Privately owned newspapers are to be allowed in Burma from April 2013 for the first time in almost 50 years, the government has announced.
The information ministry said on its website that any Burmese national wishing to set up a newspaper could submit an application from February. It said newspapers would be permitted in any language from 1 April 2013.
The move follows the abolition of direct government censorship of the media in April 2012. Correspondents say it was expected as part of the latest reforms in Burma.
The South Korean government has laid out plans to install software on teenagers' smartphones that will block supposedly 'illegal [and] harmful information.
The horrendous sounding Ministry Of Gender Equality And Family believes that installing the software will block swear words and slang, as well as prevent cyber-bullying on social and messaging networks such as KaKao Talk, Facebook, and Twitter.
The governmental body will also require a compulsory filtering service for mobile carriers that will block harmful information that includes pornography and nudity.
China's legislature has approved new rules that will further tighten government control of the Internet by requiring users to register their real names, and demanding Internet companies censor online material.
The state-run Xinhua News Agency says lawmakers approved the measures Friday at the closing meeting of a five-day session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.
The move seems to be in response to the runaway success of Weibo, a micro-blogging service similar to Twitter, which has exposed corruption and other abuses of official power.
China has long tried to get Internet users to register their real names rather than pseudonyms with service providers without total success. The new rules lay the groundwork to police companies that are not complying with the government's
The Vietnamese model Vo Hoang Yen is set to receive a fine for flouting Vietnam's miserable decency law with her skimpy costume at a recent catwalk performance in Ho Chi Minh City.
Vo Trong Nam, deputy director of the city Department of Miserable Culture, Sport and Tourism informed Tuoi Tre that the model will be sanctioned for her performance in which she exposed a large part of her breasts at the fashion show titled Dam Me Hoi Tu -- Huong Sac.
According to local regulations, the fine could be VND3.5 million (US$ 168.03) while Cuoc Song Nang Dong Company, the show's organizer, could also receive a penalty of up to VND7.5 million.
The show's organizer has taken responsibility and agreed to pay whatever fine it receives.
Nam has proposed to ban the company from organizing shows for 3 months.
Award-winning Chinese director Xie Fei has accused his country's censorship rules of killing artistic exploration in an open letter to authorities.
Xie, whose films include Woman Sesame Oil Maker , which won the Berlin Film Festival's Golden Bear prize in 1993 - has not made a film since 2000. He urged censors to give clearer rules on banned topics. Xie wrote that China's system:
Long ago lost its real social, economic, ideological and cultural significance.
It has only become a corrupt black spot for controlling the prosperity of the cultural and entertainment industry, killing artistic exploration and wasting administrative resources.
In his letter, Xie urged censors to:
Move from the current administrative review system to a rating system that allows for a self-governed and self-disciplined film industry, bound by legal restrictions and administrative supervision.
Currently, China has no film age rating system and films must be made suitable for all audiences. This means that many western films have been subject to cuts in order to be released. China also maintains a quota of just 20 foreign movies that
can be shown in cinemas.
China appears to be tightening its repressive control of internet services that are able to burrow secretly through what is known as the Great Firewall , which prevents citizens there from reading supposedly inappropriate overseas content.
Both companies and individuals are being hit by the new technology deployed by the Chinese government. A number of companies providing virtual private network (VPN) services to users in China say the new system is able to learn,
discover and block the encrypted communications methods used by a number of different VPN systems.
China Unicom, one of the biggest telecoms providers in the country, is now killing connections where a VPN is detected, according to one company with a number of users in China.
Users in China suspected in May 2011 that the government there was trying to disrupt VPN use, and now VPN providers have begun to notice the effects.
Astrill, a VPN provider for users inside and outside China, has emailed its users to warn them that the Great Firewall system is blocking at least four of the common protocols used by VPNs, which means that they don't function. But the
company added that trying to stay ahead of the censors is a cat-and-mouse game -- although it is working on a new system that it hopes will let it stay ahead of the detection system.
Philippines President Benigno Aquino III has appointed Law professor Eugenio "Toto" Villareal as chairman of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB). He replaces Grace Poe-Llamanzares, who resigned to run for
senator in 2013.
An Opus Dei member, Villareal addressed concerns that the MTRCB will become conservative under his watch. Villareal claimed:
There will be no censorship. We will just classify content. Grace's advice was to wear a parent's hat.
We want the MTRCB to have an impact on the common tao (people), promoting matalinong (smart) parenthood. We want to empower every Juan and Juana to know if a movie or TV show does not go against Filipino values.
Finally, we wish to engage all networks and film producers in this mission, knowing that better content means a better entertainment industry.
Prior to his appointment, Villareal was already an MTRCB board member and spokesman.
