An item mocking China, Xi Jinping and Trump on John Oliver's HBO show Last Week Tonight seems to have wound up China's censors.
HBO's website has been blocked in China and social media censors have been working hard to eliminate
comments about the show.
According to the anti-censorship and monitoring group Greatfire.org, HBO's website was completely blocked within China as of Saturday, days after media reports emerged that Weibo had censored new posts mentioning Oliver or
his HBO show Last Week Tonight.
In the show, Oliver made fun of the Chinese president's apparent sensitivity over comparisons of his figure with that of Winnie the Pooh. Images of the AA Milne character, used to mock Xi, have been censored in
China. Oliver also took a serious tone in the show, criticising Xi for the removal of term limits from the Chinese constitution, the use of political re-education camps in the Muslim province of Xinjiang, and a crackdown on civil society. Oliver noted
the continued house arrest of Liu Xia, wife of Chinese dissident and nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo who died last year while serving an 11-year prison sentence.
Video-on-demand streaming providers in Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, including ASTRO, dimsum, Fox+, HOOQ, iflix, Netflix, tonton, TVB and Walt Disney, have joined forces to launch a self-censorship Subscription Video-on-Demand
Industry Content Code.
The censorship rules ensure that the content offered on these platforms is authentic, free from hate speech, pornography and other forms of inappropriate content.
Furthermore, the Code also aims to provide users with
age-appropriate content advice.
Companies participating in the Code said in a statement:
We share a mutual objective of putting consumer well-being at the heart of our services. This Code demonstrates our
commitment to making sure that the consumer is able to make content viewing choices that are right for them and their families.
They also welcome other video-on-demand services to work under their rules.
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned a new cybersecurity law passed today by Vietnam's National Assembly as a clear threat to press freedom and called on the Vietnamese government immediately to repeal it.
The legislation, which goes into
effect January 1, 2019, gives broad powers to government authorities to surveil the internet, including the ability to force international technology companies with operations in the country to reveal their users' personal information and censor online
information on demand, according to news reports said.
The law's vague and broad provisions ban any online posts deemed as opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, or which [offend] the nation, the national flag, the national
anthem, great people, leaders, notable people and national heroes, according to the reports. The same sources state that the law's Article 8 prohibits the use of the internet to distort history, deny revolutionary achievements or undermine national
The law also prohibits disseminating online incorrect information which causes confusion among people, damages socio-economic activities [or] creates difficulties for authorities and those performing their duty, according to reports.
After January 1, 2019, companies will have 24 hours to remove content that the Information and Communications Ministry or the Public Security Ministry find to be in violation of the new law.
Shawn Crispin, CPJ's Southeast Asia
Vietnam's new cybersecurity law represents a grave danger to journalists and bloggers who work online and should be promptly repealed. We expect international technology companies to use their best
efforts to uphold their stated commitment to a free and open internet and user privacy and to resist any attempts to undermine those commitments.
A New Zealand university has apologised after it seized hundreds of copies of a campus magazine that featured a cover on menstruation, sparking anger from students saying the move reinforced social stigmas and amounted to censorship.
The University of
Otago said its staff this week removed 500 copies of the latest edition of student magazine Critic -- which included a cartoon character bleeding from the genitals on the cover -- over claiming that it would be objectionable to many people.
Noting it a censorship, editor of the weekly magazine, Joel MacManus, said the menstruation issue was meant to debunk common myths, and it included articles on free sanitary products and the availability of sanitary bins on campus. The intention was to
break taboos and encourage open discussion about menstruation.
The university said in a statement posted on Twitter that the decision to remove the issue was regrettable, ...BUT... added that it was aware of some views that the
magazine cover was degrading to women.
New Zealand's Chief Censor David Shanks warned parents and caregivers of vulnerable children and teenagers to be prepared for the release of Netflix's Season 2 release of 13 Reasons Why scheduled to screen this week on Friday, May 18, at 7pm.
The Office of Film and Literature Classification consulted with the Mental Health Foundation in classifying 13 Reasons Why: Season 2 as RP18 with a warning that it contains rape, suicide themes, drug use, and bullying. Shanks said:
"There is a strong focus on rape and suicide in Season 2 , as there was in Season 1 . We have told Netflix it is really important to warn NZ audiences about that."
