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 2009: April-June

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30th June   

Stuck on Repression...


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British artist flees Turkey after Erdogan insult case re-opened
Link Here

Good Boy by Michael DickensonA British Stuckist artist, Michael Dickinson, has fled Turkey after learning that his acquittal last September, over insulting the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in a collage, has been overturned.

The case gained international media coverage and the acquittal was seen as a step forward in Turkey's human rights record with positive implications for its pending EU application.

The collage Good Boy showed Erdogan as a dog on a stars and stripes leash.

A week ago, a late night news broadcast in Turkey said that the acquittal had been quashed and a new case against Dickinson was pending. He said: I caught a plane out as soon as I could, leaving most of my possessions behind, including my books, furnishings and computer. I was sad to leave after 23 years in Turkey, but I don't fancy another taste of Turkish hospitality in incarceration.

Dickinson is expecting the trial to go ahead in absentia with his being represented by his lawyer.

He is now staying with friends in Durham, UK, where he was born. He said: I came back thinking I would be safe, but I've since learnt that Britain has an extradition treaty with Turkey and that if there was a request, Britain could send me back to Turkey if they so wished. I initially thought this was out of the question, but a number of highly unlikely and controversial extraditions have occurred, so I can't say I even feel secure now in the land of my birth and the land supposedly of free speech.

Charles Thomson, co-founder of the Stuckist art movement of which Dickinson is a member, has campaigned on his behalf, and said, It seems when the media spotlight is on, Turkey becomes remarkably tolerant, and when the international press go away, so do human rights.

Dickinson's problems began in June 2006, in an anti-Iraq War show in Istanbul run by Erkan Kaya of the Peace and Justice Coalition (BAK). Dickinson added to his existing display of work, without Kaya's knowledge, a collage Best in Show , showing Erdogan as a dog being presented with a rosette by President Bush. It was seized by police. As Kaya was facing prosecution for insulting the dignity of the Prime Minister , an offence with a potential jail sentence, Dickinson wrote a letter to the court, saying that it was his responsibility, not Kaya's.

Thomson, wrote to then-Prime Minister of the UK, Tony Blair, asking for intervention. The judge who received Dickinson's letter ruled that Dickinson would not be prosecuted, because of the unwelcome press attention involving the appeal to Blair. Kaya would be prosecuted, however.

In September 2006, Dickinson on his own initiative went to the court for Kaya's case (which was postponed) to protest Kaya's innocence. To draw attention, Dickinson held up outside the court a new collage Good Boy. He was arrested and detained for 10 days in conditions he described as horrific . David Blunkett, then in Istanbul, intervened on his behalf. Dickinson was released, but told he would be prosecuted for the new collage.

In September 2008, Dickinson was acquitted of any offence under article 123/5 insulting the dignity of the prime minister. The judge said he thought that the collage was insulting according to Turkish standards, but not according to standards in the European community, and, as Turkey was trying to join the European community, a collage such as Dickinson's should not be held as a crime, so he felt he had no alternative but to acquit.

Dickinson lost his job teaching English at Istanbul University and found he was blacklisted by other educational establishments. He survived by telling fortunes with runes on the street.

In June 2009, Dickinson found out that the public prosecutor had applied to the court, which had quashed the acquittal on 21 June, and ruled that he case would be heard again. Dickinson immediately left Turkey for the UK.

 

28th June   

Travel Warning...


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Man jailed in Dubai for Victoria Beckham cancer awareness t-shirt
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Protect the skin you're in t-shirtA man has been jailed in Dubai for wearing a cancer awareness Marc Jacobs T-shirt featuring a nude but discreetly obscured picture of Victoria Beckham.

Raffi Nernekian, a Lebanese national, was arrested after an argument with a local man about the T-shirt, in which the key parts of Beckham's body are obscured either by her hands or the logo Protect the skin you're in.

Nernekian was subsequently jailed for offending public decency for a month, a sentence upheld on appeal. He will be deported after serving his sentence, even though he has lived in the city for five years.

The case is the latest example of foreigners falling foul of the repressive social codes in force in the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai issued an updated version of its code in March, which said that clothing shall not indecently expose parts of the body, be transparent, or display obscene or offensive pictures and slogans.

 

27th June   

Update: Peace Undisturbed...


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Turkish author acquitted of blasphemy in his novel The Daughters of Islam
Link Here  full story: Blasphemy in Turkey...Blasphemy repressing Turkish people

booky by Nedim GurselAn Istanbul court has acquitted the Turkish novelist Nedim Gürsel of inciting religious hatred with the publication of his novel The Daughters of Islam .

The judgment cited errors in the original complaint, and concluded that there had been no criminal intent in the publication of the novel.

The decision brings to an end a process that has lasted for more than a year, after a private citizen accused the novel of denigrating religious values under article 216 of the Turkish penal code, a complaint supported in a rare intervention by the Turkish directorate of religious affairs.

Speaking by phone from his home in France the author said he was happy and even relieved to be acquitted of a charge which carries a maximum sentence of three years in jail.

