UK News

 2010: April-June



30th June   

Update: Ban Aborted...

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US banned Family Guy episode airs on BBC 3
Link Here

family guy abortionThe BBC did a good thing last week, which was to broadcast an episode of Family Guy, Partial Terms of Endearment , on BBC3. This episode wasn't screened at all in the US, because it is about Lois having an abortion. She becomes a surrogate mother for a friend, but the friend then dies in a car crash. So Lois heads to the Family Planning Centre with her husband, Peter, where she makes a reasoned and thoughtful decision to have an abortion. Peter's all in favour of an abortion, too, until he is shown a pro-life video by protestors outside the centre.

This is all incredibly funny. The video that Peter watches is a heroic pastiche: Science, proclaims the spokesman, has proven that within hours of conception, a human foetus has started a college fund and has already made your first mother's day card out of macaroni and glitter . At this point, it cuts to a picture of a foetus holding a handmade card which reads, Mom, don't kill me! I wuv you.

It's no surprise this episode hasn't aired in the States, although it is expected to be included in the DVD release of the series.

So three cheers to Family Guy , for having the courage of many of our convictions. And an extra cheer for the BBC, for letting us watch it.

...Read the full article

 

28th June   

Unthreatening Insult...

Video Universe - Buy New Release DVDs, TV on DVD, Music Videos and Much More

Protests against a press insult of the muslim community dismissed
Link Here

the press logoA local Dewsbury columnist who wrote that had the Cumbria mass-murderer been carrying the Qur'an he would have been celebrated by so-called British Muslims will not face prosecution, Dewsbury police announced.

Writing three days after Derrick Bird murdered 12 people in Cumbria, the local paper's columnist, Danny Lockwood, wrote that had Bird been carrying a copy of the Qur'an, he would have been celebrated as a hero by tens of thousands, possibly more, of so-called 'British' Muslims.

Lockwood made the analogy in his weekly column Ed Lines hitting out at the Home Office's decision to allow Muslim scholar Zakir Naik into the county.

A spokesman for Dewsbury Police confirmed to The Muslim News that 70 people had lodged a formal complaint: We received a number of complaints about the content of the article which appeared in The Press. We then had to liaise with the Crown Prosecution Service for advice on the matter and enquiries were ongoing at that stage. Following that week we received notice from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that the matter would not be perused any further.

A CPS spokesman told The Muslim News: It should be noted that the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 contains wide exemptions for freedom of speech, specifically saying that nothing in the Act shall prohibit or restrict 'discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions'. According the legal guidance evidence would have had to be obtained revealing that Lockwood used threatening language to stir up religious hatred. Threatening is the operative word, not abusive or insulting. So using abusive or insulting behaviour intended to stir up religious hatred does not constitute an offence, nor does using threatening words likely to stir up religious hatred.

Of course if Lockwood had made his comments in public, then all there fine words about freedom of speech would have been forgotten about. The CPS could have then done him under catch all public order offences where mere insult is enough to get a conviction.

A petition was circulated which asks for a retraction and full public apology. It also calls for local people, businesses and politicians of all persuasions to boycott the paper. A protest was also organised with 300 demonstrators gathering outside Dewsbury Police Station on June 6.

Local campaigner, Abdul Hai, told The Muslim News he and many of Dewsbury's Muslims were appalled by the CPS's decision not to bring charges; this newspaper, and particularly this columnist, has been writing things like this for ten years or more. Sadly we've become used to it but this is the straw that broke the camel's back. People are upset and people are angry.

Lockwood has since apologised, writing a week after making the controversial comparison.

 

23rd June   

Part of Life...

BBC survey finds acceptance of TV violence in The Bill and Casualty
Link Here

BBC logoThe BBC reports that viewers find violence on TV acceptable after polling 300 people.

Sexual violence on screen is seen as part of life as long as it is not gratuitous , according to the study. The BBC survey found people are tolerant of violence in programmes such as The Bill and Casualty .

The findings, which will feed into programme makers' guidelines.

Nutters predictably fear the findings could be a green light to lower standards on taste and decency.

Vivienne Pattison, head of Mediawatch UK, said: No one has ever complained to me there is not enough violence on the telly. But I hear a lot from people who think there is too much. Our concern is that if violence is shown as normal on TV it is normalised and it helps create a violent society.

She also condemned the decision to consult children as young as 11, saying big themes should be decided by people who are at least old enough to vote.

The study saw 13 fictional and factual sequences, including rape and murder, shown to a cross section of UK audiences .

The total number of people who took part in the screenings and in-depth discussions numbered 300 and ranged from aged 11 to 75. A BBC spokesman said anyone under 18 was not shown clips but instead took part in moderated focus groups. The sample of 300 was completely robust and nationally representative in terms of demographics, he added.

Guidance for BBC programme makers on violence in drama and news is to be released this autumn.

 

21st June   

Updated: Unacceptable Behaviour...

Home Secretary bans Zakir Naik from preaching in Britain
Link Here

zakir naikAn Indian Muslim preacher has been banned from entering the UK for his unacceptable behaviour , the home secretary says.

Zakir Naik, a 44-year-old television preacher, had been due to give a series of lectures in London and Sheffield.

The home secretary can stop people entering the UK if she believes there is a threat to national security, public order or the safety of citizens. That includes banning people if she believes their views glorify terrorism, promote violence or encourage other serious crime.

May said: Numerous comments made by Dr Naik are evidence to me of his unacceptable behaviour. Coming to the UK is a privilege, not a right and I am not willing to allow those who might not be conducive to the public good to enter the UK. Exclusion powers are very serious and no decision is taken lightly or as a method of stopping open debate on issues.

This is the first person who has been excluded from the UK since Ms May became home secretary last month.

Naik is based in Mumbai (Bombay) where he works for the Peace TV channel. The BBC's Sanjiv Buttoo says that he is recognised as an authority on Islam but also has a reputation for making disparaging remarks about other religions.

Update: Appeal

21st June 2010. Based on article from islamophobia-watch.com

The Indian Muslim preacher banned by the home secretary from entering the UK for his unacceptable behaviour is to challenge the ruling in the courts.

The Islamic Research Foundation said in a statement: In the wake of the exclusion order and based on legal advice, Dr Zakir Naik intends to bring the matter before the High Court ... and request a judicial review to have the exclusion order overturned.

 

19th June   

Update: Discriminatory Scottish Police...

Stereotyping the English as easily offended by lighthearted football banter
Link Here  full story: Anyone but England...Police investigate football shirt banter

Anyone But England T-Shirt Retailer HMV has withdrawn anti-English World Cup banners, following complaints to police that they could incite racial hatred.

Record chain HMV has removed items with the letters ABE – which stands for Anyone But England – from window displays in its Scottish stores.

It follows a number of objections from the public to the company, as well as a complaint to the police from the Campaign for an English Parliament (CEP).

A police officer visited an HMV store in Kirkcaldy constituency earlier this week and company bosses quickly agreed to remove the banners from all their stores north of the Border.

Now HMV said it was no longer actively promoting the ABE goods, including T-shirts, through banners and displays, and that it would stop selling them once stocks had been sold. [they will hardly have chance to restock, England don't look like lasting long]

Stuart Parr, a member of the CEP's national council whinged: The Campaign for an English Parliament will challenge any company that incites racial hatred towards the English, he said. Racism is unacceptable no matter who it is directed against, including English people.

But Tam Ferry, from the Association of Tartan Army Clubs, said: This is just political correctness gone mad again: I have got one of the T-shirts, and I think it's great that HMV were putting up banners.

Football is all about rivalry and having a bit of banter. Have the police got nothing better to do than take away a bit of fun from people? There's bigger problems in this country that they should be dealing with rather than this.

