South Asia Censorship News

 2013: April-June

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 Update: Miserable India...

India orders ISPs to block 39 foreign porn sites


Link Here 26th June 2013  full story: Internet Censorship in India...India considers blanket ban on internet porn

India flagThe Indian government has ordered the country's ISPs to block 39 overseas porn sites, most of which are forums that share adult content (tube sites?).

According to The Times of India , the sites were shuttered in compliance with a June 13 order from the country's Department of Telecom (DoT).

The authorities didn't specify any reason or law under which the websites have been blocked, only telling ISPs:

It has been decided to immediately block the access to the following URLs... you are accordingly directed to immediately block the access to above URLs.

Critics are complaining that the government is out of line. Sunil Abraham, director of the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) said:

In the case of file hosts and image hosts, which people use for various purposes including for storing personal files, the DoT order is a clear overreach. Even in the case of pornography, there is nothing in the IT Act that can be used to block websites hosted outside in India.

There is a possibility that government is interpreting some sections of the IT Act to suit its purpose but I feel that is wrong and should be challenged in the court by ISPs if they care about the rights of their users.

Howver, Rajesh Chharia, President of the Internet Service Providers Association of India said ISPs have no recourse:

We are the licensee and we have to operate under the laws... we can't pushback.

 

 Update: Innocence Re-shared...

Bangladesh lifts ban on YouTube


Link Here 12th June 2013

Bangladesh flagBangladesh's telecommunication authorities have unblocked YouTube in Bangladesh after 260 days of restricting access within the country to the video sharing website.

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) blocked YouTube on September 17, 2012 to ban people from watching a trailer of a US film titled Innocence of Muslims , which mocks Islam and the religious character Muhammad. The telecoms censor claimed that it contacted Google prior to the ban asking them to remove the video, but Google reportedly refused to oblige.

The ban was lifted on June 5, 2013, making the site accessible to Bangladeshi netizens once again.

The block actually incurred a loss for the Bangladeshi economy, according to Fahim Mashroor, the ex-Secretary of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services. He said in an interview with German radio Deutsche Welle that the outsourcing industry suffered due to the ban. Last year, Bangladeshis earned 57 million US dollars working for the online outsourcing industry.

 

  Offending Religious Insensibilities...

Indian censors ban the film Pithavinum Puthranum, supposedly derogatory to christians


Link Here 10th June 2013

pithavinum puthranumReligious insensibilities are again trumping artistic expression in India, as the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has banned new film that supposedly offends Christianity.

The film, Pithavinum Puthranum (In the name of The Father and The Son), is directed by T Deepesh.

According to the filmmakers, it is set in a Christian convent and discusses a human story without getting judgmental on faith,. They maintain that the ban is an assault on creative liberties and the board has succumbed to pressure from groups that don't want the film released.

Film censor, T Madhukumar, a CBFC additional regional censor in Thiruvananthapuram, claimed to the Deccan Herald that the question was not on content policing or giving in to pressure:

The board is an independent body that works under statutory stipulations. The film violates some of the guidelines that we follow during certification. We felt that people from a particular religion would find the film's theme and certain visuals derogatory.

The official, along with four other members, watched the film last week. The board, instead of suggesting cuts, straightaway banned the film saying mere cuts couldn't have diluted the guideline violations.

Madhukumar said the board had been receiving complaints from Christian groups and individuals even when the film was being shot. He called the protests natural considering that the title referred to the Holy Trinity.

Madhukumar said the filmmakers now have the option of sending the film to a 10-member revising or appeal committee.

 

 Update: Searching for New Threats...

Pakistan's new internet censorship minister threatens to block Google search unless supposedly blasphemous YouTube videos are blocked


Link Here 10th June 2013  full story: Internet Censorship in Pakistan...internet website blocking

Google logoPakistan's new Information and Technology minister has warned that Google could be blocked in the country if the company fails to remove supposedly blasphemous and objectionable material from its video-sharing website YouTube.

Minister of State for IT and Telecommunication Anusha Rahman Khan made the remarks on her first day in office while talking about Pakistan's efforts to end a nine-month ban on YouTube for hosting clips from the film Innocence of Muslims . Khan was quoted as saying by The News daily:

It all depends on our negotiation clout. If they persist with their stance, we can block Google in Pakistan as a last resort as there are many alternative search engines available on the Web.

