impossible to defend yourself against this.
Belgian bloggers are up in arms over what they perceive to be a threat to free speech and a
Facebook campaign has been set demanding Miss Lubbe Bakker is reinstated in her job.
Many people on Belgium's blogosphere have noted that de Crem appears to have changed his mind since he wrote on his own website that the internet helps close
the gap between the citizen and the politician.
The Philippines Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed an order of Malacañang to prohibit the showing of former President Joseph Estrada's bioflick Ang Mabuhay Para sa Masa.
The court said the documentary film could be allowed for
public viewing if it would be modified and balanced to recognize the legality of the Arroyo presidency.
The portion entitled ‘Power Grab' by its descriptive appellation, connotes illegal seizure of power purportedly by the present
President, the CA said.
The CA ruled that the bioflick claiming an illegitimate government on public television is politically sensitive and runs contrary to the Supreme Court ruling that declared legal the assumption of power of President
Arroyo after Estrada was ousted from office.
The CA added the film might even qualify as libelous and defamatory on insinuations of a unified action to overthrow Estrada by political and business personalities.
Google implemented a technique that would prevent access to videos that clearly violated Turkish law, but only in Turkey.
For a time, her solution seemed to satisfy the Turkish judges, who restored YouTube access. But last June, as part of a
campaign against threats to symbols of Turkish secularism, a Turkish prosecutor made a sweeping demand: that Google block access to the offending videos throughout the world, to protect the rights and sensitivities of Turks living outside the country.
Google refused, arguing that one nation's government shouldn't be able to set the limits of speech for Internet users worldwide. Unmoved, the Turkish government today continues to block access to YouTube in Turkey.
Our goal is to help ensure that you're viewing content that's relevant to you, and not inadvertently coming across content that isn't. Here are a few things we came up with:
Stricter standard for mature content - While videos featuring pornographic images or sex acts are always removed from the site when they're flagged, we're tightening the standard for what is considered sexually suggestive. Videos with sexually
suggestive (but not prohibited) content will be age-restricted, which means they'll be available only to viewers who are 18 or older.
Demotion of sexually suggestive content and profanity - Videos that are considered sexually
suggestive, or that contain profanity, will be algorithmically demoted on our Most Viewed, Top Favourited, and other browse pages. The classification of these types of videos is based on a number of factors, including video content and
descriptions. In testing, we've found that out of the thousands of videos on these pages, only several each day are automatically demoted for being too graphic or explicit. However, those videos are often the ones which end up being repeatedly flagged by
the community as being inappropriate.
Improved thumbnails - To make sure your thumbnail represents your video, your choices will now be selected algorithmically.
More accurate video information - Our Community
Guidelines have always prohibited folks from attempting to game view counts by entering misleading information in video descriptions, tags, titles, and other metadata. We remain serious about enforcing these rules. Remember, violations of these
guidelines could result in removal of your video and repeated violations will lead to termination of your account.
A Dubai company has made a version of an online role playing game tailored specially for Muslims.
The firm in question is Game Power 7 and it has made a few adjustments to Gala's role-player Rappelz to make it supposedly more appealing
to customers in Islamic countries.
As well as changing the background music, the noises monsters make and taking out non-Muslim religious symbols, such as crosses, Game Power 7 has given some characters a little more to wear.
that female players will be properly covered up so that they're no longer showing too many flesh-coloured pixels. Arms and legs get special attention, with chainmail and long stockings pasted on.
A delegation from the European Parliament urged Turkish officials to make the necessary legal arrangements to enhance freedom of expression and eventually lift the ban on access to YouTube.
Banning YouTube, Google's blogging site, the websites
of a teachers' trade union, Richard Dawkins and even a Turkish dictionary stands alongside more than 40 cases against writers and journalists even since the reform of the so-called anti-Turkishness article of the penal code, Richard Howitt, the vice
president of the European Parliament's Human Rights Sub-Committee, said in a written statement on Friday.
The British Euro MP called for the ban to be overturned at a meeting with Turkish Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin in Ankara on Thursday,
the statement added.
Howitt criticized the ban, saying that around 1,000 websites are blocked in Turkey and this places the country alongside some of the world's worst nations for cyber censorship. As a modern country looking forward to European
Union membership, Turkey should be embracing new communications rather than putting itself in the same bracket as some of the world's pariah states, Howitt added in the statement.
A sampling by the Egyptian Information and Decision Support Center shows that 89% of Egyptians age 18 to 35 are in favor of an Internet censorship law.
A majority of those in the 1,338 person sampling distrust the Internet, with 72% seeing it as
a bad influence, and 71% finding it dangerous for children. Internet relationships and friendships are also seen as untrustworthy, and 43% have found it negatively impacting family ties.
Commissioner Lahore Division Khusro Pervez Khan has banned vulgar dance, gestures and immoral dialogues in the stage dramas being played in the four districts.
The Commissioner Lahore Division issued directives to four districts
Kasur, Nankana, Sheikhupura and Lahore to impose a ban immediately on theaters which stage obscene dances and dialogues.
The directive added that time for theaters will be only from 8pm to 11pm and no theater will be allowed to continue
show after this stipulated time.
In addition, the commissioner directed the producers not to cast the actors who use vulgar dialogues. The details of the members of the committee that has been constituted to censor dramas on stage be also
submitted in three days, the commissioner said in the letter. The commissioner ordered producers to accommodate the senior actors who had been popular for family shows but they were ousted due to dirty stage dramas in the recent years.
Indonesia president advised to make gesture and not sign porn bill
Presidential Advisor Adnan Buyung Nasution recommended President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono not sign or ratify the recently passed pornography bill, as its enforcement could threaten the country's plurality.
I have recommended the President not
sign or ratify the porn bill. He has the right to do so and it is not against the Constitution, he told The Jakarta Post.
Buyung said that by not signing the bill, the public would see that the President considers maintaining the unity of the
nation a priority.
The House of Representatives passed the controversial porn bill last month despite opposition from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the Prosperous Peace Party (PDS). The bill has endured strong protest
from human rights activists and pluralist organizations, as some articles in the bill were deemed contentious enough to spark disintegration.
The Constitution says a bill passed by the House is supposed to be signed by the president within 30
days. If not, the bill will still become a legitimate law. However, by not signing it, the president rejects the mainstream ideas and political interests of the House," Buyung said.
Islamic countries won United Nations backing for an anti-blasphemy measure Western critics say risks being used to limit freedom of speech.
Combating Defamation of Religions passed 85-50 with 42 abstentions in a key UN General Assembly committee,
and will enter into the international record after an expected rubber stamp by the plenary later in the year.
It provides international cover for domestic anti-blasphemy laws, and there are a number of people who are in prison today because
they have been accused of committing blasphemy, said Bennett Graham, international program director with the Becket Fund, a think tank aimed at promoting religious liberty: Those arrests are made legitimate by the UN body's (effective) stamp of
While the current resolution is non-binding, Pakistan's Ambassador Masood Khan reminded the UN's Human Rights Council this year that the OIC ultimately seeks a new instrument or convention on the issue. Such a measure would
impose its terms on signatory states.
Western democracies argue that a religion can't enjoy protection from criticism because that would require a judicial ruling that its teachings are the truth.
