April 2005

European Court of Justice gives EU officials licence to lie

EU Observer reports that the European Court of Justice has given the European Commission the all clear to go fishing in journalists files whenever it likes, according to the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ).

According to EFJ secretary general, Adrian White, the courts recent (April 19) decision to quash an appeal by Hans-Martin Tillack, the former Brussels correspondent of Stern magazine, could turn off potential sources and whistle-blowers from acting on their conscience for fear of discovery and reprisal.

Tillack had appealed against an earlier ruling absolving the European Commission´s anti-fraud office, OLAF, from inciting the Belgian police to raid the reporter´s flat last March. The appeal also asked the European Court of Justice to block OLAF from seizing over a thousand pages of documents and thousands of emails seized in the raid.

According to Tillack, OLAF provoke the raid by telling the Belgian police (dishonestly) that he had bribed officials and was planning to flee to the US. No charges have been brought against Tillack to date.
The EFJ is pushing for a Europe-wide freedom of information law that would give journalists´sources and whistle-blowers a funadamental right to confidentiality.

The European Commission has not taken up the proposal although Belgium did tighten up laws protecting its journalists late last year.

No Gore in Oz

Refused Classification reports that Herschell Gordon Lewis The Gore Gore Girls has been banned (okay, refused classification - same difference) in Australia.

No satire please, were Turkish

Private Eye has picked up the story of the offensive cartoon (left) that highlighted the gaping holes in Turkeys defence of free speech.

After Turkish satirical magazine Penguen ran a cartoon portraying Erdogan as a cat, the catoonist, Musa Kart, was taken to court and fined 5000 lira (£1700). The case drew attention to Turkeys recently drawn up (and much praised) criminal code that contain clauses that prohibit journalists from insulting the state, not to mention numerous other vague phrases that over zealous prosecutors can seize upon.

The shabby treatment of Musa Kart provoked strong reactionamong other Turkish cartoonists and Erdogan has now been portrayed as everything from a lion to a giraffe. More lawsuits are pending and Penguen faces a fine of more than 40,000 lira (£8,500) that could force closure

The Federation of Cartoonists Organisations (FECO) reports on the same story with a bit more background. The article goes on to point out that the legal actions against Kart and Penguen are not the only attacks on press freedoms by the thin-skinned champion of free speech.

In 2004, Hilal Incesu, a caricaturist at the Ulkede Ozgur Gundem newspaper, commented on the Prime Minister suing the Daily Evrensel newspaper for a caricature, and the € 6000 compensation fine imposed. Incesu received a suspended 50-month prison sentence for this. Musa Kart subsequently drew this incident in his caricature corner called, Above the Boot, in the Cumhuriyet (Republic) newspaper. In Karts caricature, a stick man, representing the prime minister, speaks into the microphone of a reporter: Yes, lets join the EU for personal rights and freedoms. However, I will not let my charisma be damaged! Incesu is an old hand at court appearances - at one time he had dozens of lawsuits against him. Other cartoonists feeling the back of Erdogans hand include Selvi, also of Evrensel. He drew the Prime Minister as a horse being led by one of his advisers. Mr Selvi was also convicted and fined.

Feco also has the supportive response from cartoonists for Penguen magazine online. Click here to see it.

Taiwan censors Chinese media

Taiwan has decided that the best way to promote understanding between themselves and China is to ban the Chinese media (specifically, news agency Xinhua and the Peoples Daily) from operating on the island.

According to Reporters Without Borders:

Even though the Peoples Republic of China is certainly no model of press freedom, using censorship against its media makes no sense. We believe that the right to news and information should in no circumstances be compromised because of political differences.

Quite.

As you surely dont know

With Wanadoo about to announce a partnership with Tunisias leading internet operator, Reporters Without Borders have published an open letter to Olivier Sichel, Director General of Wanadoo, pointing out that Tunisia censors the Internet and imprisons its users. Read it here

Bullying bollocks from Puttnam

According to The Guardian, David Puttnam is due to make a speech (in fact, he probably has made it by now) in which he blames media violence for all of societys ills. Today, its bullying.

According to Puttnam:

We cannot afford to remain blind to the impact films and moving images of all kinds have on young people.

