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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
A student who admitted posting racially offensive comments on Twitter about footballer Fabrice Muamba has been jailed for 56 days.
Swansea University student Liam Stacey, 21, from Pontypridd, admitted inciting racial hatred over remarks about the Bolton Wanderers player, who collapsed during a FA Cup tie at Tottenham.
A district judge in Swansea called the comments vile and abhorrent . Sentencing Stacey at Swansea Magistrates' Court, District Judge John Charles told him: In my view, there is no alternative to an immediate prison sentence.
Stacey broke down in tears as he was led away to begin his jail term.
The troubles started when Muamba collapsed. Stacey tweeted: LOL. Fuck Muamba he's dead!!! #haha.
A number of people challenged Stacey on Twitter following his first comment, and he responded with a number of offensive posts aimed at other Twitter users. Such as the one reported by the the Huffington Post, suggesting one of his detractors go pick some cotton.
He later tried to delete his tweets but was arrested the following day at his student house in Swansea. When interviewed by police, Stacey said he had been drinking since lunchtime on Saturday and was drunk when he made the comments.
Jim Brisbane, chief crown prosecutor for CPS Cymru-Wales, said:
Racist language is inappropriate in any setting and through any media. We hope this case will serve as a warning to anyone who may think that comments made online are somehow beyond the law.
A Swansea University spokesperson said:
The student remains suspended from the university pending the conclusion of our disciplinary proceedings.
This morning Swansea magistrates jailed a 21-year-old student called Liam Stacey for eight weeks for posting racially offensive comments on Twitter about Fabrice Muamba.
I've no doubt that he's a vile man, who by the sound of it was drunk at the time he posted, but what remains disturbing about the case is that the Crown offered no evidence that Stacey had incited racial violence or any other crime. That his
speech was racist was enough to send him down.
This verdict, like so many others, shows how little confidence the judiciary has in wider society. It's as if the judges, politicians and the police believe that a neo-Nazi can turn the usually placid British into Ku Klux Klan supporters with a
few inflammatory words; that we are a bomb just waiting for someone to light the fuse and ignite us.
A man, Liam Stacey, has been imprisoned in the UK for using Twitter.
Yes, imprisoned for using words that do not constitute incitement of any sort. Such is the tragic state of affairs for liberty in this country.
The most important liberty of all being at stake: that absolute freedom of one's body from interference from the State.
That he lost his liberty for a mere vulgar prank, which had no attack on another's physical body that should justify the loss of liberty of his own, is not the most worrying aspect of Stacey's prosecution and conviction.
Am I the only one to think that 56 days in jail for a drunken rant, despicable though it was -- so noxious, in fact, that no newspaper has the stomach to publish it -- is a bit severe? Yes, punish him; but if he is to change his behaviour, which
we all want to see, he hardly needs a sentence of this length. I'd be happy to see him do some community work, where he might come into contact with some of those he currently dehumanises.
At the moment, it seems, the criminal justice system is unleashing all its energy on the little guys. Twitterers, train ranters, even footballers -- for venting their emotions in public. These are all issues which, a few years ago, would have
gone mostly unnoticed by all but the victims. Now, though, these incidents are likely to be recorded, replayed, retweeted, stuck on YouTube and viewed by millions. And the state seems keen to go after these quick wins to try to claim that
racism will no longer be tolerated.
After some digging I found screen shots of Liam Stacey's tweets in question. Just stupid, what's the worst thing I can say for attention repetitive garbage. Dick for the sake of being a dick. Go rape your mother and go suck a
nigger dick you aids ridden cunt . Like he took all the worst words he knew would get reactions and cut n pasted them. Definitely a shithead but inciting racial hatred?
Not really a White Power/Nazi Rally call to arms that should qualify for a prison sentence.
Update: And as if the sentence wasn't extreme enough
Liam Stacey jailed for using Twitter to mock heart-attack football star Fabrice Muamba has been banned from his university for the rest of the year. He has now been suspended from Swansea University as a top up to his jail sentence.
Freedom of Expression Awards 2012
28th March 2012, London
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.
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.
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.
Visualising.org, data visualisation resource, international
Visualising.org 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, Visualising.org 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Azhar Ahmed appeared in court charged with making offensive comments on Facebook about the deaths of six British soldiers. He has been accused of committing an offence under the Communications Act of sending a grossly offensive message.
The District Judge heard no evidence and adjourned the trial until 14 September due to an unexpected legal problem.
Around 20-30 far right protesters appeared at Huddersfield Magistrates Court for the hearing and packed out the public gallery.
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
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.
Tehran has blocked another UK Foreign Office website in Iran as part of its ever-tightening stranglehold of censorship , the foreign secretary has said.
William Hague said UK for Iranians was launched on March 14 to reach out to its citizens but access from the country was blocked on March 17. Iran had already blocked the main British embassy website in December 2011.
Britain last year closed its embassy in Tehran and expelled Iran's diplomats. It followed an attack on the embassy building, which Iran described unacceptable behaviour by a small number of protesters . However, British diplomats said they
believed it was likely the attack had state backing.
In a statement Hague said the UK for Iranians website had been established to explain UK policy and engage with Iranians and that the blocking of the site was only a very small part of what Iranians endure daily . He said Iran's government
had jammed international television channels, closed film and theatre productions, rewritten traditional Persian literature and banned the publication of some books and newspapers.
