The Lebanese Ministry of the Interior refuses to give a list of what books, DVDs and CDs are banned in Lebanon. The file here presents a partial list of banned films that was, according to our source, sent to a DVD retailer in Lebanon.
accords with known banned films and blacklisted studios owned by Jewish or Israeli interests.
Perhaps the oddest example is a ban on Mein Kampf on the grounds of sympathy for Jews
Cinema and theatre are against Sharia because they distract people from work and weaken their efforts in achieving progress, said Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Shaikh Abdul Aziz Alu Al Sheikh during a conference on leisure, visual arts and
Theatrical performance, whether it is a cinema or a song, would generally make an impression that is against Sharia. People need only those (art forms) that are useful to them to change their way of life (in an Islamic manner),
The mufti's pronouncements are however a sign that Saudi society is increasingly split between a ruling establishment made up of very conservative clerics who espoused strict adherence to Islamic precepts and a broader group of more
liberal-oriented young Saudis who want greater openness, more freedom for women and a greater range of entertainment.
Like young people across the Middle East young Saudis routinely go online which gives them access to US action movies, but they
cannot go to the movies, an issue that is still taboo.
Yet the recent screening of a Saudi comedy, Menahi , in two movie theatres twice a day for eight days—with women dutifully seated in the balcony, and men in the stalls—was cheered by
We put sound and visual equipment, we sold tickets for the first time in Saudi Arabia, and we even sold popcorn, said Ayman Halawani, general manager of Rotana Studios, the production arm of a company owned by Waleed bin
Talal, a financier and member of the royal family, who has become the target of ultra-conservatives for his liberal ideas and investments in the TV and show business. Overall some 25,000 people actually saw the film.
Experts of the Human Rights Council have concluded that the Egyptian authorities have detained blogger Karim Amer arbitrarily for his online criticisms and for exercising his right to freedom of expression. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary
Detention (WGAD) communicated its decision to Amnesty International.
Amnesty International, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and the Hisham Mubarak Law Center (HMLC) welcomed the decision. They described it as
ground-breaking and a landmark in the fight against arbitrary detention and restrictions to freedom of expression in Egypt.
Amnesty International and the two Egyptian human rights organizations, whose lawyers worked extensively on the case of
Karim Amer, are urging the Egyptian authorities to urgently comply with the WGAD's decision and release Karim Amer immediately and unconditionally. The three organizations have considered Karim Amer a prisoner of conscience and campaigned for his
Karim Amer was sentence in 2007 to four years in prison for writing on his blog criticizing Egypt's al-Azhar religious authorities and President Mubarak. Charges against him include spreading information disruptive of public order and
damaging to the country's reputation , incitement to hate Islam and defaming the President of the Republic.
The three organizations are calling on the Egyptian authorities to review or abolish legislation that, in violation of
international law, punishes the exercise of the rights of freedom of thought, conscience and religion
A group of Saudi clerics urged the kingdom's new information minister on Sunday to ban women from appearing on TV or in newspapers and magazines, making clear that the country's hardline religious establishment is skeptical of a new push toward
In a statement, the 35 hardline clergymen also called on Abdel Aziz Khoja to prohibit the playing of music and music shows on television.
We have great hope that this media reform will be accomplished by you, said the
statement: We have noticed how well-rooted perversity is in the Ministry of Information and Culture, in television, radio, press, culture clubs and the book fair.
Although it raises the pressure on the new minister, the recommendation is
likely to have little effect. Khoja's appointment was part of a government shake-up by Abdullah that removed a number of hardline figures and is believed to be part of an effort to weaken the influence of conservatives in this devout desert kingdom.
No Saudi women should appear on TV, no matter what the reason, the statement said: No images of women should appear in Saudi newspapers and magazines. Saudi Arabia was founded on an alliance with the conservative Wahhabi strain of
Islam that sees the mixing of sexes as anathema and believes the playing of music violates religious values.
Turkey's decision to try two Christians under a revised version of a controversial law for insulting Turkishness because they spoke about their faith came as a blow to the country's record of freedom of speech and religion.
A court on Feb.
24 received the go-ahead from the Ministry of Justice to try Christians Turan Topal and Hakan Tastan under the revised Article 301 – a law that has sparked outrage among proponents of free speech as journalists, writers, activists and lawyers have been
tried under it. The court had sent the case to the Ministry of Justice after the government on May 8, 2008 put into effect a series of cosmetic changes to the law.
The justice ministry decision came as a surprise to Topal and Tastan and their
lawyer, as missionary activities are not illegal in Turkey. Defense lawyer Haydar Polat said no concrete evidence of insulting Turkey or Islam has emerged since the case first opened two years ago.
A Ministry of Justice statement claimed that
approval to try the case came in response to the original statement by three young men – Fatih Kose, Alper Eksi and Oguz Yilmaz – that Topal and Tastan were conducting missionary activities in an effort to show that Islam was a primitive and fictitious
religion that results in terrorism, and to portray Turks as a cursed people.
Prosecutors have yet to produce any evidence indicating the defendants described Islam in these terms, and Polat said Turkey's constitution grants all citizens
freedom to choose, be educated in and communicate their religion, making missionary activities legal.
