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United in criticism...

UN calls upon Iran to free musicians jailed for insulting islamic sanctities

Link Here27th June 2016

The United Nations Special Rapporteurs on cultural rights, Karima Bennoune, and on freedom of expression, David Kaye, have called on the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to release musicians Mehdi Rajabian and Yousef Emadi, and filmmaker Hossein Rajabian, who were imprisoned and heavily fined earlier this month. Ms. Bennoune said.

These three artists were sentenced for exercising their right to freedom of artistic expression and creativity, which in turn results in unjustifiable restrictions on the right of all persons in Iran to have access to and enjoy the artsArtistic expression is simply not a crime.

The human rights experts contacted the Iranian authorities on these cases earlier this year, including on the use of torture against Mr. Rajabian, musician and founder of Barg Music, an alternative music distributor in Iran.

Barg Music was the main medium broadcasting alternative music in the country and had introduced more than 100 music albums and thousands of single records by Iranian alternative musicians, as well as female singers, to Iranian audiences, before being shut down by Revolutionary Guards in 2013.

In May 2015, and, according to the Government's answer to the UN experts, the three artists were sentenced to six years in prison and a fine of 50 million Rials each (some 1,658 USD) for insulting Islamic sanctities , propaganda against the State and conducing illegal activities in the audiovisual affaires including through producing prohibited audiovisual material and performing an illegal and underground music site . On appeal, the prison sentence was reduced to three years. Mr. Kaye said:

We take note that the sentence of the artists was reduced by the appeal court However, this verdict is still unacceptable: detaining someone on the grounds of 'insulting the sacred' and 'propaganda against the state' is incompatible with international human rights standards.

Ms. Bennoune added:.

I am particularly dismayed that Mehdi Rajabian, Yousef Emadi and Hossein Rajabian were allegedly forced to make self-incriminating televised 'confessions' to the charges of having produced prohibited audiovisual materials, to express regret for their work and to apologize for broadcasting the voice of female singers, This amounts to an extraordinary attack against these artists, and one which has serious repercussions for others in Iran.

The arrest, conviction and sentencing of artists is entirely unacceptable and in complete violation of international human rights law binding on Iran. The three artists should be released immediately and all charges dropped.

The expert's call has also been endorsed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, and the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Mr. Juan E. Mendez.



Offsite Article: Hulking bullies...

Link Here11th June 2016
Bankrupting Gawker over a grudge isn't justice. It's censorship. By Nicky Woolf

See article from



Update: Model persecution...

Turkish celebrity given suspended prison sentence for sharing a post insulting King Erdogan

Link Here2nd June 2016
Full story: Insulting Turkishness...Insulting Turkishness law used to repress
An Turkish court has found the well known model, Merve Buyuksarac, guilty of insulting a public official, after she shared a poem on her Instagram account in 2014 that was deemed insulting to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country's president. She was given a 14 month suspended prison sentence.

Ms Buyuksarac was one of thousands of people to share the poem, which did not mention Mr Erdogan - who was then prime minister - by name, but alluded to a corruption scandal that allegedly involved his family.

Her lawyer, Emre Telci, said he would file a formal objection to the verdict and appeal her case at the European Court of Justice. Telci said:

These insult trials are being initiated in series, they are being filed automatically. Merve was prosecuted for sharing a posting that did not belong to her.

The case against Ms Buyuksarac is one of almost 2,000 defamation suits that have been brought against critics of Erdogan since he became president in 2014. The trials have targeted journalists, academics and even schoolchildren. Free speech advocates say the law is being used aggressively to silence and intimidate critics.



On a repressive note...

Religious censors in Turkey issue a fatwa banning sexual music

Link Here22nd May 2016

Artists are facing severe difficulties under Erdogan's rule in Turkey. On 15 February 2016, The Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs, issued a fatwa -- a religious ban -- on sexual music.

The Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs is a governmental institution responsible for managing the religious affairs in Turkey. It is infamous for its scandalous fatwas.

On 15 February 2016, a new fatwa hit the news. The Directorate distributed a 2016 calendar, in which they included a Q&A for each day. On the page for the day 24 August, the question was What is the place of music in religion? Which types of music are halal (acceptable for Islam)? The answer started with some general information:

According to Quran, there is no proof which shows that making or listening to music is a sin. In this sense, the types of music which do not contradict with the fundamental beliefs of our religion and with the general moral values are unobjectionable.

Then came the but :

BUT... making or listening to music which includes expressions or depictions that arouse sexual desires or which show haram things as beautiful is a sin.

The fatwas by the Directorate, whose members are all appointed by the government, are not legally binding or cannot be used as legal opinions or precedents, but they have practical effect. They form public opinion. They direct the central and local governments about what type of art and which artists to support. They encourage public prosecutors to start cases against Islamically unacceptable art works and artists. They present legitimacy for the government's change of legislature. They are influential.