Defamation carries a particular
legal meaning and application in domestic systems that makes the term wholly unsuitable in the context of religions, says the U.S. government in a response on the issue to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: A defamatory statement . . . is
more than just an offensive one. It is also a statement that is false.
China is launching a national campaign to crack down on pornographic books, videos and websites, the country's press censor said.
The General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) and the National Office of Anti-Pornography and
Anti-Illegal Publications (NOAAP) agreed to step up supervision over book sellers near schools and on websites.
Li Qimin, deputy secretary general of the China National Committee for the Wellbeing of the Youths, called on the government and the
public to pay more attention to how children could be dissuaded from reading materials filled with sex and violence.
In a survey of juvenile delinquents in the southwestern Sichuan province, Li and his colleagues found that more than 93% had read
about or seen books, videos and websites promoting sex or violence.
The reason children have more access to morally questionable materials is that pirated DVDs are being illegally sold and there is greater Internet access, he said.
Burmese comedian Zarganar has been sentenced to 45 years in jail following his most recent run-in with his country's military regime.
Secret police took him from his home in June and seized his computer after he organized a group of around 400
volunteers to provide disaster relief in the areas devastated by Cyclone Nargis.
He defied the junta by talking to international press and soliciting donations, and mocked an article in a state-run newspaper which said cyclone survivors could
exist on what they could scavenge in the land rather than on chocolate bars from Western aid groups.
When Zarganar was arrested, police also seized several banned films, including the latest Rambo movie, in which Sylvester Stallone takes
on Burma's rulers, footage of the devastation caused by the cyclone and film of the lavish wedding of leader Than Shwe's daughter, whose extravagance fuelled outrage among the nation's poor.
Harry Nicolaides is languishing in Bangkok Remand Centre, yet to face trial, over a few sentences in an unread novel.
On August 31 this year, Nicolaides was at Bangkok airport waiting to board a flight to Melbourne when he was detained by Thai
police on charges of lese majeste, the crime of insulting the monarchy. The arrest warrant alleged Nicolaides had insulted the Thai royal family in his second book, Verisimilitude , a novel Nicolaides self-published in Thailand in 2005.
For the past 82 days, Nicolaides has been held at the Bangkok Remand Prison, where he shares one toilet with up to 60 other prisoners, including men accused of violent and sexual crimes. He was only formally charged yesterday.
He has retracted the book and publicly apologised to the royal family and the Thai people for any offence caused by his reckless choice of words, but bail has been denied three times.
Few novels as commercially unsuccessful as
Verisimilitude — only seven copies were sold — can have caused so much strife for their authors. The alleged offence is believed to concern three sentences in the book in which the narrator refers to rumours concerning the romantic life of an unspecified
It is simply one of the most bizarre cases I've ever come across, says Arnold Zable, author and president of the Melbourne branch of International PEN, an organisation that campaigns on behalf of writers in detention around
Nicolaides' case is more unusual than the average unusual case, says Dr David Streckfuss, a historian from the University of Wisconsin who lives in Thailand and specialises in the country's lese majeste laws: It's not clear
that any Thai ever read the book in the first place.
When he published Verisimilitude three years ago, Nicolaides took the precaution of sending his book to the National Library, the Thai Ministry of Culture, the Thai Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and the Bureau of the Royal Household to check that its contents were acceptable. He received no response. When his book was released no one reviewed it and hardly anyone read it. Only 50 copies were printed. There was nothing to suggest that the
novel, which was only published in English, hadn't sunk directly into deep obscurity.
But Thai authorities issued a warrant for Nicolaides' arrest on March 17 this year. He was not told he was under investigation. Between March and August,
Nicolaides left and re-entered Thailand five times with no sign of trouble. When he was pulled aside by police at passport control on the night of August 31 he was, his brother, Forde Nicolaides, says, alarmed. When Australian embassy staff arrived and
explained the allegations, he was absolutely astonished.
Reporters Without Borders repeated its call for the
release of Australian author Harry Nicolaides, facing a charge of the crime of lese-majesty, after he was yesterday refused bail by the Bangkok criminal court for the fourth time.
Nicolaides, aged 41, who was formally charged on 21 November 2008,
has been held at the capital's remand prison since 31 August. The charge relates to his book, Verisimilitude, which came out in 2005 in which he referred to the way an unamed Crown Prince treated one of his mistresses. Only 50 copies were ever printed.
Five million internet websites are currently being blocked by the Iranian government, a website called 'Rooz' reported, quoting the Iran's prosecutor general as its source.
The report is the first ever in which a legislative source from Iran has
divulged information about the regime's censorship policies.
During a conference in the country Prosecutor General Abdolsamad Khoram Abadi explained that most of the sites were blocked because they contained unethical content, a reference
to pornography and other anti-Islamic entertainment.
Ismail Radkani, a spokesman for the company responsible for the blocking of websites in Iran, also spoke during the conference. He said over a thousand such sites were being automatically
withdrawn from the public eye every month, according to legislature passed down from the government.
Abadi estimated the internet as a more imminent danger than satellite dishes, because of the fact that the internet is more accessible.
Thus, he called for the establishment of an internet police in his country.
Iranian authorities recently jailed two cyber writers. Paris based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reports online journalist
Shahnaz Gholami's arrest at her Tehran home on 9 November. She was the editor of Azarzan blog. RSF reports also that theologian and online journalist Mojtaba Lotfi was arrested on 8 October for posting a sermon by a well-known opponent of Supreme Guide
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei online.
At the end of October Mojtaba Saminejad, a former jailed blogger, writes that security forces threatened his wife and him because of his blog and political ideas. The blogger adds that his wife has been under
pressure by security agents to complain against him. he has not updated his blog since 29th of October.
London based Brazilian filmmaker Daniel Florêncio had a surprise on September 22, when his film Gagged in Brazil was taken off the Current TV internet video sites.
The documentary, an investigation into the seemingly
increasingly curtailed press in Brazil , depicts freedom of press and the relationship between media and politics, looking closely at the involvement of Aécio Neves, the powerful governor of the second most populous area in the
federation, Minas Gerais.
It explores the way that the local media offers only favorable news about the Brazilian Social Democracy Party run government, and the lack of journalistic investigation or debate about the errors of the same
A day after, his former commissioning editor on Current TV contacted him to explain the reasons:
According to her, in the previous week, the channel's seniors executives in the U.S. received
letters containing severe criticism and serious considerations regarding the film. These letters were sent by the Minas Gerais' PSDB (Brazilian Social Democracy Party).
PSDB stated that my film had a political-party
character and it did not represent the reality of the situation in the state, and they challenged my ethical conduct in the production of the film. Alongside the letters, they also sent copies of the English version of the video produced by PSDB and
posted on YouTube.
Current TV launched a month long investigation into the allegations and into Florêncio's journalism procedures, resulting in Gagged in Brazil being put back online.
Released on the Current
TV in UK on May 27, 2008, and in the US a week before, Gagged in Brazil had a Portuguese subtitled version uploaded on YouTube, triggering a huge reaction: its link made the rounds on e-mails, networking websites and the video achieved over 2,000 hits on
Google, over 100,000 views on YouTube, not to mention the 6,000 hits on the Current TV version, in English.
Iranian blogger, Hossein Derakhshan (aka Hoder), a prolific blogger often described as the godfather of the Iranian blogosphere, has been arrested In Tehran.
