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 2011: Oct-Dec

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29th December   

Update: Spring Phobia...

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Extreme jail sentence for dissident calling for a Chinese Spring
Link Here  full story: Human Rights in China...Chinese round up the usual suspects

China flagA Chinese court has sentenced a veteran democracy activist to nine years' imprisonment for inciting subversion.

Chen Wei was convicted of incitement to subversion over four essays he wrote and published online, according to one of his lawyers. He was detained in February amid an extensive government crackdown in response to anonymous online calls urging Chinese to imitate protests in North Africa and the Middle East.

Attorney Liang Xiaojun said: We pleaded not guilty. He only wrote a few essays. We presented a full defence of the case, but we were interrupted often, and none of what we said was accepted by the court.

Chen's wife Wang Xiaoyan denounced the punishment: He is innocent and the punishment was too harsh. The court did not allow him to defend himself and he was completely deprived of his right to free speech . What's wrong with a person freely expressing his ideas?

The sentence handed down to Chen appears to be the heaviest penalty meted out in relation to this year's crackdown, said Wang Songlian, a researcher with the Hong Kong-based advocacy group, Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

This severe punishment against an activist, caught up in the Jasmine crackdown, shows how the Chinese government's nerves are still jittery. All its latest moves, its attempts to control its microblogs, its crackdown on activists, show it is increasing tightening on freedom of expression and other civil liberties.

 

29th December   

Update: Dangerous Likes...

Thais advised about safe web surfing
Link Here  full story: Lese Majeste in Thailand...Criticising the monarchy is a serious crime

Thailand flagThe newly opened Centre for Monitoring Lese Majeste Websites is offering advice to Thais on what to do and not to do when browsing the internet: 

  • The first advice the centre gives the public is: Do not forward, send a link or revisit websites - including Facebook, Twitter or YouTube - with content that is critical of the monarchy. Those who do so can be regarded as supporting such websites.
     
  • Never press 'Like' in Facebook or click 'Follow' on Twitter for sites with content critical of the monarchy.
     
  • If you Google certain key words such as 'King Thailand' and come across indecent content, do not activate the link because browsing those websites can upgrade the ranking of those lese majeste sites, eventually pushing them to the top of the list.
     
  • It is suggested that the public check in to such websites as www.weloveking.com and www.welovekingonline.com.

 

29th December   

Updated: General Patronisation...

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Philippines media censors unveil new TV ratings
Link Here  full story: TV Censors in Philippines...Film censors have a go at TV
mtrcb banner logoPhilippines' Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) has launched its revised classification ratings for television programs.

The new TV ratings will be:

  • General Patronage (G)
  • Parental Guidance (PG)
  • Strong Parental Guidance (SPG)
  • Banned for Airing on Television (X)

MTRCB said the program advisories were designed to empower parents to exercise caution and vigilance with the viewing habits of their children.

A full-screen written and verbal advisory of the program's classification rating must be shown for at least 10 seconds immediately before the opening credits. Then a standard pictogram advisory must be superimposed on screen throughout the program.

Update: Accepted

29th December 2011. See article from bworldonline.com

strong parental guidance logoThe Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) has issued guidelines for the implementation of an additional classification rating for television programs that contain more serious topics and themes. The Strong Parental Guidance (SPG) tag is given to programs that may not be advisable for children to watch except under the very vigilant guidance and presence of a parent or adult.

Programs under the SPG classification contain more explicit content than those under Parental Guidance category, which is currently the only warning issued by the MTRCB for television shows.

It was approved on Dec. 1 by the MTRCB and becomes effective on Jan. 7.

A program advisory showing the capital letters SPG on a red box with the phrase Strong Parental Guidance Striktong Patnubay at Gabay at the bottom shall be clearly superimposed at the bottom right corner of the TV screen throughout the entire showing of the program.

The full screen advisory shall specifically declare the content descriptors pertinent to the program being shown, whether it be drugs, violence, sex, horror or language. A voice-over to the effect that the program is classified as SPG shall be broadcast for at least 20 seconds immediately before the opening credits and midway in the full airing of the show.

 

28th December   

Growing Up...

Malaysia moves towards industry self censorship of local movies
Link Here

Malaysia flagThe Malaysian Film Producers' Association (PFM) claims that it can be made the body to determine age ratings for films because of its vast experience.

Its general-secretary, Norman Abdul Halim, said the concept of making the film producers' association as the rating agency was being practiced in the United States of America through Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). He said:

A body with experience and is an expert in films, like the film producers' association, is required to determine the rating because it is not an easy task.

PFM can do this. We can give warning, in the form of rating for films, like those containing violence and sex are suitable for viewing by those above 18 years old.

Home Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Mahmood Adam has just announced that local movie producers would be allowed to carry out their own censorship on movies or dramas that they produced, effective next year.

 

21st December   

Update: Seeing red...

Thai red shirt firebrand sentenced to 15 years in jail for criticising the monarchy
Link Here  full story: Lese Majeste in Thailand...Criticising the monarchy is a serious crime

Thailand flagDaranee Chamchoengsilpakul, the Thai Red Shirt firebrand known as Da Torpedo, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for violating Thailand's lese-majeste laws criminalising criticism of the monarchy.

Daranee received the prison sentence for speeches she made during 2008 Red Shirt rallies against the previous government.

It appears that Thailand is becoming aware of international impact of the stream of repressive jail sentences that have hit the headlines recently.

Army chief Prayuth Chano-cha has now urged the public to refrain from discussing the possibility bombings during the New Year holiday, and the issue of the lese majeste law.

Don't start talking about possible bombings and stir up unrest during the New Year, because it could hurt tourism, Gen Prayuth said. People should not be calling on the authorities to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the lese majeste law:

Personally, I feel we should not talk about this and I don't want it to go overboard. If people think Thai law is unjust or too harsh, they can go live abroad.

Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung has also voiced opposition to amending the lese majeste law. He said he had been always clear about his stance on the lese majeste law.

Why change Section 112 since it's good already? Don't they [people who want Section 112 amended] have jobs to go to?

Chalerm also said he would chair a meeting of the committee for dealing with websites with lese majeste content and that a 'war room' would be set up for this committee.

 

20th December   

Update: Censorial Fanaticism...

China proposes even more repressive film censorship
Link Here  full story: Film Censorship in China...All Chinese films censored to be suitable for kids

china state council logoChina is planning even more repressive movie censorship to bar anti-government sentiments and messages of religious fanaticism from the screen, the government says.

The proposal, posted to the web site of the State Council. It is part of a draft film law now under consideration that would raise to 13 the subject categories not allowed. Previous bans cover too much smoking on screen, explicit sex and graphic violence.

Under the proposals, China would bar incitement to resist or undermine the constitution and the promotion of religious fanaticism from films. A further proposed ban would bar any film from promoting illegal drugs or terrorist activity.

 

18th December   

Update: Big Budgets...

Thailand set to buy in more technology to block the internet
Link Here  full story: Lese Majeste in Thailand...Criticising the monarchy is a serious crime

Thailand flagThailand's Deputy Prime Minister Police Captain Chalerm Yubamrung is set to begin his crackdown on websites critical of the monarchy, and has sought a budget of 400 million baht ( 8.3 million) to buy new equipment to block foreign websites.

Chalerm said that previous governments had tried to deal with 'inappropriate' content but had failed. Some people claimed that because some websites were located abroad, it was difficult to take legal action against them, but for websites in the country they could not make any arrest. Websites abroad cannot be banned, but can be blocked, he said.

He said that he and the Police Chief did not want to manage the budget themselves, but the police would be willing to work. From now on, offensive content must decrease, and harsh measures will be taken, he said.

Chalerm said that some people were concerned about the image of the country in the eyes of other countries, but this was Thailand, and this was not a violation of people's rights.

The government later reacted to fears that civil rights would be threatened if it adopts a tighter monitoring system of internet monitoring.

Police Colonel Siripong Timula, deputy commander of Technology Crime Suppression Division, assured that the monitoring system would not be used extensively, but would be allowed by a court order. He claimed: To curb anxiety, I'd like to stress that the system must be applied under the law, which means it must be approved by a court. So there is no need to fear violations of rights .

 

17th December   

Update: Rumours of Repression Prove True...

China demands ID to use local versions of Twitter
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship

WeiboAuthorities in Beijing have issued new rules requiring users of microblog sites to register personal details.

New users of Weibo - Chinese equivalents of Twitter - will now have to submit their real names. Existing users have to register in three months. Those who refuse to do so will lose the ability to post tweets.

The move comes with Chinese people increasingly using Weibo platforms to criticise government policies or vent anger over particular incidents.

Chinese authorities have accused netizens of spreading rumours on Weibo in the past and have long been discussing putting in place a real name mechanism .

The new regulations - which take effect immediately - were issued jointly by Beijing's information, communication and police authorities, and published on the city's official news portal.

Some users on Sina Weibo have expressed unhappiness at the new rule, posting messages such as goodbye Weibo and time to move on and calling on friends and followers to migrate to other social media sites such as Twitter and Google+ instead.

 

13th December   

Update: Rumours of Repression...

China jails man for uploading video of massive police operation claiming rumour spreading
Link Here

a different massive police convoyPolice in China have detained two men for supposedly spreading a rumour online that thousands of police were called out to guard a wedding, state media reported.

Police in the city of Changsha in Hunan province detained the two men after they said 5,000 police and 100 police vehicles had been seen guarding a wedding convoy, the state news agency Xinhua said. The two men had uploaded a video clip showing crowds of police and the wedding convoy, Xinhua said, adding that the rumour had spread quickly, with the video clip receiving large numbers of hits .

Police have detained the two men for a total of five days so far.

 

12th December   

News Media Meets New Media...

New Zealand Law Commission proposes super censor for the news industry
Link Here

news media meets new media A New Zealand Law Commission review proposes a super watchdog for the news industry, to police the wild west of the internet .

The proposal would involve a single censor for print, broadcasting and online media, independent of the government and the industry and part-funded by the taxpayer. It would publish different codes for each medium.

The commission says neither the current broadcasting censor nor the press censor is well suited to respond to the rapidly evolving new media.

Privileges should be extended to online media such as public affairs bloggers if they adhere to journalistic standards, be subject to a complaints process and publish regularly, it says.

David Farrar, publisher of Kiwiblog, welcomed the report and said bloggers should develop their own code. Some sort of code for accuracy is not a bad thing. What will be interesting is if you need a formal complaints process.

 

12th December   

Update: Dangerous Translations...

American Thai jailed for 2.5 years for posting translations from banned book whilst living in the US
Link Here  full story: Lese Majeste in Thailand...Criticising the monarchy is a serious crime

Thailand flagThailand has jailed a US citizen for two and a half years after he admitted posting web links to a banned biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Joe Gordon, a used car salesman from Colorado who was born in Thailand, pleaded guilty to the charge of criticising the Thai monarchy, at an earlier hearing. He was sentenced to five years in jail, but the judges halved the term because of his guilty plea.

The US has expressed concern over the use of Thailand's lese-majeste law. US officials have repeatedly urged the Thai authorities to ensure freedom of expression, and said the decision to prosecute Gordon was disappointing.

Gordon reportedly translated parts of the widely available biography, The King Never Smiles by Paul Handley, several years ago and posted them on a blog while he was living in the US.

He was arrested in May when he visited Thailand for medical treatment. He initially denied the charges, but said he changed his plea to guilty after being repeatedly refused bail.

Activists say the lese-majeste law has become increasingly politicised, and is used as a tool of repression rather than as a way of protecting the monarchy.