Thai book seller Se-ed has demanded that publishers put clear warnings of adult content on the cover of books dealing with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LBGT) or sexually explicit content.
According to Isra News Agency the Se-Ed letter asks publishing houses to reconsider or screen books with suggestive content, as follows:
Deviant sexual behaviour
Sex in public locations
Sexual abuse of non-spouses, children, youth and women, and incest (presumably the sexual abuse of spouses is considered to be fine)
Arousing graphic details of sexual intercourse
The company threatens to return books that do not comply with these warning guidelines.
According to the Isra report, the letter has met with strong criticism from social groups who claim to be writers and LBGT activists. They say that Se-ed's requirements are too broad, particularly the first rule which clearly discriminates
against homosexuality. The groups are now organising a petition on social media against the bookstore. More than 130,000 people have already clicked like on their cause. The group are promoting the banner: We are against the banning of
LGBT literature by Se-ed bookstores .
Wiroj Lakkanaadisorn, representative from Se-ed, said the company had no intention of censoring books or halting sales. Instead, the letter aimed to bring distributors on board with a plan to separate books in a category of children's literature
from those in a category of erotic literature. The company had received complaints from parents that some children's books actually contained erotic content, and this was not clear from the book's cover.
A video rental store in Hamilton, New Zealand has been forced to pull a movie from its shelves which was banned by censors in 2011 for scenes of rape and sadistic violence.
United Video owner Mike Puklowski said he had no idea the film was banned even though the store promoted it as banned .
Censors last year approved a re-issue of the 1978 original on Blu-ray, but were scathing of the remake in a March 2011 decision by the classifications office:
The [2010 remake] contains long and realistic scenes showing the brutal terrorisation and rape of a woman by a group of men. Later scenes show her implausible but sadistic vengeance against her tormentors.
It encouraged attitudes that contribute to sexual violence, torture by terror and other extremes of cruelty and violence, particularly against women.
The treatment of the woman before she is raped, is an all-too-plausible and realistic version of the kind of abuse meted out to many women. There is minimal effort to explain the sadistic behaviour of the male characters.
The length of the scenes and their gratuitous focus on [her] suffering offer maximum opportunity for misogynistic pleasure. Viewers are repeatedly invited to share the point of view of the rapists and are therefore placed in the position of
Some viewers may well identify with male dominance and power, and echo the men's enjoyment of the woman's terror and humiliation.
A spokeswoman from the Office of Film and Literature Classification confirmed the film was 'objectionable', a ruling which meant possessing, or downloading it would be an offence.
The release of the local film Tanda Putera has been indefinitely delayed by the highest echelons of the Malaysian government.
The film was made by woman director Shuhaimi Baba with partial funding from government film support agency FINAS. It deals with the aftermath of the 13 May 1969 incident, which saw rioting between the country's Chinese and Malay populations and
some 200 people killed.
Certain scenes depicting the May 13, 1969 tragedy were questioned by many quarters, Information, Communications and Culture Minister, Rais Yatim said, explaining that the cabinet felt that the screening should be deferred for the good of
Two weekly Japanese tabloids received warnings this week from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police over the publication of supposedly obscene images of works by British artist Jamie McCartney.
Shukan Post and Shukan Gendai published color and black-and-white pictures of McCartney's Great Wall of Vagina , which comprises a series of rows of white plaster casts of the genitals of 400 women.
The 'peace preservation' division of the metropolitan police warned both magazines, deeming the publication of the display a crime of obscene public exhibition. The images are exactly that of female genitalia. The degree of obscenity is
Artist Jamie McCartney emailed The Tokyo Reporter:
Japan is a sophisticated and forward-looking culture that should be able to accept all forms of creative expression. The purpose of the artwork is not to be sexually arousing but instead to be educational and alleviate the unnecessary
anxiety many women feel about their genitals.
Vietnam has jailed two musicians for writing songs critical of government policy.
Tran Vu Anh Binh and Vo Minh Tri were both convicted by a court in Ho Chi Minh City and sentenced to six and four years in prison respectively.
As well as social issues, their work included songs that criticised China over its territorial claims in the South China Sea and the Vietnamese government's handling of the row.
Beijing and Hanoi have overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea and tensions between the two nations have been rumbling for months.
In a statement Amnesty International called for the songwriters' release. Rupert Abbott, the group's researcher on Vietnam said:
This is a ludicrous way to treat people just for writing songs. These men are prisoners of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression through their songs and non-violent activities, and should
A law professor here was acquitted in South Korea on charges that he posted a series of photographs showing male genitals on his blog.
Kyungsin Park was charged in February with violating the country’s online obscenity law. Park, at the time, was a commissioner of the South Korea Communications Standards Commission, a government agency with an authority to delete Internet
content it considered harmful.
