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   2013: April-June

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 Update: Twitter is a Scourge to Turkey...

Turkey asks Twitter to open an office in the country

Link Here 28th June 2013  full story: Internet Censorship in Turkey...Website blocking insults the Turkish people
Melonfarmers.co.uk

Turkey flagThe Turkish government has asked Twitter to set up an office inside the country so that it can be better pressurised into identifying users that the government doesn't like.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has previously described Twitter as a scourge . Now, Transport and Communications Minister Binali Yildrim said:

When information is requested, we want to see someone in Turkey who can provide this. There needs to be an interlocutor we can put our grievance to and who can correct an error if there is one.

Twitter declined to respond to the government request on Wednesday, but a person familiar with the company said it had no current plans to open an office in that country.

 

  For Reporting the News Rather than Penguins...

Turkish authorities launch intimidating Twitter campaign against BBC reporter

Link Here 25th June 2013
Melonfarmers.co.uk

turkey intimidationThe BBC says it is very concerned by a campaign by the Turkish authorities to intimidate its journalists . Mayor Ibrahim Melih Gokcek described BBC Turkish reporter Selin Girit as an English agent , launching a campaign against her on Twitter.

The mayor, a member of the ruling AK party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, began the Twitter campaign against Ms Girit accusing her of trying to undermine the Turkish economy in her reporting. He urged his followers to denounce the BBC journalist by sending tweets to the newly-created hashtag, which could be roughly translated as Don't be an agent on behalf of England Selin Girit .

But it also angered many people across the country. They countered by using the hashtag Melih Gokcek is a provocateur , which quickly rose to become the country's number one trending theme. The mayor is now threatening to sue every user tweeting with the hashtag.

In the statement, BBC Global News Director Peter Horrocks said that:

A large number of threatening messages have been sent to one of our reporters. There are established procedures for making comments and complaints about BBC output and we call on the Turkish authorities to use these proper channels.

In a separate statement, Britain's National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said:

We want to send a strong message to Turkish authorities - it is simply not acceptable to target journalists in your turbulent times. We condemn the attempts to intimidate journalists and the threats must stop immediately.

Update: Treason

28th June 2013. See  article from  guardian.co.uk

Until last week Selin Girit was little known in her home country. That all changed when the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoggan, accused her of treason after her coverage of the recent anti-government protests. The attack struck fear into other journalists, who believe Erdoggan -- having consistently blamed the media for fanning the protests -- is intent on stifling all dissent.

The campaign against Girit was launched last weekend when the mayor of Ankara, Melih Gokcek, started tweeting aggressively against her. The BBC protested strongly against what it called government intimidation. Erdogan was clearly unimpressed. Speaking in parliament a day later, he said Girit was part of a conspiracy against her own country.

Turkish journalists see the focus on Girit as a warning to them all -- an example to cow the rest of them into submission. Serdar Korucu, editor of a major Turkish news outlet, said: The prime minister is telling us, 'Be careful what you say and do, or you can easily be next.

 

  Messiah Complex...

Russell Brand cancels shows in Abu Dhabi and Lebanon

Link Here 21st June 2013

messiah complex russell brandRussell Brand has cancelled several gigs in the Middle East on safety grounds. Russell told Radio 5 Live's Richard Bacon show: The venues contacted us to say we can no longer guarantee your safety.

The comic's Messiah Complex world tour includes routines inspired by historical figures including Malcolm X and Gandhi and originally included dates in Abu Dhabi and Lebanon, but they have now been cancelled.

 

 Updated: Closed down because it broadcast the Taksim protest...

An open letter from the Turkish Hayat TV

Link Here 15th June 2013  full story: Press Freedom in Turkey...Not so free press

hayat tv logoHayat TV, a progressive Turkish TV channel of the working people, the youth, women and the intellectuals is facing closure.

We believe this is a blow to people's freedom of information.

The decision for the closure is made by the broadcasting regulator RTÜK, Radio & Television High Commission with the pretext that Hayat TV has no licence.

This is not true.

Hayat TV has been broadcasting since 21 March 2007 by ofcom license via TURKSAT satellite. But a recent change in broadcasting rules via TURKSAT requires broadcasters to obtain a RTÜK license to be able to broadcast via satellite.

Our application for a RTÜK license has been submitted and pending for a decision. We have taken all the necessary steps and RTÜK agreed that we could carry on broadcasting as it is until a RTÜK license is granted.

However, RTÜK is now making an arbitrary decision to close down our channel because of, we believe, our broadcast of recent protests in Istanbul and across Turkey.

