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30th September   

Censorship Debacle or Censorship Saga?...

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Unelected council officers censor criticism by elected councilors
Link Here

kirklees logoA councillor has accused unelected officers of censoring him.

Kirklees Council has refused to put Clr Martyn Bolt's annual report on its website – because it includes criticism of the council and a former MP.

Instead officers have presented a watered-down version for publication. The Kirklees report is radically different to the original, with phrases like debacle replaced by saga .

Clr Bolt said yesterday he would not sign-off the censored report: Their version doesn't read like something I would write. I'm a forthright Yorkshireman who calls a spade a spade.

The deputy Conservative leader added he was concerned that unelected officers were telling him what to say. He said: In some cases I think officers forget how a council should be run. Councillors need to stick up for themselves and point out that we actually put our names forward for re-election every four years. If more councillors did that, Kirklees would be more democratic.

Clr Bolt criticised the way Kirklees is run. His report says monthly council meetings are of questionable value given the power of the ruling Labour Cabinet. But the censored version includes a line added by officers which describes the monthly meetings as important and influential .

Bolt uncut on the ability of councillors to hold the Cabinet to account:

I have continued to play a leading role in council meetings, though many were of questionable value as the 'partnership' between other parties gives them a majority in council and Cabinet has no effective means of challenge.

The official version:

I have continued to play a leading role in council meetings, though the power of the council remains limited and the majority of decisions are made by the council's Cabinet. Having said that, full council remains an important and influential arena which can have an impact.

Bolt uncut on the Government's decision to overturn the council's plan to close Castle Hall: The conclusion of the debacle was very pleasing as the entrenched position of Kirklees Cabinet and their supporters was overthrown by an independent adjudicator.

The official version: The saga has had a positive conclusion in regard to our two secondary schools, despite proposals to close one of them.

 

26th September   

Something to Hide...

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Brighton and Hove Council censors criticism by claiming copyright on council meeting videos
Link Here

brighton and hove council logoA Brighton And Hove Green Party councillor, Jason Kitcat, is being disciplined for posting clips of Brighton & Hove Council meetings to Youtube.

The clips are claimed as a political use of Council resources .

Their documents say Jason attempted to hold the administration politically to account by trying to highlight what the he believed were the administration's deficiencies , while using the council's intellectual property and website. Rather than concluding he was doing his job, they say Jason should face being suspended from his post.

The Council claim the web clips are resources which belong to the Council. They assert Jason must therefore abide by the Council's code of conduct, which: specifically prohibits the use of resources (such as IT equipment) improperly for political purposes, including party political purposes

These rules are designed to stop unfair use of telephones and offices to campaign for re-election, for instance. The rules are not meant to be applied to matters of free speech, with no impact on council finances, using tools that are freely available to everyone.

Jason has, in copyright law, a fair dealing right to use clips to report news. Fair dealing is meant to stop copyright interfering with free speech, by placing a limit on intellectual property . Whether Jason's use of the material is fair dealing can only be decided in a Court.

If Jason is held to have abused council property , Councillors will be intimidated from using information to tell residents what is going on. The same information, in words, is reported in minutes and placed in political leaflets. Will Brighton Councillors stop such reporting, as the same copyright subsists in Council minutes?

 

25th September   

Update: Threat or Tweet?...

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Authorities seem unable to differentiate an obviously jokey tweet from a real threat
Link Here  full story: Police Twitter Twits...Man charged over terrorism quip on twitter

Twitter logoPaul Chambers, a 27-year old trainee accountant from South Yorkshire, has launched a fightback against what is thought to be the UK's first criminal conviction for the content of a tweet on the microblogging site.

He landed a £1,000 fine after the snow closed Robin Hood airport near Doncaster in January as he planned a trip to see Crazycolours, a Northern Irish girl he had just met online, and he tweeted to his 690 followers: Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!

A week later, he was arrested at work by five police officers, questioned for eight hours, had his computers and phones seized and was subsequently charged and convicted of causing a menace under the Communications Act 2003.

In an appeal at Doncaster crown court, his barrister, Stephen Ferguson, said Chambers had been merely engaging in banter and craic and that far from having menacing intent, his message was a jest, a joke, a parody .

The defence applied to the judge to rule out the prosecution case that the tweet was menacing on the grounds it had not been sufficiently proved and there was no intent on Chambers' part to cause menace. Throughout proceedings, Chambers sat largely expressionless behind toughened glass panels with a security guard beside him, only wincing slightly at the the continual repetition of his offending tweet. He nodded when Ferguson told the judge simply: The intention was innocent.

Fresh evidence emerged which was not heard at the previous trial that the police noted after Chambers was bailed there is no evidence at this stage this is anything other than a foolish comment posted on Twitter for only his close friends to see . But the crown said the conviction should stand and presented evidence that Chambers had sent direct messages to his girlfriend apparently on the terrorist theme.

The court earlier heard that a senior airport official had determined [the message] was a non-credible threat after it had been found by Sean Duffield, an off-duty airport duty manager searching on-line at home. Under cross-examination, Duffield, said the impact after he found Chambers' message was operationally nothing. It had no impact.

Chambers was not cross-examined, but the court heard extracts of his original police interview. Looking back it's daft now but that's my kind of humour, Chambers had said. Not for one second did I think anyone would even look at it. It was just a comment made on the back of the fact that the flight had been grounded. The tweet, Stephen Ferguson pointed out, was made in the context of a young man and a young woman .

The judge and magistrates retired to consider their ruling and said the case would conclude a later date.

 

24th September   

Update: Dangerous Talk...

Double suicide linked to encouragement on internet forum
Link Here  full story: Suicide Censorship...UK government proposes to ban suicide information

geric intert forumUsers of a website who helped a stranger couple commit suicide have been warned they face up to 14 years in jail.

Joanne Lee and truck driver Steve Lumb were found dead in a Vauxhall Astra parked alongside an area of overgrown wasteland on an industrial estate. They had gassed themselves after meeting just hours earlier after making contact on the internet.