After three prosecution witnesses testified yesterday that they didn't even know two Christians on trial for insulting Turkishness and Islam, a defense lawyer called the trial a scandal.
Speaking after the hearing in the drawn-out trial, defense attorney Haydar Polat said the case's initial acceptance by a state prosecutor in northwestern Turkey was based only on a written accusation from the local gendarmerie headquarters unaccompanied by any documentation.
Yesterday's three witnesses, all employed as office personnel for various court departments in Istanbul, testified that they had never met or heard of the two Christians on trial. The two court employees who had requested New Testaments testified
that they had initiated the request themselves.
For the next hearing set for Jan. 28, 2010, the court has repeated its summons to three more prosecution witnesses who failed to appear yesterday: a woman employed in Istanbul's security police
headquarters and two armed forces personnel whose whereabouts had not yet been confirmed by the population bureau.
eleventh hearing of a case of alleged slander against two Turkish Christians closed just minutes after it opened this week, due to lack of any progress.
Prosecutors produced no new evidence or witnesses against Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal since
the last court session four months ago. Despite lack of any tangible reason to continue the stalled case, their lawyer said, the Silivri Criminal Court set still another hearing to be held on 14 October.
They are uselessly dragging this out,
defence lawyer Haydar Polat said moments after Judge Hayrettin Sevim closed the 25 May hearing. The two Protestant Christians were accused in October 2006 of slandering the Turkish nation and Islam under Article 301 of the Turkish criminal code.
The prosecution has yet to provide any concrete evidence of the charges, which allegedly took place while the two men were involved in evangelistic activities in the town of Silivri.
At this point, we are tired of this, Tastan admitted.
If they can't find these so-called witnesses, then the court needs to issue a verdict. After four years, it has become a joke!
Syrian writer Habib Saleh was sentenced to three years in prison for criticizing the country's government in a series of articles published on the internet.
Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for
peacefully expressing his political views, and has called for his immediate and unconditional release.
The charges against Habib Saleh were related to several articles on domestic political issues that he had written and published online. He had
criticized policies of the Syrian government and expressed support for a prominent opposition figure, Riad al-Turk.
The 61-year-old was found guilty of weakening national sentiments (Article 285 of the Penal Code) and broadcasting false
or exaggerated news which could affect the morale of the country (Article 286). The court dropped other charges against him.
Controversy erupted in Turkey after a science institute withdrew a planned cover story about evolution theory founder Charles Darwin from its magazine and sacked the publication's editor who had approved the article.
The television news channel
CNN Turk, on its website, accused the state-run Turkish Science and Research Institute (TUBITAK) of unbelievable censorship in removing the planned cover story marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of the the British scientist.
March edition of Bilm ve Teknik (Science and Technology) came out a week late after TUBITAK Deputy Director Omer Cebeci ordered the cover be changed and that a 15-page article on Darwin and the theory of evolution be removed, Turkish media reported
Cigdem Atakuman, the editor of the magazine who had approved the original cover, was sacked last week.
The opposition immediately pounced on the issue, posting a number parliamentary questions demanding that the government
explain the decision to ban the original cover story. The Islamic-rooted government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been accused in the past of placing its own conservative Islamists in positions of power at TUBITAK.
Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK) announced yesterday that it did not censor of a story on the founder of evolutionary theory, Charles Darwin.
TÜBITAK answered recent debates on an alleged censorship of
Darwin in Bilim ve Teknik with a written statement released yesterday. The statement said the problem, as evaluated by the council, was caused by an executive editor exceeding her authority, which worried both scientific circles and TÜBITAK.
According to the statement, TÜBITAK had decided to run a story on global climate change in Bilim ve Teknik's March issue, but just before it went to press, Executive Editor Çigdem Atakuman added 16 pages on Darwin and the theory of evolution.
The magazine's new version was presented to Deputy President Ömer Cebeci on March 2. It was natural that the new version was questioned since this additional dossier was not planned or scientifically evaluated beforehand. Atakuman
realized her mistake and sent the magazine's first version to the print, changing the cover page as well.
TÜBITAK also announced that they plan to allocate one of its subsequent issues in 2009 to Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution.
An Irania children's show has been cancelled due to a toy monkey called Ahmadinejad
The father who nicknamed his child's toy monkey after Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, must have been mortified to have his private joke cruelly exposed when
the youngster took part in one of the country's most popular TV phone-ins.
The embarrassing disclosure was made on Amoo Pourang (Uncle Pourang), a programme watched by millions of Iranian children three times a week on state TV. It came
when the unsuspecting presenter, Dariush Farziayi, asked the name of the toy animal his young caller had been given as a reward for good behaviour.
Well, my father calls him Ahmadinejad, the child replied.
Now the father's
discomfort has spread to the programme-makers after the state broadcaster, IRIB, responded by withdrawing it from viewing schedules. The final episode will be screened next week after a successful seven-year run.
A conservative website, Jahan
News, quoting reliable sources, said the decision was prompted by the high financial and spiritual damage inflicted by live broadcasts. Stopping short of identifying the president by name, it highlighted an incident in which a child in a
live telephone line compared its doll to one of the well-known authorities and managers.
