Censor Watch

 2009: June

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30th June   

Stuck on Repression...

British artist flees Turkey after Erdogan insult case re-opened
Link Here  full story: Insulting Turkishness...Insulting Turkishness law used to repress

Good Boy by Michael DickensonA British Stuckist artist, Michael Dickinson, has fled Turkey after learning that his acquittal last September, over insulting the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in a collage, has been overturned.

The case gained international media coverage and the acquittal was seen as a step forward in Turkey's human rights record with positive implications for its pending EU application.

The collage Good Boy showed Erdogan as a dog on a stars and stripes leash.

A week ago, a late night news broadcast in Turkey said that the acquittal had been quashed and a new case against Dickinson was pending. He said: I caught a plane out as soon as I could, leaving most of my possessions behind, including my books, furnishings and computer. I was sad to leave after 23 years in Turkey, but I don't fancy another taste of Turkish hospitality in incarceration.

Dickinson is expecting the trial to go ahead in absentia with his being represented by his lawyer.

He is now staying with friends in Durham, UK, where he was born. He said: I came back thinking I would be safe, but I've since learnt that Britain has an extradition treaty with Turkey and that if there was a request, Britain could send me back to Turkey if they so wished. I initially thought this was out of the question, but a number of highly unlikely and controversial extraditions have occurred, so I can't say I even feel secure now in the land of my birth and the land supposedly of free speech.

Charles Thomson, co-founder of the Stuckist art movement of which Dickinson is a member, has campaigned on his behalf, and said, It seems when the media spotlight is on, Turkey becomes remarkably tolerant, and when the international press go away, so do human rights.

Dickinson's problems began in June 2006, in an anti-Iraq War show in Istanbul run by Erkan Kaya of the Peace and Justice Coalition (BAK). Dickinson added to his existing display of work, without Kaya's knowledge, a collage Best in Show , showing Erdogan as a dog being presented with a rosette by President Bush. It was seized by police. As Kaya was facing prosecution for insulting the dignity of the Prime Minister , an offence with a potential jail sentence, Dickinson wrote a letter to the court, saying that it was his responsibility, not Kaya's.

Thomson, wrote to then-Prime Minister of the UK, Tony Blair, asking for intervention. The judge who received Dickinson's letter ruled that Dickinson would not be prosecuted, because of the unwelcome press attention involving the appeal to Blair. Kaya would be prosecuted, however.

In September 2006, Dickinson on his own initiative went to the court for Kaya's case (which was postponed) to protest Kaya's innocence. To draw attention, Dickinson held up outside the court a new collage Good Boy. He was arrested and detained for 10 days in conditions he described as horrific . David Blunkett, then in Istanbul, intervened on his behalf. Dickinson was released, but told he would be prosecuted for the new collage.

In September 2008, Dickinson was acquitted of any offence under article 123/5 insulting the dignity of the prime minister. The judge said he thought that the collage was insulting according to Turkish standards, but not according to standards in the European community, and, as Turkey was trying to join the European community, a collage such as Dickinson's should not be held as a crime, so he felt he had no alternative but to acquit.

Dickinson lost his job teaching English at Istanbul University and found he was blacklisted by other educational establishments. He survived by telling fortunes with runes on the street.

In June 2009, Dickinson found out that the public prosecutor had applied to the court, which had quashed the acquittal on 21 June, and ruled that he case would be heard again. Dickinson immediately left Turkey for the UK.

 

30th June   

Comment: Straight Hype...

Oh my god! I agree with the BBFC
Link Here  full story: Bruno...Supporting the hype for Bruno

Bruno film poster With Bruno, Bruno, Bruno. What can you say? The BBFC have said its gonna have to be 18, Universal (the distributor) have said Waaaa Waaaa Waaa. Why? Money. That's all. What else would you expect from an American company? The almighty dollar is in trouble on the shores of Blighty. However, I'm inclined to agree with the BBFC on this one. Anything to do with gay sex or homosexual references is always going to be taboo. Certain people will automatically dismiss this film as Fucking faggots, Fuck 'em . Everyone knows a man that won't watch Priscilla : Queen of the Dessert, because it has Fucking faggots in it. Even though, during that whole film we're only told the trio are gay / female performers, we never actually see anything, not even an onscreen kiss. Even the kiddie fiddling uncle had his scene severely edited by the director, as it lowered the overall comedic tone of the movie.

The thing is with Bruno , its getting exactly what it set out to get, adverse publicity, public outcry, and massive media interest. All of which will sell tickets, DVD's etc. For entertainers like Sacha Baron Cohen, this is probably the highest accolade he could receive. These people don't set out to offend, they just push the envelope in a way only they can, and their aware that this boundary pushing WILL upset, WILL offend, but will ultimately buy another storey for their houses.

I really don't think the BBFC should be blamed for their decision. They've done their job, so they're happy (as are their peers). The films uncut (although it is the slightly tainted U.S. print, but, small price) so I'm happy, in fact the only people who aren't happy, are the money grabbers at Universal. Why though? surely the film will make its money on DVD? where it will be seen by a majority of under 18's anyway. Did Borat break the box office? No. As for Ali G's transition to the big screen i don't remember that being up to Forrest Gumps takings. So I think it's safe to say, that Universal are just spoilt children that want ice cream before dinner. They know they're going to get the cash, they just want it NOW. If Universal had a brain they'd release the full uncut version in the U.K. (the BBFC would pass it as an 18), and advertise the hell out of the fact that the Brits have one up on their (supposedly) free brothers across the pond. But alas, no. They'll realise that just in time for the DVD.

 

30th June   

Morocco Undignified...

Morocco fines 3 newspapers for criticising Gaddafi
Link Here

Morocco flagA Casablanca court heavily fined three top Moroccan newspapers for publishing critical articles on Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi.

Freedom of the press landed the three local newspapers al-Jarida al-Aoula , al-ahdath al-Maghribia , and al-Massae in hot water after they published articles criticizing Kadhafi, prompting the Libyan leader to sue them for libel.

The court fined the dailies three million dirhams ($374,129), an amount far less than the 90 million dirhams Kadahfi initially filed for when he accused the papers of attacks on the dignity of a head of state.

Five of nine staff members from the three dailies were each fined 120,200 dirhams ($15,000).

The National Union of the Moroccan Press staged a demonstration following the trial outside the Casablanca court as the Moroccan press union strongly condemned the court's verdict, warning that it encouraged press censorship.

In its statement released immediately after the verdict, the union expressed support for the three newspapers, and said heads of state must learn to take criticism from the press and allow for dialogue with the media instead of seeking using the law to quell freedom of press.

Anouzla, head of al-Jarida al-Aoula vowed to continue his critique of the Libyan regime and said he would appeal the verdict.

 

29th June   

Update: Cleared of Obscenity...

Girls (Scream) Aloud sorry not obscene in terms of its likely audience
Link Here  full story: Obscene Text...Writer prosecuted for text fantasy story

Girls Aloud CDA former civil servant who wrote an internet article imagining the kidnap and murder of the pop group Girls Aloud has been cleared of obscenity.

Darryn Walker was charged under the Obscene Publications Act after the blog appeared on a fantasy writing site.

He appeared at Newcastle Crown Court, but was cleared on Monday. His defence argued that the article was not accessible, and could only be found by those looking for specific material.

Walker's 12-page blog - Girls (Scream) Aloud - was brought to the attention of police by the Internet Watch Foundation.

David Perry QC, prosecuting, said: A crucial aspect of the reasoning that led to the instigation of these proceedings was that the article in question, which was posted on the internet, was accessible to people who were particularly vulnerable - young people who were interested in a particular pop music group. It was this that distinguished this case from other material available on the internet. The CPS concluded, with the benefit of counsel's advice, there was a realistic prospect of conviction."

However, a report for the defence by an information technology expert said that it could only be discovered by internet users seeking such specific material.

A report from a consultant psychiatrist also said it was baseless to suggest that reading such material could turn other people into sexual predators.

Tim Owen QC, defending Walker, said : It was never his intention to frighten or intimidate the members of Girls Aloud. He had written what he had described as an adult celebrity parody and was only meant to be for an audience of like-minded people. As soon as he was aware of the upset and fuss that had been created, he took steps himself to take the article off the website. This type of writing is widely available on the internet in an unregulated and uncensored form. In terms of its alleged obscenity, it is frankly no better or worse than other articles.

The court heard that Walker had lost his job since his arrest.

Judge Esmond Faulks formally returned a not guilty verdict to the charge of publishing an obscene article.

Jo Glanville, editor of the freedom of expression group Index on Censorship, said the prosecution should not have been brought in the first place: Since the landmark obscenity cases of the '60s and '70s, writers have been protected from such prosecutions and have remained free to explore the extremes of human behaviour. This case posed a serious threat to that freedom. In future, obscenity cases should be referred directly to the Director of Public Prosecutions before any prosecution is triggered.

 

29th June   

Updated: Censor Fight Rated PG-13...

US advert censor falls out with US film censor
Link Here  full story: FTC Advert Censor...FTC considers ads for age restricted movies

Star Trek BNET are reporting a tiff between The Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) and the MPAA

CARU has sent out a stream of press releases indicating it believes that sexy, violent movies are being wrongly advertised to kids — and the MPAA, per its agreement with CARU, has done nothing about it.

Often, CARU discovers that the movie studio intentionally placed the ad on kids' TV. That happened recently with an ad for Star Trek . The film is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, and brief sexual content, but was advertised during children's programming hours. CARU's rules state that advertisers should take care to assure that only age appropriate videos, films and interactive software are advertised to children.

MPAA tells BNET that it has never found a movie studio in violation of its advertising rules, even though CARU has referred dozens of movies to MPAA over the years for alleged violations just like Paramount's.

It turns out that MPAA's idea of what's appropriate for kids is different from CARU's. MPAA notes that PG-13 is a cautionary rating, not a restrictive one. It suggests 13-year-olds shouldn't see the movie, but 12-year-olds can still buy their own tickets if they want to. So PG-13 movies can be advertised to under-13s.

Update: Nutters whinge at advertising Transformers to children

29th June 2009. Based on article from commondreams.org

CCFC logoThe Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has sent a letter to Chairman Jon Leibowitz of the Federal Trade Commission urging the FTC to stop the marketing of violent PG-13 movies targeted to children. CCFC cited over 2,700 ads shown on children's television stations for four of this summer's violent PG-13 blockbusters including Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen , Star Trek , Terminator Salvation , and X-Men Origins: Wolverine . The commercials were shown between 6:00 am and 8:00 pm on children's stations such as Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, and include ads for the films, as well as movie-related licensed toys and Burger King Kid's Meal promotions.

CCFC's appeal comes two years after the national advocacy organization first urged the FTC to act on the marketing of PG-13 movies. CCFC's initial request was spurred by the 2007 premiere of the first Transformers film which was marketed to children as young as two through ads, toys, and food promotions.

Because the MPAA continues to ignore the FTC's request, this summer preschoolers are once again being subjected to a barrage of advertising for violent PG-13 blockbusters, said Susan Linn, CCFC's Director and a psychologist at Judge Baker Children's Center: When it comes to the film industry and children's wellbeing, it's clear that self-regulation has failed.

Added Dr. Linn, It's bad enough that movie companies advertise violent, PG-13 films on children's channels before 8:00 pm. But marketing the films through ads for licensed toys and kid's meals is especially unfair and deceptive. For years, the FTC has expressed concern about violent, PG-13 movies being promoted to children. Now the Commission needs to act.

Update: Petitioning the FTC

6th August 2009. See article from examiner.com

CCFC logoArmed with over 3400 signatures, a significant number of statements from parents, educators and citizens nationwide, along with an updated figure of almost 5,000 commercials aired for PG-13 rated movies (March to July 2009), the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC) have submitted their petition and request to the Federal Trade Commission's Chairman, Jon Leibowitz.

CCFC is asking once again for the FTC's assistance in getting the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to stop the film industry from targeting young children with their advertising for PG-13 films, which includes significant film-related merchandising.

 

28th June   

Driven to Censorship...

Old Cuts to Mario Andreacchio's Fair Game
Link Here

Fair Game DVD Fair Game is a 1986 Australian action film by Mario Andreacchio (Embassy Home Entertainment)

The BBFC c ut 57s from the Embassy video submitted in 1987:

Thanks to Bleach:

  • At 44.5 mins - Remove all but first establishing shot of woman's clothes being cut, and reduce substantially the following scene in which car is driven wildly with her tied to the front, removing in particular all shots revealing her naked breasts (extreme long shot where no breast exposure is clear may remain).

The cut clip is shown more or less in its entirety in the Ozploitation documentary.

 

28th June   

Travel Warning...

Man jailed in Dubai for Victoria Beckham cancer awareness t-shirt
Link Here

Protect the skin you're in t-shirtA man has been jailed in Dubai for wearing a cancer awareness Marc Jacobs T-shirt featuring a nude but discreetly obscured picture of Victoria Beckham.

Raffi Nernekian, a Lebanese national, was arrested after an argument with a local man about the T-shirt, in which the key parts of Beckham's body are obscured either by her hands or the logo Protect the skin you're in.

Nernekian was subsequently jailed for offending public decency for a month, a sentence upheld on appeal. He will be deported after serving his sentence, even though he has lived in the city for five years.

The case is the latest example of foreigners falling foul of the repressive social codes in force in the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai issued an updated version of its code in March, which said that clothing shall not indecently expose parts of the body, be transparent, or display obscene or offensive pictures and slogans.

 

28th June   

Appeal Flags...

Appeal fails over prosecution for 'die Fahnen hoch' t-shirt
Link Here

Germany flagGermany's highest court has upheld a ban on three words appearing in sequence because of their link to the Horst Wessel song, a former anthem of the Nazi party.

The court in Karlsruhe rejected an appeal by a member of a far-right party who was fined €1,750 for wearing a T-shirt carrying the words die Fahnen hoch or the flags on high.

 

28th June   

Jeans Undone...

New York Calvin Klein poster replaced after whinges
Link Here

removed Calvin Klein adClothing designer Calvin Klein replaced a New York billboard evocative of a sexual orgy with a slightly less sexual ad featuring a dampened bikini model.

The billboard, which was criticized as too sexually provocative, was quietly replaced without comment from the company, the New York Daily News reported.

The original ad depicted a topless woman on top of a shirtless male while kissing another man and a third man, apparently passed out, below them with his shirt and jeans unbuttoned.

The replacement features a model in a string bikini and dripping with water.

 

27th June   

Update: Peace Undisturbed...

Turkish author acquitted of blasphemy in his novel The Daughters of Islam
Link Here  full story: Blasphemy in Turkey...Blasphemy repressing Turkish people

booky by Nedim GurselAn Istanbul court has acquitted the Turkish novelist Nedim Gürsel of inciting religious hatred with the publication of his novel The Daughters of Islam .

The judgment cited errors in the original complaint, and concluded that there had been no criminal intent in the publication of the novel.

The decision brings to an end a process that has lasted for more than a year, after a private citizen accused the novel of denigrating religious values under article 216 of the Turkish penal code, a complaint supported in a rare intervention by the Turkish directorate of religious affairs.

Speaking by phone from his home in France the author said he was happy and even relieved to be acquitted of a charge which carries a maximum sentence of three years in jail.

He had been worried when the directorate intervened, he continued, particularly because the evidence they submitted reproduced the errors in the original complaint, confusing the phrase Allah's servants in the book with the phrase Allah's lovers, and citing a description of Allah's daughters lying completely naked that did not appear in the novel.

This means that the directorate wanted to condemn me without even having read the book, he said.

An appeal may be lodged against the decision within seven days, but Gürsel considered it unlikely that a higher court would reverse the decision, since a police report concluded that the publication of the book had not disturbed the peace, a vital part of any prosecution for blasphemy under article 216.

The author pronounced himself satisfied with the verdict, but sad that the trial had degraded the image of Turkey in the eyes of democratic countries. The offence of blasphemy shouldn't even exist in a secular republic, which is what Turkey considers itself to be.

 

27th June   

Pretty as a Swastika...

Marilyn Manson finds that Swastika is a banned word
Link Here

High End of Low CD Marilyn Manson has lashed out at his record label bosses who tried to censor his new album The High End Of Low because it features a song called Pretty As A Swastika .

Manson said that he can't understand the controversy surrounding his new album and why his record company pushed for censorship.

It's shocking to me that it's easier to buy a gun at Wal-Mart than it is to buy my record. And it's entertainment, it's music, but that doesn't mean it has no value, Contactmusic quoted him as telling Spin magazine.

But it's just ironic that they can sell a CD in a store, and they won't put the title Pretty As a Swastika on the cover, but at the same store they'll have Valkyrie ' for example, which has a Swastika on the cover. Now, I'm not even using the symbol, I'm using the word, so the record company sort of created a new curse word, by default, for me.

 

27th June   

Updated: Hot Off the Press...

Apple introduce a 17 rating to its store and the nutters are 'furious'
Link Here  full story: iPhone iCensor...Apple is censorial about apps for iPhone

iPhoneNutters are furious over a new Apple application which allows teenagers to access softcore pornography via the popular iPhone.

Dubbed 'iPorn' it is the first time the country's one million iPhone users can view such images with an application approved by the computer company.

The Hottest Girls package, which costs £1.19, is a 17-rated version of an older application that used to offer bikini and lingerie shots.

Previously users have been able to download softcore content from the web on to the iPhone but this is the first time such images have been available with Apple's permission.

The application is rated for those aged 17 and over, although this relies on teenage iPhone users telling the truth about their age when they sign up to the App Store.

Parents in the know can set controls on the new iPhone3GS that will stop the app appearing.

Miranda Suit, co-founder of the nutter group MediaMarch told MailOnline she was appalled : We are very concerned about the mainstreaming of pornography. It is being packaged in a tempting way and will be disastrous for youngsters who are not equipped to deal with such content. And what about the growing number of sex addicts? I know of cases where they are trying to avoid certain films and magazines, but now even their phone will be a risk for them. We urge the Government to look at the affect pornography has on children and vulnerable adults.

The application was amongst the first approved for a new 17 rating introduced to the iPhone Store.

However all is not clear as the Hottest Girls app was later removed from the App store sparking off stories that Apple have changed their mind in response to bad press.

Even later it was reported that the developer had asked for the App to be removed due to high demand on servers.

No doubt the situation will become clearer later

Update: Apple, Rotten to the Core

27th June 2009. See article from theregister.co.uk

Apple have now come out as he censorial villain of the piece. By yesterday afternoon Apple was telling CNN:

The developer of this application added inappropriate content directly from their server after the application had been approved and distributed ... This was a direct violation of the terms of the iPhone Developer Program. The application is no longer available on the App Store.

But it's not just Hottest Girls that has disappeared from the Application store - other titles from the same publisher have also been exorcised including Hottest Guys and Send Flowers.

Even the developer's web site (now) contains no reference to any of the applications or the accompanying fuss, so Apple has managed to ensure that iPhone users can download applications freely without fear of encountering a rouged female nipple, for another day at least.

 

27th June   

Update: Secret Trial...

Amnesty International criticises Thailand for secret lese majeste trial of red shirt protestor
Link Here  full story: Lese Majeste in Thailand...Criticising the monarchy is a serious crime

Amnesty logoThe human rights group Amnesty International has condemned the secret trial in Thailand of a woman charged with insulting the royal family.

The woman was arrested a year ago after giving a speech in Bangkok in which she attacked the monarchy. People in Thailand who have listened to the speech say they have never heard anything like it. Daranee Charncherngsilpakul took to the stage at a protest in central Bangkok in June last year and sharply criticised the monarchy. She even made personal attacks on the country's revered King Bhumipol Adulyadej, warning him that the monarchy would be overthrown by a popular revolution.

Given the severe penalties for insulting the monarchy in Thailand, no-one was surprised when Ms Daranee was arrested shortly afterwards.

Her trial, however, which started this week, has alarmed human rights groups.
Red-shirt protesters in Bangkok on 12 April 2009. The presiding judge ordered hearings to be held in secret, citing national security concerns. Her lawyer is appealing, on the grounds that Thailand's constitution guarantees defendants the right to a public trial.

Sam Zarifi from Amnesty International has warned that when a judge closes the doors on a trial it significantly raises the risk of injustice taking place. The Thai government will have a very difficult time explaining why the trial of someone charged with making an insulting remark could compromise Thailand's national security.

Ms Daranee faces between nine and 45 years in prison if she is convicted.

 

26th June   

Update: Internet Villain...

Conroy to censor Australian internet so that it is suitable for 15 year olds
Link Here  full story: Website Blocking in Australia...Stephen Conroy's attempt at internet censorship
Stephen Conroy

  Internet Villain

The Australian Federal Government has now set its sights on gamers, promising to use its internet censorship regime to block websites hosting and selling video games that are not suitable for 15 year olds.

Separately, the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has been nominated by the British ISP industry for its annual internet villain award, competing alongside the European Parliament and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Australia is the only developed country without an R18+ classification for games, meaning any titles that do not meet the MA15+ standard - such as those with excessive violence or sexual content - are simply banned from sale by the Classification Board, unless they are modified to remove the offending content.

So far, this has only applied to local bricks-and-mortar stores selling physical copies of games, but a spokesman for Senator Conroy confirmed that under the filtering plan, it will be extended to downloadable games, flash-based web games and sites which sell physical copies of games that do not meet the MA15+ standard.

This means that even Australians who are aged above 15 and want to obtain the adult-level games online will be unable to do so. It will undoubtedly raise the ire of gamers, the average age of which is 30 in Australia, according to research commissioned by the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia.

Colin Jacobs, spokesman for the online users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia, said the Government clearly went far beyond any mandate it had from the public to help parents deal with cyber-safety. He said Australians would soon learn this the hard way when they find web pages mysteriously blocked: This is confirmation that the scope of the mandatory censorship scheme will keep on creeping . Far from being the ultimate weapon against child abuse, it now will officially censor content deemed too controversial for a 15-year-old. In a free country like ours, do we really need the government to step in and save us from racy web games?

Senator Conroy's spokesman said the filter would cover computer games such as web-based flash games and downloadable games, if a complaint is received and the content is determined by ACMA to be Refused Classification. All games that exceed MA15+ are deemed to be RC.

The filtering could also block the importation of physical copies of computer games sold over the internet which have been classified RC , the spokesman said.

Update: Second Life Banned

27th June 2009. See article from inquisitr.com

Commentators are pointing out that enormously popular online game Second Life has an adults only section so will be blocked according to the Australian government policy confirmed above.

 

26th June   

ELSPA Warning...

Suggests a period of overly cautious games ratings
Link Here

ELSPAThe UK trade association, Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA), is trying to show that the PEGI system is by no means weaker than the BBFC ratings that used to be oversee the region.

Speaking with MCV, the group took the opportunity to warn publishers: Abuse [the] new system and risk your future. Publishers may face fines of €500,000 ($696K) if they lie on the questionnaire, which allows PEGI and the Video Standards Council to determine an appropriate rating for their games.

ELSPA's statement and teeth bearing are to ease concerns that PEGI won't be strong enough for the UK when it's implemented this holiday.

 

26th June   

Nutter Tripe...

Whinging at Australia's film certificates
Link Here  full story: Land of the Lost...Land of the Lost controversy in Australasia

Land of the Lost film poster Some Australians aren't laughing about Will Ferrell's latest movie Land of the Lost , the most complained-about film this year.

The Classification Board has received 19 complaints about Land of the Lost in the two weeks since its release.

Objectors argued that its sexual references and coarse language made its PG (parental guidance) rating inappropriate.

Herald Sun critic Leigh Paatsch pre-empted such concerns in his review of the film: Parents should ignore the inaccurate PG rating Australian censors have given Land of the Lost. This tripe will just rot the minds of children.

Also clocking up 19 complaints this year was the graphic novel adaptation Watchmen , released in March with an MA15+ rating. Some viewers objected to its violence, nudity and a particularly violent sex scene.

Another R18+ horror film, Seed , which went straight to DVD, received complaints about its graphic opening scene, which featured actual footage of animals being skinned alive. The footage was supplied by the animal rights activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Heist film The Bank Job , which starred British tough guy Jason Statham, received seven complaints about sex scenes and nudity. It was rated MA15+ and carried the advice that it contained strong coarse language and sexual references.

 

26th June   

Update: Australians Treated Like Children...

Australia delays public consultation about allowing ad adult games rating
Link Here  full story: R18+ for Games in Australia...Pondering an adult R18+ rating for video games

R18+ bannedThe release date of a government discussion paper on an R18+ rating for games looks to have been delayed.

The Attorney General's department promised this year to release the paper to collate public opinion on the need for a R18+ classification for video games.

But now a spokesman for the AG office said the release of the paper will be delayed along with its slated July 31 closure date after a cabinet reshuffle saw Brendan O'Conner replace former Minster of Home Affairs Bob Debus who introduced the paper early this year.

The paper is under consideration by government... clearly it will most likely be extended past the [July 31] closure date, he said.

Media advisers, who are also reshuffling, will next week provide Computerworld with further details on the progress of the paper and planned release date. Responsibility for the discussion paper will remain with O'Conner.

IEAA CEO Ron Curry said he feared the ministerial reshuffle may have killed the consultation paper after the government had not responded to repeated requests to move forward the classification debate: We are not sure what [O'Conner's] position is on the issue... We have lobbied the government for five years, and quite extensively this year.. where do you go? .

 

26th June   

Update: Playing Hide and Seek...

Shutting out the world prying into Japanese erotic games
Link Here  full story: Western censorship of Japanese Games...Japanese games winds up the social justice whingers

Bible Black gameErotic Game Developer Minori , developer of adult PC titles like Bittersweet Fools and Angel Type , has blocked website access outside Japan.

While accessing the Minori site from Japan poses no problems, those outside the country have been greeted with this message:

This website cannot be browsed excluding Japan.

Some foreigners seem to be having an antipathy against EROGE (Erotic Games).

Therefore, We prohibited the access from foreign countries, to defend our culture. Sorry for you of the fan that lives in a foreign country.

As we previously mentioned, these recent defensive measures from erotic game makers come in the wake of the Rapelay controversy and subsequent rape game banning.

...

Currently, The bill that allows to limiting the content (It is censorship. Isn't it?) to all EROGEs is being discussed in the Diet because intellectuals and politicians said Japanese EROGE were being problem and troubled with the foreign country. Therefore we should make EROGE hidden away from foreign country, and also its content should be limited and censored.

Otherwise, you just can talk your idea about this issue at your blog or other media to inform the existence of this problem to the public. It would be very helpful for us.

If you do so, we might be able to recover the "Freedom of speech" and the barricade lying in between us would be taken away.

Please help us.

We hope this separation would be only for short moment.

 

26th June   

Diary: Mutilation and Grilling...

Media March in Radio 4 debate about Antichrist
Link Here  full story: Extreme Cuts...Lars Von Trier sexual violence causes a stir

Antichrist poster The Moral Maze
BBC Radio 4
Wednesday 24 June at 8pm

The co-founder of nutter group Media March, Miranda Suit, will be taking part in The Moral Maze on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday 24 June at 8pm.

The subject is the film Antichrist by Lars von Trier, which has just been passed uncut with an 18 certificate by the BBFC.

This film is said to be the most shocking ever seen at the Cannes Film Festival and provoked disgust and revulsion among seasoned critics , say Miranda and colleague Pippa Smith: It contains gruesome scenes of torture, real sex and a particularly shocking scene of genital self-mutilation. In an act of deep cynicism, the film will be promoted by trailers rated 15.

The pair are inviting their supporters to pray for Miranda who will undoubtedly face a grilling by the panel.

Update: Lost in the Maze

26th June 2009 See article from mediasnoops.wordpress.com
Listen to Moral Maze from bbc.co.uk

Mediamarch self appointed moral guardian Miranda Suit was on the religious biased The Moral Maze on Radio 4 last night debating whether films featuring explicit violence and mutilation should be shown in cinemas.

Ms Suit quoted a lot of subjective evidence which apparently links screen violence to real life violence. But she struggled to convince anyone that watching violence on screen turns normal people into raging psychotic killers. Which neither she or any of her self appointed moral guardian friends can do.

 

26th June   

Offsite: For Discriminating Censors...

I often wonder why swearing on TV should bother us
Link Here

Andreas Whittam SmithThe publication of updated guidelines by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has coincided with the release of a new box set of Friends. The result is that the DVDs of the American TV series have now been given a slightly more restrictive rating, 12 instead of PG (Parental Guidance).

