September 2005

Chinas 11 Internet Commandments

Reporters Without Borders reports that China is attempting to restrict internet access yet further with 11 commandments that were announced with a fanfare by the official media.

The article notes that there is very little new in these rules, which restate the partys desire to maintain the monopoly of the dissemination of information and that the medias task is not to be objective but to relay state propaganda. As such, the intent is almost certainly to frighten internet users towards self-censorship.

These moves to filter the Internet are nevertheless a sign that the Internet frightens those in power, in particular during a period of ever greater social unrest. Its noticeable that the only new elements in the text relate to banning the calling of strikes or gatherings though the Net.

For the record, online news service providers, bulletin board providers and organisations that send news to mobile phones are banned from putting out news or allowing posts that:

  1. violate the basic principles of the Chinese constitution
  2. endangers national security, leaks national secrets, seeks to overthrow the government, endangers the unification of the country
  3. destroys the countrys reputation and benefits
  4. arouses national feelings of hatred, racism, and endangers racial unification
  5. violates national policies on religion, promotes the propaganda of sects and superstition [More than 30 members of the Falungong movement are currently behind bars for posting news on the Internet]
  6. diffuses rumours, endangers public order and creates social uncertainty
  7. diffuses information that is pornographic, violent, terrorist or linked to gambling
  8. libels or harms peoples reputation, violates peoples legal rights
  9. includes illegal information bounded by law and administrative rules
  10. encourage illegal gatherings, strikes, etc to create public disorder
  11. organise activities under illegal social associations or organisations

Proactive censorship from the Tate

God is Great MediaWatchWatch have picked up this story from The Observer:

One of Britains leading conceptual artists has accused the Tate gallery of cowardice after it banned one of his major works for fear of offending some Muslims after the London terrorist bombings.

John Lathams God Is Great consists of a large sheet of thick glass with copies of Islam, Christianity and Judaisms most sacred texts - the Koran, Bible and Talmud - apparently embedded within its surface.

The work was due to go on display last week in an exhibition dedicated to Latham at Londons Tate Britain, but gallery officials took the unprecedented decision to veto it because of political and religious sensitivities.

This is a ten year old sculpture which has, so far, attracted no complaints.

Not surprisingly, Latham is furious and Liberty have also expressed their condemnation of the gallerys pre-emptive cowardice.

According to Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty:

We share his concern, she said. I dont know what precise thought processes were going on at the Tate but I am concerned about the signal this sends at a time when we see free speech quite significantly under threat.

I think that after 7 July we need this kind of artistic expression and political expression and discourse and disagreement more than ever, which is why this is worrying. Is three holy books in a piece of glass going to incite controversy?

Frankly, whether it does or doesnt, controversy is what we have in a flourishing democracy.


Bite The Mango

Black Friday From Reuters:

An Asian film festival kicks off on Friday with a controversial Indian movie that has been blocked by the courts back home and features a Pakistani star who provoked fury for steamy on-screen scenes.

The 11th annual Bite the Mango film festival in the city of Bradford is out to highlight the problems faced by filmmakers and actors in South Asias prolific cinema industry, which is seen as conservative and politicised.

The opening movie will be Black Friday, directed by 33-year-old Anurag Kashyap, which centres around the 1993 bomb attacks across Mumbai that killed more than 250 people.

An Indian court has blocked its theatre release while a legal case is ongoing, but Kashyap believes there is a wider problem of general unease about hard-hitting, factual films dealing with controversial subjects.

The festival has also invited Pakistani screen siren Meera to represent her country at the festival in recognition of her efforts to break down the taboos of South Asian cinema.

Meera was the first Pakistani actress to star in an Indian film, taking advantage of a thaw in relations between the rival nations, but a kissing scene caused uproar among Islamic groups in her native country who issued threats against her.

The hardliners in Pakistan were after her blood, said Ajeeb. I think its brave of an actress to go over to India and do these daring roles. Religion, politics and culture always come into it in South Asia.

Meera shrugged off the outcry.

Student leader suspended in row over Islamist debate

From The Guardian (via) :

Middlesex University has suspended the president of its student union and revoked his studentship until further notice after he refused to cancel a debate with the controversial Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

The union was ordered to cancel the debate at the end of last week but refused, with the president of the student union, Keith Shilson, arguing that it should be allowed on the grounds of freedom of speech. He claims the group, which is considered by some to be extremist, including the prime minister who announced his intention to proscribe it last month, is a non-violent organisation.

Yesterday, Mr Shilson was escorted from the campus by university security in what is believed to be the first disciplinary action to be taken against a student over the issue of extremism.

Sin City poster banned

Sin City non-interactive poster Dr Feelgood has brought my attention to this story.

An interactive film advert which showed clips of the film Sin City has been banned by the advertising watchdog for condoning violence.

Out of 486,570 interactions with the advert - over a 47 day campaign - there were a grand total of 1 complaints. So these adverts have been banned on the basis of the 0.0002% of the population that doesnt get out very much.

Ah, but think of the children, wails the ASA. To which the films distributors, Buena Vista International, points out that it had placed the buttons people used to watch the clips higher than normal, out of the reach of children.

As the good doctor points out:

Interactive posters are a new phenomenon, but this decision should get them dead in the water straight away. Its going to be impossible for the distributors of any film rated 12A or above to consider them now, because a precedent is set for removing them on the grounds of offensiveness.

Spot the difference

Allah and Chocolate Take a long hard look at the tow images to the left. Can you tell the difference?

If you spotted that the one on the left is an ice-cream cone and the one on the right isnt, youre doing a whole lot better than the MCBs Inayat Bunglawala, and Burger King, for that matter.

Both MediaWatchWatch and Pickled Politics have picked up a story from that renowned journal that is The Sun, according to which the fast food chain are to withdraw their cones because customers have complained that the swirl looks a bit like the Arabic for Allah.

According to the MCBs Inayat Bunglawala

We commend the sensitive and prompt action to prevent any hurt being caused to the religious sensibilities of others.

According to the far more level-headed folks at Pickled Politics

It beggars belief that the Muslim Council of Britain keep giving credence to these stupid stories with their own quotes. For god’s sake, it only gives the impression that all Muslims are hyper-sensitive. BK should never have changed this, I haven’t seen a single campaign or email about this issue.

The similarity is only there if you are determined to get offended.

Dont trust Yahoo!

Reporters Without Borders reports that Yahoo! provided China’s state security authorities with details that helped to identify and convict Chinese journalist, Shi Tao, for “divulging state secrets abroad”.

“We already knew that Yahoo ! collaborates enthusiastically with the Chinese regime in questions of censorship, and now we know it is a Chinese police informant as well,” the press freedom organisation said.

“Yahoo ! obviously complied with requests from the Chinese authorities to furnish information regarding an IP address that linked Shi Tao to materials posted online, and the company will yet again simply state that they just conform to the laws of the countries in which they operate,” the organisation said. “But does the fact that this corporation operates under Chinese law free it from all ethical considerations ? How far will it go to please Beijing ?”

Reporters Without Borders added : “Information supplied by Yahoo ! led to the conviction of a good journalist who has paid dearly for trying to get the news out. It is one thing to turn a blind eye to the Chinese government’s abuses and it is quite another thing to collaborate.”