Police in Iran have arrested a group of mostly female actors who were making pornographic films, a crime that carries the death penalty under the country's barbaric laws, local media reported today.
The arrests were made at a house in a
middle-class area in the east of Tehran, the pro-reformist website Fararu said.
Citing an informed source in the intelligence deputy's office of the Iranian law enforcement agency, it said the actors had produced several amateur films
which had then been sold on the black market. The directors of the films have also been arrested.
While an underground porn market has flourished in Iran in recent years, it is rare for the police to acknowledge it with high profile arrests.
MPs attempted to combat the growth of a local porn industry in 2007 when they passed a bill approving execution for those convicted of producing obscene films.
The legislation states that producers and main elements of such
works could be sentenced as corrupters of the world , a phrase from the Qu'ran referring to those considered deserving of the death penalty for their crimes.
One hundred books have been banned from the Riyadh International Book Fair, according to the Saudi Ministry of Information and Culture.
Some books were banned for religious and moral reasons, and some for not conforming to public taste, said Yousef Al-Yousef, director of the ministry's publications administration.
Twenty-five people representing a range of specialties took part in the identification and removal of books. Some publishers also left out some publications at their own discretion, Al-Yousef said: All the participants in the event
recognize that the censorship ceiling is particularly high.
The 2008 festival was unsurprisingly marred by low attendance.
A Saudi religious scholar is accusing a royal tycoon and another Saudi businessman of being as dangerous as drug dealers because the TV channels they own broadcast movies.
The fatwa calling for their prosecution is unusual because it publicly
chastises two such prominent Saudi figures by name: Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world's richest people, and Waleed al-Ibrahim, a brother-in-law of the late King Fahd.
Youssef al-Ahmed, a professor in the Islamic law department at the
ultraconservative al-Imam University, issued the fatwa in response to a question regarding Alwaleed's assertions last month that the kingdom will have movie theaters one day and that movies play a positive social role in Saudi Arabia.
Cinemas were closed in Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s amid a rise in conservatism. Conservatives believe the movie industry encourages decadence by showing the drinking of alcohol and portraying men and women together in a country that bans liquor and the public mixing of the sexes.
Movies are a tool that hypocrites use to implement their plot to Westernize society, corrupt it and drive it away from (religion), said al-Ahmed in his response, posted on Islamlight.net: It is a duty to bring him (Alwaleed) and people
like him, such as Waleed al-Ibrahim, to justice. They are no less dangerous ... than drug dealers."
Waleed owns the Dubai-based MBC Group media conglomerate, which includes several satellite channels that broadcast movies, entertainment,
news and children's programs in Arabic and English. Those include American and European sitcoms and movies.
Fierce controversy has erupted in the Emirates over a book about the secrets of sex within marriage written by Wedad Lootah, a female lawyer who works on matrimonial cases at the court in Dubai.
The book, The Secrets of Sexual Congress Between
Married Couples , which came out about a month ago, includes several chapters on marriage within Islam, Islamic law on the issues of co-habiting and sex, and possible solutions to sexual problems.
Arab News reports that it is mainly men who
are against the book, maintaining that issues of this nature should not be discussed publicly. Some of the detractors have even gone so far as to accuse the author of being an infidel and sinner for writing the book.
Supporters however say that
there is a great need for published information on the issues and that until know Arab society has not wanted to recognize problems arising from ignorance in sexual matters.
Lootah does not seem too surprised by the criticisms, and maintains that
she based the book on Islamic sources, stressing that it was even approved by the mufti of Dubai. The book was suggested by her own six years of experience working on divorce cases, and from the knowledge that many of these cases come about because of a
lack of preparation for couples in the matter.
For many years censorship has been an everyday reality for the millions of expatriates living in the UAE; with books, newspaper output, and Internet access all being heavily restricted.
At the heart of the system is the National Media Council —
an unfortunate remnant of the UAE's old Ministry of Information and Culture. The NMC claims that it has become more tolerant and now only censors books that offend Islam or are pornographic. However there is little doubt that it still actively bans a
wide range of books, or — more accurately — simply avoids providing the necessary approval to willing distributors. The US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor reports on the UAE confirm this view, regularly detailing banned publications in the
UAE. The NMC's other responsibilities include the blacking out of nudity in media output (still done by using black felt tip on newspaper and magazine articles), and running a department for external information, which keeps a close eye on UAE-related
content in foreign publications and seeks to limit the output of certain writers.
A book festival in the Middle East that claims to celebrate the world of books in all its infinite variety has banned a British author because her novel contains references to homosexuality.
The first International Festival of
Literature in Dubai promises that it will be relaxed, vibrant and diverse.
One author has found otherwise. Geraldine Bedell's book The Gulf Between Us was greeted with enthusiasm by organisers because of its setting in the Middle East, but
the mood changed swiftly when they discovered a gay character.
Isobel Abulhoul, director of the festival, wrote to Ms Bedell to tell her that she was not invited. I do not want our festival remembered for the launch of a controversial book. If
we launched the book and a journalist happened to read it, then you could imagine the political fallout that would follow.