He had been worried when the directorate intervened, he continued, particularly because the evidence they submitted reproduced the errors in the original complaint, confusing the phrase Allah's servants in the book with the phrase Allah's lovers, and citing a description of Allah's daughters lying completely naked that did not appear in the novel.

This means that the directorate wanted to condemn me without even having read the book, he said.

An appeal may be lodged against the decision within seven days, but Gürsel considered it unlikely that a higher court would reverse the decision, since a police report concluded that the publication of the book had not disturbed the peace, a vital part of any prosecution for blasphemy under article 216.

The author pronounced himself satisfied with the verdict, but sad that the trial had degraded the image of Turkey in the eyes of democratic countries. The offence of blasphemy shouldn't even exist in a secular republic, which is what Turkey considers itself to be.

 

26th June   

Update: Censorship Creep...

Bahrain newspaper suspended over criticism of Ahmadinejad
Link Here  full story: Press Freedom in Bahrain...Slighty improved press law

Akhbar Al Khaleej newspaper logoOn Monday, 22 June, Bahrain's oldest newspaper in circulation Akhbar Al Khaleej was suspended for the day after printing an article critical of  Iranian leaders and making reference to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's alleged Jewish origins.

The move would seem to have been made to avoid provoking unrest amongst the Shi'a majority in Bahrain.

 

21st June   

Updated: Something to Hide...

Iran attempts to block media from criticising elections
Link Here

Iran flagIranian authorities criticized international media reports and took steps to block the flow of information from independent news sources as anti-government protests raged in the country for a second day Sunday.

The BBC said that electronic jamming of its news report, which it said began on election day Friday, had worsened by Sunday, causing service disruptions for viewers and listeners in Iran, the Middle East and Europe. It said it had traced the jamming of the satellite signal broadcasting its Farsi-language service to a spot inside Iran.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lashed out at the media shortly after he claimed victory in the election that critics contend was marked by widespread voter fraud. At a news conference Sunday, he accused international media of launching a psychological war against the country.

A range of communications have been disrupted inside Iran since election day, including those which could be used to organize protests. Iran restored cell phone service Sunday that had been down in the capital since Saturday. But Iranians still could not send text messages from their mobile phones, and the government increased its Internet filtering in an apparent attempt to undercut opposition voices. Social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter were also not working.

There were a variety of other clamp-down steps affecting both international and domestic news organizations. For instance, officials telephoned several visiting international journalists with visas to cover the elections and told them that their visas would not be extended after the vote, a courtesy often offered in the past.

Dubai-based news network Al Arabiya said the station's correspondent in Tehran was given a verbal order from Iranian authorities that its office would be closed for one week, said Executive News Editor Nabil Khatib. No reason was given, but the station was warned several times Saturday that it needed to be careful in reporting chaos accurately, he said.

German television network ZDF said Sunday on air that its reporter in Iran and other reporters were being prevented from doing their jobs in a massive form. The network said it was unable to show a broadcast feed from the network's correspondent depicting protests.

Within Iran, state-run newspapers carried no news Sunday about the widespread street clashes the day before. But on Sunday, state TV showed some video footage from the two days of protests.

A newspaper started by the main reformist candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, did not appear on newsstands Sunday. An editor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said the paper, called Kalemeh Sabz or the Green Word, never left the printing house because authorities were upset with Mousavi's statements after the elections. The paper's Web site reported that more than 10 million votes in Friday's election were missing national identification numbers, data which make the votes untraceable. It did not say how it knew that information.

Update: Iran bars foreign media from reporting on protests

19th June 2009. Based on article from cpj.org

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the Iranian government's decision to bar foreign journalists from leaving their offices to report, film, or take photographs--a restriction intended to prevent news coverage of protests over the disputed presidential election.

The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, which accredits foreign media working in Iran, ordered foreign journalists and Iranians working with foreign media not to cover the demonstrations, The Associated Press reported.

In the past five days, Iranian authorities have increased control over the flow of information by clamping down on media and harassing journalists, according to news reports.

News groups such as Reuters, AP, BBC, CBS, and Bloomberg, reported that their journalists in Iran have been ordered not to cover protests in Tehran. Press cards have been declared invalid, the BBC reported.

No reporting activities should take place without coordination and permission of this office, Bloomberg quoted a faxed statement from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance as saying: Reporters should not take part in news events that have not been announced by this office.

Update: 'Deviant news sites' threatened by Revolutionary Guard

20th June 2009. Based on article from wired.com

Iran's fearsome Revolutionary Guard is warning bloggers and local websites to remove any materials that create tension ...or else.

It part of a larger crackdown on media of all types, as the Tehran regime attempts to control the information battle surrounding the pro-democracy Green Revolution there.

Revolutionary Guard investigators have already taken action against ‘deviant news sites' that encouraged public disturbances, according to a statement released through official outlets, and translated by the Associated Press.

The statement alleged that dissident Web sites were backed by Canadian, U.S. and British interests, a frequent charge levied by hard-liners against the opposition.

Legal action will be very strong and call on them to remove such materials, it said.

Update: Iranian bloggers being arrested

21s June 2009. Based on article from advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org

As protesters continue their demonstrations all over Iran against the presidential election results, Iranian authorities have arrested hundreds of activists, including bloggers.