We will pump in extra money if needed and do whatever is in our capacity to bring YouTube back to Pakistan without compromising our ethical values.

She said she will request Google to remove objectionable material from YouTube or at least ensure that access to it is blocked in Pakistan.

Pakistani religious groups responded violently to the film Innocence of Muslims, leading to YouTube being blocked from September 17 last year. The ban was lifted for a few hours in December before being reinstated following protests from religious groups.

 

 Update: Hands Off Our Job!...

Pakistan appoints a new central censor board and discusses how this fits in with newly devolved provincial film censorship


Link Here 1st June 2013  full story: Film Censorship in Pakistan...Pakistan devolves some decisions to provincial censors

cbfc pakistan certificateAfter staving Pakistan's cinemas of films for a while, The central Censor Board has now been reconstituted. The Chairman is Syed Arshad Ali and Saraj Ahmed is the vice chair.

Ali explained that powers had been devolved to the provinces after 18th Amendment, and now the provinces could constitute their own film censor boards, but the provinces would not be able to censor the films for the entire country.

He told The News that after the devolution of power, provinces get the powers to constitute their own Film Censor Boards:

Except Sindh, no other province yet constituted their censor boards. The Sindh Assembly on February 14 approved Sindh Motion Pictures Act

He re-iterated that :

Provincial assemblies could legislate their laws for their province but cannot implement their laws in the entire Pakistan.

Only Central Film Censor Board had a power to issue certificate for showing a film through Pakistan as the provincial board could only issue the censor certificates for films to be shown in the province concerned.

 

 Update: Vulgar Censorship...

India bans Comedy Central 10 days for supposedly vulgar and obscene content


Link Here 26th May 2013  full story: TV Censorship in India...India considers the regulation of TV for adults

stand up club Comedy Central has been banned for ten days for airing supposedly obscene and vulgar words and being derogatory to women.

Stating multiple clauses that the channel has breached, the I&B Ministry asked Comedy Central to go off air from May 25 till June 4 for a comedy broadcast during Stand Up Club and Popcorn programmes on May 26 and July 4 last year.

The order issued by Delhi High court claimed that the programme showed a stand up comedian mouthing supposedly vulgar words accompanied by obscene and suggestive gestures and gyration.

Jokes during his performance supposedly denigrated women, indecently and crudely referred to sex organs of men-and women and the sing-song rendition by the man sought to pornographically describe male lust, whilst depicting women as a commodity of sex.

The second case was an episode from the reality show titled Popcorn wherein members of the Comedy Central crew are seen playing pranks on the general populace. In this case, one of the Comedy Central crew members was seen mimicking the act of intercourse with a set of dummy legs, in different locations.

Update: Ban stayed

28th May 2013. See  article from  timesofindia.indiatimes.com

A division bench of the Delhi High Court has stayed an order of the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry that prohibited transmission and re-transmission of the television channel, Comedy Central.

The HC bench stayed the order after hearing Sujeet Jain, executive vice-president, of Viacom, who had challenged the ban.

 

  The Not So Fast and The Furious...

A stalled reorganisation of film censorship in Pakistan leaves cinemas without new films


Link Here 22nd May 2013  full story: Film Censorship in Pakistan...Pakistan devolves some decisions to provincial censors

cbfc pakistan certificate Over the course of two weeks, Pakistan's film industry has lost millions of rupees after the caretaker government dissolved the culture ministry and hence the Central Film Censor Board without actually appointing an alternative censor. The reorganisation intends to decentralise film censorship in Pakistan and pass the responsibility to the provinces.

It is still being debated whether a CBFC has a role in censoring national or foreign films while the provincial censors could be limited to censoring regional films.

After weeks of cinema losses, the caretaker set-up in Sindh notified that the Sindh Board of Film Censors will now be active and announced that Zulfiqar Ramzi will be its honorary chairman. In the absence of a federal censor board, the Sindh censor certificate will apply to all of Pakistan.