It has emerged that Miss Lee, who used the user name Heaven's Little Girl, received advice and encouragement on a German hosted internet forum in the days leading up to her death.

Cyber friends had given her tips on how to successfully kill herself and expressed their sorrow that she had failed to end her life on previous suicide attempts.

Miss Lee had written: I haven't the strength to do this alone. I have all the ingredients and want to do it ASAP. You should... be willing to pick me up when it is time to (kill myself). If you are "very" serious, please email me .

Answering the advert Lumb then drove 200 miles to Braintree, Essex, and shortly after the pair were dead.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman confirmed that anyone who promotes or encourages suicide on a website could face prosecution and jail. She added that even if no suicide attempts take place as a result of the information, the author could still be found guilty of an offence.

The law was amended last year to deal with cases such as these. It reads:

Under section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961 (as amended by section 59 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009) it is an offence to do an act capable of encouraging or assisting the suicide or attempted suicide of another person with the intention to so encourage or assist.

The person committing the offence need not know the other person or even be able to identify them.

Brooks Newmark, Conservative MP for Braintree, Essex, said: We need to do far more to deal with these suicide websites which unfortunately lead to tragedies like this. It's not a question of more regulation but of better regulation and also figuring out how we can close down websites such as these.

 

19th September   

Free Speech Issue...

Authorities consider Public Order Act prosecution over graphic abortion pictures on protest placard
Link Here  full story: Abortion Protests in UK...Public order, censorship and religious arseholes

abort67 placardAnti-abortion activists are preparing to launch a landmark freedom of expression test case after they were arrested and held in police cells for 15 hours for refusing to take down placards showing graphic images of an aborted foetus.

Andy Stephenson and Kathryn Sloane, both committed Christians, were detained after a peaceful protest outside a publicly-funded abortion clinic.

Stephenson and Sloane are both members of Abort 67 , an organisation which uses shocking images to try to deter women from going through with terminations. They believe the use of graphic imagery is critical in trying to shape public opinion and to reduce the 200,000 abortions taking place in the UK every year. The images, obtained in America are, according to the group, perfectly lawful there and in most other countries across Europe.

The pair were arrested last month as they held a banner aloft outside Wistons abortion clinic in Brighton. Police were called by a member of staff concerned that patients entering the clinic felt traumatised and upset.

Officers asked Stephenson and Sloane to take down a 7ft by 5ft placard depicting an aborted eight-week-old embryo – which they duly did but only to replace it with another banner showing a 10-week-old foetus.

The pair were arrested and taken to Brighton police station where they were held until three in the morning.

The Crown Prosecution Service will decide next month whether to press charges against the pair for causing harassment, alarm or distress under the much abused catch-all Public Order Act.

Ann Furedi, the head of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service which runs the Wistons clinic, said she fully supported the right of pro-life activists to demonstrate against abortion clinics .. BUT... Furedi added: There is a distinction between freedom of expression and actions that are designed to distress people who are accessing legal, medical services.

Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting the case, said: This is a test case for their democratic right to reveal what abortion really is like. In the 21st century it is not appropriate to silence and to censor those who speak out against abortion, even if the manner in which they do so is not how many would choose.

 

19th September   

Offsite: A Tweeter Persecuted...

Twitter and a terrifying tale of modern Britain
Link Here  full story: Police Twitter Twits...Man charged over terrorism quip on twitter

Twitter logoPaul Chambers has felt the full force of state persecution, simply for sending a tweet

The 27-year-old worked for a car parts company in Yorkshire. He and a woman from Northern Ireland started to follow each other on Twitter. He liked her tweets and she liked his and boy met girl in a London pub. They got on as well in person as they did in cyberspace. To the delight of their followers, Paul announced he would be flying from Robin Hood airport in Doncaster to Northern Ireland to meet her for a date.

In January, he saw a newsflash that snow had closed the airport. Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed, he tweeted to his friends. You've got a week… otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!

People joke like this all the time. When they say in a bar: I'll strangle my boyfriend if he hasn't done the washing up or post on Facebook: I'll murder my boss if he makes me work late , it does not mean that the bodies of boyfriends and bosses will soon be filling morgues.

You know the difference between making a joke and announcing a murder, I'm sure. Apparently the forces of law and order do not.

...Read the full article

 

9th September   

What a Load of Wank...

Pitiful obsessive attacks NHS porn mags for IWF and sperm donors
Link Here

2020 health org logoJulia Manning, director of 2020health.org writes:

Who said pornography was acceptable in the workplace? An investigation into the use of pornography by NHS fertility clinics -

Every so often we hear of a council worker, a judge or a teacher – someone in a position of trust and authority - being sacked for viewing pornography at work. Pornography is still considered unacceptable in the work environment, and should be illegal. The Obscene Publications Act was designed to convey the message that it is unacceptable full stop, but the lack of prosecutions would imply that we have been feeble at enforcing this. Not surprisingly, both because of ease of availability and a largely permissive culture, we have an alarming amount of graphic images that would imply a major disconnect. Is it that in our anti-censor society we have forgotten the negative impact on men, women and children of such material? Or have we subconsciously accepted the pornographer's line that porn is just another word for sex and we dismiss the evidence base for pornography both encouraging aggressive, debasing treatment of women and being a causative factor in the hyper-sexualisation of our culture?

Either way, the workplace should be a location in which we can work in a safe and healthy environment, where our dignity is not threatened and we feel respected. The presence of pornography would compromise this.

Waste of Space Think Tank

Based on article from telegraph.co.uk

One in three hospitals which provide fertility services provide pornographic material for donors, according to a report by nutters posing as a health think tank.

Some 17 hospitals disclosed they had bought porn when questioned by 2020health.org, which highlights cases of NHS waste.

Most of the magazines were bought from newsagents, but two hospitals admitted having placed orders with publishers while others said the porn had been donated by staff, patients and visitors, The Sun reported.