RTÜK says they investigated "the complaints received for our coverage of the Gezi Park protests" and made a decision for the closure.

We believe this closure is part of the overall repression on the media in Turkey during the more than two-week-long Gezi Park protests. Four other TV channels have been given a fine by RTUK because of their coverage of the recent events.

RTUK sent a letter to TURKSAT to put an end to Hayat TV broadcast at 12:00 p.m. on Friday, 14 th June 2013.

We believe this arbitrary and unlawful decision should be reversed.

We call on all democratically minded people to show solidarity with Hayat TV .

Mustafa Kara

Hayat TV Broadcast Coordinator

Update: 4 TV stations fined for reporting on the Taksim park protests

15th June 2013.  See  article from  cpj.org

The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the Turkish state media regulator to reverse its decision to penalize four TV stations in connection with their coverage of the demonstrations that have occurred nationwide over the past two weeks.

The state broadcast regulator, the High Council of Radio and Television (RTÜK), levied fines against the pro-opposition TV stations Ulusal Kanal, Halk TV, Cem TV, and EM TV, in the amount of 12,000 Turkish lira (US$6,460) each, for allegedly "inciting violence" and "violating broadcasting principles,". RTÜK claimed that the stations' live coverage of clashes between riot police and protesters in Taksim Square could harm the physical, moral, and mental development of children and young people.

While mainstream television channels such as Habertürk, CNN Türk, and NTV were airing unrelated programming despite the dramatic events unfolding in Istanbul's streets--incurring the frustration of protesters--Ulusal Kanal, Halk TV, Cem TV, and EM TV were streaming live coverage.

 

  Incoherent Cuts...

UAE films censors leave viewers confused after cutting key scenes from I Give It a Year

Link Here 11th June 2013

I Give It Year DVDGoing to the cinema in the UAE can sometimes be a confusing experience.

Audiences for the British romcom I Give It a Year emerged from screenings somewhat earlier than they might have expected, and with unanswered questions about what they had just seen.

About 12 minutes had been removed from the film to ensure that it conformed to the UAE's repressive 'cultural values'. As a result, several scenes had clearly been abruptly terminated and a major plot development excised completely.

But when such cuts are necessary, would it be better not to screen such films in the first place and save audiences the Dh35 price of a ticket?

Simon El Khoury, of Gulf Film distributors explained:

When we receive the movie from the studio, we receive the original film. We show it to the National Media Council and they decide whether the movie needs cutting and [what] scenes should be cut from the film.

We have to cut them, we don't have any other choice. Of course we have to send [the list of cuts] to the studio to show them that these are the scenes that should be cut.

So would a distributor ever decide to voluntarily pull a film from the market rather than make the cuts and risk compromising the integrity of the film? We have never had this situation, El Khoury claims:

This never happens. It's usually a maximum of five minutes that we cut, it depends on the movie itself.

Usually when we cut something from a movie we don't cut conversations, we just cut a scene; for example when there is nudity. That's the only thing when some people notice there has been a cut.

UAE law  requires the removal of any scenes involving moral turpitude, or violating religious morals or values on which state and society are based .

Another film to be shown despite lengthy cuts was the 2009 Watchmen , based on the graphic novel of the same name. The heavy editing became a talking point among fans on the internet, when several scenes involving the main character - a blue-skinned physicist with super powers - were cut because he appeared nude.

Other films that reportedly received heavy editing, compromising the film's integrity, include Angelina Jolie's In the Land of Blood and Honey , Love in the Time of Cholera , Killer Joe , The Reader and Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantamo Bay .

 

 Update: The Most Dangerous Tweets...

Kuwaiti woman sentenced to 11 years for tweets calling for an end to the unjust regime

Link Here 11th June 2013  full story: Internet Censorship in Kuwait...Repressive internet censorship law

Kuwait flagA teacher in Kuwait has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for tweets that insulted the country's ruler and encouraged his overthrow.

Huda al-Ajmi received the longest known sentence for online dissent in the Gulf state, according to Kuwaiti opposition groups.

She reportedly faced three separate charges that included insulting the Emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, which carries a one-year sentence in itself. The other two five-year prison terms were given for inciting rebellion against the regime and violating laws on public discussions.

Kuwait has not seen the same scale of pro-democracy uprisings as other Arab states but dozens of people across the Gulf region have been sentenced to jail for Twitter and blog posts in the past year.

Ms al-Ajmi will be able to appeal her three sentences.

 

 Offsite Article: Twitter and Facebook Blocked in Turkey...

