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Middle East Censorship News


2019: Jan-Marc

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Unacceptable facts...

Turkey's Constitutional Court orders the government to unblock Wikipedia


Link Here27th December 2019
Turkey blocked Wikipedia in April 2017 after the online encyclopedia refused to remove terrorism related content that the government didn't like.

The censorship has just been reversed by Constitutional Court, the nation's highest court, which called the ruling a violation of freedom of expression, and ordered the site to be unblocked

Update: Back online

17th January 2020. See article from theverge.com

Wikipedia is back online in Turkey after two-year ban is overturned

The site has been banned in the country since April 2017.

 

 

Updated: The last outpost of the Resistance...

Gay kiss cut from the Rise of SkyWalker in the Middle East


Link Here24th December 2019
Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is a 2019 USA action Sci-Fi fantasy by JJ Abrams.
Starring Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver and Billie Lourd. IMDb

The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more in the final chapter of the Skywalker saga.

Hollywood's campaign to promote diversity resulted in a gay kiss being included in the latest Star Wars movie, The Rise of Skywalker. This is the franchise's first same-sex kiss.

But the importance of this galactic first hasn't struck a chord in the Middle East. According to several people speaking to The Hollywood Reporter who have seen the latest Star Wars at cinemas in Dubai, the scene featuring the kiss had been removed from their screening.

Given that the United Arab Emirates is largely more tolerant than its neighbours when it comes to film censorship and Dubai's status as the regional hub for the entertainment industry, it is thought that this cut will be replicated across the Middle East.

The Hollywood Reporter also notes that the Chinese films censors left the kiss intact for Chinese audiences.

Update: Singapore too

24th December 2019. See article from bbc.com

Disney has cut a brief scene of two women kissing in the Singaporean version of its latest Star Wars film. The scene was described by reviewers as a brief flash of two women kissing... among a crowd of characters.

But the version released in Singapore omits the scene. Singapore's film censors told the BBC that Disney cut the scene so it didn't get a higher age rating.

The applicant has omitted a brief scene which under the film classification guidelines would require a higher rating, said a spokesperson from IMDA.

Without the kiss, the film is rated PG13 in Singapore.

 

 

Iran succeeds in cutting off its country from the rest of the internet world...

Beware of politicians like Merkel suspiciously urging the EU to seize control of data from US tech giants


Link Here 22nd November 2019
Access to the internet is gradually being restored in Iran after an unprecedented five-day shutdown that cut its population off from the rest of the world and suppressed news of the deadliest unrest since the country's 1979 revolution.

The digital blackout that commenced last Friday is part of a growing trend of governments interfering with the internet to curb violent unrest, but also legitimate dissent.

The internet-freedom group Access Now recorded 75 internet outages in 2016, which more than doubled to 196 last year.

But Iran's restriction of the internet this week was something more sophisticated and alarming, researchers say. Iranians were cut off from the global internet, but internally, networks appeared to be functioning relatively normally. The Islamic Republic managed to successfully wall its citizens off from the world, without taking down the internet entirely.

Iran, Russia and of course China have all been taking action to design a local internet that continue to operate when the plug to the outside world is pulled. This has taken years of preparation to ensure there are local services to replace the core US based essentials of Google, Facebook, Paypal and co that are absolutely irreplaceable in most countries around the world.

And of course the effectiveness of the shutdown in Iran will surely spur on ther oppressive regimes that liek waht they saw.

 

 

Travel Warning...

German Foreign Office warns travellers to Turkey that the use of VPNs there is illegal


Link Here21st November 2019
The German Foreign Office has warned travellers to Turkey that they could face legal repercussions if they are caught using a VPN in the country.

It is the first time that a formal warning has been made about using VPNs in the country, but it comes from the highest level and is one that travellers from all countries should be aware of.

Under the dictatorial leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's slide towards authoritarianism has been remarkably swift. In the government's drive to control the internet and restrict its political opponents, Turkey has sought to block VPNs , banned the use of encrypted messaging services , and routinely blocked social media sites and instigated total internet shutdowns at politically sensitive times. Hundreds of thousands of websites are now inaccessible in Turkey, which has ironically driven more and more Turkish citizens and ex-pats onto VPNs in order to enjoy free access to the internet.

 

 

Offsite Article: Netflix expands into a world full of censors, particularly in Turkey...


Link Here 1st November 2019
The company is having to navigate different political and moral landscapes, and calls for government oversight, as it seeks subscribers worldwide.

See article from nytimes.com

 

 

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls...

Turkish censors give adults only rating for a children's book, presumably not liking the idea of rebelling against against a male dominated society


Link Here5th October 2019
Turkey has ruled that the million-selling book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls will be age restricted and treated like pornography because it could have a detrimental influence on young people.