This minor change points to an important new development in film classification, that discriminatory language or behaviour has become an issue alongside traditional preoccupations with drugs, sex and violence. What caught the examiner's eye, or ear, was the moment when the character Rachel refers to herself as a "laundry spaz" to explain her clumsy efforts to load a washing machine. "Spaz" is a shortened form of "spastic".

The elevation of discrimination into a major concern is the biggest change in BBFC practice since I stepped down as President in 2002 after a four-year term.

...Read full article

 

26th June   

Update: Pygmies at the BBFC...

Censors should grow up over Brüno and sex
Link Here  full story: Bruno...Supporting the hype for Bruno

Bruno film poster The censors can't agree on Brüno , Sacha Baron Cohen's latest atrocity, in which he impersonates a gay Austrian fashion pundit.

In the permissive Netherlands, it's been released uncut with a 12 certificate.

Even in Ireland, they've given it a 16. But the BBFC has given Brüno a full 18 certificate, since the producers have declined to cut the rudest scenes.

The distributor, Universal, has described the decision as absurd, no doubt peeved because it means the movie will take much less at the box office.

...Read full article

 

26th June   

Update: Dishing Out Censorship...

China takes down satellite dishes in Tibet
Link Here  full story: Tibet Protests in China...China repress Tibetan protests and media coverage

Tibet flagSince April Chinese authorities have been removing satellite TV antennas in Tibetan regions to prevent access to foreign broadcasts.

Local sources indicate that for months now, teams of technicians are working to install cable lines for television and to remove the satellite dishes. Only government approved programs are broadcast on cable TV, while the satellite antennas make it possible to receive foreign programs such as RFA or Voice of America.

Faced with protests by residents, the television technicians respond that the order comes directly from the central authorities.

 

26th June   

Update: No Safe Harbour in India...

Google India in legal challenge over responsibility for posts on the Blogger service
Link Here

Blogger.com logoGoogle India found itself in legal hot water over blog posts that included accusations against a prominent Indian doctor. Although the posts have since been pulled down, the company is trying to appeal a court decision that went against it by claiming it has no control over content on Blogger.

In the US, ISPs and companies that provide hosting services have a degree of protection from being held legally responsible for the actions of their users. These safe harbor provisions don't exist in the legal codes of other countries, however, leaving the local branches of US companies at risk of legal action. Google India found itself in precisely this situation, as it was the target of legal action by an Indian cardiologist Dr. Ashwin Mehta who claims he was defamed by posts hosted on Google's Blogger service. The Indian branch of the search giant is trying to defend itself from these charges by claiming that it has nothing to do with the US-based blogger service.

Mehata won his first round in court, and the posts have since vanished from Blogger. Nevertheless, Google India appealed the verdict, and got to make its first arguments in court . It appears that Google India's lawyers are trying out two arguments. The first of these is simply claiming that policing content on Blogger is practically impossible, given that it fields 2.5 million words a minute. The other is that Google India has essentially nothing to do with the Blogger service, which is run from servers residing in the US. In essence, any issue regarding the contents of a post hosted there is governed by the service agreement between Blogger and the individual user, which Google India isn't a party to.

 

26th June   

Update: Censorship Creep...

Bahrain newspaper suspended over criticism of Ahmadinejad
Link Here  full story: Press Freedom in Bahrain...Slighty improved press law

Akhbar Al Khaleej newspaper logoOn Monday, 22 June, Bahrain's oldest newspaper in circulation Akhbar Al Khaleej was suspended for the day after printing an article critical of  Iranian leaders and making reference to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's alleged Jewish origins.

The move would seem to have been made to avoid provoking unrest amongst the Shi'a majority in Bahrain.

 

25th June   

Update: BBC in an Era of Easy Offence...

BBC recommendations in response to Russell Brand Show
Link Here  full story: Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross...Winding up Andrew Sachs and Voluptua

BBC logoThe BBC Trust ordered a review of acceptable standards following the row over obscene phone messages left for the actor Andrew Sachs by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand.

The report - written by BBC creative director Alan Yentob and director of archive content Roly Keating - calls for clear guidelines on intrusion, intimidation and humiliation to to ensure that everyone involved in programme making understands that such behaviours are unacceptable.

Of 2,206 adults aged over 16 were questioned for an Ipsos Mori survey.

The main findings were:

  1. Where audiences are concerned about the area of taste and morality on television as a whole, this is often connected with broader concerns about falling standards in terms of quality and the over-reliance on reality formats.
  2. Standards of morality, values and behaviour in the media in particular are not a top-of-mind issue for the majority of the public.
  3. The BBC overall performs well in the audience's perceptions of standards of morality, values and behaviour, compared to other channels and broadcasters. The audience also has higher expectations of the BBC.
  4. In general terms, the public do not want increased censorship or regulation. The majority value the creativity of the BBC and accept that it may sometimes lead to offending some people.
  5. When prompted, a significant proportion of the audience have various concerns about standards of morality, values and behaviour in the media as a whole, including newspapers, magazines, broadcasting and online content.
  6. Strong language is an area of concern for some audiences; they recognise when language is used for clear purpose or effect within a programme - including comedy and entertainment - but dislike 'unnecessary' or excessive use.
  7. In certain genres, the offensive potential of strong language can be compounded when it is combined with apparently aggressive or bullying behaviour. This reflects broader public concerns about aggression and bullying within society as a whole.
  8. There is little public consensus or agreement about what constitutes offence: it means very different things to different sections of the audience.
  9. The context in which potentially offensive content is placed is of paramount importance to audiences, as are judgements of quality. Both can make the difference between whether something is acceptable to audiences or not.
  10. Tone and intent can also make strong material acceptable: the 'twinkle in the eye' of a performer and their skill in delivery can make the decisive difference, even with potentially offensive material.
  11. Age and socio-economic group go some way to describing who in the audience is more likely to have concerns, but they do not tell the full story.
  12. Younger audiences (11-15 year-olds) are uniquely self-selecting in their choice of media content, through the web and magazines as well as broadcast material. Though strongly drawn to more sexual content, some express unease about the sexualised nature of the media world in which they live and the pressure to 'grow up fast.'
  13. Sexual content on television and radio was a matter of relatively low concern for audiences. There was an expectation that the television watershed should be respected, and content on radio appropriately scheduled. There is no appetite for a watershed in radio.
  14. Some respondents commented that the transfer of some successful series from BBC Two may bring a somewhat ‘edgier' tone to BBC One.
  15. Respondents expressed few concerns about standards on BBC Radio. However, of all the BBC's services, Radio 1 has the most divided response in terms of morality, values and behaviour.
  16. Audiences are conscious of the challenges presented by the growth of online and on-demand content, but there is little awareness of the BBC's 'G for Guidance' systems, or understanding that iPlayer has a parent password protection scheme which prevents children accessing adult content.

Conclusions

  1. Audiences accept potentially offensive content but believe it should be there for a purpose. They have a sophisticated sense of different programme genres, from serious documentary to reality and entertainment. Producers should ensure that any potentially offensive material has a clear editorial purpose and ask themselves is it necessary? Does it enhance the quality of the experience for audiences?
  2. Viewers understand and value the television watershed. The BBC must respect and maintain its significance as a crucial contribution to audience confidence in television standards. There is no audience demand for a radio watershed.
  3. Of all BBC services, BBC One is the most sensitive, because of its ability to unite generations and families in shared viewing. The bar for the strongest language between 9pm and 10pm must therefore remain significantly higher than on other BBC television channels.
  4. On all channels, producers, presenters, commissioners and controllers have a shared responsibility to ensure that the force and value of the strongest words is not weakened by over-use. The mandatory referral of the most offensive language to Channel Controllers reflects this and must be maintained.
  5. Mischievous banter, practical jokes and formats, which include elements of confrontation and criticism, can all be legitimate, indeed the public tell us that they can add greatly to their enjoyment; but programme makers, on-air artists and presenters must ensure that they never tip over into malice, humiliation or harm.
  6. Audiences admire performers who take risks but have the expertise to know when to draw a line. To support such talent, producers and controllers must always be candid and open with them about judgements of tone and content, and be prepared where appropriate to take and enforce tough decisions.
  7. Risk-taking is as vital a part of the BBC's mission in comedy, drama and entertainment as it is in other genres. As with all programme making, the greater the risk, the greater the thought, care and pre-planning needed to bring something groundbreaking to air.

Recommendations

  1. New series on television and radio For new series where questions of taste and standards are likely to arise, there must be a discussion with the commissioning executive early in the production cycle to agree appropriate parameters of tone and content, to ensure that all involved, including presenters and performers, have given thought to questions of channel, context and slot. Even when a returning series has established expectations of strong language and content, there should be a similar discussion before the start of each run.
  2. Greater care over cross-channel transfers When a TV series moves to a more mainstream channel - especially to BBC One - producers and controllers should be sensitive to its new context, and give careful consideration to adaptations of tone or format if necessary.
  3. Clearer policy on bleeping of strong language A clearer policy should be set for the use of bleeping in TV and radio programmes. In general, where strong language is integral to the meaning or content of a programme, and other questions of slot, context channel etc have been resolved, it should not be disguised. But when in other circumstances a sequence that is editorially necessary happens to contain the strongest language, it may be right to bleep or disguise the words, even after the watershed.
  4. New guidance on malicious intrusion, intimidation and humiliation BBC programmes must never condone malicious intrusion, intimidation and humiliation. While they are all aspects of human behaviour which may need to be depicted, described or discussed across the BBC's factual and non-factual output, they must never be celebrated for the purposes of entertainment. New guidance is needed to ensure that everyone involved in programme making for the BBC understands that malicious intrusion, intimidation and humiliation are unacceptable.
  5. Clearer audience information and warnings The BBC should always recognise that some sections of its audiences are more readily offended than others. We owe the public the information they need to make informed choices about viewing and listening and to avoid material they may regard as unsuitable for themselves or their families. Each channel must make even greater efforts to ensure that appropriate content information (eg. billings and presentation announcements) is provided which enables informed judgements to be made by all audiences, both pre- and post-watershed, about programme content.
  6. Music radio Music radio thrives on strong personalities, and young audiences value BBC Radio 1 highly; but editorial teams must be reminded that particular care needs to be taken at times of day, such as school runs, when different generations may be listening together.
  7. Major awareness campaign about online guidance The BBC has pioneered content guidance and child protection mechanisms provided by the iPlayer. Audiences are concerned about the internet as a space of unregulated content and are insufficiently aware of the protection available for BBC content. A major campaign of public information is needed as soon as possible to raise awareness of the content guidance and offer reassurance to audiences. The BBC should also work to ensure that the next generation of Freeview and FreeSat PVRs have PIN protection functionality.
  8. More regular audience research In-depth audience research, along the lines of the findings in this paper, should be conducted more often to ensure that the BBC maintains a full and detailed understanding of audience attitudes to taste and standards. To keep up with changes in audience taste, research should be commissioned every two to three years. Careful attention should be given to key tracking questions that will enable the BBC to identify changes in audience and societal attitudes.
  9. Revision of Editorial Guidelines and Guidance The BBC's Editorial Policy department should use the research, general principles and recommendations in this report to inform the current general revision of the BBC's Editorial Guidelines and, in particular, to clarify audience expectations of tone and context. In addition, new Guidance will be required to keep programme and content makers up-todate with audience expectations of BBC content.
  10. Increased commitment to training The research findings offer new opportunities to illuminate the understanding of taste and standards for programme makers across the BBC. The findings should be briefed to leadership groups in all content divisions by the Director and Chief Adviser, Editorial Policy. The Colleges of Production and Journalism should develop new training material that explores audience attitudes specific to each of the key genres, which will be rolled out to programme makers both in-house and independent. The audience research and the conclusions of this report should also be made available through normal Editorial Policy channels to all programme makers. The findings of this study and the materials used in it should inform online courses, which will be used to maintain editorial policy standards.

 

25th June   

The Moment of Truth...

Quiz show featuring intimate confessions and lie detectors banned by Greek TV censor
Link Here

Moment of Truth titlesA Greek quiz show that encouraged contestants to divulge intimate details of their private lives in return for prizes has been ordered off the air on taste and decency grounds.

The Moment of Truth , made by Rupert Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth's production company, has been banned completely by the Greek regulator after a series of excruciating on-screen confessions. Antenna, the commercial channel that screens it, is considering taking the case to the European commission, accusing the regulator of extreme censorship.

The format has been sold to 24 countries, and it is currently in production in Spain and France. It ran on Sky for two series in the UK. On the show, contestants can win six-figure sums for giving truthful answers to a series of embarrassing questions while hooked up to a lie detector.

The show debuted in October and has become one of Greece's most popular series, winning a 30% audience share in its 11pm slot.

The Greek National Council for Radio and Television had repeatedly warned Antenna, the country's largest commercial broadcaster, about the contents of the show and has twice imposed fines totalling $230,000 (£195,000).

The ban followed three episodes featuring risqué exchanges between contestants and quizmaster. In the first, broadcast in February, a mother was asked, in the presence of her daughter and son-in-law, if she wished her daughter had married a richer man. In March, another episode featured a female guest who was asked if she had ever had sex for money, or slept with a man and a woman at the same time. The following month, a male player admitted he had fantasised about his sister's partner.

That proved too much for the TV censor, which chastised Antenna for encouraging members of the public to humiliate themselves for a reward , with no regard for the players' decency and the effects on the social lives of their families.

The show was promptly terminated and the final episode aired earlier this month, provoking a furious response from Antenna, which said the regulator was guilty of extreme censorship .

 

25th June   

Update: Searching for 'Cyber War'...

Warning shot aimed at China Google
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship

Google China logoGoogle suffered intensive disruption in China after it was warned by the authorities to scale back its search operations.

Search functions and Gmail were inaccessible for more than an hour in a move seen by web watchers as a warning shot across the bows by China's censors.

This is definitely a warning to Google, as well as other foreign companies, said Xiao Qiang, the founder of China Digital Times. It is also a strong warning to Chinese netizens. The government is showing its determination to keep the internet under control.

Earlier in the day, the main state and communist party media - Xinhua and People's Daily - condemned Google for providing links to pornographic websites through its search engine. Last week, the government ordered the US company to halt foreign website searches as a punishment.

In a rare move, the US has lodged a complaint over the tightening of censorship rules. Google agreed to self-censor in compliance with requests by local officials after setting up a China subsidiary and locally hosted website in 2005. One reason for this controversial decision was that its services were frequently being disrupted or slowed. That has been rare since.

Google Cuts Features

Based on article from advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org

Blogger dancing with G, quoted from a Google.cn source, reported that the company had spent a big sum of money to buy the Green Dam service for bettering the detection of obscene content. According to the blogger, google.cn's move is to make peace with the Chinese authority.

Moreover, Google.cn has also removed some of its search functions, including searching for overseas content and searching with associated terms.

Anonymous Netizens Fight Back

Based on article from advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org

In reaction to a series of internet censorship policy, in particular the introduction of Green Dam, a declaration has been circulated on the net in the past two days calling netizens to express and protect their rights to anonymity on July 1st. Below are the declaration posters and English translation of the declaration.

2009 Declaration of the Anonymous Netizens

To the Internet censors of China,

We are the Anonymous Netizens. We have seen your moves on the Internet. You have deprived your netizens of the freedom of speech. You have come to see technology as your mortal enemy. You have clouded and distorted the truth in collaboration with Party mouthpieces. You have hired commentators to create the “public opinion” you wanted to see. All these are etched into our collective memory. More recently, you forced the installation of Green Dam on the entire population and smothered Google with vicious slander. It is now clear as day: what you want is the complete control and censorship of the Internet. We hereby declare that we, the Anonymous Netizens, are going to launch our attack worldwide on your censorship system starting on July 1st, 2009.

For the freedom of the Internet, for the advancement of Internetization, and for our rights, we are going to acquaint your censorship machine with systematic sabotage and show you just how weak the claws of your censorship really are. We are going to mark you as the First Enemy of the Internet. This is not a single battle; it is but the beginning of a war. Play with your artificial public opinion to your heart's content, for you will soon be submerged in the sea of warring netizens. Your archaic means of propaganda, your epithets borrowed straight from the Cultural Revolution era, your utter ignorance of the Internet itself - these are the tolls of your death bell. You cannot evade us, for we are everywhere. Violence of the state cannot save you - for every one of us that falls, another ten rises. We are familiar with your intrigues. You label some of us as the “vicious few” and dismiss the rest of us as unknowing accomplices; that way you can divide and rule. Go ahead and do that. In fact, we encourage you to do that; the more accustomed you are to viewing your netizens this way, the deeper your self-deception.

...

 

25th June   

Update: Truer Lies...

True Lies on ITV 2
Link Here

True Lies DVD One of the biggest films of the 1990's was James Cameron's True Lies . A film that proved that Cameron could deliberately do comedy (not accidentally, see Piranha 2 , he may have disowned it, but its still out their), and that Arnie's Last Action Hero , was simply a bad call (a fact that would be cemented in 1995, when its director gave us arguably the best Die hard sequel). However, what made True Lies even more of a point of interest was when Joe public was renting it on video, it had a strange message on the back of the cover, quite small, but big enough to see. This film has been formatted to fit your television . Ok, nothing wrong with that, Those Hollywood boffins tinker with films all the time for home video release (check out early pan and scans of Die Hard , half the terrorists are missing for most of it. I thought their was only 4 until I watched the widescreen version), So there's nothing strange there. Except underneath that sentence, their was another sentence. James Cameron's own bitter sentence: It has also been edited for censorship purposes. I'm amazed the video even got rented, as it was a massive box office hit, and young men in their early teens like myself, saw it Theatrically several times, (and knew exactly what was missing). Something that would haunt Arnie's next big release, Eraser , but that's a different story.

Over the years, True Lies has appeared in all sorts of shapes and forms in the UK. From the (quite) neatly trimmed VHS (its a Rembrandt compared to the editing Die Hard with a Vengeance , Eraser & Judge Dredd would suffer), to the butchered edit of the first gen DVD, to being released totally uncut on DVD (as a dual region 2/4), without anyone batting an eyelid (although it was quickly withdrawn). The TV versions are even funnier................. Except ITV 2. A few months back they screened a version of True Lies that had some of the best (and sneaky) editing for this film to date (the way Bill Paxton's bloodied nose was cut around was VERY shrewd). Although it had some holes (why's Arnie walking away from a dead guy slumped over a crate?), but it was barely noticeable.

Now. ITV 2 are probably the most Ofcom friendly channel you can get. Their films always seem to adhere to what the pre-millennium BBFC deemed safe for the UK, this is handy as none of their films seem to breach the millennium mark, and therefore their big actioners are from a time when James Ferman and his group of Hollywood fearing, scissor happy chums, were at their peak of saving humanity from reality ( Cliffhanger , it could happen you know). Until tonight. But, I'm not quite sure what's happened.

A while back, it was reported that True Lies had again been released uncut, this time as part of a DVD action box set. No alarm bells were rung, the set wasn't yanked from shelves (to my knowledge) in a bitter outcry of negligence, and humanity didn't crumble. Fair enough, the BBFC may have granted it an uncut certificate on the quiet. Happened with Cliffhanger , the Blu-ray of Eraser , and apparently Die Hard with a Vengeance (although the last 2 have yet to surface on shelves). Just because we didn't hear about it, didn't mean it didn't happen.

However. And here's where I get hazy, tonight, ITV 2 screened a NEAR complete True Lies Yep, Bill Paxton's bloodied nose graced the screen for its full 3 seconds of youth corrupting glory, the scalpel in the eye was intact too. BUUUUUUUUUUUUT, in the same scene as the scalpel, the neck break of the (would be) torturer was missing, as was the cracking of the guards ribs with the crow bar. The ear clap in the toilet fight was present, yet the headbutt was missing (still very cleverly cut around). Language has never been an issue with this film, so that was all intact, and the film went out at 21.30. So all the precious kiddiewinks were in bed. Was the DVD action set UNCUT? or did it just have some of the more memorable cuts reinstated? or have the BBFC been submitted yet another version? As their website doesn't acknowledge any cuts waived. Either way, very odd.

Update: Action Heroes Collection

25th June 2009. Thanks to Simon

Action Heroes collection I recently wrote about the uncut version of True Lies on the Action Heroes Collection .

After reading about the showing on ITV 2, I thought I would check the DVD against what was missing from the ITV 2 showing. All the footage missing is present on the DVD.

It would make it a lot more clearer if the BBFC would say weather the box set contains the uncut version or not.

 

25th June   

Update: Bullying Google...

Trial of Google execs over bullying YouTube video delayed
Link Here  full story: Google on Trial...Google sued for YouTube bullying video

YouTube logoAn Italian court has delayed a case against search giant Google, which could have major ramifications for content providers around the globe.

At the heart of the case is a debate about how much responsibility providers have for the content on their sites.

It centres around a video, posted on Google Italy, which showed a teenager with Down's Syndrome being bullied.

The case was delayed because an interpreter was ill and will now be resumed in September.

Four Google executives are accused of defamation and violating privacy, under Italian law, for allowing the video to be posted online.

Prosecutors argue that Google did not have adequate content filters or enough staff to monitor content.

 

25th June   

Censorship Strife...

South Africa's video game classification guidelines
Link Here

FPB logoThe classification of video games in South Africa falls under the control of the Film and Publications Board (FPB).

Under the cheery banner, Striving to make the life of every child better without making the life of every single adult worse, the FPB rates all interactive computer games and assigns them a rating of PG, 13, 16 or 18.

The FPB strives to meet international classification standards, and for the most part their rating system adheres to what most would consider normal guidelines.

Games rated PG contain no references to drugs, no foul language and no nudity, but may contain minimal violence in playful, comic or highly stylised settings . What constitutes a playful depiction of violence is not explained.

Further, games rated 13 are similarly restricted in terms of drug references, foul language and nudity, but may contain sequences of mild violence , provided there is no mutilation or dismemberment of animal or human bodies.

The 16+ classification makes allowances for drug reference — provided they do not glamorise their use — and some nudity, provided it is not tied to incentives within the game. But with regard to violence, the game may include sequences of intense violence in graphic detail. Mutilation and dismemberment may occur in animated contexts.

On the surface, it would seem the FPB tolerates violence in video games, provided it is not tied to incentives or rewards in the game, for example: killing innocent people for money to buy better weapons.

 

24th June   

Dark Knight Would Now be a 15?...

New classification guidelines published by the BBFC
Link Here

The views of over 8,700 people across the UK from the age of 16 upwards have formed the basis for the latest set of classification Guidelines published today by the BBFC.

David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said:

The BBFC is committed to consulting the public every four years to ensure that the Guidelines we use to classify all works which are submitted to us not only take account of relevant UK legislation, but accurately reflect public attitudes and concerns.

You would not expect there to be a massive shift in attitudes since the 2005 Guidelines, and there is sometimes an assumption that public attitudes are becoming more relaxed as time goes on, but that is not always the case. A number of specific concerns which emerged from the extensive consultation exercise, involving over 8,700 people, as well as the members of our Advisory Panel on Children's Viewing and other experts, have been incorporated in the Guidelines published today. The BBFC is an open and accountable organisation and in order to bring about even greater transparency we have, in this new version of the Guidelines, gone into greater detail on how, why and when we do what we do.

BBFC.online has been developed over the last 18 months, in close partnership with the video and new media industries and the British Video Association. There are already some 700 videos with ‘online certificates' and this is likely to rise to about 1000 by the end of the month.

We know from a number of recent surveys that the work of the BBFC is well known and understood by the UK public and this latest research shows that the BBFC's decisions are in line with the vast majority of the public's expectations. This consultation exercise took particular notice of the views of people who had recently watched a range of films or DVDs and when asked, 82 per cent thought that the BBFC was an effective regulator. The same people agreed with the ratings given to the films they had watched in 99 per cent of all cases.

We have always said that film classification is not a science and that it is impossible to satisfy everyone. There will always be people who think that we are either too restrictive or too liberal, but it is clear that as far as the vast majority of the UK public is concerned the BBFC is getting it right. The BBFC classifies thousands of works a year and even slight changes to the Guidelines will have an impact on new and old works coming in for classification. Works which were clearly ‘U', or ‘15', or ‘PG' or ‘12A' under the old Guidelines would still be in the same category under the new Guidelines, but works which fell on the borderline between two categories previously could now find themselves being pushed into a different category. These new Guidelines, reflecting, as they do, current public concerns and sensitivities, will ensure that our classification decisions continue to command public confidence and support for what we do.

MAIN FINDINGS

  • 82% of recent film and DVD viewers thought the BBFC was an effective regulator
  • The same people agreed with 99% of the classification decisions for the films they had watched
  • Around 80% of people surveyed found the BBFC's Consumer Advice useful, with this figure rising to 85% of parents with primary school aged children
  • 85% of people who responded to the web based questionnaire found the Board's website for parents, www.pbbfc.co.uk, useful
  • 74% or respondents understood that the ‘12A' category means that the film is not generally suitable for under 12s.

MAIN CHANGES TO THE GUIDELINES

  • Clearer and more detailed information about what the Board takes into account when classifying works (pages 4-7) and when interventions will be made and on what grounds (32-33)
  • A clearer definition of ‘harm', which results from the High Court ruling on the video game Manhunt 2 (page 4)
  • The introduction of ‘discrimination' as a key classification issue in each of the categories covering race, gender, religion, disability or sexuality (page 12)
  • Clearer and more detailed information about how the tone and impact of a film is taken into account, as opposed to simply considering what is actually shown on screen (page 11)
  • At ‘U', the relaxation of the Guideline on references to drugs to allow for references which are both infrequent and innocuous (page 21). Under the old Guidelines a documentary which mentioned the Opium Wars between Britain and China had to be passed at ‘PG' for this single reference alone
  • At the ‘12A'/'12' category a tightening of the horror criteria (page 25). This is in line with the introduction of tone and impact and would mean that some films, like The Others, would be likely to be given a higher classification
  • At ‘12A'/'12' there will be a presumption against the passing of frequent crude sexual references (page 25). This is in response to concerns expressed by the public about films such as Date Movie, Meet the Spartans and Norbit.
  • At ‘15', solvent abuse is now specifically mentioned as a classification issue and depictions are unlikely to be passed (page 27). This is in response, not only to public concern, but expert opinion
  • Trailers and advertisements which are on the borderline between two categories be given the more restrictive rating because of the fact that the public has not chosen which trailers and advertisements to watch (pages 16-17) and because the BBFC has no control over which trailers or advertisements are shown before a particular film (eg a horror trailer before a ‘rom-com'). The exception will be public information films and charity advertisements where stronger material is acceptable to the public when there is a ‘public good' justification.At ‘18' the Board will continue to maintain the right of adults to choose their own entertainment unless material is in breach of the criminal law; or the treatment appears to the BBFC to risk harm to individuals or through their behaviour, to society; or where there are more explicit images of sexual activity which cannot be justified by context. As part of the research, respondents were specifically asked about explicit images of real sex in main stream films like 9 Songs and the clear message was that these images were acceptable at ‘18' because of the context in which they appeared.

David Cooke said:

There may be criticism from some quarters that these changes are not more drastic or restrictive, but they are significant and will have an impact on our classification decisions. They also represent the views of the majority of the public. The BBFC is committed to ensuring that works are placed in the most appropriate category for them, in line with public expectations, and we will back up these decisions with the sort of information the public needs to make informed choices about what they and their families watch. Our Consumer Advice, which appears on film advertising and DVD packaging, is well recognised and appreciated and for people who want more detailed information there is the Extended Classification Information for all films, which appears on our main website, and the specifically tailored information for parents which appears on www.pbbfc.co.uk.

 

24th June   

Reporting In...

BBFC Annual Report for 2008 published
Link Here

BBFC Annual Report 2008 The Annual Report for 2008 has just been published by the BBFC.

BBFC President, Quentin Thomas, uses his introduction to talk about BBFC Online and the internet in general.

The theme of age verification inevitably crops up as it seems to be on of the general establishment concerns these days.

Quentin Thomas wrote:

To take just one type of potentially harmful content, we know that many children are coming across pornographic or obscene material online. With the recent development of ‘You Tube' style pornographic sites such exposure can only increase. These sites offer instant and free access to a vast catalogue of explicit pornographic videos uploaded by users of the sites. Many of the videos contain violent, abusive or obscene content. Like ‘You Tube', they have no gatekeeping in place. Many lack even a warning page because each additional ‘mouse click' on the way to such content is thought to drive
to rival sites. At time of writing, three such sites are in the top 50 most used sites in the UK, with the highest sitting between www.guardian.co.uk and www.aol.co.uk, and ahead of www.twitter.com, in terms of traffic.

