The New Zealand censor at the Office of Film and Literature Censorship has just banned the PlayStation Vita role playing game, Criminal Girls: Invite Only
The censor explained the reasons for the ban on its website:
Firstly, the Classification Office called the game in due to concerns that the sexual content found within the game focuses on young persons and involves elements of sexual violence. However the Motivation sequences themselves do not encourage
the player to focus on the girls as young persons, and instead concentrates on presenting their embarrassment, powerlessness and humiliation in a sexualised manner. The dialogue clearly establishes that the girls are either unwilling to
participate, or naive about the player character's intentions. Then, once the Motivation is finished, the girls' reaction is positive. The lack of consent presented here - and the idea that Even if you have to force her 203 she'll end up
enjoying it - is a narrative that justifies rape and is presented solely for titillation.
This game requires players to engage with the female characters in sexualised situations where consent is not only absent, but where the protestations of the female characters are part of the attraction. There is a strong likelihood of injury to
the public good, including to adults from the trivialisation and normalisation of such behaviour, so the game is banned.
The game is PEGI 18 rated in Europe and ESRB M rated in the US.
A Thai man has been jailed for 35 years for Facebook posts critical of the royal family in one of the most extreme sentences handed down for a crime that insulates Thailand's ultra-rich monarchy from criticism.
A Bangkok military court convicted him of 10 counts of lese-majesty for posting photos and videos of the royal family on a Facebook account that purported to belong to a different user. The man, whose last name was withheld to protect his
relatives, was accused of using the account to slander a former friend, said iLaw, a group that tracks royal defamation cases.
The court punished him with seven years per count. Altogether he was given 70 years, but it was reduced in half because he confessed.
Later on Friday, a criminal court sentenced another lese-majesty victim to two and a half years in jail for uploading an audio clip from an underground political radio show that was deemed insulting to the monarchy.
The United Nations' rights body has warned that Thailand's widespread use of the law may constitute crimes against humanity.
Military authorities in Thailand have warned Facebook to take down content criticising the monarchy, or face legal action.
Facebook has been given until next Tuesday to remove about 130 items from pages viewable in Thailand. The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission told the BBC that Facebook had already co-operated in blocking some pages, but that
more than 130 judged to be illegal by the authorities remained visible in Thailand.
Facebook says it does consider requests from governments to block material, and will comply if it breaks local laws.
Any comment critical of the monarchy can result in prosecution under Thailand's strict lese-majeste law, even if the criticism is justified. Those convicted face extreme prison sentences.
Thailand's military government that seized power in Thailand in 2014 has made great efforts to suppress any criticism of the monarchy. Thousands of websites have been blocked, and people caught sharing, or even liking Facebook posts deemed
unflattering to the monarchy have been prosecuted.
The Chinese government has issued new censorship rules extending its repressive control over online news content.
Companies that publish, share or edit news will need a government licence, and senior editors must be approved by the authorities. Other staff will be required to undergo government training and assessment, and receive official accreditation.
The legislation will bring online news providers into line with traditional news media operating in the country.
From 1 June, when the rules come into force, they will be expected to follow information security protocols , including emergency response measures such as increased vetting following disasters.
The list of providers and platforms covered includes websites, applications, forums, blogs, microblogs, public accounts, instant messaging tools and internet broadcasts .
Organisations that do not have a licence will not be allowed to post news or commentary about the government, economy, military, foreign affairs, or other areas of public interest .
13 Reasons Why is a USA Netflix mystery drama
Starring Dylan Minnette, Katherine Langford and Christian Navarro.
Thirteen Reasons Why, based on the best-selling books by Jay Asher, follows teenager Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) as he returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers a group of
cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) -his classmate and crush-who tragically committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah unfolds an emotional audio diary, detailing the thirteen reasons why she decided to end her
life. Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, Thirteen Reasons Why weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect viewers.
In the US the show is rated as TV-MA, an advisory 14 rating.
