Middle East Censorship News

 2016 Jan-March

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 Updated: Free speech flees Germany and seeks refuge elsewhere...

Turkey demands that Germany censors satirical videos and poems about Erdogan


Link Here 18th April 2016  full story: Erdogan Insulted in Germany...Free speech finds no refuge in Germany
ndr angers erdogan video Ankara reportedly tried to pressurise Berlin into censoring a satirical clip aired by German broadcaster NDR earlier this month.

However, the show's producers decided to amplify the message and released English and Turkish subtitled versions of the video criticizing the Turkish President.

Following the broadcast of the satirical piece titled Erdowie, Erdowo, Erdogan on an NDR show titled Extra 3 on March 17, German Ambassador Martin Erdmann was summoned several days later to officially explain in length the reasons for the broadcaster's behavior. An anonymous Turkish diplomat told AFP:

We demanded that the programme be deleted.

On Tuesday, the Foreign Office in Berlin said that Erdmann has been called in once again. However, during the meeting the German ambassador made it clear to the Turkish side that Germany is home to freedom of speech which it will protect. Erdmann said:

The rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the protection of fundamental freedoms, including press freedom... need to be protected.

In the meantime, Extra 3 went out on a full-blown offensive against Erdogan's demand. The program's Facebook page shared an image of the request to stop showing the clip under the caption: Erdogan's idea of 'TV on demand' .

The satirical piece about The big boss from Bosporus, who is ripe for his great Ottoman Empire, starts off with criticizing Erdogan crackdown on freedom of speech. Erdogan is also criticized for the alleged shuffling of the electorate votes and cracking down on women.

The controversy inevitably added to the popularity of the video, with the English version of the video on YouTube receiving over 1.7 million views in less than 24 hours after the news first emerged of Ankara summoning the German Ambassador.

Update: Unappreciated censorship

31st March 2016. See  article from rt.com

european commission logoEuropean Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker has criticized Ankara's reaction to a satirical clip about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan broadcast on German TV. Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said:

The EU chief does not approve of [Ankara's] decision to summon Germany's envoy just over a satirical song. He believes this moves Turkey away from the EU rather than brings it closer to us.

She quoted the Commission chief as saying that Turkey's reaction:

Doesn't seem to be in line with upholding the freedom of the press and freedom of expression, which are values the EU cherishes a lot .

Update: Germany grovels to Turkish censors

7th April 2016. See  article from rt.com
See also article from thelocal.de
See video from YouTube

erdogan poem video A German prosecutor's office has confirmed that it is investigating if TV comedian Jan Böhmermann violated the law by reciting a "defamatory poem" about Turkish President Erdogan, while Chancellor Angela Merkel called the piece deliberately insulting.

Böhmermann  introduced the piece by speaking directly to the Turkish president: What I'm about to read is not allowed. If it were to be read in public - that would be forbidden in Germany, Böhmermann said, before proceeding to perform his smear poem which, among many insults, called Erdogan a goat fucker who watches child porn while kicking Kurds.

The prosecution is to determine whether Böhmermann, the host of German state broadcaster ZDF's satirical program Neo Magazine Royale, breached section 103 of the German criminal code that forbids insulting official bodies and representatives of foreign states.

Meanwhile, the German Ministry of Justice was reportedly asked by the prosecution to determine, if Turkey had launched a criminal probe in the name of its head of state. Section 104 of the German criminal code allows prosecutors to proceed with such investigations only at a foreign government's request. So far, Turkey has not initiated any public proceedings against the comedian.

In an attempt to remedy the situation, German Chancellor Angela Merkel blasted the poem as deliberately insulting in a phone conversation with Turkish Prime-Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Sunday, according government spokesman Steffen Seibert.

In the wake of the conversation, a video recording of the poem was removed from ZDF's website. The broadcaster's spokesman, Alexander Stock, said that what was presented in the form of a poem for us have been a step too far.

Update: Bluffs are being called, is Germany now ruled by Turkey?

12th April 2016. See article from dw.com

Germany flagTurkey is now asking for Germany to prosecute a satirist who made fun of its president.

No matter how Merkel decides, experts say she can't win. She'll either offend an important diplomatic partner or alienate German supporters for being seen to be under the influence of a repressive dictator.

On Monday, the German government announced it would look into Turkey's request to prosecute jan Böhmermann for a taunting poem the satirist presented in his weekly TV show, Neo Magazine Royale . In it, Böhmermann  called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a zoophile, accusing him of sleeping with goats and beating up girls, Christians and Kurds.

The diplomatic spat between Turkey and Germany comes at an especially inopportune time. For Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkey is an important partner in the refugee crisis. Merkel has already given Turkey a massively generous (and unsupported by many in Europe) carrot of an opportunity for early entry into the EU.

Critics of the deal had already complained that by entering the agreement, Merkel would make herself too dependent on Erdogan, a man whose regime has recently made news by shutting down newspapers and arresting government-critical journalists.

