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2012: Jan-March

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Update: Politically Motivated and Politically Monitored...

British Shadow Chancellor at the Pussy Riot trial

Link Here12th August 2012
Full story: Blasphemy in Russia...Offending religious beliefs or desecration of holy objects or symbols

The British Shadow Chancellor Kerry McCarthy attended the Pussy Riot trial on Monday to give a bit of extra attention to the three members of the all-female protest group who face up to seven years in prison for a church performance in which they denounced President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill.

It seems strange to me that they have been charged with this offense, McCarthy told The Moscow Times during a break inside the courtroom at Moscow's Khamovnichesky District Court. In the U.K., they would have been charged with a breach of peace and told off or fined.

When McCarthy started following the trial, she saw that the defendants weren't able to call their witnesses and that other violations of their rights were taking place, she said.

Asked whether she saw the trial as politically motivated, she replied, Everything I've read about it would lead me to think that.

Offsite Report: Inside the Pussy Riot Trial

10th August 2012. See  article from by Kerry McCarthy

Pussy Riot's alleged crime was to have performed what they dubbed a punk prayer in the cathedral of Christ the Saviour in February, a 40 second performance of a song calling on the Virgin Mary to join forces with them against Vladimir Putin.

The trial has in large part been about whether the band were demonstrating religious hatred by their actions, or whether - as the women maintain - it was a political protest. The prosecuting lawyer somewhat bizarrely argued in his closing statement that it wasn't a political statement as no politicians were named, although the song is called Virgin Mary, Chase Putin Out.

The band argue, perhaps a little facetiously, that the song isn't anti-religious because they're enlisting the Virgin Mary onto their side. The female lawyer representing the nine victims in court (that is, those who say they were insulted or traumatised by seeing the performance) was outraged by the band's suggestion that Mary was a feminist, and said that feminism is a mortal sin .


There have, however, been many criticisms made of the trial process: the fact the defence weren't allowed to call the witnesses they wanted to, and not allowed to examine the prosecution witnesses/victims properly either. I wasn't there for the victims' testimony but people have reported that the judge was very quick to shut down questions, and simply didn't allow the sort of cross-examination that the defence wanted.

There have also been many concerns raised about the way the women are being treated: they say they are only getting a few hours sleep a night, they aren't being fed during their 12 hour days at court, and Nadya and Masha have not been able to see their two small children. There has also been an order made barring Nadya's husband, Peter, from visiting her, after - I was told - he was seen to be too active in calling for their release.

...Read the full article

Comment: The bit about forgiving those who trespass against them

11th August 2012. Thanks to Alan

Kerry McCarthy's remarks on the trial are interesting, but I don't think she quite sees the point about Pussy Riot's claim that the Virgin Mary would agree with them. It isn't facetious . Whether or not they believe the doctrines of the opening words of their prayer - Bogoroditse Devo ( Virgin Mother of God ) - or even in her historical existence, the fact is that in the longest speech attributed to her in the New Testament Mary talks of God putting down the mighty from their thrones and raising up the humble, filling the hungry with good things and sending the rich away empty . Looks like that's another Madonna they've got on their side.

Furthermore, Patriarch Kirill, his absurd spokesprat Fr Chaplin - can't resist saying he's a right Charlie! - and the allegedly offended lay people in the cathedral ought to be well aware of this, since, like Anglicans and Catholics, they say or sing this text, called the Magnificat, daily in their services. They also say that prayer by Mary's kid, but don't seem to have taken on board the bit about forgiving those who trespass against them.

When it comes to the lawyer calling feminism a sin , words almost fail me. Does this idiot ever look in the robing room mirror? She's (1) a woman and (2) a lawyer. How does she think she manages to be both without the work of feminists?

Extract: Russian Orthodox Church defiant over Pussy Riot trial

11th August 2012. See  article from

Younger Orthodox Russians I spoke to, many of whom support Pussy Riot, disagree. They feel that their Patriarch is not maintaining the neutrality expected of him and is in fact legitimising the activity of the state.

The Church connects people to God but now these two bodies - the Church and the government - are linked and it should not be like this, says Nikolai Polozov, a committed Orthodox Christian and the lawyer acting for Pussy Riot.

And yet the Church feels someone is out there to get them. As it struggles to boost its low attendances (fewer than 10% of Russians attend church regularly), it talks of a smear campaign being waged against the Patriarch.

...Raad the full Russian Orthodox Church defiant over Pussy Riot trial


14th May   

Update: TalkTalk BlockBlock...

Now TalkTalk proposes to force all customers to choose between a censored or uncensored internet feed
Link Here
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

TalkTalk, which provides web access to 4million subscribers, already offers new customers the option of activating blocking for websites with adult themes. Now it has said it will be the first company to ask both new and existing subscribers whether they want to block adult content.

TalkTalk's filter, HomeSafe, blocks sites categorised as unsuitable for under-18s, including those related to pornography, suicide, self harm, gambling, dating, drugs and weapons. But it also blocks websites for strong language, references to sex and any sites that happen to contain a few words that trigger automated classification software.