Mohammad Ali Abtahi, former reformist vice president and an adviser to Mehdi Karoubi, a reformist candidate, was arrested last Tuesday. Abtahi used to update his blog each day for several years and share his opinion on different topics, including Iranian issues.

Somayeh Tohidloo, a female reformist blogger was also arrested. As protests against the Iranian presidential election results grows, Iranian authorities continue to arrest political activists. Recently, she and a couple of bloggers organized an Internet interview with former president Mohammad Khatami. It seems that her blog is no longer accessible.

Mojtaba Saminejad, an Iran-based blogger and human rights activist, informs us about several other arrested bloggers. Saminejad says that Shiva Nazar Ahari, a female blogger and human rights activist, Mehesa Amarabadi, a female blogger and journalist,Karim Argandehpour, a blogger and leading journalist and Amad Baharvar have all been detained.

 

11th June   

Update: Banner Headlines...

Iranian newspapers banned before election day
Link Here  full story: Press Freedom in Iran...As if there were any

Etemad e Melli logoTwo major reformist newspapers have been shut down before Friday's election.

All copies of newspaper Etemad Meli have been seized by the government after reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi made allegations that President Ahmadinejad was involved in several financial scandals. Additionally, the unofficial newspaper of the Islamic Iran Participation Party, Yas-e No , has been shut down.


Hossein Bastani, an Iranian dissident journalist living in France claimed that other reformist newspapers were issued a gag order 96 hours before the election.

With the widespread use of new media among Iranian youth, Bastani believes that dissenting bloggers are more at risk than journalists because of their relative obscurity.

Reformist campaigner Ghomar Asheghaneh recently reported that renowned Iranian blogger Ali Kalai, reported missing a month ago, is in jail.

Bastami fears that while the Iranian government will often withhold from torturing famous journalists because of the public's reaction, young bloggers are prone to much harsher treatment.

 

11th June   

Turkishness?...

Turkish author covering Dinks murder faces longer prison term than murderer
Link Here

Hrant DinkNedim Sener who has written a book about the murder of journalist Hrant Dink, faces prison after police officers filed complaints against him.

Sener's book is entitled, The Dink Murder and Intelligence Lies. The book deals with the gendarmerie, police and national intelligence officers who have been accused of negligence in the 2007 murder of Dink. They are accused both of having prior knowledge of the murder plans and of preventing the solving of the case with misleading evidence and fake documents.

Sener has said, I published the incidents of negligence of these three important state intelligence institutions in the Dink murder case, giving names. I have proven that fake documents were prepared. Documents marked as classified and containing lies were published in the book.

Following the publication of the book, several police officers filed criminal complaints against the writer. The officers demanded that Sener be tried under the Anti-Terrorism Law.

All in all, Sener faces up to 28 years in prison. He stands accused of targeting people involved in anti-terrorism campaigns, revealing classified information, obtaining classified information, violating the secrecy of these communications, and attempting to influence the judiciary.

The 28 years that Sener faces represent eight years more than Samast, who is being tried for shooting Dink, faces.

 

29th May   

Updated: Facing up to Opposition...

Facebook blocked in Iran to prevent its use by opposition campaigners
Link Here

Facebook logo Iran's government has blocked access to social networking site Facebook ahead of June's presidential elections, according to Iran's ILNA news agency.

ILNA suggested the move was aimed at stopping supporters of reformist candidate Hossein Mousavi from using the site for his campaign.

CNN staff in Tehran reported that people attempting to visit the site received a message in Farsi that said: Access to this site is not possible.

Update: FaceBack

29th May 2009. See article from observers.france24.com

Iranian Facebook users are heaving a sigh of relief after access to the site was reopened. So what was all the fuss about? One of our Observers in Tehran explains the election debates raging on the online social network and why President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad probably isn't a big fan.

Although Ahmadinejad denies having ordered the shutdown, the reformist-leaning Iranian news agency Ilna said that government representatives orchestrated the censorship.

 

28th May   

Satan's Police...

Iran claims to have arrested satanists who somehow sound more like heavy metal fans to me
Link Here

Death Metal CD Iran has arrested more than 100 Satan-worshippers in a raid on a concert in the southern city of Shiraz where people were drinking alcohol and sucking blood, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

One hundred and four members of a Satan-worshipping group were arrested at a party and immoral concert in Shiraz (on Sunday), local Revolutionary Guards chief Abbas Hamidi was quoted as saying by Jam-e Jam newspaper.

The session was held in a garden outside Shiraz and the Satanist ceremony was broadcast live to the world via the Internet, he said: These people drank alcohol, hurt themselves and sucked blood. They even bow to Satan in some ceremonies.

Jam-e Jam carried pictures of drum sets and amplifiers seized in the raid and a group of young men photographed after the arrest sitting on the floor of an official-looking building with their backs to the camera. It said some of the detainees sported tattoos and body art resembling the wings of birds and car emblems.

Iranian authorities sometimes link hard rock and heavy metal music and their icons with devil worship.

 

28th May   

Updated: Creating Mischief...

