Middle East News

 2009: July-Sept



26th September   

Offsite: Hard Truth for Aspiring Writers...

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Censorship in Egypt out of control
Link Here  full story: Metro Censors...Egypt's first graphic novel gets censored

Metro graphic novel It's a hard fact that all authors, journalists and bloggers are having to deal with on a daily basis in Egypt: the government is cracking down on freedom of speech. The most recent case to run the press rounds is the country's first graphic novel, Metro . Ruling National Democratic Party agents are attempting to throw the author in jail and ban the book from being purchased in Egypt. A hard truth for aspiring writers.

The case has been postponed until October, so the year and a half drama continues.

 It highlights the ongoing difficulties of writing one's opinions, whether they are fiction or non-fiction, in the country.

And to think Egypt had a blossoming literary industry not too long ago. No more.

....Read full article

 

24th September   

Update: No Prizes...


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100 Iranian poets boycott state sponsored events
Link Here

Iran flag One hundred Iranian poets have boycotted all government literary awards to protest the oppression of their people's movement toward peace and democracy in the post-election events.

The announcement speaks out against the censorship, threats and arrests that numerous poets have been subjected to. The signatories declare that in protest to the current national atmosphere and in empathy with the people, they will not participate in government-sponsored contests. The announcement has been signed by 100 poets such as Kaboutar Arshadi, Ali Sobati and Maryam Houleh.

Despite government attempts at silencing all opposition in the past months, Iranian artists have been vocal about their protests against the violent confrontation of the government with the protesters of the elections.

 

23rd September   

Update: Disappeared...


Nice 'n' Naughty

Yemeni website editor kidnapped by security forces
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Yemen...Bloggers and websites under duress in Yemen

Yemen flag On September 18th, 2009, the Yemeni Editor of the opposition Socialist Party's website, Al Eshteraki , Mohammed al Maqaleh has been kidnapped in the capital Sana'a by security forces.

According to eyewitness reports cited by the International Federation of Journalists :

Five gun wielding masked men in a minibus intercepted al Maqaleh's car. They bundled him into another vehicle. In dozens of instances, plain clothes intelligence operatives driving vehicles with military plates have snatched journalists off the street who have then disappeared and often tortured.

Reports say that Mohammed al Maqaleh, has been abducted after writing about the humanitarian situation and the fighting in the northern province of Sa'ada between the army and Shia rebels.

The International Federation of Journalists (IJF) is calling for the release and safekeeping of the Abducted editor. A Facebook group has also been created in support of Mohammed al Maqaleh.

 

21st September   

Update: Mendacious State Security...

Syrian blogger jailed for causing Syria's weak morale
Link Here  full story: Free Tariq...Syrian blogger jailed

Akwahia logo On September 13, 2009, the Syrian State Security Supreme Court sentenced the young blogger Kareem Arbaji to three-years prison for publishing mendacious information liable to weaken the nation's morale, under article 286 of the Syrian penal code.

Kareem Arbaji has been detained for over two years, since June 7th, 2007, by military intelligence officers.

Human Rights Reports reveal that Arbaji has been tortured during the detention:

Kareem Arbaji was detained before being tried, he received a cruel and disproportionate sentence even if he was convicted. He was tortured during investigations and ill treated for more than two years in prison.

It is likely that Arbaji has been arrested, detained and then sentenced for opinions he expressed on the blocked Syrian forum, Akhawiya, which he used to administrate along with other members.

The forum members have created a page to honor and support their friend behind bars. A Facebook group too has been recently created in support of the jailed blogger.

 

20th September   

Political Chanting...

Iranian football match broadcast without seeing or hearing crowd
Link Here

Iran flag Live television coverage of an Iranian football match was blacked-out because sections of the crowd were chanting anti-government slogans and waving green emblems in support of the country's political opposition.

The premier league match between Esteghlal and Steel Azin took place at Tehran's Azadi stadium just hours after tens of thousands of green-clad protesters used the state-organised Quds Day anti-Israel demonstrations to voice their opposition to the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is accused of stealing Iran's recent election.

The game's scheduled live TV coverage was disrupted apparently after bosses of the state broadcaster, Irib, learned of the presence of protesters inside the stadium.

According to Iranian websites, the match was initially broadcast for a few minutes in black-and-white without crowd noise to show that technical problems were being experienced. The transmission then cut back to a studio presenter who said that the problems had arisen because Irib had sent only one camera to the stadium .

Eventually the match was shown nearly an hour late, again without sound and with close-up shots focusing solely on the pitch and editing out the 70,000 spectators.

The Mizan Press website linked to the opposition National Religious party said the real reason was the presence of supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the reformist who says Ahmadinejad cheated him of victory in June.

 

6th September   

Contrary to the Development of Turkey...