It has been available to customers since May last year, but only if they requested it. From March this year, new subscribers have been asked to choose whether or not they want the filter.

Now the company wants to force all of its customers to decide whether they want access to adult material, with a view to making them choose their settings once a year.

It is believed other internet providers will introduce a system in October which will be more tailored to devices and individuals.


31st March

 Offsite Link: A Scottish license to kill culture...

Link Here
Bureaucrats north of the border seem to be on a mission to bleed all the spontaneity out of Scotland's thriving cultural scene. By Tiffany Jenkins of Spiked

See article from


29th March   

Updated:: Freedom of Expression Awards 2012...

Link Here

Freedom of Expression Awards 2012
28th March 2012, London

Journalism nominees

Winner: Idrak Abbasov, journalist, Azerbaijan

Idrak Abbasov is an Azerbaijani journalist whose investigative work has put his life in danger. Abbasov reports for newspaper Ayna-Zerkalo, contributes to the Institute for War & Peace Reporting website, and he is one of the founding members of Azerbaijan's Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) .

Han Han, blogger, China

The author of China's most widely read blog, 29-year-old Han Han has been called the world's most popular blogger . He is also famed for being a cultural critic, race-car driver, actor and novelist. But despite his rock star status he has long been considered a thorn in the side of the Chinese government.

Lucia Escobar, journalist, Guatemala

Lucia Escobar's story highlights the state of press freedom in Guatemala, where journalists are regularly intimidated by paramilitary groups. Escobar is a freelance columnist for El Perio'dico, a publication based in Guatemala City, and also operates an online radio station, Radio Ati.

Kayvan Samimi, journalist, Iran

Iranian journalist Kayvan Samimi has been instrumental in keeping dissent alive in the Islamic Republic.

Advocacy nominees

Winner: Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, NGO, Bahrain

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) has played a crucial role in documenting human rights violations, political repression and torture in the Gulf kingdom. Despite efforts to silence and discredit it, the BCHR has kept international attention on the brutal government crackdown that began last February. It has prevented the Bahrain government from whitewashing its international image, and at times when news media were severely restricted and foreign journalists barred, it acted as a crucial news source.

Alaa Abd El Fattah, blogger, Egypt

Alaa Abd El Fattah is at the forefront of protests against Egypt's current military rule. Over the last 12 months, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has tried to silence dissent, crushing protests, restricting the media and questioning and imprisoning activists who criticise its actions.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill, QC, UK

Anthony Lester is a British barrister and Liberal Democrat peer whose work in the field of human rights has transformed the legal landscape. His support for the libel reform campaign has led to one of the greatest advances for free speech in recent years in the UK, potentially transforming the most infamous and enduring chill on freedom of expression in the country. Following the introduction of Anthony Lester's private member's defamation bill in May 2010, the government then used it as the basis for its own bill a year later. If it becomes law this year, it will mark the end of London's notorious reputation as a town named sue , the libel capital of the world, and fulfil Anthony Lester's personal aim of providing a catalyst for reform in an historic moment for free speech in the UK.

Inovation nominees

Winner: Freedom Fone by Kubatana, mobile phone technology NGO, Zimbabwe

Kubatana is an NGO based in Harare that uses a variety of new and traditional media to encourage ordinary Zimbabweans to be informed, inspired and active about civic and human rights issues. As an organisation, it continuously seeks innovative fixes to the challenges of sharing independent information in Zimbabwe's restrictive media environment. Freedom Fone is one of Kubatana's solutions. An open-source software, Freedom Fone helps organisations create interactive voice response (IVR) menus to enable them to share pre-recorded audio information in any language via mobile phones and landlines with their members or the general public. The software is aimed at organisations or individuals wishing to set up interactive information services for users where the free flow of information may be denied for economic, political, technological or other reasons. Freedom Fone is one of the many ways Kubatana reaches across the digital divide to inform and inspire the vast majority of Zimbabweans who do not have regular or affordable internet access.

ObscuraCam, smartphone app, USA

ObscuraCam is a free smartphone application that uses facial recognition to blur individual faces automatically. Developed by WITNESS and the Guardian Project, it enables users to protect their personal security, privacy and anonymity. In 2011 and 2012, uprisings throughout the Middle East have shown the power and danger of mobile video footage. ObscuraCam helps protect activists who fear reprisals but want to safely capture evidence of state brutality. Launched in June 2011 and based in the USA, ObscuraCam is the only facial blurring or masking application that has responded to the concerns of human rights groups, citizen activists and journalists. In addition to obscuring faces, the application removes identifying data such as GPS location data and the phone make and model., data visualisation resource, international was created to help make data visualisation more accessible to the general public. It calls itself a community of creative people making sense of complex issues through data and design... and a shared space and free resource to help you achieve this goal .Data analysts and graphic designers have set themselves the challenge of sharing a constantly proliferating body of public data in an accessible form. Raw data on its own might as well be censored; visualisation opens the door to open information that otherwise would be left languishing on hard disks or, if downloaded, unintelligible to the average citizen. The project offers a place to showcase work, discover remarkable visualisations and visually explore some of today's most pressing global issues. Created by GE and Seed Media Group, promotes information literacy. The portal has had a remarkable year.