Hossein returned to Iran about three weeks ago and is being investigated on suspicion of
espionage for the state of Israel. According to the same source, Hossein seems to have admitted participating in spying activities for Israel.
In January 2006, Hossein visited Israel as a Canadian citizen and blogged openly about his trip as
breaking a major taboo:
This might mean that I won't be able to go back to Iran for a long time, since Iran doesn't recognize Israel, has no diplomatic relations with it, and apparently considers traveling there
illegal. Too bad, but I don't care. Fortunately, I'm a citizen of Canada and I have the right to visit any country I want. I'm going to Israel as a citizen journalist and a peace activist.
The largest pornographic website in Vietnam is on the verge of being shut down with the arrest of a dozen people, mostly students aged between 20 and 30, reports the Earth Times.
Senior lieutenant colonel Tran Van Hoa, head of the country's Anti
High Technology Crimes division, said: This is the first time we have arrested so many people involved in spreading pornography in Vietnam.
The website www.mocxxx.com - started in 2006 as a forum to educate young people on how to have a
healthy sex life - is still operational. Hoa said that the website will be closed after the retrieval of enough proof.
The website has apparently evolved into a pornographic site taking a feed from RedTube and adding a local forum exchanging
information about prostitutes etc.
Alexa Internet, in its web traffic data by country, ranks www.mocxxx.com 84th among the top 100 most-visited websites in Vietnam.
According to Vietnamese laws, those who make, circulate or sell books,
photographs or material deemed to be pornographic are liable to fine of up to $3,000 and a sentence of three years in prison.
The Ho Chi Minh City
People's Court on December 25 handed down sentences from one year three months to two years imprisonment to four defendants for helping create the country's largest pornographic website.
The website www.mocxi.com launched in 2006, billing itself
as a forum to educate young people on how to have a healthy sex life. It evolved into a pornographic site with movies and photos, and was also used to exchange information about prostitutes.
The four were reportedly members of the website's
management board and allegedly posted sex movies and photos to sell advertising space on it.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights reports that the website of Arab Secularists 3almani.org is facing a campaign to block it in Arab states.
Five states have already blocked the site, making it the most-blocked website.
the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia and Bahrain have blocked both sites and they have now been joined by Syria in blocking the Arab Secularists website.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said: It is not surprising that these
websites have been blocked by these states, but it is strange that the most-blocked websites have a secularist trend, which reveals the stance of these states against the secularist and democratic values called for by these websites. Strangest of all is
the fact that the United Arab Emirates have joined the list of countries that have this animosity to the Internet.
The Indonesian government says it has called on a blogging website to take down two cartoons which depict Muslim Prophet Muhammad in sexual situations.
The communications minister said the drawings were very inappropriate , and said if
necessary he would ask internet service providers to block the entire WordPress site.
The cartoons, which appeared on the website last month, have provoked fierce debate among viewers. The two cartoons, which are several pages long, each tell a
sexually explicit story involving the Prophet, interspersed with verses apparently lifted from the Koran.
A ministry spokesman said the cartoons were offensive, not just to Muslims, but to all religions.
There were protests in Indonesia
two years ago when cartoons depicting Muhammad appeared in a Danish newspaper.
To show how easy it is to get bloggers to support censorship:
I am grateful to wordpress.com which acted quick enough
to close down the controversial blog on the Prophet cartoon comic strip written by –who else?–an anonymous irresponsible blogger. Otherwise, the Indonesia government would have closed down the entire Indonesia's wordpress.com community as stated by
Indonesia's Communication Minister Muhammad Nuh.
The blog which has been closed by wordpress.com is lapotuak.wordpress.com,
A group of MPs from the opposition Democrat Party have proposed a draft legislation that would penalise people making defamatory remarks or contemptuous tones against the monarchy on the Internet or via computers.
The proposed law would also
punish those who wrongly accuse or attempt to frame up others of such a wrongdoing.
Under the proposed law, anyone putting inaccurate content about the monarchy on the Internet or a computer system faces a jail term of between three to 20 years
or a fine ranging from Bt200,000 (£3800) to Bt800,000 (£15,400).
Those uploading defamatory or contemptuous content about the monarchy face an imprisonment of five to 20 years or a fine of between Bt300,000 to Bt800,000.
law will also punish anyone falsely accusing others of such wrongdoings, with imprisonment of three to 20 years and a fine ranging from Bt200,000 to Bt800,000.
The law also seeks to punish people hiring others to do the job for them, the Internet
service provider or computer system administrator who fails to cooperate, as well as repeat offenders.
Boonsong Chaisinghananon, a Silapakorn University philosophy lecturer, said the amendments were more
likely to serve or be exploited by the Democrats and the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which has often accused others of insulting the monarchy.
The proposers rejected a political movitation behind the amendments and said the ICT
minister appoint military personnel to help track internet violators.
Brazilian bloggers and netizens took to the streets of São Paulo to protest against the Digital Crimes Bill, which typifies the cyber-crimes punishable by law and stipulates penalties accordingly.
They claim the law has so many flaws that,
instead of punishing real criminals, it might end up deeming as crime trivial conduct when surfing the Internet.
Proposed by senator Eduardo Azeredo, the bill has passed through the Senate, has proceeded to the House of Representatives and has
been labelled as urgent, which means that voting might happen at any time.
The head of the West Papua Provincial Legislative Council (DPRD) repeated the province's intention to secede from Indonesia if the anti-pornography bill passed into law, during a rally in front of the Bali governor office in Denpasar, on Saturday.
Jimmy Demianus Ijie told Balinese protesters that West Papua would galvanize international support for secession if the government enforces the anti-pornography bill in West Papua.
Jimmy said the West Papuans could not accept the bill because
it smelled of Sharia law and it had no respect for the constitution, which, he said, embraces Indonesia's five major religions and its hundreds of cultures.
He said the bill was an insult to church congregations in West Papua, who had
expressed their stand against the bill: The church played a major part in assisting the government in returning West Papua to Indonesia, and because the church is West Papua's representative, this is a stab in the back, too.
supported the Bali People's Component's (KRB) attempt to file a judicial review at the Constitutional Court: If the judicial review fails, we will secede .
KRB coordinator Ngurah Harta said the judicial review would be filed next week,
pledging to hold a civil disobedience campaign if the review fails.
With Deshdrohi is a film based on north Indians migrating to Mumbai which has been creating a controversy in the Indian state of Maharashtra,
Lok Janshakti Party leader and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan questioned the banning of the
film in the State despite getting Censor Board clearance: What is the harm in screening the film? It has got clearance from the Censor Board. No other State has banned it.
The Maharashtra government has imposed a two-month ban on the film
fearing backlash from the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and others if it was allowed to be released in the present format.
The Maharashtra police had asked the film's writer, producer and actor Kamaal Khan for a separate
screening before the film's release.
The MNS has welcomed the ban on the film saying the movie had the potential for to create a law and order problem.
The Bombay high court on Monday refused to interfere with the state's order suspending the screening of the film.
There was, however, a silver lining for
Khan as a division bench of Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice Sharad Bobde asked principal secretary (home) to give a hearing to the film's producer and pass a fresh order by November 20.
Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrest of blogger Guo Quan, for posting blog entries deemed to be too radical . He is currently being held in a Nanjing police station on a charge of inciting subversion of state authority.
