Middle East Censorship News

 2017: Oct-Dec

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 Updated: Intolerant ethics...

Egyptian authorities get nasty over a sexy pop video


Link Here 13th December 2017
shyma video Egyptian singer Shyma has been arrested on suspicion of incitement to debauchery over her new video for song Andy Zoroof (I Have Problems), which authorities considered to be too daring and suggestive.

If convicted, the singer faces a one-year prison sentence, and in the mean time she is being held in custody.

At a court hearing where the singer's detention was extended by a further seven days, the singer stated she didn't know her video would cause such controversy and was acting according to the video director's requests.

Additionally, the Music Syndicate have decided to withdraw the singer's annual license, leaving her unable to perform and earn a living as a singer. The union also claimed that her video was pornographic and harmed the values of community and ethics.

The video, which sparked outrage in the country, features the singer in a classroom in front of male students licking an apple and slowly unpeeling a banana, eating it and pouring milk on it, and worst of all, pulling her bra strap off her shoulder.

Update: Jailed for 2 years

13th December 2017 See  article from theguardian.com

Shyma has now been sentenced to two years in prison for inciting debauchery in a racy music video clip. She was also fined 10,000 pounds (£420) by a Cairo court.

The director of the clip, Mohamed Gamal, received the same sentence. Both can appeal against the ruling.

 

  Film censors required, must be good with scissors...

Cinemas to return to Saudi Arabia


Link Here 12th December 2017  full story: Cinema in Saudi...First steps to re-opening cinemas in Saudi
wadjdaCinemas are set to open in Saudi Arabia in March 2018 for the first time since they were banned in in the early 1980s, according to the Saudi minister of culture.

Cinemas existed in Saudi Arabia until they were banned in the early 1980s after a puritanical religious establishment gained control over social and educational affairs in the country. Today, the organized Islamist undercurrents that thrived in the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s no longer have quite so much influence in the country.

A multimillion-dollar DVD bootleg industry flourished as a result of the cinema ban. Saudis amassed large collections of pirated DVDs of the latest Hollywood blockbusters, circumventing both the ban and censorship. It's this revenue that the decision today also aims to recapture.

Opening cinemas will act as a catalyst for economic growth and diversification, said Minister of Culture Awwad Alawwad. By developing the broader cultural sector, we will create new employment and training opportunities, as well as enriching the kingdom's entertainment options

The Saudi cinema industry is still nascent but has been receiving more attention over recent years with breakthrough movies like Wadjdah and Barakah meets Barakah.   It's a beautiful day in Saudi Arabia! tweeted Haifaa al-Mansour the first female Saudi director of a feature film, the acclaimed Wadjda.

The announcement by the ministry of culture did not specify whether seating in cinemas would be gender-segregated as most public spaces are in Saudi Arabia or how heavily censored movies will be. Films are usually greatly censored with pixelation added to cover the chest and legs of actresses. Censorship rules are expected to be announced in the coming weeks. Multiple malls currently being built had already received licenses to build multiplexes before today's announcement.

 

 Updated: Injustice in Lebanon and Palestine...

Justice League has been banned by Lebanon as Wonder Woman is unwelcome in the country


Link Here 7th December 2017
Justice League DVD Justice League is a 2017 USA action Sci-Fi fantasy by Zack Snyder.
Starring Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa. IMDb
Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman's selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his new found ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of met humans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes; Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash, it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.

Last year, Lebanon banned the Wonder Woman movie because its star, Gal Gadot, had served in the Israeli forces under the country’s national service. Gadot's two years of service coincided with the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon, one of many wars and conflicts the bitter rivals have been involved in over the decades.

With Justice League , also starring Gal Gadot in the same role, opening in local cinemas on Thursday, activists want the government to do the same. Activist Pierre Abi Saab has accused the promoters of the film of ignoring Lebanese laws that he said outlaw all forms of normalisation of ties with Israel.

It has now been reported that this campaign has been successful and that, yes, Justice League has been officially banned in Lebanon.

Update: Ramallah

7th December 2017 See  article from jpost.com

Palestine Cinema Tower, Palestinians' largest film distributor, banned the film Justice League in Ramallah for violating censorship rules.

The decisions was made after local protest was sparked by a viral campaign built all in Arabic focusing on Israeli actress Gal Gadot's nationality and role as Wonder Woman.

It is not yet clear whether the ban will extend to other cities in Palestine.

 

  Sh! Don't tell the Tories, they'd use it as another weapon to bash the unemployed...

Iranian government dreams up an internet censorship scheme with personalised website blocking according to age and occupation


Link Here 7th December 2017  full story: Internet Censorship in Iraq...Draconian penalties for the usual computer offences
Iran flagIran's telecommunications minister says that his ministry wants to customize Internet blocking based on user's occupation, age, and other factors.

The attorney general's office has conditionally agreed with this plan, Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi announced on December 4.

Without providing any details, he said his ministry had reviewed suggestions made by the attorney general and prepared appropriate technical responses. He expressed hope that the office would give its final approval for the implementation of the plan.

Despite the regime's extenisve efforts to censor the Internet, Iranian users currently get around the restrictions by using anti-filtering programs or virtual private networks.

 

  The Nile Hilton Incident...

Egyptian police enforce ban on movie thriller set in Egypt


Link Here 30th November 2017
The Nile Hilton Incident DVD The Nile Hilton Incident is a 2017 Sweden / Denmark / Germany / France crime thriller by Tarik Saleh.
Starring Fares Fares, Mari Malek and Yasser Ali Maher. IMDb

Set against the backdrop of the Egyptian Revolution, the thriller features a police officer who investigates the murder of a woman. What initially seems to be a killing of a prostitute turns into a more complicated case involving the very elite of Egypt.