In the UK the series was rated 18 for sexual violence, strong bloody images, suicide scene.
The New Zealand film censors of the OFLC have now introduced an RP18 certificate just for this show. RP18 means that the content is restricted to adults or to under 18's accompanied by their parents or guardians. It is not clear how this relates
to home viewing. The New censor already has RP13 and RP16 rage ratings with the same accompaniment exclusions.
The OFLC explains their new certificate in a press release:
The New Zealand Classification Office has created a new RP18 rating specifically for the popular Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. The classification recognises that teens are watching and will continue to watch the series, while signalling
the strong content and emphasising the essential role of parents and caregivers in discussing this material with young people in their care.
The show 13 Reasons Why has caused controversy worldwide mainly for its treatment of teen suicide. The show -- aimed at a teen and young adult audience -- also includes bullying and intense violence, and strong scenes of sexual violence. Due to
concerns about the show, the Chief Censor made use of his power to 'call in' and require classification of the series.
Some aspects of the show have received praise from groups such as the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network, who have highlighted some positive messaging around consent and sexual violence in the show. The Mental Health Foundation New Zealand also
identifies the series as an opportunity to raise awareness around youth suicide and mental health.
The Classification Office also discussed the series with teens aged 14-18. Deputy Chief Censor Jared Mullen says that:
All the teens we spoke to felt the show addressed issues that were relevant to them, and that the series overall had positive messages relating to social awareness: treating others with respect and compassion, and raising awareness about
suicide, sexual violence, bullying, and other issues.
Nevertheless, there are real risks created by the portrayal of suicide in 13 Reasons Why . The suicide method is clearly shown -- contravening established health guidelines and creating the potential for copycat behaviour. The real links between
mental health and suicide are not discussed at all in the series. The choice of the lead character to kill herself is also portrayed quite fatalistically. In real life, most of those with suicidal thoughts recover, and do not go on to end their
Deputy Chief Censor Jared Mullen:
These issues need to be talked about in a way that is informed and safe -- parents, guardians and other adults need to have open conversations with teens about the issues raised by the show. Parents should use their judgement about whether
their teen is ready to watch this show and then watch it with them. The series raises a lot of issues but often fails to fully address them, and it's really important that trusted adults can step in at that point.
13 Reasons Why is classified RP18 with the following warning note: "Series deals with suicide, bullying and depression. Episodes may contain violence, sexual material, drug use, and frequent offensive language. Some episodes contain graphic
depictions of suicide and rape".
The RP18 classification recognises that 16 and 17 year olds continue to be at high risk of suicidal thoughts, but also recognises that teens should continue to have access to the show with the support of the adults in their lives.
New Zealand's outgoing chief censor has urged the Government to hurry up and deliver the law change it proposed on streaming services like Netflix.
Eight months since the Government announced a plan to update broadcasting rules, including making online streaming services subject to classification and content standards, chief censor Andrew Jack has revealed his frustration at what he says has
been a total lack of progress.
Jack spoke to the Herald on Sunday in the final week of his six-year tenure at the top of the classification office and cited concerns around pornography as well as how issues like suicide, rape and sexual violence are being used by entertainment
companies for commercial gain - beyond the reach of regulation. He whinged:
Nothing has actually happened, just nothing. And I have to say that is a source of significant frustration. We know some of this material is causing harm, we know the measures which can improve the situation, but nothing has actually happened.
The only entities winning out of the current situation are the entities selling depictions of sexual violence as entertainment.
In my view, you can't just announce you're going to do something, and not do it.
Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry said the Government intends to refer the bill to a select committee this year. She said:
Work on the bill has been fairly complex. It needs to be future-proofed in an era of rapid technological change, as well as being practical for existing providers and not putting barriers to the entry of new services.
In his final days as chief censor, a role he wanted to continue but was unsuccessful in seeking a third term, Jack said there were other aspects to consider, specifically around pornography and depictions of suicide and sexual violence. Jack said
there was absolutely a concern over pornography becoming an unwelcome form of sex education in young generations, though more research needed to be done to understand what exactly young Kiwis are consuming online.