Update: Thailand criticised by the UN

9th December 2011. See article from bangkokpost.com

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on Thailand to amend the laws on lese majeste.

We are concerned about the ongoing trials and harsh sentencing of people convicted of lese majeste and the chilling effect this is having on freedom of expression, said Ravina Shamdasani, the agency's acting spokesperson: Such harsh criminal sanctions are neither necessary nor proportionate and violate Thai human rights obligations.

 

9th December   

Update: Estimating 760,000...

The number of website URLs blocked in Thailand
Link Here

FACT Thailand logoFreedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) has monitored and analysed Thailand's censorship from many sources since 2006.

Using leaked secret government blocklists, court orders and internal memos, personal communication with Thai ISPs, government media announcements, research by such international NGOs as Harvard University's OpenNet Initiative, the University of Toronto's CitizenLab, Herdict and Psiphon projects, Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Committee to Protect Journalists, Electronic Frontier Foundation and others, FACT has estimated the extent of Internet censorship today.

Of particular help has been the academic research conducted by the iLaw Foundation during the period of Thailand's so-called emergency for eight months in 2010 when normal rule of law was suspended and military agencies were created which primary purpose was to block the Internet with no oversight or transparency. ILaw's research indicated that, by December 2010, at least 690 new webpages were being blocked every day.

Extrapolating from these sources indicates 578,476 URLs were blocked by Thai government as of July 31. Sunai Pasuk, Thailand director of Human Rights Watch reported on November 25 that ICT minister Anudith Nakornthap stated that his ministry requested rubberstamp court orders to block 26,000 Facebook pages in August and September and 60,000 more in October and November. On November 23,the minister announced a further 10,000 Facebook pages had been blocked for criticism of the monarchy; conflicting reports state the minister has requested Facebook delete the supposedly offensive pages.

As of 5th December 2011, 761,416 URLs are estimated to be blocked in Thailand.

At least one Thai politician, former news anchor and assistant to the ICT minister, Mallika Boonmetrakul, has proposed Thailand block all social networking sites, including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. She's the opposition's deputy spokesperson for Thailand's oldest political party, the Democrats.

 

7th December   

Update: Reviewers or Censors?...

South Korea plans to step up censorship of social networks and apps
Link Here

kcsc warningSouth Korea plans to step up its censorship of its social networking sites and smart phone applications.

The Korea Communications Standards Commission said it will reshuffle departments to make way for a 'review' team that will oversee new media content.

The censorship of traditional Internet content has been in place since 2008.

Social media users and civic groups decried the announcement, saying it clamps down on freedom of expression.

This is an authoritarian and anachronistic abuse of power that strips people of their freedom of expression and political freedom by blocking their eyes and ears, one of South Korea's largest civic organizations, People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, said in a news release.

So far internet censorship has been minimal with 45 cases deemed illegal for obscenity this year, along with 159 deemed to have breached national security.

 

29th November   

Update: News Propaganda Only...

China has a real downer on entertaining TV and bans advert revenue during such programmes
Link Here  full story: TV Censorship in China...TV censors SARFT

China flagChinese broadcasters will be banned from airing commercial breaks during TV dramas from Jan. 1 or face being suspended, the country's TV censor has proclaimed.

The ban follows a State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) directive in October warning the nation's main 34 satellite broadcasters that they would be barred from showing excessive entertainment and must air at least two hours of news propaganda nightly, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

SARFT said on its website:

Radio and television are the mouthpiece of the party and the people. Broadcasters that still air commercials during TV series will be ordered to suspend commercial operations.

Broadcasters must cancel television commercials during TV series as an important measure to construct a cultural service system.

Tom Doctoroff, the head of US advertising firm JWT's China operations, said the policy would threaten the creativity of Chinese television:

This policy is draconian. Consumers won't really be angry because no one likes commercials. But they will not be happy when content becomes even more watered-down than it already is.

No doubt good for internet and DVD though.

 

26th November   

Update: War on Censorship Circumvention...

China tackles Tor and similar internet blocking circumvention
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship

 tor logoIn the cat-and-mouse game between Chinese censors and Internet users, the government seems to be testing a new mousetrap--one that may be designed to detect and block tunnels through its Great Firewall even when the data in those tunnels is aimed at a little-known computers and obscured by encryption.

In recent months, administrators of services with encrypted connections designed to allow users secure remote access say they've seen strange activity coming from China: When a user from within the country attempts to reach a server abroad, a string of seemingly random data hits the destination computer before he or she can connect, sometimes followed by that user's communication being mysteriously dropped.

The anti-censorship and anonymity service Tor, for instance, has found that many of its bridge nodes --privately-placed servers around the world designed to connect users to the rest of Tor's public network of traffic re-routing computers--have become inaccessible to Chinese users within hours or even minutes of being set up, according to Andrew Lewman, the project's executive director. Users have told him that other censorship circumvention services like Ultrasurf and Freegate have seen similar problems, he says. Someone will try to connect, then there's a weird scan, and the bridge stops working, says Lewman. We see weird things all the time, but this is a semi-consistent weird thing, and it's only coming from China.

Lewman believes that China's internet service providers may be testing a new system that, rather than merely block IP addresses or certain Web pages, attempts to identify censorship circumvention tools by preceding a user's connection to an encrypted service with a probe designed to reveal something about what sort of service the user is accessing. It's like if I tell my wife I'm going bowling with my friends, and she calls the bowling alley ahead of time to see if that's what I'm really doing, says Lewman. It's verifying that you're asking for what you seem to be asking for.

 

26th November   

Slightly Less Reason to Protest...

Burma's parliament passes bill to allow peaceful protest
Link Here

Burma flag 2010Burma's military-dominated parliament has passed a bill allowing citizens to protest peacefully, a lawmaker said.