Turkey humiliated by a ban on Love Sex Magic by Ciara and Timberlake
Link Here

Love Sex Magic mp3 Turkey's TV censor has banned the music video for Love Sex Magic , a duet between pop star Justin Timberlake and Ciara, due to its sexually explicit content, Milliyet newspaper said.

The Radio and Television Supreme Council has barred TV channels from showing the video because it contains sexual outfits, dancing and scenes that are contrary to the development of children and youth and morality in general.

The video features a skimpily clad Ciara licking Timberlake's ear and bent over in various positions as the two singers dance closely together.

Ali Karacan, the owner of Numberone TV which has aired the video, called the ban anachronistic and humiliating for Turkey, a secular Muslim country, which is trying to join the European Union.

 

4th September   

Holy Insensitivity Batman...

Art exhibition unsurprisingly loses pictures of terrorists as madonnas
Link Here

Face of a terrorist The Ferror (feminist terrorism) art exhibition, which was slated to open Thursday at the Sokolov House in Tel Aviv, will not include paintings of female suicide bombers in light of the political establishment's protest.

According to a report in Yedioth Aharonoth, the exhibit showing the works of Galina Bleich and Liliah Check includes paintings of seven female suicide bombers being depicted as Madonna holding a baby Jesus. Organizations of terror victims as well as the political establishment protested the pictures, demanding that they be removed from the exhibition.

Tel Aviv Journalists' Association Secretary General Yossi Bar-Moha carried out a telephone survey of 17 association members, who together decided whether to allow the exhibition to go ahead in its current format or to partially censor or remove it all together.

Galina Bleich, one of the artists, is unapologetic. I don't understand how this turned into an insult to bereaved families. We came actually to emphasize the exact opposite. The baby in Madonna's hands is in danger. This really needs to disturb people. It isn't just an Israeli problem, but a global one. Therefore, we chose Madonna, who is a symbol of Christianity.

Bleich hopes that the exhibition will be allowed to be shown. She is actually pleased with the media buzz her works are getting. She said: Modern art is actually a language that shakes up the subjects that are painful to us. It's not only flowers in a vase. Art asks questions and doesn't provide answers.

 

30th August   

Ramadan a Ban...

Kuwait ministry uses Ramadan as excuse to ban programmes it doesn't like
Link Here

Scope TV logo A new phenomena is spreading this Ramadan. More than one local TV soap opera has been stopped from broadcasting by Kuwait's Ministry of Information. Others self censored in fear of ministry action.

The most famous case was the Sotik Wasal TV soap, broadcasted on the private Kuwaiti satellite channel, Scope TV . This comedy soap was lampooning members of parliament and ministers. Most target politicians didn't protest against it and refused the resolution of the Ministry of Information to ban it. But now Ramadan has been cited as an excuse to bam the programme.

In a statement made by the Kuwait Society for Human Rights (KSHR), the organization condemned such acts by the Cabinet and the Ministry of Information. They believe all cultural and intellectual works should be allowed to be broadcasted if done so within the law and that afterwards, the victims can go to court to demand their rights if he or she thinks their rights were violated by the works. The society also demanded that more freedom be exercised and said that censorship should only be put in place in
accordance with the law.

 

29th August   

Turkish Propaganda...

Turkish newspaper banned for one month for article on the Kurdish language
Link Here

Gunluk newspaper The Turkish daily newspaper Gnlk has been banned for one month because of articles and news items written by Professor Amir Hassanpour of Toronto University.

The Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court took this decision on the grounds of article 7/2 in the Anti-Terrorism Law, claiming that Hassanpour's articles contain organizational propaganda.

In a written statement, Gnlk's chief editor Filiz Koçali criticized the decision: We cannot talk about a democratic opening if we cannot make the Kurdish people talk.

Koçali continues: The reason for the ban is an article written by the internationally renowned professor Hassanpour, who has published articles in international journals and newspapers. With this decision Turkey applies censorship to an internationally well-known linguist.

The Democratic Society Party (DTP) also condemned the decision, emphasizing that the government has to ease the pressure on freedom of expression in order to proceed on the way to finding a solution to the Kurdish question. Therefore they ask for an amendment of the restrictive regulations in the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK) and in the Anti-Terrorism Law.

Gnlk newspaper has been publishing since January this year and was handed a two-month ban in June for spreading PKK propaganda in two issues of the paper.

In his article titled Linguistic rights in the linguistics system of the developed world: State, market and communication technologies Hassanpour deals with the pressure on the Kurdish language in Turkey.

 

18th August   

Update: A Blue Line for Red Line...

Saudi TV told tighten up on TV censorship
Link Here  full story: Religious Police in Saudi...A law unto themselves

Red Line on LBC In the wake of the TV controversy when Saudi citizen Mazen Abdul-Jawad discussed his sex life on LBC's Bold Red Line , a Saudi ministry is clamping down.