Trevor Phillips, head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has described the ABE slogan as good-natured banter that was unlikely to cause offence .

Aberdeen North SNP MSP Brian Adam said: I would have thought that it's all light-hearted and not in any way serious. If people take offence, they should remember that we have to put up with a lot of images about Scotland, such as the ones about mean and miserable Scots. Also, people in Scotland might take exception to having goods promoted with images of the English team on and the English flag. The whole thing will be over soon and people should just get a sense of humour.

A spokeswoman for Fife Constabulary said: We received a complaint on Monday 14 June, regarding the Anyone But England banners. An officer attended the HMV store in Kirkcaldy and spoke to the manager there to make him aware of the complaint and to give advice. Ultimately, it was HMV's decision to remove the banners.

 

18th June   

Update: Ofcom Nazis...

Jon Gaunt argues that 'nazi' is slang term for those imposing their views on others
Link Here  full story: Jon Gaunt and Talksport Nazis...Talksport sack radio presenter over Nazi jibe

greenaziNazi is now a recognised slang word rather than an historical insult, Jon Gaunt's lawyers told the high court today in the former TalkSport presenter's legal battle with media regulator Ofcom.

Gaunt is challenging, on freedom of speech grounds, Ofcom's decision to censure the station after he labelled a councillor a Nazi on air, an exchange which resulted in his sacking.

His lawyer, Gavin Millar QC, told the court that Ofcom had acted disproportionately by censuring TalkSport and impugning his client's professional reputation, in contravention of article 10 of the European convention on human rights.

He said that Gaunt had not used the word Nazi in an historical or ideological sense. There is now a recognised slang of the word Nazi [as] one who imposes their views on others.

Gaunt's legal team say that Ofcom's responsibility to enforce the broadcasting code, which commits it to upholding generally acceptable standards of behaviour, must be balanced against the right to free speech as enshrined in the convention.

Millar told the court that fundamental right could only be infringed when there is a pressing social need to do so.

He said that European law recognised that different standards apply to journalists carrying out their professional duties and to politicians who are being quizzed about policies they support or uphold. Journalists have a duty to disseminate information to the public and the public have a right to hear it, he added.

Based on article from guardian.co.uk

Jon Gaunt labelled a guest on his TalkSport show a Nazi because it was his intention to offend , the high court was told today. David Anderson QC, who is acting for Ofcom, said Gaunt wanted the right to bully and insult a guest on a radio. That is what he is saying he had a right to do .

Anderson said Gaunt's use of offensive language , including Nazi , health Nazi and ignorant pig was part of a bullying and hectoring approach which exceeded the expectations of the audience for his programme .

Anderson said: To call someone a Nazi is... slightly different to calling someone a health Nazi but in either case the intention was to offend .

The hearing has now ended and a ruling is expected by the end of next week.

 

15th June   

Update: Ofcom Nazis...

Jon Gaunt challenges Ofcom's censure over calling a council official a 'Nazi'
Link Here  full story: Jon Gaunt and Talksport Nazis...Talksport sack radio presenter over Nazi jibe

Old BaileyThe judicial review hearing of Ofcom's decision to uphold complaints against the radio talk show host Jon Gaunt has begun in the High Court. Liberty, the human rights group, has intervened in the case because of its wider importance to free speech.

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said: Too many people say – my speech is free but yours is more expensive. Love him or hate him, Jon Gaunt's case is a vital defence of everyone's political speech under Article 10 of the Human Rights Act. None of us should take this freedom for granted.

Jon Gaunt said: British people have fought tooth and nail over the centuries since Magna Carta to defend and protect the right to free speech. Our forefathers fought the Nazis in the 20th century to protect such rights. It would be painfully ironic if use of the word 'Nazi' were to defeat us when the real Nazis couldn't.

Martin Howe, Jon Gaunt's solicitor, said: A free press and media is an essential and fundamental ingredient of meaningful democracy. Broadcasters should be free to test our elected politicians on matters such as expenses, front-line cuts, terror policies, the prosecution of wars etc. In Jon Gaunt's case he should be free to challenge a controversial childcare policy. Presenters in political debate should not be looking over their shoulder waiting for the Ofcom gag to be slapped on. Tyranny triumphs when good men are silenced. Our democracy has more to fear from faceless bureaucrats thumbing their thesaurus than from the plain speaking polemic of Jon Gaunt.

Jon Gaunt was sacked from TALKsport on 19 November 2008, two weeks after he called a Redbridge Council representative a Nazi , a Health Nazi and an ignorant pig during an on-air discussion about the Council's ban on placing vulnerable children with foster parents who smoke.

 

10th June   

Update: How Offensive is That?...

Ofcom publish research grading strong language
Link Here

Ofcom logoOfcom have produced a report titles: Audience attitudes towards offensive language on television and radio. In it they write:

Ofcom recognises that the use of language changes over time. Likewise the impact of the offence it may cause also changes over time.

In the five years since Ofcom last published research on attitudes to offensive language, we have received complaints about the use of terms which may not have previously been considered potentially offensive. In addition some words are now considered of heightened sensitivity and are seldom broadcast, while other terms are considered less offensive than in previous years.

Therefore the purpose of Ofcom commissioning independent research by Synovate, was to provide an up to date understanding of public attitudes to offensive language in order to inform Ofcom, viewers, listeners and broadcasters.

The research was qualitative in nature. This means it explored the views of a range of participants across the UK, and provided insights into their opinions based on a variety of examples of broadcast material. It was not a quantitative study, so the results do not seek to provide a definitive measure of the proportion of the UK population who hold specific opinions.

They found:

Amongst the words explored in this research, participants thought that some words were considerably stronger than others.

The mildest words were considered acceptable in most situations (e.g. arse , damn , tits'), whereas considerable care was seen to be necessary over the use of stronger words. In terms of strong language, most participants found the words 'cunt , fuck , 'motherfucker', pussy , cock and twat unacceptable pre-watershed and also wanted care to be taken over the use of the words bitch , bastard , bugger , dick , wanker , 'shag', slag and shit .

Post-watershed, cunt and motherfucker were considered the least acceptable words discussed in the research.

There were mixed views on the use of the word fuck which was considered more acceptable by some participants (e.g. younger people and male participants) but less acceptable by others (e.g. participants aged 55-75).

Most participants also wanted some care to be taken over the use of the word pussy post-watershed. The other words listed were seen to be acceptable postwatershed by most participants.

In terms of discriminatory language, nigger and Paki were seen as the most offensive words. Some participants thought it was acceptable to use them in some specific contexts (e.g. for educational use), whereas some thought they should not be used on television or radio in any context. The word spastic was also generally considered unacceptable.

Some discriminatory language polarised responses, particularly 'retarded', gyppo , pikey , gay and cripple as participants' familiarity with and interpretation of, these words varied greatly, both within the general UK sample, and between the general UK sample and the minority groups.

Overall, most potentially offensive words were not seen to be unacceptable in principle, as context was a key factor in determining whether language was seen as generally acceptable or unacceptable. The exception to this was some potentially discriminatory language (particularly Paki , nigger and spastic') which some participants considered unacceptable in any context. Some participants considered offensive language to be unacceptable when used too frequently, even if its use was thought to be broadly acceptable in relation to all of the other principles outlined in this report.

 

8th June   

Recessionary Cinema and Inflationary Popcorn...

BBFC publish their Annual Report for 2009
Link Here

bbfc annual report 2010 A year of declining submissions for cinema and DVD but increased online certification via the BBFC.online scheme is marked in the BBFC Annual Report for 2009.