Creationist accuses Turkish author of religious hatred
Link Here  full story: Blasphemy in Turkey...Blasphemy repressing Turkish people

booky by Nedim Gursel The trial of a novelist accused of inciting religious hatred in his last novel The daughters of Allah opened and adjourned in Istanbul yesterday. Nedim Grsel, who lives in Paris and is being tried in absentia, faces between one and three years in jail if convicted.

The court heard testimony from the plaintiff Ali Emre Bukagili, a follower of Adnan Oktar who is known for his belief in creationism and rejection of the Darwinian theory of evolution. He said he was offended by the book because it was insulting to the Prophet and the Koran. Freedom of expression has limits.

The public prosecutor has recommended acquitting the author on the grounds that an imminent and clear public order danger as required by the law has not been established. The novel was published in 2008. The case was adjourned to May 26.

Update: Adjourned Again

28th May 2009, See article from nytimes.com

A Turkish author on trial after being charged with inciting religious hatred in a novel based on the birth of Islam said that his book was fiction, but the result of extensive research and consultation with religious leaders, and therefore could not be called blasphemous.

An Istanbul court on Tuesday adjourned the trial of the author, Nedim Gursel, until June 25.

 

15th May   

Uncultured Book Censors...

Turkey gets its knickers in a twist over erotic literature
Link Here  full story: Book Censorship in Turkey...Freedom of speech under duress

Exploits of a Young Don Juan A Turkish publisher said that he and a translator had been indicted after a prosecutor judged three erotic books, including one by renowned French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, to be obscene.

The books in question were Apollinaire's The Exploits of a Young Don Juan, Turkish writer Ben Mila's The Fairy's Pendulum and a collection of writings by various authors published in Turkish as Letters from an Informed and Experienced Bourgeoise Woman , Irfan Sanci, owner of Sel Publishing, said.

The courtcase was launched under a penal code article that criminalises the dissemination of obscene material deemed of no literary value but which excludes scientific and literary works from its scope, Sanci said.

The courtcase came after so-called experts contacted by the prosecutor said these three books were not literary works, Sanci told AFP.

A fourth book by Spanish writer Juan Manuel de Prada escaped prosecution as the same experts decided it was a literary work, he added.

The publisher condemned the case as a violation of freedom of expression and said it cast a shadow on the Muslim majority but secular country that is seeking European Union membership.

 

15th May   

Update: Press Blockade...

Yemen sends security forces to ban newspapers supporting protestors
Link Here

Al-Alyyam logo A blockade by security forces of the offices of a Yemeni newspaper, aiming to prevent distribution of copies of the paper, has entered its second week.

The action follows the confiscation by the authorities of thousands of copies of Aden-based Arabic daily al-Ayyam.

In a another development on Monday, security forces surrounded the house of Hisham Basharhail, al-Ayyam’s editor–in-chief, and notified him that he had 48 hours to hand himself over to the authorities in Sana'a.

Six other newspapers - al-Masdar, al-Watani, ad-Diyar, al-Nedaa, al-Sharea and al-Mostakela –had copies of their newspapers seized on 4 May, following a widely publicized decision by Yemen’s Director of the Press.

The government has accused all seven newspapers of expressing views favourable to the secession of the south in their coverage of protests in the southern part of the country in April.

Human rights activists in Yemen have said they are outraged by the decision to confiscate newspapers. They have said that they consider the government's action not only a serious violation of international standards but also of Yemen's own laws.

Yemeni laws allow confiscation of newspapers only through a judicial order. The Yemeni authorities carried out the confiscation without resorting to the judiciary.

Death in the name of censorship

Based on article from cpj.org

The Committee to Protect Journalists strongly condemns a raid by Yemeni security forces on the Aden compound of the country's most popular independent newspaper. One passerby was killed.

Just before noon, a group of security forces clashed with guards at the offices of Al-Ayyam, firing tear gas and bullets and wounding at least two guards and killing the passerby, according to local and international news reports. The raid is the latest development in a series of attacks against Al-Ayyam and other independent publications and journalists in Yemen in recent weeks.

Blogged Off

See article from cpj.org

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns an ongoing campaign to suppress independent journalism in Yemen and urges President Ali Abdullah Saleh to immediately bring it to a halt and order the release of two detained bloggers. Also, authorities have announced a special court to try media and publishing offenses.

One of the latest victims of the media crackdown launched nearly two weeks ago is Yahya Bamahfud, a blogger and former editor of the Hadhramaut news Web site. Security forces arrested Bamahfud on Sunday night in the city of Mukalla in the southern governorate of Hadhramaut. They stormed his home without warrant and confiscated his computer and documents before taking him to an unknown location, local journalists told CPJ.

This is the second arrest of a blogger in Mukalla since last week. Security forces arrested Fuad Rashid, editor-in-chief of Mukalla Press Web site. He had covered recent clashes, which began on April 27 between security forces and disaffected residents of the southern region of Yemen. The eruption of violence occurred on the eve of the 15th anniversary of a short-lived civil war that ended with the victory of northern troops.

 

13th May   

Egypt Destroyed by Porn...

Egypt court decides that ISPs should ban access to adult sites
Link Here

Egypt flag An Egyptian court banned porn websites, calling them venomous and vile.