What the authorities regard as ‘too radical' is open letters to the government calling for democratic change,
Reporters Without Borders said. Guo's arrest is further evidence, if any were needed, that the Chinese dictatorship systematically punishes those who express views different from the Party's. We unfortunately fear that Guo could be jailed for a
long time, like the 49 other cyber-dissidents currently held in China.
Guo had been under house arrest since February after calling for the creation of a Chinese Netizen Party to combat online censorship. He also announced on 4 February that
he intended to sue the US company Google for ensuring - at the Chinese government's request after he created the Chinese New People's Party - that searches for his name on its Chinese-language search engine (http://www.google.cn) yielded no results.
Guo has been posting open letters on his blog calling for pro-democracy reforms ever since he was fired from his post as philosophy professor at Nanjing university.
Officials in Ashgabat in Turkmenistan are continuing to dismantle satellite dishes. In place of the dismantled equipment their owners are offered a chance to sign up for cable television with a fixed choice of channels.
with that, authorities are introducing payment for setting up and running cable networks. According to BBC Monitoring which carried the report, citizens are alarmed that the set of channels can be changed arbitrarily by authorities, and authorities also
have the possibility of turning off broadcasts.
The satellite dish dismantling campaign was triggered by the Turkmen president's remark at the beginning of this year that satellite dishes make the city look ugly. Rights activists have even
more cause to be concerned about authorities' actions aimed at suppressing human rights, in particular, denying the right for free information access.
Hundreds of people rallied Saturday in the Hindu-majority holiday island of Bali against a tough anti-pornography law branded by critics a threat to religious freedom.
About 400 people marched through the Balinese capital Denpasar in defiance
of the law passed by mainly Muslim lawmakers in Jakarta last month.
Protesters denounced as too broad the law's definition of pornography, saying it was a threat to Indonesia's diverse non-Muslim minorities and could shatter national unity.
High-spirited protesters in traditional sarongs and translucent temple blouses marched toward the provincial governor's office, cheering wildly at traditional dances and performances by local pop singers in curve-hugging pants.
The chair of
the West Papua provincial parliament, Jimmy Demianus Ijie, said the law passed after years of deliberation in Jakarta criminalised Papuan culture, where many people go semi-naked.
A challenge to the law would be launched in Indonesia's
Constitutional Court next week, activist Ngurah Harta told the protest: We have to win this judicial review or we will hold a massive civil disobedience campaign .
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has released its third quarter listing of videos it won't allow into the country because it has decided they are obscene.
Agents carefully screened 119 porn DVDs between July and September for what the
CBSA calls obscene content. Seventy nine of those titles were turned back at the border.
The CBSA publishes a lengthy list of qualifiers that determine its definition of obscenity. Along with the usual chestnuts of bestiality, necrophilia and
sexual assault, agents are instructed to ban films that include things like watersports, bondage and domination and what it oddly calls sex with pain.
Apparently attitudes at the CBSA have become more liberal over the last few years.
Before Nov 2005, any film that included watersports action netted an instant ban at the border. But in a CBSA internal memo released to Xtra through an access to information request, screeners were told, The Canadian community will now tolerate
consensual urination onto another person. [onto but not into!]
Here's a list of some of the more interesting banned films that were arbitrarily deemed obscene:
Europeein Vol 1, Europeein Vol 2 Frat Piss: The Hazing of Kaleb Scott
Kaleb Scott's Piss Party Weekend San Francisco Lesbian Bondage Club 1 & 2 Triga's Piss Tapes Vol 1 Yellow! Triga's Piss Tapes, Vol 2 Amazing Lactations #2: Bondage Mutterficker Sex Slaves of Satan Femmes De Sade The Jackbooth Job
The Media Council of Uganda has banned the publication and circulation of pornographic and obscene material.
The Chairperson of Uganda's Media Council, Dr. Goretti Nassanga, said the ban follows widespread concerns by Ugandans on the increase of
pornographic and obscene materials in Uganda's media.
The functions of the Media Council include censoring films, videotapes, plays and other related apparatuses for public consumption. Dr. Nassanga said the ban is backed by Uganda's Press and
Journalist Act and Penal Code Act, and also Article 17 of the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child.
Dr. Nassanga has warned newspaper publishers, editors, broadcasters, journalists, video hall operators and media practitioners to
stop publication and/or circulation of pornographic and obscene material — or risk closure and arrest. The order shall stay in force until the government passes a law on publication and circulation of pornographic and obscene matter.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) has reported that blogger Roshdi Algadir was arrested by religious police in Saudi Arabia on 4th November.
He was taken from his place of work in Al-Dammam city, held for three hours, beaten
up and forced to sign an agreement never again to publish his work on the internet. The reason behind the attack is a poem that Algadir has posted on his blog (in Arabic) .
Roshdi Algadir, winner of an international award for his collections of poetry, had posted some of them on his blog. Following this he was surprised by members of the Hisba apparatus who snatched him from his work, beat him and accused him of
Algadir is insistent that poetry should only be subject to the critiques of literature, but the way he was arrested confirms the insistence of the apparatus to act against the interests of freedom of expression in the name of religious
Gamal Eid, executive director of ANHRI stated: The members of the Hisba apparatus threaten the legal system and all the citizen's rights in the name of protecting the Islamic religion. The existence of this apparatus is an insult
to Islam, depicting it as it does, as anti freedom of speech and anti freedom of expression.
An internet blogger and a writer who disguised an attack on Burma's dictator in the form of a love poem were among dozens of activists sentenced to draconian jail terms as the junta ordered a fresh crackdown on dissidents.
Nay Myo Kyaw who wrote
blogs under the name Nay Phone Latt, was sentenced to 20 years and 6 months in jail by a court in Rangoon.
The poet, Saw Wai, received a two-year sentence for an eight-line Valentine's Day verse published in a popular magazine. Saw Wai's poem,
entitled 14th February, was ostensibly a Valentine's Day verse but the first word of each line, however, spelt out a message about the leader of the country's military government: Power Crazy Senior General Than Shwe.
Aung Thein, the
lawyer for the men, was given four months in prison for contempt of court during his defence.
More than a dozen people arrested during the protests last year against the ruling junta were handed harsh prison terms yesterday. Altogether 23
activists were sentenced today at Insein prison. They were sentenced to 65 years each, a family member of one jailed activist said
Other sources said that 14 people from the Generation 88 Students group, who spearheaded the revolt against
Burma's military rulers in 1988, were jailed for 65 years. Ten rank-and-file members of a provincial branch of the opposition National League for Democracy party were given sentences ranging from 8 to 24 years.
The dissidents will join more than
2,000 political prisoners in Burma's jails, half of whom have been incarcerated since the Saffron Revolution last year, when tens of thousands of Buddhist monks and political activists took to the streets in a failed uprising against the military regime.
New Zealand's C4 has received a number of viewer complaints after a raunchy episode of Jono's New Show .
The show featured uncensored footage from boobs on bikes parades, a dwarf involved in bondage & discipline and an explicit
interview with porn stars that involved simulated sex.
One nutter, who called the show terrible and pornographic , stated that young people were still up at the time it screened and that programmes were getting worse and worse.
Jono's New Show executive producer Angela Mann says: There were clear warnings at the beginning of the show saying it would contain sexual material. We covered a topic that was of great interest to the majority of our audience.
Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari has signed a law making cyber terror a crime punishable with death.
Executions will only be allowed if the hack attack causes [the] death of any person, the Prevention of Electronic Crimes law
But the definition of what is considered cyber terror is alarmingly broad in the law, proposed last year and signed Thursday by the Pakistani president. Not only does it apply to any person, group or organization who, with
terroristic intent utilizes, accesses or causes to be accessed a computer or computer network or electronic system or electronic device or by any available means, and thereby knowingly engages in or attempts to engage in a terroristic act. The
ordinance also considers cyber terrorism to be:
altering by addition, deletion, or change or attempting to alter information that may result in the imminent injury, sickness, or death to any segment of the population
transmission or attempted transmission of a harmful program with the
purpose of substantially disrupting or disabling any computer network operated by the Government or any public entity
aiding the commission of or attempting to aid the commission of an act of violence against the sovereignty of Pakistan, whether
or not the commission of such act of violence is actually completed
stealing or copying, or attempting to steal or copy, or secure classified information or data necessary to manufacture any form of chemical, biological or nuclear weapon, or any
other weapon of mass destruction.
Fallout 3 is scheduled for release in Japan next month and developer Bethesda has decided to make some PC changes to the Japanese version.
For starters, the possible detonation of an unexplored nuclear bomb has been
edited out, along with Mr. Burke, the non-playable character.
Bethesda also noted that one weapon title was changed because it was inappropriate and this is most likely the Fat Man, as it was the code name for the atomic bomb that
was detonated over Nagasaki, Japan, by the US during WWII.
The irony is that despite Bethesda's best intentions to be culturally sensitive to a country and their history, online reactions from Japanese users, however, indicate complete
irreverence and disappointment regarding the censorship.
Both Yahoo and Google are locked in a legal battle with dozens of fashion models and other public figures like Maradona over whether the Internet companies should have to censor search results relating to those persons' names.
year, Internet users have been left with abbreviated search results from Yahoo Argentina and Google Argentina, as a result of temporary restraining orders handed down by Argentine judges.
The move effectively holds the search companies
responsible for content on other Web sites, a legal maneuver that would not be possible in the United States or the European Union, according to a Google representative. In the United States, federal law generally says that search engines are not
responsible for the content of pages they index.
Google first received an injunction to block references to the individuals on its Argentina search engine in mid-2007. A group of about 70 fashion models, represented by the same lawyer, initially
asked the Internet company to block all search results with their names with the intent of blocking pornographic sites that used the models' pictures. Google responded that it would only block specific problematic links, provided it could notify users.
The matter was taken to court, and judges in Argentina have so far sided with the models. Other public figures--including Maradona and Judge María Servini de Cubría--have in recent months sought out the same lawyer to successfully
block search results about them on Google and Yahoo as well.
The lawyer representing all the plaintiffs, Martin Leguizamon Peña, has sought damages between 100,000 and 400,000 pesos for his clients (about $30,000 to more than $121,000.
Both Google and Yahoo have unsuccessfully appealed the restraining orders and are now complying with them while the underlying lawsuits filed by Peña's clients are pending.
Reporters Without Borders condemns the government pressure that led to the debate programme Ira Anduru Pata being cut short as it was being broadcast live on the evening of 4 November on state TV station Rupavahini.
The abrupt censorship,
which has become a talking point among TV viewers, ended a discussion of a new broadcasting law by three guests, including Uvindu Kurukulasuriya, convener of the Free Media Movement, a local media rights group.
The presenter announced a break for
advertisements after 45 minutes, but the rest of the programme, which normally lasts two hours, was suppressed, the RWB statement said Kurukulasuriya had been criticising the government's media policies before he was censored, it said.
censorship came as widespread criticism forced the government to retreat on its newly-introduced Private Television Broadcasting Station Regulations, the RWB statement said.
The new rules would restrict development of privately-owned TV by
increasing the government's control over the issuing and withdrawal of broadcasting licences, which would have to be renewed annually.
After receiving representatives of journalists' organisations and media owners, media and information minister
Anura Priyadharshana Yapa announced that implementation of the new regulations would be suspended for a month.
Noting the government's decision to suspend the regulations, Reporters Without Borders said: This law is extremely dangerous for
media freedom. Delaying its implementation is not enough. Its content needs to be changed radically.
Bali Police chief Insp. Gen. Teuku Ashikin Husein said his institution had no option but to enforce the new pornography law in the province.
I have no option. The police must enforce every positive law in the country, he said in
Denpasar, as quoted by Tempointeraktif.com.
Ashikin said the law would be implemented through a government regulation which had yet to be established.
Last week, Bali's governor and speaker of the provincial legislature announced that the
province would not be able to enforce the newly passed law, saying it was not in line with Balinese philosophical and sociological values.
Bali leaders and members of the public have united in an organization named the Bali People's Component to
challenge the new law through the Constitutional Court.
The Armenian government has set up a new agency tasked with monitoring and regulating the work of the local media outlets, prompting serious concern from some of them.
The Center for Public Relations and Information (CPRI) was set up during a
weekly cabinet session upon the recommendation of President Serzh Sarkisian's administration.
A government statement said that the body will be tasked with conducting, among other things, a monitoring and analysis of activities of the
Armenian media, including newspaper circulations and the size of TV and radio audiences. It will also come up with initiatives relating to the legal regulation of media outlets' activities.
Some independent outlets expressed concern at the
development on Friday, saying that it could herald government restrictions on press freedom and even censorship.
Mesrop Movsesian, owner and chief executive of Independent TV channel A1+, claimed that the CPRI's main mission is to censor
independent news reporting: It looks like the idea is to have one center from which information will be controlled and delivered to the public .
Indonesia watched its new anti-pornography law leap into action last weekend, as police raided a Jakarta nightclub and arrested three employees. The officers detained three erotic dancers in the raid. The women now face up to 10 years in prison.
The new law retains a broad definition of pornography that many fear could be abused by law enforcers and radical organizations. The law is wide open to interpretation and could even apply to voice, sound, poetry, works of art or literature, says Kadek Krishna Adidharma, one of many Balinese who see the law as an attempt by the Indonesian Muslim majority to impose their will on the rest of the country:
Anything that supposedly raises the libido could be prosecutable.
The law has a long list of possible offenses. Anyone displaying nudity could be fined up to $500,000 and jailed for up to 10 years. Public performances that could incite sexual desire
have been banned, and civil society groups will be allowed to help enforce the legislation.
While it is true that pornographic magazines and pirated DVDs are easily available in Indonesia, advocates for the rights of religious and
ethnic minorities say the problem will not be righted by the new legislation. They point to existing provisions in the criminal law as sufficient to deal with the problem, and complain that the new law poses a threat to non-Muslim Indonesians. The law
imposes the will of the majority that embrace Islam, is a form of religious discrimination and against the spirit of tolerance taught by the country's founders, says Theophilus Bela, chairman of the Christian Communication Forum.
provinces with sizeable non-Muslim populations — Bali, Yogyakarta, Papua and North Sulawesi — have already rejected the law and said it will not be enforced in their regions. It remains to be seen how and if that will be tolerated by Jakarta. Major
protests are planned for this month in Bali, where the governor has been a vocal opponent of the law and pledged that it will not be implemented. Many Balinese are now calling for greater autonomy and say dire consequences lie ahead if their demands are
not met. There is even a possibility that Bali will ask to separate from Indonesia, says Rudolf Dethu, a Balinese who has helped organize protests against the law: It's that serious.