Issuing a strong warning. Abdullah al-Jasser, undersecretary for media affairs at Saudi Arabia's Culture and Information Ministry, said: Every Saudi investor in satellite television channels has to be sensitive to patriotic and social responsibility. Managers of these channels should be selected for their integrity and responsibility, he said, adding that investors should not leave management to people who have orientations and ideas ... harmful to the kingdom and to Saudi investments.

What is being aired by these channels owned by Saudi citizens in terms of topics that violate the Islamic creed and public morals represents a serious offence to the kingdom and to every citizen. These channels (must) not be used as a bridge for hostile media campaigns that ... market Western ideas and beliefs.

 

18th August   

Dictator and Censor...

Protest in Iran as government shut down opposition newspaper
Link Here

Etemad-e Melli logo Iranian police used batons to disperse dozens of opposition supporters chanting death to the dictator in central Tehran following the reported closure of a reformist newspaper.

The latest street unrest after Iran's disputed June 12 presidential vote took place near the offices of the Etemad-e Melli, the daily of leading pro-reform cleric Mehdi Karoubi.

Karoubi angered many hardliners last week by saying some post-election protesters had been raped in jail. His party said that the paper had been temporarily shut down, and the prosecutor's office later confirmed this.

In accordance with the law ... the Etemad-e Melli newspaper belonging to Mr Karoubi has been suspended until further notice, an official statement carried by the semi-official Mehr News Agency said, without giving a reason.

Police prevented demonstrators from gathering outside the Etemad-e Melli offices, where a witness said he saw scores of police and police vehicles: They tried to gather in front of the building but police did not let them and told them to leave .

About 400 protesters at one stage gathered a few hundred metres away, chanting "death to the dictator", "where are our votes", "independence, freedom, Iranian republic", he said.

 

16th August   

Quick Off the Blocks...

North Africa and the Middle East highlighted as internet blockers
Link Here

14 countries in the Middle East and North Africa out of 18 countries surveyed filter Internet content using technical means, according to new studies released by the OpenNet Initiative, a partnership among groups at four leading universities: Toronto, Harvard, Cambridge, and Oxford, funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

These reports offer an updated view of Internet content controls in the region and a point of comparison to an earlier global survey carried out in 2006-2007. The studies show that Internet censorship has continued apace in the Middle East and North Africa.

Our latest research results on Internet filtering and surveillance in the Middle East and North Africa confirm the growing use of next generation cyberspace controls beyond mere denial of information, said Ron Deibert, ONI Principal Investigator and Director of the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto: The media environment of the Middle East and North Africa region is a battle-space where commercially-enhanced blocking, targeted surveillance, self-censorship, and intimidation compete with enhanced tools of censorship circumvention and mobile activism.

Internet censorship in the region is increasing in both scope and depth, and filtering of political content continues to be the common denominator among filtering regimes there, said Helmi Noman, the OpenNet Initiative's Middle East and North Africa lead researcher: Governments also continue to disguise their political filtering, while acknowledging blocking of social content, and censors are catching up with increasing amounts of online content, in part by using filtering software developed by companies in the U.S.

 

16th August   

The Wrong Type of Block...

Websense refuse blocking software updates to Yemeni ISPs
Link Here

Websense logo Websense, a US-based web security gateway software company, has said it has blocked two ISPs in Yemen, YemenNet and TeleYemen, from receiving updates after it has emerged they were using its filtering technology in a government-mandated censorship scheme, the UK-based The Register has reported.

Websense maintains a policy of not selling to governments or Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that are engaged in any sort of government-imposed censorship, the company has said.

 

15th August   

New Book Censors...

Street protests against censorship in Iraq
Link Here

Iraq flag Iraqi journalists, writers and publishers have demonstrated in Baghdad against what they say is growing state interference in their work.

The protest follows the introduction of new book censorship rules, and a proposal to ban certain websites.

No place in the world is as dangerous for journalists as Iraq. At least 190 media workers have died since the beginning of the war in 2003.

But it was not physical danger that brought dozens of journalists to the protest at Baghdad's old book market.

Last year, as the security improved and the government began to gain strength journalists started to complain about new pressure from officials.

The association for the protection of journalists says there has been a dramatic increase in lawsuits against media workers, especially those who try to cover government corruption and security.

 

9th August   

The Most Beautiful Dog in the World...

Egypt gets wound up by Hollywood doggy joke about president Sadat
Link Here

I Love You Man DVD An American film in which a dog belonging to one of the characters is named after the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat has sparked outrage among the Egyptian public and Sadat's family, and prompted the government to demand an apology from the film's producers.

In the Hollywood movie I Love You, Man , one of the main characters, played by Jason Segel, tells his friend that his dog's name is Anwar Sadat. A cross between a beagle and a pug, Segel says his pet is the most beautiful dog in the world.

When asked whether this was because he admired Sadat's policies, Segel replies: No, because they look exactly alike before the camera zooms in on the dog. Sadat's picture was also posted on the dog's kennel in clips shown last week on Al Hayat, a private Egyptian channel.

