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Middle East Censorship News

2011: April-June

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26th June   

Updated: The Beirut International Film Festival...

Forbidden Films
Link Here

The Beirut International Film Festival (BIFF) will feature previously censored films at a Forbidden Films Festival in late June.

The festival, scheduled to take place between June 22 and 26, will include Lebanese director Degaulle Eid's Chou Sar , banned by authorities from BIFF 2010. The documentary is about a Civil War era massacre in North Lebanon.

Iranian director Hana Makhmalbaf's Green Days will also be screened. The documentary follows the protests after the disputed 2009 Iranian presidential election, and Lebanese censorship authorities asked that its screening be postponed because a visit to Lebanon by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad corresponded with BIFF 2010.

The other films to be shown are the Italian director Paolo Benvenutti's Confortorio, Gostanza Da Libbiano , and Karin Albou's The Wedding Song.

Update: Banned

26th June 2011. From

The director of the Beirut International Film Festival announced that the censorship department of Lebanon's General Security had banned a film from screening.

Green Days documents opposition demonstrations that challenged Iran's 2009 presidential election results, which opposition supporters claimed Ahmadinejad had falsified.

Festival director Colette Naufal said: About 10 days ago General Security called me again and told me 'Send us again the DVD for Green Days Because we want to reconsider.' Then I got the okay. Then this morning I'm told the permit was withdrawn.

Naufal said General Security gave no reasons for the change of heart: They don't give reasons, she said. We have to get to the bottom of this. We have to find out who takes the decisions. Is it the decision of the minister? If so we have to meet with him to ask him why. If it's not him, we need to find out who is the power who takes these decisions? And we'd like to know why they have this power and what is the legality of all this?


17th June   

Censorship by Fear...

Palestinian journalists banned from reporting human rights abuses
Link Here

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has banned Palestinian journalists from reporting about the findings of the Independent Commission for Human Rights concerning abuse of human rights by the PA and Hamas.

In its most recent annual report, the commission said that Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were subjected in 2010 to an almost systematic campaign of human rights abuses by the PA and Hamas, as well as by Israeli authorities.

According to the report, security forces belonging to the PA and Hamas were responsible for torture, arrests and arbitrary detentions.

Palestinian journalists complained that the PA leadership issued instructions to their editors forbidding them from reporting about the findings of the report.

Journalist Mustafa Ibrahim pointed out that the decision to ban PA-affiliated media outlets from covering the report came in the context of violations and assaults against freedom of media and journalists in the West Bank. He said: Assaults on journalists and censorship and restrictions on freedom of expression are still a dreadful nightmare for the journalists . Journalists avoid covering events out of fear of being targeted or arrested by [Palestinian] security forces in the West Bank.


15th June   

Doctors on Trial...

Bahrain to sue the Independent over a powerful report by Robert Fisk
Link Here

The government of Bahrain claimed yesterday to have commissioned a UK-based law firm to file a case against The Independent for its reporting on the crackdown on protests in the country.

Nawaf al-Mawada, a representative of the Information Affairs Authority, told Bahrain's state news agency that the action was being taken because The Independent had deliberately published a series of unrealistic and provocative articles targeting Bahrain and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia .

The supposedly offending article is an opinion piece by Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk, in which he criticises the Bahraini government for putting 48 surgeons on trial.


9th June   

Update: Extreme Censorship...

Iran plans to replace the internet with an Iran only intranet
Link Here
Full story: Iranian Internet Censorship...Extensive internet blocking

Iran is moving towards introducing a new aggressive form of censorship, a national Internet that could, in effect, disconnect Iranian cyberspace from the rest of the world.

The initiative appears part of a broader effort to confront what the regime now considers a major threat: an online invasion of Western ideas, culture and influence.

Iran, already among the most sophisticated nations in online censoring, also promotes its national Internet as a cost-saving measure for consumers and as a way to uphold Islamic moral codes.

The Wall St Journal quoted Reza Bagheri Asl, director of the telecommunication ministry's research institute, as telling an Iranian news agency that soon 60% of the nation's homes and businesses would be on the new, internal network. Within two years it would extend to the entire country, he said.