While the Board saw traditional media submissions fall for the third year running, the voluntary classification scheme for video content being supplied by downloading and streaming continues to draw new content providers and suppliers*. 2009 was the first full calendar year of operation and saw online certificates reach over 8,000, covering film and television content. The BBFC.online scheme was developed in the knowledge that the EU Audiovisual Services Directive would require the UK to introduce, by the end of 2009, a form of statutory regulation for certain video-on- demand services operating from within the UK. This EU Directive requires all member states to introduce certain basic rules for video-on-demand services which offer TV-like content to the public.

David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said:

While we continue to see a decline in traditional submissions we are looking to an online future. Considering that BBFC.online is a voluntary scheme, we have chalked up an impressive membership list, reflecting the importance the digital industry places on effective content labelling. The industry recognises the trust which the public places in BBFC classifications and the well recognised and understood category symbols and black card. We see widespread use of BBFC classifications through this scheme as the best way of signalling to consumers, and in particular parents, the nature of the video-on-demand content being offered and its suitability for different age groups.

That a BBFC classification offers something of value to the industry, beyond a legal obligation, was also clear from the fact that the vast majority of distributors continued to submit their works for classification during the hiatus in the enforcement of the Video Recordings Act between August 2009 and January this year. Entertainment retailers also continued to restrict sales according to BBFC classifications.

As far as the public is concerned, 2009 saw the roll out of the latest set of classification Guidelines, based on the extensive consultation exercise carried out in 2008/9, which ensures that we are in touch with current public attitudes. The provision of Consumer Advice and Extended Classification Information on both our main website and our website for Parents – pbbfc.co.uk – means that anyone trying to decide which film they, or their family, should see has access to as much information as possible to enable them to make informed decisions.

In 2009 the BBFC rejected three works because they were considered to be potentially harmful; eleven cinema films were cut, but these were cuts made by distributors to obtain a lower category; and 341 DVD submissions were cut, the vast majority of which (208) were in the R18 category and were to remove illegal or potentially harmful material.

A number of older films were resubmitted with a view to having previous cut material reinstated or changes overturned for a modern classification. When the video version of Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction came in for classification in 1994 a heroine injection scene was reframed to remove what was considered at the time to be instructional detail. In 2009 it came in again and the scene was passed uncut, based on up to date advice. The House by the Cemetery , a video nasty made in 1981, was passed uncut for the first time last year. The producer's cut of L'Empire des Sens – In the Realm of the Senses , the Nagisa Oshima classic 1976 study of sexual obsession, sadomasochism, madness and murder was submitted for a modern classification and passed 18 uncut.

2009 saw a reduction in the number of complaints to the BBFC and no one classification decision dominated the feedback from the public. Not everyone who complained to the Board had actually seen the film. The Board regularly receives complaints if a film is the subject of critical press coverage. Top end classification decisions regularly bring complaints from under age viewers who resent having their viewing or game playing restricted by our decisions. And some correspondents think the BBFC is responsible for everything from the historical accuracy of a film to the cost of the popcorn at the cinema.

 

5th June   

Update: Blowing the Case Sky High...

Twitter joker to launch an appeal against his conviction
Link Here

jack of kent logoJack of Kent writes about an appeal of the man prosecuted for sending a jokey twitter message about bombing Robin Hood Airport.

Paul Chambers has now lodged an appeal at Doncaster Crown Court. He will be appealing his (in my view) wrongful conviction under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 for sending an ill-conceived joke on Twitter.

The appeal will probably be heard in July or August.

If the Crown Court appeal is unsuccessful, then there can then be an appeal to the High Court, and so on until he is finally acquitted, or until he exhausts the entire appeal process.

The appeal will now be primarily undertaken by the awesomely formidable Stephen Ferguson, one of the United Kingdom's best and most sought-after defence and appellate barristers. Paul and his legal team will also have support pro bono from myself and Andrew Sharpe in respect of the Communications Act 2003.

I think we can be optimistic for Paul's chances on appeal, but that sadly is not a certainty. There is still a lot of work to be done so that this injustice can be remedied.

 

2nd June   

Update: Hype Inside...

Michael Winterbottom grabs the press spotlight
Link Here  full story: Killer Inside Me...Michael Winterbottom film gets noticed

killer inside me posterJessica Alba gets violently beaten in her new film The Killer Inside Me - but does that really make it one of the most controversial films ever made?

The film has seemingly split the critics between those who think it's a bold and dark piece of adult film making, and those who think it's a gruesome portrayal of misogyny.

British director Michael Winterbottom has defended his work to Sky News, insisting if he was going to adapt one of the most famous graphic pulp novels of the fifties, he would have to stay true to the original vision: Obviously this is a story that involves some violence towards women and I can understand that is shocking. It should be shocking. If you made a film where there's a guy beating up a woman and it was enjoyable that would be wrong. The original novel was written by Jim Thompson.

Most critics have picked up on two particular scenes in this remake, one of which features Jessica Alba's character getting battered by the murderous Lou Ford, played to chilling effect by Casey Affleck.

The BBFC passed it uncut as an 18 Certificate, saying the scenes in question do not eroticise or endorse sexual assault or pose a credible harm risk to viewers of 18 and over .

The director, though, hopes open-minded cinema fans will at least give it a chance. Every interview has been about the violence of the film which I understand because violence is shocking, he sighs: But at the same time it's a shame we don't get to talk about the actors and the dialogue and the story. There are two violent scenes in the whole film and the rest of it is a portrayal of Lou Ford as a sort of interesting, complex and violent character. Unfortunately we never get onto that part as we end up talking about the violence.

 

25th May   

Update: Slow Witted...

Oops Channel 4 were slow to notice that the word 'retard' has been hyped into a major no-no.
Link Here  full story: The R Word...Campaign against the word 'retard'

Vinne Jones(Celebrity) Big Brothers Big Mouth E4, 29 January 2010, 23:05

Big Brothers Big Mouth (BBBM) is the sister programme to Channel 4s main Big Brother series . It is transmitted live and is broadcast post-watershed and looks at events in the Big Brother House with a studio audience and celebrity guests. It provides a platform for fans to voice their views, put questions to the evicted housemates and discuss the latest events in the house. Viewers are able to contribute to the programme by phone, e-mail, textpolls, or by leaving a message on the 24-hour Mouthpiece rant line.

This episode was broadcast the same night as the CBB series finale and followed the Channel 4 coverage of the event. The programme was presented by Davina McCall. It was preceded with a warning which stated: First on Four, with strong language, adult humour and flashing images, the Big Mouth on a big event, Celebrity Big Brother.

One of the guests on the programme was Vinnie Jones, who came third in the competition and had been evicted from the CBB house that night. During the programme a member of the studio audience asked Jones how he had known instantly that the person who came into the house disguised in a chicken outfit was Ms McCall and not fellow housemate Nicola Tappenden. In response to the question, Jones said: she was walking like a retard, she was walking like this [he then demonstrated walking with difficulty] and our Nicky walks lovely.

Ms McCall then responded by saying: I do not walk like a retard.

Ofcom received eight complaints about the programme. In summary, all of the complainants were offended by the use of the term walking like a retard by  Jones, and the demonstration he gave after saying the comment. Seven of the complainants were also offended by the response from the presenter, Ms McCall, who had repeated the phrase. Four of the complainants also raised concerns that Ms McCall had appeared to enjoy the joke and did not reprimand Jones for the comment.

In line with Ofcoms procedures, the complaints were initially considered by the Executive without representations being requested from Channel 4. On 18 February 2010, Ofcom wrote to Channel 4 informing them that eight complaints had been received but not upheld. Ofcom stated that it was mindful of the overall context of the programme and decided on balance that there was not sufficient evidence to conclude that the word was necessarily intended to be offensive to anyone with learning difficulties.