"Rape is an ugly word for an ugly act. But young New Zealanders have told us that if a series contains rape -- they want to know beforehand."
An RP18 classification means that someone under 18 must be supervised by a parent or guardian when viewing the series. A guardian is considered to be a responsible adult (18 years and over), for example a family
member or teacher who can provide guidance. Shanks said:
"This classification allows young people to access it in a similar fashion to the first season, while requiring the support from an adult they need to stay
safe and to process the challenging topics in the series."
Netflix is required to clearly display the classification and warning.
"If a child you care for is planning to watch the show, you should
sit down and watch it with them -- if not together then at least around the same time. That way you can at least try to have informed and constructive discussions with them about the content."
"The current picture about what our kids can be exposed to online is grim. We need to get that message across to parents that they need to help young people with this sort of content."
For parents and caregivers who don't have time to watch the entire series, the Classification Office and Mental Health Foundation have produced an episode-by-episode guide with synopses of problematic content, and
conversation starters to have with teens. This will be available on both organisations' websites from 7pm on Friday night.
Da Ai TV has canceled its new soap opera Jiachang's Heart, reportedly due to criticism from Chinese officials two days after the show's pilot aired, sparking concerns about the reach of Chinese censorship.
The show was inspired by the story of
Tzu Chi volunteer Lin Chih-hui, now 91, who was born in the Japanese colonial era and served as a Japanese military nurse in China during World War II.
The show's trailer was panned by Chinese media, and local media reported that China's Taiwan
Affairs Office sent officials to the foundation's office in Taiwan to investigate the show soon after the pilot aired on Thursday last week.
China's Global Times newspaper published an opinion piece by a Chinese official saying:
It is clear from the 15-minute trailer that the first half of the series is kissing up to Japan.
The show was duly pulled and Da Ai media development manager Ou Hung-yu explained:
The channel decided that the show's depiction of war is contrary to its guideline of purifying human hearts and encouraging social harmony.
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has barred one of China's most popular TV channels from airing the Eurovision song contest after it censored LGBT elements of the competition.
Mango TV was criticised for blurring rainbow flags and censoring
tattoos during Tuesday's first semi-final. It also decided not to air performances by the Irish and Albanian entries.
The EBU said the censorship was not in line with its values of diversity:
It is with regret
that we will therefore immediately be terminating our partnership with the broadcaster and they will not be permitted to broadcast the second Semi-Final or the Grand Final.
The Irish entry, Ryan O'Shaughnessy, told the BBC that he
welcomed the EBU's decision. He will perform at the final in Lisbon on Saturday with a song about the end of a relationship. He was accompanied by two male dancers during the performance that was apparently censored by Mango TV.
Lost in the Fumes is a 2017 Hong Kong documentary by Nora Lam. Starring Cres Chuang, Bamboo Chu-Sheng Chen and Leon Dai.
Edward Leung was an average student before he unexpectedly finds himself at
the focal point of two Legislative Council elections. While winning over 60,000 votes in the By-election would have guaranteed Edward a seat in the next round, his ticket to LegCo is forfeited when the regime imposes extra measures in the nomination
process. Having once claimed that 'be it crawling or creeping in, I will become a councillor', he can now only take the sidelines and put the backup Baggio Leung into the race. On the other hand, Edward finds his free days numbered as he faces three
counts of rioting charges for taking part in the Mong Kok Protest. Once an eloquent rising star in politics, now he may as well be a doomed prisoner. As the oath-taking controversy and the disqualification saga unfold, Edward retreats from the spotlight
and decides to leave for further study in the United States while chaos continues to reign over Hong Kong politics.
Thanks to its politically provocative subject matter, Lost in Fumes , a documentary made by a 22-year-old on a
minuscule budget, has become Hong Kong's hottest ticket in the past six months. But because of that same subject matter, no commercial film exhibitor in the city has been willing to touch it.