It's a grave and direct insult, Roqeya Sadat, Sadat's eldest daughter, said in an interview: This is partially to be blamed on him not being valued as he deserves in his country, so it's natural that he would be humiliated abroad.

Hossam Zaki, a foreign ministry spokesman, said that either the film's writer was a boor or he wanted to insult Sadat and demanded an apology from Dream Works Pictures, the company that produced the film.

Samir Sabry, Ms Sadat's lawyer, lodged complaints with the US Embassy in Cairo and the prosecutor general. On Wednesday he filed suits against the information minister to ban the movie in Egypt and confiscate all copies of it. A court date to hear the complaints has been set for September 1.

President Anwar Sadat remains one of the most respected leaders of the 20th century. His contributions to regional peace, his service to his country and his personal courage are the characteristics that his many admirers will always remember about him, said Margaret White, a spokeswoman for the US Embassy: We sympathise with those members of his family and with Egyptians who feel offended by this Hollywood movie, but the truth is that no fleeting reference in a film can or will detract from his legacy.

I Love You, Man was distributed in Egypt with scenes featuring the dog cut out by the film company. The Egyptian censor, Ali Abu Shadi, said: The company sent us the movie without those scenes. Had we seen them, we wouldn't have allowed a film that insults an Egyptian symbol to play in Egypt.

The film critic Tarek al Shenawi said naming the dog after Sadat was a crime and very rude, and said such apparent criticism of the late president's appearance was punishable by international laws.

 

6th August   

The Spirit of Saddam...

Iraq returns to book banning and internet blocking
Link Here

Iraq flag The doors of the communications revolution were thrown open in Iraq after the American-led invasion in 2003: In rushed a wave of music videos featuring scantily clad Turkish singers, Web sites recruiting suicide bombers, racy Egyptian soap operas, pornography, romance novels, and American and Israeli news and entertainment sites that had long been blocked under Saddam Hussein's rule.

Now those doors may be shut again, at least partially, as the Iraqi government moves to ban sites deemed harmful to the public, to require Internet cafes to register with the authorities and to press publishers to censor books.

The government, which has been proceeding quietly on the new censorship laws, claimed prohibitions were necessary because material currently available in the country had had the effect of encouraging sectarian violence in the fragile democracy and of warping the minds of the young.

Our Constitution respects freedom of thought and freedom of expression, but that should come with respect for society as a whole, and for moral behavior, spewed Taher Naser al-Hmood, Iraq's deputy cultural minister.

This month, the government has started to require dozens of Internet cafes to register with the government or be closed.

In July, a government committee recommended that the drafting of a law allowing for official Internet monitoring and the prosecution of violators be expedited. Among the prohibited sites, according to the committee's report, would be those with subject matter including drugs, terrorism, gambling, negative remarks about Islam and pornography.

This spring, the government contacted the handful of Iraqi book publishers still in business and asked them to compile lists of their books, along with a description of the subject matter. The material is to be kept at the Ministry of Culture, which is also preparing a document to be signed by publishers in which they will pledge not to distribute books the government deems offensive.

Taha H. al-Shebeeb, an Iraqi writer of 10 novels whose politically tinged work often put him at odds with Hussein's government, called the current plans an awful retreat. If this is true, I will hold a press conference where I will burn my novels and say that I had been mistaken when I objected to the policies of the previous regime.

 

5th August   

Update: Redline Censors...

Saudi office of LBC under threat over confessional TV episode
Link Here  full story: Religious Police in Saudi...A law unto themselves

Red Line on LBC The Saudi offices of a Lebanon-based satellite station controlled by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal could face closure over a racy talk show featuring a man boasting about his sex life.

The local operations of the Saudi billionaire's broadcaster LBC could be shut down because of the offensive nature of the programme, Abdullah al-Othaim, a senior district judge in Jeddah said.

Jeddah investigators continued to examine evidence to see what charges would be filed against Saudi citizen Mazen Abdul-Jawad, whose discussion of his sex life on LBC's Bold Red Line in July led to his arrest on Friday.

Two other men who took part in the programme were also arrested, while a fourth fled to Morocco, local newspapers cited Saudi police as saying.

Abdul-Jawad's confessions, that he first had sex at 14 with a neighbour, used sex aids and liked to use his cellphone's Bluetooth function to try to pick up women, outraged Saudi conservatives.

 

1st August   

Update: Stony Ground...

Iran has blocked 5 million websites
Link Here  full story: Iranian Internet Censorship...Extensive internet blocking

Iran flag The annual publication, Iran - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband , provides a comprehensive overview of the trends and developments in the telecommunications and digital media markets in Iran.

It reports that Internet censorship is strict. By November 2008 the number of banned sites was put at over 5 million.