BBFC Director, David Cooke, uses his report to introduce the new classification guidelines for 2009.

 

24th June   

Update: Scouts Unprepared for a Jeremy Clarkson Quip...

Scouts join the ranks of the easily offended
Link Here  full story: Top Gear and the Grand Tour...Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson wind up whingers

ScoutsJThe Top Gear presenter, Jeremy Clarkson, with co-star James May, offended both the Scout Association and the Catholic Church while reviewing the Skoda Scout car.

May said: I suppose every summer it goes off to the country somewhere and is touched inappropriately. Clarkson added: No, no, James, that's the Skoda Catholic Church.

Simon Carter, a spokesman for the Scout Association, said it had submitted a formal complaint to the BBC. He said the remarks were tasteless , adding: We have had dozens of calls and emails from Scout members not happy at all. It's a shame they decided to have a dig at two organisations that do a lot of good in the community. And there is no real excuse because [Top Gear] is not live and is clearly scripted, so producers have heard it and given it the nod anyway.

TV censor Ofcom confirmed it had received complaints following the remarks made on Sunday night's show. But the BBC denied it had received a complaint from the Scout Association.

 

24th June   

2D Or Not 2D...

My Bloody Valentine ads rapped for promoting 3D when not always available
Link Here

My Bloody Valentine 3D DVD A TV ad for the film My Bloody Valentine 3D showed clips from the film while voice-over stated Prepare to witness the most terrifying 3D experience to tear through the screens. My Bloody Valentine 3D. It's the ultimate 3D experience only in cinemas. The clips were interspersed with large headings that stated PREPARE TO WITNESS and TERRIFYING 3D EXPERIENCE. The ad also showed scenes inside a cinema auditorium while the film was running. The audience wore 3D glasses. At one point, a character on the screen threw a pick axe which appeared to fly out into the audience. The audience was also shown shielding their faces from flames which emitted from the screen. A large heading at the end of the ad showed the film's title, rating and a website address and stated IN CINEMAS JAN 16. A similar campaign was produced for radio, newspapers and the internet

Viewers challenged whether the ads were misleading because they did not state that in most cinemas the film was shown in 2D and was shown in 3D in selected cinemas only.

Lions Gate UK Ltd (Lions Gate) said that, when promoting the release of the film My Bloody Valentine , they had chosen to promote the 3D version rather than the traditional 2D version. They said that, on the opening Friday (16 January), 90 cinemas were showing the film in 3D and 103 were showing it in 2D. They said that, in the first six weeks of release, 647 cinemas played the film in 3D and 463 played it in 2D.

ASA Assessment: Complaints Upheld

We also noted that, although not referred to in the ads, the 2D version of the film was also showing and that, when the film opened, it was the 2D version that was being shown more widely. The 2D version continued to be shown widely during the film's run, although not as widely as the 3D version came to be shown. We considered audiences were likely to be attracted to a 3D showing of the film but that, depending on the stage of the run, there was a strong or considerable likelihood that only the 2D version would be available to them. We concluded that, because they did not state the limited nature of the availability of the 3D version of the film in comparison with the 2D version, the ads were likely to mislead.

 

24th June   

Judge Doesn't Rate Teacher's Case...

Teacher rating website cleared to continue in Germany
Link Here

ratemyteachers.com logoA German court has ruled that schoolchildren may rate their teachers online, rejecting the case of a woman who argued that her rights had been infringed by pupils who gave her bad grades on a popular website.

The rights of the woman, a teacher of German and religion, had not been compromised by the ratings and pupils had a right to offer an opinion as long as they did not hinder her professionally, the German Federal Court of Justice found.

The opinions expressed are neither abusive nor insulting, the court said in a statement: The plaintiff did not show that she had been harmed in any specific way.

Collection, storage, and transmission of ratings by online portal spickmich.de was therefore permissible without the assent of the plaintiff, the court ruled.

The ruling will boost controversial websites such as Rate My Teacher in the UK, which operates a similar system.

This year more than one in ten teachers said that they were bullied by pupils and colleagues through text messages, e-mails and social networking sites.

A quarter of UK teachers said that they had had offensive messages posted about them on social networking sites such as Facebook or Rate My Teacher, according to the survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the Teacher Support Network.

The lawyers of the German teacher, who had been given a rating of 4.3 for her German teaching, argued that the site was unfair and inaccurate because users rate subjects anonymously. This could lead to multiple ratings by the same person, as well as ratings by people with no connection to the school or teacher in question, they argued.

But the court said that in this case, the right of the individual to express an opinion outweighed these concerns.

 

24th June   

Update: There's Probably No God in Finland...

Bus drivers call off their boycott of atheist buses
Link Here  full story: Atheist Buses...Atheists fund adverts about enjoying life

Finland flagBus drivers with religious convictions, who are employed by Helsingin Bussiliikenne, which operates public bus lines in Helsinki will not be taking any action against an international advertising campaign by the non-religious.

Last week, the prospect that they would have to drive buses with advertisements proclaiming There probably is no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life, caused a stir among religious drivers, some of whom had threatened to refuse to drive vehicles with the slogan.

The campaign, sponsored by the Freethinkers Association, and the Finnish Humanist Association is part of the international atheist bus campaign.

The leader of resistance by religious bus drivers, Tapani Mäkinen, said that there were few legal ways for Christian and Muslim drivers to refuse to drive buses with the offending ads and still keep their jobs. The drivers asked their shop steward if it was possible to refuse to drive a certain vehicle out of religious conviction. We hit a dead end. Something like that would be seen as a refusal to work , Mäkinen said.

The atheist ads will be on the buses for two weeks. The advertising campaign will also take place in Turku and Tampere, although the wording of the slogan was toned down a bit.

Christian groups are also planning to take a public stand on the question of the existence of God. Two Lutheran congregations in Helsinki, as well as the Finnish Bible Institute are planning a summer event in August with a slogan: God exists. Don't worry, enjoy life.
Timo Junkkaala, the executive director of the Finnish Bible Institute insists, however, that organisers came up with name before the international atheist bus campaign was launched.

 

23rd June   

Update: Censorship Game On...

Bavaria looks to take action against Austrian online games retailer
Link Here  full story: Killergames...German politicians target video games

A Earlier this month GamePolitics reported that German Interior Ministers were seeking a complete ban on the production and sale of violent video games within Germany.

Although the Bundestag has not yet acted on the ministers' ban request, an online video game retailer based in Austria claims that the German state of Bavaria has moved to blocked access by German customers.

VideoGamesZone.de reports that the Bavarian Commission for the Protection of Children Against Media Abuse filed a lawsuit to shut down Austrian online retailer Gameware.at . [GamePolitics suggest that this is being done by the newly created internet blocking law but it sounds more like the 'indexing' method that bans German companies from marketing or advertising the product].

Company spokesman Chris Veber told VGZ: We've called our lawyer and are appealing, of course... this is violating the freedom of expression and wrong specifications from the [German ratings body], since we are not sending our products out to minors and do not have videos showing violence at [our site]. We are not breaking any Austrian laws...

The economic consequence of the indexing of Gameware.at is that no one would be able to find us on Google, the advertisements would be gone, no magazine would be allowed to mention our name...

Veber conceded that violent games are big sellers for his company and that 80% of his customers live in Germany.

 

23rd June   

Update: BBFC on Meths...

BBFC become a talking point over checking out crystal meth recipe
Link Here  full story: Grand Theft Auto...Grand Theft Auto brings out the nutters

Grand Theft Auto IV game Wow, we've all heard the stories of how “bad” Grand Theft Auto games are for our society, but as it turns out, the BBFC once investigated whether Grand Theft Auto IV contained a genuine recipe for manufacturing crystal meth.

The Times reports that the discovery prompted crisis talks with developer Rockstar. In testimony last year before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the House of Commons, BBFC head David Cooke discussed his organization's review of GTA IV:

We did examine [GTA IV] extremely thoroughly and we are the only regulator I know of who looked, for instance, at the particular issue where… there was a concern about whether you were being given instructional information about how to make the drug crystal meth.

We actually took independent advice on the point and eventually were able to satisfy ourselves that some of the crucial ingredients and techniques were missing so it was not a genuine cause for concern.

REALLY? The recipe for Crystal Meth. Inside GTA IV? Good job BBFC, perhaps this is just one example of why you're no longer in control of ratings in the U.K.

 

23rd June   

FBI Censors...

Records show that the FBI had it in for the iconic film Deep Throat
Link Here

Deep Throat DVD The Watergate investigation's Mark Felt was behind the FBI's attempt to block the release of the 1972 porn film Deep Throat in a vain bid to prevent a cultural shift toward more permissive entertainment.

FBI agents from Honolulu to Miami, where the movie was filmed, seized copies of the film, had negatives analysed in laboratories and interviewed everyone from actors and producers to the messengers who delivered reels to cinemas, newly released FBI files have revealed.

Mark Weiner, a law professor at Rutgers University said: The story of 'Deep Throat' is the story of the last gasp of the forces lined up against the cultural and sexual revolution and it is the advent of the entry of pornography into the mainstream.

Felt was then second in command at the FBI and his name appears on the top of the files along with other top agents. He was later given the alias "Deep Throat" after he leaked the crucial information about corruption in the Nixon administration to the Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, but also as a reference to his role in the bid to suppress the pornographic film.

Deep Throat achieved fame unlike any pornographic film in history, becoming the most widely known adult film to reach a general audience. Shot for around $25,000, it earned hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office and became a cultural catchphrase.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, the FBI was forced to release 498 pages from its 4,800 page file on Gerard Damiano, the director of the film who died in October. Many parts of the released files have been blanked out, but the seriousness with which the agency treated the investigation is unquestionable.

 

22nd June   

Update: Mutilation at R18...

Beyer gets his sound bite about Antichrist but Brazier wins the prize for spouting bollox
Link Here  full story: Extreme Cuts...Lars Von Trier sexual violence causes a stir

Antichrist poster Antichrist , which includes graphic unsimulated sex and a scene of genital self-mutilation, has been authorised for release with no cuts by the BBFC.

John Beyer, the director of Mediawatch-UK predictably condemned the BBFC's decision to give Antichrist a mainstream rating:

Films of this sort, with such extreme content, should not be classified for public exhibition anywhere. The BBFC should have declined classification and rejected this film.

We all know that youngsters get into films that are not age appropriate and with a 15-rated trailer, it is being deliberately marketed at a younger audience who will inevitably see the film.

When people are being entertained by mutilation, that is beyond the pale.


Philip Knatchbull, the chief executive of Artificial Eye, which is distributing the film, said:

There is no doubt that Antichrist is a controversial film but it's our duty as a distributor to present the works of talented directors such as Lars von Trier in their original form, exactly as the director intended.

We fully support the BBFC's decision to allow people to make up their own minds about this film.


Julian Brazier the Conservative MP for Canterbury and Whitstable who has campaigned for more film censorship, said:

From the accounts I have heard of Antichrist , this does seem to be one more example of how the BBFC has given up on trying to regulate material which the majority of the public feel is offensive.

Brazier said that an R18 certificate, where films can only be shown in specially licensed cinemas or sex shops, would be more appropriate for Antichrist .

Gainsbourg, the daughter of the British actress Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, the late French singer, won best actress at Cannes for her role in the film. She has defended von Trier against accusations that the film exploits women. She said:

He is depicting women of course with violence and very hard sex and pain and suffering, but I don't think that he is judging women in a negative way.

Von Trier, who wrote the film while suffering from depression, has said of Antichrist :

The film does not contain any specific moral code and only has what some might call 'the bare necessities' in the way of a plot.

In any case, I can offer no excuse for Antichrist . Other than my absolute belief in the film.

 

22nd June   

PEGI Checkers...

Times publish a few details about the new game censors, the VSC
Link Here

VSC logoThree men in Borehamwood will become solely responsible for rating computer games in the UK.

Digital Britain, the communications White Paper, concluded last week that game publishers could keep their self rating system.

Under the PEGI system, games makers fill in a tick-box questionaire. Their answers are checked by a body called the Video Standards Council, which is based in Borehamwood and until recently consisted of a former policeman and a music industry lawyer. A third staff member has been added recently.

Mike Rawlinson, the director-general of ELSPA, the trade body that represents the computer games industry, said that standards had been toughened up. He said that the three people in the Video Standards Council were very skilled in their work.

 

22nd June   

Update: Jumping Ship...

German MP defects to the Pirate Party over internet censorship issue
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Germany...Germany considers state internet filtering

Pirate PartyA German MP from the ruling Social Democrats (SDP) has resigned from the party and joined the Pirate Party in response to new censorship laws in the country.

Jörg Tauss was one of only four members of the Bundestag to vote against the censorship legislation. The German laws, unlike those from other totalitarian regimes like Iran, China and Australia, are focused strictly on child pornography, however there are deep concerns in Germany that once implemented the laws could easily be extended to other areas.

While Tauss has become the first member of the Pirate Party in the German Parliament, he has indicated that he won't be standing for re-election in September. Germany's election system makes it difficult for stand alone candidates to be elected or re-elected.

 

21st June   

Censorship in the Name of Human Rights...

Canadian Human Rights Commission objects to being sidelined over internet hate speech
Link Here

CHRC logoThe Canadian Human Rights Commission wants to stay in the business of policing online hate speech. In a report tabled in Parliament, the commission rejected a proposal to leave the task of reining in Internet hatemongers to the Criminal Code.

However, the report suggests several changes to the Canadian Human Rights Act to address shortcomings identified during public consultations. They include adding a statutory definition of hatred and contempt, repealing penalty provisions, allowing for an award of legal costs in exceptional circumstances and the early dismissal of complaints that don't meet the definition of hate speech. The report also says the act should be amended to make it clear section 13 only applies to ardent and extreme hate messages.

In a report last year, Richard Moon, a University of Windsor law professor, recommended repeal of section 13 of the human rights act, which obliges the commission to screen complaints about online hate. Moon stood by that recommendation, saying that even with the proposed changes, section 13 still would be potentially too broad.

Since passage of the human rights act in 1977, 72 complaints have been filed and accepted under section 13, of which six are still pending. Forty-nine were resolved without a hearing, and 17 went to the tribunal. Of those, the tribunal has upheld 16, most of which were filed by Ottawa lawyer and anti-hate activist Richard Warman.

The human rights tribunal also hears very few section 13 cases, Moon pointed out. In the absence of Richard Warman, there really is very little happening under section 13. You take him away, you've got nothing.

The Commons committee on justice and human rights will consider the commission's report as part of its review of section 13 this fall.

 

21st June   

Updated: Something to Hide...

Iran attempts to block media from criticising elections
Link Here

Iran flagIranian authorities criticized international media reports and took steps to block the flow of information from independent news sources as anti-government protests raged in the country for a second day Sunday.

The BBC said that electronic jamming of its news report, which it said began on election day Friday, had worsened by Sunday, causing service disruptions for viewers and listeners in Iran, the Middle East and Europe. It said it had traced the jamming of the satellite signal broadcasting its Farsi-language service to a spot inside Iran.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lashed out at the media shortly after he claimed victory in the election that critics contend was marked by widespread voter fraud. At a news conference Sunday, he accused international media of launching a psychological war against the country.

A range of communications have been disrupted inside Iran since election day, including those which could be used to organize protests. Iran restored cell phone service Sunday that had been down in the capital since Saturday. But Iranians still could not send text messages from their mobile phones, and the government increased its Internet filtering in an apparent attempt to undercut opposition voices. Social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter were also not working.

There were a variety of other clamp-down steps affecting both international and domestic news organizations. For instance, officials telephoned several visiting international journalists with visas to cover the elections and told them that their visas would not be extended after the vote, a courtesy often offered in the past.

Dubai-based news network Al Arabiya said the station's correspondent in Tehran was given a verbal order from Iranian authorities that its office would be closed for one week, said Executive News Editor Nabil Khatib. No reason was given, but the station was warned several times Saturday that it needed to be careful in reporting chaos accurately, he said.

German television network ZDF said Sunday on air that its reporter in Iran and other reporters were being prevented from doing their jobs in a massive form. The network said it was unable to show a broadcast feed from the network's correspondent depicting protests.

Within Iran, state-run newspapers carried no news Sunday about the widespread street clashes the day before. But on Sunday, state TV showed some video footage from the two days of protests.

A newspaper started by the main reformist candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, did not appear on newsstands Sunday. An editor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said the paper, called Kalemeh Sabz or the Green Word, never left the printing house because authorities were upset with Mousavi's statements after the elections. The paper's Web site reported that more than 10 million votes in Friday's election were missing national identification numbers, data which make the votes untraceable. It did not say how it knew that information.

Update: Iran bars foreign media from reporting on protests

19th June 2009. Based on article from cpj.org

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the Iranian government's decision to bar foreign journalists from leaving their offices to report, film, or take photographs--a restriction intended to prevent news coverage of protests over the disputed presidential election.

The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, which accredits foreign media working in Iran, ordered foreign journalists and Iranians working with foreign media not to cover the demonstrations, The Associated Press reported.

In the past five days, Iranian authorities have increased control over the flow of information by clamping down on media and harassing journalists, according to news reports.

News groups such as Reuters, AP, BBC, CBS, and Bloomberg, reported that their journalists in Iran have been ordered not to cover protests in Tehran. Press cards have been declared invalid, the BBC reported.

No reporting activities should take place without coordination and permission of this office, Bloomberg quoted a faxed statement from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance as saying: Reporters should not take part in news events that have not been announced by this office.

Update: 'Deviant news sites' threatened by Revolutionary Guard

20th June 2009. Based on article from wired.com

Iran's fearsome Revolutionary Guard is warning bloggers and local websites to remove any materials that create tension ...or else.

It part of a larger crackdown on media of all types, as the Tehran regime attempts to control the information battle surrounding the pro-democracy Green Revolution there.

Revolutionary Guard investigators have already taken action against ‘deviant news sites' that encouraged public disturbances, according to a statement released through official outlets, and translated by the Associated Press.

The statement alleged that dissident Web sites were backed by Canadian, U.S. and British interests, a frequent charge levied by hard-liners against the opposition.

Legal action will be very strong and call on them to remove such materials, it said.

Update: Iranian bloggers being arrested

21s June 2009. Based on article from advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org

As protesters continue their demonstrations all over Iran against the presidential election results, Iranian authorities have arrested hundreds of activists, including bloggers.

Mohammad Ali Abtahi, former reformist vice president and an adviser to Mehdi Karoubi, a reformist candidate, was arrested last Tuesday. Abtahi used to update his blog each day for several years and share his opinion on different topics, including Iranian issues.

Somayeh Tohidloo, a female reformist blogger was also arrested. As protests against the Iranian presidential election results grows, Iranian authorities continue to arrest political activists. Recently, she and a couple of bloggers organized an Internet interview with former president Mohammad Khatami. It seems that her blog is no longer accessible.

Mojtaba Saminejad, an Iran-based blogger and human rights activist, informs us about several other arrested bloggers. Saminejad says that Shiva Nazar Ahari, a female blogger and human rights activist, Mehesa Amarabadi, a female blogger and journalist,Karim Argandehpour, a blogger and leading journalist and Amad Baharvar have all been detained.

 

20th June   

Update: Square PEGI in a Round Hole...

Timetable for switch to PEGI ratings
Link Here  full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

PEGI logoPEGI will have to wait the best part of a year until it becomes the UK's sole classification system by law.

The proposal to implement PEGI as the UK's only games age classification model, overseen by the Video Standards Council, was put forward by Labour in its Digital Britain White Paper earlier this week.

More consultation will now take place between stakeholders PEGI, the VSC and the Department of Culture, Media And Sport to ‘fine tune' the bill, which will eventually alter the the Video Recordings Act, last tweaked back in 1994.

Following this, it will have to be approved by Parliamentary procedure, which is not likely to be completed until 2010.

However, as reported by MCV, the all-new PEGI logos WILL start appearing on boxes across Europe this summer, and are already being manufactured.

Fear of Indistinctive Symbols

Based on article from news.bbc.co.uk

Tiga logoThe videogame trade association, Tiga, say the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) rating systems has room for improvement.

Tiga's chief, Dr Richard Wilson, said changes were needed to make the logos instinctively recognisable. There needs to be an advertising campaign and publicity as to what these pictograms actually mean. While the age ratings are fairly clear, there needs to be improvement to the system - especially the pictograms - because they are not instinctively recognisable.

Laurie Hall - the director general of the Video Standards Council, which administers the PEGI system in the UK - agreed with Dr Wilson and told the BBC that more work needed to be done: I think people need to be made more aware. Take the spider logo: that means 'fear'. In other words, people might find the game scary, but you might not immediately jump to that conclusion looking at the box. Our plan is to have a big awareness campaign and also put consumer information about the game on the packaging, in English, which will help.

 

20th June   

Update: Dangerous Content Warning...

German parliament passes internet blocking law
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Germany...Germany considers state internet filtering

Germany flagThe German parliament passed a bill Thursday imposing censorship of pornographic websites justified by the need to protect children.

The legislation was proposed by a coalition of German social democratic and conservative parties. It requires the country's federal criminal investigators to maintain a list of websites accused of containing child pornography and to distribute it to German ISPs, which will then be required to block queries to those websites with a stop sign.

In its present form, the bill requires only that ISPs display the warning sign. Users will still be able to access the flagged websites, but they will be advised that viewing child pornography is illegal. German legislators also bowed to criticism by adding a sunset clause that will see the law expire in three years.

 

20th June   

Update: Starved of Free Speech...

Famine Song confirmed as racist by Scottish Appeal Court
Link Here  full story: Football Sectarianism...Sectarian Rangers football song wind up

Rangers vs CelticThe lyrics of the Famine Song are racist, a court said yesterday after a football fan challenged his conviction.

The Justiciary Appeal Court in Edinburgh ruled that Rangers supporter William Walls, who sang it, was rightly convicted of a racially-aggravated breach of the peace

Walls had been arrested at a Kilmarnock-Rangers game in November last year. He was shouting Fenian bastards and fuck the Pope , and repeatedly sang a line from the Famine Song, the famine's over, why don't you go home. The song is banned by Rangers.

A sheriff ruled Walls had committed a racially and religiously-aggravated breach of the peace, and put him on probation for 18 months and banned him from football matches for two years.

At the Justiciary Appeal Court, Donald Findlay, QC, for Walls, argued that the Famine Song was not racist, particularly the refrain sung by the accused. He said it was an expression of political opinion, permitted by the right to freedom of speech enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Findlay submitted that the refrain was no more racist than some of the lines of Flower of Scotland , which bid King Edward to return to England to think again, or God Save the Queen , which refer to crushing rebellious Scots.

An exchange of abuse between supporters was part and parcel of going to a football game, he added.

Giving the court's judgment, Lord Carloway said: The court has no doubt that (Walls's] conduct did amount to a breach of the peace, even in the context of a football match. Presence inside a football stadium does not give a spectator a free hand to behave as he pleases. There are limits and the appellant's conduct went well beyond those limits.

On the Famine Song, about the Irish potato famine of the 1840s, he said: The song calls upon persons of Irish descent, who are living in Scotland, to go back to the land of their ancestors, namely Ireland. They (lyrics] are racist in calling upon people native to Scotland to leave the country because of their racial origins. This is a sentiment which many persons will find offensive.

 

20th June   

Putin Drags it Out...

Russian artist arrested for beaming female Putin image onto state buildings
Link Here

Putin as a womanA Russian artist was arrested by the secret service after depicting prime minister Vladimir Putin as a woman.

Painter Alexander Shednov, also known as Shurik, portrayed the former president in a low-cut dress with long hair and large hoop earrings.

He said the image was a protest against Putin trying to return to the Kremlin for a third presidential term.

In the top left hand corner of the picture Shednov shows his subject saying: Oh I don't know - a third Presidential term? It is a bit too much....on the other hand, three is a charm.

The artist had attempted to beam the portrait onto the main administrative building in Voronezh, his home city, on Russian Independence Day last Friday.

But Shednov's endeavour did not go down well with the FSB, which replaced the KGB as Russia's intelligence agency. He was arrested by counter-intelligence officials, and claims he was questioned for seven hours and beaten.

Shednov now faces a charge of inappropriate behaviour and is due before a court.

 

20th June   

Update: Googling for 'Killjoy'...

Google in China ordered to end links to porn
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship

Google China logoGoogle has been ordered to put a halt allowing pornographic and vulgar content from being accessed through its Chinese-language search engine, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Center has told Google to make immediate changes and clean up the content available at Google.cn.

Google said it met with government officials to discuss the problem of pornographic content and material that is harmful to children on the web in China and that it is taking all necessary steps to fix any problems with our results.

The order came one day after Chinese state television chastised Google and the center denounced it for allowing foreign Internet pornographic information.

 

20th June   

Update: There's Almost Certainly No God...

German atheist bus completes its tour
Link Here  full story: Atheist Buses...Atheists fund adverts about enjoying life

German atheist bus There's almost certainly no God. [reported as Close to certainty, there is no God ] With this slogan on the side of their bus, German atheists have been touring through Germany for three weeks, on a trip that has stirred up controversy and debate.

On Thursday, the atheist bus stopped off in Berlin, bringing the promotional tour throughout the country to a close.

In the German capital, the atheist bus tour fell on fertile ground. The London-style red double-decker was crammed full on Thursday, which was perhaps not surprising as approximately two-thirds of Berliners say they are not religious in any way.

Campaign spokesman Peder Ibelher explained why the campaign slogan, Close to certainty, there is no God, lacked a fiery anti-religious sting: This reflects the scientific approach that Germans have to the question of God. You can never say there is no God because there's no evidence for a God and no evidence against it .

A second bus, emblazoned with the slogan, And what if there is God? was right behind the atheist bus at every stop it made.

Among the anti-demonstrators was Axel Nehlsen, a protestant pastor who fundamentally disagrees with the atheists: All ideologies have been thrown away in the last decades and even capitalism is in a crisis now. So I think the Christian faith and the relationship to God and Jesus Christ can give everybody a foundation which is not depending on the current mainstream. And we want to challenge them to find out whether God exists.

Official church leaders in Germany have reacted calmly to the atheist bus, arguing that the activists would actually do the Christian faith a service, by enlivening the public debate about God.

Public transport authorities were less comfortable. In contrast to London, where the slogan appeared on city buses and in the Underground (tube) network, German cities banned the slogan from being advertised. They claimed it would inflame religious feelings.

Peder Ibelher, however, said the campaign was a huge success despite the public advertisement ban: The campaign went really well. We've heard that up to a quarter of the German population noticed our slogan. Maybe it's come out even better in the end with no public advertisement - with the bus just going around from city to city in Germany .

 

20th June   

Updated: Minor Legislation...

Louisiana Senate passes bill targeting the sale of prohibited material to minors
Link Here  full story: Violent Games in the US...Attempts to restrict video games from minors

Louisiana State SealBy a 35-0 vote, the Louisiana Senate passed SB 152, a bill which would make a pattern of distributing sexually explicit material to children a deceptive trade practice under state law.

SB 152 was drafted by disbarred Miami attorney Jack Thompson as a back-door means of enforcing ESRB content ratings. The original SB 152 mirrored Thompson's Utah bill, which was vetoed by Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman  in March. However, bill sponsor Senator A.G. Crowe subsequently gutted Thompson's focus on age ratings from the bill, amending it instead to its new focus on the distribution of sexually explicit material to minors.

Unlike the Utah bill, SB 152 doesn't make reference to video games, advertising, age ratings or any specific product, for that matter.

The basic idea is that any retailer that sell prohibited material to minors aren't allowed to describe themselves as family friendly or similar.

Now that it has been passed by the Senate, the next stop for SB 152 is the Louisiana House of Representatives.

Update: Game Over

20th June 2009. Based on article from gamepolitics.com

Louisiana Senate Bill 152 began life as a clone of Jack Thompson's failed Utah legislation and died quietly this week in the Commerce Committee of the Louisiana House, according to The Old River Road, a blog which tracks Louisiana politics.

Although Crowe's Senate colleagues passed the bill overwhelmingly, House members seemed less impressed. At a hearing earlier this week the bill was diverted to the Commerce Committee.

 

20th June   

Update: 2257 FAQs...

US Justice Dept post FAQs about legal record keeping requirements
Link Here  full story: 2257 Record Keeping...US adut industry onerous requirements

US Dept of JusticeThe US Justice Department and its Obscenity Prosecution Task Force has posted a list of frequently asked questions and answers pertaining to the most recent revisions for 18 U.S.C. § 2257 regulations, which were issued in December.