Two of the complainants requested a review of this decision. Ofcom considered Rule 2.3 of the Code (which requires material that may cause offensive must be justified by the context).

Ofcom Decision : Resolved

The Committee first examined the language used in this case in order to assess the potential it had for causing offence. In doing so the Committee recognised that the use of discriminatory language of this nature can be profoundly offensive to some viewers as it singles out a minority in society. Ofcoms own research (-3-) into offensive language identified that the word retard is quite polarising. Those people who consider it offensive do so because it is a derogatory term that refers to a disability.

In the Committees opinion, the comments made by both Jones and Ms McCall in this programme were clearly capable of causing offence. In reaching this view, the Committee noted that the use of the word retard by Jones, although arguably intended as a joke and not aimed at an individual with learning difficulties, could be seen as being a comment on people in society with a particular disability. This was reinforced by Jones demonstrating walking with difficulty when imitating the way in which Ms McCall had walked. Jones then unfavourably compared the walk with that of fellow housemate Nicola Tappenden, which he described as lovely. It was the Committees view that his use of the word retard was capable of being understood not as merely a passing reference directed towards Ms McCall, but also as ridiculing those with a physical or learning difficulty, emphasised by his attempt at imitation.

The Committee was particularly concerned that not only was Jones comment not corrected but that it was repeated by the presenter, Ms McCall, without any apparent recognition of its potential to cause offence. The Committee, while acknowledging this was a live show, considered that in this instance the action of Ms McCall had the potential to heighten the offence to viewers.

The Committee was also concerned that the programme makers took no action during the programme to seek to mitigate the offence that would have been caused by the comments. The Committee noted Channel 4s admission that it would normally respond to a comment of that nature by asking the presenter to admonish the person responsible and if appropriate, apologise to the audience. It said that, due to human error, it had failed to do so on this occasion.

In the Committees opinion that failure suggested a lack of understanding during the live broadcast of how offensive the comments had been.

However, the Committee concluded that, on balance and in the circumstances of this particular case, there was insufficient context to justify the offence that was likely to be caused by the comments made during the programme. Therefore the broadcast breached generally accepted standards.

The Committee then went on to consider whether Channel 4 had taken immediate and appropriate steps to remedy this breach of generally accepted standards. The Committee noted the action taken by the broadcaster in response to the complaints made about the programme. In particular Channel 4 had voluntarily removed the comments from the Video on Demand (4OD) version of the programme after an internal review (albeit this was in response to a complaint several days after broadcast by an individual who is also a complainant in this case), and had apologised in writing to the complainant. The Committee also noted the measures taken by Channel 4 to ensure this does not happen again. The Committee considered these measures appropriate to remedy the breach of generally accepted standards and therefore considered the case resolved.

 

25th May   

Comment: Redressing the Balance...

Lord Lester to introduce libel reform bill in the Lords
Link Here  full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth

anthony lesterThe right of free speech is a central democratic principle. But so too is the right of individuals to be protected against libel and defamation of character. The job of the legislature and judiciary is to balance those conflicting freedoms. In England, that balance has become skewed: libel law gives robust protection to reputation, but it increasingly does so at the expense of freedom of speech.

The Government is aware of the problem. Nick Clegg has indicated that the coalition will review the libel laws. It is fortunate, then, that on Thursday a Private Member's Bill will be published that offers an ideal model for reform. Lord Lester of Herne Hill will bring a Defamation Bill before the House of Lords that aims to modernise and simplify the law in several respects. It would bring up to date the defences available for those being sued for libel. It would require claimants to show real harm before they could sue. It would demand that corporate claimants must prove actual damage. And it would make the normal mode of trial one of a judge sitting alone, rather than a jury.

Lord Lester's Bill also contains measures to cope with the advent of the internet. At the moment, foreign claimants are pursuing cases in the UK courts based on the fact that articles published on the world wide web can be downloaded here. Every time an article is downloaded, it constitutes a new publication, which resets the one-year limitation period for libel actions, a law that dates from 1849, when the Duke of Brunswick made law by sending his valet to obtain a 17-year-old back copy of the Weekly Dispatch to sue for defamation.

This is not a Bill to promote irresponsible journalism, or to placate newspapers whingeing about libel. It seeks to restore the right balance between those who pursue public interest reporting and those who seek to defend themselves from malicious attacks. If nothing is done the result will be increasing self-censorship, because of the uncertainty over what constitutes fair comment and because of the size of damages that can be awarded, which Lord Lester's Bill seeks to limit.

 

24th May   

Updated: Great British Repeal Bill...

You can't get more promising than this
Link Here

libdem con logoFrom the text of the coalition agreement reached by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats:

Civil liberties

The parties agree to implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour Government and roll back state intrusion.

This will include:

  • A Freedom or Great Repeal Bill.
     
  • The scrapping of ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the Contact Point Database.
     
  • Outlawing the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission.
     
  • The extension of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency.
     
  • Adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database.
     
  • The protection of historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury.
     
  • The restoration of rights to non-violent protest.
     
  • The review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech.
     
  • Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.
     
  • Further regulation of CCTV.
     
  • Ending of storage of internet and email records without good reason.
     
  • A new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.

Offsite: The voices of liberty have triumphed and Britain is better for it

17th May 2010. See article from guardian.co.uk by Henry Porter

Henry PorterOne of the great pleasures of last week was hearing Jack Straw speaking on the Today programme in that patient, reasonable way of the true autocrat, and suddenly realising that I never have to pay attention to him again. Nor for a very long time will I have to listen to Mandelson, Campbell, Clarke, Smith, Reid, Falconer, Blunkett, Woolas or Blears: they're history and the New Labour project to extend state control into so many areas of our lives is incontestably over.

The Queen's speech, now being drafted, will establish a Freedom or Great Repeal bill – the title has not yet been chosen – as a major part of the coalition's legislative programme. All the areas detailed in the agreement between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives, such as the abolition of ID cards and the children's database (ContactPoint database??), the further regulation of CCTV and the restoration of right to protest will be in it. Measures that weren't in the published agreement will reassert the right to silence and protect people against the huge number of new powers of entry into the home allowed by Labour.

Separate from this will be a complete review of terror legislation that will assess 28-day detention, control orders, section 44 stop and search powers, the harassment of photographers, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, and its amendments, which sanctioned 650 agencies and local authorities to carry out undercover surveillance operations on, for example, people suspected of making dubious school applications for their children, eel fishermen in Poole harbour, punt operators in Cambridge, depressed police officers and malingering council workers.

...Read full article

Update: Tell us the laws you want to get scrapped

Dangerous Pictures...Dangerous Cartoons...Dangerous Prostitution...and many more. Perhaps it would be more efficient to list Labour's laws actually worth keeping. (Repealing betting tax is one that springs to mind).

19th May 2010. Based on article from telegraph.co.uk

nick cleggThe public will be asked what laws they want ripped up, in far-reaching reforms designed to put back faith in politics , the Deputy Prime Minister will say.

The reordering of power will sweep away Labour legislation and new criminal offences deemed to have eroded personal freedom.

It will involve the end of the controversial ID cards scheme, the scrapping of universal DNA databases – in which the records of thousands of innocent people have been stored – and restrictions placed on internet records. The use of CCTV cameras will also be reviewed.

Dubbed the Great Reform Act , the measures will close down the ContactPoint children's database. Set up by Labour last year, it includes detailed information on all 11 million youngsters under 18. In addition, schools will not be able to take a child's fingerprint without parental permission.