Even foreign politicians have entered the discussion. Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has proclaimed his support for Böhmermann, despite having been the butt of his jokes many times in the past.

Spiked logoOffsite Comment: Germany's unfunny attack on the freedom to mock

15th April 2016. See article from spiked-online.com by Sabine Beppler-Spahl

Don't blame Turkey for Germany's prosecution of a satirist.

Update: Merkel grovels to Erdogan and OKs prosecution of satirist

angela merkel 201616th April 2016. See  article from theguardian.com

 Angela Merkel, has been criticised by members of her cabinet after acceding to a request from the Turkish president  to prosecute a comedian who read out a poem insulting Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Merkel was left with the final decision on whether Germany's state prosecutor should start proceedings against Böhmermann after Erdogan requested the comedian be prosecuted.

Under an obscure section of Germany's criminal code, prosecution for insults against organs or representatives of foreign states requires both a notification from the offended party and an authorisation from the government.

Update: German censorship victim has decided to suspend his own TV show

18th April 2016. See  article from france24.com

erdogan poem video A German comedian whose satirical poem about the new leader of Germany, Recep Tayyip Erdogan,  has demonstrated the loss of freedom of speech in the country. Popular comic Jan Boehmermann has now decided to suspend his own TV show.

In light of the controversy Boehmermann said he was taking a televisual pause to allow the public to concentrate again on really important matters such as the refugee crisis, videos of cats or the love life of (German actress and model) Sophia Thomalla .

Merkel's decision to OK the persecution of Boehmermann has appalled rights bodies such as Human Rights Watch which has called on the German authorities to defend freedom of speech even if the contents of the speech are offensive to some .

 

 Update: Extreme censorship...

Saudi internet censors block 600,000 websites


Link Here 18th March 2016  full story: Internet Censorship in Saudi...Communications under threat
Saudi flag Saudi Arabia's Communications and Information Technology Commission has blocked 600,000 websites over 2 years that contained pornographic and other prohibited materials.

Those who have published and promoted pornographic content will face extreme punishments of up to 5 years in prison and a fine of 3 million Saudi riyals (about $800,000).

 

 Update: Yesterday's Zaman...

Turkey forcibly censors critical opposition newspaper


Link Here 5th March 2016  full story: Press Freedom in Turkey...Not so free press
todays-zaman Turkish police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse crowds protesting outside the headquarters of the opposition Zaman newspaper. They moved in to secure the premises following a government decision to forcibly take over the management of the media group.

The daily confirmed that police had gone to the management floor in the building, and were preventing editors from entering their offices. The journalists were shut out of their offices while police allegedly confiscated their cell phones, according to reports on social media.

The raid began shortly before midnight after a day of standoffs between police and opposition protesters furious about a government crackdown on the free press.

Responding to an unlikely claim about terrorist groups influencing the newspaper, a  court had earlier ordered the sacking of the entire management and the editorial team of Feza Media Group companies and to replace the entire group's administration with a three-member board appointed by the state court.

Following the court ruling the newspaper editorial team released a statement through its English-language sister publication, Today's Zaman, calling the takeover the darkest and gloomiest for the freedom of the press. The statement added that media organizations and journalists are being silenced via threats and blackmail.

After the ruling, hundreds of people gathered outside the newspaper's offices in Istanbul protesting against the move, before police fired tear gas at protesters as they stormed the head office building.

Amnesty International has condemned the move to silence the opposition press. Even Washington, while reaffirming Turkey's crucial role as a NATO member and US ally in the region, had to admit that the Turkish government's recent actions are not fully consistent with the spirit of democracy.  State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said:

We see this as the latest in the series of troubling judicial and law enforcement actions taken by the Turkish government targeting media outlets and others critical of it...We call on the Turkish government to ensure full respect for due process and equal treatment under the law. Court-ordered supervision of a media company's finances and operations should not prompt changes to the newsroom or editorial policy.

 

 Petition: Satanic Justice...

Members of an Iranian heavy metal band are being held on blasphemy charges


Link Here 25th February 2016  full story: Blasphemy in Iran...Repression of free speech
confess petition Two members of the Iranian heavy metal band Confess are being held for blasphemy after they were arrested by the state's religious guard and accused of writing satanic music.

Nikan Siyanor Khosravi and Khosravi Arash Ilkhani are believed to have been arrested and jailed on November 10. Held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison by the Revolutionary Guards until February 5, the pair wrote and released their own heavy metal albums and ran a record label. Extreme punishments are available for the prosecuting authorities

Their latest album, released in October, included tracks named Teh-Hell-Ran and I'm Your God Now , both of which would likely rankle with the state's hardline Islamic leadership.

Tara Sepehri Far, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, told MailOnline the pair likely faced up to five years in prison. She said it was likely they would be facing insulting sacred beliefs charges, as other musicians had been in the past, rather than insulting the prophet , which is punishable by death. She added:

Iranian musicians, especially the ones who play non-classical western music, are navigating a minefield. Due to severe censorship, most of these groups are performing underground.