Distributors say several major films including The Great Gatsby, Iron Man 3, Star Trek 2, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Yeh Jawani Deewani and Fast and the Furious have all been delayed. Zorraiz Lashari of the Film Distributors Association said:

Everybody is suffering. They should call it a careless government instead of a caretaker government... We are being forced to use the same films over and over.

 

  Slaves to Easy Offence...

Pakistani Fashion Designer's 'Be My Slave' Shoot Called Racist


Link Here 13th May 2013
aamna aqeel diva magazine A magazine photo shoot for an emerging fashion designer's collection has touched off anger throughout Pakistan for its depiction of a dark-skinned child serving as a slave to a fair-skinned model.

The clothing collection on display in the Be my Slave spread published in Diva magazine issue 106 is by Aamna Aqeel, who made her debut at Fashion Pakistan Week in Karachi in April 2013. Aqeel has maintained that she wanted the shoot to spark debate on child labor, and she is supporting and educating the young boy featured in the photos.

But with bonded slavery and racism very real problems facing Pakistan, some have accused Aqeel of engineering the photos with the intent to shock and gain publicity for her brand.

In a post on her Style Inn blog, entertainment journalist Usama Hamayun criticised the slave theme:

Her collection [at Fashion Pakistan Week] received very good reviews and I for one liked her collection as well. But this shoot disgusts me. Playing with such an insensitive theme in a country where racism and bonded labour are critical issues is not acceptable or aesthetically pleasing by any means. You can be fashion forward and push the envelope but above pics are simply tasteless and offensive.

 

  India's Snooper's Charter...

India starts rolling out state surveillance of internet and telecoms


Link Here 9th May 2013

India flag The Indian government last month quietly began rolling out a project that gives it access to everything that happens over the country's telecommunications network---online activities, phone calls, text messages and even social media conversations.

Called the Central Monitoring System, it will be the single window from where government arms such as the National Investigation Agency or the tax authorities will be able to monitor every byte of communication.

After the Mumbai blasts in November 2008, the government has been arming itself with powers and technology to help it eavesdrop on digital communications. The information technology law, enacted in 2000 and amended twice in 2008 and 2011, gives designated government officials the authority to listen in on phone calls, read SMSes, emails, and monitor websites.

However, Pavan Duggal, a Supreme Court advocate specialising in cyberlaw, said the government has given itself unprecedented powers to monitor private internet records of citizens. This system is capable of tremendous abuse, he said. The Central Monitoring System, being set up by the Centre for Development of Telematics, plugs into telecom gear and gives central and state investigative agencies a single point of access to call records, text messages and emails as well as the geographical location of individuals.

Work on the system has been kept under wraps for nearly two years. Several government agencies have issued tenders seeking specialised equipment and systems for such monitoring. The program is currently said to be running in a preliminary state, and should be fully in place by August of 2014.

 

  Transparency of Bits You Can't See?...

Indian film censor to list film cuts on the CBFC website


Link Here 28th April 2013

CBFC logoPankaja Thakur, the CEO of the Central Board of Film Certification, has said that a segment on the CBFC's website will now tell the user how many cuts have been given for a film, and the description of the cuts of all the latest films will be available there.

This is aimed towards making the board's workings more transparent. She added that they have also introduced an online method of applying for certification.

 

  Censorship Cliche...

Filmmaker relates how the India censors re-wrote his film with a cliched ending


Link Here 28th April 2013

sholaySholay is a 1975 India musical action thriller by Ramesh Sippy.
With Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Hema Malini. YouTube icon IMDb

GP Sippy had to change the original climax of Sholay at the insistence of the Indian Censor Board, that deemed it too violent , the filmmaker revealed at the ongoing Centenary Film Fest:

A long established cliché of Indian cinema is that a policeman pops up just at the very last moment to save the day.

And filmmaker Ramesh Sippy narrated an incident that indicated that perhaps, earlier, especially in the 60s and the 70s, the Censor Board had a lot to do with this perfect timing of the cops, rather than the filmmakers always going for this cliched formula. Sippy related:

These days, the board has begun to call itself the board of film 'certification'. Back then they were the censors, and how!.