The think tank said the disclosure was disrespectful to women working for the NHS, many of whom face uncertain futures thanks to tight budgets.

 

9th September   

Offsite: Minding their p's, q's and 'bollocks'...

The curse of swearing in children's books
Link Here

Skellig David AlmondSqueamishness about exposing young eyes to filthy language has produced some memorably mealy-mouthed evasions

Swearing in children's books, and even in books for teenagers, used to be pure anathema. SE Hinton's 1967 young adult novel The Outsiders , for instance, an emotionally-charged account of youthful gangs clashing in Tulsa, features no language more colourful than Glory! , Shoot! or a very occasional Hell!

On this side of the pond, Robert Westall's 1975 Carnegie-winner The Machine-Gunners generated a sustained fuss over the inclusion of bloody . Despite being set in second world war-torn England at a time of great fear and freedom for its child protagonists, and featuring a story saturated with exhilaration, danger and distress, the use of even a mild swearword was a step too far into realism for many parents and teachers at the time of its publication.

...Read the full article

 

4th September   

Bad Intentions...

Man convicted for online story considered as harassment and stalking
Link Here

HM Courts ServiceA stalker was jailed after writing an online story about raping and murdering a woman he had been harassing in real life for two years.

Greg Downing detailed the imagined attack on children's author Katharine Quarmby in an online novel.

He had bombarded Quarmby with phone calls and e-mails since they met through an online dating site in 2008. He was convicted of stalking her on three separate occasions before she found the blog online after typing her name into the internet search engine Google.

The 29-page piece, titled A Novel: Katharine Quarmby , is about a man stalking the writer, burgling her home, raping and finally murdering her.

Judge Deva Pillay sentenced Downing to six months in jail. He said: This can only be described as a campaign of harassment. It is clear that your harassment of Miss Quarmby has been deliberate and premeditated so as to cause her and her family the maximum discomfort, embarrassment and fear.

 

1st September   

Offsite: Dirt Doesn't Stick...

US based TechDirt feel protected from British libel claim by newly enacted SPEECH act
Link Here  full story: Libel Tourism...UK prosecutions of books published abroad

techdirt logoWe have recently received a legal threat that we feel deserves attention and airing for a variety of reasons.

...2. The threats are quite incredible, demanding that we shut down the entire site of Techdirt, due to a comment (or, potentially, comments) that the client did not like.

...5. Most importantly, this threat is coming from the UK, and the lawyers insist that they will take it to court in the UK. This makes it rather timely and newsworthy for an entirely different reason. Just a few weeks ago we wrote about the new SPEECH Act that was passed into law to protect against libel tourism. As the Congressional record shows, the law was specifically designed to protect US businesses from libel judgments that violate Section 230 -- and the bill's backers explicitly call out libel judgments made in the UK. In other words, the SPEECH Act explicitly protects us from exactly the sort of threat that these lawyers and their client are making against us:

...

Given the newsworthy nature of an example of where the brand new law (thankfully) protects us, as well as the fact that we do not feel it is decent or right for anyone to demand we shut down our entire site or be sued halfway around the world, because he does not appreciate a comment someone made about him, we are publishing the letter that was sent to us.

Thanks in part to the new law, we have no obligation to respond to Mr. Morris, his friend or the lawyers at Addlestone Keane, who (one would hope) will better advise their clients not to pursue such fruitless legal threats in the future.

...Read the full article

 

24th August   

A Sadistic Prosecution...

BDSMer falls victim to dangerous pictures law
Link Here

HM Courts ServiceA Dorset man has been sentenced after pleading guilty to 11 counts of possessing extreme pornography depicting pain being inflicted.

Bournemouth Crown Court heard how David Hill had been arrested after police searched his mother's home and another property in Christchurch.

Prosecutor Desmond Duffy said two computers had been seized and examined by experts who found three movies and 26 still images featuring scenes of violence: When interviewed in January this year Mr Hill admitted downloading the material because he was participating in bondage acts,  He accepted that what he had downloaded was extreme in nature, acknowledging participants were likely to be experiencing severe pain and risking injury as a result.

Duffy added that Hill had wanted to assess if he felt able to participate in that kind of activity himself .

Defending, Robert Gray said his client was a professional man of previous good character who had received treatment for his interest in this kind of material .

The court heard how Hill had been suspended from his job, on full pay, pending the outcome of legal proceedings.

Imposing a two-year community order and three-month curfew, Judge Samuel Wiggs told Hill: It is extremely sad that you should be in this court. You have substantial qualifications in the career which you follow. Hill was ordered to pay £1,350 prosecution costs.

And a reminder of the law

Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008

Section 63 Possession of extreme pornographic images

...

(7) An image falls within this subsection if it portrays, in an explicit and realistic way, any of the following—

(a) an act which threatens a person’s life,
(b) an act which results, or is likely to result, in serious injury to a person’s anus, breasts or genitals,

...

 

21st August   

Tony Blair's Memoirs...

Freedom of speech even for a nutter warmonger
Link Here

Journey Tony Blair Calls for Waterstone's to cancel a book signing by Tony Blair have been met with a Voltaire response counter-call.

Iain Banks, AL Kennedy, Moazzem Begg, Andrew Burgin, Ben Griffin, Lindsey German, Dr Felicity Arbuthnot, Tanya Tier, John Pilger, Michael Nyman, Andrew Murray wrote to the Guardian

We urge Waterstone's to reconsider its decision to host a book-signing on 8 September for Tony Blair to launch the publication of his memoirs. We believe this event will be deeply offensive to most people in Britain. A large majority of the British public say Mr Blair told lies and fabricated evidence to take Britain into a war with Iraq that he knew to be illegal under international law. According to a recent poll, 25% believe Mr Blair should be indicted for war crimes.

