Watching the watchers watching what we watch
After Blairs threat to jail any editor who reports the Bomb Al-Jazeera memo, we thought there would be an outcry. Who would stand up for press freedom, or at least the freedom not to be bombed to buggery?
One man has come out fighting. Boris Johnson:
The Attorney Generals ban is ridiculous, untenable, and redolent of guilt. I do not like people to break the Official Secrets Act, and, as it happens, I would not object to the continued prosecution of those who are alleged to have broken it. But we now have allegations of such severity, against the US President and his motives, that we need to clear them up.
If someone passes me the document within the next few days I will be very happy to publish it in The Spectator, and risk a jail sentence. The public need to judge for themselves. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. If we suppress the truth, we forget what we are fighting for, and in an important respect we become as sick and as bad as our enemies.
Im game. If anyone can sends the Bomb Al-Jazeera memo to me I will publish it.
At the end of October, The Guardian ran an interview with Noam Chomsky in which the interviewer, Emma Brockes, challenged his tendancy to play down massacres for which the US is not directly responsible.
A couple of days later, the paper published a letter from Chomsky grumbling that hed managed to misrepresent himself and trying to reword his answers after the event.
Want to check out the interview for yourself? Well, you cant.
As noted by Private Eye, on 17th November the Guardian announced that it had removed all traces of the interview from its website, so anyone who wants to look up the piece which Chomsky claimed she was of course free to publish will look in vain.
The Guardian reports that a French court has agreed yesterday to consider a complaint brought by a conservative MP against the rapper Monsieur R for referring to France as a slut in a song.
The court in Melun, south of Paris, said it would rule early next year on the complaint filed by Daniel Mach, MP for the Pyrénées Orientales, who said he had the backing of 150 MPs but was bringing the action on my own personal account, because I feel assaulted by these insults. They are a real attack on the dignity of France and of the state.
Apparently, M. Mach objected to the song FranSSe, from Monsieur Rs latest album Politikment Incorrekt, which includes the lyrics France is a bitch, dont forget to fuck her till shes exhausted/You have to treat her like a slut, man. And: I piss on Napoleon and on General de Gaulle.
If convicted, the rapper faces up to three years in prison and a fine of €75,000 (£51,000). As soon as a rapper expresses himself, bizarrely, everyone launches into him, he told the France Soir newspaper yesterday. There are plenty of songs that are part of this countrys artistic heritage and every bit as virulently anti-France, and nobody complains.
The Times reports that the Barbican in London has bowdlerised their production of Christopher Marlowe’s 1580s masterpiece, Tamburlaine the Great, to avoid upsetting Muslims.
Not that any Muslims have been upset, of course and no-one, has complained about the cut scenes in any earlier production of this play.
Tamburlaine the Great tells the story of a shepherd-robber who defeats the king of Persia, the emperor of Turkey and, seeing himself as the “scourge of God”, burns the Koran. And its the Koran burning scene that has been cut - to be replaced with a much milder destruction of “a load of books” with no religious or cultural connections.
According to Charles Nicholl, the author of The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe, Marlowe asked “uncomfortable and confrontational questions — particularly aimed at those that held dogmatic, religious views”.
Not, it appears, when the Barbican gets their hands on him.
The BBC reports that a French MP has publicly accused rappers of fuelling the countrys recent riots with their songs. And hes started a petition calling for legal action against musicians saying things that he doesnt want to hear.
MP Francois Grosdidier told France-Info radio it was no surprise youths saw red after listening to violent lyrics.
He told France-Info: When people hear this all day long and when these words swirl round in their heads, it is no surprise that they then see red as soon as they walk past policemen or simply people who are different from them.
For simplistic, easy and worthless solutions, Grosdidier really does have it covered.
The film has a 15 rating in the UK but the more sensitive Americans decided that it deserved an R rating, meaning that children under the age of 17 can only see it if there is an adult in attendance Someone like a 62 year old English teacher, perhaps?
Apparently the teacher, Ed Youngblood, who had taught at South Gwinnett High School in Atlanta, Georgia, for 37 years was given the choice of quitting or being fired after being informed that an official investigation was under way.