Ali Aghamohammadi, Iran's head of economic affairs, said the new network would at first operate in parallel to the normal Internet-banks, government ministries and large companies would continue to have access to the regular Internet. Eventually, he said, the national network could replace the global Internet in Iran, as well as in other Muslim countries.


8th June   

Updated: Lebanon Goes GaGa...

Lady GaGa's latest album banned in Lebanon
Link Here
Full story: Lady GaGa...Winding up the nutters with sex and religion

Lady Gaga's latest album Born This Way may be topping the music charts in 21 countries, but it has been banned in Lebanon for being offensive to Christianity .

A shipment of the album was immediately impounded by authorities in the general security department on grounds of taste, reports

Update: Oh no it isn't!

8th June 2011.  See  article from

Lady Gaga's latest record Born This Way will be distributed to stores in Lebanon soon, General Security said following rumors that the album had been banned for being offensive to Christianity.

General Security had not released any statement banning the entry or distribution of this album, and [the CD] has received approval for entry and distribution in the Lebanese market, a statement by the General Security said.



7th June   

Update: Dangerous Photo Uploading...

Conviction of web programmer quashed in Iran
Link Here
Full story: Internet Death Sentence...Iran goes extreme over website censorship

Iran's supreme court has quashed the death sentence for Saeed Malekpour, a web programmer who was facing execution on charges of developing and promoting porn websites.

The 35-year-old was convicted of designing and moderating adult materials online although his family said he was a web programmer whose photo uploading software was used by a porn website without his knowledge.

Defence lawyers said the conviction was quashed after they provided the court with expert evidence. Malekpour, a Canadian resident who was arrested in October 2008 on arrival in Tehran, will remain in jail while a judicial review into his case is held.

Speaking from Toronto, his wife, Fatima Eftekhari, said that the campaign by human rights groups in support of her husband was crucial in saving Malekpour's life: Never underestimate the power of such campaigns when you can save the life of an innocent somewhere miles away from you by clicking a button or signing a letter .


2nd June   

Update: Censorship Beyond the Law...

Turkey blocks a million websites from access in internet cafes
Link Here
Full story: Internet Censorship in Turkey...Website blocking insults the Turkish people

Turkey's internet censor TIB has the authority to block all websites that relate to prostitution, child pornography, gambling, and promoting suicide. Furthermore, the TIB has also blocked access to more than one-million websites in internet cafes, without even any administrative (warnings) procedures.

It was discovered that many blocked websites have not even breached any of the crimes in the scope of the crime catalogue . For instance, a large number of associations, swimwear companies, shipping companies, model agencies, radio stations, automotive companies, websites of designers, and even some online dictionary/translation websites...

The list of banned websites does not end there. A list of websites that have previously been blocked and re-opened includes some of the world's most accessed websites such as Google, BBC News, Dailymotion, Facebook, eBay, Amazon, FHM, Superonline , Human Rights Association, Bilyoner gaming website etc.

Dr. Yaman Akdeniz said:

In expressing his views on the filtering in internet cafes, Akdeniz explains that TIB has the authority to bar any given website within the scope of the law (for instance displaying child-pornography and/or obscenity etc) without needing a court order; however, he identifies that TIB is abusing such authority. To filter many websites without them having broken the law is beyond the scope of Law 5651 and the TIB's authority. As such, it can only be recognised as arbitrary administrative measures and censorship .


See  article from

Marietje Schaake, a member of the European Parliament from the Liberal group, submitted questions to the European Commission regarding the proposed legal imposition of an online filtering system and structural domain-name blocking in Turkey.

In her question paper, Schaake asked the commission what concrete actions it would take regarding the Turkish government to address its concerns about the proposed censorship of the Internet ... and the overall increasing deterioration in freedom of the press in Turkey.

Saying that an uncensored, free Internet is essential for a free and open society, Schaake said she posed her questions to the commission because she believe[s] the latest censorship [in Turkey] may well be in conflict with the Copenhagen criteria for EU accession.