She explained that the book was unsuitable because one of the characters was a gay sheikh with an English boyfriend and
the plot was set against the background of the Iraq War which could be a minefield for us.
Ms Bedell, who has lived in the Gulf, told The Times that the book has since been banned from sale in Dubai and the rest of the United Arab
Giles Foden, who also plans to attend, said: I've never heard of this happening at other literary festivals, though there is an interesting comparison with that Dutch MP not being allowed to come here, which shows that Britain is not
above barring entry to people because of what they say or write.
Jonathan Heawood, director of English PEN, the writers' association, said: Great literary festivals, like great literature, provide amazing opportunities for cultural
exchange, which we need now more than ever. A literary festival which bars books because of their gay or religious content is neither literary, nor a festival. I hope that the organisers will reconsider.
A festival that shuts its doors to anything mildly controversial isn't really worthy of the name.
The Canadian novelist and former Booker Prize winner Margaret Atwood is pulling out of the Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature after a fellow writer was blacklisted for offending cultural sensitivities.
a vice-president of the writers' group International PEN, has infuriated organisers of the literary festival by posting a letter of protest on her website. I was greatly looking forward to the festival, the letter reads, and to the chance to
meet readers there; but, as an international vice-president of PEN – an organisation concerned with the censorship of writers – I cannot be part of the festival this year.
Her boycott was reinforced with protests from other writers
threatening to pull out. The children's author Anthony Horowitz has written to festival organisers expressing deep concern.
The festival director, Isobel Abulhoul, issued a statement in which she said: I knew that her work could offend
certain cultural sensitivities. I did not believe that it was in the festival's long term interests to acquiesce to her publisher's request to launch the book at the first festival of this nature in the Middle East.
Other writers may be
emboldened to join Atwood in boycotting the event by the words of Jonathan Heawood, the director of English PEN: The idea of a literary festival is cultural exchange through literature. A festival that shuts its doors to anything mildly controversial
isn't really worthy of the name. Ultimately it is up to individual writers, but I applaud any others who follow Atwood's example.
In a remarkable intervention into an already murky mess, Atwood in the Guardian today declares that she regrets withdrawing from the festival, and did so having been wrongfully led to believe that a book by the Observer journalist Geraldine Bedell had
been banned both from the festival and the Emirates themselves.
Writing exclusively in today's Guardian Review, the author suggests that she was "stampeded" into a misconception by a publicity campaign for Bedell's book, berates Bedell
for using the word "ban", and declares she has been left with egg all over my face.
The organisers of the
first-ever international Dubai literary festival announced on Saturday they will host a debate on censorship, after a row last week over censorship and freedom of speech.
The debate next Saturday will include a panel of international writers who
will discuss the issues of censorship and cultural misconceptions about the acceptable limits of freedom of expression. It is a joint venture between EAIFL and PEN, the literary anti-censorship organisation, of which Atwood is vice-president.
According to English-language daily The National, the decision to stage the debate followed pressures on the festival's organisers for excluding Bedell's book.
Head of the National Media Council Ibrahim al-Abed said the book had never been banned: It's not our policy to ban any book, unless it's crude pornography or its contemptuous of religion. [sounds like an awful
lot of books to me, especially knowing how easily offended people are in the region].
Help , a new Lebanese film that was due to open this week, now hangs in limbo as the license granted to it by the state's censorship department has been revoked, not on the basis of anything legal, but on the basis of personal opinion, according to director Marc Abi-Rached.
Permission to show the film in Lebanon was granted on July 10, 2008. That license was pulled on February 16, just three days before the scheduled opening, and four days after the premiere on February 12, when the film received largely positive
reviews from the press.
In order to pass censorship regulations again, the department is now requesting that 28 minutes of the 87-minute-long film be cut.
According to Abi-Rached, the only censorship request made by the Censorship
Department prior to releasing the license last summer was that he darken an image to screen the visibility of a vagina during one scene of the film, which he readily complied with.
A psychological-social drama, Help tells a story of choice
and destiny in a Lebanese context, bringing together the lives of a prostitute, a juvenile delinquent, a wealthy businessman, and a cab driver, among others. The film also tackles homosexuality and prostitution by presenting actors in a realistic light
intended to reveal the basic humanity behind these issues. The 28 minutes in question largely contain scenes that include swearing and homosexuality.
I won't accept to change even one second of my movie, Abi-Rached said, adding that: I
already had the permission; I did everything by the book. I don't want to challenge the system, I just want my movie. People have the right to see this film.
Since the ban, critics and intellectuals have demanded that decades-old censorship laws be scrapped in a country where flocks of Arabs from the oil-rich Persian
Gulf visit for rampant sexual tourism and youths openly pursue Western lifestyles.
In Lebanon, a censoring body of security officers influenced by the Muslim and Christian clergies continues to review all plays and films before they are shown,
cutting all scenes that might offend public morals.
Although the contentious sex scenes in Help are far from explicit, the film features a threesome of a woman and two men. That may explain the controversy: Homosexual acts are
illegal in Lebanon.
Dorit Abramovitz, an Israeli fem-Nazi and some 30 feminist women and a handful of men jolted Tel Avivians awake with a protest chant: Indifferent residents of Tel Aviv: Trade in women must be prohibited.