In April 2002, Mr Blair gave a secret commitment to George Bush that Britain would join the US in an attack on Iraq, as has been revealed by leaked documents and witness statements to the Iraq inquiry. He then deceived parliament and the country to achieve this. The consequences for the Iraqi people has been hundreds of thousands of killed, 4 million more driven from their homes and the destruction of their country. In Britain, this illegal war was a prime motivation for the perpetrators of the London bombing atrocities on 7 July 2005, as confirmed by Eliza Manningham-Buller, former head of the British secret service, in her evidence to the Chilcot committee. We believe Waterstone's will seriously harm its own reputation as a respectable bookseller by helping him promote his book.

In today's Guardian, Index editor Jo Glanville, Article 19 trustee Dr Evan Harris and Jonathan Heawood, director, English PEN responded.

We respect the writers of yesterday's letter (18 August) and share their view on the illegality of the Iraq war and Tony Blair's nefarious role in engineering this country's participation in it. But we can not share their call for Waterstone's to desist from promoting it on the grounds that the event will be deeply offensive to most people in Britain , even if that were the case.

When it comes to literature, drama, journalism, artistic expression and scientific publication we must be consistent in our support for free speech. How can we defend the right of the Birmingham Repertory to put on and advertise a play like Behzti, despite it being deemed offensive to some Sikhs, and then call on a bookseller not to promote one of its books – or a library not to stock it — on the grounds of offence? The answer, in a liberal society, is to not read the book if it offends you, and to not buy a copy if you don't wish royalties to go to the author.

While Iain Banks and colleagues say Waterstone's will seriously harm its own reputation as a respectable bookseller by helping him [Blair] promote his book , we think its reputation would now be harmed by caving in to this sort of pressure.

 

19th August   

Nutter or Holy Man?...

Court of Appeal to hear case about conflicting claims about holiness of holy man
Link Here  full story: Self Proclaimed Holy Man Claims Libel...Indian man claims libel against British journalist

Old BaileyA self proclaimed holy man who tried to sue The Sikh Times and its journalist which said he was an impostor is to renew his appeal application after a decision to strike out his claim.

Justice Eady struck out his Holiness Sant Baba Jeet Singh Ji Maharaj's libel claim in May and refused permission to appeal the decision.

However, an application to renew the appeal before the Court of Appeal remained open.

He had attempted to sue journalist Hardeep Singh and Eastern Media Group over an article which appeared in The Sikh Times in August 2007.

The libel claim suggested that the article alleged he was the leader of a cult and an impostor who had disturbed the peace in the Sikh community of High Wycombe and promoted blasphemy and the sexual exploitation and abuse of women.

Justice Eady struck the case out on 17th May 2010 accepting submissions on behalf of Singh that the courts could not deal with the case because of the well established principle of English law that the court will not attempt to rule on doctrinal issues or intervene in the regulation of governance of religious groups.

The judge said it would appear that issues of a religious or doctrinal nature permeated the pleadings in the case.

Nick Collins, head of litigation at Leeds-based law firm Ford and Warren, which is representing the claimant, said the application was being renewed, and would be dealt with at an oral hearing at the Court of Appeal in October.

 

18th August   

Cromer Prudes...

Nudes taken down as a 'balanced reaction' to nutter offence
Link Here

woman with a red backdrop An exhibition of nude paintings in an art gallery at a council office was taken down after just one hour - because prudish staff were offended by the pictures.

Artist John Vesty spent three months painting his 22 paintings and had arranged to display them for four weeks at the North Norfolk District Council offices in Cromer.

He was left baffled, irritated and disappointed when his conventional life studies were immediately taken down by council officials after complaints that they were offensive and obscene . Complaints from staff at the council office in Cromer led to John Vesty's work being put in a cupboard.

All but one of his oil paintings in the exhibition called Figures in Light were of naked or semi-nude women.

Vesty and his supporters insisted that none of his paintings were erotic or pornographic. He said: All of them are standard life poses - the sort of work that artists have done for hundreds of years. There are no explicit full frontal poses or anything like that.

I felt disbelief that someone could object to paintings like this in this day and age and that the council should respond in such a politically correct way by removing them.

You think that this sort of thing only happens in the Middle East in places like Iran or Iraq rather than in a Norfolk seaside town. Gallery owner Nick Reynolds, seen above holding one of Vesty's pictures, agreed to display eight of the paintings at his gallery around half a mile from the council offices

Karl Read, the council's leisure and cultural 'services' manager, said the artwork had been displayed in an area used by many members of staff and the public. He said: In this case we received a number of complaints from members of staff and union representatives who found the paintings offensive. Whilst respecting the fact that art, by its very nature, is open to subjective interpretation, on this occasion the council made the decision to remove the paintings from display. This is not a case of political correctness... RATHER ...it is a balanced reaction to some members of staff finding the artwork offensive.

 

18th August   

Finger Trouble...

Weatherman gives the finger in banter with news anchor
Link Here

tomasz schafemakerSince joining the BBC a decade ago, the Polish-born meteorologist Tomasz Schafernaker has outraged the Scots by describing the Outer Hebrides as nowheresville and collapsed into fits of giggles after predicting muddy shite for a rain-lashed Glastonbury.

Schafernaker's latest exploit on the rolling News Channel was yesterday earning him thousands of hits on the internet after he was caught delivering a one-fingered salute to the BBC news anchor Simon McCoy after McCoy's bantering ironic suggestion that his forecast would be 100 per cent accurate and provide you with all the details you could possibly want .

Schafernaker is seen flipping the presenter the bird and then appears to hide his hand in his mouth, as if trying to destroy the evidence, as McCoy's co-presenter Fiona Armstrong squeals in dismay. McCoy tries to gloss over the incident remarking: Every now and again there's always a mistake and that was it.

A BBC spokesman said the Corporation was sorry if anyone had been upset by the brief incident: Tomasz was not aware that he was on air, and whilst the gesture was only shown for a second, it was not acceptable. The News Channel presenter live in the studio acknowledged a mistake had been made, and we apologise for any offence caused.