Link Here 5th June 2013  full story: Internet Censorship in Turkey...Website blocking insults the Turkish people
hotspot shield logo So internet users take to VPNs in response to the government censorship

See article from guardian.co.uk

 

 Offsite Article: News Censorship in Turkey...

Link Here 4th June 2013
Turkey flag How and why Turkish media has censored news of the park protests

See article from guardian.co.uk

 

  Where Jordan Leads, Britain Seems Set to Follow...

Jordan blocks news websites refusing to register for state censorship

Link Here 3rd June 2013

Jordan flagThe Jordanian government has blocked dozens of local news websites that have not yet registered or refused to register for censorship by the state-run Press and Publications Department.

The move to block the sites came after a six-month ultimatum given to news websites to register with the department in accordance with the repressive 2012 amended Press and Publications Law.

The head of the Press and Publications Department Fayez al Shawabkeh sent a memo to Jordan's Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) requesting a block on over 200 unregistered news websites by the kingdom's various ISPs.

The Coordination Committee of Electronic News Websites denounced the government's move to ban their sites.:

In this measure, The government and official agencies have violated all the commitments and promises it made to the journalism community of not resorting to blocking the sites, and their promises to make essential amendments to the Press and Publications Law.

The internet censorship law targets news websites with four main amendments, forcing news websites to register and get licensed, granting authorities executive powers to block and censor websites and close their local offices, and holds publishers, editors-in-chief, editors and managers liable for comments posted on their respective websites. The editor-in-chief is required to have been a member of the Jordan Press Association for at least four years, before a licence will be granted.

 

 Update: Insulting Religious Bla-Bla...

Turkish blogger jailed for a year for blasphemy

Link Here 23rd May 2013

Turkey flag An Istanbul court has sentenced Turkish-Armenian writer Sevan Nisanyan to 58 weeks in prison for an alleged insult to the religious character Muhammad in a blog post. The charges were insulting the religious beliefs held by a section of the society.

Nisanyan was charged with blasphemy after writing a blog post titled:

[We] need to fight hate speech. Making fun of an Arab leader who claimed he contacted Allah hundreds of years ago and received political, financial and sexual benefits is not hate speech,

On May 22, the day of the sentencing, Nisanyan bravely retweeted his blog post, writing:

Let's share the article that was sentenced to 13-and-a-half months at the Istanbul 10th Criminal Court for insulting religious bla-bla.

 

  Likely Government Internet Shutdown...

Syrian internet comes back online after about a day of downtime

Link Here 9th May 2013

Syria flag Syria's Internet links to the outside world were restored almost 20 hours after e-mail, websites and other services became inaccessible across much of the country, Google and other Web companies said.

Bakr Bakr, director general of the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment, a government-related company, claimed that the Web outage was a malfunction in a fiber-optic cable, according to an earlier report by the Middle East News Agency. Maintenance teams were working to restore access, Bakr was cited as saying.

The reason for the disruption wasn't immediately clear and may be due to a government-ordered shutdown of the Internet, according to Dan Hubbard, chief technology officer at Umbrella Security Labs and OpenDNS. Damage to infrastructure or cyberattack also are possibilities, though unlikely, he said.

 

  Lebanon Recommends...

The Attack, a film by Ziad Doueiri, banned for using Israeli actors

Link Here 29th April 2013  full story: Banned Films in Lebanon...Beirut Hotel

the attackThe Attack is a 2012 Lebanon/France/Qatar/Belgium drama by Ziad Doueiri.
With Ali Suliman, Evgenia Dodena, Reymond Amsalem. YouTube icon IMDb

Lebanese censors have banned the award-winning movie The Attack from being shown in the country because its Lebanese director shot part of the movie in Israel and used Israeli actors.

Director Ziad Doueiri explained the ban on his Facebook page:

I regret to inform you that the interior minister of Lebanon, Minister Charbel, has decided to punish us and the film by banning it. The reason for the rejection is that I, Ziad Doueiri, had spent time in Israel filming.

The Ministry [of Culture said it had nothing against the film, but that it wasn't 'Lebanese enough.' They also said they could not have a film with Israeli actors represent Lebanon at the Oscars. I knew from the start it was a lost cause.

All this does in the end is portray Lebanon in a negative light, and tell us, filmmakers, that we if think outside of the box, we 'll be considered pariahs and outlaws.

The film is about an Arab surgeon in a Tel Aviv hospital who finds out that his wife died in a suicide bombing. The film won the Special Jury Award at the 2012 San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain and the Golden Star at Morocco's Marrakesh Film Festival.