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.
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.
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.
BBC World News television has been restored in Pakistan after being taken off air in November 2011.
Welcoming the move, the BBC said it hoped there would be no further disruption to its services.
Pakistani cable operators had blocked the channel after it broadcast a documentary called Secret Pakistan . The documentary questioned the country's commitment to tackling Taliban militancy, arguing that some in Pakistan were playing a
Last month, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told the BBC he wanted to see the channel back on air.
It is fascinating to read the newspaper reports of the riots in Rochdale that so obviously go to great lengths to avoid mentioning a single word of the motivations driving the unrest.
I can understand that newspapers or the authorities don't want to fuel any further tensions between the muslim community and the anti muslim rioters. But readers should be informed about the underlying reasons. This can surely be done in a
suitable, even handed way without invoking accusations of being islamophobic or whatever.
But to totally not mention the perceived connection between gang rapes and the muslim community, and then not mention the groupings behind the rioting is exactly the support of reporting bollox that one would expect in China. I bet Chinese
authorities try to do the best for their communities by obscuring and propagandarising the news with the best of intentions, just like in Britain.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Open Rights Group and Tor have established that UK mobile networks such as Vodafone, O2 and 3 are blocking UK users' access to
Tor's primary website (meaning the Tor Project website, rather than connections to the Tor network) on pre-paid contractless accounts.
Tor helps people stay anonymous online. Some examples of how it has been used include those trying to avoid oppressive state censorship in places such as Iran, through to abuse victims in the UK.
There is a
blog post by Jacob Appelbaum with more technical details about the blocking on UK mobile networks over at the Tor blog.
Searching for torproject.org reveals that it is blocked because it falls into the category of anonymiser . (Orange also say that they block content that falls into the anonymiser category - but it does not seem that Tor is
blocked on Orange.) It's unlikely that mobile operators are targeting Tor, and more likely that anonymisation tools generally are blocked.
It was initially established that Tor was blocked initially through the new tool blocked.org.uk.
openrightsgroup.org are asking for help in monitoring how blocking on mobile networks works by reporting when you come across incorrectly applied blocks.
Open Rights Group will be meeting with mobile operators over the next few weeks to talk about making sure that they can both help parents manage their children's mobile Internet use and avoid clumsy implemented blocking. Some are better at
aspects of this than others (Orange provide an overview of the categories they block, for example.) But none implement a transparent and clear policy that puts users in charge.
In an exclusive extract from You Can't Read This Book , the Observer columnist Nick Cohen presents a damning indictment of how the English legal system helps the wealthy and powerful suppress inconvenient truths:
At their best, journalists expose the crimes of the powerful and there were plenty of powerful people worthy of examination in the Britain of the early 2000s. London was awash with money as it competed with Manhattan to be the hub of global
If journalists tried to do what they should do and investigate them, Britain also gave the oligarchs a further privilege: the power to enforce a censorship that the naive supposed had vanished with the repressions of the old establishment. Among
the many attractions London offered the oligarchs was a legal profession that served them as attentively as the shop assistants in Harrods food hall.
With an aristocratic prejudice against freedom of speech, the judges imposed costs and sanctions on investigative journalism that would have been hard to endure in the best of times, but were unbearable after the internet had undermined the
media's business models. Instead of aiming its guns at the worst of British writing, the law of libel aimed at the bravest.
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.
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?
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.
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.
The High Court has ruled that the Justice Secretary's refusal to grant the BBC permission to have and to broadcast a face-to-face interview with terrorism suspect Babar Ahmad was unlawful.
The BBC and one of its home affairs correspondents, Dominic Casciani, had applied for permission to conduct the interview with Ahmad, who is currently detained at HMP Long Lartin, and is fighting extradition to the USA. The BBC also wished to
broadcast the interview. The Justice Secretary refused the permission, which refusal the BBC challenged in a judicial review claim.
Ahmad, a British Muslim, was first arrested in 2003 but released without charge after six days. In July 2004, the Crown Prosecution Service concluded that there was insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of a conviction again him
in the UK under the Terrorism Act 2000. However, he was arrested again in August 2004 following a request by the US for his extradition. The Home Secretary made an extradition order in 2005, which was followed by long running legal proceedings in
the domestic courts and in Strasbourg.
In the meantime Ahmad has remained in detention for over seven years without charge or trial.
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.
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?
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.
Olympic organisers have set out internet censorship rules for the 70,000 Games Maker volunteers, including a ban on pictures or posts featuring backstage VIPs.
The rules are set out in a document in the Games Makers' area of Locog's website. The document asks people not to mention details about their role, location or about athletes, celebrities and dignitaries.
It says Games Makers should remember to avoid making any public statement on any subject relating to London 2012 without the prior approval of the Locog Communications team - including agreeing to attend any event to speak about any aspect of
It sets out how the public realm of social media could pose a risk to the Games in terms of reputation and safety and security.
In a what to do and what not to do section, it warns volunteers:
not to disclose their location
not to post a picture or video of Locog backstage areas closed to the public
not to disclose breaking news about an athlete
not to tell their social network about a visiting VIP, eg an athlete, celebrity or dignitary.
not to get involved in detailed discussion about the Games online
but they can retweet or pass on official London 2012 postings.