The 18 U.S.C. § 2257 regulations govern name- and age-verification, record-keeping and labeling requirements on producers of visual depictions of actual human beings engaged in actual sexually explicit conduct.

The Justice Department's FAQs attempt to define terms including lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area and simulated sexually explicit conduct. The FAQs also include information about which parts of a performer's ID can be redacted, whether records can be kept electronically and the appropriate dating of content.

Adult industry trade group the Free Speech Coalition has announced plans to challenge the revised 2257 regulations. In ongoing litigation against the Justice Department and the 2257 regulations, FSC has asserted that the regulations are burdensome for producers of sexually explicit content and a violation of content producers' First Amendment rights.

 

20th June   

Daggers in Dagestan...

Authorities try to silence criticism from the Chernovik weekly
Link Here

Chernovik logo Authorities in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan should immediately halt efforts to shut the Makhachkala-based independent weekly Chernovik and should drop extremism charges against editor Nadira Isayeva and four reporters, the Committee to Protect Journalists has said.

The local branch of Russia's state media regulator Rossvyazkomnadzor filed a lawsuit against Chernovik in Dagestan's Supreme Court, demanding that the weekly be closed for allegedly carrying extremist statements. The Rossvyazkomnadzor's lawsuit comes on top of an ongoing criminal case alleging Isayeva and four staffers engaged in extremism and incitement of hatred.

According to local press reports, Rossvyazkomnadzor said articles published in 2008 incited hatred of law enforcement agencies in the region. Chernovik is often critical of regional police and the Federal Security Service operating in the region. Isayeva and her colleagues have contended that antiterrorist operations carried out by the two agencies had actually fueled the rise of militant Islam in the region.

The attempt to silence one of the few remaining independent voices in Russia's turbulent North Caucasus region is deeply disturbing, said Nina Ognianova, CPJ's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. Using accusations of extremism and incitement to hatred in politicized lawsuits has become a favored tactic of repression. The Dagestan authorities must drop all suits against Nadira Isayeva and her colleagues at Chernovik immediately.

According to the independent Moscow-based organization Sova, which monitors acts of nationalism and xenophobia in Russia, Chernovik's publications do not contain any traits of extremism or calls to violence.

 

19th June   

Updated: Black Circles...

A pre-cut Brüno rated 18 at the BBFC
Link Here  full story: Bruno...Supporting the hype for Bruno

Bruno film poster The BBFC has ruled that strong sexual content in three scenes of Brüno made one of the summer's most widely anticipated films unsuitable for the 15 certificate needed to generate a blockbuster audience. The British comic's two previous efforts, Ali G Indahouse and Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, were both rated 15.

A re-edit helped to avert a worse fate in the United States where Brüno was originally awarded a NC-17 rating, meaning that most American cinemas would not have screened it. A revised version was later passed as an “R”, restricted to over 17s or younger teenagers accompanied by an adult.

The same revised version, where black circles were inserted to cover body parts, was presented to the BBFC.

Under the British censor's system which unlike their American equivalent is based partly on public consultation this was insufficient to earn a lower rating. A spokesperson said: We felt that made it worse not better in some scenes because you could not tell what was acted out.

In two of the three most extreme scenes the sex was faked: an outrageous love scene between Brüno and his pygmy boyfriend and a sequence where Brüno mimes a sexual act in explicit detail.

However a third, filmed at a real swinger's party, shows unsimulated sex.

Conor Dignam, editor of the industry magazine Screen International, suggested that they may be gambling that the notoriety of an 18 certificate will merely build anticipation amongst a teenage audience and guarantee an even longer commercial life on DVD and television.

Update: Producers unhappy with 18 certificate

19th June 2009. Based on article from independent.co.uk

18 certThe film's distributor Universal described the 18 certificate as absurd .

There is no question they will lose money because of us. They actually requested the 18 certificate, explained BBFC spokeswoman Sue Clark. They knew very early on, at an advice viewing, that if they wanted a 15 they would have to cut some scenes. They have had plenty of time to do it and have chosen not to.

The scenes deemed unsuitable for a younger audience included an extended sex sequence starring Brüno and his pygmy boyfriend, another in which he mimes oral sex with a ghost of German dance act Milli Vanilli, and a third in which he attends a swingers' party.

Last night, David Kosse, president of Universal Pictures International, said the company had been left with no other option than to submit the film with an 18 request: They requested cuts that were some of the funniest bits of the movie. Ultimately you then know what you are going to get and, at the end of the day, we submitted the film to be an 18. We clearly wanted it to be a 15. In Ireland it is a 16, in the Netherlands a 12 and in America an R. It is absurd that you can see it as a 17-year-old in Dublin but not in London.

Kosse said the cuts would have proved too much of a compromise. Why take a movie that is very, very funny to the rest of the world but say the population of one country cannot see that version?

 

19th June   

Updated: More Explicit TV Censorship...

TV censor Ofcom strengthens the wording of its ban on sex on TV
Link Here

Ofcom logoThe TV censor Ofcom has launched a review of its Broadcasting Code which sets repressive rules for TV and radio stations.

The main areas under review are:

  • A range of proposed new rules for commercial radio. These aim to create greater commercial opportunities for radio stations. They could help create a wider range of programming while safeguarding consumer protection and editorial independence.
  • Proposals to clarify other parts of the Code to help broadcasters better understand exactly how repressive the rules are, particularly in relation to the broadcast of sexual material.

In summary, the proposed new set of rules in relation to sexual material would make clear that regulation in relation to material of a sexual nature continues to require that:

  • Material equivalent to the BBFC R18-rating is prohibited
     
  • ‘Adult-sex' material - which is material broadcast for the primary purpose of sexual arousal, must not be broadcast unless there are mandatory access restrictions in place, and then only between 22:00 and 05:30 with mandatory access restrictions in place
     
  • Strong sexual material, material of a strong sexual nature which is not broadcast for the primary purpose of sexual arousal, and therefore not subject to mandatory access restrictions, may be broadcast after the watershed provided there is a strong contextual justification
     
  • Pre-watershed sexual material - must be editorially justified and appropriately limited.

In addition:

  • The consultation also asks whether not-for-profit organisations should be permitted to fund programmes about their own activities or interests. These programmes, called Public Information Programming, would cover subjects in the public interest but could not deal with controversial matters. Currently such programming is not permitted.
  • The revised Code will also include mandatory changes as a result of new European legislation (the Audio Visual Media Services Directive).

The review of the Code has taken into account recent compliance failings, discussions with stakeholders and audience research. Ofcom will be undertaking further research on public attitudes on the use of language.

There is no change to the current regulatory practice, only a clarification of the rules to benefit broadcasters and audiences.

There have been a number of 'compliance failures' concerning the broadcast of sexual material on TV. To help stamp out such failures, Ofcom suggests clarifying the rules about sexual material and incorporating some of Ofcom's guidance in this area within the Code.

From time to time not-for-profit organisations wish to fund programmes about their own activities or interests. This is currently prohibited under the Code. The consultation asks whether this prohibition should remain and suggests some possible rules that would ensure audience protection and editorial independence.
These strict safeguards would include:

  • requiring that the programmes are in the public interest
  • prohibiting funders banned from TV or radio advertising from funding such programmes (e.g. political parties)
  • requiring that the programmes do not cover controversial matters
  • ensuring that such funding arrangements are made transparent to the audience.

To inform our proposals on commercial references in radio programming, we commissioned audience research on listeners attitudes in this area. This is also published today.

We also commissioned research into audiences views on sexual content on TV to update our understanding of generally accepted standards in relation to a range of sexual material. This will inform our approach to the application of the rules relating to sexual material and is also published today.

Ofcom has in place a number of rules relating to offensive language and the watershed. Our rules are applied on the basis of Ofcom's understanding of the attitudes of viewers and listeners, and this is underpinned by audience research. We will conduct further research, and look at all available research, to establish public attitudes towards language, which will inform our application of the Code.

The consultation closes on 4 September 2009.

Update: Moving to a 10pm Watershed

For background I just read on a parenting website that 9pm is a typical bedtime for a 12 year old, 10pm for 14/15 year olds and 11pm for 16/17 year olds

19th June 2009. Based on article from guardian.co.uk

Babe channelThe media regulator Ofcom is proposing to crack down on the amount of sustained sex scenes and sexual language shown on TV immediately after the 9pm watershed, to better protect younger viewers from explicit content broadcast free-to-air by so-called babe channels .

The proposed tightening of guidelines, relating to images and/or language of a strong sexual nature , follows a rise in recent years of the number of babe channels, on which scantily clad women encourage viewers to call premium-rate phone lines.

Ofcom said consumer research had found that between 9pm and 10pm people did not expect to see much more than a brief sex scene or brief nudity.

The regulator, which has launched a consultation into proposed changes to the broadcasting code covering TV and radio, is set to introduce a new rule governing the justification of showing strong sex scenes soon after the 9pm watershed, while many under-18s are still watching.

Ofcom said that section one of the broadcasting code, which covers the protection of under-18s, requires broadcasters to observe the 9pm watershed, before which channels must be more sensitive to taste and decency issues, and ensure that material unsuitable for children under the age of 15 is not shown before that time.

However, Ofcom added that it recognised that under-18s continue to watch TV after 9pm and some of this material may include sexual content.

 

19th June   

Ireland Ofconned...

Ireland about to pass legislation to merge their TV censors
Link Here

IrelandIreland's new Broadcasting Bill is expected to be passed by the Irish parliament, the Dáil, later today.

A new super-regulator established along the lines of the UK's Ofcom and known as The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) will replace the RTÉ Authority, and the governing body of TG4, as well as the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission (BCC).

There will also be a tightening of broadcasting codes, including the advertising of food stuffs to children.

 

19th June   

Unlearning Intolerance...

UN seminar on internet hate speech
Link Here

UN logoThe United Nations has appealed to parents, the Internet industry and policy-makers to join hands to eradicate hate speech from cyberspace.

Addressing a day-long seminar titled Unlearning Intolerance on the danger of cyberhate , UN chief Ban Ki-moon lauded the benefits of the Internet but regretted that there are those who use information technology to reinforce stereotypes, to spread misinformation and propagate hate.

Some of the newest technologies are being used to peddle some of the oldest fears, he warned, decrying what he called digital demonization… targeting innocents because of their faith, their raace, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation.

The secretary general said the Internet industry can help ensure that hate speech does not proliferate online and urged policy-makers to take a hard look at this problem and work to safeguard people while balancing basic freedoms and human rights.

He also stressed that parents have a responsibility to teach their children to safely surf the Internet.

 

19th June   

Updated: Ominous...

China dictates software to be pre-installed on PCs
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship

Chinese PC censorChinese PC Company Lenovo is set to be among the first PC Companies to bow to Chinese Government pressure that all PC's being made for the Chinese market after July 1, must be shipped with software that blocks access to certain Web sites.

Chinese PC Company Lenovo is set to be among the first PC Companies to bow to Chinese Government pressure that all PC's being made for the Chinese market after July 1, must be shipped with software that blocks access to certain Web sites.

The censorship move will give the Chinese Government unprecedented control over how Chinese users access the Internet. The software must be pre installed claims Chinese Government officials who have also said the move is aimed at cutting out access to pornography web sites.

According to the wall Street Journal the Chinese government's history of censoring a broad range of Web content has raised concern among some foreign industry officials and the U.S. government that the new effort could significantly increase the government's control over Internet access in China.

It is expected that US manufacturers like HP and Dell who have around 22% of the Chinese PC market will bow to the demands of the Chinese Government and install the new software which was developed by Jinhui Computer System's with input from Beijing Dazheng Human Language Technology Academy. Both companies have ties to China's military and its security ministry.

Update: Behind the Green Dam

12th June 2009. Based on article from businessweek.com
See also Seeing red over green: China to install censorship software from cpj.org

China banned pageIt seems China is stepping back from its new censorship policy for computers. They have recently proposed that the internet filter Green Dam Youth Escort, should be installed on all new PCs sold in China

As TelecomAsia's Robert Clark writes, the Chinese government has retreated on its controversial new web filtering plan. I'm not sure it's a full-fledged retreat yet, but there are certainly signs that the worldwide outcry is having an impact. For instance, Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, does seem a bit embarrassed about the whole thing. According to the government mouthpiece, China's Ministry of Industry and IT on Wednesday insisted that its notice to the PC makers and sellers does not mean the software's installation to user's operating system is mandatory, instead, the software package should be installed on either the hard drives or a compact disc with the computers.

This is a typical pattern with off-the-wall new requirements from the Chinese bureaucracy: Outlandish policy gets announced, outcry begins, outlandish policy gets ignored.

Update: Propaganda department orders positive comment about Green Dam

Based on article from advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org

China banned pageOn June 10th, the Chinese central propaganda department issued a notice reminding all the media to report positively on Green Dam, Youth Escort, the filter and spyware to be installed in all PCs sold in China.

Meanwhile, netizens continue to dig out all the flaws in the software and the company's background; Information activists and various organizations on the other hand, have compiled a number of documents and reports on Green Dam. .

Given the propaganda department's notice, people were surprised to see that the government's mouthpiece people.com.cn's nationalistic “strong country” forum had created a special page (now removed) and criticized the Ministry of Information Industry and Technology for taking the decision without consulting the public. Moreover, a poll in the forum showed that more than 80% of the netizens are against the introduction of the compulsory filter on their PCs.

Update: Uninstallable

19th June 2009. See article from news.bbc.co.uk

China banned pageWidespread disapproval inside China, legal challenges and overseas criticism have forced the Chinese government to clarify its policy.

"The use of this software is not compulsory," an official with China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) told the AP news wire.

The state agency that created Green Dam has said it was possible to uninstall the program. But it was unclear whether those that did so would face prosecution.

In its ruling this week, China said anyone removing or refusing to use it would not face official sanctions.

 

18th June   

Update: Old Squares...

PEGI unveil new age classification symbols
Link Here  full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

PEGI logoPEGI age rating labels appear on front and back of the packaging at one of the following age levels - 3+, 7+, 12+, 16+ and 18+. They provide a reliable indication of the suitability of the game content in terms of protection of minors. The age rating does not take into account the difficulty level or skills required to play a game.

PEGI 3PEGI 3

The content of games given this rating is considered suitable for all age groups. Some violence in a comical context (typically Bugs Bunny or Tom & Jerry cartoon-like forms of violence) is acceptable. The child should not be able to associate the character on the screen with real life characters, they should be totally fantasy. The game should not contain any sounds or pictures that are likely to scare or frighten young children. No bad language should be heard and there should be no scenes containing nudity nor any referring to sexual activity.

PEGI 7PEGI 7

Any game that would normally be rated at 3+ but contains some possibly frightening scenes or sounds may be considered suitable in this category. Some scenes of partial nudity may be permitted but never in a sexual context.

PEGI 12PEGI 12

Videogames that show violence of a slightly more graphic nature towards fantasy character and/or non graphic violence towards human-looking characters or recognisable animals, as well as videogames that show nudity of a slightly more graphic nature would fall in this age category. Any bad language in this category must be mild and fall short of sexual expletives.

PEGI 16PEGI 16

This rating is applied once the depiction of violence (or sexual activity) reaches a stage that looks the same as would be expected in real life. More extreme bad language, the concept of the use of tobacco and drugs and the depiction of criminal activities can be content of games that are rated 16+.

PEGI 18PEGI 18

The adult classification is applied when the level of violence reaches a stage where it becomes depictions of gross violence and/or includes elements of specific types of violence. Gross violence is the most difficult to define since in a lot of cases it can be very subjective, but in general terms it can be classed as the depictions of violence that would make the viewer feel a sense of revulsion.

 

18th June   

Update: Sweden Follows the BBFC Lead...

Beyer wants to see bits cut out, so BBFC kindly oblige and leave Antichrist uncut
Link Here  full story: Film Censorship in Sweden...Looking to end mandatory state film censorship

SBB logoLast week, Sweden announced that it will disband its Statens Biografbyra censorship board altogether in 2011, 100 years after it was founded. From then on, there will be no restrictions on films released in the country unless they break laws governing such areas as child pornography, although the current age-related rating system will remain.

John Beyer of Mediawatch, the successor to Mary Whitehouse's National Viewers' and Listeners' Association, suggested the BBFC's increasingly light touch in recent years made it not so very different from the new Swedish organisation.

The BBFC no longer 'cuts bits out of films' but provides information about films so that members of the public can make up their own minds about what films they want to see or avoid. The Swedish government evidently want to do just what the BBFC has been doing for some years.

In our opinion the BBFC has become far too lax in what it permits for public exhibition and there has been a gradual shift in what they regard as acceptable so that what would have been regarded as 18 a few years ago is now thought suitable for 15. Their 12A certificate allows very young children, accompanied by an adult, to see some very unsuitable material. The board is pretty much unaccountable and for this reason we supported Julian Brazier's private member's bill last year to make the board accountable to parliament through the select committee system.

Comment: Letting the public make up their own minds

From Dan

"The BBFC no longer 'cuts bits out of films' but provides information about films so that members of the public can make up their own minds about what films they want to see or avoid."

Oh how disgraceful and disgusting! How dare the BBFC let members of the public make up their own minds about films they want to see?

Instead they should have John Beyer and Mediawatch UK making up the public's minds for them.

"Their 12A certificate allows very young children, accompanied by an adult, to see some very unsuitable material."

Oh yeah very young children, accompanied by an adult are being allowed to see explicit violence and hardcore porn! Yeah right!

"The board is pretty much unaccountable."

Pretty much unaccountable to Mediawatch UK and Tory middle middle England who believe they know what is and is not good for the public to see. Let's keep it that way!

 

18th June   

Update: Burning Issue...

Liverpool to consult residents over an 18 rating for movies with smoking
Link Here  full story: Adult Rating for Smoking...Anti-smoking lobby for 18 for smoking in films

Liverpool City logoLiverpool residents and local businesses are to be consulted on a proposal which would see new films which show characters smoking given an 18 rating in the city.

The proposed classification would mean that films which depict images of tobacco smoking would only be regarded as suitable for adult viewing. The move is being proposed by Liverpool Primary Care Trust.

This proposal would not apply to films which portray historical figures who actually smoked and those which provide a clear and unambiguous portrayal of the dangers of smoking, other tobacco use, or second-hand smoke.

It would also not change the classification of old films which have scenes of people smoking. These films would still be shown in Liverpool using their original classification.

Under the proposal, cinemas and any other premises showing films would have to notify the council 21 days in advance if they intend to show films containing images of smoking.

The City Council's Licensing and Gambling Committee have agreed to consult interested organisations and the general public about changing its licensing policy. The consultation with the public is likely to start in the middle of August and last until October.

Cllr Malcolm Kelly, Committee Chair, said: I would stress that no decision about this proposal has been made yet.

We were given a presentation earlier this year by the PCT in which they spoke about the high level of young people who smoke in Liverpool and that research showed that young people, are more likely to smoke if they were influenced by seeing their favourite stars smoking in films.

However, we want to get the views of a wide range of organisations and the public in general before we decide whether to go ahead with this idea.

Overruling the BBFC

Based on article from news.bbc.co.uk

Government guidance says authorities should only overrule the BBFC if there are "very good local reasons".

In its report to the council, Liverpool PCT said the city's smoking prevalence was excessively high at 29%. The national level is 22%. It added that research from several countries suggested smoking in movies was the most potent of the social influences which lead young people into smoking.

BBFC spokeswoman Sue Clark told the BBC that while the council was obviously entitled to re-classify films, members of the public were unlikely to back the idea: We have done our own consultation with the public and we specifically asked them about whether smoking in films should be a classification issue - we were told it shouldn't. We don't make it a classification issue unless a film is actively promoting smoking to young people - and we've never seen a film which does that.

Excessive smoking in a film may be flagged up in its consumer advice, or the extended classification information on the BBFC website, said Ms Clark.

 

18th June   

Update: Gerbils and G-Strings...

More gay support for the hype for Brüno
Link Here  full story: Bruno...Supporting the hype for Bruno

Bruno film poster No doubt about it—Sacha Baron Cohen uses every negative gay stereotype you could possibly imagine in his portrayal of Brüno , his Austrian fashion journalist alter ego.

He's a flamboyant limp-wristed queen who has wild sex, dresses in barely-there S&M ensembles and has never met a Swarovski crystal he doesn't like.

Is it any wonder that a big portion of gay Hollywood finds parts of the upcoming Brüno movie more offensive than humorous?

GLAAD, the gay media watchdog group, is so concerned about Cohen's depiction of homosexuality in the flick that it asked Universal Pictures, the studio releasing Brüno , to include a message of support for gay rights and tolerance from Cohen at the end of the movie. The request was denied.

One scene includes Brüno and a sexual partner tied up in chains in a hotel room, wearing nothing but G-strings. Also in the room? A tarp on the wall is dirtied with fecal stains and there are gerbils in a dresser drawer, according to Hollywood blog The Wrap.

Robinson said GLAAD is also concerned about a scene in which Brüno appears on a talk show to discuss his adoption of an African baby. They asked that a photo shown during the bit showing a baby sitting in the same hot tub where two men are having sex be cut.

Universal has promised that GLAAD can see the movie another time before its July 7 debut, Robinson said. A rep for the studio declined to comment about the possibility of a future screening.

 

18th June   

Not Helpful...

Research claims violent videogames increases hurtful behaviour
Link Here

PSPB magazineA report published in the current issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin maintains that playing pro-social games increases helping behavior by participants while playing violent games increases hurtful behavior.

GamePolitics has previously reported on the research, which combines the results from three separate studies conducted in the U.S., Japan and Singapore. But a press release issued today by the University of Michigan offers new insight about the methodologies used by the researchers involved.

UM's Brad Bushman said:

These studies show the same kind of impact on three different age groups from three very different cultures. In addition, the studies use different analytic approaches---correlational, longitudinal and experimental. The resulting triangulation of evidence provides the strongest possible proof that the findings are both valid and generalizable...

[The research] suggests there is an upward spiral of prosocial gaming and helpful behavior, in contrast to the downward spiral that occurs with violent video gaming and aggressive behavior...

Taken together, these findings make it clear that playing video games is not in itself good or bad for children. The type of content in the game has a bigger impact than the overall amount of time spent playing.

Perhaps the most interesting experiment involved 161 U.S. college students. From the press release:

After playing either a prosocial, violent, or neutral game, participants were asked to assign puzzles to a randomly selected partner. They could choose from puzzles that were easy, medium or hard to complete. Their partner could win $10 if they solved all the puzzles. Those who played a prosocial game were considerably more helpful than others, assigning more easy puzzles to their partners. And those who had played violent games were significantly more likely to assign the hardest puzzles.

 

18th June   

Update: NightStick...

High Court allows Times newspaper to identify policeman blogger
Link Here

Old BaileyThousands of bloggers could lose their cloak of anonymity after a landmark High Court ruling allowed the identification of a serving police officer who ran a controversial website.

Mr Justice Eady refused to grant an order to protect the anonymity of Richard Horton, the author of a blog called NightJack.

The 45-year-old detective constable with Lancashire Constabulary had sought an injunction to stop his name from being made public.

But the judge ruled that Mr Horton had no reasonable expectation' to anonymity because blogging is essentially a public rather than a private activity.

Horton's award-winning blog gave a behind-the-scenes insight into frontline policing, including strong views on social and political issues, including matters of public controversy.

The officer also criticised and ridiculed a number of senior politicians and advised members of the public under police investigation to complain about every officer... show no respect to the legal system or anybody working in it, the High Court heard.

Horton has now deleted his website and received a written warning from his force. He has received several offers to publish a book after using the success of the blog to attract a literary agent.

But in the wake of the interest in his site, The Times newspaper discovered his identity and sought to publish it.

Horton sought an injunction, but after today's refusal, was immediately identified on the Times' own website.

Horton's counsel, Hugh Tomlinson QC, had argued that internet bloggers' identities should be protected by the law of confidence, and an acknowledgement by the courts that improper disclosure of private information could be cause for action. He also submitted that there was a public interest in preserving the anonymity of bloggers.

 

18th June   

ASA See the Light...

Duffy Diet Coke advert cleared of unsafe cycling
Link Here

Duffy Diet Coke ad A TV ad for Diet Coke showed the singer Duffy coming off stage. An assistant handed her a can of Diet Coke and said You've got about two minutes okay? Duffy took a sip of coke, climbed onto a bicycle and cycled through the night along quiet streets and into a supermarket. As she cycled she sang, people she cycled past joined in the song. She returned to the concert in time to perform her encore. The on-screen text stated hello you.

Issues:

  1. 18 viewers challenged whether the ad could be seen to condone behaviour prejudicial to health and safety, because Duffy was not wearing reflective clothing and did not have lights on her bicycle.
  2. 4 viewers challenged whether the ad was irresponsible because it risked emulation by children.

ASA Decision: 1 & 2 Not Upheld

The ASA noted Coca-Cola and Clearcast's comments. Although the bike lights were not clearly visible in all shots of the bike, we considered that the transition from the concert, with the realistic sound of the crowd suddenly cut off as the cycling sequence began and replaced with a dreamy vocal track, set the cycling sequence apart from reality. Furthermore, we noted Duffy was shown cycling along empty roads and round a supermarket whilst performing her song, a scenario we considered most viewers would understand was unreal and fantastical. Because of the fantasy context, we concluded the ad did not condone behaviour prejudicial to health and safety.

We noted the ad had been given an ex-kids restriction, which meant it could not be shown immediately before, during, or immediately after childrens programs. We considered the style and treatment of the ad, with its muted tones and relatively long takes was unlikely to appeal to very young children, and older children would understand cycling round a supermarket was not a realistic situation. We concluded the ad was not irresponsible.

 

18th June   

Denying Deniers...

Campaign against holocaust denial groups on Facebook
Link Here

Facebook logoLast week's fatal shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in the US capital by a man authorities say has deep ties to white supremacist and neo-Nazi organisations has renewed calls by some for Holocaust denial groups to be shut down on popular social networking sites.

Brian Cuban, an attorney in Texas who writes a blog called The Cuban Revolution , is seeking to have groups such as Facebook's Holohoax and Holocaust: A Series of Lies removed from the site, calling them a hateful form of speech that promotes violence. It's not a historical theory .

Facebook, for its part, has said the existence of such groups, while repulsive and ignorant , does not violate the site's terms of service. Those terms disallow hateful and threatening speech, but officials say the Holocaust groups Cuban is seeking to have removed have not crossed that line. In some countries, Holocaust denial is a crime, though not in the US.

Just being offensive or objectionable doesn't get it taken off Facebook, Barry Schnitt, a Facebook spokesman, told CNN last month: We want it to be a place where people can discuss all kinds of ideas, including controversial ones.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish rights organisation, released a report last month titled Facebook, YouTube: How Social Media Outlets Impact Digital Terrorism and Hate , which said that the extremist use of such sites has grown. It documented a 25% increase in the past year of problematic groups on those sites.

Facebook has taken action in some cases. The site recently disabled the group I Hate Muslims in Oz because it contained an explicit statement of hate . It also removed a Ku Klux Klan group, a blog at CNET.com reported.

It's silly games with semantics, Cuban said in an interview. Because the site doesn't say ‘We hate Jews', and they call it Holocaust denial instead, that does not qualify it as a hate group. It's semantics. It's ignorant semantics and it's naive semantics.

The Holocaust denial groups are relatively small. Holocaust is a Myth listed 64 members on Friday, while Holohoax had 59. A counter-group that has sprung up, United Against Holocaust Denial on Facebook , has grown quickly to 49,000 members.

The Jewish internet Defense Force (JIDF), an online organisation that works to remove material from the internet that supports Islamic terrorism and racial hatred, has launched a letter-writing campaign to 20 companies, including Radio Shack, Sprint, AT&T and Microsoft, that it says advertise on Facebook side-by-side with material which denies the Holocaust. They are asking the companies to pull their ads.

 

18th June   

Silenced Voice...

Peru radio stations banned after coverage of rioting
Link Here

Peru flagReporters Without Borders has condemned as bogus and dishonest technical and official explanations given by Peru's Ministry of Transport and Communications for banning broadcasting by the radio station La Voz de Bagua Grande in the town of the same name in Peru's north-west.

The worldwide press freedom organisation called on the government, unhappy at the media's support for recent indigenous peoples' demonstrations, to respect rules for the station's approval including time limits fixed by itself.

The radio station's licence was cancelled by ministerial decree on 8 June, but since 13 March 2007 it has had a ten-year frequency concession. This agreement allowed La Voz de Bagua Grande a 12-month period for authorisation and installation.