Iran is very stony ground for any form of digital media to grow or flourish due to the government's strict control and censorship of Internet media and its banning of satellite TV dishes to receive the wealth of free to air DTH satellite TV channels available in the region.

 

1st August   

Hardly a Novel Concept...

Iraq restores book censorship
Link Here

Iraq flag Iraq's Culture Ministry has revived regulations forbidding the import of some books, prompting critics to accuse it of restoring Saddam-era censorship.

The ministry has begun requiring publishers to submit lists of titles for approval, said Deputy Culture Minister Taher al-Humoud. He said the rules were based on law dating from the era of former dictator Saddam Hussein, ousted in 2003.

Humoud said the ban was on books glorifying violent jihad and martyrdom, which are typically imported from neighboring countries: All books are allowed except those that incite sectarian grudges. Books that carry Takfiri fatwas [legal opinions that can be interpreted as ha­ving the weight of decrees] against either [Sunni or Shiite] sects, and the bloodshed they cause, are not permitted.

The move has angered groups like the Society to Defend the Freedom of the Press, which issued a statement this week complaining of a return to a totalitarian regime.

Iraq's 2005 Constitution enshrines freedom of press and publication unless they violate public order or morality.

 

31st July   

A Fatwa Against Secular Writing...

Prize for prominent secular writer winds up Egyptian nutters
Link Here

Egypt flag Egypt's Islamic Legislation Authority has issued a fatwa against the country's prominent writer Sayed Kemny, triggering angry reactions from Islamic scholars, activists and rights groups.

In the fatwa against him, Kemny was called an infidel and a criminal because he doubts Islam.

Gamal Al Banna, a leading progressive Islamic thinker, said such fatwas give a bad impression of Islam and did not encourage a debate over the role of religion in daily life: We need to understand better how words are taken because this sort of thing is wrong and must be ended. What should happen is a discussion about the work, not the man. Simply condemning the writer for his words will not create a society that thinks deeply about their faith.

Kemny is known for his secular writings and his calls for an end to the use of Sharia.

The fatwa, issued last week, was in response to a letter sent to the Islamic Legislation Authority inquiring about the religious consequences for someone who denounces Islam in his books, and comes one month after the author was handed Egypt's 2009 State Incentive Prize in Sociology.

The authority argued that Kemny's writings violated Egyptian law, and that the writer should never have been awarded the prize.

 

28th July   

Update: Bruno the Brave...

Threats of permanent censorship by terrorists
Link Here  full story: Bruno...Supporting the hype for Bruno

Bruno film poster Sacha Baron Cohen has stepped up his security after being threatened by a militant Palestinian group angered at its portrayal in the film Brüno .

The al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a coalition of Palestinian militias in the West Bank, said in a statement released to a Jerusalem-based journalist that it was very upset that it featured in the film starring Baron Cohen's homosexual fashionista alter ego: We reserve the right to respond in the way we find suitable against this man. The movie was part of a conspiracy against the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.

The comic is taking the threat seriously and has improved security for himself and his family in preparation for violent reprisals.

Baron Cohen's Austrian character ridicules the Martyrs' Brigades when he bids for fame by getting himself kidnapped by Ayman Abu Aita, who is identified in the film as the leader of the organisation.

Abu Aita's lawyer, Hatem Abu Ahmad, said that he is preparing a legal action against Baron Cohen and Universal Studios alleging that the Martyrs' Brigade reference could get his client in trouble with the Israelis and the homosexual association could get him killed by the Palestinians.

Abu Ahmad said: This joke is very dangerous. We are not in the United States, we are not in Europe, we are in the Middle East and the world operates differently here. Aaron Klein, the WorldNet reporter who received the statement from the Martyrs' Brigades, said: These are terrorists. They are against feminism, gay rights and abortion. Once I asked them what would they do if they found out one of their members was a homosexual. They said they would cut off his head.

Baron Cohen also angered Orthodox Jews during the filming of Brüno in Jerusalem when he nearly provoked a riot as he strutted down the street in a sexed-up Hasidic outfit with skintight shorts.

 

25th July   

Confessional TV...

Saudi man up for a flogging after confessing his sexual exploits on TV
Link Here  full story: Religious Police in Saudi...A law unto themselves

Saudi flag A Saudi man has been arrested following an in-depth confession of his sexual exploits on a Lebanese talk show. He was arrested for publicising vice , police said

Abdul Jawad, an employee of Saudi Airlines, recounted to the Red Line TV show's audience explicit details about his sex life, which ultimately landed him in jail for violations of Saudi Arabian law.

While being interviewed on the talk show, Jawad described how he slept with a neighbor at the age of fourteen, and his use of the Bluetooth functionality of his cellphone to pick up women in Saudi Arabia, as they are forbidden to interact with men in public.

Jawad also shared with the audience a recipe for an aphrodisiac.

Red Line is a talk show on Lebanon's satellite TV channel LBC that addresses a variety of social and political issues. The show airs in other Arab countries, and is popular in Saudi Arabia.