 

13th August   

Swinging his Club at the Press...

Colin Montgomerie gets court injunction to ban newspaper story about his private life
Link Here

Photographic Print Montgomerie PA Photos Colin Montgomerie, the golfer, has become the latest sportsman to use an injunction to prevent the publication of a story about his private life.

The injunction relating to Montgomerie was granted by Mr Justice Eady last month, preventing a tabloid newspaper publishing the story. The matter was resolved out of court and there is no suggestion of any truth in the allegations.

Montgomerie, who is Europe's captain for the Ryder Cup in Wales in October, was at a press conference with his American counterpart in Wisconsin on Wednesday. I know a lot of you are having a lot of fun right now at my expense, he said. I apologise for this, that you have to bring this up, but at the same time no further comments from myself on that matter.

Montgomerie's life off the course was in the news in June when he admitted difficulties in his marriage to his second wife, Gaynor Knowles. He said he was very sorry for the hurt he had caused amid reports that he was seeing a former girlfriend.

 

12th August   

Update: Special Relationship...

Barack Obama signs law snubbing UK libel judgments
Link Here  full story: Libel Tourism...UK prosecutions of books published abroad

Barack ObamaPresident Barack Obama has signed the SPEECH Act into US law, a move designed to protect US writers and reporters from England's controversial defamation laws.

The Act, tabled by Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen, makes libel judgments against American writers in foreign territories unenforceable if they are perceived to counter the First Amendment right to free speech.

The Libel Reform Campaign has expressed concern that our reputation is being damaged internationally due to our restrictive, archaic and costly libel laws which cost 140 times the European equivalent.

The coalition government has said it will table a draft Bill to reform our libel laws in January 2011 after the campaign led by English PEN, Index on Censorship and Sense About Science. The campaign has 52,000 signatories to its petition and all three main political parties committed in their general election manifestos to libel reform.

Jo Glanville, Editor of Index on Censorship said:

The US's response to our libel laws has already played a key role in advancing the campaign for reform in the UK. I'm hopeful that the government's draft bill will address the issue of libel tourism, which has a clear chilling effect on freedom of speech, and make it harder for claimants from outside the EU to bully publishers, NGOs, bloggers and investigative journalists into silence.

Síle Lane, Public Liaison of Sense About Science said:

As other countries move to protect their citizens from the chilling effect of our libel laws we urge bloggers, science writers, NGOs and small publications facing threats and bankruptcy to keep up the pressure on the Government to ensure that the proposed draft libel bill brings the meaningful change that is so urgently needed.

 

11th August   

Updated: Euro Gag...

Struck off doctor tries for court gag on criticism from victim's family
Link Here

Germany flagA German doctor who killed a British patient is seeking an injunction across Europe to silence his victim's family. Daniel Ubani was providing out of hours care in the UK when he injected David Gray with ten times the recommended dose of a painkiller.

Nigerian-trained Ubani gave Gray, 70, a fatal dosage of diamorphine when he treated him for kidney stones at his home in Manea, Cambridgeshire, in February 2008.

He is now trying to silence Gray's sons using European human rights laws by claiming that their campaign to bring him to justice is stopping his right to practise.

Stuart and Rory Gray have spoken out repeatedly about how Ubani escaped punishment by refusing to return to Britain to face potential criminal-charges. Instead he cut a deal with German prosecutors which allowed him to avoid extradition and being struck off in Germany.

The brothers now plan to travel to Bavaria to fight the legal action. Stuart Gray, himself a doctor, said: I consider this a grave threat to free speech and we will fight it in every way possible.

Ubani has submitted papers to a Bavarian court calling for the brothers to be banned from talking publicly about the death.

Earlier this year they stood up and denounced him as a charlatan and a killer as he spoke at a medical conference.

Although he was struck off in Britain in his absence, Ubani's ability to continue practising general medicine and cosmetic surgery elsewhere was not affected.

Update: Case Heard

11th August 2010. See article from dailymail.co.uk

Rory Gray spoke at a court hearing as Daniel Ubani launched his legal bid to gag him and his brother to prevent them damaging his reputation in future.

Gray told the panel of three judges at the State Court in Kempten, Bavaria, that his statements were based on fact and not opinion. He spoke of the outstanding malpractice lawsuits still pending in Germany against Ubani who is seeking a European-wide injunction against him and his brother to prevent them damaging his reputation.

He is trying to use European human rights law by claiming that their campaign to bring him to justice is stopping his right to practise. But by the time the court reconvenes on August 25 to give its verdict in the case Ubani's career in Germany may be over.

Ubani, who has a doctor's surgery and cosmetic surgery practice in northern Germany, is facing a fitness to practise hearing on August 18. He has indicated that he does not intend to attend the hearing where the German equivalent of the General Medical Council plans to make him sit a written exam to test his medical skills. This would trigger an application to a judge to suspend his licence to practise as a cosmetic surgeon which would, in turn, disqualify him from also practising as a GP.

If the gagging order is successful, Ubani wants the court to make the brothers pay £200,000 each time they breach it. He also demands that the brothers keep a minimum of 600ft away from him at all times.

 

3rd August   

Ofcom Not Impressed...

by programme on the Gaza aid convoy attack
Link Here

Press TV logoA current affairs programme presented by Lauren Booth has been rapped by the broadcasting watchdog for breaching impartiality rules.

Booth fronted a programme on Press TV, the Iranian international news network, about the events during and after the May interception by Israeli military forces of a pro-Palestinian aid convoy, which resulted in nine deaths.

The programme, broadcast in June, started with a pro-Palestinian song set to anti-Israeli/pro-Palestinian imagery. Comments made by Booth, who is Cherie Blair's half-sister, included: Israeli commandoes ... committed a massacre of innocent civilians sailing aid ships to the besieged Gaza Strip and this was obviously a barbarous attack on civilians .

The broadcaster said it had complied with impartiality requirements and that the intensity of the descriptions in the programme merely reflected the general atmosphere around the world .