In an attempt to protect freedom of speech, ministers will review libel laws, while limits on peaceful protest will be removed.

Clegg said the Government wanted to establish a fundamental resettlement of the relationship between state and citizen that puts you in charge .

In a speech in London he will say: This Government is going to transform our politics so the state has far less control over you, and you have far more control over the state. This Government is going to break up concentrations of power and hand power back to people, because that is how we build a society that is fair.

As we tear through the statute book, we'll do something no government ever has: We will ask you which laws you think should go. Because thousands of criminal offences were created under the previous government. Taking people's freedom away didn't make our streets safe. Obsessive law-making simply makes criminals out of ordinary people. So, we'll get rid of the unnecessary laws – and once they're gone, they won't come back. We will introduce a mechanism to block pointless new criminal offences.

The measures to repeal so-called surveillance state laws will be included in next week's Queen's Speech.

Under the coalition agreement, Clegg and David Cameron said they would end the storage of internet and email regulations and email records without good reason . This is likely to mean the end of plans for the Government and the security services to intercept and keep emails and text messages.

Update: Vetting and Barring

23rd May 2010. See article from theregister.co.uk

The new government has announced plans to scale back vetting and barring.

It says the vetting and barring scheme, used to check the backgrounds of people working with children and vulnerable adults, will be reviewed to scale it back to common sense levels .

Update: Queen's Speech

24th May 2010. Based on article from telegraph.co.uk

The Queen's Speech will contain pledges to introduce 21 bills and other legislation during the next parliamentary year. Here are a few with some relevance to Melon Farmers

Identity Documents Bill (Home Office).

The imminent scrapping of identity cards and the planned National Identity Register is already being foreshadowed on the Home Office website. This Bill will enact a policy that both coalition partners put forward but the fact it is one of the first three pieces of legislation to be unveiled is a boost for Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems' civil liberties agenda.

The Great Repeals Bill aka The Freedom Bill (Cabinet Office).

This will enact a raft of reforms described by Nick Clegg last week as the most radical redistribution of power from the state to the people in 200 years. It will include the scrapping of universal DNA databases and the placing of restrictions on internet records while the use of CCTV cameras will be reviewed, the ContactPoint children's database will be shut down. Libel laws will be reviewed while limits on peaceful protest will be removed.

Public Bodies Bill. (Cabinet Office)

An assault on quangos is likely to be a key feature of efforts by the new government to find billions of pounds of efficiency savings across Whitehall. The drive was promised by the Conservatives in opposition but, significantly, has been handed to Nick Clegg and his team at the Cabinet Office.

Ofcom in particular have been mentioned for scaling down

Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill (Home Office).

The vehicle for making police forces more accountable, including oversight by what ministers refer to as a directly elected individual . Police must also publish monthly local crime data statistics. This is also likely to include a fresh crackdown on anti-social behaviour and alcohol-related violence.

Any chance that the police can be prevented from abusing laws and harassing photographers, protestors, anti-religious cartoon pamphleters and even street preachers.

 

19th May   

Update: Obscene Private Chat...

Police bring obscenity charges over online private chat
Link Here  full story: Obscene Private Chat...Extending OPA to private internet chat

Kent PoliceAs already reported by The Register, Kent Police are in the process of using the Obscene Publications Act as a means to prosecute an individual, Gavin Smith, of Swanscombe for publishing obscenity in respect of a log of a private online chat he had with another individual.

This case has now been given the green light to proceed.

Due to reporting restrictions, theregister.co.uk are unable to give any further details of the alleged content of the conversation at this point in time.

The legal principle at stake here is whether internet chat constitutes publication in the ordinary sense of the word, or can be treated as private conversation. If the former is the conclusion, then anyone with even a passing interest in more extreme fantasies (not just underage, but also BDSM, rape and other matters currently covered by the extreme porn laws) may need to be very careful in respect of any online conversations they have in future. IRC will no longer be quite the refuge of the bizarre and the outlandish it once was.

Yesterday's hearing, before magistrates in Gravesend (the date was moved from May 6) resulted in the date of a committal hearing being agreed for 9 July. At that time, a judge may decide that the case has no legal merit. Otherwise, a date will then be set for trial, and the seriousness of this matter will escalate another notch.

...See full article

Gavin Smith has been charged with two counts of making indecent images of children, four counts of possessing indecent images of children, and nine offences under the Obscene Publications Act.

 

17th May   

Updated: Boyling Over...

Frankie Boyle writes to BBC Trust over their cowardice against well drilled lobbying
Link Here  full story: Frankie Boyle...Whinges about Frankie Boyle and Mock the Week

My Shit Life So Far Comedian Frankie Boyle has written an open letter slamming the BBC governing body's cowardly rebuke of his jokes about Palestine.

The BBC Trust's editorial standards committee apologised earlier this week over comments made by Boyle two years ago, comparing Palestine to a cake being punched to pieces by a very angry Jew .

In his letter, the former Mock The Week star said he had been moved to tears after watching a documentary about life in Palestine and had promised himself he would do something.

He said that the BBC wished to deliver the flavour of political comedy with none of the content , and also slammed the BBC's decision not to air a charity appeal for aid to Gaza last year. He said: It's tragic for such a great institution, but it is now cravenly afraid of giving offence and vulnerable to any kind of well-drilled lobbying.

Boyle made the remarks on Radio 4 show Political Animal. He said: I've been studying Israeli Army martial arts. I now know 16 ways to kick a Palestinian woman in the back.

Update: Open Letter to the BBC Trust

17th May 2010. See article from mpacuk.org

Obviously, it feels strange to be on the moral high ground but I feel a response is required to the BBC Trust's cowardly rebuke of my jokes about Palestine.

As always, I heard nothing from the BBC but read in a newspaper that editorial procedures would be tightened further to stop jokes with anything at all to say getting past the censors.

In case you missed it, the jokes in question are: I've been studying Israeli Army Martial Arts. I now know 16 ways to kick a Palestinian woman in the back. People think that the Middle East is very complex but I have an analogy that sums it up quite well. If you imagine that Palestine is a big cake, well…that cake is being punched to pieces by a very angry Jew.

I think the problem here is that the show's producers will have thought that Israel, an aggressive, terrorist state with a nuclear arsenal was an appropriate target for satire. The Trust's ruling is essentially a note from their line managers. It says that if you imagine that a state busily going about the destruction of an entire people is fair game, you are mistaken. Israel is out of bounds.

The BBC refused to broadcast a humanitarian appeal in 2009 to help residents of Gaza rebuild their homes. It's tragic for such a great institution but it is now cravenly afraid of giving offence and vulnerable to any kind of well drilled lobbying.

I told the jokes on a Radio 4 show called Political Animal. That title seems to promise provocative comedy with a point of view. In practice the BBC wish to deliver the flavour of political comedy with none of the content. The most recent offering I saw was BBC Two's The Bubble. It looked exactly like a show where funny people sat around and did jokes about the news. Except the thrust of the format was that nobody had read the papers. I can only imagine how the head of the BBC Trust must have looked watching that, grinning like Gordon Brown having his prostrate examined.

The situation in Palestine seems to be, in essence, apartheid. I grew up with the anti apartheid thing being a huge focus of debate. It really seemed to matter to everybody that other human beings were being treated in that way. We didn't just talk about it, we did things, I remember boycotts and marches and demos all being held because we couldn't bear that people were being treated like that.

A few years ago I watched a documentary about life in Palestine. There's a section where a UN dignitary of some kind comes to do a photo opportunity outside a new hospital. The staff know that it communicates nothing of the real desperation of their position, so they trick her into a side ward on her way out. She ends up in a room with a child who the doctors explain is in a critical condition because they don't have the supplies to keep treating him. She flounders, awkwardly caught in the bleak reality of the room, mouthing platitudes over a dying boy.