English-language daily Arab News reported that about 100 people filed complaints to Saudi officials after Jawad's segment on Red Line was aired.

Under Saudi Arabia's strict Wahhabi interpretation of Sharia law, it is forbidden to speak publicly about what the authorities determine to be vice. Pre-marital sex is also prohibited under shariah law, but Jawad could only be convicted of engaging in pre-marital sex if he were to attest to it in a Saudi court.

According to Arab News, Jawad plans to file a lawsuit against the producers of Red Line, claiming his remarks were taken out of context.

The program presents anomalies and deviancy in society that are unacceptable and immoral and should be punished according to sharia, Ahmad Qasim Al-Ghamdi, Mecca head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the religious police, said.

 

25th July   

Update: Blogged Up...

3 bloggers arrested in Egypt
Link Here

Egypt flag July 22, 2009, seems to be a start of a series of crackdown on bloggers in Egypt, as 3 young bloggers were arrested separately.

The first blogger is Ahmad Abu Khalil, who was taken from his home in the dawn. State Security forces broke into Ahmad's house and confiscated his books. The State Security did not inform his family about the accusations against the son, or as to where he will be taken.

Ahmad who blogs at Al- Bayareq (means: lanterns), identifies himself as an Islamist and he used to write about his life.

The other two bloggers are Abdel Rahman Ayyash and Magy Sa'd, who have been arrested at the Cairo Airport. The two bloggers were coming back from a visit to Turkey. Ayyash is running Abdel Rahman's Blog , while Magdy is writing at Yalla Mesh Mohem blog, (means: OK it doesn't matter).

Egyptian bloggers are circulating the arrests news via Twitter.

Update: 2 out of 3

3rd August 2009. See article from advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org

Two out of the three bloggers who were arrested on July 22, 2009 are now free. Abdel Rahman Ayyash and Magdy Saad were released after six days of arrest at Cairo airport, then sent to State Security Intelligence (SSI) headquarters at Lazoghly Square, (Cairo).

 

25th July   

Update: Jaffa Fruit Cakes...

Amos Kenan's play Friends Talk about Jesus cancelled in Jaffa
Link Here

Hebrew Arab Theatre in Jaffa The performances of Amos Kenan's play Friends Talk about Jesus , scheduled at the Arab-Hebrew Theater of Jaffa, Israel, have been cancelled due to opposition from Jaffa locals.

The play was rejected by the state censorship board in 1972, when it was written, but was staged in February by the Tel Aviv University Department of Theater Arts, under the direction of Ro'i Hertz Russo.

Some Christian Arabs living in Jaffa claim the play portrays Jesus in a negative light, as well as depicting Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a prostitute.

Kenan's satirical play deals with the nature of being Israeli and with the occupation. In it, Jesus dies, returns to life and dies again, and is shown in various ways: as a child whose home is destroyed by the army, as a young man who is concerned about the security situation and as a reserve duty soldier who is sent to war. After the play was banned by the censor it was also banned by the High Court of Justice.

Igal Ezrati, one of the Arab-Hebrew Theater's two artistic directors, related that when the news of the play's production became public, it set off protests, and he was asked not to stage it.

I got phone calls saying, 'You should be ashamed of yourselves,' because the play hurts the feelings of Christians in Jaffa and throughout the world, the theater's head, Mohammed Desouki, related: I talked to Igal Ezrati and together with the theater management we decided to cancel the show so as not to hurt anyone's feelings.

 

24th July   

Setting Store by Internet Monitoring...

Iranian president orders that all internet users communications should be stored for 3 months
Link Here

Iran flag It has been announced by the Government Press TV that the President has ordered Ahmadinajad to execute the recently approved law to fight cyber-crime and offer navigators greater security appears aimed at the opposition.

The requirements of Article 24 of the Act, for which Internet providers must retain for three months, all data sent or received by each of their customers, is particularly significant. For the Attorney General, Qorban-Ali-Najafabad Dorr, the law is to protect the rights of people and help to attack pornography and other prohibited content.

Reporters Sans Frontieres said that the Iranian government recognizing the growing influence of blogs is trying to reduce their space, filtering and trapping sites that host them.

 

20th July   

Update: Dark Day for Art...

Saudi cancels its only film festival
Link Here  full story: Cinema in Saudi...First steps to re-opening cinemas in Saudi

JFF poster Saudi Arabia's only film festival has been cancelled, dealing a blow to reformist hopes of an easing of clerical control over culture that was raised by the low-key return of cinemas in December.

In a country where cinemas were banned for almost three decades, the Jeddah Film Festival has since 2006 presented aspiring Saudi film-makers and actors with a rare opportunity to mingle with more experienced peers from other countries. On the eve of the festival, Mamdouh Salem, one of the festival's organisers, received a call. He said: The governorate of Jeddah notified us of the festival's cancellation after it received instructions from official parties. We were not told why.