Telecomix, internet activists, across Europe

Telecomix is the collective name for a decentralised group of internet activists operating in Europe. Their focus is to expose threats to freedom of speech online. During one operation, Telecomix activists published a huge package of data which proved that the Syrian government was carrying out mass surveillance of thousands of its citizens' internet usage. Telecomix's revelation that the technology used was supplied by US firm Blue Coat Systems has prompted serious investigations into the involvement of western technology firms in helping repressive regimes spy on their people. In mid-August 2011, Telecomix's dispersed group of hackers came together to target Syria's internet. Those attempting to access the internet though their normal browsers were confronted with a blank page bearing a warning: This is a deliberate, temporary internet breakdown. Please read carefully and spread the following message. Your internet activity is monitored. Following this, a page flashed up describing how to take precautions to encrypt usage.

Arts nominees

Winner: Ali Ferzat, cartoonist, Syria

Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat has been called an icon of freedom in the Arab world . He has spent decades ridiculing dictators in more than 15,000 caricatures. His depictions of President Assad and the police state have helped galvanise revolt in Syria.

Voina, performance artists, Russia

Voina, meaning War , is a collective of radical Russian anarchist artists who combine political protest and performance art.

Ai Weiwei, artist, China

AiWeiwei is a Chinese artist and activist whose work incorporates social and political activism. He has investigated corruption and cover-ups and openly criticised the Chinese government's record on human rights.

Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, poet, Burma

Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, a poet, filmmaker and screenwriter, co-founded Burma's inaugural Arts of Freedom Film Festival, which took place in early January 2012.

Index 40th Anniversary award

Winner: Memorial

Index singles out The Research and Information Centre Memorial, which logs the brutal repression suffered by millions in former Soviet countries, for their continued dedication to guaranteeing freedom of information. The centre has demonstrated a fierce commitment to protecting human rights. It not only chronicles the crimes of the Stalinist period, but monitors current threats against those who speak out against injustice. Memorial's remarkable archive includes letters, diaries, transcripts, photographs, and sound files. Individuals with first-hand experience of Stalin's terror and the Soviet gulag have donated documentation they had hidden during this brutal period.


28th March   

Extract: Lost Souls at the BBFC...

Robin Cooke talks about 100 years of film censorship at the BBFC
Link Here

As the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) celebrates its 100th year, its director David Cooke reflects on some of the films that have challenged the censor over the decades.

One of the best examples is 1932's Island of Lost Souls, the first non-silent screen adaptation of HG Wells' Island of Dr Moreau, starring Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi. Scene from Island of Lost Souls Island of Lost Souls was first rejected by the British censor in the 1930s

Originally rejected in 1933 - and again in 1957 - the film was eventually classified with an X certificate with cuts in 1958. In 1996 these cuts were restored and the film gained a 12 certificate.

In 2011, it was resubmitted for a new DVD/Blu-ray release and was passed as a PG - making it viewable by children, though it carries the warning: Contains mild violence and scary scenes .

When we had to classify it again last year, we went for PG on the basis of the comparison with the Doctor Whos and the Harry Potters, explains BBFC director David Cooke.

...Read the full article


21st March   

Extract: A Book Fair Missing a Few Key Pages...

London Book Fair is highlighting Chinese authors, but somehow only those that are state approved
Link Here
Full story: China International Censors...China pressures other countries into censorship

The London Book Fair is facing claims it has bowed to pressure from Chinese authorities by failing to invite dissident and exiled writers to next month's event and choosing only state-approved authors.

Bei Ling, an exiled poet and essayist, has written to the British Council, the organisers of the cultural programme of the fair, which is one of the biggest international publishing events in the world, expressing his surprise over its plans to host Chinese state-approved writers and organisations.

I was amazed that no independent voice, no exiled or dissident writer from China is being represented at the London Book Fair, he told the Guardian, accusing the fair, which is focusing on China this year, of self-censorship to keep Chinese authorities on board.

It is shocking enough that the book fair has worked with Gapp (General Administration of Press and Publication, the agency responsible for regulating publications in China). In order to ensure that their guest country was happy they exercised self-censorship and didn't push for other, non-state-approved writers, although without them you don't get a full picture of literary China, he said.

...Read the full article


20th March   

Alton Towers Attraction Rated 12A by the BBFC...

Confusing as to whether it is open to under 12's when accompanied by their parents
Link Here

Following unprecedented feedback from a testing panel during its beta phase, Alton Towers Resort has been compelled to seek advice from esteemed film classification body the BBFC, to help assess its new psychologically terrifying underground attraction, Nemesis Sub-Terra , which opens to the general public on 24th March 2012.

For the first time in history for a theme park attraction, the BBFC agreed to assess Nemesis Sub-Terra, so that Alton Towers Resort could protect its younger visitors from the intense and disturbing effects of the new attraction and consider appropriate restrictions.

Now in its 100th year of operation, until now the BBFC has only rated content in the form of film releases, DVDs/Blu-Ray, digital downloads and video games. The BBFC considered carefully the feedback and unique nature of the attraction (which is neither a ride, performance nor a maze) and agreed to lend their advice.