According MENA news agency, the Administrative Court in Cairo issued the ruling in a case filed by Islamic lawyer Nizar Ghorab, who argued sites with adult content undermined and destroyed Egyptian social values.

In its ruling, the court, which oversees government-related cases, said, Letting these Web sites (operate) ruins moral values, reports the BBC: Freedoms of expression and public rights should be restricted by maintaining the fundamentals of religion, morality and patriotism.

Additionally, the court warned government Web agencies that Internet providers ignoring the ruling and allowing access to the sites would be unconstitutional and in violation of law.

Ghorab, called the judgment a victory over vice and corruption. Thank God we won, now the government should stop these electronic dens of vice immediately.

Judge Mohammed Attiya told the court, freedoms and public rights are not absolute, they are limited by the respect of the family which is the base of the society.

 

7th May   

Conflict in Yemen...

Yemen sends security forces to ban Al-Ayyam newspaper
Link Here

Al-Alyyam logo After confiscating thousands of copies of a critical independent newspaper, authorities laid siege today to the paper's offices in Aden, Yemen. The daily, Al-Ayyam, has been covering the ongoing conflict in the country's southern region.

Bashraheel Bashraheel, general manager of Al-Ayyam, told CPJ that after three consecutive days of authorities confiscating thousands of copies of the newspaper, security forces today surrounded Al-Ayyam and prevented the distribution of all 70,000 copies of the paper. Staff members are allowed to leave the building but are being searched as they exit, Bashraheel said.

We call on the authorities to end the siege of Al-Ayyam and to withdraw all its forces immediately, said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator: Al-Ayyam and its staff are exercising their journalistic duty to cover an ongoing conflict. The government must not target them because of their coverage.

Dozens of protesters gathered today in front of the besieged paper's offices to protest the government's action, with the police eventually dispersing the demonstrators, Al-Ayyam reported on its Web site.

Bashraheel told CPJ that in light of the government's actions and to curb financial losses he has been forced to suspend printing of Al-Ayyam indefinitely.

 

4th May   

Offsite: Why Jane Fonda Is Banned in Beirut...

Banned books in Lebanon
Link Here

Diary of Anne Frank A professor at the American University here recently ordered copies of The Diary of Anne Frank for his classes, only to learn that the book is banned. Inquiring further, he discovered a long list of prohibited books, films and music.

Even a partial list of books banned in Lebanon gives pause: William Styron's Sophie's Choice ; Thomas Keneally's Schindler's List ; Thomas Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem ; books by Philip Roth, Saul Bellow and Isaac Bashevis Singer. In fact, all books that portray Jews, Israel or Zionism favorably are banned.

...Read full article

 

28th April   

Pig Headed...

The dread disease that cannot be named
Link Here

Israel flag Israel's deputy health minister Yakhov Litzman has urged reporters to refer to the worrying new virus as 'Mexican flu' rather than 'swine flu.'

He made this recommendation at a press conference on Monday in order to update the public on developments regarding the epidemic in Israel.

 

28th April   

Sanctioning Censorship...

Syria censored by the US
Link Here

Syria flag Syrian internet users have grown used to years of censorship but now they face a new challenge – and it comes from outside the country.

While people have been able to get around government-imposed barriers on politically sensitive sites, a harsher form of restriction is being enforced from the US.

Over the past few years, the Bush administration has imposed a series of sanctions on Syria. Most exports were prohibited after a key part of the Syria Accountability Act came into force in 2004. It meant Syrians were not allowed to download software from the US, but that should not have had an affect on logging on to American websites.

Travel to Syria and try to have a look at your PayPal account, and you will be confronted by a message from the company telling you: You have accessed your account from a sanctioned country. Per international sanctions regulations, you are not authorised to access the PayPal system.

Things get a lot worse if you want to order something from Amazon when you are in Syria. It even bans UK citizens, using British credit cards, from using their non-US site Amazon.co.uk.

This is their explanation: Syria is an embargoed country under US law. The law covers some products sold even by non-US subsidiaries of US companies [like Amazon.co.uk]. Because it is not practical for us to determine which products are capable of export to Syria from those that are not, we have blocked all exports of products to Syria.

Some companies have seen sense though. Last week, social networking company LinkedIn deleted the accounts of its Syrian users, blaming the sanctions. Syrian bloggers got together on Twitter to vent their anger. One of the company's press officers quickly saw what was going on and realised it was turning into a PR nightmare. Hours later, Syrians were back online.

 

25th April   

Updated: Revolutionary Guards Revolted...

Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards arrest porn site bosses
Link Here

Iran flag Iran has arrested 26 men and women on a wide array of charges from producing adult and child porn content to mocking Islamic beliefs.

The arrests were made by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards. The special Guards unit for fighting organised internet crimes announced in late March that its task force had closed down 90 porn sites.

The arrest victims are accused of promoting orgies and incest, illegally uploading sex clips of young girls, and ridiculing Shia Islamic beliefs such as the death of the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. One of the people arrested is accused of writing hardcore erotic stories.

Among those arrested are at least two Iranian men and one woman who used to live abroad, but whose friends say were tricked into coming home and then arrested. Others were caught after their e-mails were intercepted by the task force, says Ali Rahnama, a journalist in Tehran quoting sources close to the operation.