The ministry had cited safety reasons on 31 December 2008 to cancel the frequency authorisation before the end of the probationary period.

In fact, La Voz de Bagua Grande has been in the government's sights since the clashes that shook the Amazon region at the start of June. At the height of the rioting, on 5 June, in which around 30 people died, the interior minister, Mercedes Cabanillas, publicly threatened to close the radio along with Radio Oriente , another station based in Yurimaguas, for their alleged support for violence against the security forces.

The closure of Radio Oriente following that of La Voz de Bagua Grande appears to provide extra evidence of a serious press freedom violation on the part of the government, Reporters Without Borders concluded.

 

17th June   

Update: Game Over for the BBFC...

VSC designated as UK's game censor overseeing self rating via PEGI classifications
Link Here  full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

VSC logoAn overhaul of video games classification rules will make selling a video game rated 12 or over to an underage person illegal for the first time, Creative Industries Minister Siôn Simon has announced.

The PEGI (Pan European Game Information) system, currently used in most European countries, will become the sole method of classifying video games in the UK. It will replace the current hybrid system that has BBFC & PEGI ratings, either of which can appear on video games, and is sufficiently adaptable to work in the rapidly expanding online games market.

There is a new role for the Video Standards Council (VSC), an organisation which is independent from the games industry and will take a statutory role as the designated authority for videogames classification in the UK. It will have a mandate to implement the PEGI classification system for all video games.

This new system will work alongside the robust regulation of Films and DVDs carried out by the British Board of Film Classification, to ensure that consumers have the strongest possible protection across these media. There is no intention to disturb BBFC's jurisdiction in respect of linear material. The BBFC will continue to provide Blu Ray distributors with a one-stop service as at present. It is important that the BBFC and the VSC work together to share best practice in a rapidly changing and demanding media landscape.

The Government will now work closely with PEGI and the VSC on the development of a single, clear set of age-rating symbols to give parents the information they need to ensure that children are protected from unsuitable content, and help retailers to avoid breaking the law by selling games to people below the appropriate age. The new system will consist of five age categories and a series of pictorial boxes, describing content such as bad language or violence.

Professor Tanya Byron said: The PEGI system has been strengthened since my review and the Government has consulted widely on each of my suggested criteria. I support the Government's decision to combine the PEGI system with UK statutory oversight.

The new system:

  • mirrors the way games are classified in much of Europe, which is increasingly important as more games are played online and across international borders
  • is designed with child-safety as its main priority
  • is highly adaptable and works well for games distributed both on and offline
  • includes tough sanctions for manufactures who flout the rules, for example by making a false declaration about a game's content. These include fines of up to 500,000 Euros and a refusal to classify.

The new system will extend PEGI's remit so that all games are classified using its symbols. Information on the content of each game will be submitted to PEGI administrators including the Video Standards Council, which will then review each game to ensure it complies with the law. Following this evaluation, the manufacturer receives a licence to use the PEGI rating logos. The VSC, as statutory authority, will take account of UK sensibilities, and will have the power to ban games that are inappropriate for release in the UK.

PEGI's code of conduct determines which age rating is appropriate for different types of content. The PEGI Advisory Board, which includes representatives of parent and consumer groups, child psychologists, media experts and lawyers, maintains the code and recommends adjustments in line with social, technological or legal developments.

Comment: BBFC Director David Cooke Responds

See article from bbfc.co.uk

We have argued consistently that any games classification system needs to put child protection at its heart. It must involve consultation with the British public, command their trust, and reflect their sensibilities. It must take account of tone and context and be carried out by skilled and knowledgeable examiners. It needs to involve the provision of full, helpful and carefully weighed information to parents and the public more generally. It must have the power and will to reject or intervene in relation to unacceptable games or game elements. It should make a substantial contribution to media education, for example through dedicated websites and through work with pupils, students and teachers. It must be speedy and cost effective. It must have the capabilities to monitor online gameplay and to attract new members to online classification schemes. And it must be independent in substance as well as appearance, reaching its decisions and providing information on the basis of its own detailed assessments.

The BBFC has always supported PEGI and wished it well, but it continues to believe that it satisfies these requirements better than PEGI. However, it will cooperate fully in the detailed work needed to give effect to the Government's decision.

 

17th June   

Update: Hurting Credibility...

I wonder if chiropractors can cure this with a back massage?
Link Here  full story: Simon Singh vs Chiropractors...Chiropractors take science sceptic to libel court

Sense about Science Re the petition:

We the undersigned believe that it is inappropriate to use the English libel laws to silence critical discussion of medical practice and scientific evidence.

Thanks to all your efforts, we are sending that statement again to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, but now with 10,000 signatures! And still they are pouring in. We've also had great comments, examples of similar cases, offers of help, and urgently needed donations for the campaign. Please keep them coming. We're working through offers of help and ideas as quickly as we can.

You can now buy Keep the Libel Laws out of Science T-shirts, mugs, bags, badges and caps online from Spreadshirt. The lovely logo is thanks to Hamish Symington, and thanks also to everyone else who offered design ideas. If you send us photos of you wearing them outside the Royal Courts of Justice, or similarly relevant venue, we'll put them up!

On the issue of chiropractic claims, some of you will have seen the cumulative effect of interest in the case on the blogosphere over this past weekend; hundreds of chiropractic websites were taken down following questions by bloggers and urgent instructions from chiropractic organisations to avoid breaking the rules on medical claims for chiropractic. 

A note from Simon Singh: I've met so many passionate, supportive people at talks I've given, most recently Skeptics in the Pub in Oxford and Cheltenham. The responses, with all the blogs and comments too, suggest this is a campaign gathering the momentum necessary to reform the libel laws. Please continue your support in any way you can, and tell others about it.

 

17th June   

Update: Reacting to Apple's Arbitrary Censorship...

Is it economically viable for the games industry to properly rate iPhone games
Link Here  full story: iPhone iCensor...Apple is censorial about apps for iPhone

ESRBThe recent discussion concerning the ESA's desire to have its rating organization, the ESRB, evaluate game content for the iTunes App Store brings a number of questions to mind:

Why?

Despite its present chaotic nature, the App Store is a rising star in the game space. Getting in on the ground floor would be a coup for the ESRB. Apple has a lot of money, too, and the ESRB is paid a fee by the developer/publisher for each game it rates.

ESRB is a non-profit organization funded by the revenue generated from the services we provide the industry. Given our highly discounted rate for lower-budget games, rating mobile games is not a financially attractive proposition; however we believe making ESRB ratings available for those games would serve consumers well. Parents are already familiar with ESRB ratings and find them to be extremely helpful in making informed choices for their families.

Apple's integration of ESRB ratings into its parental controls for iPhone games would afford parents the ability to block those video games that carry an ESRB rating utilizing the same tool they are being offered to block video content that has been rated by the MPAA or carries an official TV rating. It's about giving parents the same ability to do on the iPhone what they are being offered with other entertainment content and can already do on game consoles and other handheld game devices.

What would it cost?

I asked the ESRB what it costs a developer/publisher to have a typical console game rated? Would the cost to rate an iPhone game be less? Mizrachi said:

Our standard fees for getting a game rated cover the costs of providing that service. However, to make accommodations for lower-budget product like casual and mobile games, several years ago we introduced a highly discounted rate - 80% less - for games that cost under $250,000 to develop. We believe most iPhone games would likely be eligible for the discounted rate.

Who would pay for ESRB to rate App Store games?

Not the creators of $0.99 games, for the most part. They are apparently not making significant revenue. Apple has a deep pocket, of course, although they are not the creator of the games for sale on the App Store. Perhaps the larger industry players such as EA, Namco, etc. would foot the bill for their games. They are already accustomed to dealing with the ESRB.

 

17th June   

Update: Impasse Unblocked...

Blocked attempts not logged so German internet filtering now commands political support
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Germany...Germany considers state internet filtering

Germany flagPoliticians from the nation's two major parties agreed on a final version of Germany's internet filtering bill Monday night, reports Gigaom. The bill could now be approved as soon as Thursday.

Free-speech advocates, Internet activists and Internet service providers have opposed the bill and suggest denial-of-service blocking does not work, with concerns this will take the government into areas of greater Internet censorship.

Under the measure, German federal police would compile a block list containing the domain names and IP addresses of websites hosting and linking to child porn. ISPs would be required to block the sites and redirect all traffic to a site or sites hosting a warning message in the form of a red Stop sign.

An official online petition against the bill has received more than 130,000 signatures and counting, plus the number of citizens trying to sign the petition has reportedly brought down the parliament's Web infrastructure several times.

ISPs had voiced opposition to provisions in the measure that would mandate that they log each attempt to access a blocked site and share the information with law enforcement organizations. This would include anyone who might accidentally click on the wrong link, even if it was placed by a hacker. In turn, an innocent person could be labeled a pedophile, and with that possibility in mind, lawmakers removed that portion of the bill requiring ISP logs.

 

16th June   

Update: Freedom Taken for a Ride...

Utah public transport users to be fined for 'inappropriate' internet use
Link Here

Utah state sealPublic transport passengers now may face hefty fines for what Utah Transit Authority (UTA) calls inappropriate use of its free Wi-Fi service.

The UTA Board of Trustees approved an ordinance May 27 which targets people viewing pornography, gambling or gaming Web sites using UTA's Web service. Transit police can issue a $300 fine for the first violation and a $500 fine for repeat offenders.

UTA can impose fines for those visiting naughty Web sites while on the train. When it's in the presence of others it should have a certain amount of respect, one passenger told KSL. There are some people on the train who wouldn't want to be exposed to that type of thing, another said.

The new ordinance does not apply to riders using their own wireless card or viewing images they downloaded before they got on, but another ordinance does. People who violate the disorderly conduct ordinance face a $100 fine.

First Amendment lawyers question the policy, largely over what constitutes pornography.

UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter said, There is some question about the subjectivity of what's appropriate and what's inappropriate. He said the new ordinance allows for passengers to appeal a fine.

 

16th June   

Update: Tourism Down...

US law to ignore UK libel judgements passes first step
Link Here  full story: Libel Tourism...UK prosecutions of books published abroad

US SenateA bill in the US to stop libel tourism has been passed by the House Judiciary Committee, the first step to becoming law.

Sponsors of the bill say it has been designed as a way to protect US journalists from libel suits in foreign courts which do not have the same protections for free speech as the US constitution.

Libel tourism is a growing phenomenon, where people travel to the UK to sue for material which would be protected elsewhere.

Congressman Steve Cohen is one of the sponsors of the bill, which aims to prohibit recognition and enforcement of foreign defamation judgments. According to Cohen, who is chairman of the Commercial and Administrative Law Sub-committee, UK libel laws are stifling free speech. He said in a statement: Libel tourism threatens to undermine the principles of free speech because foreign courts often don't place as difficult a burden on plaintiffs in libel cases.

Press Gazette understands that the bill is expected to come up for a vote in the full House of Representatives on Monday. No amendments will be allowed and the bill will require a two-thirds majority rather than a simple majority in order to be passed. The bill would then need to be approved in the Senate.

 

16th June   

Update: Somalis Severely Punished...

Somalis banned from watching DVDs and films on TV
Link Here  full story: Sharia in Somalia...Somalia adopts sharia law

Somalia flagSharia: Where Government knows best meets Allah knows best. The lack of separation of religion and state and the lack of meaningful checks and balances, combined with a brutal set of laws and the presumption of divine endorsement for it all set the stage for a corrupt, capricious and vicious government. And governments like that issue decrees like this.

Islamists controlling southern Somaliia have banned watching DVDs or movies on television and said raids would be conducted to catch offenders, who would then be severely punished.

Watching films is totally banned even indoors, Sheikh Mowlid Ahmed, a security forces commander in the port city of Kismayo said in a statement: People are allowed to use their home televisions only to watch news on such channels such as Al-Jazeera . Raids will be carried out on homes of people suspected of illegally watching films and if found guilty, they will face punishment .

Residents say Islamist security forces in the town recently started inspecting mobile phones to prevent them from being used for watching movies.

The punishment normally meted out on offenders is flogging.

 

16th June   

Comment: Exempt from a Level Playing Field...

Micro-budget feature filmmakers stiffed by BBFC fee structure
Link Here  full story: Diary of a Bad Lad...What’s wrong with the British Film Industry

Exempt symbolsRecently I emailed the BBFC asking them why they were charging filmmakers for classifying purely factual DVD ‘extras' such as interviews with cast and crew, director's commentaries, and so on.

To: the BBFC

I am contacting you on behalf of New Wave North West, which has as its members most of the region's no/micro-budget feature filmmakers, for clarification when it comes to an ‘extras' DVD.

Under your explanation of the ‘E' classification and the 1984 act, a work is exempted if it is designed to inform, educate or instruct provided that there is no significant sexual or violent content.

From this it would appear that ‘extras' content, such as

  1. Interviews with cast and crew informing and educating the audience about the film and its production are exempt.
  2. A director or producer's commentary again informs and educates the viewer as is thus exempt.
  3. Such as deleted scenes when placed in the context of a ‘mini-documentary' in which the filmmakers explain the reasons why certain content ended up on the cutting room floor, is also exempt.

    But
     
  4. Deleted scenes and other similar material, if presented without a context which informs, educates and instructs, would not be exempt.

Is it correct then that, under the provisions of the act, only material such as that listed under 4 above is to be submitted? As you state:

Under the Video Recordings Act, the onus is on the distributor to decide whether or not a video work is an exempted work, and distributors have tended to put an ‘E' symbol on tapes as guidance to the public.

The Board does not examine exempted works and does not decide whether or not a work is exempt.

BBFC Reply: Up to You

BBFC logo Under the terms of the Video Recordings Act 1984, every video work, supplied on a video recording of any type (tape, disc, hard drive etc.), must be classified by the BBFC before it can be rented or sold legally in the UK, unless the work is exempt under Section 2 of the VRA. You can obtain a copy of the VRA from the Office of Public Sector Information.

The decision as to whether a work is exempt from classification is the responsibility of the video distributor. The BBFC's role is to classify works submitted to it; it cannot offer advice regarding the likelihood of a work being successfully claimed as exempt.

You should read the VRA and decide for yourself. You may find the BBFC's summary of the exemption terms helpful.

Comment: VRA weights classification process in favour of the major distributors

By Jonathan Williams

Exempt symbolsSo there you have it. It's nothing to do with us - you send it, we classify it - and if it actually doesn't need classifying we won't tell you because we don't make the decisions. Like I said, we classify...and we charge money.

If you click their 'exemptions link' it will tell you that the Video Recordings Act (1984) is policed by 'Trading Standards' (who have to find out that a video recording which transgresses the Act is being sold, seize it, track down who's responsible, press charges, etc).

My own suspicions are that the 1984 Act was a crass Mary Whitehouse/Daily Mail inspired response to 'video nasties' (or 'cult classics' as they are now called), is full of holes, completely out of date, and that the whole system remains in place largely on the basis of threats and bullying. It has not been challenged though as they essentially don't censor '18' material, so there is no outraged publisher prepared to mount a case in defence of D.H. Lawrence etc. No, in fact the major players like the system.

Comment: Justifying Censor's Jobs

16th June 2009. By Mark, see also Future Artists

Future Artists logo The more I look at where we are at, the more I realise is that everyone is just trying to justify their jobs,

if we didn't have a censorship board then our country would be seen to have no morals and be liberal, so we have to have one so we are seen to be in control, even though the agency pretty much is saying, do what you like, but if we find you and do not like then we will destroy you,

As Richard Branson said, screw it lets do it and as nike said 'just do it

great work Jon!

Follow Up: Video Recordings Act UK (1984), Exempt Material

21st June 2009. by Jon Williams. See article from jw48.wordpress.com

I posted the following on today's Shooting People.org bulletin. It questions whether this act, strangely passed in 1984…and amended in 1993&4, and therefore several years before the advent of the DVD, is being applied by the BBFC to DVD extras material which could well be exempt, or presented in a way which would make it so, under the terms of the act. But the draconian penalties, a maximum 2 years in prison and unlimited fines means that none of the small distributors are prepared to challenge the BBFC. But there is something we can all do.

...Read on at article

 

15th June   

Censorship Concern...

Christians concerned about censorship only when it suits them
Link Here

CCFON logoChristian Concern for our Nation is urging Christians to pray and act against a Bill passing through Parliament that could lead to the legalisation of assisted suicide and the removal of a free speech protection clause in relation to sexual orientation.

The Coroners and Justice Bill will be debated in the House of Lords on June 23 and may go to vote the following day.

Under current law, Christians have the right to discuss, criticise and urge abstinence from certain forms of sexual conduct.

CCFON has warned that if the Bill is passed, it will: open the door to police investigation of Christians for merely commenting on the Christian viewpoint on sexual conduct and thereby prohibit the preaching of the Gospel.

CCFON is urging Christians to sign its Life & Liberty, which will be delivered to the Queen, Prime Minister and Leader of the House of Lords. The petition asks them to protect the value of human life by opposing proposed amendments authorising state-sanctioned assisted suicide and to protect freedom of speech by retaining the free speech clause within the sexual orientation hatred offence.

CCFON is also inviting Christians to join in a prayer meeting in Westminster on June 22.

 

14th June   

Update: A Queer Message...

Bruno winds up the US gay lobby
Link Here  full story: Bruno...Supporting the hype for Bruno

Bruno film poster With impeccable timing, Sacha Baron Cohen has found a fresh collection of minority groups to take offence at his work.

A month before the release of his latest satirical movie, Bruno , the British comedian has provoked noisy complaints from America's gay rights lobby about the alleged excesses of his new alter ego: a flamboyantly homosexual fashion journalist from Austria called Bruno. The character, who spends the film wearing mesh vests, zebra-skin underwear and leather S&M gear, is supposed to send-up the ignorance and intolerance of real-life individuals he meets during a filmed journey across the US. However, he has instead been accused of promoting gay stereotypes.

Rashad Robinson, of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said: Sacha Baron Cohen's well-meaning attempt at satire is problematic in many places and outright offensive in others.

Ms Robinson is particularly troubled by a scene in which Bruno appears on a TV chat-show brandishing an adopted child dressed in a T-shirt with the logo "gay-by." He boasts to the seemingly-conservative studio audience that the infant is proving a highly-effective man magnet. Also near the knuckle are scenes in which Baron Cohen's character attempts to seduce the former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul (who storms out of the room muttering about queers ) and takes lessons in how to fight off predatory homosexuals from a martial arts instructor.

Gay rights groups are concerned that US audiences will fail to appreciate Baron Cohen's irony and instead leave the cinema with their homophobia reinforced. Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay lobbying organisation in the US, has even called for filmgoers to be instructed about the message they should draw from the film, which follows TV presenter Bruno's efforts to be cured of his homosexuality in order to re-launch his career.

Universal Pictures, which financed the project, issued a statement this week saying that Bruno uses provocative comedy to powerfully shed light on the absurdity of many kinds of intolerance and ignorance, including homophobia. By placing himself in radical and risky situations, Sacha Baron Cohen forces both the people Bruno meets and the audience itself to challenge their own stereotypes, preconceptions and discomforts. We believe the overwhelming majority of the audience will understand and appreciate the film's unarguably positive intentions.

 

14th June   

Update: Feminist Objects...

Object cover up lads' mags at WH Smith
Link Here  full story: Lads Mags...Blaming lads mags for all the world's ills

This is Sexist: covers for lads mags 12 activist objects and a photographer descended upon the two WH Smiths in London's Liverpool Street station on Friday to celebrate the third national Feminist Friday by covering the entire lads' mags displays with paper bags and slogans objecting to the sexist portrayal of women as objects.

Object said: The reception we received from customers in the two shops was really supportive, with one woman telling us that seeing younger women actively engaged in feminist activism and not passively accepting the sexist messages we see all around us had 'made her day'; a group of 14 year old girls really keen to discuss the impact of lads' mags on how girls and women are viewed and treated and wanting to get involved; and many other women and men signing our petition against lads' mags being sold as part of the mainstream media.

It was good fun and empowering - a great opportunity to take a stand against the pornification of culture and to say - women are human, stop treating us like objects!

 

14th June   

Update: From Human Rights Defenders to Human Rights Cases...

China bans human rights lawyers who defended christians
Link Here  full story: Christianity in China...Restricting Christianity

China Bible banLi Dunyong, one of several lawyers involved in the defense of Uyghur house church Christian Alimjan Yimit was effectively disbarred at the end of May when Chinese authorities turned down an annual application to renew his law license.

Zhang Kai, another Beijing lawyer who had defended Alimjan, suffered the same fate.

Authorities failed to renew licenses for at least 15 other lawyers who had defended civil rights cases, religious and ethnic minorities and political dissidents, according to watch group Human Rights in China (HRIC).

During a process of Annual Inspection and Registration for all lawyers and law firms, with a closing date of May 31 for renewal applications, authorities also denied three law firms the necessary approval to practice. Officials harassed and physically abused several of the affected lawyers in the months prior to the loss of their licenses.

The process of building a country ruled by law has suffered a serious setback, HRIC claimed in a statement on June 4.

The rejection of applications followed the Feb. 4 disappearance of Gao Zhisheng, a high-profile Christian human rights activist who once said that every human rights lawyer would eventually become a human rights case. Gao's whereabouts remained unknown at press time.

 

13th June   

Update: Cut Passed Uncut...

BBFC Passes Lars Von Trier's Antichrist 18 Uncut
Link Here  full story: Extreme Cuts...Lars Von Trier sexual violence causes a stir

Antichrist poster The BBFC has passed Lars Von Trier's latest film, Antichrist , ‘18' uncut. The film contains images of strong real sex, bloody violence and self mutilation. The BBFC Guidelines for ‘18' rated works state that the more explicit images of sexual activity will not be allowed unless they can be exceptionally justified by context and the work is not a ‘sex work' whose primary purpose is sexual arousal. For these purposes Antichrist is very clearly not a ‘sex work'. 

The film also contains some bloody and violent images, including a scene of genital mutilation. The Board knows of no research evidence which suggests that the viewing of this scene would raise a significant risk of harm to adult viewers or to society, or which would otherwise justify intervention. There is, therefore, no basis for an exception to the principle, repeatedly endorsed in public consultations, that adults should normally be free to choose what films to watch or not watch.

The film was seen by the Director, David Cooke, the President, Sir Quentin Thomas and Vice President, Gerard Lemos. David Cooke said:


"Antichrist deals with what happens to a couple after the death of their child, focussing on the psychological impact on them both. The film does not contain material which breaches the law or poses a significant harm risk to adults. The sexual imagery, while strong, is relatively brief, and the Board has since 1990 passed a number of works containing such images. This reflects the principle, strongly endorsed in a number of public consultations, that adults should be free to decide for themselves what to watch or what not to watch, provided it is neither illegal nor harmful.

"There is no doubt that some viewers will find the images disturbing and offensive, but the BBFC's Consumer Advice provides a clear warning to enable individuals to make an informed viewing choice. And this is now backed up by detailed Extended Consumer Advice on our website".

See also Extended Classification Information from bbfc.co.uk :

18 certAntichrist is an English language drama from director Lars von Trier. It tells the story of a couple trying to come to terms with the death of their young son. After the mother experiences a mental breakdown, they retreat to an isolated cabin in the woods where the child's father, a therapist, hopes to help the mother to confront her fears. The film was classified '18' for strong real sex, bloody violence and self-mutilation.

At '18', the BBFC's Guidelines state that the more explicit images of sexual activity are unlikely to be permitted unless they can be exceptionally justified by context and the work is not a 'sex work'. A 'sex work' is defined as a work whose 'primary purpose is sexual arousal or stimulation'. It is clear that ANTICHRIST is not a 'sex work' but a serious drama exploring issues such as grief, loss, guilt and fear. The brief images of explicit real sex (sight of a penis penetrating a vagina during a consensual sex scene and sight of the man's penis being masturbated to climax) are exceptionally justified, in this context, by the manner in which they illustrate the film's themes and the nature of the couple's relationship. Their relationship is depicted throughout in a graphic and unflinching fashion, both psychologically and physically. The BBFC has permitted comparable explicit images in a number of previous features at the '18' level (eg L'EMPIRE DES SENS, 9 SONGS, SHORTBUS and Lars von Trier's earlier film, THE IDIOTS) where it has been clear that the purpose of the work - and the individual images in question - is not simply to arouse viewers but to illustrate characters, relationships and themes.

ANTICHRIST also contains two scenes showing violence towards genitals or genital mutilation. In one case, the man's genitals are hit heavily (although this is not shown on screen), resulting in sight of blood in his semen when he ejaculates. In the other case, the distraught woman cuts off her own clitoris using a pair of scissors. This act of self-mutilation is shown in close up, although the image is only on screen for a few seconds. The shot in question exceeds the BBFC's Guidelines at '15', where 'the strongest gory images are unlikely to be acceptable' and where 'violence may be strong but may not dwell on the infliction of pain or injury'. Even at '18' the BBFC recognises that the scene will be shocking and offensive to some viewers. However, the Board is aware of no evidence to suggest that the viewing of this scene is likely to be harmful to adults. The scene is not presented in an eroticised or attractive manner and is not likely to encourage emulation or arousal. Accordingly, the scene is acceptable at '18' where, in line with the consistent findings of the BBFC's public consultations, the BBFC's Guideline concerns will not normally override the wish that adults should be free to chose their own entertainment, within the law.

The film contains other examples of strong violence, including a scene in which the woman drills a hole through the man's leg with a bit and brace before bolting a large grindstone to the injured limb. Once again, although the scene exceeds the rubric of the '15' Guidelines, it was not felt to be harmful to adult viewers. The film also contains scenes of strong simulated sex, including female masturbation. These scenes exceed the '15' Guideline test that 'Sexual activity may be portrayed but without strong detail' but are acceptable at the '18' level.

Antichrist also includes a single use of strong language.

 

13th June   

Play Group...

MPs for group to discuss video game issues
Link Here

Tiga logoA group of cross-party politicians has been brought together to raise and discuss issues related to the UK videogame industry.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group will be chaired by Labour MP Bill Olner, with vice chairman roles being filled by film maker and politician Lord David Puttnam, Conservative MP John Whittingdale, who is also chairman of the House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, and Conservative MP Philip Davies.

UK trade group Tiga will provide the secretariat to the group, helping to administer it and arrange meetings, but was also instrumental to initiating its establishment.

Olner, Whittingdale and Tiga CEO Richard Wilson, will be speaking at the House Of Commons on Monday for the launch of the Play Together initiative.

 

13th June   

Diary: The Art of the Nasty Film Festival...

Book launch and one day film festival
Link Here

The Art of the Nasty book Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, London
Saturday 11 July 2009, from 11am till 11pm
Tickets are priced at £25 in advance.

The Art of the Nasty is the most comprehensive collection of video nasty and pre-certificate video sleeves ever reproduced in one volume.

Now fully revised and updated, this brand new FAB Press edition has more than 100 new video nasty sleeves, which were not included in the original pressing, to increase the total number of videos covered in the book to almost 450. In addition, the text has been thoroughly revised and updated to reflect the knowledge gained about this era in the intervening 10 years since the book was first published. And this time the book is being published in hardback format to ensure its long-lasting durability.

The Art of the Nasty explains and conveys the media furore, fear and the rush for political legislation that greeted the arrival of uncensored horror films on video in the UK. The hysteria was generated and fuelled as much by the sleeves and marketing as by the films themselves. In fact, many of the biggest critics of the 'nasties' only ever saw the sleeves. Some of the early video sleeves are indeed an unbelievably bold and over-the-top mixture of outrageous graphics and in-your-face visual shock tactics, guaranteed to offend.

The Art of the Nasty book-launch and all-day film festival has been organised to mark the passing of 25 years since the introduction of the Video Recordings Act and the end of the pre-certification era for home video in the UK.

Five horror and exploitation films from the pre-cert era, all specially chosen for their rarity, and all screened from original release film prints in 35mm or 16mm, along with the UK PREMIERE of an outrageous brand new horror film that perfectly captures the spirit of the video nasty era.

The full line-up:

  • TAKE AN EASY RIDE and THE BRUTE (double-bill),
  • DEATH WEEKEND,
  • SATAN'S SLAVE (uncut export version),
  • EQUINOX
  • BLACK DEVIL DOLL!

Enjoy a shock-filled day out with your friends in London's most hospitable venue, with its bar and restaurant terrace overlooking the River Thames!

 

13th June   

Searching for Hassle...

Microsoft unveil new search engine for websites, images and video
Link Here

bing logo Bing, Microsoft's new search engine, has caused controversy by allowing users to see porn videos without leaving the site, once safety controls are turned off.