He had taken it upon his own to post the photos on his own blog after the commission deleted an Internet users' photos without giving its original owner a chance to defend himself.
Park posted the photos on his own blog, called Censor’s Diary , and invited a debate of the commission’s decision.
An appeals court reversed a lower court's guilty ruling. The appeals court said Park’s posting could not be ruled indecent because the photos should be viewed in the context of his attempt to criticize the government’s regulations on
Thailand's first blocklist was created by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology in January 2004 during the Thaksin Shinawatra administration. It blocked 1,247 URLs by name.
Thailand's first blocklist marked the first and only attempt at transparency by Thailand's Internet censors. Every subsequent blocklist, the webpages blocked, the reasons for blocking and even the number of pages blocked is held in secret by Thai
Following Thailand's military coup d'etat on September 19, 2006, the military's fifth official order on its first day in power was to block the Internet. Under the coup regime, tens of thousands of webpages were blocked.
The coup government's first legislative action was to promulgate the Computer Crimes Act 2007. In its first drafts, the CCA prescribed the death penalty for computer crimes; this was modified in the final law to only 20 years in prison.
The new elected opposition government has continued the folly of its predecessors. It was further revealed that Thai government censorship was rising at a rate of 690 new pages blocked every single day.
Thailand's censorship has shown no signs of abating and almost none of the webpages blocked during the emergency have been unblocked. In 2012, more than 90,000 Facebook pages were blocked. So are online pharmacies and gambling sites.
To date, Thailand has spent THB 2,173,913,043---more than two billion baht---(almost USD $71 million) to censor our Internet.
On December 28, 2011, Thailand was blocking 777,286 webpages. Today, November 1, 2012, Thailand blocks ONE MILLION URLs
A landmark Malaysian court ruling that upheld an independent news portal's right to publish a newspaper has placed a spotlight on Prime Minister Najib Razak's pledge to loosen controls on the press.
The Kuala Lumpur High Court on October 1 ruled in favour of Malaysiakini.com's challenge against a refusal to issue a publishing licence to the site, which is known for content often highly critical of the government.
Najib has positioned himself as if he was a reformer in a bid to recapture the support of voters who in 2008 handed his ruling Barisan Nasional coalition its worst polls showing ever. In April, he lifted a rule that forced publications to renew
their printing permits annually---which gave the government leverage to ensure compliant coverage---but the home ministry still has the power to deny or revoke licences.
For this, and other reasons, Malaysia's opposition has dismissed the reform pledges as window-dressing for the election, and the court ruling could now put pressure on Najib to prove them wrong.
Movies rated R21 in Singapore have been made available on pay-TV in private homes for the first time.
The Media Development Authority (MDA) has given the green light for StarHub and SingTel to offer R21 content on their video-on-demand platforms.
SingTel's mio TV will be now be offering R21 movies such as the crime thriller The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011), the gay-themed drama A Single Man (2009), superhero flick Watchmen (2009) and horror flick The Hills
Have Eyes (2006).
Material that is rated by MDA as R21 is deemed suitable for adults aged 21 and older. Previously the highest rating for pay-TV content now was M18.
The Censorship Review Committee had recommended in its report that year that R21 content be allowed on subscription TV and video-on-demand with a strong caveat that a simple-to-use parental lock mechanism is available . It added that if
R21 content is made available, the operators should lock it by default.
The Government accepted the proposal.
As to whether R21 content might be made available for sale on DVD and video, Amy Chua, MDA's director of content and standards for broadcast, Internet and publications, said:
We would like to assess how consumers view this service on video-on-demand before we think of introducing it on other platforms.
The current mood as well as the general atmosphere online over racial issues were among the reasons why local comedy Sex.Violence.FamilyValues was banned in Singapore three days before its scheduled release.
The 46-minute film, which was originally given an M18 rating but was referred to the Films Consultative Panel (FCP) for review following public feedback. Singapore's film censors at the Media Development Authority said that the film had now been
given a Not Allowed For All Ratings classification.
The panel's Vice-Chairperson Cheryl Ng cited a scene in the film's trailer, which had been circulating online for several weeks, where a Chinese director was seen to be trading racial insults with an Indian porn actor. She said the panel was
not only just looking at national stereotypes but racial stereotypes, and the comments are flung around by members of different races at one another.
Generally in the past few months where you see people commenting, like the bus is so smelly ... something like this that touches so close to our home and so close to our hearts can actually cause unhappy situations to escalate.
Executive Chairman Tay Eu-Yen of The Butter Factory, which had backed the film, said on Facebook that the film is a satire that discourages racism by portraying and attacking stereotypes .
Ken Kwek, the director of Sex.Violence.FamilyValues said he will lodge a formal appeal against the decision. Kwek said he would appeal against the decision before the one-month appeal window expires on November 6 and was not very keen
on deleting any portion of the film if asked.