Murray Perkins, Senior Examiner at the BBFC commented:

The BBFC is seeing a real blur of the old boundaries of visual content and physical experience in both 3D and 4D cinema, and at theme parks. Applying our experience of the public's acceptability of moments of threat on screen, to more physical experiences, is something we have begun to do as cinema and other theatrical experiences evolve.

After experiencing the attraction first-hand, based on 100 years of experience and line with British public opinion, we would recommend that Alton Towers Resort classify the new Nemesis Sub-Terra a '12A'. The BBFC's Guidelines at '12A'/'12 allow moderate physical and psychological threat, provided that the disturbing sequences are not frequent or sustained. Nemesis Sub-Terra contains some intense moments, in some respects comparable with scary scenes which may be experienced in horror or science fiction films at '12A'/'12. But while some people will no doubt find this a frightening experience, the personnel monitoring the site are soon on hand to guide the public to safety.

Katherine Duckworth from Alton Towers Resort commented:

The classification advice from the BBFC is important for the Resort to ensure the wellbeing of our guests. We are aware the enforcements that will now be implemented will mean that many of our younger visitors are unable to experience Nemesis Sub-Terra, which we are obviously concerned about. However, the Alton Towers Resort prides itself on offering a variety of rides for all ages and we hope that those under the age of 12 will continue to enjoy our other attractions.


11th March   

Update: Just Not Cricket...

Libel tourism case as former New Zealand Cricketer sues in the UK over a dispute with an Indian tweeter primarily affecting his reputation in India
Link Here
Full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth

Ex-New Zealand cricketer Chris Cairns, who is suing a former Indian Premier League boss over a Twitter posting, has his case heard by the UK High Court in the latest example of libel tourism.

Chris Cairns is taking legal action over a  January 2010 tweet by Lalit Modi alleging that he was involved in match fixing.

The action is taking place in London despite claims by Modi's lawyers that there were only 35 readers of the tweet in England and Wales. Evidence for Cairns put the figure at around 100.

Padraig Reidy of Index on Censorshop said:

The Cairns case is one of the most clear-cut cases of libel tourism we have seen.

While cricket is an international game, the alleged libel took place in India, concerned conduct in India, and primarily affects Cairns's reputation in India.

Plans to prevent libel tourism were put forward by the Government last year. The proposed new rules would block celebrities and businessman from bringing such actions in this country unless it could be proved that publication caused them substantial harm in England and Wales.


10th March   

Clash of the Titans...

BBFC provide interesting archive material about their clash with the distributors of the 1981 fantasy film by Desmond Davis
Link Here
Clash of the Titans is a 1981 US fantasy by Desmond Davis. With Laurence Olivier, Harry Hamlin and Claire Bloom. See IMDb

Back in 1981 it was passed A (PG) after 9s of BBFC cuts for category for:

  • UK 1981 cinema release

From cuts details on IMDb :

  • Removed the close up of Calabos stabbing a man's back with a trident
  • shortened the scene where Calabos is stabbed in the stomach by Perseus to remove sight of Calabos in agony.

Since then it was passed 15 uncut for:

  • UK 1987 MGM VHS

And passed 12 uncut for moderate fantasy violence for:

...Read the full article in which the BBFC publish several letters and documents about how they decided on the 1981 cuts.


10th March

 Offsite Article: The King of the BBFC's Speech...

Link Here
BBFC infomercial about consumer advice and the always useful extended classification information. By David Cooke

See article from


9th March   

Rotten to the Core?...

Ofcom's Project Apple is considering whether News International is fit and proper to hold the broadcasting licence for Sky TV
Link Here

News International's involvement in the U.K. phone-hacking and bribery scandal has drawn attention from regulators, who are examining the company's fitness to hold a broadcasting license through its stake in Sky.

The ramifications of the scandal are being scrutinized by a special team, dubbed Project Apple, at TV censor Ofcom, according to minutes released under a Freedom of Information Act request published on Ofcom's website.

Ofcom, which has the ability to revoke a broadcaster's license, will determine whether the scandal has compromised News Corp.'s ability to manage the U.K.'s biggest pay-TV company.


8th March   

A Pressing Need for Change...

Press Complaints Commission to undergo a rapid reformation before Leveson makes his report
Link Here

The Press Complaints Commission is to close itself down in a fast-tracked programme that will kill off the name of the PCC, abandon its current structures and governance, and establish a new regulatory body that will be in place well before Lord Justice Leveson delivers his report on the press at the end of this year.

The accelerated close down was formally discussed at a full meeting of the commission chaired by Lord Hunt in London. Details of the formal close-down date and the potential names of the new body are expected to be revealed in six weeks when the full minutes of the meeting are approved and published shortly afterwards.

Earlier this week Hunt is understood to have told some of his close Westminster colleagues of the imminent demise of the PCC. Hunt discussed the urgent need to have a new authority in place and functioning well ahead of the first draft and any early recommendations from Lord Justice Leveson.

Simply stealing a march on anything Leveson might say was how one MP described the goodbye to the PCC.