Jack spoke of complains about the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why:
I can't talk specifically about the series you talked about because the classification office has called that in and is in the process of deciding whether that needs to be subject to a restriction or a warning on it.
Historically as a country we've tried the 'let's not talk about it' approach [to suicide] which has not been successful. We've an appalling rate of youth suicide.
Where those issues are dealt with in a positive way, it's a really good thing. But it's where you get depictions of suicide which are instructional, or two-dimensional or suggest it's a viable option for dealing with some of the tribulations
life sometimes deals at you.
New Zealand film censor surveys feminists, anti-sex work campaigners, police and academics to find that child protection issues re sexual violence in the media can be mitigated by extending film censorship to the internet
New Zealand's film censors of the OFLC are calling for the extension of their remit to internet streaming services such as Lightbox and Netflix.
Currently, apart from some one-off cases, the New Zealand censor has no influence over the labelling and warnings that come with streamed content.
Deputy chief censor Jared Mullen claimed that the public wanted such services too be censored by the OFLC:
Forty-seven percent of New Zealanders are now accessing streaming services regularly - that's at least weekly. So I think it is becoming more a part of New Zealanders lives and parents and young people are telling us the same thing. Their
expectations for content labelling are high, they want more specific information and they want that before they watch the show.
Ninety-two percent of Kiwis who are responsible for choosing entertainment for children actually use the classification and labels, which is an extraordinary number.
Mullen said the participants involved in new research generally agreed that content regulation laws should be extended to cover increasingly popular streaming services. However this is hardly surprising when noting that the surveyed group were
feminist campaigners, anti-sex work campaigners, police and feminist dominated academia.
Mullen noted that the groups were canvassed:
On their views of firstly what they're seeing in terms of sexual violence portrayal in entertainment media, and how they are seeing it effect young people. The concern across all of those groups is the portrayal of sexual violence... is often
unrealistic, it can be sensationalised and is often portraying some really harmful myths about sexual violence which don't accord with reality.
Asked about the legal practicalities of extending film censorship to the internet, Mullen said there were half a dozen pieces of legislation that would need changing:
Relatively easy amendments - there's a range of regulations that would need to change, but other than that, no - it's not difficult.
Amnesty International (AI) has slammed an unprecedented ban by Thailand's military junta on using the internet to communicate with three critics of the monarchy, noting that authorities had hit new lows in curbing free speech.
The new order makes any online interaction with the trio, including contacting them, and following or sharing their social media posts, a jailable offence under an extreme censorship law titled the Computer Crime Act.
The trio are Thai academics Somsak Jeamteerasakul and Pavin Chachavanpongpun, as well as ex-reporter Andrew MacGregor Marshall. They all onw live outside of Thailand.
Josef Benedict, AI's Deputy Director for Southeast Asia said:
The Thai authorities have plunged to new depths in restricting people's freedom of expression. After imprisoning people for what they say both online and offline, and hounding critics into exile, they want to cut people off from each other
New Zealand's Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne has announced the appointment of David Shanks as the Chief Censor of Film and Literature for a three-year term. Dunne said:
Mr Shanks is a senior public servant who has held roles as chief legal officer and a number of acting deputy chief executive positions.
His senior management and legal experience in the public sector will be of great benefit to the Classification Office.
I would also like to acknowledge the significant work of outgoing Chief Censor, Dr Andrew Jack and thank him for his passion and commitment over the last six years.
During his time, Dr Jack has overseen a number of complex classification decisions that have involved careful balancing of freedom of expression with avoiding potential harm, and continued to advance the public debate about censorship issues in
a modern society.
The Chief Censor is responsible for protecting New Zealanders from material likely to cause harm while balancing the important right to freedom of expression.
The Office of Film and Literature Classification is an independent Crown entity, established under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 to examine and censor publications, including films, videos, books, magazines, sound
recordings and computer files.