The proposed online filtering system violates the people's right to information, restricts freedom of expression and is a threat for democracy, Schaake said.


1st June   

Dangerous Comments...

Egyptian military censors get heavy
Link Here

Even the mildest criticism of the Egyptian military was too much for Mahmoud Saad, a television host on the newly founded, independent Tahrir television network.

Any institution of the country that takes taxes from us should be open to question, Hossam el-Hamalawy, a blogger, said in a telephone interview with Saad. No, no, no, Saad interrupted. I will not allow you to say those things on this network.

The next day Hamalawy and two liberal television journalists, but not Saad, were summoned to a military headquarters for questioning about their remarks.

The Egyptian military is pressing the Egyptian media to censor criticism of it and protect its image. In recent weeks military authorities have sent letters warning news organizations to review any discussion of the military before publication or broadcast. A military court has also sentenced a blogger to three years in prison for what it called persistent attacks, and it has charged an outspoken liberal presidential candidate with libeling a general and insulting the military.

This week an unidentified military official speaking on CNN acknowledged and defended a military decision that night to force some women detainees to undergo virginity tests by doctors. Testing the women, the officer argued, was intended to ensure against subsequent charges of sexual abuse by soldiers.


29th May   

BBFC Bahraini Cooperation...

Bahrain gives the BBFC a lesson in 'proper' censorship
Link Here

President of the Information Affairs Authority (IAA) Shaikh Fawaz bin Mohammed Al Khalifa conducted a visit to the BBFC as part of his visit to London.

During his meeting BBFC Assistant Director David Austin presented Shaikh Fawaz with a detailed briefing on the duties of the BBFC related to regulating and classification of films.

Austin also reviewed with IAA president the independency of the board financially and administratively along with means of monitoring movies and its final endorsement.

Meanwhile, Shaikh Fawaz reviewed with Austin various means of cooperation between the IAA and the BBFC making use of its expertise in the Kingdom of Bahrain through the study of privatization of film classification.

Bahrain shows off its censorship expertise by destroying 100,000 publications


Following directives of the IAA's President Shaikh Fawaz, Bahrain's Publication and Publishing Directorate in coordination with the Public Prosecutor destroyed more than 100,000 publications that are contrary to the laws and regulations.

This action is considered the largest of its kind since the past five years, which included the seizure of large numbers of computer software, CD-ROMs and films in violation of the law regulating the press, printing and publishing and the copyright law and that related to rights and intellectual property laws.

The Director of Publications and Publishing Censorship, Nawaf Mohammed Al Mawadh,  said that this process comes in the framework of the keenness of the Kingdom of Bahrain's commitment to international covenants and laws, and to protect the market and society from counterfeit and indecent publications, which are incompatible with the teachings of religion and morals of society.


29th May   

Snap Judgement...

Lebanon bans award winning exhibit due to photographer being Israeli
Link Here

A World Press Photo exhibit in Beirut shut down early after Lebanese authorities ordered the removal of an Israeli photographer's prize-winning work.

Erik de Kruijf, a World Press project manager, said the Netherlands-based organization preferred to close the exhibit 10 days early rather than face censorship. For a week it was no problem and then someone noticed that he is an Israeli photographer, de Kruijf told The Associated Press. We cannot allow censorship of any kind so that's why we decided to take everything down.

The World Press award is one of the industry's most coveted prizes.

The photographs in question are by Amit Sha'al. They show various street scenes in Israel in which the photographer holds up historical photos of the same places in front of the camera in a juxtaposition of past and present. Sha'al won the third prize in arts and entertainment stories and was among 60 winners whose work was being shown.

Sha'al said he was surprised by Lebanon's decision and noted that the photos remained available for all to view on the Internet. Any Lebanese person can go on the Internet today and look what all the fuss is about. Hopefully they will, he told The Associated Press in Jerusalem.

A Lebanese security official said the General Security Directorate, which is in charge of censorship, ordered the exhibit's organizers to remove Sha'al's work because he is Israeli. In explanation, he noted the two nations are in a state of war. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.