The book, which has been published in 47 languages, offers a series of inspiring stories about women from history for young children, from British nurse Florence Nightingale to French designer Coco Chanel to singer Beyonce.

But the Turkish government's censorship board for the protection of minors from obscene publications claimed:

Some of the writings in the book will have a detrimental influence on the minds of those under the age of 18. That means it can only be sold to over-18s and must be concealed from view in shops.

Speaking to AFP, one of the authors, Francesca Cavallo, said she was saddened by the decision. She sad:

Girls deserve to grow up surrounded by more female role models. They deserve to grow up thinking that they can be anything they want

When a government is scared by a children's book promoting equality, that means that promoting these messages through children's literature can have and is having an impact, and it makes me even more motivated to keep fighting every day.

 

 

God's thugs...

Lebanese band with an openly gay singer is banned from a rock festival after christians threaten violence


Link Here31st July 2019
A major Lebanese music festival has cancelled a concert by the country's best-known rock band, Mashrou' Leila , to prevent bloodshed after church leaders accused the group of blasphemy.

The Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Byblos claimed last week that Mashrou' Leila's songs violate religious values and demanded the gig be pulled. Facebook users had threatened to stop the show by force, with some claiming to be God's Soldiers.

Lawmakers in Byblos urged the festival's organisers to pull the concert to respect sanctities and morals.

The Byblos festival duly cancelled explaining that it was forced to cancel the group's performance next week on security grounds. Christians had threatened to attack the concert if it went ahead.

Mashrou' Leila's lead singer is openly gay and the band tackles taboos that few other Arab musicians have explored.

The band blamed a defamatory campaign relying exclusively on fabrications that couldn't be further from the truth. The band said in a statement:

We are not on some sort of mission to arbitrarily blaspheme and disrespect people's religious symbols.

 

 

Jordan is addicted to censorship...

Jordan's game censors ban PlayerUnknown's Battleground and six other games are set to follow


Link Here12th July 2019
PlayerUnknown's Battleground is a 2017 South Korea Battle Royale by PUBG Corporation

Jordan's game censors at the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) have banned PUBG.

A statement claimed that the action came after a wave of complaints from citizens and authorities alike. However, the TRC said one of its main reasons for implementing the ban was a World Health Organization study that classified PUBG as a violent game leading to addiction and social isolation, further stating that children who play violent games are more violent than their peers.

Director of Beneficiaries Affairs at the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC), Eng. Mohammad AlWathiq Shaqrah, revealed that after PUBG game was banned in Jordan, the TRC is planning to ban six other video games. He said that Fortnite is one of the games expected to be banned.

 

 

Evil Spirits...

An Arabic Netflix original series, Jinn, riles the easily offended in Jordan


Link Here22nd June 2019
Jinn is the first Arabic original TV series produced by Netflix. And it din not take long for a few Jordanians to become 'outraged'

Even before the audience had a chance to watch the first few episodes, people were calling for a ban on the series that showed Jordanian teenagers kissing and swearing.

The series , produced by Netflix and Kibrit Productions, takes a look at the friendship and budding romances between the students of a private high school in Petra, Jordan, after they unwittingly unleash a jinn, an evil spirit in Islam .

A few whingers attacked the series and accused it of promoting pornography, drugs and alcohol use among students. Journalist Wael al-Bteiri who launched the hashtag #Punish_Jinn told Al-Monitor that he considered the series to be an American infiltration that aimed to damage Jordan through its dirty scenes and offensive language. He said

[It] encourages people to fornicate, drink alcohol and smoke weed. They want to drag our youths down into the decadence of the West. Everyone should take action to stop this mockery.

Dozens of Jordanian women signed a statement June 18 that called the series an offense against Jordan's moral fibre. The statement said:

We strongly refuse the superficiality of this series, as well as [its scenes] that are offensive to public decency and that exploit minors. It reflects an inappropriate image of Jordan, as it was shot in Petra. The historical city was depicted as a hub for the jinn and a place of deviance.

On June 16, the Public Prosecutor of Amman called on the Cyber Crime Unit to take the necessary measures to ban the series.

Netflix responded to the controversy with a statement June 14 that it would not tolerate offensive statements or action toward the actors that starred in Jinn.

 

 

You can't say that!...

India's Most Wanted banned by film censors in UAE


Link Here24th May 2019

India's Most Wanted is a 2019 India action thriller by Raj Kumar Gupta (as Rajkumar Gupta)
Starring Arjun Kapoor, Rajesh Sharma and Gaurav Mishra. BBFC link IMDb

India's Most Wanted is an upcoming Bollywood action thriller film directed by Raj Kumar Gupta starring Arjun Kapoor and Amrita Puri. The film is about tracking a terrorist in a secret mission and arresting him without firing bullets. It pays tribute to unsung heroes of our society.