The film's fate has renewed fears in Hong Kong's
entertainment sector about the continued erosion of freedom of speech. Since November, it has been playing to packed houses at Hong Kong's Art Centre, at colleges and universities and in impromptu underground community screenings. But the film's subject,
Edward Leung's political stance -- which falls somewhat outside the local mainstream and is viewed by the ruling Communist Party in Beijing as a serious threat to its sovereignty over Hong Kong -- has meant that most local business leaders would rather
run a mile to avoid being associated with the film for fear of social or political reprisal.
The film's director, Nora Lam commented:
Self-censorship is a more serious issue than it appears in Hong Kong. There
is nothing written and no law as yet restricting what people can say, so theoretically we still have freedom of speech, she notes. But people are afraid of the consequences, and this fear is more far-reaching than official oppression.
The wildly popular children's character Peppa Pig was recently scrubbed from Douyin, a video sharing platform in China , which deleted more than 30,000 clips. The hashtag #PeppaPig was also banned, according to the Global Times, a state-run tabloid
Chinese authorities have claimed that Peppa pig has become associated with low lifes and slackers. The Global Times whinged:
People who upload videos of Peppa Pig tattoos and merchandise and make
Peppa-related jokes run counter to the mainstream value and are usually poorly educated with no stable job. They are unruly slackers roaming around and the antithesis of the young generation the [Communist] party tries to cultivate.
In a verdict with grave implications for press freedom, a Malaysian court has handed down the nation's first conviction under its recently enacted 'fake news' law.
Salah Salem Saleh Sulaiman, a Danish citizen, was sentenced to one week in
prison and fined 10,000 ringgit (US$2,500) for posting to the internet a two-minute video criticizing police's response to the April 21 assassination of a member of the militant group Hamas in Kuala Lumpur.
Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast
Asia representative said:
Malaysia's first conviction under its 'fake news' law shows authorities plan to abuse the new provision to criminalize critical reporting. The dangerous precedent should be overturned and this
ill-conceived law repealed for the sake of press freedom.
Chinese users of the Twitter-like Weibo have started an online protest with the hashtag I am gay in response to a recent government ban of gay content.
About 170,000 Weibo members had used the protst hashtag by midday Saturday before they were
Weibo announced on Fridaythat it has launched a three-month clean-up campaign to get rid of illegal posts including manga and videos with pornographic implications, promoting violence or (related to) homosexuality. It is also targeting
violent video games, like Grand Theft Auto.
Weibo's move is perceived as a crackdown by President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party on ideas.
There can be no homosexuality under socialism? a Weibo user wrote, according to AFP. It is
unbelievable that China progresses economically and militarily but returns to the feudal era in terms of ideas.
Chinese social media network Sina Weibo has backtracked from a controversial gay content ban after a massive outcry.
Friday the microblogging platform said that posts related to homosexuality would be taken down. It prompted a deluge of posts from outraged netizens protesting against the decision. On Monday, Sina Weibo said it would reverse the ban.
weekend many in the LGBT community took to the network to protest against the decision, using hashtags such as #IAmGay# and #ScumbagSinaHelloIAmGay#.
Some tried testing the ban and uploaded pictures of themselves with partners or gay friends or relatives. Among them was LGBT rights activist Pu Chunmei, whose impassioned post accompanied with pictures of her with her gay son quickly went viral. The
picture was captioned: Be yourself, don't hide.
As of early Monday morning many such posts were still online, as censors appeared to struggle to keep up with the deluge.
Then Sina Weibo made another announcement: it said its clean-up
would no longer apply to homosexual content. We thank everyone for their discussion and suggestions, the company added.
The New Zealand moralist campaign group Family First have been campaigning for new laws to censor pornography.
Family First national director Bob McCoskrie is calling for an expert panel to consider health and social issues supposedly created by
pornography, and somehwhat presumptively, how to solve the problems identified.
More than 22,000 people signed McCoskrie's petition, and this week he spoke to the Governance and Administration Select Committee at Parliament, where he said porn was
feeding the health crisis of the digital age.
Parliament's Governance and Administration Select Committee is currently considering the petition and whether to set up an 'expert' panel.