The bill, which needs to be signed off by President Thein Sein to become law, requires that demonstrators inform the authorities five days in advance of any protest. Protesters would be allowed to hold flags and party symbols but must avoid government buildings, schools, hospitals and embassies.

The new leaders of the country have surprised observers with a number of reformist steps in an apparent move to end international isolation. They have freed and held direct talks with long-detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, halted work on an unpopular dam project that was backed by key ally China, eased media censorship and passed a law giving workers the right to strike.

 

25th November   

Making New Zealanders Cross...

New Zealanders under threat of big fines for using social networks to influence the vote of friends and family
Link Here

Facebook logoFacebook and Twitter users in New Zealand have been warned to be careful what they post online or they could face hefty fines for breaching election rules.

On election day it is an offence to publish anything intended or likely to influence people before they vote. Political parties must remove all billboards, and media must not publish anything about the election before 7pm. Fines for breaching the rules are up to $20,000.

And this year, the Electoral Commission has warned social media users could also be in their sights:

The Electoral Commission's advice to people using social media is not to post messages on election day that could breach these rules, a spokesperson said.

Where the Electoral Commission becomes aware of a breach, or receives a complaint, the commission will look into the incident and where appropriate refer the matter to the police.

Some social media commentators believe individuals should be able to exercise their right to free speech. Charles Mabbet, contributing editor to Social Media NZ, believes the 2011 election is the first social media election with more people expressing their opinion online since the last election in 2008. He said:

I think if people are expressing an opinion, not on the behalf of an organisation or if they're not a lobbyist for a party, then it's fair enough, it's free speech..

The question is, how strongly will the Electoral Commission police it? We don't know how strictly they will enforce the fines, whether it will apply to someone on Facebook telling friends who to vote for or to someone who sends out mass tweets.

 

25th November   

Update: Dangerous Likes...

In the wake of a 20 year jail sentence for 4 anti-monarchy SMS messages, Thailand warns its Facebook users not even to 'Like' items critical of the monarchy
Link Here  full story: Lese Majeste in Thailand...Criticising the monarchy is a serious crime

Facebook logoThailand is taking on Facebook over articles that are critical of its monarchy. The Thai Ministry of Information and Communications Technology has sent a request to Facebook to remove 10,000 pages or URLs that are critical of the Thai monarchy.

However this is being challenged in the US. The US authorities have been asked to investigate the Thai request against the background of the Freedom of Information Act, the Speech Act of 2010, US constitutional safeguards and other laws relevant to free expression in a democratic society.

Meanwhile the Thai Information and Communication Technology Minister, Anudith Nakornthap, has warned Thai internet users that those who press share or like buttons on Facebook in response to monarchy-related content can violate the Computer Crime Act.

Although the clicks were only aimed at showing support for people who posted messages or to oppose the ill-intentioned messages, they could be considered an infraction of the law, the minister said.

He advised people who pressed those buttons in Facebook to delete all their reactions and comments.

A Facebook account entitled Report Society of Thailand has been created to allow Facebook users to report spam, fake [Facebook] accounts, infringements of intellectual property rights, immoral or violent content, and of course content critical of the Thai monarchy.

Update: Proposing a Facebook Ban

2nd December 2011.  See article from prachatai.com

Mallika Boonmetrakul, deputy spokesperson of the main opposition, the Democrat Party, said that if all attempts to block or ban online content deemed defamatory to the monarchy failed, then the government should adopt her final solution of blocking Facebook and YouTube completely.

 

25th November   

Updated: Policing by the Book...

New Zealand book police ludicrously seize Bloody Mama, an innocuous book banned 40 years ago
Link Here

Bloody Mama Robert Thom An old book declared indecent and banned way back in 1971 has been seized from a Wellington bookstore by government officials.

Bloody Mama by Robert Thom has been listed for sale on Book Haven's website for $8.50 since February, store owner Don Hollander said: It got seized today. A very nice chap from the DIA [Department of Internal Affairs] with a fancy badge came by.

The book is based on a true story about Kate Ma Barker who raised her sons to be criminals in the 1930s. A film was also made about Ma Barker starring Shelley Winters and a young Robert de Niro.

I had a quick look through for the dirty bits or the nasty bits and it didn't see any, Hollander said.

The book was deemed indecent and banned by the now defunct Indecent Publications Tribunal 40 years ago, however the ruling still stands. The tribunal was replaced by the Office of Film and Literature Classification in 1993.

Update: Book Burners

25th November 2011. See article from stuff.co.nz

A New Zealand book censor has been given the task of reading a banned book seized this week, to see if it can be cleared for sale. The title, Bloody Mama , was seized by government officials from a Wellington book store.

The bo0ok was banned in 1971 by the now-defunct Indecent Publications Tribunal due to its indecency . Commentators have said that the book possibly suggests an incestuous relationship between Barker and her sons.

The book would be read by a censor and a decision was likely in two months, adviser Michelle Baker said.

It has also been revealed that instead of cataloguing banned books in a forbidden library, the classification office destroys them (presumably by the traditional means of burning).

 

24th November   

Update: Dangerous SMS...

20 years in Thai jail over 4 anti-monarchy SMS messages
Link Here  full story: Lese Majeste in Thailand...Criticising the monarchy is a serious crime

Thailand flagA raging debate kicked off on social network sites when a 61-year-old man was given a 20-year jail sentence for sending four text messages on his mobile phone, which the court considered as being anti-monarchy. This is the longest known sentence to date under the Thai Computer Crimes Act of 2007.

The suspect is accused of having sent four defamatory text messages from his mobile phone last year to Somkiat Klongwattanasuk, secretary of then-premier Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Meanwhile, many royalists were elated because they believed justice had been served, with some calling for even harsher punishment.

Karnt Thassanaphak, a member of the Awareness 112 Campaign Group which is seeking to abolish the lese majeste law, said this reaction was shocking.