25th May

 Offsite: Ofcom Get Political...

Link Here
Ofcom censure Iranian Press TV for interview with arrested journalist

See article from


22nd May   

Too Dark for UAE...

LA Noire banned in UAE
Link Here

United Arab Emirates retail chain Geekay Games has updated its Facebook page to say that the video game L.A. Noire has been banned.


19th May   

Update: Soft on Censorship...

Turkey prosecutes publisher of William Burroughs novel for obscenity
Link Here

A Turkish publisher is currently facing obscenity charges for releasing an edition of William Borroughs' novel, The Soft Machine . The book features scenes of drug addiction and homosexuality.

A winner of the International Publishers Association's Freedom to Publish prize, Irfan Sanci has previously been sued under Article 226 of the Turkish penal code, for publishing books including Guillaume Apollinaire's Adventures of the Young Don Juan, but was acquitted in December.

He and his translator are now facing further obscenity charges for publishing 2,500 copies of a Turkish edition of the Burroughs novel in January, which could mean a jail sentence of up to nine years.

The International Publishers Association called the situation mind-blowing and disappointing and called for Sanci and his translator's immediate acquittal, saying that the obscenity charges violate Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European convention on human rights. Last year Turkey was found guilty of violating the article by the European court of human rights when it banned Apollinaire's erotic novel The Eleven Thousand Rods.

The Soft Machine develops attitudes that were permissive to crime by concentrating on the banal, vulgar and weak attributes of humanity , according to a report by the Turkish Prime Ministerial Board for the Protection of Children from Harmful Publications, quoted in Turkish paper Hurriyet. The Council also accused the novel of incompliance with moral norms and hurting people's moral feelings .

IPA Freedom to Publish Committee chair Bjorn Smith-Simonsen called the prosecution undemocratic, anachronistic and unworthy of a modern and open society ... Sanci is being harassed for doing his publisher's job. At a time when freedom to publish conditions deteriorate again in Turkey, it is urgent to stop these practices and to leave Irfan Sanci alone.


17th May   

Updated: We will not Bow to Censorship...

Turkey protests against mandatory ISP blocking options
Link Here
Full story: Internet Censorship in Turkey...Website blocking insults the Turkish people

Thousands of people in Turkey took to the streets yesterday to protest government plans for compulsory internet filtering.

All connections in the country will have to choose between four different levels of interference in their internet access.

There were demonstrations in Istanbul and 40 cities around the country. Thousands of people carried banners marked Yes we ban! and We will not bow to censorship .

The Information Technologies Board is proposing people choose a child profile, family profile, domestic or standard profile for their connection. It is also proposing a ban on certain words from internet addresses.

Update: 50,000 Protestors

17th May 2011. Based on article from
See also The Declaration of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, May 15th, 2011 from

Thousands have gathered in more than 30 cities around Turkey in order to protest a new system of Internet censorship.

Protesters in Taksim Square in Istanbul called the action, which government related regulators claim is intended to protect minors, an assault on personal freedom and liberty and an act of censorship in Turkey.

Protesters organized coordinated demonstrations on social networking sites such as Facebook in dozens of cities around Turkey on Sunday. They carried posters reading Don't touch my Internet! during a march down I.stanbul's I.stiklal Street, which was attended by ten-thousands. Among the slogans people cheered, The Internet is ours and will remain ours! . In addition to street protests, about one million people joined campaigns organised online to protest the new regulation, which is claimed to mark the death of Internet in Turkey. The filtering is considered to be as unlawful and arbitrary .


6th May   

Update: The Death Warrant of the Internet...

Turkey tries to defend optional internet filtering from criticism
Link Here
Full story: Internet Censorship in Turkey...Website blocking insults the Turkish people

Responding to criticism that ISP website blocking, which is set to be implemented this summer, would turn the internet into a government-controlled structure, a Turkish official claimed that the control will be with users.