But Ofcom ruled that the programme did not contain any alternative views. It said: Presenters or interviewers must ensure they are articulating alternative views in a duly objective manner or putting them to interviewees in a manner that achieves due impartiality.

It said: In summary ... we considered the broadcaster did not provide sufficient evidence of alternative views within the programme. Overall the programme gave a one-sided view on this matter of political controversy. Furthermore and importantly, the broadcaster did not provide any evidence of alternative views on this issue in a series of programmes taken as a whole.

 

29th July   

Updated: Special Relationship...

US legislation to snub UK libel judgments passed by Senate
Link Here  full story: Libel Tourism...UK prosecutions of books published abroad

US SenateThe US senate has passed legislation to protect US journalists, writers and publishers from libel tourists — litigants who sue Americans in foreign jurisdictions which place a lower emphasis on free speech

The legislation was specifically designed to negate the threat of English laws, amid claims that the UK has became an international libel tribunal. One case in particular incensed US politicians, that of New York based academic Rachel Ehrenfeld who was sued in London despite only 23 copies of her book, on the financing of terrorism, being sold in the UK.

The bill, co-sponsored by Democrat Patrick Leahy and Republican Jeff Sessions has broad cross-party support. If passed, the proposal will prevent US courts from recognising foreign libel rulings that are inconsistent with the First Amendment.

The Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Bill will now go before the House of Representatives.

Update: Passed by the House of Representatives

29th July 2010. Based on article from todayonline.com

The United States House of Representatives passed a Bill aimed at shielding US journalists, authors and publishers from libel tourists who file suit in countries where they expect to get the most favourable ruling.

Lawmakers approved the measure, which now goes to President Barack Obama to sign into law.

The bill had such widespread support from Democrats and Republicans that it was passed on a voice vote in Congress.

Based on article from telegraph.co.uk

The legislation will prevent US federal courts from recognising or enforcing a foreign judgment for defamation that is inconsistent with the first amendment and will bar foreign parties from targeting the American assets of an American author, journalist, or publisher as part of any damages.

Campaigners for more liberal libel law in Britain said they hoped the new law would influence the Government as it prepares a draft reform bill for publication in January.

Padraig Reidy, a spokesman for the Index on Censorship, said: It's a vindication of our argument that English libel laws in their current state do not encourage or protect free expression. The fact that Britain's best ally feels the need to protect itself from the English libel courts demonstrates the need for reform.

Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Congressman who drafted the bill, said it was vital that Americans' rights are never undermined by foreign judgments.

 

26th July   

Update: Policies Revealed Warts and All...

UK government to push for airbrush warnings on all adverts
Link Here  full story: Photoshopped Models...Campaigners to ban photoshopped adverts

Framed Christina Hendricks Photograph 25cm The UK government is to put the fashion industry under pressure to stop promoting unrealistic body images and clamp down on airbrushed photographs in magazines and adverts.

Lynne Featherstone, the inequalities minister, who has long campaigned against size-zero photoshoots, will convene a series of discussions this autumn with the fashion industry, including magazine editors and advertising executives, to discuss how to promote body confidence among young people.

The first will focus on airbrushing, which Featherstone argues is contributing to the dreadful pressure that young people, girls and women come under to conform to completely unachievable body stereotypes .

She will push for a Kitemark or health warning on airbrushed photographs, warning viewers that they are not real. I am very keen that children and young women should be informed about airbrushing, so they don't fall victim to looking at an image and thinking that anyone can have a 12in waist. It is so not possible, she told the Sunday Times.

The minister wants to see more women of different shapes and sizes used in magazine photoshoots, including curvaceous role models such as Christina Hendricks, who plays vivacious office manager Joan Holloway in Mad Men , the US TV series about the 1960s advertising industry.

Christina Hendricks is absolutely fabulous. We need more of those role models, she said. Instead, young girls and women were continually confronted with false images of incredibly thin women, which could create lifelong psychological damage. [Perhaps we'll then get a generation of girls feeling inferior over an impossible dream of boobs like Hendricks].

She is trying to convince magazine editors and advertisers to stop using digitally altered photographs and underweight models. Advertisers and magazine editors have a right to publish what they choose ...BUT... women and girls also have the right to be comfortable in their own bodies. At the moment, they are being denied that, she said.

Magazines that do retouch pictures run the risk of breaking their own code of conduct, which states they should not publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, she added. Magazines regularly mislead their readers by publishing distorted images that have been secretly airbrushed and altered.

She also called the actions of the advertising industry into question. Likewise, the advertising standards code says no advert should place children at risk of mental, physical or moral harm, but adverts do contain airbrushed images of unattainable beauty in magazines aimed at young teenagers.

 

25th July   

Hatchet Job...

Supporting the hype for an uncut unrated cinema release for Hatchet II
Link Here  full story: Hatchet II...Unusual unrated theatrical release

hatchet 2MoreHorror.com sources attending the San Diego Comic-Con have a report about the upcoming Adam Green release of Hatchet II .

Dark Sky Films are stating that they plan to have the film released in theaters entirely in its UNRATED format. Green told the audience at the convention that the MPAA has (yet again) asked that entire scenes be removed from the movie because they are too violent!

It seems however that won't be a factor anymore since an unnamed theater chain has been confirmed to allow the entire version to run in theaters this coming October.

Update: AMC

27th August 2010. Based on article from cinematical.com

AMC Theaters will be showing the unrated cut of the film as part of its AMC Independent program. This means the uncut version of Hatchet II will be shown theatrically in the top 20 markets in the United States.

 

24th July   

Publicity Trap...

Starting the hype for Saw 3D
Link Here

saw 3dSaw 3D , the upcoming 7th movie in the Saw franchise, will be the last one according to producers who say, It's time to stop. We have told the story we wanted to tell, and this is going to be a great farewell.

The 3D movie will have 11 booby traps, almost double compared to the previous films, and it was submitted 6 times to the MPAA before bringing it down from an NC-17 to an R rating!