 

19th November   

Megan is Objectionable...

New Zealand film censor bans Megan is Missing
Link Here

Megan Missing Amber Perkins The New Zealand Office of Film and Literature Censorship has banned a US film titled Megan is Missing by Michael Goi. The film censor found the film to be 'objectionable'.

In the US the film is MPAA Unrated on DVD and it has not been submitted to the BBFC.

Perhaps a few clues about the reason for the ban in the promotional material:

On January 14th, 2007, 14-year-old Megan Stewart disappeared. Three weeks later, her 13-year-old best friend Amy Herman also vanished. Assembled from video chats, webcam footage, home videos and news reports, this is what happened in the days immediately before -- and after -- Megan went missing.

From writer/director Michael Goi comes this unblinking depiction of internet predators and child abduction as seen through the eyes of two North Hollywood teens. Their language is blunt. Their behavior is shocking. And their fate is absolutely horrific. Amber Perkins, Rachel Quinn and Dean Waite star in this disturbing and often explicit drama about a real-life world of risks and danger that every teen must know...and no parent can afford to miss.

 

17th November   

Underarm Sexy...

Indonesian city bans sexy women on billboards
Link Here

depok logoThe municipal government of Depok, one of Jakarta's satellite cities, banned advertisement billboards featuring sexy women this month.

The deputy mayor of Depok, Abdul Somad, said the policy was adopted because one of Depok's missions is to become a religious city.

A few weeks ago, Depok officials took down a deodorant ad billboard featuring a woman showing her underarm. They deemed the advertisement to be sexy.

Depok, located 20 kilometers south of Jakarta, is led by a politician from the Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), Nur Machmudi Ismail. The mayor is known for his campaign to transform Depok into a religious city.

 

15th November   

Update: Unverifiable Sources...

China lays out new restrictions on journalists using unverified news sources
Link Here  full story: Press Censorship in China...State control and sensitive news

 China flagChina's press censors at the General Administration of Press and Publication have released new restrictions on journalism.

Some regulations simply reiterate journalistic best practices, others introduce new restrictions:

Reporters are required to be objective and report all sides of a story. They are prohibited from aggregating reports or relying on second-hand accounts that have not been independently verified, in particular information obtained from online sources, outside contributors, or by phone. News organizations must set up systems to guard against the publication of false reports and strengthen responsibility at all levels and through every stage of the editorial process, including the establishment of procedures to investigate errors and publish corrections and apologies.

The rules state that journalists should rely on in-person interviews, authoritative sources of information, and verifiable facts in their reporting. Critical news reports must be based on information from at least two different sources, and journalists must retain evidence of the information that has been received and verified. The use of anonymous sources is discouraged, with limited exceptions for national security, privacy or other special reasons, and reporters are cautioned against describing anonymous sources with phrases such as a person familiar with the matter, a person involved in the matter, or an authoritative person. Likewise, the use of pen names is barred, and reporters and editors involved in a story must sign their real names to it.

Crucially, the rules also reiterate that reporters must be licensed by and warns news organizations against hiring reporters on a temporary basis, eg freelancers and temps.

 

7th November   

Obediently Banned...

Malaysia's religious books censor bans reprehensibly titled sex guide
Link Here

seks islamMalaysia's Home Ministry has banned the Obedient Wives Club's (OWC) controversial sex guide book with immediate effect. The book was written by Hatijan Aam, who is also the founder of the OWC.

Those found in possession of the reprehensibly titled, Seks Islam, Perangi Yahudi Untuk Kembalikan Seks Islam Kepada Dunia ( Islamic Sex, Fighting Jews to Return Islamic Sex to the World ) could be fined up to RM5,000 (S$2,000). Those found reproducing the book for the purpose of offering it for sale could be jailed up to three years or fined not exceeding RM20,000, or both.

The Home Ministry's religious book censor, grandiosely titled, Al-Quran Text and Publishing Control Division Secretary, Abdul Aziz Md Nor, said the book had been banned to the public.

Aziz said the first reason was the book was released by an organisation that had clear links with the banned al-Arqam. As the movement has been banned, anything related to it, such as the club and the book, are also banned. He said the contents of the book also violated Jakim's Islamic publication material censorship guideline. Based on our investigation and Jakim's findings, we must ban the book, he said.

See more about the book from freethinker.co.uk

 

6th November   

Not So Odd...

Odd Future banned from New Zealand music festival after complaints about homophobic lyrics
Link Here

12 Odd Future Songs Explicit If Odd future is booked to perform at a festival, it's inevitable that there will be some form of public outcry.

The LA-based crew has now been pulled from the lineup in New Zealand's Big Day Out festival due to objections from locals who are offended by the crew's homophobic lyrics.

Resident and activist Calum Bennachie penned a lengthy letter to the Auckland City Council, urging them to remove the group from the show. He wrote:

People like Beenie Man and groups like Odd Future that promote hatred and discrimination against groups encourage violence against those groups. If it is acceptable to say something similar to Gays are a cancer on society that deserves to be eliminated?, then what group would be next?

 

6th November   

Updated: While the Barriers are Down...

While Thai attention turns to the floods, police book and newspaper censorship is being brought in
Link Here

Thai Police logoAfter a cabinet meeting on 18 Oct, Thai Minister of Culture, Sukumol Kunplome, told reporters that the cabinet had approved amendments to the 2007 Print Registration Act as proposed by the Ministry.

The amendments include:

  • Any print media, excluding newspapers, printed in the kingdom must identify itself by category according to criteria set by ministerial regulation;
     
  • The National Police Chief is authorized to ban the printing, distribution or import of any printed media which affects the monarchy, national security or public order and morals;
     
  • Those who violate a banning order by the National Police Chief will be punished with a jail term of up to three years or a fine of up to 100,000 baht, or both.