The filmmaker asks one of the doctors what they think the stunt will have achieved. He is suddenly angry, perhaps having just felt at first hand something he knew in the abstract. The indifference of the world. She will do nothing, he says to the filmmaker. Then he looks into the camera and says, Neither will you .

I cried at that and promised myself that I would do something. Other than write a few stupid jokes I have not done anything. Neither have you.

Frankie Boyle

 

16th May   

Updated: Ministers of Censorship...

Cameron appoints new government censors
Link Here

libdem con logoTheresa May has been appointed Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equality in David Cameron's first Cabinet.

In this latter role of Minister for Equality her appointment attracted immediate criticism. Her voting record is rated as moderately against equal rights for homosexuals by The Public Whip website. In recent years she was absent or voted against most gay equality measures.

Kenneth Clarke had been appointed Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Jeremy Hunt has been appointed secretary of state for culture, Olympics, media and sport in a newly created department in the Lib Dem/Conservative coalition government. Hunt's new brief combines the Department for Culture, Media and Sport with Tessa Jowell's ministerial responsibility for the London 2012 Olympics.

The Lib Dems are expected to have one minister in the new department, although it is understood responsibility for media is likely to go to a Tory.

Update: Promising Appointments

16th May 2010, thanks to Harvey

The following government appointments are of interest to Melon Farmers

Edward Garnier has been appointed Solicitor General and Lord Wallace (of Miller/Wallace amendment fame) has been appointed Advocate General for Scotland.

Along with Ken Clarke at the Ministry of Justice, the LibDem Lord McNally is also there as Minister of State which gives me hope that the commitments to scrapping ID cards, extending Freedom of Information and the rest as detailed in an earlier post are not there simply as window dressing, but will actually be carried through.

Update: Lynne Featherstone

17th May 2010, thanks to David.

Apparently most of the actual work at the Ministry of Women and Equality - while Theresa May concentrates on her Home Office duties - will be down to Lynne Featherstone, a Lib Dem with a far more pro-equality voting record.

See www.lynnefeatherstone.org/2010/05/doing-not-saying.htm

Update: Theresa May Minister for Lap Dancing

23rd May 2010. Based on article from morningadvertiser.co.uk

A DCMS spokesman said some licensing issues are set to be taken on by the Home Office; for example, the licensing of lap dancing clubs.

 

15th May   

Recipe for Censorship...

Police claim that the Anarchist Cookbook is illegal
Link Here

anarchist cookbookOnline retailer Amazon is facing pressure to stop selling copies of a supposedly terrorist books downloaded by a teenage white supremacist whose racist father produced a chemical weapon.

Nicky Davison was sentenced to two years in a young offenders' institution after being convicted of charges relating to downloading copies of the Anarchist Cookbook and The Poor Man's James Bond .

His father, Ian Davison was jailed for 10 years at Newcastle Crown Court after he manufactured enough ricin to kill nine people and kept it in a jar in his kitchen for two years.

The court heard that copies of the Anarchist Cookbook , which Davison Snr also possessed, are still on sale on Amazon.

Judge John Milford QC said any documents stored by Amazon should be destroyed and taken off the website. Police later also called for their removal from the internet.

Speaking outside the court, Detective Superintendent Neil Malkin said: This is a landmark case and will bring the attention of the authorities at a national level to the need to restrict these documents.

The detective said just downloading the Anarchist Cookbook from the internet was an offence. Clearly, Amazon needs to look at what happened today in this case and reflect on the availability of these manuals .

Amazon said it would stop selling the books if it was found to be illegal but said it believed people had the right to choose their own reading material.

 

12th May   

Update: Snobs...

Elitists complain about bans on naked 'art' but are hardly supportive of ordinary guys enjoying adult entertainment
Link Here  full story: Lap Dancing Licensing in Scotland...Scotland legislation to restrict lap dancing

nude balletSome of the country's most celebrated arts bodies have welcomed clarification to new laws designed to crack down on lap-dancing clubs which would have inadvertently prevented them from staging shows featuring nudity.

Nationalist MSP Sandra White has put forward an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill going through Holyrood which would allow local authorities and licensing boards to ban lap-dancing venues in their area.

But organisations such as Scottish Ballet and the Festival Fringe Society had warned that under plans to tighten licensing rules, renowned shows featuring nudity, such as Nic Green's Trilogy , could have been pulled.

Cindy Sughrue, Scottish Ballet's chief executive, had urged the committee to carefully consider the wording of White's amendment, given the potential unintended consequences for theatre companies, who would be unable to show iconic works by world-renowned directors and choreographers.

She said: Nudity, as defined, would rule out presentations of some of the most powerful performance work of the 20th and 21st centuries, including numerous acclaimed productions created and presented in Scotland, including at the Edinburgh International festival.

At a meeting of the Scottish Parliament's injustice committee, politicians echoed such concerns. Robert Brown, Scottish Liberal Democrats justice spokesman, said: For theatrical performances, I'm not sure it presents as clear exemptions as one would hope.

Bill Aitken, his Tory counterpart and the committee's convener, agreed. I do have serious reservations and I don't think the issue of theatrical performances has been satisfactorily resolved.

Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill told the committee that while communities should be allowed to refuse permission to license the clubs, the government had significant concerns over Ms White's amendment. He said: There are drafting difficulties with the amendment which will have to be addressed.

Ms White accepted an offer of assistance to clarify her amendment, meaning the government will now draft a tighter licensing regime which will come before MSPs when the bill is considered by the full parliament at its final stage.

 

12th May   

Alarmed, Harassed and Distressed...

Police visit seeks removal of trivially insulting David Cameron poster
Link Here

class war cameronA man who placed a poster of David Cameron containing the word wanker in his window has described how police handcuffed him in his home on election day, threatened him with arrest, and forcibly removed what they said was offensive campaign literature.

David Hoffman said a local inspector told him over the phone that any reasonable person would find his poster alarming, harassing or distressful .

The visit from police followed a complaint from a neighbour, who told Hoffman she found the poster offensive. The word wanker was printed beneath a photograph of a smiling Cameron.

Hoffman said four officers knocked on his door on polling day. When asked by them for identification, he said he tried to momentarily close the door. The officers then forced the door open, he said: They burst into my house, pushed me back and handcuffed me. They said I had committed an offence under section 5 of the Public Order Act, I was being detained, and I might be arrested.

The poster, one of several images of party leaders produced by the veteran anarchist group Class War, was removed.

In a statement, the Metropolitan police denied officers forced their way into Hoffman's home and claimed he was restrained with handcuffs to prevent a breach of the peace after becoming agitated. It said that words of advice were given to the resident … who removed the material .

 

11th May   

Lost in the Hood...

BBFC ban gay porn DVD
Link Here

Lost in the Hood logoThe BBFC have banned a gay DVD submitted for an R18.

Few details are provided about the film but it is probably from the Lost in the Hood series by Edward James

The BBFC explained their ban:

Lost in the Hood is a US sex work focusing exclusively on the abduction and rape of a number of men. In each scenario, we see the predatory male characters choose a victim who appears to have become lost in the hood (ie a bad neighbourhood in the United States). They then abduct their chosen victim and force him to engage in sexual acts with them against his will. Each scene places a strong emphasis on the non consensual nature of the sex, with the victims pleading to be released, showing discomfort and making unsuccessful attempts to escape. Similarly, the perpetrators display a high level of physical and verbal aggression. By presenting the spectacle of sexual violence within the context of an explicit sex work, whose primary intention is to sexually arouse the viewer, Lost in the Hood has the effect of eroticising and endorsing sexual violence in a potentially harmful fashion.