Producer Mark Burg reveals: I'm surprised we got it. It's more violent than any of them. But it's in 3-D, it answers all the questions, it comes full circle. We have the good on this one.

As for critics of the franchise, star Tobin Bell says: It's a free country. If people don't want to look at certain things, they shouldn't go. The people who don't go to films were more upset than the horror fans. You can say what you want about it, but Saw fans have loved and supported it every year. We must have been doing something right.

 

24th July   

Animal Cruelty Law Slimmed Down...

Crushing victory in House of Representatives vote
Link Here

US SenateThe House of Representatives has passed a bill that, if enacted, will prohibit the sale of crush videos and other filmed acts of animal cruelty including burning, suffocating, drowning and impaling live animals. The bill, sponsored by Representative Elton Gallegly, passed by a margin of 416 to 3. It now goes to the Senate, which is expected to pass it.

In April, the Supreme Court overturned a Virginia man's conviction for selling videos that depicted dogfighting on free-speech grounds. Chief Justice John Roberts said the existing law that criminalized the sale of such videos was too broad and could be used to prosecute sellers of hunting videos.

Gallegly responded by crafting a narrowly written law designed specifically to prohibit the sale or distribution of obscene visual depictions of animal cruelty. He became involved in the issue in 1999, when a local district attorney had difficulty prosecuting a Thousand Oaks man for selling a video depicting animal cruelty over the Internet.

 

23rd July   

Beaten Senseless by the PC Brigade...

Punch and Judy under duress
Link Here

punch judyPuppeteer Daniel Liversidge has been ordered to tone down his Punch and Judy act after organisers claimed the traditional show could be deemed offensive.

Liversidge has been told his upcoming Mr Marvels Punch and Judy performance at Portsmouth's Spinnaker Tower cannot include any scenes with Punch hitting Judy.

As a result, the puppet has ditched his whacking stick for a more benign fluffy mop.

Liversidge, who has been performing his act for 21 years, said: We have had to change the show a few times over the last six or seven years to reflect modern tastes. You always get people asking for the traditional stick to come back but you have to move with the times. At the end of the day I am a children's entertainer and my job is to keep children happy. Mr Punch is still a rascal and still has a variety of weapons in his arsenal but they are more socially appropriate like a feather duster or a tickling stick.

Liversidge added: Punch no longer throws the baby out of the bath instead he puts him to bed.

Paul Mahy, commercial manager at the Spinnaker Tower, said: We think some people could be offended by the traditional Punch and Judy story, especially at our family friendly attraction. We have agreed that many aspects of the traditional script had to be omitted. For example, Judy was originally put through a mangle and that is how sausages were made, obviously we cannot do this anymore.

 

23rd July   

Update: A New Inquisition...

Civitas reports on blasphemy laws making a come back under the Public Order Act
Link Here  full story: UK Religious Hatred Law...Law abuse by the authortites

New Inquisition Jon Gower Davies Hate legislation removes an increasing quantity of matters traditionally dealt with in civil society to the domain of the state and the courts. In a new report from the independent think tank Civitas, A New Inquisition: religious persecution in Britain today , Jon Gower Davies, formerly the Head of Religious Studies at Newcastle University, reveals the bizarre and oppressive nature of judicial attempts to prosecute individuals for religious hatred - this new legal concept has resulted in some singularly worrying court cases.

Blasphemy Law by the Backdoor

The Blasphemy Law was abolished in 2008, but has re-emerged in a new and radically augmented guise. Today, individuals are not charged with blasphemy, but with causing religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress under the Public Order Act. Jon Davies argues that the growth in accusations of hate crime threatens freedom of speech because they destroy the possibility and practice of open, sociable and critical discussion of religion.

Hatred in the legal sphere

Whilst the total number of racial and religious hate crimes fell from 13,201 in 2006-7 to 11,845 in 2008-9, the volume of hate legislation has rapidly expanded. Yet legal definitions of hatred are elusive. A government action plan states: A (religious) hate crime is a criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a persons religion or perceived religion.

In addition, hatred is not only presented as an offence on its own account, but can also be seen as something which aggravates ordinary public order offences. When an ordinary offence is aggravated by hatred based on race, religion, gender, or age, then the sentence too is aggravated (i.e. increased).

Judges become theologians!

Jon Davies argues that these definitions are without substance, and inevitably result in confusion and silliness in their application. The attempt to define a hate Incident in terms of hostility results in perilous imprecision: it is not possible to know when individuals have been hated - or, indeed, when they have themselves been hating! - and for how long and to what depth and to what effect. The essence of the criminal justice system should be justice and impartiality, but turning religious hatred into a criminal offence turns police, the Crown Prosecution Service and judges into surrogate theologians - a kind of theocracy (an uncomfortable theocracy at that) by the backdoor.

Are judges, even judges giving the "right" verdict, so qualified in theology that they feel able to offer doctrinal guidance? Is the Crown Prosecution Service so prudent in its understanding of "religious hatred" that it should be free, with no penalty for error, to mobilise the power and resources of the state against ordinary citizens who make comments about religion?

A danger to freedom of speech

One of the great triumphs of liberalism has been to separate the discovery of factual truth from the assertion of religious doctrine. And yet, when Judge Richard Clancy dismissed the case against the hoteliers, Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang, in December 2009, he commented that it might be best for individuals not to engage in discussions about religion! As a result: It becomes "wise" to "be careful", to restrict the compass of what we say about what we believe, or do not believe, or about what others believe or do not or should not believe, and to turn what were once vigorous public conversations into a frightened, if safe, if amiable and fundamentally humourless chat about small and dwindling things. (p.49)

Because freedom of speech is the prevailing view in Britain, we are not as alert to the risk of its overthrow as we should be. The freedom to speak our minds without fear or favour is worth fighting for. In A New Inquisition , Jon Davies shows why the liberal majority needs to reassert the convention that the law should be used not as a weapon to suppress unpopular opinions, but rather as the protector of free speech.