Under the new amendment, every publisher must apply for permission to have his license renewed every five years. In other words, the media will have to operate under the frightening threat of non-renewal - in addition to the constant possibility of being censored, suspended or closed down for publishing a story that could be interpreted by the press officer as undermining the monarchy, national security and law and order or the good morals of the country .

An age rating system for printed media will also be introduced in the law because currently newspapers, magazines and journals are found to have content and pictures which are not 'appropriate' for young readers.

The Ministry of Culture will work out the details of the rating system 'appropriate' to Thai society.

The amendments will be vetted by the Council of State before being forwarded to Parliament, the Minister said.

Update: Unconstitutional

6th November 2011. See article from prachatai.com

A Spokesperson of the PM's Office told reporters that the Office of the Council of State had rejected amendments to the 2007 Print Registration Act as proposed by the Ministry of Culture and approved by the Cabinet on 18 Oct.

The agency, which is the government's advisory body on legal matters, told the government that certain parts of the proposed amendments might go against Section 45 of the Constitution which guarantees the people's rights to freedom of expression.

The Cabinet then asked the Ministry of Culture to reconsider the amendments, he said.

Update: From the Frying Pan into the Fire

12th November 2011. See article from bangkokpost.com
See also Editorial: Abolish the Printing Act from bangkokpost.com

After the Council of State advised that the bill would be illegal, the government claimed that all it wanted to do was to change the authority to close down printing shops and newspapers during a time of national emergency - giving it police and taking it away from army generals.

The Printing Act of 2007 was enacted by the military-installed interim government, following the Sept 2006 coup that toppled the Thaksin Shinawatra administration. The law was presented as an update to the 1941 Printing and Publishing Act, which was used to suppress the Thai media in the past.

 

1st November   

Emulating the North...

South Korea telecoms companies to block porn on mobile devices
Link Here

kcc logoThe South Korean government and telecom companies have agreed to ban access to foreign pornography via mobile devices such as tablet PCs and smart phones from November, communications authorities said.

According to the Korea Communications Commission, the nation's top three telecom services providers: KT, SK Telecom and LG Uplus will block access to adult content.

SK Telecom voluntarily blocked five pornographic websites from overseas in August that were most frequently accessed by smartphones.

Adult users will be able to access presumably mild content approved by the KCC after an identification process.

 

30th October   

Update: Less Entertainment...

China orders more programming promoting harmony, health and mainstream culture
Link Here  full story: TV Censorship in China...TV censors SARFT

if you are the oChina will replace popular television entertainment with so-called healthy programming, state media have reported, reflecting regulators' latest move to tighten media control.

The move by the State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT) comes days after senior Communist Party leaders said cultural reforms were needed to balance the nation's increasingly speedy adoption of a market economy.

It also follows a SARFT edict last month forcing hit talent show Super Girl off the air after a six-year run.

Under the order, SARFT said the nation's leading 34 satellite broadcasters would be barred next year from airing excessive entertainment and forced to show at least two hours of news each evening, the official Xinhua news agency said. Each channel will have a limit of 90 minutes of 'entertainment' programming during prime time between 7:30pm and 10pm.

In September, SARFT posted a related directive offering Advice on Strengthening Management of Satellite TV Channels . In this broadcasters would be encouraged to air programs promoting harmony, health and mainstream culture .

 

26th October   

Government Barriers Hold Back Flood of Information...

Thaiflood website ships out of the government's flood command center
Link Here

thai flood logo The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by reports that Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government has tried to censor the citizen-journalist website Thaiflood , which has provided crucial news and information about massive flooding that has inundated one-third of the country's provinces. At least 350 people have been killed and millions dislocated by the natural disaster.

Local news reports said the state-run Flood Relief Operations Command had issued a new requirement that Thaiflood submit its reports to the government for approval before publication.

Thaiflood had been based in the government's flood relief operations command, where the site's operators worked collaboratively with the government for two weeks. The relationship soured after the government tried to control what Thaiflood published. Emergency officials were apparently upset about one of Thaiflood's high-water warnings, with a spokesman saying the site should not cause panic.

Thaiflood has now moved its operations to a private office, where it also publishes Twitter news updates at #thaiflood. The new arrangement means the site can operate without interference but also without direct access to the government's flood command center.  Ironically the flood command center's offices were reported flooded on Tuesday.

We call on Yingluck Shinawatra's government to stop interfering with independent news sites that are playing a crucial role in keeping the public informed about Thailand's flood disaster, said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative. It is essential in evolving crisis situations that the public has access to uncensored, independent news that can be crucial to protecting livelihoods and saving lives.

 

25th October   

Preoccupied by Censorship...

China unsurprisingly blocks tweets with 'occupy' associated with place names
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship

wartime propagandaThe Chinese website Sina Weibo which features a Twitter-like messaging service is reportedly filtering out search results containing the word occupy when paired with the names of various places.

China Digital Times (CDT) reports:

As the Occupy Wall Street movement goes global, China's call for calm observation and reflection may have been followed by another round of censorship in cyberspace. A long list of banned keywords on Sina Weibo's search function has been uncovered and tested by the CDT team yesterday. All the listed phrases stick to one simple rule: a combination of occupy and a place name--provincial capitals, economically developed regions, and few symbolic local areas.

 

22nd October   

Kissing Girls...

5:30pm showing of Coronation Street 'shocks' New Zealand viewers
Link Here

Coronation Street Treasures Tim Randall Coronation Street has proven a bit too much for easily shocked New Zealanders.

The show was moved to a 5.30pm screening time to make way for more popular prime time shows.

An episode earlier this week showed two girls kissing. Viewers predictably were 'outraged' saying that the programme is airing at an early hour when children could be watching.

Complaints have been made to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

Fans are now campaigning to have the programme changed back to its traditional 7.30pm time slot.

 

21st October   

Chinese Propaganda...