In making a decision as to whether a video work is suitable for classification, the Board applies the criteria set out in its current Classification Guidelines, published in 2009. These are the result of an extensive process of public consultation and research and reflect the balance of media effects research, the requirements of UK law and the attitudes of the UK public. The Board's Guidelines clearly reflect the serious concerns that exist about the portrayal of sexual violence.

The Guidelines for the R18 category requested for this video work state that the following content is not acceptable: material (including dialogue) likely to encourage an interest in sexually abusive activity (for example [...] rape),the portrayal of any sexual activity which involves lack of consent (whether real or simulated),any sexual threats, humiliation or abuse which does not form part of a clearly consenting role-playing game. Strong physical or verbal abuse, even if consensual, is unlikely to be acceptable . Under the heading of Compulsory Cuts , the Board's Guidelines identify as of particular concern sexual violence or sexualised violence which endorses or eroticises the behaviour . Additionally, under the heading of Violence , the Board's Guidelines state that A strict policy on sexual violence and rape is applied. Content which might eroticise or endorse sexual violence may require cuts at any classification level [...] Any association of sex with non-consensual restraint, pain or humiliation may be cut .

Of course, the Board will always seek to deal with such concerns by means of cuts or other modifications when this is a feasible option. However, under the heading of Rejects our Guidelines state that If the central concept of a work is unacceptable (for example, a sex work with a rape theme), or if the changes required would be extensive or complex, the work may be rejected, ie refused a classification at any category .

It is the Board's carefully considered view that to issue a certificate to this work, even if confined to adults, would be inconsistent with the Board's Guidelines, would risk potential harm within the terms of the VRA, and would be unacceptable to the public.

The Board considered whether its concerns could be dealt with through cuts. However, given that the central concept of the work is unacceptable and that the unacceptable content runs throughout the work, cuts are not a viable option in this case and the work is therefore refused a classification.

 

6th May   

Update: Trigger Hair Sensitivity...

Supporting the hype for Four Lions
Link Here

four lionsFamilies who lost relatives in the 2005 London bomb attacks are appealing to cinemas not to show a British comedy about four aspiring suicide bombers.

Four Lions was created by satirist Chris Morris, who was also behind the controversial Channel 4 show Brass Eye. The film - on general release from Friday - focuses on four men travelling to London to target the marathon.

Grahame Russell, whose son was among the 52 killed on 7 July 2005, accused its makers of being morally bankrupt.

Graham Foulkes, who also lost his son in the bombings, said he and other relatives were appealing to cinemas not to show the British-funded film. He acknowledged that humour had a part when it came to examining serious issues but said for his family, and others like them, the tragedy was still too raw.

Chris Morris has described the film as showing the Dad's Army side to terrorism , as four incompetent jihadists plan an attack. A film like this is obviously a very strong counterpoint to the very serious side of it, which none of us condone.

In January when the film was premiered, Arsher Ali, who plays one of the would-be terrorists, told the BBC the film was first and foremost, a comedy: It's a dynamic of a bunch of guys who get together and mess everything up. Terrorism is in the news almost every day, but there are little stories within those things that are inherently comic and inherently human. A film like this is obviously a very strong counterpoint to the very serious side of it, which none of us condone, but there are human stories that need to be told, which can be quite touching.

 

6th May   

Offsite: Taboo Fades...

An unpublicised reading of the previously controversial play, Behzti
Link Here

Behzti Oberon Modern Gurpreet Bhatti An unpublicised reading of the cancelled Sikh play proved excuses for its continued censorship have been demolished

Behzti , a play about sex abuse and murder in a Sikh temple, was cancelled in 2004 after the Sikh community stormed the theatre.

Last Friday, British theatre took a small step in the direction of free speech. At the Soho Theatre, in the heart of London's west end, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti's Behzti was performed in the UK for the first time since it was controversially cancelled in 2004.

Let us be clear: this was no great stride for freedom, more an anxious shuffle. The performance was a rehearsed reading, not a full production, and received no publicity whatsoever. It was completely absent from the theatre's website, and was only advertised to those who had been to see Behud, Bhatti's most recent play. Buying a ticket felt a little like purchasing bootleg liquor from under the counter, and the atmosphere in the auditorium was, I imagine, how dissidents must have felt in the 1640s, when religious puritans closed the theatres and drama was performed illegally. Proper free speech has to be more open than this.

...Read full article

 

4th May   

Religiously Aggravated Justice...

Islamic call to kill Gordon Brown deemed to be political rather than religious hatred
Link Here

islam will dominateA muslim protester who daubed a war memorial with graffiti glorifying Osama Bin Laden and proclaiming Islam will dominate the world got off lightly after prosecutors ruled his actions were not motivated by religion.

Tohseef Shah sprayed the words Islam will dominate the world – Osama is on his way and Kill Gordon Brown on the plinth of the memorial in Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire.

Shah could have faced a tougher sentence if the court had accepted that the graffiti – which included a threat to kill the Prime Minister – were inspired by religious hatred.

But the Crown Prosecution Service chose not to charge him with that offence and he escaped with only a two-year conditional discharge and an order to pay the council £500 compensation after admitting causing criminal damage. It was decided there was not enough evidence to prove this, and they decided it was politically motivated.

The CPS said Shah's offence could not be charged as a hate crime because the law requires that damage must target a particular religious or racial group: While it was appreciated that what was sprayed on the memorial may have been perceived by some to be part of a racial or religious incident, no racial or religious group can be shown to have been targeted.

There is now a Facebook group demanding that Shah be jailed then deported to a more suitable country .

 

29th April   

Update: Crummy Censors...

BBC apologise over Frankie Boyle's quip at Israel beating up Palestine
Link Here  full story: Frankie Boyle...Whinges about Frankie Boyle and Mock the Week

My Shit Life So Far The BBC Trust's editorial standards committee has issued an apology over a joke made by Frankie Boyle which compared Palestine with a cake being punched to pieces by a very angry Jew .

The committee, which acts as a final arbiter of appeals if complainants are unhappy with the response from BBC management, upheld a previous finding that the comment was inappropriate and offensive.

But it said that no further action is needed in the case.

Boyle made the remark on Radio 4 comedy sketch show Political Animal , broadcast almost two years ago in June 2008.

The Scottish comedian said: I'm quite interested in the Middle East, I'm actually studying that Israeli army martial arts. And I know 16 ways to kick a Palestinian woman in the back. It's a difficult question to understand. I've got an analogy which explains the whole thing quite well: If you imagine that Palestine is a cake - well, that cake is being punched to pieces by a very angry Jew.

A complainant wrote to the BBC Executive branding the comment disgusting and anti-Semitic.

Dissatisfied with the broadcaster's response, the complainant went to the editorial complaints unit, which is the next stage of the BBC's complaints process. But the complainant then went to the editorial standards committee as he felt that the remark had gone through the editorial process without ringing any alarm bells.

 

27th April   

Obscene Chat...

Police bring obscenity charges over online chat
Link Here  full story: Obscene Private Chat...Extending OPA to private internet chat

Kent PoliceKent Police have charged an individual with nine offences under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 (OPA) in a case that could potentially see online chat in the UK subjected to a much stricter regulation regime.

A Kent Police spokeswoman confirmed to The Register it had brought the charges against the individual, and that these charges relate to online chat.

The individual is also charged with two offences of making indecent images of children and four of possessing indecent images of children. They have been bailed pending their next court appearance at Dartford magistrates on 6 May.

The implications of this case, if it proceeds, could be legal dynamite. At present, under the Obscene Publications Act, a publication is obscene if its overall effect is to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely ... to read, see or hear it. For the purposes of the law, publication appears to involve distribution, circulation, selling or giving an article to a third party.