28th February   

Extract: Fears of Violence and Easy Offence...

BBC boss confirms that christianity is treated with less sensitivity than 'other' religions
Link Here

BBC director-general Mark Thompson has claimed Christianity is treated with far less sensitivity than other religions because it is pretty broad shouldered .

He suggested other faiths have a very close identity with ethnic minorities , and were therefore covered in a far more careful way by broadcasters.

But he also revealed that producers had to consider the possibilities of violent threats instead of polite complaints if they pushed ahead with certain types of satire.

...Read the full article


26th February

 Offsite Comment: Press TV should have been allowed to keep rolling...

Link Here
Full story: Press TV...Political censoship merges with TV censorship
Iran's news channel was just part of a broad spectrum of satellite propaganda that ranges from Russia Today to Fox. By Peter Preston

See article from


16th February   

Update: Here We Go, Here We Go, Here We Go...

Scottish publicans ask government to clarify exactly what songs, chants and banter is banned by the new football and sectarianism law
Link Here
Full story: Football Sectarianism...Sectarian Rangers football song wind up

Pubs across Scotland could close unless the Government spells out to landlords what constitutes an offence under new laws designed to tackle football-related bigotry, trade lobbyists have warned. inShare2 Custom byline text: GERRY BRAIDEN

With arrest rates for sectarian behaviour expected to accelerate after the Offensive Behaviour Act receives Royal Assent, the country's largest licensed trade group fears hundreds of bar and pub owners could become collateral damage.

The Scottish Beer and Pub Association (SBPA) has joined a long list of other parties asking for clarification on matters such as what songs and slogans are in and out and has asked for ministers and the police to provide real-life scenarios of situations which could unfold in licensed premises.

The Government has said the police's football co-ordination unit was already setting up meetings with licensing authorities to discuss the implementation of the legislation.

In his letter to Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham, SBPA chief executive Patrick Browne said that as long as it was unclear how the laws would impact on the trade there was a high risk a licensed premise could find itself being reported to the local licensing board which could then sanction their premises licence, with implications for the business .

He added: Given the new and very specific nature of the offences under the new Act relating to licensed premises, it would be helpful for my members and licensees more generally to have further guidance from the Government as to which types of behaviour on their premises would be unacceptable under the terms of legislation. This would assist them in fulfilling the expectations of licensing boards and the police more generally.


8th February   

Unchallenged Eyewitness...

Ofcom censure muslim channel programme for giving a one sided view of US foreign policy in Afghanistan and the Middle East
Link Here

Ahlulbayt TV, 27 September 2011, 18:30

Ahlulbayt TV is a satellite television channel serving the Shia Muslim community in the UK. The licence for Ahlulbayt TV.

Eyewitness is a current affairs programme that contains lengthy interviews about topics of political interest.

A viewer alerted Ofcom to a programme featuring Agha Murtaza Poya, a Pakistani politician and journalist. In this programme, Agha Murtaza Poya talked about various geo-political issues, and his contribution included a critique of US foreign policy in relation to, for example, Afghanistan, Iran and Israel/Palestine. The viewer considered that the programme:

  • incited hatred towards countries such as the USA; and
  • presented no alternative point of view to that expressed by Agha Murtaza Poya.

Ofcom noted that the programme featured Agha Murtaza Poya speaking at length about his views on the conflicts in the Middle East, the US presence there, the spread of Islam and the future of Israel. The programme consisted of Agha Murtaza Poya giving answers to a range of questions. The programme did not include the voice of the interviewer. Instead the questions asked in the interview were included in voiceover as part of the programme commentary.

We noted that the programme included a range of statements from Agha Murtaza Poya, including the following, which could be interpreted as being highly critical, in particular, of: the foreign policies of the USA Eg:

I would certainly want all these regimes to start showing a more human face - whether it is an Assad or a Gaddafi or anybody - but the crimes being committed by the so-called international community - that is worse than anything else.

They [the US] didn't fail, they didn't go in for anything else. They didn't fail in Iraq. They beat the daylights out of the Iraqi society, and fractured it, gave it multiple fractures, so therefore... but it's bought Israel ten years, and that was the purpose of going in.

Ofcom considered Rule 5.5 (due impartiality) of the Code, which states that:

Due impartiality on matters of political or industrial controversy and matters relating to current public policy must be preserved on the part of any person providing a service…. This may be achieved within a programme or over a series of programmes taken as a whole.

Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rule 5.5

This programme consisted entirely of an interview with Agha Murtaza Poya. We noted that ATNL argued that any particular view points presented by the guest were challenged through questions included in the voiceover to the programme.

We considered that the questions included in the voiceover did, to some limited extent, clarify or add context to the viewpoints being expressed by Agha Murtaza Poya. In our view however these questions served principally to highlight geo-political issues relating to various nations, such as Palestine, Pakistan and Afghanistan; and served as a means of punctuating the points being made by the interviewee. None of the questions included in the voiceover could reasonably be said to reflect the viewpoint of the US Government in relation to its foreign policy in the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In our view, taken overall this programme contained a range of statements that were highly critical of various aspects of US foreign policy, but did not include any views that could reasonably be said to reflect the viewpoint of the US Government in relation to its foreign policy and that countered the points being made by Agha Murtaza Poya.