A Malaysian court hearing the appeal by an evangelical church to use the word "Allah" in its Sunday School materials has been adjourned to next month.
The Evangelical Church of Borneo, otherwise known as SIB (Sidang Injil Borneo), and
its president Pastor Jerry Dusing filed the appeal at the High Court against the Internal Security Ministry and the Malaysian Government.
The hearing will resume on November 12.
On August 15 last year, SIB was preparing to bring in three
cartons containing six different publications from Indonesia to be used as Sunday School materials when they were withheld by a customs officer and later handed over to the Internal Security Ministry (ISM.
Nearly a month later, Dusing received a
letter from the ISM stating that the import of the publications had been denied, that Christian publications containing the word “Allah” cannot be distributed in Malaysia. The letter also stated that the publications can raise confusion and
controversy in Malaysian society.
In response the church sent an appeal letter dated September 24 to the minister, stating that the previous prime minister had allowed the use of the word “Allah” in their publications.
The New Zealand government has no current plan to follow Australia into compulsory filtering of internet connections by ISPs, says ICT minister David Cunliffe.
New Zealand's response to undesirable online material emphasises education, says
Cunliffe, referring to NetSafe's educational programme aimed at parents and children.
There is currently no legislative authority in the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act for website filtering, Cunliffe notes.
Australian proposal, first mooted by the Howard government, has attracted criticism. The extent of the planned filtering is still unclear. Australian civil liberties campaigners have called it the Great Firewall of Australia, in allusion to China's
strict state online censorship.
In New Zealand a trial web filtering programme is being conducted by the DIA in association with a number of ISPs, who have volunteered. The trial currently blocks access to about 7,000 websites that are known to
deal exclusively with child sexual abuse imagery, Cunliffe says: There are no plans for the programme to be expanded to other types of illegal material.
More than 870 people have killed themselves this year by mixing particular brands of toilet cleaner & bath salts and then inhaling the hydrogen sulphide gas produced.
The method has sparked a series of mass-evacuations in homes and hotels
because the gas forms noxious clouds that can also poison those nearby.
The internet has long been studied by suicide fads in Japan, which is home to the one of the highest rates in the industrialised world.
Police are now clamping down
on the most popular sites, including those that provide instructions on how to commit suicide by gassing.
The move follows the release of government figures that show that 876 people killed themselves between January and September this year by
inhaling gas in this way. In 2007 the number was just 29.
There are fears that the suicide rate in Japan will increase even more sharply over the coming months amid the nation's deepening economic crisis. In the past, recessions have always gone
hand in hand with a spike in the number of suicides in Japan.
In a bid to curb the nation's soaring suicide rates, the government is running an anti-suicide programme to help those suffering from mental health problems.
BBC Monitoring stated that local reports suggest that two controversial Arabic channels had been removed from Nilesat's platform of services.
One report emanated from the Muslim Brotherhood website in Cairo and said that the
Egyptian government has suspended the transmission of the space channel, al-Hikmah, on Nilesat without giving any reasons for the action.
The website's reason for the suspension was that the al-Hikmah channel launched a campaign to lift the
blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip, adding: however, the public relations officer of the space channel denied that the reason was the campaign launched to lift the Gaza blockade and said that the real reason was the financial difficulty which the
[satellite] channel was undergoing and which precluded payment of its debts to Nilesat.
The second problem channel is the al-Barakah satellite channel, also transmitting on Nilesat. The report, carried by BBC Monitoring, said that Egyptian
security services had suspended transmissions of the al-Barakah space channel on Nilesat, claiming that the channel was transmitting programmes that threatened the Egyptian national security.
The House of Representatives pushes through an overly broad bill that could energize Islamic fundamentalists even more
Analysts and critics are warning that the bill will embolden the country's already-unswerving Muslim fundamentalists.
Provisions of the Bill
Article 29 Any person who manufactures, produces, duplicates, reduplicates, distributes, broadcasts, imports, exports, makes for sale, trades in, leases or makes available pornography shall be punished with a prison term of 6 months to 12 years
and/or a fine of Rp250 million or Rp6 billion.
Article 30 Any person who makes available pornography …shall be punished with a prison term of 6 years and/or a fine of Rp250 million to Rp6 billion
Any person who loans or downloads pornography…shall be punished with a maximum prison term of 4 years and/or a fine not to exceed Rp2 billion
Article 32 Any person who exhibits, possesses or stores pornography shall be punished
with a maximum prison term of 4 years and/or a fine not to exceed Rp2 billion
Article 34 Any person who consents to be a pornographic object or model shall be punished with a maximum prison term of 10 years and/or a fine not to
exceed Rp5 billion
Article 36 Any person who exhibits themselves or others in a performance…that contains nudity, sexual exploitation, coital acts or other pornographic content shall be punished with a maximum prison term of 10
years and/or a fine not to exceed Rp5 billion.
Authorities in Azerbaijan say they plan to halt local broadcasts by foreign stations by the end of the year.
The chairman of Azerbaijan's National Television and Radio Council, Nushiravan Maharramli, says his country is not interested in granting
local frequencies to foreign broadcasters. He says the change will affect the BBC and U.S. financed Voice of America and Radio Liberty.
The official says his country has been gradually implementing changes, having previously eliminated broadcasts
by Russian, French and Turkish stations.
In a move of defiance against the controversial Indonesia pornography bill, Bali's governor and speaker of the provincial legislative council declared Friday the province would not be able to enforce the newly passed law.
In a two-point
written statement, signed by Governor Made Mangku Pastika and Speaker Ida Bagus Putu Wesnawa, Bali made its historic mark as the first region ever to publicly declare an inability to implement a law passed by the House of Representatives.
the passing of the porn bill on Thursday, we hereby declare that we cannot carry it out because it is not in line with Balinese philosophical and sociological values, Pastika said at the council building here.
We further implore every
element of the Balinese public to keep calm, stay alert, not be easily provoked and maintain the appropriate atmosphere to maintain the integrity of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia.
However, the legal force of the declaration
remains unclear. Pastika did not elaborate on how the declaration would affect the island, calling it simply a statement from the people of Bali.
Asked whether the provincial administration would pursue a Constitutional challenge, Pastika
said he and other leaders were still considering it, adding a legal challenge was the next most viable option.
The previous governor, Made Dewa Beratha, even stated during the bill's first introduction to the public in 2006 that Bali might as
well declare independence if the bill was passed.
Bali's tourism industry declared their support Tuesday for efforts to legally challenge the recently passed pornography bill, calling the bill a violation of individual rights and an egregious monopoly on cultural values.
Head of Bali Tourism
Board (BTB) Ida Bagus Ngurah Wijaya said the industry was ready to support any legal challenge made to the pornography bill, including the plan by the Bali People's Component (KRB) to file a judicial review with the Constitutional Court.
regretted the passing of the bill, saying it was a violation of personal rights and a blatant attempt to standardize public values: Thus we are in full support of KRB's attempt to have a judicial review of the bill .