The idea that a conversation – albeit one embodied in text chat – can be considered to be published would be fairly radical.

...See full article

 

26th April   

Corrected: A Mockery of Justice...

Campaigner sentenced for public order offences over religiously insulting cartoons
Link Here  full story: UK Religious Hatred Law...Law abuse by the authortites
Sermon on the mount

  Love your neighbour...
Not gays, obviously

Harry Taylor left home made posters at Liverpool John Lennon Airport three times in November and December 2008.

The self-styled philosopher was convicted in less than an hour by a unanimous jury.

Among the posters, one image showed a smiling crucified Christ next to an advert for a brand of no nails glue. In another, a cartoon depicted two Muslims holding a placard demanding equality with the caption: Not for women or gays, obviously. Islamic suicide bombers at the gates of paradise were told in another: Stop, stop, we've run out of virgins. One image showed a pig excreting sausages with insults to Islam, and others linked Muslims to attacks on airports.

Unemployed Taylor, on medication for depression, said it was preposterous to suggest people could be incited to violence by cartoons.

It emerged that Taylor was previously convicted of similar offences. The previous December he was arrested handing out offensive leaflets in Waterstone's book store in Deansgate, Manchester. Police discovered he had also visited a nearby Tesco and unplugged the Christmas music because he found it offensive.

Taylor had also visited two city centre churches, St Ann's Church and St Mary's, known as the Hidden Gem. Inside he left leaflets including a picture of a monk making a finger gesture with the caption Father Fucker .

Judge James told him: Not only have you shown no remorse for what you did but even now you continue to maintain that you have done nothing wrong and say that whenever you feel like it you intend to do the same thing again in the future.

He was sentenced to six months in jail suspended for two years, ordered to perform 100 hours' of unpaid work and pay £250 costs. He was also given an Anti-Social Behaviour Order banning him from carrying religiously offensive material in a public place.

Update: Distressed by Catch All Law

26th April 2010. From Harvey on the Melon Farmers Forum

Are we sure that Mr Taylor was convicted of an offence under the Racial and Religious Hatred Act?

The reports suggest the offence was that of intentionally causing harassment, alarm or distress, which would be under Part 1 of the Public Order Act 1986.

4A Intentional harassment, alarm or distress

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, he—

(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or

(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,

thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.

It is not necessary for there to be a racial or religious aspect to the offence, but if it is racially or religiously aggravated, it becomes triable in Crown Court and the maximum sentence is increased from 6 months or a fine to up to 7 years.

The Blair government added the racially aggravated aspect in 1998 and extended that to include the religiously aggravated offence in 2001, but the Public Order Act was introduced by the Thatcher government.

 

24th April   

Update: Interfact vs Liverpool City Council...

Expensive VRA court case revisited in light of the 1984 VRA not being enacted
Link Here  full story: Video Recordings Act Erased...VRA was not properly enacted

Old BaileyBack in 2004 Liverpool Council Trading Substandards took action against UK companies for selling R18 DVDs via mail order.

Interfact, associated with the Private Shops chain, were handed a substantial fine.

Interfact contended that they were operating from a licensed sex shop and challenged the prosecution right up to the House of Lords where they ultimately lost their case.

Now given that the 1984 Video Recordings Act wasn't actually in force, due to government oversight, then it is hardly surprising that Interfact would like to see some of their money back.

Interfact will now revisit the case in the High Court, Queen's Bench Division on the 6th May 2010. They have made an application for an appeal out of time in the case of Interfact vs Liverpool City Council.

 

20th April   

Update: Saudi Libel Tourist...

Business man threatens to sue US journalists in UK courts
Link Here  full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth

Wall Street Journal 6 month subscription A Saudi businessman who is being sued over a suspected multibillion-dollar fraud is invoking English libel law in what experts say is the latest high-profile example of libel tourism .

Maan al-Sanea is being sued by banks in New York, Dubai, London and the Cayman Islands over claims he is responsible for more than $15bn of bad debt in banks in Bahrain. But reports of allegations in papers around the world, including the Wall Street Journal and the The National in Abu Dhabi, have resulted in threats of libel action by lawyers in London, the Guardian has learned.

Journalists covering the case, which could have damaging repercussions for Saudi Arabia's business reputation, have received letters from the law firm Harbottle & Lewis warning of a libel suit in the high court unless articles about Sanea are withdrawn.

 

7th April   

Dangerous Cartoons and Dangerous Drawings...

Key points of the law against possession of prohibited of images of children
Link Here

cartoon jailA new law has come into force on 6th April 2010 banning sexual cartoons and drawings featuring children.

Part 2 Chapter 2 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 prohibits the possession of non-photographic pornographic images of children. See also explanatory notes

Coroners and Justice Act 2009. Part 2 Chapter 2

Section 62 Possession of prohibited images of children

[Key points extracted by the Melon Farmers, See Part 2 Chapter 2 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 for the full text]

(1) It is an offence for a person to be in possession of a prohibited image of a child.

(2) A prohibited image is an image which—

(a) is pornographic, ie if it is of such a nature that it must reasonably be assumed to have been produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal.
(b) falls within subsection (6), and
(c) is grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character.

Note that photographic and near photographic images are not covered by this law as they are already prohibited by other more serious laws.

(6) An image falls within this subsection if it—

(a) is an image which focuses solely or principally on a child's genitals or anal region, or
(b) portrays any of the acts:

(a) the performance by a person of an act of intercourse or oral sex with or in the presence of a child;
(b) an act of masturbation by, of, involving or in the presence of a child;
(c) an act which involves penetration of the vagina or anus of a child with a part of a person's body or with anything else;
(d) an act of penetration, in the presence of a child, of the vagina or anus of a person with a part of a person's body or with anything else;
(e) the performance by a child of an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal (whether dead or alive or imaginary);
(f) the performance by a person of an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal (whether dead or alive or imaginary) in the presence of a child.

63 Exclusions

An image which forms the whole or part of a classified work is excluded from the prohibition. [Albeit with exceptions where images are separated from justifying context]

64 Defences

(a) that the person had a legitimate reason for being in possession of the image concerned;
(b) that the person had not seen the image concerned and did not know, nor had any cause to suspect, it to be a prohibited image of a child;
(c) that the person—

(i) was sent the image concerned without any prior request having been made by or on behalf of the person, and
(ii) did not keep it for an unreasonable time.

65 Meaning of image and child

(2) Image includes—

(a) a moving or still image, or
(b) data which is capable of conversion into an image.

(5) Child means a person under the age of 18.

An image of a child is where:

(a) the impression conveyed by the image is that the person shown is a child, or
(b) the predominant impression conveyed is that the person shown is a child despite the fact that some of the physical characteristics shown are not those of a child.

66 Penalties

(a) on summary conviction [at a magistrate's court], imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months in England and Wales and 6 months Northern Ireland or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or both;
(b) on conviction on indictment [at a crown court], imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or a fine, or both.

 

5th April   

Update: A Revelation...

Christian TV channel opts out of Ofcom TV censorship
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Revelation TV logoThe christian TV station Revelation TV has crossed swords several times with the TV censor Ofcom.

The satellite TV station has been censured by Ofcom for programmes going over the top in criticising homosexuality, islam and abortion.

With another Ofcom investigation under way, Revelation TV has made a strategic withdrawal from UK censorship.

On 1st April 2010 Revelation TV gave up its UK broadcasting licence and took up a new one from the Spanish government. This means that they no longer have to comply with UK broadcasting regulations and Ofcom will not accept any further complaints about the channel.