Chief censor David Shanks seems to have been caught up
in the pre-censorship momentum. He said more needs to be done to understand porn use, and the effects. Then NZ can get to work tackling the issue. He added that New Zealand needs to take a societal approach to tackling the pervasive effects of porn,
including further regulation.
As far as regulation goes, Shanks said New Zealand could consider making similar moves to the United Kingdom, where anyone wanting to watching online porn had to go through an official age verification process. An
ISP-level ban, where pornography viewers had to opt in to viewing pornographic content, could also be part of the solution.
The Office of Film and Literature Classification, headed by the chief censor, was dedicating its major research project for
the year to the prevalence, and effects of porn.
Justice Minister Andrew Little said he was aware of the issues surrounding pornography use, and he was open to suggestions on what regulatory approach New Zealand could take to tackle problems.
However, there was no specific legislation in the pipeline at the moment.
An American video game that allows players to bomb Tiananmen Square has become the focal point of the latest Chinese censorship crack down.
Although Call of Duty Black Ops II was first released in 2012, officials in the eastern province of
Jiangxi singled it out in a recent crackdown that ordered internet cafes to stop their customers playing banned games. A short sequence in the game's alternative reality, in which a character recalls a fictional Second World War bombing raid in the heart
of the Chinese capital, appears to have particularly angered the censors.
Another game that fell foul of the censors was a locally produced one, Red Alert 2: Glory of the Republic, which allows players to fight against the People's
Provincial authorities from the culture ministry visited 39 internet cafes in the province in the last week of March to make sure they were not offering banned games, the report added. More than 5,000 internet cafes in the
province have now installed a government surveillance system on their computers. Officials will be notified if users have been playing banned games in the cafes. Nag screens regularly interrupt players at internet cafes without the latest update of the
games snooping program.
China's VPN ban came into effect on March 31, 2018, but virtual private network providers are still claiming their users have access to their services in the country.
NordVPN has reportied a lack of information from Chinese authorities about
how and when exactly the ban will be implemented. The company also said businesses have reported that so far there have been no announcements from authorities about the ban. The company commented:
We understand the
concern of local and international businesses in China, as well as the needs of scholars, scientists, students, and others who vitally need VPNs to freely access the World Wide Web,
Perhaps the rest of the world would well appreciate
Chinese VPN blocking, it must surely make trade a bit tougher for Chinese companies to be cut off from the world.
Malaysia passed a repressive new law today that would punish citizens on social media or those working at a digital publication for publishing material deemed to be 'fake news' with a 500,000 ringgit ($123,000) fine and a possible a prison sentence of up
to six years.
Led by Prime Minister Najib Razak, the Anti-Fake News bill passed in parliament today despite opponents who had criticized the bill for impeding free speech and attempting to censor the prime minister's involvement in a
multibillion-dollar corruption scandal.
A draft of the bill had specified a prison sentence of up to 10 years as punishment, but the government toned it down to six in the finalized version. 'Fake news' cases will be handled by a court process.
Violators could even include those outside of Malaysia as long as they're writing about the country or its people.
The Malaysian law defines fake news as news, information, data and reports which is or are wholly or partly false. News includes
stories, video, and audio content.
The governor of Thailand's Chiang Mai province has sued a local magazine in an attempt to silence a protest highlighting dangerous levels of local air pollution.
Protestors had contributed pictures of themselves and others wearing pollution
masks to a Facebook campaign. One student had painted a picture of a famous local statue of 3 ancient kings, adding pollution facemasks.
The local governor seized on the country's extreme lese majeste laws to put an end to the protest. The
broadly-interpreted crime of lese majeste - which can carry decades-long sentences - has cemented a culture of fear and necessary self-censorship across the kingdom. The governor said:
I assigned my official to file a
complaint with police yesterday that the picture may have violated the Computer Crime Act as it's inappropriate. The statues of three kings are very sacred and respected by Chiang Mai residents, they were our ancestors.
In an official
letter to police, the governor said the painting may affect Chiang Mai's image and its tourism, causing the city economic instability. He did not mention how a reputation for repression and extreme punishment for trivial offences may also have a negative
effect on people wanting to visit the country.