An imam, previously with the rockband Kramp , who now runs the band Firock , is opposing the Directorate's fatwa from a religious perspective.



'Have mercy on us and leave us alone'...

Lebanon's government censor bans song for asking god to leave us alone

Link Here22nd May 2016
  The censorship bureau of Lebanon's General Security Directorate has banned Bachar Mar-Khalife's song Kyrie Eleison because it supposedly contains offenses to God as the singer talked to God in the song saying, 'have mercy on us and leave us alone' .

The authorities further stated that if Bashar Mar-Khalife wants to promote his album in the country then he must delete the song from the album. Authorities also cllaimed in their statement that the song included words that could be interpreted as sexual innuendo.



Offsite Article: Iran? Well I've never heard of it, it doesn't exist...

Link Here16th May 2016
A group in Iran has organized a Holocaust-themed cartoon? competition. The Daily Mail claims 'fury' from the international community, but I can't say I have noticed any

See article from



Update: Disgusted...

German MPs 'shocked' as controversial poem about Erdogan was readout in the Bundestag

Link Here13th May 2016
Germany's parliament was 'shocked' when one MP read aloud Jan Bohmermann's poem about Turkey's president which sparked an international free speech row last month. His performance was aired on national TV. He said the aim had been to show how awful it was.

The poem about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gained an audience in the Bundestag when Detlef Seif, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party recited the entire text standing at the pulpit.

Unbelievable, the audience gasped in awe when Seit began to recite the text.

Seit said he wanted to illustrate how awful the text was, claiming that he had been absolutely disgusted by it:

I didn't want to do this, but I read this to you so that one knows what was actually said here. A person's honor is clearly infringed upon here.



Yesterday's Zaman...

Turkey permanently censors newspaper that it does not like

Link Here6th May 2016
Full story: Press Freedom in Turkey...Not so free press
The Turkish government is shutting down Zaman newspaper, one of the last surviving newspapers that is critical of Turkey's repressive government.

Police raided the offices of the newspaper in March and the government has now decided that it should be permanently shut down.  The government had been running the newspaper as a propaganda organ since the police raid.

Along with Zaman, a number of other Feza Media Group outlets will be shut down, including Cihan News Agency. Küre tv will also be closed.



Not yet time to sing a new song...

Turkish art about women's voices in the public space censored by police for insulting religious views

Link Here5th May 2016
The artist Isil Egrikavuk, who was commissioned to create a new work for YAMA, a public art installation series screened on top of the Marmara Pera hotel in Istanbul, says in a statement on Facebook that her animation about women's voices in public spaces was first removed for "insulting religious views," and later that the work was a source of "visual pollution".

Egrikavuk's work is titled Time to Sing a New Song and consists of a short animation of a woman's emoji face slowly turning into an apple.

It was supposed to be on display from sunset to sunrise everyday between April 23 to June 30 of this year, however three days after the opening on April 26 officers from Beyoglu Municipality apparently came to the hotel and put a stop to the exhibition.

The artist learned that there had been a complaint about the video, for insulting religious views, and subsequently also was told that the video was causing visual pollution and had to be shut off.



Update: Unfree Speech...

Turkish journalists jailed for republishing Charlie Hebdo cartoons as a mark of solidarity with the cartoonists murdered in Paris

Link Here29th April 2016
Full story: Charlie Hebdo...Censored by terrorists
Turkey has sentenced two columnists to prison for two years for illustrating articles with cartoons from the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo .

A court in Istanbul convicted Hikmet Cetinkaya and Ceyda Karan with fomenting hatred and enmity in the people via means of the press.

Bulent Utku, the journalists' lawyer, said they would be appealing the sentence.

Sections of Turkish society were 'outraged' by the cartoons in Cumhuriyet , an opposition newspaper when they were published in January last year as a gesture of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo.

Turkish police had stopped and searched Cumhuriyet trucks as they left the printing press and protesters in Istanbul later burned copies of the newspaper.

The case was pressed by lawyers linked to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, and several members of his family.



Updated: A dangerous place to holiday...

A Dutch Journalist is arrested on holiday in Turkey for supposed insult of the president

Link Here29th April 2016

A Dutch journalist was blocked from leaving Turkey on Sunday following her arrest on Saturday night for tweets deemed critical of the easily offended Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ebru Umar, a well-known atheist and feminist journalist of Turkish origin, recently wrote a piece criticising Erdogan for the Dutch daily Metro, extracts of which she then tweeted, leading to her arrest. After her arrest in the resort town of Kusadasi in western Turkey, where she was on holiday, Dutch officials said, she was brought before a judge.

She later said she was free but forbidden to leave the country .

Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey punishable by up to four years in jail, but the law has rarely been invoked. Since Erdogan became president in 2014, prosecutors have opened more than 1,800 cases against people for insulting him, the justice minister said last month.

Update: Government support

29th April 2016. See  article from

The Dutch government considers freedom of speech and the freedom of the press to be fundamental values which cannot be used as bargaining chips, foreign minister Bert Koenders said a briefing to parliament on Thursday. He said:

We do not bargain with fundamental values, even if we are making agreements with a country about other issues. These are completely separate.

Koenders was updating MPs on the arrest of Metro columnist Ebru Umar, who was picked up in Turkey last weekend after sending out two tweets considered to be insulting to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.



Update: Turkey Recommends Seyfo 1915: The Assyrian Genocide...

Turkey tries to censor a Swedish TV showing of documentary

Link Here25th April 2016
The Turkish embassy is attempting to censor a Swedish channel broadcast pf a documentary film about the Armenian genocide.

Ahead of Sunday evening's scheduled broadcast of a documentary titled Seyfo 1915 : The Assyrian Genocide , TV4 said it received an email from Turkish embassy press officer Arif Gulen, in which he opposes the film's use of the term genocide, which is often used to describe the tragic death of thousands of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks during WWI. The letter, which was subsequently published on TV4's official website claims hat only a competent international tribunal can determine whether a particular event is genocide.

The broadcaster denounced Gulen's attempt to pressure the channel to cancel its broadcast, while promising to air the documentary on Sunday despite the warning. TV4's program director, Viveka Hansson said on the website:

We can never accept this. We will protest against any attempt to exert pressure that threatens freedom of expression.

Meanwhile, an orchestra in Germany has accused Turkey of forcing it to change the name of a concert it is scheduled to give on April 30, as well as remove a piece from its program that calls the massacre of Armenians a genocide. The name of the event is Aghet, a term commonly used by Armenians to describe the events of 1915 as genocide, whose literal translation in English is catastrophe.

The Dresden Symphony orchestra said that Turkey's delegation to the EU had reportedly asked the European Commission (EC), which is financially supporting the event, to defund the concert and remove its title from the EC's official website. While the Commission declined to withdraw the financial support, it did remove the announcement of the concert. A spokesperson for the Commission came up with a few weasel words to justify the censorship:

Due to concerns raised regarding the wording used in the project description, the Commission temporarily withdrew it,

The orchestra's director, Markus Rindt, slammed Turkey's bold interference as an an infringement on freedom of expression.



Update: Turkey Recommends Aghet...

Turkey tries to censor a German Orchestra event referring to the Armenian Genocide

Link Here25th April 2016
An orchestra in Germany has accused Turkey of forcing it to change the name of a concert it is scheduled to give on April 30, as well as remove a piece from its program that calls the massacre of Armenians a genocide. The name of the event is Aghet , a term commonly used by Armenians to describe the events of 1915 as genocide, whose literal translation in English is catastrophe.

The Dresden Symphony orchestra said that Turkey's delegation to the EU had reportedly asked the European Commission (EC), which is financially supporting the event, to defund the concert and remove its title from the EC's official website. While the Commission declined to withdraw the financial support, it did remove the announcement of the concert. A spokesperson for the Commission came up with a few weasel words to justify the censorship:

Due to concerns raised regarding the wording used in the project description, the Commission temporarily withdrew it,

The orchestra's director, Markus Rindt, slammed Turkey's bold interference as an an infringement on freedom of expression.



Updated: Insulting European Values...

Turkey ask for its nationals living in the Netherlands to spy on Dutch people who choose to exercise their human rights to insult Erdogan, including comic Hans Teeuwen

Link Here25th April 2016
Dutch MPs have called for a parliamentary debate about a letter that was sent out by Turkey's consulate in Rotterdam calling Turkish organizations in the Netherlands to report people who insult the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Dutch Party, SP, demanded a debate on the matter. MP Sade Karabulut described the email as Erdogan's long arm in the Netherlands and accused the Turkish government of trying to intervene at Netherland's domestic affairs. A parliamentary majority supported the MP's call for a debate, though it hasn't been scheduled yet.

The move was not well received by many in Turkey too. The Dutch offices of Turkish opposition party CHP received numerous calls from concerned Dutch citizens with Turkish origins. CHP chairman Axu Ozalp said to the Volkskrant newspaper:

People are afraid because they once responded to something critical on Facebook or Twitter for example. They worry about whether they can still go on holiday to Turkey with peace of mind or will they be stopped at the border. This is very worrying and we therefore also emphatically disapprove of this call.

Update: Turkey demonstrates the need for people to be able to ridicule repressive politicians

24th April 2016. See  article from

Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has claimed that the German comedian who ridiculed Turkey's president is a racist. He added that Europe had no right to bombard his country with lectures on freedom of expression.