The site became available to users, two days ahead of its official roll out date on June 3. One of its defining features is the functionality which enables it to auto-play videos in search results, when users hover the mouse above the stills. By typing in words with sexual connotations, once the safety search setting is off, Bing users can access porn films and other similarly explicit material, within the site. Other search engines, such as Google, do not play the videos within their sites, but provide links to external sites.

The ‘safe search' is on by default, however anyone can turn it off with two clicks and self certified age verification.

Last week Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive unveiled Bing at the All Things Digital conference in San Diego, as a replacement for its current search engine, Live Search.

The new search engine aims to better understand what users are looking for, and therefore displays fewer results in certain circumstances. A search for the website Facebook, for instance, would bring up just one result linking to the site itself, with the option of displaying further results about the site.

Update: Hint: Select a Free Country in the Country Location set up

4th June 2009.  Based on article from business.rediff.com

Bing.com, Microsoft's new search engine and much ballyhooed answer to Google, seems to have a neurotic attitude towards pornography.

While users in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia can search for sexually explicit material within the search page itself, Bing.com is automatically set-up to censor searches from Thailand and other censorial countries.

Other countries to get this censorship treatment are Middle East nations, China, Germany Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Turkey.

Searches from within Thaialnd for the term 'sex', along with other sex-related terms, return the following result: THE SEARCH SEX MAY RETURN SEXUALLY EXPLICIT CONTENT. To get results, change your search terms. No results are listed. There is no safe search' option where users can toggle on/off this automatic censorship.

However, it's been discovered that if users change their country location setting to an uncensored country, say the US, full results will be displayed, provided the user then turns off safe search.

Update: Microsoft rearrange Bing.com to allow easier blocking

13th June 2009.  Based on article from news.cnet.com

After plenty of coverage about how its Bing search engine makes it all too easy for kids to find and view porn, Microsoft has made some changes that will make it easier for parents, companies or states to block or monitor what people are viewing on the site.

In a blog post, Microsoft announced that it is making two changes the company thinks will help address the issue.

According to the post, explicit images and video content will now be coming from a separate single domain, explicit.bing.net. This is invisible to the end customer, but allows for filtering of that content by domain, which makes it much easier for customers at all levels to block this content regardless of what the SafeSearch settings might be.

With this change, parents should be able to use parental control tools to block that domain and therefore block the images and videos. Almost all third-party filtering tools can be configured to block specific domains or sites, as can the parental controls in Microsoft Vista and Mac OS X.

Microsoft will also return the "source URL" information of specific images and videos, so if a filtering program blocks that site, it will prevent the video or image from being viewed within Bing. For example, if there is a video playing at Playboy.com, a filtering program that blocks Playboy would also prevent someone from viewing the content from inside Bing.

In an e-mail, Microsoft spokesman David Burt said the company has reached out to more than 25 filtering and security vendors to work with them to provide a solution for filtering explicit content while using Bing.

 

13th June   

Dangerous Comic Books...

Singapore jails couple for seditious or objectionable comics
Link Here

Who is Allah booklet A Singapore court has sentenced a Christian couple to eight weeks in jail each for distributing seditious or objectionable publications to Muslims, a media report said.

Ong Kian Cheong and his wife, Dorothy Chan Hien Leng had distributed two booklets by US publisher and comic author Jack Chick, which, according to the judge, could spark ill-will or hostility between Christians and Muslims in Singapore.

The pair claimed ignorance in their defence, saying they did not know the contents of the booklets and had no reason to believe they had a seditious tendency.

In 2007, the Protestant couple mailed Jack Chick's controversial booklets titled The Little Bride and Who is Allah? to three Muslims who complained to the police. Both publications are supposedly critical of Islam. When the couple were arrested in January last year, police seized more than 400 copies of 11 reportedly seditious comics from their home, the report said.

As a multi-racial city state, Singapore clamps down on anyone who is seen to incite tensions in the community.

 

13th June   

Banned Tunes...

Zimbabwe musician banned from radio after criticising Zanu-PF
Link Here

Chipanga CDThe music of Sungura musician Hosiah Chipanga has been banned on national radio, Radio Zimbabwe, wrote the newspaper ZimDaily.

When Hosiah Chipanga released the controversial album Hero Shoko , his songs quickly hit the airwaves. But after a little while, and after a surprise song on President Mugabe's birthday exposed top Zanu-PF official's corrupt activities, the album was blacklisted and pulled off air

His new and 20th album is laden with messages that attack the Zanu-PF regime.

 

12th June   

Update: Rated S for Suspense...

Government to announce computer game censorship scheme in Digital Britain report
Link Here  full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

Digital Britain ReportLabour will announce the new industry standard age classification system on Tuesday next week (June 16th) as part of its Digital Britain report, MCV reveals.

The news comes 12 months after the publication of the Government's Byron Review, which recommended the introduction of one clear age ratings system, falling on the side of ‘cinema-style' classification.

However, a year of consultation with industry followed, in which publishers and ELSPA made their support for a PEGI-led system very clear, rather than the DVD-style BBFC ratings.

 

12th June   

Comment: Cover Charge...

The BBFC, even more money for nothing!
Link Here  full story: Diary of a Bad Lad...What’s wrong with the British Film Industry

Diary of a Bad Lad From What's wrong with the British Film Industry, a series of articles and polemics by Jonathan Williams, one-time media academic and the writer/producer of Diary of a Bad Lad :

Interesting what you find you, isn't it. Having had to fork out more than £700 to the BBFC, and having signed and returned the form saying that I accepted the ‘18' rating and the ‘consumer advice' saying: contains strong sex, sexual violence and very strong language, they seemed to be taking a very long time in issuing the final certificate; so I contacted them to find out what was going on.

Back came the reply that I had to submit the packaging, to send them three copies of the DVD cover artwork which they would have to pass, and they sent me a link so that I could download the submission form.

Hang on, I thought: What's all this, you don't have to submit covers of books to anyone? Ah, yes, but as they explained, this was completely voluntary. I didn't actually have to submit anything, I just had to tell them I wasn't and they'd issue the certificate.
But they also informed me that:

You should be aware, however, that by opting out of this scheme, which is registered as a Restrictive Trade Practice acceptable to the Office of Fair Trading, the product of your company may be refused handling by wholesalers and/or retailers who are members of the Video Standards Council (VSC).

So there you have it. You send them the artwork, they look at it, they say: That's OK, here's your certificate, and you can now go ahead and add a VSC logo to the cover as well.

And then they ring you up and say: That'll be £41.28. Do you want to pay by credit card?

What?! More than £700 so that someone can take your film home and spend 90 minutes watching it is bad enough. But over £40 to look at your cover as part of what they call a voluntary scheme, but one which, if you don't comply with it, means that the main retailers and renters won't handle your film! This isn't a voluntary scheme, it's a government sanctioned protection racket!

 

12th June   

Economic Censorship...

New Zealand censorship fees deter releases of niche market titles
Link Here  full story: Christianity in China...Restricting Christianity

L Word DVD A New Zealand film and television classification laws are being brought into question with many businesses calling them outdated and prohibitive.

Every film or television show that comes to New Zealand cinemas, video stores or retail outlets has to be rated. New Zealand adopts or cross-rates G, PG and M ratings from Australia and Britain but 15 and 18 rated films must be classified by New Zealand censors.

Video store owner Andrew Armitage says businesses just want fairness with classification laws: We're not asking for a relaxation of classification or censorship we just want fairness restored because it is too often prohibitive . Armitage wants to see the threshold raised for the 15 plus age group.

Chief Censor Bill Hastings says they have been warned against such a move. The Australian New Zealand trans-Tasman Recognition Committee has decided that there are sufficient differences between Australia and New Zealand culture and law, that they recommended against creating a single market.

For example five seasons of the television show The L Word would have cost distributors $17,600 to be processed. Armitage says such price tags are a huge deterrent: Anything that has this red sticker on it has to go through the classification process, so that's $1100 worth of classification costs right there .

Hastings says the fees have remained the same for 13 years despite inflation, making them a bargain: Our classification fees are extremely competitive with Australia classification fees which range from $500 AUD to $5000 AUD. The Chief Censor can also grant fee waivers dropping that cost to $275 each, a reduction automatically given to film festival movies.

International film festival director Bill Gosden says costs are still high despite the waiver: Although we do receive a concession rate, a fee waiver from the classification office, we still spent in excess of $30,000 last year in film censorship . Because so many titles are unavailable locally and legitimately consumers are finding other ways to access them, which retailers say not only affects business, but can also lead to illegal purchase and distribution.

 

12th June   

L'Essentiel Censorship...

L'Essentiel monthly magazine banned in Senegal
Link Here

L'Essential logoA court in Dakar, capital of Senegal, on June 3, 2009 suspended the circulation of June 2009 edition of L'Essentiel , a monthly current affairs magazine and ordered its seizure over headlines on the cover-page that the court claimed were an insult to President Abdoulaye Wade.

According to the presiding magistrate the headlines: Freemasonry: The Grand Lodge of France Conquers Senegal , Nine years after change, the state explodes, The Mourides are in control and Touba in suffering, were not only insulting to President Wade but also likely to disturb public order.

Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)'s correspondent reported that the court said its decision was based on Article 820-1 of the county's rules of civil procedure, which allows for the outright suspension” of any publication that has the tendency to “disturb public peace.

 

11th June   

Antisocial Whingers...

Adidas House Party cleared of antisocial claims
Link Here

Adidas ad A TV ad featured numerous celebrities and young people at a house party.

The opening scene showed a hand picking up a spray can and a young man on a scooter in front of a large mural. Other young people riding scooters and a skateboard were featured. A light then fell to the ground and smashed near some spray cans and a firework went off in the background. The ad showed a party scene inside a house, with the crowd dancing and jumping, and with several shots of well-known musicians and athletes at the party, such as Estelle, Katy Perry, Missy Elliot and David Beckham. Katie White, singer with the Ting Tings, was shown painting on a wall with her hands. Other party scenes showed people DJing and singing, dancing and jumping on furniture, a poker game, a couple falling into a bath, a man whose mouth was being blown open with a leaf blower, girls gesturing and posing, and a man very close to a firework going off. The final scene showed a man jumping in a swimming pool fully-clothed and swimming underwater with several other clothed party goers. On-screen text stated Celebrate originality and showed the Adidas logo.

One viewer objected that the ad condoned and promoted antisocial activities such as spray painting graffiti and dangerous driving on scooters, particularly because it featured celebrities.

Adidas said that they did not believe the ad promoted or encouraged dangerous driving on scooters; the scooter drivers were all wearing helmets and they were driving safely. They felt the ad promoted social activities and inclusion and that celebrities and ordinary people were celebrating together throughout the ad, in a safe, respectful and inspirational way. They said the ad was simply a portrayal of people having fun at a party and they had ensured that no one at the party appeared to be out of control. They said that the ad had a broadcast restriction and was not shown during or immediately after children's programmes.

Clearcast said they wholly endorsed the advertisers opinion and that nobody was seen spraying graffiti. They added that the mural was shown to be artwork commissioned to celebrate 60 years of Adidas rather than a random act of vandalism. They said the scooter driving was safe, with all riders wearing helmets, adhering to the highway code, and with no other vehicles around. They said no celebrities were depicted condoning or endorsing antisocial behaviour, nor behaving in an antisocial way. They pointed out that there was one complaint and, as such, did not believe the ad would cause widespread offence.

ASA Assessment: Not upheld

The ASA noted that the ad did not show people in the act of spray painting graffiti and that the hand painting on the wall at the party was not on a public building, but in a private residence. We considered that, although the featured mural used graffiti-style art, it was not likely to be interpreted as being the result of an act of vandalism.

We noted that the scooter riders wore helmets and did not appear to break the Highway Code. We considered that the party-goers, whether celebrities or not, were shown enjoying themselves at a party and did not consider they were behaving in a particularly irresponsible manner. We considered that the general atmosphere was congenial and fun, without being excessive, and did not consider that the party activities depicted in the ad were likely to encourage dangerous or antisocial behaviour.

While we acknowledged that some activities might not be appropriate for younger children, we noted that the ad had been given an ex-kids scheduling restriction, which meant it could not be shown immediately before, during, or after children's programs, and considered that reduced the number of unaccompanied children who might see the ad.

 

11th June   

Updated: The Nasty Paranormal...

Video nasty Prisoner of the Cannibal God on TV
Link Here

Mountain of the Cannibal God DVD The Paranormal Channel on UK Sky Digital (Channel 201) is going to be showing the video nasty The Mountain of the Cannibal God (aka Prisoner of the Cannibal God ) in the next week!

It will be shown on Saturday 13th June at 10pm, and then repeated several times throughout the rest of the month.

Other hopefully uncut features showing in June, include:

- DEMONS
- DEMONS 2
- THE CORPSE-GRINDERS
- THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA
- ASYLUM (1972 Roy Ward Baker version)
- NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR

Update: Slaves

10th June 2009. Thanks to a Melon Farming reader

The Sky Electronic Programme Guide has this listed under the title Slave of the Cannibal God . That would suggest it is the cut US version missing an explicit castration scene.

Update: Diamond Version

11th June 2009. Thanks to Dark Angel

Actually Slave of the Cannibal God has been shown several times on that channel over the last year or so.

The print they show is indeed mostly uncut. It's of the theatrical version, so it misses out the "orgy" scene that was included in the extended versions released by Anchor Bay and Blue Underground.

However, all the scenes cut by the BBFC are intact, including the animal violence. Though it misses out the castration scene.

It appears to be the same slightly cut print that grey market label "Diamond DVD" were releasing in the US a few years ago

 

11th June   

Update: Repression of Biblical Proportions...

Chinese man jailed for 3 years for distributing free Bibles
Link Here  full story: Christianity in China...Restricting Christianity

China Bible banA Beijing court has found Christian bookstore owner Shi Weihan guilty of illegal business operation and sentenced him to three years in prison and a 150,000 yuan (US$21,975) fine.

Sources said Shi's store operated legally and sold only books for which he had obtained government permission, and that his Holy Spirit Trading Co. printed Bibles and Christian literature without authorization but only for free distribution to local house churches.

Others in a printing company who stood trial with Shi appeared to have received similar sentences. A written judgment is expected within 15 days to allow time for an appeal to be filed, said Ray Sharpe, a friend of Shi.

Chinese officials claim that the Nanjing Amity Printing Co. (Amity Press), the only government-approved Bible publisher, produces enough Bibles to meet the needs of the Chinese church, which various religious freedom organizations dispute. The groups complain that Amity prints a large share of its Bibles for export, and those sold domestically are not available to many Christians.

 

11th June   

Update: Banner Headlines...

Iranian newspapers banned before election day
Link Here  full story: Press Freedom in Iran...As if there were any

Etemad e Melli logoTwo major reformist newspapers have been shut down before Friday's election.

All copies of newspaper Etemad Meli have been seized by the government after reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi made allegations that President Ahmadinejad was involved in several financial scandals. Additionally, the unofficial newspaper of the Islamic Iran Participation Party, Yas-e No , has been shut down.


Hossein Bastani, an Iranian dissident journalist living in France claimed that other reformist newspapers were issued a gag order 96 hours before the election.

With the widespread use of new media among Iranian youth, Bastani believes that dissenting bloggers are more at risk than journalists because of their relative obscurity.

Reformist campaigner Ghomar Asheghaneh recently reported that renowned Iranian blogger Ali Kalai, reported missing a month ago, is in jail.

Bastami fears that while the Iranian government will often withhold from torturing famous journalists because of the public's reaction, young bloggers are prone to much harsher treatment.

 

11th June   

Limited Pride...

China restricts its first mainland gay pride event
Link Here  full story: Book Censorship in Thailand...Suggestions that novels should be censored

The Laramie Project DVD Chinese officials are taking steps to censor parts of China's first Gay Pride, the BBC reported.

Shanghai Pride is mainland China's first large-scale Gay Pride celebration but it does not include a march or parade. Instead organizers are holding a series of cultural events to take place at privately-owned venues.

But that's not stopping the Chinese government from banning certain events. Officials have ordered certain owners to cancel events or face severe consequences.

At ShanghaiPride.com, the event's official website, a blog post simply titled Sorry alerts readers that the film screening of the lesbian-themed Lost in You has been canceled.

The BBC reports that a second event appears to be in trouble. Officials have targeted the staging of T he Laramie Project for closure. The play reconstructs the gruesome 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, the University of Wyoming student beaten, shackled to a post and left to die in a field by two men he had met in a gay bar.

Other events to be held throughout the week, art exhibits, food events and panel discussions, appear to remain on track. The official Gay Pride party takes place Saturday, June 13.

 

11th June   

Turkishness?...

Turkish author covering Dinks murder faces longer prison term than murderer
Link Here

Hrant DinkNedim Sener who has written a book about the murder of journalist Hrant Dink, faces prison after police officers filed complaints against him.

Sener's book is entitled, The Dink Murder and Intelligence Lies. The book deals with the gendarmerie, police and national intelligence officers who have been accused of negligence in the 2007 murder of Dink. They are accused both of having prior knowledge of the murder plans and of preventing the solving of the case with misleading evidence and fake documents.

Sener has said, I published the incidents of negligence of these three important state intelligence institutions in the Dink murder case, giving names. I have proven that fake documents were prepared. Documents marked as classified and containing lies were published in the book.

Following the publication of the book, several police officers filed criminal complaints against the writer. The officers demanded that Sener be tried under the Anti-Terrorism Law.

All in all, Sener faces up to 28 years in prison. He stands accused of targeting people involved in anti-terrorism campaigns, revealing classified information, obtaining classified information, violating the secrecy of these communications, and attempting to influence the judiciary.

The 28 years that Sener faces represent eight years more than Samast, who is being tried for shooting Dink, faces.

 

11th June   

In Context...

Ofcom allows taunting of transsexual character in Moving Wallpaper
Link Here

Moving Wallpaper DVD Moving Wallpaper
ITV1, 20 March 2009, 21:00 


Moving Wallpaper is a satirical comedy drama set in a television production office run by an egotistical and maverick producer called Jonathan Pope. This second series featured Jonathan working under great pressure to deliver a hit programme after the failure of his previous production Echo Beach , which was featured in the first series.

Ofcom received 100 complaints about an episode which featured a transsexual character called Georgina, whom Jonathan brought in for her track record in writing successful TV drama. The hiring of Georgina resulted in anger from the in-house writing team who felt sidelined by her appointment and consequently went on strike. During the episode Georgina experienced bigoted treatment from other characters, including Jonathan and some of his production team.

The complainants expressed concern that this storyline was offensive and encouraged transphobic bullying and discrimination against transsexuals in the workplace.

Ofcom Decision: Not in Breach of Rule 2.3

Satirical programmes, such as Moving Wallpaper , often derive humour from exaggerating a situation or attitude to the point of absurdity and Ofcom acknowledges that this may cause offence to individuals. Potentially offensive material may, however, be broadcast provided it complies with the Code.

Rule 2.3 states that broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context. Context includes, but is not limited to: the editorial content of the programme; the service on which the material is broadcast; the degree of offence likely to be caused; and the likely expectation of the audience.

Ofcom recognises the concerns generated by the treatment of the transgender character Georgina in this episode of the comedy drama. In Ofcom's view, references such as a cock in a frock , trannies , he/she , not natural and the overall discriminatory attitude demonstrated by Jonathan and some of his production team towards Georgina certainly had the potential to cause offence. This offence was clearly reflected in the strength of the many complaints received by Ofcom, some of which were from the transgender community.

However, it is important to note that the Code does not simply prohibit the broadcast of potentially offensive material. Rather, Rule 2.3 means that such material may be broadcast, if its inclusion is justified by context so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public.

In terms of assessing the context Ofcom firstly reviewed the editorial content of this popular comedy drama. First, it should be noted that this programme was a drama, with fictional characters and set in a fictional television environment. This was the second series of Moving Wallpaper and the chauvinistic and narcissistic character of Jonathan Pope was already well established from series one. In the opening scenes of this particular episode, before Jonathan meets Georgina, he talks about George as the new writer coming in who has a strong track record in writing hit television drama scripts. He demonstrates he has no qualms in undermining his existing scriptwriters by bringing in someone over their heads to avoid another television flop.

In Ofcom's view it was therefore part of the characterisation of Jonathan to react negatively to Georgina from the point at which he meets her and realises she is a transsexual, even though it is the same writer Jonathan had previously praised for her extensive experience. Members of the production team also made negative references to Georgina's sexuality. Their motives however were less obvious: one stated he was “just jealous” of her long list of writing credits, and another stated that her attitude was not related to Georgina's gender but the way in which Jonathan had brought her in without consulting the team.

In contrast, throughout the programme, Georgina is not presented in a negative or stereotypical way. She has strong morals and is very professional, refusing for example to bow to the pressure Jonathan puts her under to turn around a script quickly and to re-use storylines simply to salvage his own reputation.

It is Ofcom's view that the intention of the humour in this episode was to illustrate the crass and prejudiced character of Jonathan, rather than to ridicule a transsexual character. Georgina is given her opportunity to tell Jonathan what she thinks of him at the end of the programme, referring to him as incompetent, sexist, offensive and talentless.

Although Ofcom appreciates this programme caused offence to some individuals, its intention was to draw out the characters, in the programme, in a manner which was both absurd and satirical. The reactions of the production team to the character of Georgina were a key part of the storyline (i.e. this is how certain individuals reacted to her) and therefore editorially justified. The programme did not condone or encourage such negative attitudes to transsexuals. The broadcaster met generally accepted standards given the specific context of a satirical drama. Therefore Rule 2.3 of the Code was not breached.

 

11th June   

Update: Jihard Against Censors...

Civil liberties group in court challenge against town who used building regs for censorship
Link Here

Wafaa Bilal animationThe New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the city of Troy, New York and its Public Works Commissioner suppressed free speech by shutting down a controversial video game exhibit in March, 2008.

Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal via his Virtual Jihadi exhibit employed a modded PC game which included a mission to blow up then-President George W. Bush. Bilal said that the exhibit was intended to express his view that US policy in Iraq helped create terrorists.

Bilal was offered space to display Virtual Jihadi at the Sanctuary for Independent Media.

The gallery, however, was suddenly shut down for building code violations by Troy's Public Works Commissioner, Robert Mirch. Mirch, who is named as a defendant in the suit, had earlier led a demonstration protesting the exhibit. He called the suit politically motivated.

The Albany Times-Union commented: City officials cannot selectively enforce building codes to shut down an art exhibition they find distasteful. Mr. Mirch abused his authority to suppress the free speech rights of people he disagree with, an unconstitutional act that must be challenged.

According to the Times-Union report, the NYCLU seeks a court order to block the city from using its building code to infringe on civil rights. The suit also seeks damages on behalf of the non-profit which owns the Sanctuary for Independent Media as well as for the gallery's executive director.

 

10th June   

Censors Unrated...

Sweden looks to allow an 'unrated' opt out of film censorship
Link Here  full story: Film Censorship in Sweden...Looking to end mandatory state film censorship

SBB logoAfter nearly 100 years, Sweden may finally be poised to shutter the agency charged with censoring films deemed unsuitable for adult audiences.

The planned dissolution of Sweden's film censorship agency, Statens biografbyrå (SBB), means that Swedish filmgoers aged 15 and older will no longer have to wonder whether or not a particular film has been censored by the state.

The proposal comes as a part of the findings of a government-mandated inquiry into how to update laws governing how films are reviewed, including how to protect young people from media featuring content seen as harmful to minors.

Since 1911, SBB has been charged with reviewing and, when necessary, censoring films. But technological changes as well as a proliferation of other outlets through which films can be viewed means that the agency only reviews a small portion of the content viewed by Swedish cinephiles.

According to current regulations, SBB can censor any film which depicts events in such a manner and in such a context as to have a brutalizing effect and is judged to have explicit or protracted scenes of severe violence to people or animals or depicts sexual violence or coercion or presents children in pornographic situations.

But the agency rarely exercises its power to cut scenes from films, or orders a film banned altogether.

The Local reported in 2007 that the board last cut scenes from a non-pornographic film in 1996, when three scenes were removed from Martin Scorcese's gangster movie Casino , despite protests from the director.

As an alternative, the inquiry proposed that a new media agency be created to replace both the SBB and the Swedish Media Council (Mediarådet), another state agency aimed at reducing the risk of harmful effects on children and young people of certain media content.

The new agency won't be so judicial, but rather a contact body with information; to help children learn to understand the media, to have a more critical eye, said inquiry head Marianne Eliason to the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

The new agency will also assume SBB's current duties of managing the four levels of age restrictions for films in Sweden (all ages, 7+, 11+, 15+). Moreover, the new agency will no longer employ censors , but instead will include a team of film examiners tasked with determining the appropriate age restriction for a given film, rather than censoring it.

The inquiry also proposes that film companies be allowed to submit their films for review by the new agency voluntarily. However, films not reviewed by the new agency would automatically be classified as only appropriate for viewers 15 years and older.

Since implementation of the inquiry's findings will likely require a change to Sweden's constitution, Eliason doesn't expect the new system to be in place before 2011.

Comment: But...

On the surface this might sound good but...

This is what they'll scrap:

Compulsory examination

The content of films or pre-recorded video recordings (videograms) shall be examined and approved by the National Board of Film Censors prior to showing at a public gathering or entertainment.

This will remain:

Swedish Code of Statutes (SFS): SFS 1990:894, Published on September 4, 1990
Chapter 16: On Crimes against Public Order

Section 10 b Any person who in a still picture or in a film, in a video recording, a television programme or other moving pictures depicts sexual violence or coercion with the intention that the picture or pictures be spread or spreads such depiction, shall be convicted, except that the criminal act in view of the circumstances be defensible, and sentenced for unlawful depiction of violence to a fine or imprisonment for a maximum period of two years. And the same shall apply to any person who in moving pictures explicitly or extensively depicts extreme violence towards humans or animals with the intention that the pictures be spread or spreads such depiction.
A person who negligently distributes material as referred to in subsection (1) shall, if such distribution takes place in the course of business or otherwise for gain, be liable to the penalty laid down in subsection (1)

 

10th June   

Nice People Don't Censor...

Advertising company accused of censorship over campaign by Release
Link Here

Nice People Take Drugs adThe charity Release specialises in drugs and drugs law and has over 40 years experience defending the rights of drug users.

Release have lawyers, policy advocates and drugs experts working full time to move our society towards a more sensible approach to managing drugs.

They are trying to get the message across that drug laws unnecessarily target ordinary people noting that:

  • Over a third of adults in England & Wales have used illicit drugs
  • More people have used cannabis than voted for Labour at the last election
  • 13,000 children were arrested for drug offences in 2006/07
  • Over 1 million adults used class A drugs last year

The chief executive of Release has accused an advertising company of censorship after the body's ad campaign was withdrawn from London buses.

Release said it has been told its campaign, which incorporates posters on the sides of buses in the capital that read Nice people take drugs , is to be removed and that the strapline needs to be altered to temper the message before the ads can be reinstated.

Sebastian Saville, the chief executive of Release added that the removal of the Nice people take drugs adverts from buses was an overreaction to a legitimate message.

The charity was told by CBS Outdoor, the billboard advertising company that booked the bus campaign on its behalf, that the inclusion of the words, also or too would make the ads less likely to be attract complaints and ensure they fit non-broadcast advertising codes of practice.

A spokesman for CBS Outdoor told MediaGuardian.co.uk the ads were being take down because of an "oversight" by the company when it booked the campaign. He said CBS should have run the copy past CAP, the Committee of Advertising Practice, which offers advice on compliance with advertising codes of practice.

 

10th June   

Update: NoUseNet...

US major ISP ends Usenet service
Link Here  full story: Usenet Censorship...ISPs abandon Usenet over a few news groups

at&t logoAT&T has dealt another blow to the internet service known as Usenet.

Sometime next month, the American telecom giant will terminate its entire newsgroup service. Please note that on or around July 15, 2009, AT&T will no longer be offering access to the Usenet netnews service, reads a note sent to AT&T and posted on the company's Usenet servers.

Last July, bowing to pressure from grandstanding New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, AT&T eliminated access to all alt.binary newsgroups. As he had done with AOL, Time Warner Cable, Sprint, and Verizon, Cuomo coaxed AT&T into signing an agreement that cut the cord to 88 newsgroups where state investigations had turned up child abuse images

But like many of its ISP brethren, AT&T chose to extend this ostensible porn crackdown beyond those 88 groups. First they censored the entire alt.binary newsgroup architecture, Now they are halting the entire service.