All the women's organizations
decided to launch protests against the free distribution of pornographic magazines like Banana and Seximo in Tel Aviv, where they are handed out gratis at certain convenience stores and newsstands, says Abramovitz: The decision to
protest these magazines was taken within the framework of an ongoing campaign by the Women's International Zionist Organization, which was recently launched against pornographic advertisements that are harmful to women. The campaign will culminate on
International Women's Day on March 8, with an event in Tel Aviv, where the advertisement that has been most harmful to women in 2008 will be announced and will be awarded a mark of shame by the organization.
The nutters enter a nearby
convenience store, gathering the magazines into a black garbage bag. The activists spot pornographic DVDs, stocked at the entrance to Kiosk Tami. You are not allowed to stock this, says attorney Tami Katsbian. The convenience store proprietor
starts cursing and threatening the women. After several minutes the police decide to intervene -- not before informing the women that they are disrupting public order. The group moves on to the next kiosk, near Allenby Street, continuously dumping
magazines into the garbage bag.
The public's indifference is saddening, says Ronit Ehrenfroind- Cohen, director of the department for the status of women at WIZO. I am learning that people are not aware, that they are cynical and have
no desire to take a stand and do something. They walk by and leaf through 'Banana,' and for a moment they might actually think that this isn't okay. That's why there is no alternative but to take to the streets, initiate campaigns and promote awareness
of the issue.
Egyptian authorities released the German-Egyptian blogger Philippe Rizk, after being held blind-fold for five days in an unknown place and subjected to all kinds of mental abuse.
In an interview with The Arabic Network for Human Rights (ANHRI)
Rizk described what he went through:
I was repeatedly questioned about everything and I was terrified. Although I was not abused physically, I was blind-folded all the time. Officers kept saying to me, and I was
threatened with long term imprisonment. They asked me if I supported Hamas, was working for Israel, and, being Christian, if I was an evangelist. I was never informed of any charges against me
The young blogger launched a
webpage exclusively on Gaza before his detention, and he was preparing a documentary on the protests in Egypt against the Israeli war.
The police had carried out a raid on Rizk's house, searching it and demanding Rizk's father accompany them to
his office. Plus confiscating three digital cameras, one video camera, a mobile phone, an IPod, thirty CDs and DVDs, a number of books and reference papers, personal documents, sixty camera films, a laptop case, a large travel bag, three hard drives and
a handbag containing personal effects, according to Rizk.
Egyptian blogsphere was relieved to hear the release of Philippe, the story was circulated through Facebook and jaiku messages. A night before he get out of detention, tens of activists
and bloggers staged a protest seeking freedom for him, also created a blog for the same goal and his colleagues are circulating updates on his arrest.
Another Egyptian blogger was also recemtly arrested. Central security forces broke into Diaa
Eddin Gad, the owner of Sawt Ghadib blog (An Angry Voice). So far, the police did not reveal the reason behind his arrest or where he was being detained.
Bloggers have become a major target of the police authorities in Egypt and all these
assaults are committed outside the law or under the cloak of the emergency state, the Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI ) said in a statement.
An Egypt Facebook activist was abducted by Police soliders, who attacked his home at 3:30am, shortly before the break of dawn.
Rami El- Swaisi, 21, was taken to an unknown place since 2 days, when Officers and armed police soldiers broke into the home in Giza and took some of his personal property including his cell phone, laptop, and wallet.
Rami al-Swisi studies in a
language institute and is an activist in the 6th of April youth movement. He has a Facebook account called Mahtag Akoud Hakky (I need my rights back!) where he practices his online activism.
Ahmed Maher, an activist with the 6th of April
movement, told The Arabic Network for Human Rights that Rami received calls from state security officers demanding him to appear in front of them. When he refused, he was threatened several times in an attempt to pressure him into leaving the 6th of
A report was submitted to the Egyptian General Prosecutor claiming that the detained blogger Ahmed Abou Doma was subjected to torture. According to the report, the young blogger, was subjected to mental and
physical torture. Torture in Egypt web advocacy stated from Doma's lawyers that: The detained blogger was mentally and physically abused in Al-Khalifa police station, while being transferred to prison. He was beaten up by sticks and his body was
standing in a harmful posture for long hours.
Ahmed Abou Doma was arrested on his return from the Gaza Strip through the Rafah Border Crossing. The Egyptian authorities accused him of infiltrating across the eastern border illegally in
violation of the presidential decree 298 of 1995. Last month, Doma was sentenced in a Military Court in Ismailia city in Egypt to one year and the fine of 2000 pounds.
Ahmed Abou Doma runs a blog called Sha'er ikhwan (Ikwani Poet), where he
writes his poems and texts, expressing his political views. He published on this blog the photos he took in Gaza during the visit, which lead him to jail. After his arrest, the blog has been updated by his friends.