The Guards say the group was supported by foreign countries including the US, Canada and Israel. But the sites seem merely to be hosted by private companies in these countries.

Although access to porn websites is blocked in Iran, many people manage to access them. One of the busted porn sites had 300,000 registered Iranian users and some of the adult video clips were downloaded at least six million times, according to the Guards.

Since boys and girls are banned from socialising freely in Iran, demand for online adult content has exploded in big cities where internet access has become widespread.

Update: Deserving Death

25th April 2009. See article from xbiz.com . Thanks to Alan

Iranian operators of pornographic and anti-Islamic websites deserve to face the death penalty, a special prosecutor said in a newspaper report.

Tehran's deputy prosecutor Reza Jafari said 50 Iranians had been arrested and were under investigation for running such websites and promoting prostitution, according to Iran newspaper Vatan Emrouz.

He also said the term corrupt on Earth was appropriate to describe a person who manages many immoral, anti-religious and anti-revolutionary sites, and corruption on Earth is legally punishable by death under strict Islam.

Jafari, who is the prosecutor for a special tribunal against cybercrimes, said 90 websites had been shut down since March and that half of the 50 people arrested were out on bail. Iranian officials arrested 26 adult site operators last week.

 

23rd April   

Iran Winds Up US...

Iranian-American journalist jailed in Iran for spying with no details of the charge
Link Here

Iran flag An Iranian-American journalist claimed to be a US spy has been jailed for eight years by Iran after a brief trial held behind closed doors.

Roxana Saberi who was arrested in January and went on trial this week, denies the charge and plans to go on hunger strike, her father said.

Ms Saberi has reported for a number of foreign news organisations including the BBC, NPR radio and Fox News.

A spokesman said the US president was deeply disappointed at the outcome.

The journalist originally faced the less serious accusation of buying alcohol, and later of working as a journalist without a valid press card. Then, in a period of less than two weeks, the charge of spying was introduced, and she was tried by the Revolutionary Court and sentenced. No evidence of espionage was made public.

Ms Saberi's lawyer Abdolsamad Khorramshahi and her father confirmed that an appeal would be made. Mr Saberi, who was not allowed to attend the trial, said his daughter's lawyer had not been allowed to argue the case for the defence properly.

 

19th April   

Update: Blog Resurrected...

Saudi apostate blogger surprisingly released from jail
Link Here  full story: Blogging in Saudi...Saudi bloggers arrested and imprisoned

Apostasy CD Hamoud Saleh Al-Amri, a Saudi blogger imprisoned in January for writing about his decision to convert to Christianity, was released by Saudi authorities at the end of March 2009 instead of being put death as an apostate as prescribed by Sharia.

However, he has been banned from travelling outside Saudi Arabia or appearing in the media.

According to Hamoud himself, who is back writing on his Christ for Saudi blog, his release is due to pressure brought on Saudi authorities by the Cairo-based Arab Network for Human Rights Information, one of several rights groups that have campaigned for his release.

Following his arrest in January, the Saudi authorities blocked access to his blog inside Saudi Arabia. Google then censored the blog with a bollox claim of a technical violation of their terms of service, before restoring it on 5 February 2009 following public pressure.

The relative leniency of the Saudi police and regime in this case has surprised some analysts, given Hamoud's explicit claim to have left Islam, which amounts to apostasy punishable by death, and his outspoken criticism of the regime, something which is not normally tolerated.

 

16th April   

Update: An Insult to Free Press...

New UAE press law with fines of £1 million for insulting the government or royal family
Link Here  full story: Press Censorship in UAE...Censorship imposed by financial penalty rather than jail

Human Rights Watch logo A new draft law to regulate the news media unlawfully restricts free expression and will unduly interfere with the media's ability to report on sensitive subjects, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The pending law also includes provisions that would grant the government virtually complete control in deciding who is allowed to work as a journalist and which media organizations are allowed to operate in the country.

The report: Just the Good News, Please: New UAE Media Law Continues to Stifle Press says that the new law contains some improvement over the draconian media law currently in effect. But it will continue to punish journalists for such infractions as disparaging government officials or publishing misleading news that harms the country's economy. Human Rights Watch researched the report by analyzing the provisions of the pending law as well as interviewing foreign and local journalists based in the UAE.

The law will muzzle the press, preventing honest reporting about the country's continuing financial crisis or about its rulers, said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch: Its vague clauses and harsh fines will almost guarantee arbitrariness by government authorities and self-censorship by the media.

The Federal National Council, the UAE's legislature, passed the draft law on January 20, 2009, and it awaits the signature of President Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. More than 100 leading Emirati academics, journalists, lawyers, and human rights activists have urged the president to reconsider the law. The Human Rights Watch report also urges the president not to approve the pending law in its current form.

Unlike the current law, the proposed law contains no criminal penalties and will be part of the civil law. It reduces the number of administrative infractions that media organizations can be held liable for. The law also instructs government institutions to facilitate information flow to media, and, most significant, mandates that journalists cannot be coerced into revealing their sources.