The programme gave a one-sided view on this matter of political controversy. Further, the broadcaster did not provide any evidence of views of the US Government on this issue being included in a series of programmes taken as a whole (i.e. more than one programme in the same service, editorially linked, dealing with the same or related issues within an appropriate period and aimed at a like audience). Ofcom therefore considered the programme to be in breach of Rule 5.5 of the Code.

Ofcom is concerned that this breach of Rule 5.5 comes only a few months after a similar breach by the Licensee of the due impartiality requirements of the Code4 . Ofcom is therefore requiring the Licensee to attend a meeting to explain its compliance procedures in this area. The Licensee is put on notice that any further similar contraventions of the Code will be considered for further regulatory action by Ofcom.

Breach of Rule 5.5


7th February   

Update: TV Channel Told to Wash its Mouth Out with Soap...

Ofcom fine Believe TV over nonsense religious healing claims
Link Here
Full story: Censors vs Religious Healing...Censors unimpressed by claims of religious healing

Ofcom have fined Light Academy Ltd 25,000 in respect of claims made by its Believe TV channel.

Ofcom decided that the programmes on Believe TV:

  • Paul Lewis Ministries, December 2010
  • Pastor Alex Omokudu Healing Ministry Testimonies, December 2010 - February 2011
  • Bishop Climate Irungu Ministries, January 2011

Breached rules:

  • Rule 2.1: Generally accepted standards must be applied to the contents of television and radio services so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion in such services of harmful and/or offensive material .
  • Rule 4.6: Religious programmes must not improperly exploit any susceptibilities of the audience .

Ofcom considered only the breaches of Rules 2.1 and 4.6 to be so serious as to warrant consideration of a statutory sanction. In addition, Ofcom considered the Code Breaches to be repeated because they happened repeatedly over a period of several months.

Ofcom have previously highlighted a number of examples of broadcast material which had the potential for harm in breach of Rule 2.1, because some viewers with serious illnesses, especially more vulnerable ones, may not seek, or abandon existing, conventional medical treatment on the basis of what they have seen on Believe TV.

For example, Ofcom noted examples:

  • Paul Lewis, in the programmes Paul Lewis Ministries broadcast on 21 December 2010 and 22 December 2010, preaching directly to camera and providing 'healing' direct to individuals through the use of his 'Miracle Olive Oil Soap'; and
  • Bishop Climate Irungu, in the programmes Bishop Climate Irungu Ministries, broadcast on 4 January 2011, providing testimony of 'healing' direct to camera; and
  • 'testimonies' of congregation members (supported by statements by Pastor Alex Omokudu), which clearly encouraged viewers to believe that the healing or treatment of very serious illnesses, including cancer, diabetes, and heart problems could be achieved exclusively through healing provided by being anointed with a product such as olive oil soap, Ribena or oil.

Ofcom also considered whether to revoke the licence for believe TV but decided that this would not be proportionate.


7th February   

Miserable Equality...

Easily offended shadow equalities minister 'disturbed' by bunny girl image on beer pump
Link Here

A beer called Top Totty, by the Stafford-based brewer Slater's, has been banned from a parliamentary bar because its pump plate featured a bikini clad bunny girl.

The easily offended shadow equalities minister, Kate Green, was left disturbed after seeing the ale's advertising in Parliament's Strangers' Bar. Green told the Commons:

I was disturbed last night to learn that the guest beer in the Strangers' Bar is called Top Totty and there is a picture of a nearly naked woman on the tap.

She called for a debate on dignity at work in parliament and asked Young to back her demands for Top Totty to be withdrawn immediately.

Sir George Young, told MPs: Action will be taken. And within 90 minutes, House authorities ordered the beer to be withdrawn.

Top Totty's Stafford-based brewer, Slater's, describes the ale as a stunning blonde beer, full-bodied with a voluptuous hop aroma .


5th February

 Offsite Article: Is it acceptable to call someone babe?...

Link Here
Brighton and Hove bus drivers told not to refer to passengers as babe, love or darling

See article from


5th February

 Offsite Article: Lads' Rag Mags...

Link Here
Students learn the essential modern life skills of how to be miserably politically correct, and how to whinge at bad taste jokes

See article from


31st January   

Searching for Censorship...

Open Rights Group reveal media industry proposals to hobble internet searches that reveal copyright infringing material
Link Here

We wrote last year, many times, about the discussions being hosted by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport between rights holders and various intermediaries - which to normal people means companies like Internet Service Providers and search engines. One of the most recent roundtables saw the group of rights holders present search engines with a paper on how they should help tackle copyright infringement.

After two Freedom of Information requests, we have received the proposals [pdf] . Here's the summary of what the rights holders were asking for:

  • Assign lower rankings to sites that repeatedly make available unlicensed content in breach of copyright.