Nice that. Even before the investigation is completed, hes told to go.
Youd think that there might be a remote chance that this investigation will find that there is nothing wrong with screening an English historical drama to an advanced English class.
Students at the school are organising a campaign to have Youngblood reinstated. Good luck to them.
The BBC reports that a Turkish publisher has gone on trial for insulting the Turkish state and the founder of the Turkish republic.
Fatih Tas published a translation of a work by a US academic that included passages highly critical of the Turkish military during the Kurdish insurgency.
He is being prosecuted under the same article of law as Turkeys best-selling novelist Orhan Pamuk and several dozen other writers and publishers.
Mr Tas, who owns Aram Publishing House, is no stranger to court appearances. His firm makes a point of publishing books on sensitive subjects and, under Turkish law, that means trouble.
Prosecutors are accusing him of having violated Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which makes it a crime to insult Turkishness or the Republic. Specifically, they have taken offence at a map that labels a large section of Turkey a traditionally-Kurdish area, as well as allegations of human rights abuses by the Turkish military during the Kurdish insurgency of the 1980s and 1990s.
Article 301 has been highlighted by the EU as a serious concern in its recent progress report on Turkeys membership bid.
EUObserver reports that the Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan boycotted a joint press conference with Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen over the presence of a Kurdish TV station.
The Danish-based TV channel Roj TV sends news, entertainment, debate and childrens programs to Kurds in Denmark. Turkey has called for the channel to be closed down, claiming that it is funded by the terrorist group, the PKK.
Danish police are investigating the station, but have not found evidence of links to forbidden organisations so far.
Mr Rasmussen said he regretted that Mr Erdogan did not attend the press conference, but pointed out that excluding the Kurdish TV-station from the conference would have violated the principles of freedom of expression in the European Union, which Turkey aspires to join.
He added that Turkey must realise that there are a few strict conditions that have to be fulfilled if Turkey wants to join the EU one day.
The story continues with Turkish officials backing Erdogans behaviour and repeating the allegation that the station is linked to the PKK, which the station denies.
An ongoing police investigation to establish possible links between the TV channel and PKK, will be made official in the near future Danish police say.
And, unless the Danish police have found some connection btween Roj TV and the PKK, there is no justification whatsoever for denying the station any of the same rights afforded to all other media organisations. This is something that Turkey will need to accept if they are to fulfil their ambition of joining the EU.
The 25-year-old Afghan had garnered wide praise in literary circles for the book Gule Dudi — Dark Flower — and was at work on a second volume.
Friends say her family was furious, believing that the publication of poetry by a woman about love and beauty had brought shame on it.
“She was a great poet and intellectual but, like so many Afghan women, she had to follow orders from her husband,” said Nahid Baqi, her best friend at Herat University.
The city of Herat prides itself on its artistic heritage and has been shocked by the death of the young writer. This has also raised uncomfortable questions about how much the position of women in Afghanistan has improved since the fall of the Taliban to American-led forces four years ago.
Anjuman’s movements were being limited by her husband, her friends believe. She had been invited to a ceremony celebrating the return to Herat of Amir Jan Sabouri, an Afghan singer, but failed to attend.
Her poetry alluded to an acute sense of confinement. “I am caged in this corner, full of melancholy and sorrow,” she wrote in one “ghazal”, or lyrical poem, adding: “My wings are closed and I cannot fly.” It concludes: “I am an Afghan woman and must wail.”
Afghan human rights groups condemned Anjuman’s death as evidence that the government of President Hamid Karzai has failed to address the issue of domestic violence. It is especially tragic because she was one of a group of courageous women, known as the Sewing Circles of Herat, who risked their lives to keep the city’s literary scene active under the Taliban regime.
Under a regime where even teaching a daughter to read was a crime, they might have been hanged if they had been caught.
Although Afghanistan’s new constitution guarantees equal rights for men and women before the law, its conservative mindset has not changed. This is partly because of the continuing power of the American-backed warlords whose repressive views are similar to those of the Taliban.
After trying to pretend to be all liberal and progressive by voting down the Governments Incitement to Religious Hatred Bill, The House of Lords has reverted to type by voting to retain Britain’s archaic Blasphemy Law.