But the law imposes exorbitant civil penalties that could bankrupt media outlets and silence dissenting voices found to violate the overbroad restrictions on content. Media organizations found to have disparaged senior government officials or the royal family face fines up to 5,000,000 dirhams (US$1,350,000), and those found to have misled the public and harmed the economy face fines of up to 500,000 dirhams (US$135,000). It also requires media organizations to post an unspecified security deposit against which fines may be charged, which would set a significant barrier to entry for smaller, independent press organizations.

The law also gives the government authority to regulate who can work as an editor, reporter, correspondent, or producer in the country. This authority is susceptible to abuse and infringes on the media's freedom of expression by preventing media outlets from organizing, managing, and operating free from governmental interference, the report says.

These intrusions make a mockery of the notion that an independent media exists in the UAE, Whitson said: The president has the option to send this law back and to show leadership in seeking a law that truly supports a free press.

 

13th April   

Nutters Photoshopped...

Israel newspaper airbrushes out picture of female cabinet ministers
Link Here

Israel flag Limor Livnat and Sofa Landver, two apparently inappropriate ministers, simply "disappeared" from a photograph of the new cabinet in the weekly newspaper Shaa Tova, with black holes visible in the spaces where they had been standing. Meanwhile, in the newspaper Yated Neeman, male cabinet members were blown up and superimposed on to the images of the two female ministers in the frame.

Shaa Tova told the Israeli daily newspaper Maariv: Anyone who is acquainted with the ultra-orthodox press knows that from time immemorial, ultra-orthodox newspapers avoid publishing pictures of women.

 

12th April   

Update: My Tongue is My Pen...

Egyptian blogger missing after arrest for supporting strike
Link Here  full story: Blogging in Egypt...Heavy handed Egyptian authorities jail bloggers

Egypt flag Although he was released by the Public Prosecutor, Egyptian blogger Abdel Rahman Fares is still missing. Fares who blogs at Lesani Howa Qalami (My Tongue is My Pen) was arrested on April 5, while handing out flyers in his city of Fayoum, calling people to take to the streets and protest against the government, as a part of the 6th April strike.

The young blogger was charged with handing out literature promoting the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and for calling for strikes. Besides, he is recognised as a Muslim brotherhood blogger, which means he is member of an outlawed group.

A friend of Fares wrote in his blog that he was released last night, but nobody knows his whereabouts. Recently, Fares told the readers of his blog, that he was summoned to the State Security headquarters:

I don’t know whether the both incident are related! I was summoned to State Security office and ordered to be their on 1st April. Right after that, I had a chat with someone I don’t know on Facebook, he commented on my status, then chatted with me, describing me and the supporters of 6th April strike as rioters. And he told me ‘don’t regret when you are punished!

Update: No Release

14th April 2009. See article from advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org

Next Tuesday will mark one week since the eighth release order has been made for Egyptian blogger Mos'ad Suleiman Hassan (a.k.a. Mos'ad Abu Fagr); Despite that fact, Fagr remains locked at a police station in El Arish (North Sinai).

Fagr, a Sinai activist and novelist has a blog called Wedna Ne3eesh (We Want to Live), where he writes about the demands and life of the Bedouins of Sinai, as well as the citizenship rights they seek.

Update: Re-Detained

26th April 2009. See article from advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org

In an unexplained action, Egyptian Ministry of Interior issued a new detention order for blogger and activist, Mos'ad Abu Fagr. The detained blogger was transferred again to Borg El Arab prison in Alexandria instead of north Sinai prison. This transfer imposes hardship on Abu Fagr's family to visit him, as they are based is the Sinai.

Abu Fagr was arrested on 26 December 2007, but the court and D.A issued eight order of release to him, even though he was kept behind bars.

Update: Comic Accusation

19th May 2009.  See article from advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org

After being detained for 15 days under investigation, the Egyptian blogger Ahmed Mohsen is to still imprisoned, as he is accused of Exploiting the democratic climate to overthrow the government

Mohsen was arrested on April 29th, 2009, after a State Security force broke into his house and searched it. As Mohsen was already moved to Upper Egypt, a police officer summoned him to the prosecution office in Fayoum.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights (ANHRI), described the accusation as a ‘comic' one, stating: It is normal for a State Security officer to tell lies, but when the Public Prosecution believes this lie and approves to imprison a young blogger for exploitation of the democratic climate, this is black comedy, what democracy did this young man exploit

Update: Warned Off

29th September 2009.  Based on article from advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org

The Egyptian blogger Abdel Rahman Fares was summoned to State Security headquarters, where he was blamed for his online writings. Fares was warned that he would be arrested if he goes on blogging, and asked to give up both his online and offline activities.

Fares is blogging at Lesani Howa Qalami (My Tongue is My Pen). On Friday, 25 September, 2009, he received a phone call from States Security, and was asked several questions related to his blogging, then summoned to State Security office in Fayoum (North of Cairo) where Fares is living.