Our hands were tied; we could show almost nothing. And going purely on merit, what the censors objected to in Sholay was that it had a lot of violence. But I argued. Do you see actual blood and gore anywhere in the film? It is in the context of the story, I told them. I also explained that when it came to Gabbar slicing off Thakur's hands, that scene wasn't even written, wasn't shot. It was written into the script that the point of revelation would be the shawl falling off; that the cutting off of the hands would be suggestive, and the actual scene would never be shown, because we did not feel showing it was necessary. We wanted the impact, we said. And they caught me there, they said, 'yes, it is the impact we are talking about'.

But I kept arguing. Finally, they accepted my arguments on this point. But I did not realise that they were conceding this point to reach a larger point. They wanted me to change the ending!

Again, we argued. It was Thakur fighting with his feet, one man wanting to take revenge - that was what the whole movie was about. So, in the end, how not to do the act? But the censors were adamant - they said the ending was very violent. The film was about to release, and I realized that if I keep fighting this point, my film's release will not be allowed. And then, with just a few days left for the release, we shot the ending again - and the CBFC said we will tell you how to end it. They said a cop could come and stop the killing in the nick of time.

So, we had to go back to Bangalore, where the sets had been erected. We had to hunt for a police officer who would come in the end and point out how Thakur himself being an ex-policemen, should know better than to take the law into his own hands.

 

  Surely There Can't be Anything Left to Ban...

Afghan clerics ask for televised drama to be banned


Link Here 25th April 2013  full story: TV Censorship in Afghanistan...Afghanistan TV, an unsuprising target for censors

Afghanistan flagAfgahanistan's President Hamid Karzai has ordered further censorship of supposedly un-Islamic and obscene televisions shows in response to lobbying by the country's religious council.

Karzai told the culture ministry to block programs which are vulgar, un-Islamic, obscene and violate social morality, and Islamic morality , according to a statement from his Council of Ministers.

It said the move follows a request from the religious council to ban televised drama seen as promoting vice and prostitution.

There doesn't seem to be any details of the type of programmes which might be banned as a result of the order.

 

  We the Offended...

Indian film censors celebrate their scissor work in the Cut-Uncut Film Festival


Link Here 10th April 2013

bollywood kissAs an exercise in propaganda to support film censorship, India's government have organised a unique film festival featuring works cut by film censor.

The Cut Uncut Film Festival, being organised by Information and Broadcasting ministry, will screen films, most of which had been rated adult by the censor board.

The three-day event, a part of Centenary Film Festival, to held from April 25 at Siri Fort auditorium in New Delhi will screen Anurag Kashyap's Gangs of Wasseypur and Tamil movie Subramaniapuram among others in the section dealing with violence and cuss words.

The screenings will be accompanied by discussions on violence, cuss words and sexual content in movies by Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) members and other eminent film personalities, officials said.

Yash Chopra's Dharmaputra and Telugu film Khadgam is likely to be screened in We, the offended section, dealing with depiction of communalism and religious identity.

Kisses are still considered sensational in India but there are scenes in an old pre-independence movie Karma where Devika Rani and Himanshu Rai are shown engaging in a long kiss. Officials explained that kissing in film could be screened at that time as the British Film Censor code was followed.

 

 Update: Age Old Discussions...

Another step in the slow road to the introduction of 12 and 15 film ratings in India


Link Here 9th April 2013  full story: Film Classifications in India...Film censors and their cuts

I&B logoIndia's I&B Ministry responsible for the media had a meeting with film producers and the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to consider amendments to the Cinematograph Act 1952.

If the Ministry has its way, films will no longer be certified as U, U/A, A (adults only). Instead, they will fall under any one of the following categories:

  • Universal U
  • Above 12 years of age (Under Parental Guidance)
  • Above 15 years of age (Under Parental Guidance)
  • Above 18 years of age

Filmmakers are not too happy with the proposal as they feel it will limit their audience. CEO of the Film & Television Producers Guild of India, Kulmeet Makkar, said:

Yes, there is a proposal by the I&B Ministry but it would be very subjective in a country like ours, where children face different levels of exposure in different cities. One needs to understand India's diversity to understand the perspective of filmmakers. We hope the new certification is not enforced.

The proposals will have to be formalised and passed into law by Parliament before changes can be made to the issuing of film certificates.

 

 Update: Extreme Demands...