Tayfun Acerer, the head of the Prime Ministry's Information Technologies Board, or BTK, claims The new regulations are for the benefit of users

Under a decision on Rules and Procedures of the Safety of Internet Use, approved by the BTK in February, Internet users in Turkey will have to choose one of four Internet packages:

  • children: the most restrictive
  • family
  • domestic: all websites from outside Turkey are blocked
  • standard: currently blocked sites will continue to be blocked, but the voluntary blocks will not be applied

The blocking options will be implemented starting Aug. 22.

The news portal has filed a complaint to the Council of State, arguing that existing Turkish legislation gives the BTK no authority to make and enforce such a decision. According to the Washington-based advocacy group Freedom House, Internet censorship is on the rise in Turkey, where around 5,000 websites have been banned since 2001.

If we define the current structure of the Internet as the standard profile, then the changes can be seen as an addition to the current structure, Acerer said. He added that the BTK would decide the cost for subscribing to a particular package, but the actual transfer will be free of charge.

Users can either choose to continue with their current profile, or switch to another package, Acerer said, adding that the standard package will apply by default and that users who want to switch to another package will have to request it.

Republican People's Party, or CHP, deputy leader Emrehan Halici said Thursday that the new regulations are the death warrant of the Internet in Turkey.

Some 400,000 people will gather in several provinces of Turkey to protest the Information and Communication Technologies Authority, or BTK, which previously unveiled a content-filtering plan. The rally in Istanbul will take place on Istiklal Avenue's Galatasaray Square on May 15, bearing the catchphrase Don't touch my Internet.


30th April   

Update: 'Free' is a Banned Word in Turkey...

Turkish internet censors list 138 words that trigger URL blocking
Link Here
Full story: Internet Censorship in Turkey...Website blocking insults the Turkish people

A request made by the Turkish Telecommunications Directorate, or TIB, to ban a total of 138 words from Turkish Internet domain names has no legal basis and has left companies unsure of what action to take, according to experts.

Providing a list and urging companies to take action to ban sites that contain the words and threatening to punish them if they don't has no legal grounds, Yaman Akdeniz, a cyber-rights activist and a law professor at Istanbul Bilgi University, told the Hu rriyet Daily News. Akdeniz said no authority could decide that an action was illegal just by association.

The TIB cited the Internet ban law number 5651 and related legislation as the legal ground for its request. The law, however, does not authorize firms to take action related to banning websites.

The hosting company is not responsible for controlling the content of the websites it provides domains to or researching/exploring on whether there is any illegal activity or not. They are responsible for removing illegal content when they are informed and there is the technical possibility of doing so, according to Article 5 of the law.

The list of banned words has caused many scratching of heads

The effect of the TIB's request could see the closure of many websites that include a number of words. For example, the website ( could be banned because the domain name has the word animal in it; likewise,, ( could be closed down because of the word anal. Websites will also be forbidden from using the number 31 in their domain names because it is slang for male masturbation.

Some banned English words include beat, escort, homemade, hot, nubile, free and teen. Some other English words would also be banned because of their meanings in Turkish: pic, short for picture, is banned because it means bastard in Turkish. The past tense of the verb get is also banned because got means butt in Turkish. Haydar, a very common Alevi name for men, is also banned because it means penis in slang.

Gay , naked, confession, high school student, breath and forbidden are some of the other banned words.


11th April   

Vain Censorship...

Dubai censors negative article in Vanity Fair
Link Here

The up market magazine, Vanity Fair has wound up locals with an article panning the Gulf city state of Dubai. The magazine's April edition is on sale in bookshops but with the three pages of the column headlined Dubai on Empty removed.

The UAE newspaper censors of the National Media Council denied censoring the magazine. Local sources suggested the action against the Dubai-bashing article may have been at the initiative of magazine distributors rather than a case of formal censorship.

The missing piece was written by A.A. Gill who commented:

There is no greater compliment for a journalist than to be hand-censored. If anyone has any doubt about what I wrote about Dubai, the fact that you can't read it in Dubai makes the case.

The article slams Dubai and its expat and Emirati residents, as well as its giant shopping malls, its treatment of workers and legal system. Gill even belittles the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building that is the pride and joy of Dubai.

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