Update: Warned Off

28th October 2009.  Based on article from advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org

Two separate orders were issued last week to prolong the detention of two Egyptian bloggers. The first is yet another arrest order for Mus'ad Abu Fagr, who has been arrested since December 2008. Abu Fagr had a number of court decisions allowing his release, but unfortunately each one of them was followed by a new arrest order! The blogger is also transferred from Al- Arish police station, in his neighborhood, to Borg El-Arab prison in Alexandria, which make it difficult for his family to visit him.

 

11th April   

Adverse Verse...

Magazine banned for supposedly blasphemous poem
Link Here

Egypt flag An Egyptian court has withdrawn the publishing licence of a monthly magazine, Ibdaa (Creativity), because it carried a supposedly blasphemous poem.

In its ruling the court said the poem, printed two years ago, had included expressions that insulted God.

Egyptian courts have in the past convicted individuals or groups of people in blasphemy cases. But correspondents say that it is unusual for a magazine to have its licence withdrawn.

The offending poem, On the balcony of Leila Murad , by Egyptian poet Hilmi Salem, was published in the small circulation magazine in 2007.

The court's ruling said: Freedom of press... should be used responsibly and not touch on the basic foundations of Egyptian society, and family, religion and morals.

 

11th April   

No Internet Rights in Bahrain...

CPJ protest internet censorship in Bahrain
Link Here

Bahrain flag The Committee to Protect Journalists is writing to protest the recent deterioration of press freedom in Bahrain and the government's ongoing campaign against critical or opposition Web sites and blogs. The crackdown against those sites has resulted in dozens of them being blocked inside the kingdom.

CPJ is concerned about a campaign targeting independent or critical Web sites that discuss social, political, and human rights issues, especially with the backdrop of an escalating crackdown on Shi'a activists, opposition figures, and human rights defenders. In January, local media outlets published ministerial order 1/2009, issued by Culture and Information Minister Sheikha Mai bint Muhammad Al Khalifa, ordering telecommunications companies to block specific Web sites without warning or providing specific reasons when ordered to by the ministry. Dozens of blogs, discussion forums, and sites of local and regional human rights groups have been blocked since.

The Ministry of Culture and Information is using advanced technology that can filter keywords and block sites, multiple sources inside Bahrain told CPJ.

For example, the Google Translation service has been blocked for the last three months, sources told CPJ. Abduljalil Alsingace, who blogs at alsingace.katib.org, told CPJ that his blog was blocked on February 10, after he posted a petition by an international group of intellectuals. The political forum Multaqa al-Bahrain, the cultural forum Muntadayat al-Bahrain, and the cultural and political forum al-Sarh al-Watani have all been blocked. In addition, the Web sites of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Arab Network for Human Rights Information have also been blocked for long periods of time and remain inaccessible inside the kingdom. Dozens of sites that provide proxy services are also inaccessible.

 

7th April   

Update: Soiled Souls...

Petition opposing the first steps to the return of cinemas to Saudi Arabia
Link Here  full story: Cinema in Saudi...First steps to re-opening cinemas in Saudi

Saudi flag Hundreds of muslims in Saudi Arabia have signed a petition demanding a stop to what they say is a trend of films being shown in public.

There have been no cinemas in Saudi Arabia since the 1970s. And there are unlikely to be any soon.

The petition has been motivated in particular by the showing of a home-grown Saudi film in Jeddah last year. It was financed by the Rotana network, which dominates Arab entertainment and is owned by the billionaire Saudi Prince Waleed bin Talal.

But even a one off event as the showing of the first Saudi feature film at two venues has aroused the suspicions of Islamic conservatives. They claim cinemas fill people's minds with evil and pollute the purity of their souls.

 

6th April   

Discipline Police...

Egyptian graphic novelist charged with morality offence
Link Here  full story: Metro Censors...Egypt's first graphic novel gets censored

Metro Egypt's first graphic novelist Magdi al-Shafei is set to face charges of publication and distribution of publications contrary to public morals over his Metro book.

If convicted, Shafei and his Malamah publisher could face up to two years in prison for violating articles 178 and 198 of the Egyptian Penal Code, which punish publications contrary to public decency. These are the same laws that are used to prosecute pornography.

The controversy started last April, when police broke into the publishing house and confiscated all copies of the book. They then went to all bookstores and took the novel from the shelves.

The raiders were from the Vice Squad, or discipline police, who have been more active recently in their attempts to rid society of unnecessary material.

Their interest in Shafei has surprised many observers. The discipline police do not usually deal in such affairs as censorship. The discipline police are a sector of the ministry of interior who deal with prostitution mainly and a few other things.

The novel deals with politically sensitive issues, but what may have sparked government interest is the limited sexual content of the book. Many surmise that the government may be using the sex as a scapegoat to keep the politics from reaching a wider audience.

Leading the legal attack against Shafei and Malamah is a ruling National Democratic Party lawyer who last year also filed a number of lawsuits against journalists, including against outspoken Al-Dustour editor Ibrahim Eissa.

Rawda Ahmed, the lawyer in the legal counsel unit for the freedom of expression at the human rights organisation, ANHRI, said: if we allowed police officers or clergy to prosecute literary works, that would completely kill creativity and freedom of expression. The violation by police of freedom of expression in Egypt is not unusual, but the acceptance of the Public Prosecutor to initiate this lawsuit is completely absurd.

 

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