  • Prioritise websites that obtain certification as a licensed site under a recognised scheme

  • Stop indexing websites that are subject to court orders while establishing suitable procedures to de-index substantially infringing sites

  • Continue to improve the operation of the notice and takedown system and ensure that search engines do not encourage consumers towards illegal sites via suggested searches; related searches and suggested sites

  • Ensure that they do not support illegal sites by advertising them or placing advertising on them, or profit from infringement by selling key words associated with piracy or selling mobile applications which facilitate infringement.

The minutes from the meeting suggest that the search engines were not impressed, and promised to write their own proposals to be discussed at a future meeting.

...Read the full article

Offsite: Google grilled by parliamentary committee

31st January 2012. From

Google was dragged over the coals by a British parliamentary committee, as the technology company's approach to removing illegal content from its search results again came under scrutiny.

Several members of the joint committee on privacy and injunctions, chaired by John Whittingdale MP, repeatedly attacked Google's representatives as they set out how the search engine seeks to balance legal challenges with freedom of expression.

Ben Bradshaw, Nadim Zahawi, and Lord Mawhinney, all criticised Google for what they saw as its failure to help victims of invasion of privacy, by removing all links to content which a judge has ruled to be illegal in the UK.


19th January

 Offsite: You Can't Read This Book...

Link Here
Full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth
Why libel tourists love London

See article from


18th January   

Violent Threat Silences Debate...

University debate about sharia cancelled after blatant threat of violence from a man who turned up at the event
Link Here

A talk on sharia and human rights by NSS Council Member Anne Marie Waters' at Queen Mary College, London was cancelled at the last moment because of an Islamist who made serious threats against everyone there.

The talk was due to take place on 16 January but before it started, a man entered the lecture theatre, stood at the front with a camera and filmed the audience. He then said that he knew who everyone was, where they lived and if he heard anything negative about the Prophet, he would track them down.

The man also filmed students in the foyer and threatened to murder them and their families. On leaving the building, he joined a large group of men, apparently there to support him. Students were told by security to stay in the lecture theatre for their own safety.

Jennifer Hardy, President of Queen Mary Atheism Society, who organised the event said:

This event was supposed to be an opportunity for people of different religions and perspectives to debate, at a university that is supposed to be a beacon of free speech and debate.

Only two complaints had been made to the Union prior to the event, and the majority of the Muslim students at the event were incredibly supportive of it going ahead. These threats were an aggressive assault on freedom of speech and the fact that they led to the cancellation of our talk was severely disappointing for all of the religious and non-religious students in the room who wanted to engage in debate.

The police were contacted about the incident.

Update: Pitiful Security

25th January 2012. See article from by Maryam Namazie

My One Law for All Co-Spokesperson Anne Marie Waters was to speak at a meeting on Sharia Law and Human Rights at the University of London last night.

It was cancelled by the Queen Mary Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society organisers after police had to be called in due to Islamist threats. One Islamist filmed everyone at the meeting and announced he would hunt down those who said anything negative about Islam's prophet. Outside the hall, he threatened to kill anyone who defamed the prophet. Reference was made to the Jesus and Mo cartoon saga at UCL.

The University's security guard -- a real gem --arrived first only to blame the speaker and organisers rather than those issuing death threats. He said: If you will have these discussions, what do you expect? Err, to speak without being threatened with death maybe?


18th January   

Update: Democracy Fails in Hull...

Councillor suspended for 20 weeks for trivial insult in tweet
Link Here
Full story: The R Word...Campaign against the word 'retard'

A Tory Councillor has been suspended from his job for 20 weeks and will be forced to undertake diversity training, after he called members of the public retards .

Hull City Council received two complaints after Councillor John Fareham used Twitter to insult people who had protested against public spending cuts. He tweeted:

15 hours in Council today very hard hitting day and the usual collection of retards in the public gallery spoiling it for real people.

The council's PC standards committee claimed that his actions breached its code of conduct. Chair of the sub-committee Sheelagh Strawbridge said:

The committee concluded that Councillor Fareham may have caused the authority to breach equality enactments and had brought his office and the Council into disrepute.


17th January   

Extraditing Turkish Injustice...

Turkey seeks to imprison Fergie over expose of horrific children's homes citing bollox about privacy
Link Here

The Duchess of York, who faces charges in Turkey for going undercover and secretly filming children at a state-run home for a 2008 documentary, canceled a recent trip to the United States because of the case, a source and her spokesman said.

The United States and Turkey have an extradition treaty and the cancellation raised the question of whether Sarah Ferguson is avoiding the United States because she fears being sent to Turkey.

The duchess was accompanied by one of her two daughters, Princess Eugenie, to film the ITV Tonight program in Turkey. An ITV press statement at the time of the film's broadcast in 2008 said the duchess, as part of a reporting team, had gone undercover in one of Turkey's worst institutions -- capturing images that will shock and horrify. The hard-hitting program was intended to help investigate the treatment of mentally and physically disabled children, ITV said.

Ferguson feels the work she did in Turkey was completely valid and consistent with her ongoing support for humanitarian causes, spokesman James Henderson told CNN. Ferguson is consulting rights lawyers as well as attorneys in Turkey as she decides what to do next, he said.