Anything from the content of their lyrics to the style of the music they play might violate unwritten regulations that musicians are expected to adhere to by various authorities.

Social media accounts of those close to the band expressed concern about the pair's plight, and included messages of support and the sharing of the #freeconfess hashtag.

Sign the petition from change.org :

Help Free CONFESS they were arrested by the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution and are facing charges of blasphemy, advertising against the system, running an illegal and underground band and record label promoting music considered to be Satanic writing anti-religious lyrics and granting interviews to forbidden foreign radio stations.

 

  The Egyptian Guide for Using Censorship...

Author jailed for 2 years for sex references in a novel


Link Here 21st February 2016
the guide for using lifeEgyptian author Ahmed Naji has been given a two-year prison sentence for supposedly violating public modesty after publishing a book with references to sex and drugs.

The case was initially overturned in January, but after an appeal by the prosecution the case returned to court and Naji was given the maximum possible sentence.

It was a private prosecution where charges against the author after an except of his novel The Guide for Using Life was published in the magazine Akhbar al-Adab . The editor of the magazine, Tarek El Taher, was also given a fine equivalent to £885.

Naji had previously said that The Guide for Using Life had been approved by the Egyptian censorship board.

Naji was detained in court and remained in custody as the preparations began for his appeal.

Mai El-Sadany, an expert on Egyptian law at the Robert F Kennedy Center for Human Rights in Washington DC said:

Today's verdict is a travesty for freedom of expression and justice more broadly. It comes in the context of a broader crackdown which has brought us the detention of academics at airports, the harassment of cartoonists for their artwork, and the raiding of publishing houses

 

 Update: Traditional Censorship Values...

Several Turkish government departments will cooperate to censor what people are saying on social media


Link Here 28th January 2016  full story: Internet Censorship in Turkey...Website blocking insults the Turkish people
Turkey flagTurkey's ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) will begin to monitor all media, including social media, to ensure it promotes traditional family values and not individualism.

Hurriyet reports that a number of government agencies, including ministries of family and social policies, culture and tourism, youth and sports, national education and the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), Turkey's media censor, will collaborate to censor all media. Measures will be taken to ensure that visual, aural and social media, news, tabloids, films and similar types of productions conform to our traditional family values, the AKP government noted in a statement.

The government claims the move is necessary as individualism has become one of many grave dangers facing traditional values in the country. It did not specify what constitutes family values, or note any specific examples of content that would violate this measure.

 

 Update: No Wine, Piggies or Bush!...

Iran sets out its book censorship rules


Link Here 21st January 2016  full story: Book Censors in Iran...Iranian literary censors
Lives Lies Iran Contra Affair Wroe Iran has banned the use of the word wine as well as the names of foreign animals and certain foreign presidents .

Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance is imposing the ban to counter a Western cultural onslaught . Mohammad Selgi, head of book censorship at the ministry, said:

When new books are registered with us, our staff first has to read them page by page to make sure whether they require any editorial changes in line with promoting the principles of the Islamic revolution, effectively confronting the Western cultural onslaught and censoring any insult against the prophets.

Words like wine and the names of foreign animals and pets, as well as names of certain foreign presidents are also banned under the new restricting regulations.

According to BBC Persia , Selgi also spoke out against books on psychology that cite masturbation as a treatment method.

 

 Updated: Now Danish Girl is harassed by a mob of film censors of Arabic origin...

Transgender film banned in Qatar, UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait


Link Here 17th January 2016
Danish Girl DVD Eddie Redmayne The Danish Girl is a 2015 UK / Germany / USA biography by Tom Hooper.
Starring Amber Heard, Alicia Vikander and Eddie Redmayne. Youtube link BBFC link IMDb

Qatar: Banned in January 2016

The Danish Girl has been pulled from cinemas in Qatar following online protests about the depravity of the film, which tells the story of an artist who underwent one of the world's first gender reassignment operations. Representatives from the country's culture ministry wrote on Twitter:

We would like to inform you that we have contacted the concerned administration and the screening of the Danish film is now banned from cinemas. We thank you for your unwavering vigilance.

The film had opened in cinemas in Doha on Thursday only to be banned four days later.

Promotional Material

Based on the book by David Ebershoff, The Danish Girl is the remarkable love story inspired by the lives of Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener, portrayed by Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) and Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina), and directed by Academy Award winner Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables). Lili and Gerda’s marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili’s groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer.

Meanwhile in the UK the film was  passed 15 uncut by the BBFC for sexualised scenes for its cinema release


Update: Censor Mob

17th January 2016. See article from hollywoodreporter.com

Elsewhere in the Middle East, sources told The Hollywood Reporter that The Danish Girl failed to pass local censors in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Jordan and Kuwait.

 

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