 

10th June   

Censure Notice Stapled to TV6...

Pre-watershed show stapling paper to contestants considered harmful
Link Here

TV6 logoHerre på tppan
TV6 (Sweden), 1 March 2009 at 20:00


TV6 is a Viasat Swedish language channel licensed by Ofcom. TV6 is not on domestic Electronic Programme Guide and cannot be received in the UK on normal satellite or cable equipment.

Herre på täppan (“King of the Hill”) is a game show that sets bizarre challenges for contestants, with the ultimate prize of becoming King of the Hill . The challenges range from games, such as answering general knowledge questions, to eating something unknown, or undertaking some potentially dangerous or painful activity.

Ofcom received a complaint from a Swedish viewer about the broadcast of a challenge called The Human Letter . This involved two young men attaching six pieces of paper, printed to resemble oversized stamps, directly to their bodies using a staple gun as quickly as possible. The programme showed the men stapling the ‘stamps' to their face, and to their bare legs and torso. The viewer felt that the challenge was unsuitable for broadcast because it encouraged dangerous behaviour.

Ofcom considered Rules of the Code:

  • Rule 1.3 - Children must be protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them
  • Rule 1.13 - Dangerous behaviour that is likely to be easily imitable by children in a manner that is harmful must not be broadcast before the watershed, or when children are particularly likely to be listening, unless there is editorial justification.

Viasat stated that it has now scheduled this programme to after the watershed, beginning at 21:00.

Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rules 1.3 and 1.13

Ofcom recognises that Swedish audiences may have different expectations regarding the broadcast of what could be considered dangerous behaviour before the watershed. We also note that Swedish audiences may consider 20:00 to be outside the peak viewing time for children. While taking these factors into account, Ofcom has also has to recognise that Viasat is a broadcaster licensed by Ofcom and therefore it is required to comply with its licensing obligations in the United Kingdom. This includes ensuring that all of its broadcast output complies with the Code.

In Ofcom's opinion, attaching pieces of paper directly to the body using a staple gun, including to the face, could reasonably be considered dangerous behaviour. Further it is an activity which is likely to be easily imitable by children. Staple guns are accessible objects, widely available in schools for example. We therefore considered that the behaviour featured could be easily imitated by children in a way which may be harmful. In Ofcom's opinion, the programme also presented this behaviour as both humorous and acceptable and it did not sufficiently warn younger viewers of the potentially harmful results. This is despite the fact that in the programme the staples pierced the men's skin and drew some blood: one even suggested that one staple pierced his rib. Ofcom considered there was insufficient editorial justification for featuring the material in this manner at this time of the evening. The programme was therefore in breach of Rule 1.13.

Given the breach of Rule 1.13, relating to material shown before the watershed, Ofcom also considered the programme in breach of Rule 1.3 which requires that children must also be protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them.

 

9th June   

Not Playing Xbox...

Ujima Radio censured for homophobic comments
Link Here

Ujima logoThe Noon Show
Ujima Radio, 31 March 2009, 13:00


Ujima Radio is a black music community radio station in Bristol.  It is owned and run by local people, and many of the station staff work in a voluntary capacity.

The Noon Show is broadcast every weekday afternoon and includes new music, talk and interviews. During a broadcast of the show, the presenter read out a story that featured in a newspaper entitled The secret life of a male prostitute . He then commented on the story and spoke about issues relating to black homosexuals. As part of this discussion the presenter made a number of comments directly about the black man who featured in the story, called Elijah, and homosexuality in general.

With regard to Elijah, and homosexuality in general, the presenter said:

21 years old, he's out the game ‘cos his backside's hanging out. Probably got a catheter….We're taking a moment to readjust here, readjust ourself, ask God Almighty to set us straight and keep us free from the pestilence that certainly has fallen on us and certainly is a pestilence.

With regard to homosexuality the presenter said:

I don't like to believe we are the most homophobic, I like to look at it as we are the most right thinking. It's as simple as that. Because if you didn't think right, you wouldn't be here in the first place … as there wouldn't be such [a] thing as procreation, and procreation has to continue between man and woman… don't get it twisted and don't get sick out there, real talk now…it takes a man and hormone. Adam and Eve, simple, simple, simple. Argue your case with God Almighty.

You know your son is up in his bedroom playing his Xbox and you think ‘oh he's 16, 17 years old' and that lot, you'd like to see a few girls going up there but you don't wanna walk up there and find that they're not playing Xbox - the only box they're playing is a nasty dirty little box, you know. I'm just merely saying, every time your son comes through the door with different boys, well it might be boys or just play mates I'm afraid.

Goodness knows what I would do if my sons turned round and told me they [are gay] , I know what I would do but I won't tell you on-air.


Ofcom received a complaint from a listener who felt that the presenter's comments during this discussion were offensive towards the gay community.

Ofcom considered Rule 2.3 of the Code (material that may cause offence must be justified by the context).

Response

The broadcaster acknowledged that the programme was unsuitable for broadcast and that listeners would have been offended by the comments made by the presenter. Ujima Radio said that as a consequence of the complaint the station terminated the presenter's volunteer contract and broadcast an on-air apology the following week.

Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rule 2.3

Ofcom notes the broadcaster's acknowledgement that listeners would have been offended by the comments made by the presenter and the broadcast of an on-air apology.

Ofcom was concerned by this material and in particular the language used and the homophobic tone and manner in which the comments were made. In Ofcom's opinion, such comments would reasonably have been perceived as hostile and pejorative towards the gay community and had the potential to cause considerable offence.

Ofcom considered that the broadcast of this offensive material was not justified by the context. Therefore, the material went beyond generally accepted standards for this type of programme and breached Rule 2.3 of the Code.

 

9th June   

Censorial Dicks...

Belgian artist gets his 'guess the dick' exhibition banned by Venetian gallery
Link Here
pills

  Artist's impression of censorial
gallery managers

Posters depicting the stylised genitals of 100 artists have been deemed unsuitable by the Venice Biennale gallery authorities.

Jacques Charlier, a Belgian artist, had wanted to show the visual puns, each with a written clue, inviting viewers to guess who owned what.

The authorities rejected the proposal for fear of offending Venetians and the artists represented.

But Charlier used the rejection as stimulus for a massive publicity drive. A boat emblazoned with the words 100 Sexes D'Artistes has been touring the canals of Venice, docking occasionally to allow the public to board and view correspondence between Charlier, the Biennale director, Daniel Birnbaum, and other authorities.

The French Human Rights League supported the artist, saying he had been censored. But the censorship did not prevent Charlier and his team from handing out booklets containing all 100 drawings, and offering free T-shirts to those who could identify at least 20 artists.

Charlier's posters will tour several European cities this summer.

 

9th June   

Updated: Chaser's War...

Australian TV show offends over sick children skit
Link Here

Chaser's War on Everything A controversial skit on dying children will be edited out of an episode of the Australian TV show, The Chaser's War on Everything.

The skit about the Make a Realistic Wish Foundation , which aired last night on the ABC TV show, ended with actor Chris Taylor saying there was no point in making expensive wishes come true as they're going to die anyway.

It was a take-off of the Make-a-Wish Foundation and has prompted some complaints from 'angry' viewers.

In a statement released this morning, ABC TV director Kim Dalton and Chaser executive producer Julian Morrow said the skit would be removed from a repeat episode of the show to screen on ABC2, as well as online.

They said the skit was not intended to hurt those who had been affected by the terminal illness of a child: We acknowledge the distress this segment has caused and we apologise to anyone we have upset.

Make-a-Wish Foundation chief executive Sandy Brattstrom said the skit misrepresented the motives of children and families who applied for wishes. The implication in the skit that sick children were materialistic and requested unrealistic wishes was offensive to those who have applied or intend to apply for wishes .

Update: Chased Off Air

6th June 2009. Based on article from news.com.au

The Chaser's War On Everything has been sin-binned by the ABC and removed from air for two weeks following the controversy surrounding its comedy skit about dying children.

ABC managing director Mark Scott made the decision in the supposed wake of the community backlash from the sketch, Making A Realistic Wish Foundation, which aired on Wednesday night.

We have decided that this is the most appropriate course of action, Scott said: It gives the ABC an opportunity to complete a review of editorial approval processes. It also gives The Chaser a chance to regroup and review their material. In making the wrong judgment call we have let down our audience and the wider community.

The Daily Telegraph understands that Chaser comedian Chris Taylor has received a number of death threats since the skit aired.

Update: Chased Off Air

9th June 2009. Based on article from abc.net.au

Facebook logoAn man is planning to protest outside an ABC building if the decision to ban The Chaser's War on Everything is not reversed.

Last night Keiran Adair started the Facebook group Don't Censor The Chasers War On Everything! and he already has 256 members - the number increasing every minute.

Adair says the ABC's move to censor the material sets a dangerous precedent: Obviously there were people who were offended by the skit and that's their right and I'm not saying that they shouldn't be. But I'm saying that censorship should never be used in response to that. There's the threat that if they can pull even one episode due to a group being offended by it, then they will be forced to pull more episodes in the future because other groups are offended.

In his Facebook group, Mr Adair urges members to take action by lodging a complaint with the ABC, sending fan mail to the Chaser and joining the protest.

 

9th June   

Update: Denying Free Speech to Free Speech Rapporteur...

OIC whinges at UN Special Rapporteur for not following the defamation of religion line
Link Here  full story: Defamation of Religion...OIC pushes for global blasphemy laws at UN

Islamic states have fired back at a United Nations- appointed special expert on freedom of expression, who said that speech should not be restricted in order to protect religion.

Restrictions should never be used to protect particular institutions or abstract notions, concepts or beliefs, including religious ones, wrote UN Special Rapporteur  Frank La Rue in his report presented to the Human Rights Council.

La Rue, a Guatemalan human rights jurist, said restrictions to prevent intolerance should only be applied to advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.

He also called on the council, and the UN General Assembly in New York, not to adopt resolutions that support the idea of defamation of religion. At its previous session in March the council adopted, in a blow to European nations, a resolution condemning the so-called defamation of religion as a human rights violation.

Addressing La Rue at the current session, Pakistan's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Zamir Akram, speaking on behalf of the 57 member- states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), slammed La Rue for not reporting on the abuses of this freedom. Pakistan's ambassador said the OIC would monitor the expert and take an appropriate course of action if he deviated again from the mandate they wanted him to implement.

 

9th June   

Updated: Gambling on a Legality...

US online gaming companies hope to have struck lucky
Link Here  full story: Online Gambling in the US...US censorship problems with online gambling

Minnesota state sealEmerging news stories on the ongoing battle between the state of Minnesota and the online gambling world indicate a victory for online gambling and Internet freedom is near.

The ongoing dispute between Minnesota's Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division (AGED) of the states Department of Public Safety and the online world dates from late April, when the division ordered eleven Internet service providers doing business in the state to block access to 199 different Internet domains associated with online gambling. Several prominent poker sites were among those listed.

However, the order was met with a widespread public outcry and appeared to be based on shaky legal ground, using the 1961 Wire Act as its base. Among the first actions against the order was a lawsuit filed by the Interactive Media and Entertainment Gaming Association (iMEGA), which sought to block enforcement of the order. iMEGA represents several online interests and has been involved in other actions on both the state and federal level.

The Poker Players Alliance have now claimed victory in the battle between Minnesota and the online gambling world, claiming that the state was dropping enforcement action, citing an announcement by Minnesota State Rep. Pat Garofalo, who stated that the matter was concluded after the legal position underlying the issuance of the notices was reconsidered.

Update: Minnesota Withdraws Internet Blocking Instructions

9th June 2009. Based on article from pocketfives.com

In breaking news out of Minnesota, the Department of Public Safety's Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division has sent letters to 11 of the world's largest internet service providers (ISPs) withdrawing an earlier mandate to block 200 domain names.

Those at risk included Bodog and Full Tilt Poker, which were among a handful of rooms on the list that accept customers from the United States. On Monday, the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA) also withdrew its civil court case against Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division Director John Willems. In total, a crisis seems to have been averted.

 

9th June   

Updated: Falling Short of Free Exprssion...

CPJ protests repressive Sudanese press law
Link Here  full story: Press Censorship in Sudan...Press is routinely censored

Sudan flagSudanese media have suffered multiple blows in recent months as parliament considers a harshly repressive press bill and authorities impose an exceptional level of censorship, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

The press bill, introduced in the Sudanese National Assembly in April, falls far short of international standards for free expression, according to CPJ's analysis.

The bill grants the National Council for the Press and Publications unprecedented authority to grant and revoke publication licenses; impose strict disciplinary measures against journalists; conduct examination of journalists to determine their suitability for the profession; and confiscate printing equipment. Eight of the council's 21 members would be appointed by the president, according to the bill. The president's office would have sole oversight of the National Council for the Press and Publications.

According to the bill, newspapers would have to renew licenses annually and journalists must be registered with the council in order to work. Journalists can be fined up to 50,000 new Sudanese pounds (US$21,000) for violating any provision of the bill, according to Article 37. Article 26 stipulates that an editor-in-chief bears primary legal responsibility for all matters appearing in a newspaper, but it assigns legal responsibility to writers, editors, publishers, printers, and distributors as well.

In another alarming development, local journalists told CPJ that security agents are imposing censorship at an ever-increasing rate. The 1999 National Security Forces Law grants security forces significant powers over the media.

Around 9 p.m. every day, security officers visit newspapers to determine what they can print and what will be censored, journalists told CPJ. It is totally arbitrary, Murtadha al-Ghali, editor-in-chief of the independent daily Ajras al-Huriya, told CPJ. [The officer] removes certain articles from our newspaper and the next day other newspapers publish similar articles.

Update: Fine Dropped

Based on article from sudantribune.com

Sudanese parliament agreed to remove the heavy fine imposed on the journalists in a draft law discussed currently by the legislators, the head of Sudanese journalists syndicate said.

Mahi Eddin Titawi, said yesterday they had agreed with a National Assembly subcommittee reviewing the contested press draft law to drop the fine of 50,000 Sudanese pound (21,500 US dollars) that journalists could face for unspecified offences.

Titawi further said the journalists would not have to be registered at the government controlled press council but at the journalists syndicate.

Update: Press Law Passed

9th June 2009. Based on article from reuters.com

Sudan Monday passed an amended version of a media bill that sparked protests in Khartoum last month, but the new version failed to allay the fears of many Sudanese journalists.

A peace accord, which ended more than 20 years of fighting between the north and south, also promised Sudan's first free elections in 24 years. Analysts and Sudanese opposition politicians have said a new press law is crucial for the February ballot.

Journalists said Monday they were pleased legislators had removed a section from earlier drafts that would have allowed a powerful press council to fine journalists or newspapers up to 50,000 Sudanese Pounds ($21,000). In the final version, law courts decide penalties and can choose how long to suspend newspapers.

But the new press bill leaves room for state interference on the grounds of national security or public order and it remains unclear if censorship will be reduced.

 

8th June   

Updated: Bye Bye Grasshopper...

David Carradine dies in Bangkok hotel
Link Here

Kung Fu DVD David Carradine, the actor who starred in 1970s television series Kung Fu and Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill films, was found hanged in a Bangkok hotel room yesterday.
Thai police are investigating the twin theories that the death was either suicide or a sex game gone wrong. Carradine, 72, was found hanging in a wardrobe with a rope around his neck and other parts of his body.

The actor was in Thailand to shoot a film and checked into the luxury Nai Lert Park Hotel, situated next to the British Embassy. He failed to join crew members for dinner on Wednesday night but they did not raise the alarm, believing him to be resting in his suite. A maid discovered his body at 11.30am on Thursday.

Initially, police said they believed Carradine had committed suicide and were not seeking anyone else in connection with the death. There is no trace of fighting in the hotel room and the room was locked from inside. There is no sign of bruising on his body, police official Pirom Janthapirom said. We are investigating from where he got the rope because it does not seem it was from the hotel.

However, there was no suicide note and an unnamed officer claimed the death may have been an attempt at auto-eroticism.

Carradine is survived by his wife, Annie Bierman, and three children. His agent, Chuck Binder, said the news was shocking. The actor was full of life, always wanting to work... a great person, and had been in good spirits of late Binder said.

We will always remember David Carradine for the stature and strength of character that added so much to many of the low budget movies that he starred in.

Update: Thai Rath Wrath

8th June 2009. Based on article from inquisitr.com

Thai Rath (not the David Carradine cover)The family of the late actor David Carradine are reported to be outraged over a picture of his body published in a Thai newspaper.

The Thai Rath newspaper, a Thai language newspaper ran the picture on its front page, and a larger version inside the paper. The image shows Carradine crouching, although does censor some of the more explicit parts of the shot.

Thai Rath is Thailand's best selling newspaper with a circulation of about a million. It is a tabloid style rag never shying away from lurid pictures of victims of accidents and crimes.

A lawyer for Carradine's family said that The family is outraged about the release of these photos” and that the family sue for invasion of privacy and emotional distress if the David Carradine death photo is run in a United States publication.

 

8th June   

Manila is No Cannes...

Philippines censors ban film festival entries
Link Here

Tout de Suite DVD The French Film Festival in Manila, now in its 14th year, has hit a snag with the local censors.

One of the films, Benoit Jacquot's À Tout de Suite (Right Now), was banned (rated X) by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).

Martin Macalintal, audio-visual attaché of the French Embassy, said A Tout de Suite —an entry in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival in 2004—was thus rated because of frontal nudity and sex scenes.

Another French film that almost got banned was Michael Haneke's Le Pianiste . The censors passed it, Macalintal said, on condition that it will be screened only once (June 11).

Macalintal noted that the concept of this year's fest, currently running at the Shangri-La Plaza mall, is to bring Cannes to Manila.

Macalintal said organizers had planned to premiere Kinatay , which won the Best Director prize for Brillante Mendoza in Cannes last month, but they were sure it would encounter problems with the MTRCB. Mendoza earlier told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that he would allow a local screening only if the censors didn't touch his movie.

 

7th June   

Burn This Book...

Launch of the Free Speech Leadership Council
Link Here

Burn this Book Some 50 publishers, writers and other First Amendment supporters gathered to launch the Free Speech Leadership Council, an advocacy arm of the National Coalition Against Censorship, a non-profit founded in 1974.

Former HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman is the council's chair.

Toni Morrison has long experience with censorship. Her novels Beloved , Song of Solomon and The Bluest Eye have frequently been threatened with removal from library shelves - and sometimes pulled - because of sexual, racial or violent content.

Morrison said the problem was fear - fear of information, dating back to the book of Genesis and the fatal temptation of the Tree of Knowledge.

Knowledge is bad is the Bible's message, Morrison said: It is sinful. It will corrupt you and you will die. And that fear still floats around in the back of the brain.

Also attending was Judy Blume, whose books, too, often show up on lists of banned works. The author, whose novels include Forever and Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, joked about being forbidden as a girl to read John O'Hara's novel of a woman's uncontainable sexual desire, A Rage to Live. She first became aware of the book around age 9, when her mother warned not to look at the book, especially a certain page. The library would not allow Blume to borrow it without written permission. When she finally got her hands on it, Blume found the novel very satisfying.

At the end of event, signed copies were handed out of a new release edited by Morrison, Burn This Book , which compiles essays by Morrison, John Updike, Salman Rushdie and others about writing and its risks and challenges.

 

7th June   

Update: Malays Betrayed?...

Malaysian newspaper suspended over race issues
Link Here  full story: Press Censorship in Malaysia...Newspapers forced to toe the government line

Utusan newspaper The Centre for Independent Journalism strongly disagrees with calls to suspend Malay daily Utusan Malaysia for publishing commentary with racial undertone and to penalise its author, who writes under the pseudonym Awang Selamat, with the Sedition Act.

On 3 June, the Malaysian Indian Congress  president, S. Samy Vellu urged the authorities to charge Awang Selamat, under the Sedition Act. This followed the publication of an article Malays betrayed? published in the daily's column on 31 May, in which non-Malays were said to have over demanded their rights.

Open and civil discussions on race and religion are instrumental for nation-building. Through such discussion, the norms and mores of free expression, such as the ethical boundaries would evolve. But to ban certain views, especially by giving absolute powers to the state to censor, is a grave violation of freedom of expression for the individual and the community.

We call on all political leaders and opinion leaders to emphasize the importance of dialogue and debates and refrain from demanding for the use of undemocratic laws. We also urge the editors of Utusan Malaysia to create spaces in the newspaper for those with differing views and opinions on the issue and show that it is interested in constructive engagement.

 

6th June   

Update: Ministerial Games...

German interior ministers gang up against violent video games
Link Here  full story: Killergames...German politicians target video games

Gamed Politics is reporting that Germany's 16 Interior Ministers seem to have banded together to ask the Bundestag to ban the production and distribution of violent video games.

Moreover, the ministers hope to see this accomplished before Germany's new elections take place on September 27th.

The move comes during a scheduled conference of interior ministers. School shootings, in particular the March 11th rampage committed by a 17-year-old in Winnenden, were prominently mentioned in relation to the group's demand for a ban on violent games.

If passed, such a move would affect not only German game consumers, but German game developers such as Crytek ( Far Cry, Crysis ). Under the proposed law, Crytek would apparently need to outsource development of violent games or even relocate its operations to another country.

 

6th June   

Updated: Chaser's War...

Australian TV show offends over sick children skit
Link Here

Chaser's War on Everything A controversial skit on dying children will be edited out of an episode of the Australian TV show, The Chaser's War on Everything.

The skit about the Make a Realistic Wish Foundation , which aired last night on the ABC TV show, ended with actor Chris Taylor saying there was no point in making expensive wishes come true as they're going to die anyway.

It was a take-off of the Make-a-Wish Foundation and has prompted some complaints from 'angry' viewers.

In a statement released this morning, ABC TV director Kim Dalton and Chaser executive producer Julian Morrow said the skit would be removed from a repeat episode of the show to screen on ABC2, as well as online.

They said the skit was not intended to hurt those who had been affected by the terminal illness of a child: We acknowledge the distress this segment has caused and we apologise to anyone we have upset.

Make-a-Wish Foundation chief executive Sandy Brattstrom said the skit misrepresented the motives of children and families who applied for wishes. The implication in the skit that sick children were materialistic and requested unrealistic wishes was offensive to those who have applied or intend to apply for wishes .

Update: Chased Off Air

6th June 2009. Based on article from news.com.au

The Chaser's War On Everything has been sin-binned by the ABC and removed from air for two weeks following the controversy surrounding its comedy skit about dying children.

ABC managing director Mark Scott made the decision in the supposed wake of the community backlash from the sketch, Making A Realistic Wish Foundation, which aired on Wednesday night.

We have decided that this is the most appropriate course of action, Scott said: It gives the ABC an opportunity to complete a review of editorial approval processes. It also gives The Chaser a chance to regroup and review their material. In making the wrong judgment call we have let down our audience and the wider community.

The Daily Telegraph understands that Chaser comedian Chris Taylor has received a number of death threats since the skit aired.

 

6th June   

Update: Daily Mail Trivia...

Daily Mail give John Humphrys a good bollocking
Link Here

Today programmeA BBC news presenter was forced to apologise today after a minor transgression during a major interview with a Cabinet minister.

John Humphrys was grilling International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander on the political crisis engulfing Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Raising the idea that Labour are embroiled in civil wa' , Humphrys said: We have got elements of Number 10 actually turning on MPs in their own constituencies. We have Barry Sheerman telling us that he's got people from Number 10 ringing his own constituency, talking to his own officials, telling them that they have got to get him to attend a meeting so that he can be given a bollocking.

Later, the presenter apologised for his inadvertent outburst while discussing ghost stories with John Sutherland, professor of English literature at University College London.

He said: Can I get guidance from you? I used a word earlier on this programme that was supposed to be 'rollicking' but it came out slightly differently and had a 'b' at the front instead of an 'r' at the beginning.

Professor Sutherland insisted it was an entirely innocent word.

But Humphrys said: It's alright with a 'b' or an 'r'? To those listeners who were offended by it, my humble apologies.

A BBC spokesperson said: Whilst John didn't use the best turn of phrase this morning, these slips occasionally happen in a live radio situation. John didn't mean to cause any offence to his listeners and did offer his apologies towards the end of the programme.

 

6th June   

Petition: Chiropractors' Libel Claim...

The law has no place in scientific disputes
Link Here  full story: Simon Singh vs Chiropractors...Chiropractors take science sceptic to libel court

Sense about Science We the undersigned believe that it is inappropriate to use the English libel laws to silence critical discussion of medical practice and scientific evidence.

The British Chiropractic Association has sued Simon Singh for libel. The scientific community would have preferred that it had defended its position about chiropractic for various children's ailments through an open discussion of the peer reviewed medical literature or through debate in the mainstream media.

Singh holds that chiropractic treatments for asthma, ear infections and other infant conditions are not evidence-based. Where medical claims to cure or treat do not appear to be supported by evidence, we should be able to criticise assertions robustly and the public should have access to these views.

English libel law, though, can serve to punish this kind of scrutiny and can severely curtail the right to free speech on a matter of public interest. It is already widely recognised that the law is weighted heavily against writers: among other things, the costs are so high that few defendants can afford to make their case. The ease and success of bringing cases under the English law, including against overseas writers, has led to London being viewed as the "libel capital" of the world.

Freedom to criticise and question in strong terms and without malice is the cornerstone of scientific argument and debate, whether in peer-reviewed journals, on websites or in newspapers, which have a right of reply for complainants. However, the libel laws and cases such as BCA v Singh have a chilling effect, which deters scientists, journalists and science writers from engaging in important disputes about the evidential base supporting products and practices. The libel laws discourage argument and debate and merely encourage the use of the courts to silence critics.

The English law of libel has no place in scientific disputes about evidence; the BCA should discuss the evidence outside of a courtroom. Moreover, the BCA v Singh case shows a wider problem: we urgently need a full review of the way that English libel law affects discussions about scientific and medical evidence.

 

6th June   

Bad Treatment...

Indonesian suffers bad treatment from hospital and worse from the justice system
Link Here

Indonesia flagAn Indonesian woman who complained about her hospital treatment in an email to friends has been charged with defamation and could face a jail term.

Prita Mulyasari has already been found guilty and fined $30,000 in a civil case. She faces six years in jail and a $100,000 (£62,000) fine if convicted on criminal charges.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono - in the middle of an election campaign - has urged the courts to be lenient, while his predecessor and election rival, Megawati Sukarnoputri, has visited Prita Mulyasari in jail.

The case centres on emails Prita Mulyasari sent detailing her experience as a patient at Omni hospital to 10 friends. According to the Jakarta Globe, she said staff initially diagnosed her with dengue fever, but later said she had a virus and gave her an injection. She said her conditioned worsened and she began to feel numbness so decided to switch hospitals. But when she asked for her medical notes with the initial diagnosis, the hospital refused to give them to her, she alleged.

The emails were widely circulated on internet mailing lists and the Facebook social networking site.

Omni hospital said her allegations had caused the firm substantial financial losses from patient boycotts and frozen business deals.

But her supporters - nearly 100,000 of whom have signed a Facebook appeal for her release - say it could set a dangerous precedent for freedom of speech in the country.

The growing outrage over the case led to Prita Mulyasari's release from custody on Wednesday, where she had spent three weeks without charge after losing the civil case in mid-May.

Update: On Trial

16th June 2009. See article from advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org

Two days after her release from jail, the first court session for Prita Mulyasari, an Indonesian housewife who was arrested and jailed since mid May for “defaming” an international hospital by writing an online complaint letter took place in Tangerang, one of Jakarta's suburban.

Her arrest had the entire Indonesian blogosphere boggling, as many believes that by jailing her could indicate a weak freedom of speech in the country.

With citizens heading for the ballot next month, Prita's case has been as a matter of urgency by three presidential hopefuls.
Poster by Paman Tyo, posted on “

The case is now under many Indonesians' watchful eyes. Facebookers shows support for Prita through several Groups and Support for Prita Mulyasari Cause has reached 316.448 supporters, while Twitterers write updates about press conferences and court hearing.

Update: Acquitted

17th July 2011. See  article from  bbc.co.uk

An Indonesian woman has been given a six-month suspended jail term for libel, after she complained about treatment she received in a hospital.

Prita Mulyasari criticised the hospital in e-mails that her friends posted on Facebook more than three years ago.

Criminal and civil complaints were both dismissed in earlier hearings, but the Supreme Court overruled the lower courts and sentenced her.

The case sparked a huge outcry and was an issue in the 2009 general election.

Senior politicians including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono offered his support for her case, and his rival Megawati Sukarnoputri visited her in jail.