Two bloggers were separately tortured in Egyptian State Security headquarters. One of them is now released, while the other has
been receiving treatment in prison.
maeitblogger Mohamed Adel told an independent local newspaper that he was subjected to torture by the State security agents during the first 17 days of his detention. Al-Dostour newspaper, quoted Adel who
was released on 10 March:
torture included whipping and suspension and electric shocks, Mohamed Adel said that each time there were doctors who came to treat the torture trace on his body to hide it
Reporters Without Borders condemns the decision by the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance to suspend Hemat , a weekly that supports allies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The ministry said a spoof movie poster on the front page of
the latest issue, on 1 February, had insulted senior government officials.
The spoof poster, for an imaginary movie called Slaying of Ahmadinejad , alluded to the presidential election scheduled for June. The poster showed the photo of the
film's supposed director, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, together with the photos of its three stars: former President Mohammad Khatami, former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Tehran's current mayor, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf. All three are
potential rivals to Ahmadinejad in the election.
The Commission for Press Authorisation and Surveillance, the censorship arm of the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance, ordered the newspaper's suspension for insulting high-placed regime
Mohamed Al-Jabali, the editor of Akhbaralasr news website is the latest casualty in a wave of intimidations targeting bloggers and online journalists in Yemen.
In a statement, Al-Jabali appealed for protection after receiving death threats in
the capital Sanaa from the regime's security apparatus. This comes just after his website was also hacked. The hackers, whom Al-Jabali said are elements of the regime, published a sarcastic entry on the front page with a picture of a monkey and an insult
on the owner of the website Al-Jabali.
Al-Jabali said the regime was angered by his online reports on peaceful anti-government political activities in the Tihama region in the West of the country. The website had articles critical of the regime's
handling of the economy and a recent article highlighted a call to end the national investment mafias in the country.
In an email message, Al-Jabali said he feared for his life after being threatened near Al-Tahrir Square in the city
center and accused a senior advisor of the President of Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh for supporting those activities against him and his website:
A passenger has been sentenced to 30 lashes for smoking on a domestic Saudi Arabian Airlines flight.
The Sudanese man will be flogged by police after refusing repeated requests from cabin crew to stub out his cigarette, despite being told smoking
is banned on Saudi's national carrier.
The passenger was arrested when the aircraft landed in Jeddah and promptly handed over to police
A judge handed down the sentence despite the man proving he was attending a clinic to help kick the
Wearing just a thin shirt, the unnamed passenger will be flogged by a policeman wielding a slim reed who must hold a book under his arm to prevent him using too much force. The strokes are not meant to leave permanent damage but to
inflict painful welts that bleed and bruise.
The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes a Cairo appeals court decision to strike down a one-year jail term against four editors, but condemns that the conviction stands for criticizing President Hosni Mubarak and his top aides.
court judge Mohamed Samir struck down a one-year jail-term given in September 2007 to four editors for publishing false information likely to disturb public order. However, the court upheld a 20,000 Egyptian pound (US$3,540) fine against Ibrahim
Eissa of the daily Al-Dustour, Adel Hamouda of the weekly Al-Fajr, Wael el-Abrashi, former editor of Sawt Al-Umma, and Abdel Halim Kandil, former editor of the weekly Al Karama.
We are relieved that the prison terms have finally been struck
down, said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. But we condemn the practice of using the judiciary to criminalize critical journalism and spread fear and self-censorship. We call on Egypt's highest judicial
authorities to overturn this politically motivated verdict.
Eissa is among the most judicially harassed journalists in the country. In September, an appeals court sentenced him to six months in prison for disseminating false news about
Mubarak's health. He was granted a presidential pardon in October. Eissa said that the regime's willingness to accept the media has regressed and that there is no room for journalistic expression when reporters are threatened with 32 articles
in the penal code and the press regulation law.
An Indian national working in Dubai as an administrator with a property development company has been sentenced to a six-month suspended jail term and fined $2,722 for cross-dressing and wearing mascara in public, the Dubai newspaper Gulf News reported.
According to the paper, the man was arrested by a police officer in civilian clothes in the Mall of the Emirates in what the police described as a glittering outfit, a bra, mascara, women's perfume and a wig.
Many in Lebanon may never see the movie Waltz With Bashir , which won a Golden Globe and has been nominated for an Oscar. Lebanon and Israel are still officially at war and all Israeli products are banned in the country
ignored a Lebanese ban to show an Oscar-nominated film made in Israel about the Jewish state's 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
There is a real interest in this film, said the German-born Borgmann, who recently held a private screening of Waltz with Bashir
for about 90 people at her southern Beirut production center.
The film centers on an Israeli army veteran who interviews fellow soldiers to restore his cloudy memory about the invasion and the massacre of hundreds of people in the Palestinian
refugee camps of Sabra and Chatilla by Lebanese Christian militiamen allied with Israel. The war and subsequent 18-year occupation killed thousands of Lebanese civilians and evoked comparisons in Israel with America's ordeal in Vietnam.
film's director, Ari Folman, said he was happy his work was shown in Beirut: The movie may have no effect on the decision makers, but 90 people saw it in Lebanon and that is wonderful .
Information Minister Tarek Mitri, who is a strong
opponent of censorship, said it was officially illegal to show the movie in Lebanon but acknowledged people could still download it from the Internet.