Singapore's film censors at the Media Development Authority (MDA) said the panel found some dialogue portions in Porn Masala , one of three short stories in the 47-minute compendium, offensive to the Indian community.
Actor Adrian Pang, who plays the role of an ethnic Chinese pornographic director hurling insults at an ethnic Indian actor in comic scenes, said the authorities should respect the intelligence of Singaporean moviegoers:
There are the powers that be who are watching over us and are obviously treating us with so little regard as a people that they figure we do not have the maturity, the intelligence... to see a piece of entertainment with a healthy perspective
and judge this as a piece of satire.
South Korea has lifted a month long ban on the Marqais de Sade's novel 120 Days of Sodom after a national censorship board gave the book another read.
The 1785 book features extreme sadism and torture. It hit South Korean bookshelves in August after a Korean translation was published. Some protestors then started a petition against its obscene and sexual content.
The novel was banned Sept. 6 by the country's Publication Ethics Commission accusing it of triggering ... violent excitement.
But following an outcry from the publisher over freedom of expression, the commission reread the book. In a meeting with Korean academics and novelists, they recognized its literary value and lifted the ban on Oct. 11.
Commission official Jang Tag-Hwan said Monday the group decided that the work also explored hard truths about mankind and attempted to delve into the inner side of human greed.
Singapore's government claimed that it was necessary to take a firm stand against the viewing of the Innocence of Muslims film in Singapore as a matter of principle.
Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean was responding to a question by an MP who wanted to know what are the reasons for the government's pre-emptive measure of requesting Google to block online access in Singapore to the
trailer for the film.
This, especially when Singaporeans of all faiths had responded calmly and there was no disharmony or feelings of ill-will among Singaporeans of different groups.
Teo assured the House that the move was not a censorship of internet content...[BUT]... he explained that the Home Affairs Ministry assessed both the content of the film and its possible impact in determining the request to block the
Teo explained that such decisive actions assure the public that the government will act whenever the line is crossed, and there is no need for affected groups to respond in inappropriate ways.
Teo noted the protests came very close to Singapore, with incidents reported in Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand.
Philippine's Movie Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) has announced that its classification system now includes R-16 . This adds to the existing ratings General (G), Parental Guidance (PG), R-13 and
Outgoing MTCB Chairman Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares said that R-16 is an intermediary rating that the board arrived at following discussions with film makers and psychologists about its necessity.
Poe hopes that aside from being a more specific advisory, the R-16 would encourage filmmakers to release work that caters to people ages 14 and 15 now that such a product has better chance of penetrating theaters that don't screen R-18
MTRCB Vice Chairman Emmanuel Borlaza has also signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) which allows it to screen at designated venues the films that need not be rated by the classification
board. He said that the agreement will especially benefit film festivals organized by the FDCP in that they can now tell even filmmakers from abroad that their work can be screened in the Philippines without undergoing classification.
Borlaza has been recommended by Poe to take her place in MTRCB now that she is running for senator. He said that he intends to carry out the plans that she has made for the board.
The Philippines' top court has suspended a repressive new law supposedly targeting cybercrime, following protests by critics who say it stifles free speech.
The new law, called the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, came into effect earlier this month. The law predictably cited child pornography, identity theft and spamming but also made libel a cybercrime punishable by up to 12 years in jail.
The act is also adopted a heavy hand to prevent cybersex, defined as sexually explicit chat over the internet, often involving cam girls performing sexual acts in front of webcams for internet customers. Government officials would also
have had new powers to search and seize data from people's online accounts.
The Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order preventing the act from being enforced after 15 petitions questioning its legality were filed.
But protesters say the legislation would be used to target government critics and crack down on freedom of speech.
Despite the fact that Twitter and Facebook are technically blocked in China, the two services are still widely used, according to data from market researcher GlobalWebIndex (see graph, bottom).
When asked which services they had contributed to in the last month, 25% of surveyed Chinese users said they had used Google+, 15% used Facebook, and 8% accessed Twitter. Local equivalents are Qzone (66%), followed by Sina Weibo (61%), and
Tencent Weibo (56%).
GlobalWebIndex has been tracking the growth of social media use in China since 2009. At that point, there were 11.8 million Twitter users there, a number that grew to 35 million in the second quarter of 2012. Facebook use, meanwhile, jumped from
7.9 million to 65.2 million during the same time period, said GlobalWebIndex founder Tom Smith.
So how do Chinese users access Facebook and Twitter? According to Smith, people are using virtual private networks (VPNs), virtual cloud networks (VCNs), or internationally routed connections, meaning users won't be picked up by analytics and
won't actually register as being in a Chinese location.
In short, Smith said, the 'Great Firewall' is not as solid as many people think.