China claims that its internet censorship is what's best for the public
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship

wartime propagandaChina's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu has told reporters that Internet censorship is what's best for the public.

According to Reuters, which spoke with Yu in an interview, China claims that its Internet management is not only lawful, but is designed to safeguard the public.

 Yu told Reuters:

We are willing to work with countries and communicate with them on the development of the Internet and to work together to promote the sound development of the Internet. But we do not accept using the excuse of 'Internet freedom' to interfere in other countries' internal practices.

Yu's comments were a direct response to a letter sent to China earlier this week by U.S. Ambassador to the World Trade Organization Michael Punke. According to Reuters, Punke argued that China's Web blockade diminishes the ability for many U.S. companies to compete against China's counterparts.

 

18th October   

Harmful to Youth...

South Korean bands win court case against adult only restrictions applied to songs with lyrics mentioning alcohol
Link Here

S M Ballad Various Artists South Korea's music censors monitoring K-pop songs have been forced to adopt a more flexible approach to using its harmful to youth ratings on alcohol-related lyrics, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family said.

A censorship body under the ministry has withdrawn its harmful to youth rating on a song called Another Day by the band S.M. The Ballad . This follows a court order to do so.

Long criticized by the public for its unfair and vague censorship standards, the ministry backtracked from its rigid stance on its censorship of songs with alcohol- or smoking-related lyrics.

In January, the Youth Protection Committee under the ministry banned the song for those under 19, saying some of its lyrics, such as so that I will not miss you after drinking and I dream after falling asleep by getting drunk, lead adolescents to drink alcohol.

The group protested and filed a suit in March. The Seoul Administrative Court ruled in favor of the agency, saying it can't be said that songs containing words about alcohol encourage youngsters to drink, unlike references to narcotics and other hazardous materials.

After the ruling, boy band Beast also filed and won a suit against the ministry. The group's song On a Rainy Day was also previously banned due to lyrics including I should stop drinking 'cause I'm drunk.

Following criticism that the censorship standards lack objectivity and depend on screening committee members' personal views, the ministry has come up with detailed and clarified standards.

About expressions regarding drinking and smoking, we'll limit the 'harmful to youth' rating to phrases directly encouraging the use of alcohol or cigarettes, the official said. Songs depicting violent or sexual acts after drinking in detail, or those justifying or glorifying such acts will be banned for youngsters. Other criteria also include lyrics about adolescents' purchase of alcohol or cigarettes.

 

15th October   

Update: Dangerous Link...

US man pleads guilty to lese majeste charges in Thailand
Link Here  full story: Lese Majeste in Thailand...Criticising the monarchy is a serious crime

Thailand flagA US man has pleaded guilty in Thailand to charges of commenting unfavourably about the monarchy.

The Thai-born man, who uses his American name Joe Gordon, is accused of posting a link on a blog to a royal biography banned in the country.

Lese majeste is an extreme offence in Thailand, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, but defence lawyers hope the guilty plea will result in the usual 50% reduction in sentence.

Judges are due to sentence Gordon on 9 November.

Gordon, has previously denied the charges, media reports say, but after repeatedly being denied bail he changed his mind.

 

15th October   

Update: Vengeful Censorship App...

China blocks Android Marketplace website
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship

Android StoreAccess to the Android Marketplace has been blocked entirely from within China as The Next Web reports, but locals are also complaining that Android handsets are having a hard time getting onto the Gmail service. The Gmail block isn't being applied to IMAP connections, which means iPhones and similar are working well, lending weight to the idea that this is a political, rather than a security, issue.

The absolute block on android.com started over the weekend, just after Google announced it would be helping the Dalai Lama to (virtually) visit South Africa. That might be coincidence, but it's not the first time that China has been accused of using restrictions on internet access as a political tool.

 

14th October   

Conspiracy Theory...

Indian film censor blanks dialogue implicating China in a conspiracy theory against India
Link Here

azaanIndo-China relations are very sensitive, and have now affected a Bollywood film. The Censor Board has asked the makers of Azaan to mute out dialogue, which mentions China as being part of a conspiracy theory against India.

Director Prashant Chadha explained:

We have been asked to mute, and not beep out, a few lines. So, you will see people talking, but you won't hear anything. Our tagline is, 'A country, a conspiracy, a common man.' But now, there won't be any conspiracy angle for the audiences.

The general feeling is that everyone is aware of Pakistan's involvement (in terrorism) but no one has, till date, blamed China for it. But everyone knows of Chinese incursions and their aggressive stance against India. If you put Middle East, Syria or Pakistan, it's fine, but China shouldn't be mentioned.

The filmmakers want to take their case to the courts, but the review process will surely delay the film. So, for the time being, the film will release with muted lines.

The film has just been passed 12A uncut by the BBFC for showing in British cinemas.

 

14th October   

Bomber Bombs...

Commentator banned for life from New Zealand radio station after criticising the prime minister
Link Here

radio new zealand national logoAn independent left-wing commentator was banned from New Zealand's state-funded national radio station after criticising the Prime Minister.

In the first such instance, of what many are interpreting as state censorship, the ban was imposed by Radio New Zealand management after Bomber Bradbury was invited to air his opinion on the afternoon radio show.

The unusual over-reaction to what were reasonably expressed criticisms of Prime Minister John Key's recent behaviour, has resulted in a ban for life for Bradbury.

 

13th October   

Update: Burma Uncensored...

Hopeful signals of increased freedom in Burma
Link Here  full story: Press Censorship in Burma...World leaders in oppressive censorship

Burma flag 2010The head of Burma's powerful press censorship department has called for greater media freedom in his country.

Tint Swe said censorship was now incompatible with democratic practices and should be abolished in the near future ...BUT... He cautioned that all publications should accept the responsibilities that go with press freedom.