He further applauded
the island's leaders, Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika and Speaker of the Bali Provincial Legislative Council (DPRD) Ida Bagus Putu Wesnawa, who last Friday had declared that the province would not carry out the law because it was not in line with the
island's philosophical and social values: That was indeed representative of our Balinese feelings as a community. We salute and support the governor and DPRD speaker.
Indonesia's parliament has passed an anti-pornography law despite furious opposition to it.
Islamic parties said the law was needed to protect women and children against exploitation and to curb increasing immorality in Indonesian society.
The law would ban images, gestures or talk deemed to be pornographic.
Artists, women's groups and non-Muslim minorities said they could be victimised under the law and that traditional practices could be banned.
The law has prompted
protests across Indonesia, but particularly on the predominantly Hindu island of Bali - a favourite destination for tourists.
Critics particularly do not like a provision in the bill that would allow members of the public to participate in
preventing the spread of obscenity. We're worried it will be used by hard-liners who say they want to control morality, Baby Jim Aditya, a women's rights activist, told Associated Press news agency.
This law will ensure that Islam is
preserved and guaranteed, said Hakim Sori Muda Borhan, a member of parliament from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party.
The bill must be signed by the president before it comes into effect.
Violators face up to 12
years in prison and hefty fines.
Reporters Without Borders condemns Turkey's censorship of Google's blog services, Blogger and Blogspot, by a magistrate's court in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir as a result of a complaint by the Turkish TV station Digitrk. The station
claims that video footage over which it has exclusive rights has been posted on blogs hosted by these services.
The blogs on these services were suddenly closed without any warning to users and without any court summonses being issued, Reporters Without Borders said:
This is not just about copyright and piracy. This is yet another example of how, in Turkey, entire websites are closed just because of problematic content on a single page or blog. We call for Blogger and Blogspot to be reopened. Their closure has
handicapped thousands of Internet users in Turkey.
Access to some 10 websites, including very popular ones such as YouTube, Dailymotion and Google Groups, have been blocked in the course of this year in Turkey as a result of court decisions.
In most cases, access was blocked under Law 5651 on the Prevention of Crime Committed in the Information Technology Domain, which was adopted by parliament in May 2007 and took effect the following November.
Reporters Without Borders warned of
the danger this law represents for online free expression when it was approved by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on 22 May 2007.
Commenting on the latest developments, Reporters Without Borders said: All this arbitrary blocking of websites has
demonstrated that this law is the main source for the deterioration in online free expression. Furthermore, ISPs are forced to do the blocking of access to sites that break this law. This makes them accomplices to censorship.
freedom organisation added: We call for Law 5651 to be amended as quickly as possible. Rather than block an entire website, only the content regarded as 'sensitive' should be the challenged before the courts.
China's Internet censor has ordered 10 online video sites to shut down and warned another 17, resuming an aggressive policy on such sites that had been relaxed during the summer.
The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) said
in a notice on its Web site that under the Internet Audio Video Program Service Management Regulations, there are still some Web sites posting audio and video programs containing pornography, violence and terror, endangering national security.
The 10 sites ordered to shut down include minor local sites, such as TVSou.com, TSXZ.com and Feesee.com.
Another 17 sites were officially warned to comply with SARFT regulations, including 371dvd.com, which on Tuesday prominently displayed
director Gu Changwei's banned film Spring Begins (Li Chun) as one of its offerings, VeryCD.com and JPSeek.com.
The publisher of a link to defamatory material does not have any liability for that defamation, a Canadian court has ruled. Liability could only exist if the link publisher made any statement relating to the defamatory material itself, the court said.
Mr Justice Kelleher in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Canada ruled that a hyperlink was like a footnote in that it led to material produced by a third party which the reader did not have to follow. The publisher of the link could not be
liable for someone else's content, he said.
Although a hyperlink provides immediate access to material published on another website, this does not amount to republication of the content on the originating site. This is especially so as a
reader may or may not follow the hyperlinks provided, he said.
Hundreds of demonstrators in the Indonesian capital called on the government Wednesday to push through a controversial anti-pornography bill, saying it was the only way to reverse signs of social decay in the world's most populous Muslim nation.
The nearly 300 protesters in Jakarta pointed to everything from racy television ads and movies to touts selling Playboy magazine at stoplights as reasons the bill must pass.
I don't want my children to go to hell because we allow
pornography, said Siti, a demonstrator.
More than 100 lawmakers stormed out of Parliament on Thursday to protest an anti-pornography bill.
But a vote on the legislation was expected to go ahead later in the afternoon.
bill, which outlaws pornographic acts and images, is opposed by members of two parties, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) and the Christian-based Prosperous Peace Party, which together have 122 seats in the 550-seat Parliament.
They showed their displeasure by walking out, but the speaker of the house said a quorum had been reached, so the vote could go ahead.
The Information and Communications Technology Ministry is to introduce an internet gateway system to block websites containing content Thailand doesn't like. ICT Minister Mun Patanotai will also hold a meeting with webmasters today to discuss measures to
suppress lese majeste material.
The gateway system, which could cost between 100 and 500 million baht, could will be used to block websites considered inappropriate, such as those of terrorist groups or selling pornography.
ministry will focus first on websites with content deemed insulting to the Thai monarchy, Mun said. Ministry officials are looking into about a thousand websites, he said. Mun said the ministry has been working with the National Intelligence Agency and
the police in cracking down on anti-royal sites.
Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said he has assigned relevant agencies, particularly the ICT Ministry, to take strong action against offenders.
Special Branch Police are monitoring five
community radio stations that are also airing political content that could be considered lese majeste, a source said.
Ayutthaya Governor Preecha Kamolbut has ordered authorities to monitor all provincial community radio and cable TV stations
around the clock.
The police ordered officers to take immediate action against offenders without waiting for complaints.
Congressman Howard L. Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, welcomed the unveiling of the Global Network Initiative by a diverse group of information and communication companies and human rights organizations.
recognizes that all companies have a responsibility to protect against human rights violations, especially by authoritarian governments like China, Iran and the UK.
It's about time, Berman said: This initiative is an important, yet only
a first step in better protecting freedoms of expression and privacy.
Technology companies and human rights groups that join the initiative agree to abide by a set of operating principles that are based upon internationally recognized human
Under the agreement, participating companies would face yearly reviews to ensure that they are advancing rights of expression and privacy in their business operations. Members of the initiative intend to make the program a
standard for companies around the world.
Most factions in the House of Representatives are pushing for the controversial pornography bill to be passed Thursday, despite a threat by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) to boycott the move and rejection from several provinces.
The passage of the bill was made possible after eight of the 10 factions at the House accepted the draft Tuesday. The PDI-P walked out of the deliberation process and the Prosperous Peace Party (PDS) rejected it.
Yes, we will pass the
bill on Oct. 30, chairman of the special committee deliberating the bill Balkan Kaplale said.
The PDI-P walked out of deliberations for the second time after it was unsuccessful in its last-ditch attempt to change the definition of
pornography and to remove an article that allows public participation in preventing pornography.
The current draft defines pornography as man-made sexual materials either in the forms of drawings, sketches, illustrations, photographs, texts,
voices, sound, moving pictures, animations, cartoons, poetry, conversations, gestures, or other forms of communicative messages through various kinds of media; and or performances in front of the public, which may incite sexual desire and or violate
moral ethics in the community.