Scores of websites have been blocked in Bahrain, following a new crackdown by the Ministry of Information. The latest sweep makes sites ranging from proxy tools such as Google Translate to those of social, religious, human rights and political groups
inaccessible to people in Bahrain.
The Bahrain Human Rights Society, whose site is also blocked in Bahrain, provides a list of banned websites.
Two months ago, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, stunned the public by admitting that he has joined hundreds of thousands of his fellow citizens in doing something that the country’s courts say is forbidden: watch clips on the
internet video portal YouTube.
Commenting on an unrelated political issue, Erdogan told reporters that they should get on YouTube. When a reporter remarked that access to YouTube is blocked in Turkey, Erdogan replied: I get in,
you can do so as well.
Access to YouTube in Turkey was blocked in May, following a decision of a court in Ankara that reacted to a clip allegedly insulting Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Comments like the one by Mr Erdogan show
that the ban is very unpopular and widely ignored, but observers say the blockage is unlikely to be lifted as long as the law behind it is still on the books.
The law was a mistake and the implementation is flawed, said Ibrahim Sarioglu,
general secretary of the All Internet Association, or TID, an internet lobby group that has several leading telecommunications companies among its members.
Sarioglu said the law, officially known as the Law Concerning the Regulation of Internet
Broadcasts and the Fight against Crimes Committed via these Broadcasts, which came into effect in late 2007, has put Turkey on the list of countries that practise censorship.
YouTube is not the only popular website that has been a victim
of a ban in Turkey: Wordpress, Geocities and the Turkish Google Groups were also hit with temporary bans in the past, triggering fears Turkey’s image abroad may be damaged.
I do not want to see Turkey among those countries in the world
that ban YouTube, Abdullah Gul, the president, said in a recent television interview.
Sarioglu said the internet law made it difficult to get rid of bans as courts in Turkey can without a hearing close down access to a website if the website
or it content is deemed to cause offence. To get access re-established, the owner of the website or a Turkish citizen who argues that the ban causes him harm can apply to the judiciary. In the case of YouTube, no one has filed a case yet to get access
cleared, Sarioglu said. This is Turkey. People are afraid of the state.
The TID has applied to the Danistay, the top administrative court in Turkey, to get the law revoked. The Danistay could also decide to ask the constitutional court to
declare the law null and void, Sarioglu said. But the legal battle will take time. It may take two years or even longer for the Danistay to reach a decision in the TID’s case.
The transport minister, Binali Yildirim, whose responsibilities
include telecommunications, admitted last month the application of the law was causing trouble. “There are mistakes stemming from the interpretation of the law, Yildirim said, referring to the frequent court decisions to ban websites: Unfortunately, the YouTube matter has reached a point beyond the original aim
of the ban.
Erdogan’s comments, however, showed that many Turks have found ways to get around the bans. Following the prime minister’s advice to the reporters on board his plane to India, several Turkish media provided tips on how
to beat the YouTube ban. The website is believed to be the 9th most popular in Turkey and the television news channel CNN-Turk estimated last year that about 1.5 million access it every day.
Several French online media organizations have decided to stop letting their readers comment on articles dealing with the Israeli offensive against Hamas in Gaza. These news sites include Liberation.fr, LCI.fr and 20minutes.fr.
A spokesman for
Lib้ration said: Many of the reactions were outbursts of hatred, endless insults. We do not want the comments section to become a forum for racists and anti-Semites.
The BBC erases more than half of the reactions posted to one
section of its site
Most major international sites, including CNN, the BBC and Al Jazeera (as well as FRANCE 24), however, have decided to continue publishing reader comments - but they do check the contents before the comments go online.
On most subjects, the BBC has usually allowed most user-comments to pass freely, but they have found that is not the case where reactions to the Israel – Gaza conflict are concerned. In the Have your say section of the BBC website, a
moderator explains: We’ve got two debates on the blog at the moment (on Gaza and on homosexuality) that are leading us to delete well over half of the comments you’re posting. So, to save your time and ours a little reminder of our blog
Robust debate is welcome. Comments that are too long, stray off the topic, are racist or homophobic will not be published. It also comes down to tone. If it sounds like you are being threatening, or launching personal
attacks it won’t be published.
French website Rue89.com has chosen to maintain automatic publication of responses and to filter them after they have been posted. Site editor Pierre Haski explains: It is a sign of defeat to close the
opportunity to comment while the events are happening. We may as well close the site down. It is true that the comments about Gaza are numerous – between 500 and 1,000 per article. I spend at least three hours moderating the site after an article
is posted. We find that we have to remove between 25 and 30% of comments, against 2% for other stories.
Internet users of FRANCE24.com are often surprised that not all their comments are published. For example, “Ch้rif”, a
resident of France, complained: FRANCE 24 is politicized. It’s too bad. My posts do not pass.
FRANCE24.com explained their stance: Because of the high number of user reactions to the Gaza conflict, we are posting only a selection
on the site. Please keep your reactions short, relevant and civil. (See our Rules of conduct.). We select reactions that contribute to a respectful, constructive debate. Like other news sites, we receive many reactions that contain racist or
aggressive language that violate our rules of conduct. We do not publish those.