It would be lovely, wouldnt it, if banning (or better still, restricting - its the same as a ban, but we dont have to admit to censorship) certain films and TV series could make absent or violent parents present and peaceful, eradicate racial and religious prejudices, improve environments and solve all of the other complex and interrelated issues that lead to bullying and other social issues.

Unfortunately, it wont and Labour Peer, Lord Puttnam, is simply spouting the sort of easy answer bollocks that politicians like to hear when theyre this close to a general election.

Turkish writer flees for his life

From European Voice

One of Turkey’s foremost modern writers Orhan Pamuk has been forced to flee the country after being engulfed in a storm of controversy over comments he made about Ottoman treatment of Armenians.

Apparently, Parmuk gave an interview to a Swiss journalist last month during which he remarked that “a million Armenians were killed in Turkey”. Following this, he found himself facing heavy criticism in the nationalist press (which is reasonable enough) and death threats (which is completely unacceptable).

According to Green MEP Cem Özdemir, Parmuk - author of best selling novels Snow and The Black Book, which deal with the interrelation of Turkey’s Islamic, secular and liberal traditions - has left the country out of fear for his life.

Members of the right-wing ultra-nationalist National Action Party, the MHP, and its youth wing, known as the ‘Grey Wolves’ have openly called for Pamuk to be attacked. One regional official issued an order for his books to be burned, an action which has since prompted an government enquiry.

A government inquiry is a very small step. The regional official in question has shown himself to be completely incompetent in a country with a slowly stengthening democracy that aspires to join the EU.

The MHP and Grey Wolves members that have tried to incite violence against Pamuk should be prosecuted.

European Parliament to allow (some) filming

Some time ago, Austrian MEP invited a film crew into the European Parliament to film MEPs signing the register for theire daily expenses. And then buggering off home.

Parliament rushed into action, demanding the right to restict access to journalists and to seize tapes and other equipment so that no-one else will catch MEPs abusing the expenses system.

Now, according to European Voice, the MEPs have backed down slightly.

The assembly’s leadership has dropped a controversial proposal which would have allowed security staff to seize the tapes and other equipment of TV crews that breach rules governing their activities in the Parliament.

But journalists’ organisations and MEPs are objecting to a new proposal which would give the quaestors, the body responsible for supervising the business of MEPs, the right to designate areas where filming is banned. Another amendment states that: “Film cameramen and photographers shall have due regard to the personal dignity and privacy of all individuals present within the buildings.”

According to Michael Stabenow, chairman of the Association de la Presse Internationale (API):

The proposals have been watered down but these remain draconian measures which are unjustified and totally unacceptable. We object to the quaestors having the right to say where people can film because it is totally arbitrary.

If MEPs want to preserve their personal dignity, a good first step would be no not abuse the system rather than trying to prevent journalists from carrying out the essential function of ensuring that the workings of the European Parliament - and any other institution, for that matter - remain transparent.

Tits out go to jail

And I thought that the US TV regulators were already overreacting to any flashes of flesh on the small screen.

According to AVN, F. James Sensenbrenner III, chairman of one of the entertainment industrys most important congressional committees wants to abandon the current regulatory framework in favour of dragging TV companies through the courts.

Id prefer using the criminal process rather than the regulatory process, Sensenbrenner told the executives.

The current system – in which the FCC fines a licensee for violating the regulations – casts too wide a net, he said, trapping those who are attempting to reign in smut on TV and those who are not, the report said.

However

It was unclear exactly how he would go about criminalizing violations of the indecency statutes

Sounds like Sensenbrenner would like to replace an excessively reactionary regulatory regime with an ill thought out criminal one.

(via The Melon Farmers)

And ASBOs for all

According to The Guardian, Mitch Hawkin, the man behind www.lynehamvillage.co.uk has been threatened with an anti-social behavior order for publishing a joke about the pope on his website.

Apparently, the police were called in to investigate by Andy Humm - who runs a rival website - and Conservative local councillor, Allison Bucknell.

The Guardian incorrectly describes Hawkins Lyneham site as a spoof. Although it is certainly irreverent, it is also quite informative and well worth a read - even if (like Andy Humm and Allison Bucknell) you have no sense of humour.

(via The Melon Farmers)

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