The Ankara prosecutor's office in Turkey accused the duchess of violating the private lives and rights of five children while filming a program for Britain's ITV network, Turkey's semiofficial Anatolian news agency reported last week. Discussing the case, the Ankara chief prosecutor asked for a prison term of up to 22 years, six months, Turkish state TV reported.

What Ferguson is accused of in Turkey would not constitute a crime in Britain.

The Home Office confirmed that it has received a formal request for mutual legal assistance concerning Sarah, Duchess of York.


17th January   

Abuse in 140 Characters...

Ceop call for moderation of twitter feeds
Link Here

Britain's Child Exploitation and Online Protection (Ceop) centre said more can be done to safeguard children who use the Twitter website.

Apparently social networking sites Facebook and Bebo both report far more incidents of illegal activity to Ceop than Twitter does. Perhaps the 140 character tweets are not the most likely communication method for grooming and the like.

Peter Davies, head of Ceop, said:

Providers of online services have a responsibility to safeguard their environment in order to minimise the risk to children and close down opportunities for offenders.

Many companies work closely with us to enhance their ability to do this, including Facebook and Bebo.

The centre does receive reports relating to material on Twitter but it's important to say these amount to a very small proportion of 1,000 reports a month relating to a wide range of online environments.

Twitter have removed illegal images and other content on our request.

We believe more can be done around the moderation of Twitter feeds and the strengthening of Twitter's reporting mechanisms.

It's important that all providers have in place robust and effective reporting mechanisms so that when illegal, offensive or inappropriate material is posted it is quickly removed and reported to law enforcement as necessary.


16th January

 Offsite: Detained at Her Majesty's Government's Pleasure...

Link Here
High Court finds that government were unlawful in preventing the BBC from interviewing a man that has been held in detention for 7 years without charge or trial

See article from


14th January   

Dangerous Links...

Man extradited to the US over copyright claims about a website that linked to infringing TV content
Link Here

A British student can be extradited to the United States to face charges of copyright infringement over a website he ran offering links to pirated films online, a court has ruled.

Richard O'Dwyer, whose site TV Shack made more than 150,000 in advertising revenues, according to US prosecutors, is thought to be the first person extradited to America on such charges. If convicted in New York, he faces jail.

Speaking after the hearing at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court, the 23-year-old said he felt like a guinea pig for the US justice system. His lawyer argued that his site hosted no illegal content, but merely directed users to where it was held online, and said that his client would appeal the ruling.


11th January   

Twelve Fucks and Fifteen Cocksuckers...

J. Edgar rated 15 for infrequent strong language
Link Here

The BBFC have rated Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar as 17 for infrequent strong language.

The decision is explained in the Extended Classification Information:

J. EDGAR is a biopic of J.Edgar Hoover, the founder and head of the FBI. It was classified 15 for infrequent strong language.

The BBFC's Guidelines at 12A/12 state The use of strong language (for example, 'fuck') must be infrequent. The film contains only one use of 'f***ing', which would have been permissible at 12A. However, it also contains two uses of cruder language (in this case 'c***sucker') that were more appropriately classified at 15 where the Guidelines state There may be frequent use of strong language. None of the language is personally directed or accompanied by violence, but is spoken in a derogatory manner about political opponents who are not present at the time.

The film also contains some moderate violence during shootouts between police and mobsters. However, the violence is almost always bloodless and lacking in injury detail.


The film also contains some mild bad language, such as damn and Jesus Christ . There are a couple of uses of the term negro , although the term is not used in a pejorative sense, simply reflecting the common terminology of the period in which the film is set. The historical nature of the term and the lack of intent to offend is reinforced by sight of Martin Luther King using it himself in a televised speech.

Seems a bit harsh, but the US film censors seemed to agree that J. Edgar went beyond PG-13 and rated the film as R.

Interesting to note the inconsistent use of asterisks in the BBFC piece. It let one 'fuck' through but censored the next. Is this the BBFC keeping the page itself down to a 12 rating?


8th January   

Update: Muddying the Waters...

Chinese Embassy accuses Jeremy Clarkson of woeful disrespect of decency and moral standards
Link Here
Full story: Top Gear and the Grand Tour...Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson wind up whingers

Jeremy Clarkson, the TV presenter, has been ludicrously criticised for making trivial tasteless comments about the Morecambe Bay cockle picking tragedy in which 23 Chinese migrant workers died.

In a column for The Sun newspaper, Clarkson mocked the sport of synchronised swimming as Chinese women in hats, upside down, in a bit of water , adding: You can see that sort of thing on Morecambe Beach. For free.

Hardly worthy of mention but Tracy Brown, a Morecambe town councillor had a little whinge. She said:

I choose to ignore such comments and treat them with the contempt they deserve. In fact, this is beneath contempt. He is just trying to make himself look big at other people's expense. Many people around here were deeply affected by the tragedy.

But then the tiff escalated to international levels: Ms Dai Qingli, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Embassy, went well overboard. She said:

We deplore and oppose Mr Clarkson's comments, which are insulting and show a woeful disrespect of decency and moral standards. We regret that The Sun has publicised such remarks.

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