The comments will be seen as further evidence that the new civilian-military hybrid government is trying to soften its stance.

Some previously blocked websites have also recently been made accessible.

The Burmese government has also freed about 200 political prisoners as part of a general amnesty, activists say.

 

12th October   

Update: Dating Mr. Bland...

China's TV censor bans fun on matchmaking shows
Link Here  full story: TV Censorship in China...TV censors SARFT

if you are the oMatchmaking shows like If You Are The One , have enjoyed immense TV success in China. The show features a jury of 24 single women who decide on whether one hopeful man is an eligible bachelor.

But the TV censors at the State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT) are increasingly imposing ever more restrictions. The administration has recently banned fake participants who seek publicity, hosts being morally provocative , and sexual references in all entertainment shows.

Wang Gang, the producer of If You Are The One , said he has to be careful, given all the new rules. Since the regulations, the show has been decidedly watered down, much to the disappointment of some viewers.

 

10th October   

Update: Yellow Sites...

Mobile porn doing well in China on fly-by-night websites
Link Here  full story: Pornography in China...Always under the cosh

penn olsen logoMobile porn in China is on the rise thanks to low-cost entry into the adult business.

According to a Penn-Olson report, even though porn is illegal in China, would-be adult mobile companies can get server hosting packages set up for as little as $78 per year. The deals are reportedly being advertised heavily by hosting companies hiding behind disposable Chinese social networking QQ websites.

Mobile websites are less strictly regulated than conventional sites, and the growing number of dubious companies offering cheap hosting and ready-made WAP site templates makes it easier for fly-by-night 'yellow' sites to flourish, the report said.

The boom is keeping Chinese authorities hopping as they try to stem the spread of the illegal WAP adult sites, supposedly over concerns 'for the children'. Because the sites come and go quickly, authorities are finding it difficult to patrol and shut them down.

 

9th October   

Braindead...

Ex-prime minister Dr. M blames horror movies for Malaysia's social ills
Link Here
rasukMalaysia's former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said that horror films were counter-productive to building a developed society because they encouraged a belief in mythical beings rather than the scientific approach.

Dr Mahathir also said the prevalence of ghost stories was responsible for the hysteria attacks among Malay female students.

More than 15 local horror films have been produced since 2007's box-office hit Jangan Pandang Belakang, which for three years held the record for the highest-grossing Malaysian film, garnering more than RM6.3 million (S$2.5 million).

The Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) followed up Mahathir's words with a call to film producers to appoint or refer to religious experts in their productions, especially horror films, for fear that the films would contain negative values and deviate from the teachings of Islam.

Its director-general Othman Mustapha said that film genres like horror, fantasy and superstition are not helping much in developing the future generation, but instead, such films are corrupting the minds of the younger generation. He also said that producers should also adhere to Jakim's Guidelines prohibiting contradictions with islam.

But the film censors were taking a more 'wait and see' line. Finas (National Film Development Corporation) director-general Mohd Naguib Razak said:

Until we receive a directive from the Information, Communications and Culture Minister (Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim) to take action, we are not in a position to impose sanctions on the films.

We can't step in and tell film-makers what they can or cannot do because that will affect the performance of the industry, which is currently doing very well.

Naguib said the horror film genre is a trend that has seen successes in other countries as well.

Amir Muhammad, who co-directed the 2008 thriller Susuk , said the popularity of horror films merely reflected society's concerns.

We live in a superstitious society, so it is not surprising that many local films would cater to the public's demands for the supernatural.

They are only reflecting beliefs and practices that are already prevalent among Malaysians.

Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations president Datuk N. Marimuthu also disagreed with the contention that horror films had a negative influence on movie-goers.

Movies are movies. For most people, they exist purely as entertainment or a pastime. Personally, I do not believe a horror film or any other kind of film has any real bearing or influence on people's beliefs.

 

8th October   

Updated: Suggestions on Avoiding Abuses...

UN human rights session criticises Thailand's lese majeste law
Link Here  full story: Lese Majeste in Thailand...Criticising the monarchy is a serious crime
UN logoUnited Nations representatives of a dozen countries including France, Germany, the UK and Australia have recommended that the Thai government amend their lese majeste law to bring the country's level of freedom of expression in line with international standards.

The recommendation was made during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session in Geneva. The four-yearly process organised by the United Nations Human Rights Council requires each UN member state to present a report on various human rights conditions and to hear questions and recommendations by representatives of other members.

Representatives from the United Kingdom, France and Slovenia shared the view that the lese majeste law affected freedom of expression and urged Thailand to consider this aspect of liberty. Hungary and Finland urged Thailand to invite the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression to visit Thailand.

The representative of Norway made the suggestion, that although Norway has a lese majeste law, a charge can only be brought with the personal approval of the king in order to avoid abuses .

The United States joined China, Syria, Singapore and Burma in not expressing any concern about the lese majeste law. One European diplomat told The Nation that Washington's lack of comment on the issue put the US in the same league with dictatorial states.

Other states whose representatives urged Thailand to amend the law included Switzerland, Brazil, Spain, Sweden and New Zealand. Some of these, including the Canadian representative, also raised the issue of the Computer Crimes Act, which critics say is also being used by the Thai government to curb freedom of expression.

 

3rd October   

Extremely Disturbing Cartoons...

Chinese student falls victim to New Zealand ban on cartoon porn
Link Here

anime judgeA New Zealand judge has refused to consider a discharge without conviction until a student addresses issues that led him to import cartoon porn.

Xiran Zhang had 10 DVDs in his baggage when he flew into Auckland International Airport from Shanghai. He pleaded guilty to five charges of importing prohibited goods and was scheduled to be sentenced in a Christchurch District Court.

The anime catoons depicted rape, abuse and bestiality.

The judge said that the material's nature was extremely disturbing , but the fact that it was cartoons put it in a different category from other pornography that involved real victims, he said.