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Middle East Censorship News

2013: July-Sept

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Offsite Article: Would it Pass Or Not...

Link Here14th September 2013
A Lebanese playwright has exposed the farcical sensitivity of the country's Censorship Bureau

See article from



Update: Dangerous Software...

Iran commutes death sentence for programmer who worked on image upload software for adult websites

Link Here27th August 2013
Full story: Internet Death Sentence...Iran goes extreme over website censorship
Saeed Malekpour, an Iranian programmer residing in Canada, was sentenced to death in Iran for designing porn websites. This death sentence has now been commuted to life imprisonment, with the explanation that Malekpour had repented.

As AVN reported in January of last year, Malekpour was detained by Iranian authorities in 2008 after traveling back home to visit his father, who was ill. He was charged with helping design porn sites in Canada, and despite appeals from the Canadian government, his family and others that he was innocent of the charges, he was convicted and sentenced to death in December 2010.

Iran had accused Malekpour of being the head of the biggest Persian-language network of pornographic websites. But credible supporters said he had simply worked as a freelance website developer and programmer, creating a program to allow designers to upload photos to their websites.



Update: Timely Suspending of Sharia Law...

Egypt court turns down case calling for internet censorship based on the claim that porn is incompatible with sharia

Link Here25th August 2013
Full story: Internet Censorship in Egypt...Egypt blocks political and porn websites
Egypt's judiciary has turned down a court case calling for banning of internet pornography websites.

The case was filed by lawyer Ibrahim Atteya, citing article two of the now suspended 2012 constitution. The article stated that the principles of Islamic Sharia are the main source of legislation. Atteya claimed that internet websites which spread indecency do not comply with Islamic Sharia.

The case was turned down since Atteya failed to abide by proper procedure when filing his original requests to cancel the decision.

Hassan Azhary, lawyer at the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) had argued that: Technically speaking, the internet pornography ban is almost impossible . He explained that the ban is very costly; it could costs millions of Egyptian pounds. He added that it's very difficult to list down the names of all pornography websites. Azhary also said there are some programs which can open banned websites: A ban would be a waste of public money.



Update: A Heritage of Censorship...

Turkish Supreme Court censors French erotic novel

Link Here7th August 2013

Turkey's Supreme Court of Appeals has overturned a previous ruling of acquittals of supposed obscenity regarding Guillaume Apollinaire's The Exploits of Young Don Juan .

Ruling that the previous ruling was unlawful , Supreme Court of Appeals said the book could not be considered within the freedom of expression.

Irfan Sanci, owner of Sel Publishing House, told bianet:

It is impossible to agree with Supreme Court of Appeals verdict. On the other hand, Guillaume Apollinaire's written works have been recognized as world heritage by European Parliament. In a way, they are prosecuting the world heritage here.

We don't appreciate the fact that experts are to determine whether a book is literary or not. This decision can only be made by readers, publishers and editors. You can't say a book is literary because the court said so. However, we applied to court for expert report after a report by Prime Ministry Protecting Youngsters From Obscene Publications Council.

Previously, publishing house owner Irfan Sanci and translator Ismail Yerguz stood trial for translating and publishing supposedly obscene material. Istanbul 2nd Assize Court acquitted the book, saying that it didn't include any crime elements. The case was sent to Supreme Court of Appeal. The chamber unanimously overthrew the previous ruling, ordering a new trial.

The Supreme Court censors explained their verdict:

The aforementioned book in trial included content with no story frame and solely simple expression to arouse sexual instincts. Through the narrative of children, it uses a language where anal, lesbian, unnatural and bestial relations are depicted. Those expressions degrades society's general moral values, provoked and violated sexual desires, and disgusted readers with depictions of characters' excretion. The aforementioned book was not based on artistic point of view. It is unacceptable that a French translation including pervert expression on family members, same sexes and animals could be considered as symbol of open-mindedness within the borders of expression freedom in a democratic society.



Offsite Article: Video Police...

Link Here5th August 2013
Turkish police don't see the funny side to stage satire about the country's justice system

See article from



Update: Dictatorial Threats...