The film festival was cancelled upon indirect instructions from the interior ministry, said an official at the information and culture ministry.

Abdullah al-Alami, a Saudi writer, said there is a trend of attacking cultural festivities. This is a dark day for art and literature in our modern history.

King Abdullah has tried cautious reforms in the kingdom, a US ally which has no elected parliament, but diplomats say he is facing resistance from conservatives opposing changes.

Many Saudi religious conservatives believe films from more liberal Arab countries such as Egypt could violate religious taboos. Some also view cinema and acting as a form of dissembling inconsistent with Islam.

 

20th July   

Updated: Al-Jazeera Assassination Attempt...

Palestine bans Al-Jazeera over news interview
Link Here

Al-Jazeera logo The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the Palestinian Authority's decision today to suspend the operations of Al-Jazeera in the West Bank after the satellite channel aired a controversial interview on Tuesday. The suspension, according to a Palestinian Authority Ministry of Information statement, will remain in place until the judiciary issues a ruling on the subject.

The Ministry of Information's actions came a day after Al-Jazeera broadcast its talk show Behind the News from Doha, Qatar, to discuss accusations made earlier in the day by Faruq al-Qadumi, a Fatah party leader, against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Al-Qadumi had told journalists in Amman, Jordan, on Tuesday that Abbas and the former head of the Palestinian Preventive Security Service, Muhammad Dahlan, were involved with Ariel Sharon in a plot to assassinate former President Yasser Arafat and other Palestinian leaders in 2004, according to regional news reports. Many Arab media outlets, including Al-Jazeera, reported on the accusations.

The Ministry of Information said that it plans to file a lawsuit against Al-Jazeera because of its incitement and unbalanced reporting from the Palestinian territories.

We are alarmed by this decision of the Palestinian Authority to punish Al-Jazeera for allowing critical discussion of Fatah party affairs, said Robert Mahoney, CPJ's deputy director: These are matters of legitimate interest to the Palestinian public. We call on the Ministry of Information to immediately allow ?Al-Jazeera to resume all its operations in the West Bank.

Update: Ban Downgraded to a Lawsuit

20th July 2009. See article from news.bbc.co.uk

Arabic satellite news TV al-Jazeera has resumed its broadcasts in the West Bank, after a ban on it was lifted by the Palestinian Authority (PA).

On Sunday bureau chief Walid al-Omary said Prime Minister Salam Fayyad had phoned him to say the ban had been lifted. The station's staff have resumed covering the news.

But Fayyad said his government would still press ahead with a lawsuit against the Qatar-based channel for alleged incitement, Omary added.

 

18th July   

Inspiration for a Song...

Iranian singer sentenced to 5 years for religious disrespect
Link Here

Mohsen Namjoo An Iranian singer and composer who has been likened to Bob Dylan has received a five-year jail sentence in absentia for disrespecting religious sanctities, according to Iranian television.

An Iranian Koran scholar filed a complaint against Mohsen Namjoo, who also plays a traditional Persian lute, for the way he had performed using verses from Islam's holy book.

The scholar, Abbas Salimi, accused Namjoo of an insulting, sneering performance of Koranic verses with musical instruments.

It quoted the singer's brother and lawyer as dismissing the accusation, saying he did not mean any disrespect. Press TV said Namjoo, who apologized a few months ago for the incident, was abroad but did not say in which country.

Iran's Fars News Agency quoted a judge on Monday as confirming that Namjoo was found guilty subsequent to an investigation of the complaint against him .

In a 2007 profile, New York Times said Namjoo's playful but subtly cutting lyrics about growing up in an Islamic state had made him the most controversial, and certainly the most daring, figure in Persian music today.

 

17th July   

Update: All in a Good Cause?...

More on the 'terrorist' interview in Bruno
Link Here  full story: Bruno...Supporting the hype for Bruno

Bruno film poster A "terrorist leader" interviewed in the just-rreleased hit movie "Bruno" is fuming mad, telling WND the film mislabels him and that the movie's star, Sasha Baron Cohen, conducted the interview under false pretenses.

Ayman Abu Aita slammed Baron Cohen as a big liar who "made up stories" when describing to CBS's David Letterman last week the way he met Aita at an undisclosed location. Aita said he is pursuing legal action against Baron Cohen.

[Baron Cohen] said this was a film going to help the Palestinian cause, Aita told WND. When I heard (four days ago) what this film was about I really didn't believe it.

At one point in the movie, Bruno meets Aita, depicted as a terrorist group leader from the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, in a bid to seduce the jihadist group into kidnapping him so Bruno can become famous.

During the interview, Aita explained: [Bruno] said he is a German actor making documentaries watched by young people. ... He wanted to make a story to mobilize the young people to help us (Palestinians). ... I didn't have any impression he would use my interview in a bad way.