 

  Blaming News...

Iraq bans Al-Jazeera news channel seemingly blaming it for recent sectarian violence

Link Here 29th April 2013

Al Jazeera logoThe Iraqi authorities have announced that they had revoked the operating licences of the broadcaster al-Jazeera and nine other satellite TV channels, claiming that they are promoting a sectarian agenda.

The move comes as Baghdad tries to quell rising unrest in the country after clashes at a protest camp last week. More than 180 people have been killed in gun battles since the unrest began on Tuesday. The violence follows previously peaceful protests by Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority against the Shia-dominated government.

Al-Jazeera, based in Qatar, said:

We cover all sides of the stories in Iraq, and have done for many years. The fact that so many channels have been hit all at once though suggests this is an indiscriminate decision. We urge the authorities to uphold freedom for the media to report the important stories taking place in Iraq.

The other nine channels whose licences were suspended by Iraq's communications and media commission are al-Sharqiya, al-Sharqiya News, Salahuddin, Fallujah, Taghyeer, Baghdad, Babiliya, Anwar 2 and al-Gharbiya. Iraq's media commission accused the stations of misleading and exaggerated reports, as well as of airing clear calls for disorder and for launching retaliatory criminal attacks against security forces . It also blamed the stations for promoting banned terrorist organisations who committed crimes against Iraqi people .

 

  A Little Spat...

Greece offended that Qatar was offended by nude Greek statues

Link Here 29th April 2013

greek statueIn a classic clash of cultures, Greece has found itself at odds with Qatar, a nation it is keen to woo financially, over the presentation of masterworks depicting athletes in an exhibition dedicated to the Olympic games.

The dispute broke when Greece's culture minister, Costas Tzavaras, arrived in Doha last month to discover the anatomically challenging treasures cloaked in cloth for fear of 'offending' female spectators. An official explained:

In a society where there are certain laws and traditions authorities felt women would be scandalised by seeing such things, even on statues,

The minister, of course, said while he totally respected local customs he couldn't accept the antiquities not being exhibited in their natural state. They were great works of art and aesthetically it was wrong.

The statues, an archaic-era Greek youth and a Roman-era copy of a classical athlete, were to be the centrepiece of an exhibition entitled Olympic Games: Past and Present . But the statues have now been returned to Greece.

 

  Death Note...

Russian parents call for ban of Death Note manga after being found at the scene of a 15 Year old's suicide

Link Here 26th April 2013

Death Note Volume Tsugumi OhbaA group of parents from the central Russian area of Ural wrote an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin requesting a ban on the popular Japanese manga series Death Note . The parents are claiming that the manga series itself is harmful to children, and they claim as evidence a girl who committed suicide early this year, leaving four of the comic books at the scene of the incident.

According to local Russian media, a 15-year-old girl left Death Note comics and a suicide note before jumping from the window of their 13th floor apartment. Local police are now obliged to investigate if there is any connection at all between the suicide and the popular manga series.

In the open letter, the parents of the girl demanded of the Russian government that the books and related anime DVDs,  be banned. They argue that the Death Note manga series helps generate interest in death in children and in turn, has negative effects on their emotional development.

 

 Update: Denigrating Free Speech...

Turkish pianist given a suspended jail sentence for tweets that supposedly denigrate islam

Link Here 16th April 2013

Fazil Say 1001 Nights HaremThe conviction of a renowned Turkish pianist for denigrating Islam on Twitter sends a chilling message to social media users in the country, Amnesty International said.

Fazil Say, who has played in some of the world's leading orchestras, was given a 10-month suspended sentence for posting tweets mocking religious individuals and Islamic conceptions of heaven in April 2012.

Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International's expert on Turkey said:

The conviction of Fazil Say is a flagrant violation of his freedom of expression, made possible by one of Turkey's most draconian laws.

This case sends a chilling warning to anyone using Twitter or other social media in Turkey. Namely, that if you express an opinion the authorities don't like, you could be next.

An example re-tweet from the 9 cited in charges was:

I am not sure if you have noticed, but where there's a louse, a non-entity, a lowlife, a thief or a fool, they are all Islamists. Is this a paradox?

Update: Retrial

27th April 2013. See article from bloomberg.com

A Turkish court has canceled the conviction of Fazil Say, ordering a retrial. The court ruled that Say, who was given a suspended sentence of 10 months in prison on April 15 by a lower court, was not fully informed of his rights regarding the verdict and there were procedural errors. The decision was taken in response to an appeal by Say's lawyer Meltem Akyol.