Egyptian police raided a tiny alternative film venue in Cairo last week to prevent the screening of a thriller critical of law enforcement that has been banned.

The officers prevented The Nile Hilton Incident from being played in a makeshift, 25-seat theatre because it was a downloaded copy that didn't have government permission to be shown.

The film, by Swedish-Egyptian director Tarik Saleh, is a murder mystery set in Egypt that addresses abuse of power and police corruption. It has won several accolades abroad, including the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

But it has not been allowed to screen at either the current festival or November's smaller, Panorama of the European Film festival, also in Cairo. The ban echoes last year's action against Last Days of the City by Egyptian director Tamer El Said, whose film was feted abroad but blocked from cinemas in Egypt.

 

  Homophobic sensitivities...

After banning gay film festival, Ankara officials have banned all gay events until further notice


Link Here 19th November 2017
pink life queerfest logo The governor's office of the Turkish capital Ankara has banned the public showing of all films, exhibitions and events related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues, citing public sensitivities.

Starting from Nov. 18, 2017, any events such as LGBT cinema, theater performances, panels, interviews and exhibitions are banned until further notice in our province, the Ankara Governor's Office stated on Nov. 19.

The authorities in Ankara had banned the German gay film festival called Pink Lige QueerFext on Nov. 15, the day before it was due to start,.

Four movies by German directors were scheduled to be screened as part of the two-day festival, organized jointly by the German Embassy and the Pink Life QueerFest.

Festival organisers said the festival had been attacked on social media.

 

  Theatre censors...

Israel shuts down the Palestinian National Theatre


Link Here 12th November 2017
aplestine national theatre logoOn 27 September 2017, Israeli authorities shut down the el-Hakawati Theatre (also known as the Palestinian National Theatre), preventing the holding of a cultural event, which included concerts by three music groups, on the grounds that it was sponsored by the Palestinian Authority, reported Quds Press .

Authorities hung a notice on the theatre door that said: Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan ordered the closure of the Hakawati theatre after receiving information about a cultural event entitled Arabs expelled from their homes in 1948 and 1967 , under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority.

Awad Salameh, member of the Jerusalem District of Fatah, said that authorities are oppressing Palestinians in Jerusalem and preventing them from establishing any cultural and educational artistic activity. He said they always raise the argument that the activity is under the auspices of the Palestinian National Authority, reported Alhaya .

The three music groups scheduled to perform at the September 2017 event were The Mount of Olives Folklore Band, Jerusalem Folklore Band and Riwaq Folklore Band.

 

 Update: Virtually useless...

Egyptian ISPs block VPN traffic using deep packet inspection


Link Here 13th October 2017  full story: Internet Censorship in Egypt...Egypt blocks political and porn websites
openvpn logoThis summer, the Egyptian government started to block access to news websites. At last count, it had blocked more than 400 websites. Realising that citizens are using Virtual Private Network (VPN) services to bypass such censorship, the government also started to block access to VPN websites.

In addition to this, ISPs have started using deep packet inspection (DPI) techniques in order to identify and block VPN traffic. Egypt blocked the Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) and Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) VPN protocols in August. However, until now OpenVPN, worked fine. This allowed ordinary Egyptians to access the uncensored internet.

On 3 October, however, the situation changed. It was reported on reddit that Egypt has now blocked OpenVPN as well. It seems that ISPs are using DPI techniques to detect OpenVPN packets.

For more about circumventing this latest censorship see excellent article from bestvpn.com

 

 Update: An unbalanced complaint...

Ofcom clears an Al Jazeera documentary which revealed political plotting at the Israeli Embassy in London


Link Here 10th October 2017
Ofcom logoQatar is under the cosh in the Middle East caught in a deadly pincer movement of a Saudi led coalition of Arab countries on one side and Israel on the other. All these countries object to Qatar's funding of the Al Jazeera news channel which provides seeming well balanced reporting across the region in both Arabic and English. Its seems that Qatar's neighbours would prefer the news to be dominated by their own, not quite so balanced, news networks, that are a little bit more sycophantic to their own interests.

So perhaps it was hardly surprising that an Al Jazeera documentary investigating the Isreali Embassy in London would be reported to Ofcom for supposed bias.

The UK TV censor Ofcom investigated Al Jazeera after receiving complaints about The Lobby , a four-part documentary investigating the political influence of the Israeli embassy in Britain.

The programme showed Shai Masot, an official in the Israeli embassy in London, saying he would take down MPs including Sir Alan Duncan , the Foreign Office minister who is an outspoken supporter of a Palestinian state. The Israeli ambassador subsequently apologised for the comments and Masot resigned.

Ofcom cleared al-Jazeera after concluding it did not make allegations in the documentary that were based on the grounds of individuals being Jewish and that it had included the view of the Israeli government in the programme. It ruled that al-Jazeera had not breached rule 2.3, which relates to offensive matter, and rule 5.5 with regards to impartiality. Ofcom said:

It was the view of some complainants that The Lobby fuelled harmful stereotypes about Jewish people controlling or seeking to control powerful organisations. These complainants considered this was antisemitic and offensive.

We considered that the allegations in the programme were not made on the grounds that any of the particular individuals concerned were Jewish and noted that no claims were made relating to their faith. We did not consider that the programme portrayed any negative stereotypes of Jewish people as controlling or seeking to control the media or governments. Rather, it was our view that these individuals featured in the programme in the context of its investigation into the alleged activities of a foreign state -- the state of Israel acting through its UK embassy -- and their association with it.

An al-Jazeera source welcomed the ruling, saying:

This goes to show that no matter what al-Jazeera's critics say, its journalism meets and exceeds the highest standards of objectivity and balance. We feel vindicated by the rulings and ever more committed to exposing human rights violations by anyone -- regardless of geography, religion, or the power of their lobbies.

 

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