The Brigades is responsible for scores of suicide bombings, shootings and deadly rocket attacks against Israeli civilian population centers. Aita, however, is not exactly a terrorist. At least not anymore Aita is a representative of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party to the West Bank town of Beit Sahor, which is a satellite of Bethlehem. Aita also is a board member of the Holy Land Trust, a nongovernmental organization promoting Palestinian rights and commitment to nonviolence.

Aita served in the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades from 2000 until 2003, after which he did a two year stint in Israeli prison on accusations he was involved in shootings against Israeli soldiers operating in Bethlehem. Still, according to Israeli security sources speaking to WND, Aita, while a member of the Brigades, once worked with Jewish state officials to return two Israeli reserve soldiers who had gotten lost in Bethlehem.

 

13th July   

Minister of Blocked Communications...

Israel survives proposal to set up state internet filtering
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Knesset building Discussion of a bill that would censor web sites in Israel has been rejected by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.

The legislation, proposed by Shas MK Amnon Cohen, would mandate that ISPs offer customers the option of blocking sites deemed unsuitable . Specifically mentioned in the proposal were sites featuring pornography, violence and gambling.

Only one member of the committee, Religious Services Minister Ya'acov Margi, supported putting the bill forward for deliberation in the Knesset plenum, while the other seven ministers opposed the bill.

Various lawmakers and civil rights activists spoke out against the bill in recent days, charging that it would deny citizens' rights to freedom of information and privacy.

One major bone of contention was a clause according to which the the right to decide the criteria for the appropriateness of the content would remain solely in the hands of the communications minister.

 

9th July   

Update: Freedom to Repress...

Iran replaces China as world's worst jailer of journalists
Link Here  full story: Press Freedom in Iran...As if there were any

Iran flag A With at least 30 journalists currently in prison, Iran replaces China as the world's worst jailer of journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. CPJ called on the Iranian authorities to release all journalists who have been detained following the country's disputed June 12 presidential elections.

CPJ research shows that at least 24 detained in the aftermath of the elections remain in custody, in addition to at least six journalists who were in detention prior to the disputed elections. In the past few days three journalists have been freed, while at least three others have been arrested.

Of the 30 journalists currently behind bars, 13 work primarily for print publications, three work for online publications, two work for television stations, six are primarily bloggers, and an additional six are freelancers or with unknown affiliations.

The Iranian authorities have orchestrated a campaign against journalists of all types since the June 12 presidential elections, said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem: Despite some isolated releases, the number of journalists behind bars is at an all time high. The authorities should immediately release all the detained journalists.

 

8th July   

UAE Press Censors on Steroids...

Newspaper closed down for 20 days over horse racing doping story
Link Here

Al-Emarat Al-Youm newspaper logo A criminal court has suspended a newspaper that reported on a horse-racing scandal, upholding a 2008 ruling. Its editor and publisher were also fined.

The UAE's Federal Supreme Court upheld on July 1 a November 2008 defamation conviction issued by an appeals court in Abu Dhabi. The ruling called for the suspension of the Arabic-language daily Al-Emarat Al-Youm for 20 days and the fining of editor-in-chief Sami Al-Reyami and Abdullatif Al-Sayegh, the chief executive of the newspaper's publisher, the Arab Media Goup, to 20,000 UAE dirhams (US$5,400) each, according to local news reports. The court ruling cannot be appealed. The suspension took effect as of Sunday, according to local press reports.

We are disappointed by the Federal Supreme Court's decision to uphold the suspension of Al-Emarat Al-Youm, said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ program coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa: Not only does this suspension deprive the public from information but it also illustrates the inadequacy of the UAE's media law.

The case stemmed from an October 2006 article that alleged that a company called Warsan Stables had given steroids to horses to improve their performance in an Abu Dhabi race, CPJ research shows.

 

6th July   

Dreaming of Freedom in UAE...

Authorities threaten to close down illicit satellite services
Link Here

UAE flag Illicit pornography and pirate TV broadcasts in the UAE will be barred this week as the pay TV network Showtime Arabia and the local telecoms regulator join forces against the illegal programming.

The partnership with the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) will block 500 web servers transmitting pirate TV codes to approximately 1.5 million illegal set top boxes currently active across the Gulf, Dubai-based trade magazine MediaWeek Middle East reported.

We're working hand-in-hand with the TRA because the majority of the piracy we suffer from involves criminal organisations putting encryption codes on the internet, Marc-Antoine d'Halluin, president and CEO of Showtime Arabia, was quoted as saying: What these servers do is allow people within the region to access pornography, as well as platforms such as Showtime.

Many of the set-top boxes, branded 'Dreambox', are manufactured by the German company Dream Multimedia, which Showtime has initiated legal action against, the magazine said.

D'Halluin said once barred the Dreamboxes would be useless, making it more like an 'idiot box. He said the boxes were being imported by criminal organisations in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.