Update: Re-sentenced to 10 months jail, hopefully suspended

21st September 2013. See  article from  commentarymagazine.com

World-renowned Turkish pianist Fazil Say, who was sentenced to 10 months in prison for blasphemy in April, was again sentenced to 10 months by an Istanbul court in a retrial. Say had received a suspended 10-month prison sentence on charges of insulting religious beliefs held by a section of the society, for re-tweeting several lines, which are attributed to poet Omar Khayyam... Say was convicted after tweeting the following lines:

You say its rivers will flow in wine. Is the Garden of Eden a drinking house?

You say you will give two houris to each Muslim. Is the Garden of Eden a whorehouse?

Update: Acquitted

7th December 2016.

An Istanbul court acquitted pianist Fazil Say on 7 September 2016 of blasphemy charges after a four-year legal battle stemming from a 2012 post he re-tweeted consisting of lines written by 11th century Persian poet Omar Khayyam.

The pianist went to trial in October 2012 after three people filed a criminal complaint against him. Blasphemy charges carry a potential 18-month prison sentence, but Say was later handed a suspended ten-month sentence in 2013 since he had no previous criminal record and was ordered to be monitored.

In late 2015 Turkey's Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the sentence saying his social media posts should be regarded as freedom of expression and thought. The recent court decision upheld the appellate court's decision, thus ending the pianist's lengthy legal ordeal.

 

 Update: Brave Humour...

Bassem Youseff continues joking about Egyptian president despite continuing threat from the authorities

Link Here 8th April 2013  full story: Press Freedom in Egypt...Press under duress in Egypt

bassem yousuf videoA Cairo court has rejected a petition by an Muslim Brotherhood lawyer to ban a satirical show for supposedly insulting the Mohamed Morsi, who is also a member of the Brotherhood.

Judge Hassouna Tawfiq said that the lawsuit against Bassem Youssef's El-Bernameg, (The Programme) , was dropped because the plaintiff did not have a direct interest in the case.

Youssef was interrogated this week in a separate case for allegedly insulting Islam and Morsi which was criticised by western governments and human rights groups.

Brotherhood lawyer Abul-Enein filed the suit demanding the suspension of the licence of the private satellite TV channel, the Capital Broadcasting Centre, which broadcasts the show. He claimed Youssef's show corrupted morals and violated religious principles.

Undeterred by the charges against him, Youssef was back on the air on Friday poking fun at the international publicity he received after lampooning the Egyptian president.

 

 

 Extract: No Joke...

More face charges in Egypt's escalating free speech and dissent crackdown

Link Here 5th April 2013  full story: Blasphemy in Egypt...Unswaying belief in injustice

Egypt flagToday's charges against yet another comedian for defaming religion are part of an alarming new escalation of politically-motivated judicial harassment and arrests, Amnesty International has said.

In the latest arrest, stand-up comedian Ali Qandil was interrogated at the public prosecutor's office on charges of defamation of religion on Bassem Youssef's satirical television show. Qandil denied insulting Islam, emphasizing that he poked fun at the exploitation of religion, rather than the religion itself. He was released on bail.

In a mounting crackdown on freedom of expression, up to 33 people have been targeted within the last two weeks, with arrests and charges.

Some have been charged with what seem to be politically motivated or trumped-up criminal charges. Others are charged with insulting the President or defamation of religion for actions that should not be criminalized as they merely amount to the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression.

Ann Harrison, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa said:

We are seeing arrests and charges for literally nothing more than cracking a few jokes. This is a truly alarming sign of the government's increasing intolerance of any criticism whatsoever.

There is no sign of this campaign of judicial harassment coming to an end. The government is seriously redoubling its efforts to stamp out freedom of expression.

...Read the full article

 

 Update: As Ready As They Will Ever Be...

Egypt censors ready to block internet porn. They just need a list of websites

Link Here 1st April 2013  full story: Internet Censorship in Egypt...Egypt blocks political and porn websites

Egypt flagEgypt is ready to start blocking pornographic websites. Sherif Hashem, deputy head of the National Telecom Regulatory Authority said:

The companies providing Internet service in Egypt have installed filters in their networks since January to block any content demanded by the judicial authorities in Egypt,.

Hashem now asks that concerned authorities specifically define what websites should be blocked so that the government can ask Internet providers to block them. He explained:

There is no such thing as blocking such sites as a whole, but they must be specified.

In November, the former prosecutor general sent official letters to the communications and information technology minister, the interior minister and the head of the National Telecom Regulatory Authority ordering that they block pornographic websites.