 

21st July   

More Bad Vibes for the Pope's Visit...

Government censor embarrassingly popular petition protesting at the pope's visit
Link Here

10 Downing Street logoThe British government has removed from its website a petition protesting Pope Benedict XVI's Sept. 16-19 visit to England and Scotland.

The petition had urged the British prime minister to dissociate the government from the pope's intolerant views and not to support the state visit financially. The secularist coalition Protest the Pope sponsored the petition, which had attracted more than 12,300 signatures.

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who drafted the petition, said July 16 that the government had removed the petition three months before it was due to close, and that it had not allowed signatures since April.

This looks like an attempt to prevent the petition from embarrassing the government by gaining a large number of signatures in the run-up to Pope Benedict's visit, Tatchell said in a statement.

The Protest the Pope petition had criticized Pope Benedict for his alleged intolerant opposition to women's rights, gay equality, embryonic stem-cell research and condom use to prevent the spread of HIV.

It urged the prime minister to rebuke the pope for allegedly covering up the clerical sex abuse of children and, according to the petition, his rehabilitation of the Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson, and his plan to make a saint of Hitler's pope, Pius XII, who refused to publicly condemn the Holocaust.

In its response, posted on the prime minister's website, the government explained it would fund only the state aspects of the visit, with the Catholic Church meeting the costs of pastoral events.

There are issues on which we disagree with the Catholic Church, the statement said. However, we believe that Pope Benedict's visit will provide an opportunity to strengthen and build on our relationship with the Holy See in areas where we share interests and goals and to discuss those issues on which our positions differ.

The Protest the Pope coalition is planning a march and rally in London to coincide with the pope's Sept. 18 prayer vigil in London's Hyde Park.

 

17th July   

The Moral High Ground...

Ex Vice President of the BBFC charged with fiddling expenses
Link Here

John TaylorLord Taylor of Warwick is the sixth parliamentarian to face charges over the expenses scandal. He is facing charges in relation to claims of £11,000.

It follows disclosures in December that he had allegedly registered a house in Oxford belonging to the partner of his stepbrother's son, without his knowledge or consent.

The peer is accused of declaring the property owned as his primary residence in order to claim second home expenses. Taylor has lived in Ealing, West London, since 1995. Peers who live outside the capital can claim £174 a night tax-free to cover the cost of a hotel or a second home.

The 57-year-old peer resigned from the Conservative Party hours after the Crown Prosecution Service revealed that he was facing six charges of false accounting in relation to claims for overnight subsistence and car mileage between March 2006 and October 2007. He will appear before Westminster Magistrates Court next month.

John Taylor was Vice President of the BBFC for 10 years until retiring in November 2008.

 

7th July   

An Expendable 2s...

BBFC cuts Stallone's The Expendables for a 15 rating
Link Here

Expendables Deaths Sylvester Stallone Poster The Expendables is a 2010 US action film by Sylvester Stallone

The BBFC cut 2s for a 15 rating for the 2010 cinema release. The company chose to remove one shot, showing a hero sadistically twisting a knife into a guard's neck, in order to obtain a 15 classification. An uncut 18 classification was available.

 

6th July   

The Last Dictatorship in Europe...

London protest in support of the Belarus Free Theatre
Link Here  full story: Belarus Free Theatre...Brave underground theatre group

Tom Stoppard Rosencrantz Guildenstern Travesties Britain's theatre community comes out against oppression and censorship in Belarus, the last dictatorship of Europe .

Sir Tom Stoppard and actor/director Sam West Has led a protest of high-profile theatre practitioners outside the Belarussian Embassy in London.

They presented an open letter to President Alyaksander Lukashenko of Belarus calling for greater democratic freedom and for an end to censorship of the Internet.

Other signatories include Mark Ravenhill, Howard Brenton, Alan Rickman, Laura Wade, Caryl Churchill, Henry Goodman, Henry Porter, Simon McBurney, Simon Stephens and Lyndsey Turner.

We urge you to allow the people of Belarus the right to express and share their opinions freely, whether this is on the internet or not. We urge you to use your powers to prevent any further repression of citizens who hold alternative, and oppositional, beliefs to you. We urge that the practice of physical abuse and intimidation against any citizen, including those who dare to hold alternative and oppositional points of view, be stopped. Finally, we urge you to protect the right to freedom of assembly in accordance with Article 21 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights to which Belarus is a state party, – the letter says.

Sam West performed an extract of Generation Jeans , a play from the multi-award winning Belarus Free Theatre.

Generation Jeans charts one man's journey as an activist. It captures all of the courage, the humour and the foolhardy determination that you need to resist a totalitarian regime, which makes it perfect for our protest today, says director Clare Lizzimore, co-organiser of the protest.

On Thursday 1st July a new Presidential decree on the Internet comes into force. It gives the authorities greater powers to monitor usage and will enable the Government to restrict or block access to websites that offer independent and alternative sources of information. It has been described as a step in the wrong direction by the European Union. The decree is a clear attempt to curb the freedom of speech and the right to self-expression.

Playwright and co-organiser of the protest, Alexandra Wood says: The internet is a vital tool in communication and should be available to all. Lukashenko's law, imposing censorship on the Internet, particularly affects those in Belarus who oppose his regime, who want to offer the Belarusian people an alternative, which is of course, his intention.

Actor Sam West says: The purpose of theatre and the purpose of the internet is the same: to connect people, to bring them together as a collective entity, an audience, a world. Repressive regimes are rightly frightened of the internet for its ability to put free thinkers in touch with one another and give them inspiration and strength; it's not us and them out there, it's all us. We must oppose any withdrawal of these freedoms as anti-thought, anti-freedom, anti-human.

The protest was in support of the Belarus Free Theatre and is in conjunction with the Global Artistic Campaign in Solidarity with Belarus, founded by playwright, Sir Tom Stoppard.