Articles 21 to 23 allow for the public to play a role in preventing pornography. It will justify people taking the law into their own hands, PDI-P lawmaker Eva K. Sundari said. Eva said she had already
received text messages from several groups saying they would ensure the law was enforced.
It confirms our suspicion that it can spark conflict given that even though there is no law now, some groups have dared to attack others right under the
nose of police. What will happen if they take the law into their own hands, given our weak law enforcement?.
Two Britons who fornicated on a Dubai beach could face longer jail terms after prosecutors appealed the sentence.
Michelle Palmer and Vince Acors were convicted at Dubai's Court of First Instance earlier this month. They were sentenced to three
months behind bars, fined 1,000 dirhams – £155 – and issued with deportation orders.
Hassan Matter, who represents Palmer and Acors, said prosecutors have now lodged an appeal against the sentence, saying it was not enough.
Mr Matter said the prosecution appeal would be heard on November 18 – at the same time as the defence argument. Last week, Mr Matter lodged an appeal against the convictions.
Following the convictions of Palmer and Acors, on October 16, senior persecutor Faisal Abdelmalek Ahli said he was disappointed at the length of the sentence: It's very light. It's normal for a sentence to be six months to a year for an
offence such as this.
The Marrakesh Court of Appeals in Morocco has upheld a lower court's guilty verdict against an 18-year-old student for insulting the King. Yassin Bellasal
was sentenced to a one-year suspended prison term and a fine of 1,000 dirhams (approximately US$115).
Amnesty International said that the verdict serves to confirm that the monarchy remains a taboo topic in Morocco and shed a different
light on the image projected by the Moroccan authorities of a state, where respect for human rights has greatly improved.
In an unprecedented move, a group of military law officers filed a petition with the South Korean Constitutional Court, demanding the Ministry of National Defense's ban on dozens of bad influence books be lifted.
submitted the petition, arguing the censorship infringes on soldiers' basic rights.
It is a basic right guaranteed by the Constitution to read books for gaining knowledge and pursuing happiness,' said Choi Kang-wook, a lawyer representing
the petitioners: There is no argument for limiting their rights just because they are in the military, or that they must accept unfairness because they are soldiers.'
Their action angered the ministry. It's not appropriate as the
officers are tasked with enforcing law within the military, Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee said during a parliamentary audit of his ministry. I will order the Army Chief of Staff to take steps after reviewing whether their act violates work-related
In July, the ministry announced 23 books that soldiers should not read.
The seditious books include Bad Samaritans , by Chang Ha-joon, a professor at Cambridge University, Year 501: The Conquest Continues
by Noam Chomsky, a U.S. author and linguist and Hyeon Gi-yeong's novel, A Spoon on Earth.
Those books were categorized by the ministry into three categories and claimed the books could have a bad influence on soldiers.
anti-U.S. or anti-capitalism
Ironically, many of the books banned by the ministry have drawn public interest and made the best sellers list at large bookstores in recent months.
For most people sex and the internet are as natural a pairing as apple pie and motherhood.
But increasingly the easy access to pornography that so many have enjoyed for so long is being regulated, filtered and censored by a combination of
government, law enforcement, internet service providers (ISPs) and moral busybodies.
Free speech activists say what we're seeing now is the beginning of internet censorship, with the regulation and removal of child porn as the initial motivation.
There are efforts to combat images of the sexual abuse of prepubescent children and the major ISPs are involved, says Nart Villeneuve, a research fellow at the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab — which has done work with Chinese bloggers
and dissidents on how to avoid internet censorship — in an email. "They filter access to a small amount of sites that host this stuff and have review/complaint procedures and do not appear to be overblocking.
But once the infrastructure
for filtering is in place — for any reason, though porn is usually the first excuse — there is an incentive to increase its use. I see 'mission creep' all the time where once in place, filtering is extended to cover content areas that were not in the
The BBC has apologized to the Philippines for the skit in the comedy show Harry and Paul that was said to have portrayed Filipino women as sex objects.
BBC director general Mark Thompson apologized, in a letter dated Oct. 10, 2008, to
Philippine Ambassador to the Court of St. James Edgardo Espiritu, for the offense caused by the episode of Harry and Paul.
The apology came following a letter sent last Oct. 3 by Espiritu to BBC Trust Chairman Sir Michael Lyons expressing
the ambassador's dismay.
The episode angered some of the 200,000-strong Filipino community in the United Kingdom and prompted some leaders of the community to put up an online petition where Filipinos could lodge their protest against BBC and the
show's producer, Tiger Aspect Productions. The online petition gathered more than 2,000 supporters within three days.
Simultaneous silent vigils were also held on Oct. 17 in front of the BBC office in White City, just outside central London, and
Tiger Aspect Productions in Soho in central London.
Tiger Aspect Productions Chief Executive Andrew Zane issued an apology before the members of the Filipino community who joined the Soho vigil: We're sorry to anyone who was in any way
offended by the programme. This certainly was not our intention .
Advertising across a large area of Bahrain could soon be torn down for being too sexy.
The Central Municipal Council is drafting a law that would allow them to ban advertising that is too provocative, claiming it was equivalent to pornography.
It is also seeking a clampdown on lingerie shops that display immoral skimpy underwear in their windows, which councillors have claimed flouts religious values.
Street advertisements are getting outrageous, said
councillor Sadiq Rabea'a, who co-sponsored the proposal: Some are crossing the line with women wearing tight-fitting dresses, dancing around and legalising sexual scenes for our children to witness.
Councillor Abdulrazzaq Al Hattab also
sponsored the initiative, saying his constituency in Riffa was a hotbed of illicit imagery: Showcasing lingerie for everyone to see is against our Islamic culture and is considered immoral.
The issue has now been referred to the council's
technical and financial committee, which will study the proposal and present a report at the council's next meeting.
As of today access to the popular blogging website Blogger.com has been blocked in Turkey.
A blocking order was issued by Diyarbakir First Criminal Court of Peace.
The reason for issuing the order ban is unknown but a considerable
number of Turkish users are affected.
Update: Football Rights Freakery
27th October 2008
It is now being reported by Turk.internet.com that the blocking
order is related to an intellectual property infringement. Digitrk is a subscription based digital TV platform in Turkey which owns the right to transmit the live coverage of the Turkish football league games. Digitrk obtained the
blocking order through the Diyarbakir court according to the Turk.internet.com news as there were blog entries providing information and links to known websites which transmit pirated transmission of the live football league games.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) has condemned a recent Algerian police order which prevents the publication of respected Algerian journalist Mohamed Benchicou's book, The Free Man's Journal (Journal d'un homme libre).
The injunction has prevented the journalist from presenting his book at the 13th International Book Fair in Algiers.
This is the second time that Algerian police have used such brutal censorship against the author. At the same time last year,
police issued an order to stop the production of Benchicou's book, The Jails of Algiers . This is a blatant intervention in publishing affairs, which are legally protected by the Algerian constitution, which outlaws censorship unless it happens as
a result of a judicial order.
The refusal to print Benchicou's new book is part of a systematic campaign of harassment against him by the Algerian government. He was held in prison from 2004 to 2006 and his newspaper Le Matin was closed
down two years ago in retaliation for releasing a book called Bouteflika: The Algerian Trick in 2004. In this book, Benchicou courageously criticised the prevailing corruption in Algeria under current president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.