Turkish PM threatens to sue the London Times for printing open letter critical of his heavy handed handling of Gezi park protests

Link Here27th July 2013
Full story: Press Freedom in Turkey...Not so free press

Turkey's prime minister has threatened legal action against the Times newspaper for publishing an open letter criticising his handling of recent protests.

Hollywood celebrities and academics were among those who signed the letter this week accusing Turkey's government of dictatorial rule .

Erdogan claimed in comments broadcast on Turkey's NTV channel:

The Times is renting out its own pages for money. This is the Times' failing. We will pursue legal channels regarding the Times.

Erdogan said those who signed the letter, taken out as an full-page advertisement:

If they truly believed in democracy, they couldn't have displayed such a lack of character to call the leader of a party that won 50% of the vote a dictator.

The open letter was signed by 30 people including Turkish pianist Fazil Say, US film stars Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, film director David Lynch and British historian David Starkey.



Telling Good Fortunes...

Egyptian artists relieved by the ousting of President Morsi

Link Here22nd July 2013

Statements issued by a number of Egyptian artists following the military council's decision to depose former President Mohammed Morsi indicate a true state of revival. Morsi's ousting has been interpreted as a real opportunity for Egyptian arts and culture to return to the Arab arena, after they experienced a significant recession starting in 2011.

Egyptian actor Adel Imam was one of those who benefited most from the Brotherhood's fall from power, despite the fact that he was very reserved when it came to voicing his position against the Brotherhood during Morsi's reign. He went so far as to praise the president during a television appearance.

Producers affiliated with the television series Al-Araaf [The Fortune Teller] --- starring Imam and written by Yousef Muati --- described the fall of the Brotherhood regime as a victory for the cinema industry. The first episodes of this series was broadcast on various satellite channels, attracted viewers from throughout the Arab world. The Brotherhood regime had already decided to ban the series, a decision that would have gone into effect had Morsi remained in power. This could have led to a repeat of Imam's previous trial, when he was charged with insulting religion.

The satisfaction and delight of the Egyptian cultural arena is evident in many statements that were issued and columns that appeared on the pages of Egyptian cultural magazines. An example of this is the magazine Akhbar al-Adab , which sparked a wave of protests that nearly led to its closure. Gamal al-Gheitani wrote about the bloodthirsty nature of the Brotherhood. accusing its members of seeking revenge against the Egyptian people who opposed their rule.

The optimism is also evident in the writings of Salah Issa, who said, Egyptians realized that they were deceived, that they had bet on the wrong side of history, and that they had fallen prey to a trick in the name of religion.

The first signs of victory for the Egyptian art scene emerged quickly, after the decision was taken to broadcast the television series The Preacher. This series, starring Hani Salama, had been banned by the Brotherhood under the pretext that insulted preachers, according to officials at the time.



Update: Pressing Problems...

Press TV banned from Intelsat satellites

Link Here12th July 2013
Full story: Press TV...Political censoship merges with TV censorship

The Iranian propaganda channel Press TV has been dropped from the Intelsat satellite.

Other channels such as Hispan TV, Al-Alam, IRIB 1 and 2 and Sahar TV were all removed at the same time, with the Luxembourg based Intelsat stating that it will no longer provide services to Iranian channels as of July 1st.

The reason given for the decision was that Intelset had to abide by US sanctions imposed on Iran's state-run radio and TV company, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), and its president, Ezzatollah Zarghami.

But protests from the Iranian government have thus far fallen on deaf ears, in no small part due to the regime's own hypocrisy in this area. The Iranian government continues to jam signals from European satellites into Iran, a policy dating back to 2009. Among the affected broadcasters are BBC Persian, France24, the US-funded Voice of America and Germany's Deutsche Welle.

Press TV has already been banned from UK TV and from Eutelsat's Hotbird satellite.



Update: Distorted and Distressed...

Indian parliamentary committee looks to banning internet porn

Link Here12th July 2013
Full story: Internet Censorship in India...India considers blanket ban on internet porn

An Indian parliamentary committee has decided to look into banning cyber porn amid complaints that it is supposedly distorting and distressing the society.

The Committee on Petitions is seeking a ban on cyber pornography by amending the IT Act, 2000. The committee has sought opinion from stakeholders and public to help formulate its view.