The row came as Angela Merkel joined Davutoglu, Donald Tusk, the European Council President, and Frans Timmermans, the European commission vice president, to review the EU's migration deal at a refugee camp in Gaziantep. Davutoglu whinged about Jan Böhmermann's performance and the resultant press criticism of Turkey's attack on free speech:

There was an insult against our president. The freedom of the press should never respect negate for human dignity. I mean, very heavy insults against a president of a country that one should not read or hear about? Is that really part of freedom of the press? If the same words were uttered for the president of another nation, would they be acceptable I wonder?

But Donald Tusk stood up for free speech replying:

As a politician, I have learned and accepted to have a thick skin, and I have no expectation that the Press will treat me with a special care - quite the opposite.

The line between criticism, insult and defamation is very thin and relative, and the moment politicians decide which is which can mean the end between freedom of expression, in Europe, in Turkey, in Africa and Russia, everywhere. I hope that in the future freedom of speech will not be our main topic of dialogue.

Update: Boywhore

25th April 2016. See article from , thanks to goatboy
See video from YouTube

Dutch comedian Hans Teeuwen has weighed in to the free speech battle with the repressive Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Teeuwen has produced a YouTube video having fun with the claim that Erdogan used to be a boywhore in an Istanbul brothel. The video takes the form of Teeuwen being interviewed by a reporter.

The reporter repeatedly says the claims are satire or a sketch, but Teeuwen, who tours the UK this autumn, insists this is a true story. When challenged that he is insulting a befriended head of state, the comic replies: This is a whore customer standing up for his rights.

Both Germany and The Netherlands have laws against insulting foreign heads of state which means Teeuwen could also find himself in legal trouble. Hopefully Erdogan hasn't so much leverage over the Netherlands compared to Germany.



Offsite Article: What is the Use of Life it is spoilt by the authorities?...

Link Here 20th April 2016
Egypt takes harsh line towards artists and authors

See article from



A dangerous opinion...

Kuwait academic arrested for blasphemy after debating on TV that islam should not be above the law

Link Here15th April 2016
Full story: Blasphemy in Kuwait...Baying for blood
A prominent female academic and human rights activist in Kuwait has been charged with blasphemy. Sheikha al-Jassem was summoned to the public prosecutor's office after legal complaints were filed against her over a recent interview she gave on TV.

She asserted that the constitution of Kuwait should be above the Quran and Islamic law in governing the country. The interview was broadcast on Kuwaiti Al-Shahed TV on 8 March. Its theme was the rise of Islamic extremism.

During the interview, Jassem was asked about radical Islamists who said that religion was more important than the Kuwaiti constitution. She responded by saying that this was dangerous and that, in her opinion, politics and religion should be kept apart.  Jassem made reference to the violence across the Middle East and divisions between Sunni and Shia Muslims. She said that if you just went back to holy books and relied on them, society could not move forward.

Her remarks provoked a storm of attacks against her, spearheaded by Islamist members of Kuwait's parliament.

The public prosecutor still has the discretion to decide whether or not Ms Jassem will be put on trial.



Update: Fuel that ignites the fire of ideas...

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi honoured by the International Publishers Association for his contribution to freedom of speech

Link Here11th April 2016
Full story: Blogging in Saudi...Saudi bloggers arrested and imprisoned
Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who fell victim to the country's brutal and repressive legal system, has been awarded the International Publishers Association's Prix Voltaire for his contribution to freedom of speech.

Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for publishing a liberal and atheistic blog. He was arrested in 2012 on a charge of insulting Islam and indicted on several charges including apostasy. He was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in 2013, and then re-sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison plus a fine in 2014. The sentence was upheld by the Saudi supreme court in June. In December, it was reported that Badawi had gone on hunger strike.

His wife Ensar Haider Mohammed, who is travelling to London to collect the award on Badawi's behalf, has called on the world's writers to continue applying pressure of regimes that do not tolerate free speech. S he told the Guardian:

Raif has become a symbol for the fight for freedom of expression and the right to publish ideas in writing. My husband once wrote that freedom of expression is the 'air that any thinker breathes and the fuel that ignites the fire of his or her ideas', and he was right.

This is why he is wasting away in jail today, and precisely why the world's free writers should use their freedom of expression as a weapon in the war on oppression.



Growing up...

Egypt adds age based film classifications

Link Here6th April 2016
Egypt's Ministry of Culture has approved a new system of film classification, adding two new age categories for the classification of films. From now on, the certificates +12 and +16 will be applied, in addition to the pre-existing +18 certificate.

The new rating criteria take into account factors such as violence and gore, sensitive subject matters and adult content.

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