But we want to know what you think. When news sites filter user reactions, are they providing a service to their users and the broader community, or is it
A diplomatic row between Israel and the Vatican cast doubt over Pope Benedict XVI’s planned visit to the Holy Land, after a prominent cardinal said that Gazans were living in a big concentration camp.
In his annual speech to
diplomats in the Vatican the Pope sought to damp down the dispute. He said that the war was provoking immense damage and suffering for the civilian populations in Gaza and Israel. He urged the rejection of hatred, acts of provocation and the
use of arms and added: Violence, wherever it comes from and whatever form it takes, must be firmly condemned. The military solution is never an option .
His remarks came amid outrage from Israelis over a statement by Cardinal Renato
Martino, the head of the Vatican Council for Justice and Peace and a former Holy See envoy to the United Nations, who compared Gaza to a concentration camp. The cardinal criticised Israel for killing civilians who had taken shelter at a UN run school in
Israeli officials said that they were deeply shocked that a man of religion is using the vocabulary of Hamas propaganda. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which monitors antiSemitism and hunts down Nazi war criminals, said that Cardinal
Martino had used the language of a Holocaust denier.
When I was in journalism school, we were taught that truth was the first casualty of any war. But in the current seismic
violence in the Gaza Strip, truth was joined by three more casualties — decency, compassion and shame.
True, censorship is there. Not only are there no Israeli journalists in Gaza, but Israel is also preventing all foreign media from
reaching the Strip, with even the circumspect decision by an embattled Supreme Court to let in a pool of eight journalists (foreign and Israeli) not being carried out. Foreign journalists have been detained, and online forums have been contacted and
requested to remove threads which the IDF considered dangerous either to security or morale . The parliament has happily joined the bandwagon, with one prominent MK suggesting to block al Jazeera and al Arabiya due to the demoralising effect it
has on our Arab population.
The media itself rushes to assist them with bucketfuls of self-censorship. But all this pales before the unabashedly jingoistic tone struck by the media.
News sections in newspapers are entirely devoted to
drums of war from day one, when all media lauded the brilliant thinking of the surprise effect. IDF statements are given as news items and the most extravagant quotes by the Israeli politicians are reported as they are. (The
prize-holder for these is, undoubtedly, Tzipi Livni, with such profound statements as a ceasefire would damage negotiations and the war is necessary to promote peace.
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the Israeli
military's bombing today of a Gaza City building that houses the offices of a number of international news organizations.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) attacked the rooftop of Al-Johara Tower, an eight-story building located in Al-Rimal
neighborhood in Gaza City, which houses more than 20 international news organizations.
Al-Jazeera reported that at least one journalist was injured while filing a report from the roof of the building. Satellite transmission equipment on the roof
of the building was also damaged in the attack.
Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, defended the strike in an interview with Al-Jazeera, saying that communications equipment in the building could have been used by Hamas.
The Israeli military knows the location of TV facilities houses and news bureaus in Gaza. It is simply unacceptable that working journalists and their offices should come under fire in this way," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert
Mahoney. Journalists enjoy protections under international law in military campaigns such as the one in Gaza. Israel must cease its attacks on the media immediately.
Three tiny children lie dead beside each other on a hospital floor, victims of the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. Their father collapses in grief. As an image of war, it is as shocking as they come. But should it be published?
That has been
the dilemma for newspaper and television executives across the world as they assess what is acceptable for public consumption. Is it enough simply to count the growing death toll on both sides, or should the horror of war be given a human face –
even if that human face is one that is dead?
Yesterday, The Scotsman published on our front page another horrific image – one of the bloodied but lucky pupils to escape death when shells exploded next to their school. Today we
reproduce the hospital image, but not without careful consideration.
Mike Gilson, the editor of The Scotsman, said: When I looked at the pictures of dead children from Gaza they were shocking, but they also hit me hard and brought home more
than any pictures of grief could do what horror was unfolding. However, I then decided not to give our readers that experience which was troubling.
In the end I think it is about balance. Perhaps they were not right for the front page of The
Scotsman. However, within articles like this and within spreads giving objective analysis and commentary, I think occasionally they can serve to powerfully remind us of a terrible truth of war.
The Israeli Defense Force has launched its own YouTube channel to bolster its case for the air assault against Hamas. It includes footage of Hamas terrorists loading rockets into a truck in a residential neighborhood. There are also clips of attacks on
Hamas weapons sites and tunnels used for smuggling.
But some videos were removed after Hamas sympathizers flagged them as inappropriate.
While some clips were later reinstated, the IDF said in a statement on its YouTube page: We
are saddened that YouTube has taken down some of our exclusive footage... it is imperative that we in the IDF show the world the inhumanity directed against us and our efforts to stop it.
Meanwhile, Israel is developing an independent blog
where the videos can be viewed without any issues.
An Iranian newspaper has been shut down for publishing an article that authorities deemed sympathetic to Israel.
An official at the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry, says the Kargozaran newspaper was closed because it sanitized the
Zionist regime's crimes in Gaza.
The official said the article suggested Hamas officials were terrorists and brought on civilian deaths by hiding in schools and hospitals. It is not clear when the ban will take effect — the paper did
appear on newsstands on Friday.