Jain priest Vijayratna Sunder Suri and MP Vijay J Darda petitioned that the free sex culture through cyber pornography is distorting and distressing society:

More than two-third of India's population is below 35 years. This large section of the population, which is the hope for the country's future, is getting digressed, distorted and distressed due to the growing free sex culture through cyber pornography.

The petitioners have blamed cyber porn for what they claim growing problems of psycho-physical nature, including sexually transmitted diseases and sexual deformities among others. The petition has demanded an amendment to the IT Act so as to make pornography on computer or mobile a crime, attracting severe punishment to the producers, distributors and viewers of such sites.



Update: Revealing All...

Blackberry gives Indian authorities the ability to snoop on mail, chat, messages and website visits

Link Here12th July 2013
Full story: BlackBerry Mobile Phones...Winding up countries who can't snoop on users

Blackberry is ready to provide the Indian authorities with a way to intercept consumers' messages sent and received on its platform.

The news was revealed by the Times of India, which published part of a leaked government document. It said officials appeared to have dropped demands that the firm also made it possible to access business emails sent over Blackberry Enterprise Server.

The authorities will then be able to:

  • track email and email attachments sent over the consumer-version of Blackberry Internet Service (BIS)
  • see when chats sent over Blackberry Messenger (BBM) were delivered and read
  • monitor which websites were visited

Blackberry has issued a statement confirming its co-operation.

This would bring an end to a long-running dispute between the two sides.



Cutting Strings...

Israel bans puppet festival claiming that it was critical of the state

Link Here10th July 2013

Israeli authorities have shut down  two theaters, one Palestinian-run, and one Israeli, for performing cultural theater performances that Israel considers to be critical of its political agenda and policies.

The affected theaters are the El-Hakawati Puppet Theater in East Jerusalem, and the Khan Theater in West Jerusalem.

The Puppet Theater was scheduled to begin this summer with a festival (the 19th annual El-Hakawati Puppet Festival), but the Israeli minister of internal security, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, shut down the festival by claiming that the El-Hakawati Puppet Theater was somehow connected with the Palestinian Authority. The theater owners vehemently deny that any of their funding came from the Palestinian Authority, and have opened their account books publicly to verify this fact.

The puppet festival was supposed to open on June 22nd, featuring Palestinian, Nordic, French and Turkish puppeteers. But the ruling by Aharonovitch prevented the festival from taking place as planned.

Over 1300 Israelis, including many actors, directors and artists, signed a petition condemning the shutdown of El-Hakawati Puppet Festival and Theater.



Update: A Smart New Suit...

Iran's president elect signals a softer line on web censorship and Islamic dress code

Link Here3rd July 2013
Full story: Iranian Internet Censorship...Extensive internet blocking

Iran's president-elect Hassan Rouhani has expressed relatively progressive views about civil liberties, freedom of expression and the internet .

In an interview in the Iranian media, Rouhani told youth magazine Chelcheragh that he is opposed to segregation of sexes in society, would work to minimise censorship and believes internet filtering is futile.

In the age of digital revolution, one cannot live or govern in a quarantine, he said as he made clear he is opposed to the authorities' harsh crackdown on Iranians owning satellite dishes.

Of internet filtering, Rouhani said some of the measures taken by the authorities to restrict users' access online was not done in good faith and was instead politically motivated:

There are political reasons. They have fears of the freedom people have in online atmosphere, this is why they seek to restrict information. But filtering is incapable of producing any [useful] results.

Supporters of internet filtering should explain whether they've successfully restricted access to information? Which important piece of news has filtering been able to black out in recent years?

Filtering has not even stopped people from accessing unethical [a reference to pornographic] websites. Widespread online filtering will only increase distrust between people and the state.

Rouhani also pledged to minimise censorship of artistic and cultural works. In his interview, Rouhani said he opposed segregation of men and women, including at universities, and criticised the politicians who are against allowing women to enter stadiums to watch football matches along with men. He also explained that he opposed the religious police acting as fashion police by enforcing islamic dress codes. He also said that a women without a hijab is not necessarily without virtue.

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