Film censors in UAE banned India's Most Wanted when the producers declined to delete a line of dialogue saying that most terrorists are based either in Pakistan or Dubai,

The director, Raj Kumar Gupta, explained:

Yes the film will not release in Dubai. There were some issues which could not be sorted and hence this decision. Yes the said dialogue is there in the film and it is a factual one based on the research that has been conducted. So we did not want to do away with the dialogue and decided on retaining it in the film even if it entailed a non-release in Dubai.

 

 

Tall stories...

Turkish TV bans basketball finals because one of the players is an Erdogan critic


Link Here15th May 2019
Turkish TV has announced that they would not broadcast the NBA Western Conference Finals on Tuesday night because a Turkish NBA star and fierce critic of Turkish president Erdogan, Enes Kanter, plays for Portland Trailblazers.

The NBA final will also be banned if Portland Trailblazers get through.

 

 

Chaos...

Brazilian metal band Sepultura banned from Lebanon for supposed devil worship, and even worse, promotion of Israel


Link Here25th April 2019
Brazilian metal band Sepultura has been banned from entering Lebanon after members were accused of being devil worshippers.

According to Al Araby, Lebanon's General Security denied the artist visa applications for the band members. Skull Session, an organizer of metal events in Beirut, released a statement:

We are as outraged and angry as all of you will be.

We were told that the issue is delicate as it relates to insulting Christianity, that the band members are devil worshippers, that they held a concert in Israel, that they filmed a video clip supporting Israel, and that the decision was issued by the head of the General Security Forces.

Skull Session denied these allegations, and criticized the recurring forms of censorship in Lebanon.

In 1993, Sepultura shot the music video for Territory in both Israel and Palestine, according to Loudwire . But, Skull Session confirmed that the band had not played a show in Israeli territory.

 

 

Case proven...

Singer banned from performing after demonstrating that Egypt does not respect free speech


Link Here24th March 2019
An Egyptian singer has been banned from performing in her home country after demonstrating that the nation does not respect free speech.

A video clip circulated online shows Sherine Abdel-Wahab, during a performance in Bahrain, saying:

Here I can say whatever I want. In Egypt, anyone who talks gets imprisoned.

Egypt's Musicians Union responded by barring the singer, popularly known by her first name, from performing. It also summoned her for questioning.

 

 

Smitten by censors...

Lebanon censors caricature of Iran's Supreme Leader in French weekly


Link Here18th February 2019
Lebanon's General Directorate of General Security has censored a caricature of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei that was published in the French weekly Courrier International .

The censor covered the caricature with a sticker before allowing the publication to enter Lebanon.

The move has sparked debate on social media, including criticism and questions as to whether the directorate is affiliated with the Shiite group Hezbollah, a close ally of Tehran. There were also questions as to whether such censorship would apply to other leaders who are caricatured by the French newspaper.

 

 

Offsite Article: Fear of being jailed...


Link Here26th January 2019
Censorship spreads to Turkey's publishing houses. By Ahmet Kulsoy

See article from ahvalnews.com

 

 

No cruising at 30,000 feet...

Emirates Airline spotted cutting out gay kisses from their in-flight entertainment system


Link Here3rd January 2019
 
  
er....no!, not on Emirates Airlines
 
Killing Eve, the acclaimed TV hit is among the content being censored by Emirates airline due to its LGBT scenes.

Emirates, the world's fourth largest airline, offers films and television programmes with edited-out footage of same-sex kisses. They include Oscar-nominated Ladybird , and at least one episode of BBC drama Killing Eve, In the original programme, one scene saw psychopathic assassin Villanelle seduce a woman. A kiss between them is removed. In Ladybird, the censored scene saw Ronan's protagonist burst into a toilet cubicle to find her boyfriend kissing another boy from their drama group. In the edited version, the kiss is cut out and the film skips straight to the aftermath. A spokesperson for Emirates claimed:

Emirates acquires mostly theatrical unedited versions of content, but as a family friendly airline serving an international audience, where there is excessive violence, sex, nudity or language, we opt to license the edited versions created by the studios/distributors.

 

 

No joke...

Saudi censors the Netflix programme Patriot Act featuring the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi embassy


Link Here2nd January 2019
Netflix has removed an episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj from its Saudi catalog, after the Kingdom's government took offence to a segment criticizing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In the episode, the Muslim American comedian blasts Saudi Arabia's role in the war in Yemen and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Embassy in Turkey.

According to the Financial Times, the removal was not motivated by Saudi cash, but by legal threats. The streaming giant told the FT that it removed the episode after receiving a complaint from the Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission.

The commission claimed that the episode violated a cybercrime law forbidding the production, preparation, transmission, or storage of material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy.

While the episode was pulled from Netflix, Saudi viewers keen for some anti-government comedy can watch it on Youtube, which is not blocked in the country. The censored episode is still available in the US.


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