Bangladesh PM rejects further blasphemy laws


Link Here 8th April 2013  full story: Blasphemy in Bangladesh...Penalising disbelief

sheikh hasinaBangladeshi prime minister Sheikh Hasina has firmly rejected demands by muslim extremists for a new anti-blasphemy law to punish those who defame Islam and and the religious character Muhammad.

In a BBC interview, she said existing laws were sufficient to punish anyone who attempted to insult religion. Hasina said:

They have demanded it. Actually, we don't have any plan to [bring in the law]. We don't need it. They should know that existing laws are enough.

This country is a secular democracy. So each and every religion has the right to practice their religion freely and fair. But it is not fair to hurt anybody's religious feeling. Always we try to protect every religious sentiment.

The Islamists have given a three-week ultimatum to the government to meet their demands, including extreme punishment to those who they describe as atheist bloggers, who are also accused of making derogatory comments against Islam.

 

 Update: Recalling Troubled Times...

Punjab bans the film Sadda Haq


Link Here 6th April 2013  full story: Banned Movies in India...Sex, religion and easy offence

sadda haqA day before its release, the Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana governments banned the film Sadda Haq as considered it to have glorified the Khalistan (separate Sikh homeland) movement and its leaders.

The movie is based on events in Punjab during 1980-90s and portrays alleged police torture and other inhuman practices that were reported during that period.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal justified the ban saying the state government was committed to maintain peace and harmony:

It is our priority to maintain peace and communal harmony in the state... we don't want that the movie should vitiate the communal atmosphere of the state,

Meanwhile, in Amritsar, radical Sikh outfit Dal Khalsa condemned the Punjab government for banning the film on frivolous charges and demanded a rethink on the move. According to reports, other protests were held against the film at Phagwara and Hoshiarpur on Friday.

Update: Unbanned but Cut

27th April 2013. See  article from  tribuneindia.com

India's Supreme Court has cleared the release of Punjabi movie Sadda Haq (Our Rights) in Punjab, Chandigarh and Delhi on the recommendations of a four-member panel of senior advocates that watched it at a special screening in the court complex.

A three-member Bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir passed an order asking the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to consider revising the classification of the movie, based on the Khalistani movement in Punjab in the 1980s, from U (universal viewing) to A (restricted to adults) as recommended by the lawyers' panel.

The Bench also asked the producers and distributors of the movie not to make use of the controversial promotional song Baggi in any manner whatsoever.

Update: Unbanned in Haryana

17th May 2013.  See  article from  timesofindia.indiatimes.com

The Haryana government has lifted the ban on the exhibition of film 'Saada Haq' in the state subject to the condition that the observations of Supreme Court and provisions of other applicable laws are compiled with in letter and spirit, a state government spokesperson said here.

Only the duly corrected version having certification from Central Board of Film Certification would be exhibited in full conformity to law, the spokesperson added.

 

 Offsite Article: India: Kumar versus the censor...


Link Here 5th April 2013
inshallah kashmir Despite making two award-winning documentaries, filmmaker Ashvin Kumar has faced difficulty having his films shown. Mahima Kaul reports on his battle with India's Censor Board

See article from indexoncensorship.org

 

 Update: Appeasing the Lynch Mob...

Police arrest 3 atheist bloggers in Bangladesh


Link Here 3rd April 2013  full story: Blasphemy in Bangladesh...Penalising disbelief

Bangladesh flagThree 'atheist bloggers' were arrested and paraded at a news conference following muslim extremist demands to kill the blasphemous bloggers.

Deputy commissioner of Dhaka police, Molla Nazrul Islam said that the three had hurt the religious feelings of the people by writing against different religions. He added that the three could face 10 years in jail if convicted under the country's cyber laws which outlaw defaming a religion.

Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan said the three arrested men were among 84 atheist bloggers named in a list handed over by an Islamist group to a government panel probing alleged blasphemy against Islam on the Internet.

Meanwhile, a group of bloggers protested the overnight arrests of the three men and said their detention meant the government is caving in to pressure from Islamist groups. Scores of bloggers held hands to form a human chain in Dhaka to protest the arrests. Fahmidul Haq, a blogger and Dhaka University professor said:

We demand their release. The future of Bangladesh is bleak if the freedom expression of the bloggers is curbed.

 

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