Many Indonesians feel that the judicial system favours the rich and powerful over ordinary people, and Ms Mulyasari's case seemed to chime with that view.

Lawyers for the 34-year-old say they have not decided whether to appeal against the Supreme Court's decision.

 

6th June   

Dangerous Pictures...

Photoshopped nudes of Tanzanian president spell trouble for blogger
Link Here

Tanzania flagThe Nairobi Chronicle reports that a Tanzanian blogger faces jail after publishing manipulated photographic images depicting Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete engaging in lewd sex acts.

According to Habari Leo , a Tanzanian newspaper the country's police are seeking help from Interpol in tracing the owners and publishers of the blog.

Ze utamu (www.zeutamu.com), probably Tanzania's most controversial blog, came to the limelight by publishing a mixture of Tanzanian Diaspora gossip, nude and sex photographs of well known people as well as name-and-shaming articles. While it attracted many readers, the blog has also attracted criticism.

 

5th June   

Update: 100,000 Against...

Internet blocking proposal not getting an easy ride in Germany
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Germany...Germany considers state internet filtering

Germany flagGerman Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen is struggling to pass a new law designed to combat online child pornography in the face of widespread concern over censorship and freedom of speech. The law would use blacklists to bar access to specific sites.

Von der Leyen proposes setting up an office in the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation to determine whether or not sites should be blocked. Lists would then be sent to Internet service providers, which would be responsible for blocking the content.

The list would contain an estimated 1,500 sites. Von der Leyen says blocking them could derail 450,000 hits a day. The personal data and ISP addresses of people trying to access blocked sites would not be captured.

The bill would be the first time in the history of post-war Germany that police would be granted the authority to determine what can and cannot be shown by the mass media. Right now, the legislation doesn't call for any supervision of the proposed agency.

Opponents of the bill say the proposal threatens the freedom of the Internet, and that blocks on Web sites and other censorship measures are easily bypassed and ineffective. Thus far, almost 100,000 people have signed a petition against the measure, twice what the law requires to force a discussion in German parliament. One fear is that the list, once established, could be used to censor other sites. Opponents also argue that blocking Web sites is ineffective against child pornographers, who tend to distribute material through e-mail, peer-to-peer systems and chatrooms, all of which are much harder to police.

Social Democratic parliamentarian Gregor Amann said on Wednesday that he doubted the bill would succeed due to concerns over its threats to personal freedoms: Since I know many of my colleagues in the SPD share my opinion on this question, at this point I would say that this bill will either not pass in this legislative period or will be dramatically changed.

 

5th June   

Rendered unto the Scrap Heap...

Guantanamo game can't escape its critics
Link Here

T-Enterprise logoGame development has ceased on Rendition: Guantanamo , apparently forever.

The sudden announcement was made by Scottish firm T-Enterprise and comes following a day of backlash in the wake of media reports about the alleged terrorist background of Moazzam Begg, a key consultant to the project.

In a statement released earlier today, T-Eterprise director Zarrar Chishti blamed press coverage by US media:

Unfortunately, much of the speculation regarding the game itself made by various publications and websites has been inaccurate and ill informed... [The game] was never designed to be “propaganda” or “a recruiting tool for terrorism”. Neither was it designed to glamorise terrorism as has been reported.

First and foremost, the main character was NOT Moazzam Begg.  Furthermore, Guantanamo was to be a mercenary run institution and so there would have been NO American military personnel killed within the game...

I would now like to refute all suggestions that the game was in any way linked to Al Qaeda. The game was simply designed to be an action video game that adults could enjoy.


However, as a direct result of the extreme reaction that the game and its popular misconceptions have provoked, T-Enterprise has decided to pull out of the project and will not be completing Rendition: Guantanamo.

Conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh had attacked Rendition: Guantanamo on his radio program, calling the game disgusting . The game is obviously political... it's a game played from the standpoint of a detainee and how unfair he's treated and how hopeless his life is and all is lost unless he can escape. There's already a firestorm of conversation about this that's percolating out there now.

 

5th June   

Updated: I Dreamed a Nightmare...

Britain's Got Talent at whinging
Link Here

Britain's Got Talent title cardOfcom is set to investigate the treatment of Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent after complaints from viewers.

The 48-year-old singer was last night being treated at a private clinic after suffering an emotional breakdown in the aftermath of the show.

Nineteen million viewers watched the beginning of Miss Boyle's meltdown on Saturday night as she was beaten to first place by dance group Diversity. Within 24 hours, police officers and TV producers had forcibly escorted her to The Priory clinic in North London.

TV censor Ofcom is considering an investigation into whether ITV has breached the broadcasting code after viewers flooded phone lines with a large number of complaints.

Section eight of the code states: People in a state of distress should not be put under pressure to take part in a programme or provide interviews, unless it is warranted.'

Britain's Got Talent producer Talkback Thames last night admitted that contestants are not psychologically tested. It has now said it will review this policy.

Update: Ofcom, a Talent for Censorship

3rd June 2009: Based on article from ofcom.org.uk

Ofcom have just published a notice to say that the media has jumped the gun in suggesting that Ofcom are already investigating Britain's Got Talent:

There has been a lot of public interest in the semi-final and final of ITV's popular Britain's Got Talent programme.

A number of people have contacted Ofcom to make comments and complaints about aspects of the programme.

With Britain's Got Talent , we are reviewing the complaints we have received against the Broadcasting Code. As with all such cases, our assessment will help us to decide whether we need to investigate or not, however at present we are not investigating.

Update: Few Complaints

4th June 2009: Based on article from news.bbc.co.uk

Almost 350 people complained to Ofcom about Britain's Got Talent last week, but fewer than 20 were concerned about the treatment of runner-up Susan Boyle.

Only 16 complaints were received after Saturday's final. Ofcom says most of them were about the winners, Diversity.

In contrast, 331 viewers got in touch after Friday's semi-final. More than half were annoyed that Hollie Steel was allowed a second chance to perform. Ten-year-old Steel performed a second time on the talent show after bursting into tears during her first attempt at Edelweiss. Ofcom said around 50 complaints were received about the welfare of the young singer.

The incident sparked debate over whether children should be allowed to participate in such programmes because of the pressure involved.

Update: Psychological Testing to Ensure that Contestants are Crazy Enough to go on TV

5th June 2009: Based on article from broadcastnow.co.uk

The UK government is preparing a major public consultation on the use of children in TV shows such as Britain's Got Talent , which last week saw 10-year-old semi-finalist Hollie Steel break down on live TV.

Broadcasters and indies are among producers to have met with the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) in the lead-up to the full consultation, due later this summer.

The DCSF's review, which is also canvassing the modelling, stage and film industries, centres on legislation that has remained unchanged since 1968, when the Children's Entertainment Regulations came into force. It is being led by junior children's minister Delyth Morgan.

A DCSF spokesman said: We want children to develop and have exciting opportunities to participate in television and other forms of entertainment. However, while they are doing that, we have a duty to ensure that children are safeguarded appropriately, and that the regulations we have make sure that this happens.

Silver River boss Daisy Goodwin said: There's an interesting moral question for everyone in telly about why the most popular programme on TV is one where children cry and where a woman with learning difficulties is shown at the end of her tether. If I was making the show, I would consider raising the age limit. I'd also question why there was no psych testing.

 

4th June   

Updated: Back Problems...

When chiropractors drag a top science writer into the libel courts, the country has lost its backbone
Link Here  full story: Simon Singh vs Chiropractors...Chiropractors take science sceptic to libel court

Trick or Treatment book This week, Simon Singh, one of Britain's best science writers, will decide whether to carry on playing a devilish version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? He has already lost £100,000 defending his right to speak frankly.

Last year, Singh published Trick or Treatment? with Professor Edzard Ernst on the reliability of alternative medicine , and devoted a chapter to the strange history of chiropractic treatments.

In 2008, the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) announced that its members could help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying. Writing in the Guardian, Singh said the claim was bogus. Chiropractic treatments may help relieve back pain, but Professor Ernst had examined 70 trials and found no evidence that they could relieve other conditions.

Singh is hardly a lone sceptic. A few weeks ago, the Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint against a chiropractor who claimed he could treat children with colic and learning difficulties. Nevertheless, the BCA took Singh on and told me it had numerous documents which demonstrate the efficacy of chiropractic treatments.

Fair enough, you might think. Reputable medical authorities could test the evidence and decide whether the treatments work or not. Instead of arguing before the court of informed opinion, however, the BCA went to the libel courts.

If he goes ahead with an appeal this week, bloggers, academics and the massed ranks of the scientific great and good are ready to join him. They have grasped what too many still fail to realise: the greatest threat to freedom of speech in Britain is not the state or the security services or the press barons, but a fusty and illiberal legal system, which has become a public menace.

...Read full article

Update: Luminaries support Simon Singh in his appeal

4th June 2009. Based on article from independent.co.uk

A galaxy of luminaries from the disparate worlds of science, comedy, the arts and humanities, from Ricky Gervais to the president of the Royal Society, have come out in support of a science writer who is being sued by chiropractors for saying they practise bogus treatments.

Dr Simon Singh announced yesterday that he intends to appeal against the ruling, which has already cost him about £100,000 in legal fees but won him the backing of more than 100 prominent figures, including a Nobel laureate.

The signatories to the statement in support of Dr Singh include Gervais, the actor Stephen Fry, the scientist Richard Dawkins, Lord Rees of Ludlow, president of the Royal Society, former government chief scientist Sir David King, the novelist Martin Amis and the comedian and doctor Harry Hill. We, the undersigned, believe that it is inappropriate to use the English libel laws to silence critical discussion of medical practice and scientific evidence, the statement reads.

Dr Singh's supporters spoke out against the BCA's decision to launch legal action against an individual with no financial support. When a powerful organisation tries to silence a man of Simon Singh's reputation [he was made an MBE in 2003 for services to science] then anyone who believes in science, fairness and truth should rise in indignation, Fry said.

Professor Dawkins added: The English libel laws are ridiculed as an international charter for litigious mountebanks, and the effects are especially pernicious where science is concerned. While Sir David said: It is ridiculous that a legal and outmoded definition of a word has been used to hinder and discourage scientific debate. We must be able to fairly and reasonably challenge ideas without fear of legal intimidation. This sort of thing only brings the law into disrepute.

 

4th June   

Snitch Happy Britain...

Brits the mostly likely to flag up YouTube videos
Link Here

YouTube logoBritish YouTube users are amongst the most sensitive in the world, executives at the site have claimed.

The company has reacted by introducing special Britain-only policies following a raft of complaints from users over gang-related videos.

Victoria Grand, head of policy at YouTube, told The Times: The UK is a big flagging country. We get a lot of videos flagged up in the UK because of issues that British people are concerned about which maybe aren't an issue in the US, such as the brandishing of guns.

Scott Rubin, YouTube's head of communication, said: In terms of outside regulation verses internal regulation, this is a very new world, so the people who are closest to that world are the ones who understand best. We have a vested interest in making this site a place that's safe for advertisers and good for the community. Regulators coming from the outside would not have this deep understanding.

Calls have also been made by internet safety groups across Europe for websites such as YouTube to be subject to the same degree of regulation as television channels, but Rubin rejected the demands: We are not a broadcaster.

YouTube representatives have been in Britain in the past week to meet MPs and officials from the British broadcasting regulator Ofcom to demonstrate new internal safety measures introduced to bolster the self-regulation.

The site has partnered with the British organisations Childnet and Beatbullying to introduce a Safety Centre where users, especially children, are offered advice on how to report and deal with people who are harassing or threatening them on YouTube.

YouTube has also signed up to the code of practice set out by the EU Safer Social Networking Initiative and is in consultation with the new UK Council for Child Internet Safety on how to protect and inform children of the dangers of viewing inappropriate content.

This still leaves user-led regulation as the main form of policing available on YouTube. Users can flag videos they believe to be in breach of YouTube's guidelines on violent, offensive, obscene or inappropriate material. These videos are then checked out by a team of reviewers who have received training, including from the FBI, on how to spot dangerous material on their site.

These measures have been introduced after YouTube conceded they could not hope to police the 20 hours of video being uploaded onto the site every minute. The site has, instead, introduced optional swear-word filters for user-generated text on the site and has updated its technology to allow its reviewers to police flagged videos more quickly.

John Whittingdale MP, chairman of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, said he was encouraged by the changes to the policing of the site, but vowed to remain watchful of the situation: It's something we will continue to monitor and if any further areas for concern arise, we will raise that with them.

 

4th June   

The Missing Bits...

Seeing Behind the Sims 3 censorial blur
Link Here

Sims 3 game There is a no-censor patch available for download for The Sims 3. This removes the blur that you see when one of the Sims removes their clothes.

Now when they are in the bathroom you can see what they have been hiding behind their clothes and the answer is nothing. It seems like the Men and Women in the world of Sims have none of their bits that define who they are.

 

4th June   

Update: Baring Arms...

Bali governor refuses to enforce repressive pornography law
Link Here  full story: Anti-Porn Law in Indonesia...A front for the implementation of shariah

Bali dancerIndonesia's mainly Hindu island of Bali has no intention of enforcing a controversial anti-porn law passed last year because it conflicts with local culture and tradition, the provincial governor said in an email interview.

The new law, which created much confusion over what would be considered pornographic, was slammed by religious minorities but backed by the Islamic and Islamist political parties allied to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyon.

As long as I am the governor of Bali, I, along with the head of the provincial government in Bali, have stated that we will not enforce this law in Bali, Governor I Made Mangku Pastika told Reuters, adding that the law is not appropriate for the people of Bali.

He said the most serious effect of the law would be its impact on Bali's culture and traditional art, which includes nude statues and often sexually explicit imagery.

Centuries-old traditions including outdoor bathing would also have to be banned if the law was properly enforced, added the governor.

Pastika said that he had not yet been reprimanded by the central government, despite his stated aim to disobey the law.

 

4th June   

Update: The Regret of Malaysia's Dr M...

'I should have censored Internet when I was PM'
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Malaysia...Malaysia looks to censor the internet

Malaysia flagJThe digital age has been weighing heavily on former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad's mind.

He broached the subject in two separate talks. On 16 May, he spoke about Internet porn at Bloggers Universe Malaysia 2009. In his speech he said he regretted the pledge he made not to regulate the Internet when he was prime minister.

I wish we can control... When we started the Multimedia Super Corridor, we promised the people that we will not censor the Internet. But at times, I regretted this. Dr Mahathir said he had surfed porn sites just to see how easy it is for a child to do so. My God, it was so easy. All you've got to do is to put 'SEX' and you get everything, all the filth in the world would be shown to you - in motion.

But Internet censorship is out, he said: While in the past, we can close down the printing shops, we can seize their papers, we can do a lot of things, today, it is just impossible.

 

4th June   

Update: Euro Regulators...

EU poised to appoint telecoms regulatory body
Link Here

EU flagThe EU is poised to appoint a super-regulatory body that will bring together all 27 national regulators, including Ofcom in the UK, and enforce wide-ranging reforms to the industry.

The establishment of the Body of European Regulators in Electronic Communications (BEREC) would bring national regulators together in an attempt to further integrate the European market and become the main advisory body to the Commission, the body that proposes legislation.

The creation of a European telecoms regulator was pushed by EU commissioner Viviane Reding, who continues to campaign for lower data roaming rates around Europe.

Malcolm Harbour, West Midlands MEP and vice president of the European Parliament's science and technology unit, was involved in proposals for the package and told Mobile that aside from issues about internet access, the rest of the reforms had already been agreed on in theory.

 

3rd June   

Update: Clear Link...

Nutter MP spouts vague bollox about links between violent media and knife crime
Link Here

Culture, Media and Sport select committeeA clear link exists between bloodthirsty films and video games and teenage knife crime, claimed Plymouth MP Gary Streeter.

He argued for an urgent review examining how to censor what youngsters watched at the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee. He highlighted fears of a knife arms race amid concerns that carrying the deadly weapons was becoming normal.

The committee says evidence to its inquiry also supported its view that violent DVDs and video games have a negative influence on those who watch and play them, contributing around 10% of any person's predisposition to be violent.

Streeter said: That's something we have to have a long look at. Are we allowing our young people to be brutalised by some of this dreadful violence we are allowing them to watch?

As part of the select committee inquiry, he was shown a number of video games, but he said he had to stop watching them as they were so sickening.

On the connection with knife crime, he said: There's a clear link for some young people. There's no doubt that for certain young people violent video games and films is a very serious negative influence.

 

3rd June   

Update: Ethical Decision...

Japanese software companies to self censor and ban rape games
Link Here  full story: Western censorship of Japanese Games...Japanese games winds up the social justice whingers

EOCS general audience certificateJapan's Ethics Organization of Computer Software have now held an emergency meeting in which nearly 100 representatives from various erotic game companies concluded that the manufacturer and sale of rape-type games should cease. This was not a government decision or even a legal one, but instead a self-policing policy on the part of the EOCS.

None of the representatives thought it was out of line to ban these types of games, and many felt this was the only way to rectify any problems caused by these types of games.

Future regulations regarding games will be worked out in the future. Until then, the EOCS will work with individual erotic game companies to help ease the transition.

 

3rd June   

Update: 20th Anniversary Celebrations...

China marks anniversary of Tiananmen Square with a month of oppression
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship

China jail and protestChina is blocking access to Microsoft's new search engine, Bing, and its Hotmail email service, the company said ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

These are among several Internet services that have been blocked for customers in China, Microsoft director of public affairs Kevin Kutz said in a statement received by AFP.

Microsoft did not say when China began blocking the sites, but Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it had been notified by Chinese Web users that access to the websites began being blocked inside China on Tuesday.

Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the blockage of a dozen websites such as Twitter, YouTube, Bing, Flickr, Opera, Live, Wordpress and Blogger in China, the media rights group said in a statement: The Chinese government stops at nothing to silence what happened 20 years ago in Tiananmen Square. By blocking access to a dozen websites used daily by millions of Chinese citizens, the authorities have opted for censorship at any price rather than accept a debate about this event.

Asked to comment on the Chinese moves, a US State Department spokesman said there would be a more expansive US response on Wednesday, but underscored that US policy supports freedom of expression. [Except of course for the countries where the US itself blocks the use of Microsoft services such as Messenger in Cuba, Syria, Iran, Sudan and North Korea].
Rights group Freedom House, which is funded by the US government and private groups, condemned the Chinese government?s blocking of the websites. China's decision to block these sites today represents the latest salvo in a relentless campaign to erase the past," executive director Jennifer Windsor said in a statement: China is blocking sites like Twitter and Flickr because they provide a means for people to circumvent government control and mobilize dissent.

 

3rd June   

Update: Blocking Free Expression...

US block Cubans from using Microsoft Messenger
Link Here  full story: Axis of Evil...US censor their computer products from export

Cuba flagCuba have criticized Microsoft for blocking its Messenger instant messaging service on the island and in other countries under US sanctions, calling it yet another example of Washington's harsh treatment of Havana.

The technology giant recently announced it was disabling the program's availability in Cuba, Syria, Iran, Sudan and North Korea to come into compliance with a US ban on transfer of licensed software to embargoed countries.

Messenger had previously been used on the island for a decade without Microsoft interference.

Dharmesh Mehta, director of Windows Live Product Management said Microsoft made the change late last year in connection with the last product release of Windows Live Messenger. Microsoft is one of several major Internet companies that have taken steps aimed at meeting their obligations to not do business with markets on the US sanctions list.

Mehta seemed to lay the blame of this censorship at the door of the US government. He said that Microsoft supports efforts to ensure that the Internet remains a platform for open, diverse and unimpeded content and commerce, and that governments should exercise restraint in regulating the Internet.

 

3rd June   

Update: Allah Ban Continues...

Malaysian Catholics lose bid to use the word 'Allah' pending July court case
Link Here

Catholic HeraldThe Catholic Church in Malaysia has lost its latest bid to use 'Allah' as a translation for 'God' in its newspaper pending a further court case now set for 7th July 2009.

High Court judge Lau Bee Lan made the decision after hearing submissions from two counsels for the applicant, Archbishop Datuk Murphy Nicholas Xavier Pakiam, and two counsels for the respondent, the Home Ministry, according to Bernama, Malaysian National News Agency.

A spokesmand for the Home Ministry told reporters outside the chambers that if the High Court allowed the church to use ‘Allah' in a non-Muslim context, it would be helping the church to commit an offense under state laws. This means that the church's weekly news publication, The Herald, cannot use the word until the court decides.

The Rev Father Lawrence Andrew, who edits the Catholic weekly, was disappointed with the outcome: We had asked them to lift the ban so that we can use the word until the court decides. We are innocent until proven guilty, so why shouldn't we use it, Father Andrew told AFP: The court is going to hear our case on July 7 so that's an opening in the dark tunnel.

Under the Control and Restriction of the Propagation of non-Islamic Religious Enactment passed into law by 10 states in 1988, it is an offence for non-Muslims to use the word ‘Allah' to refer to any God other than the Muslim God.

 

3rd June   

Bloggers Held to Account...

Philippines considers bill to give right of reply applying to all media
Link Here

Philippines flagThe controversial right of reply bill will not only affect print and broadcast media, but could lead to Internet censorship since it also covers bloggers, “texters” and even iPod users, a party-list lawmaker warned Saturday.

Rep. Mong Palatino said the bill's sponsor in the House, Bienvenido Abante, admitted during interpellation that House Bill No. 3306 also covers websites, e-mails, Internet social networking sites and other electronic devices in its scope.

Palatino noted that Section 1 of HB 3306 states, All persons, natural or judicial, who are accused directly or indirectly of committing, having committed, or are criticized by innuendo, suggestion or rumor for any lapse in behavior in public or private life shall have the right to reply to charges or criticisms published in newspapers, magazines, newsletters or publications circulated commercially or for free, or aired or broadcast over radio, television, websites or through any electronic device.

The bill, therefore, would not only affect media outfits and journalists but also all website owners, website masters, e-mail account holders and other netizens who are not necessarily media practitioners, said Palatino who has been a blogger since 2004. He said the bill would affect: the more than five million bloggers and millions more of Internet users in the country.

My fear is that when this bill comes to law, it will be used to regulate the content of the Internet, when we are checking our e-mails, when we open our Friendster or Facebook accounts, when we are checking our websites. Does this mean that we will be compelled to moderate, modify or edit our personal websites? Is this not Internet censorship and suppression of freedom of speech and expression? Palatino said.

In reply, Abante said the bill would be defined more clearly through its implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

But Palatino said that Congress should just remove the line any electronic device in the bill's first section. The bill is still up for amendments in the House. He also encouraged bloggers, netizens, texters and concerned youth to register their opposition to the apparent railroading of the bill in Congress.

 

2nd June   

Update: Christian Party Pooped...

Norway rejects proposed blasphemy law
Link Here

Norway flagThe Norwegian parliament has voted overwhelmingly to remove the blasphemy paragraph from a raft of new legislation.

It was replaced with an additional paragraph on racism.

Only the Christian People's Party wanted blasphemy to be formally criminalised, as a symbolic law.

 

2nd June   

Update: Ban on Movie Smoking Impractical...

A change of heart at the Indian healthy ministry
Link Here  full story: Adult Rating for Smoking...Anti-smoking lobby for 18 for smoking in films

India flagIndia's Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad's view is that a blanket ban on smoking on-screen is not practical .

Bollywood director Mahesh Bhatt said the film fraternity is with the nation in making people aware against the use of tobacco: I congratulate and applaud the Health Minister for his comments on smoking on-screen. Ghulam Nabi Azad is light years ahead of Ramadoss and he proved that action speaks volumes than words.

It is just entertainment. There are so many objectionable things which are shown on screen like murder, arson and so on...Then such things should be banned first...I think we should try to implement whatever we can, Azad had said on World No Tobacco Day.

Azad's comment is in sharp contrast to that of former health minister Anbumani Ramadoss, who wanted a complete ban on smoking in films and TV serials.

On the plea of Mahesh Bhatt and some other members of the film industry, the Delhi High Court had on January 23 said that smoking was a part of life and banning it would amount to the violation of the fundamental rights.

 

2nd June   

True News Censored...

Burma's newspaper censors ban Phoenix Journal and True News
Link Here

Burma flagBurma's government censor board suspended this week's issue of the Phoenix Journal after it published several censored news articles.

The journal was also told by the board to publish only entertainment news in its future issues.

The news story in question was the objection by “Eleven Media Group” against the “Lucky Eleven” advertisement by the Yangon Media Group in its 27 May issue.

True Censors

Based on article from irrawaddy.org

Senior editors and staff of the True News Journal in Rangoon were summoned to appear before the censor board of Burma's military regime on Monday following the distribution of the publication at Insein Prison, the location of Aung San Suu Kyi's trial.

The Press Scrutiny and Registration Board told the publication that it objected to the headline on a story written by Ludu Sein Win, an outspoken, veteran journalist, which said: Newsmen dare express the truth and risk arrest.

An unidentified staff of the journal apparently sold copies of the journal to people in the crowd outside the prison last week and displayed a small sign saying, The True Journal which dares to report the truth, according to sources.

The staff who sold the journal in front of the prison was arrested in the journal's office on May 28, sources said, and later released.

 

2nd June   

Update: Dictatorial Censorship...

Filmmaker joins politicians aiming to reduce Philippines film censorship powers
Link Here

Philippines film cesor logoInternationally-renowned director Lav Diaz has joined other committed local filmmakers in calling for the scrapping of the repressive Presidential Decree No. 1986 created by the late Philippins dictator Ferdinand Marcos, which is still in effect through the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).

House Bill No. 6425, introduced recently in the lower House seeks to transform the current MTRCB into a film and classification body.

The bill is twenty two years overdue, said Diaz, citing the 1987 Constitution which enshrined freedom of expression in the Bill of Rights.

Under the proposed bill, the ominous “X” rating ban, which stifles freedom of expression, will be replaced by a Certified Not For Regular Theatrical Release classification.

 

2nd June   

Offsite: Who's a Silly Boss Then?...

1969 BBC bosses were not pleased by Monty Python debut
Link Here

Monty Python's Flying Circus DVD It has become a classic in the pantheon of British comedy. But Monty Python's Flying Circus was almost axed after one episode.

Audience ratings for the first show were so low that BBC chiefs considered pulling the plug.

They were also upset by sketches that were in appalling taste. Stephen Heast, head of arts features, lambasted the Pythons for being nihilistic and cruel.

The first show, broadcast on October 5, 1969, attracted just 3% of the TV audience, while 22% tuned in to Dad's Army.

The audience reactive index, judged by a panel of BBC experts, was also the lowest for a light entertainment programme that week. And as the series progressed BBC1 controller Paul Fox accused the comedians of going over the edge of what was acceptable.

..Read full article

 

1st June   

Update: Boy Whingers...

Hindus call for worldwide boycott of Sony over Hanuman Game
Link Here  full story: Boy Warriors Censorship...Indian computer game under fire from Hindus

Hanuman: Boy Warrior gamePerturbed over Sony's Hanuman: Boy Warrior videogame and further vexed by stiff-necked attitude of Sony officials, various Hindu groups have given worldwide boycott call against Sony PlayStation products.

Spearheaded by the ever whinging Rajan Zed, who said that Hanuman game trivializes the highly revered deity of Hinduism; various Hindu groups/leaders who have jointly given the boycott call include Bhavna Shinde of Forum for Hindu Awakening in USA; Vamsi Krishna of Sanatan Sanstha of Australia and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti headquartered in India

Zed further said that immature handling of the issue by Sony, which is said to be a socially responsible and ethical corporation, saddened them. He also urged Sony to create a high-level check system so that denigrations like this did not happen in the future.

 

1st June   

Pandering to Nutters...

Nutters get interactive DVD banned from Amazon.com
Link Here

Stockholm Amazon.com have removed an interactive DVD from sale called Stockholm: An Exploration of True Love.

This censorship seems to be in response to a posting at feministing.com:

Amazon sells another video game where you "play" sexual abuser

While we haven't been the biggest fans of Amazon as of late and their history of selling a rape simulation game (which they did end up banning), it looks like another game involving violence against women seems to have "slipped" past their radar. Stockholm: An Exploration of True Love is a game that allows the user to experience,

" ...a terrifyingly vivid exploration of Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological condition in which a captive falls in love with her kidnapper. And you play the part of the kidnapper. With a limited number of options, you must figure out how to make her fall in love with you."

This includes using poison gas on the victim, sexually assaulting her and using psychological abuse against her in efforts to make her "love" you. Unbelievable.

 

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