November 2006

Yemen editor jailed over cartoons

Muhammed The BBC (via) reports that a court in Yemen has sentenced newspaper editor, Kamal al-Aalafi to a year in jail for reprinting the cartoons at the heart of the The Muhammed Cartoons Controversy. The court also ordered the independent weekly newspaper which carried the cartoons to be closed for six months.

Mr al-Aalafi, who has been released on bail and will appeal the sentence, said he had reprinted the cartoons to raise awareness, not to insult Muslims.

The editors of two other Yemeni publications face similar charges.

Wal-Mart encourages healthy sexuality. Fundamentalists outraged. Wal-Mart drops book

The Washington Times (via) reports that Wal-Mart has stopped selling a sex-education book after protests from activists that the book promotes lesbianism.

Wal-Marts web site had described The Little Black Book for Girlz: A Book on Healthy Sexuality, which was produced by Canadian charity St. Stephens Community House, as not just a book about sex, but a look at girl culture by teenagers, describing it as an important, take-anywhere empowerment guide.

Then the fundamentalists got involved, with and the Institute for Canadian Values (ICV) objecting to the book. Joseph Ben-Ami, executive director of the ICV called the book irresponsible and obscene.

Wal-Mart backed down and their web site has removed its listing for the book.

12 years for getting caught in a porn crackdown

Under pressure from the west, the Chinese government launched a crackdown on piracy in July. But, as China View (via) reports, they decided to make an issue of pornography while they were at it.

A person who was jailed for 12 years for selling pornographic goods was among six people imprisoned in Chinas latest crackdown on piracy and pornography.

The person was also fined 5,000 yuan (625 U.S. dollars) after being convicted in the southern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the national anti-pornography and anti-piracy office said.

In related news, another person in Chinas Henan Province was sentenced to ten months in prison for illegally printing a Chinese dictionary and fined 20,000 yuan and a man was convicted of selling pornographic DVDs and VCDs. He was jailed for five and a half years and fined 10,000 yuan.

Another Egyptian blogger arrested

Police in Cairo have arrested a blogger who has been critical of the Egyptian government.

Rami Siyam, who blogs as Ayyoub was detained along with three friends after leaving the house of another blogger last week. No reasons have been given for his detention.

Human rights groups have accused Egypt of eroding freedom of speech by arresting several bloggers recently.

BBC Arab Affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi says blogging in Egypt is closely associated with political activism in a culture where democratic freedoms are severely restricted.

In recent weeks, bloggers have been exposing what they say was the sexual harassment of women at night in downtown Cairo in full view of police who did not intervene.

Mr Siyams host on Saturday night, Muhammad Sharqawi, was detained for several weeks earlier this year.

(via The Melon Farmers)

No crime in China: Official

The Chinese government has announced restrictions on the broadcast reporting on vicious crimes so the countrys young people have a healthier media environment.

We must not let improper crime reporting harm young minds, said Zhang Haitao, vice director of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

Reporting of cases that harm public security and cases of vicious crimes, such as kidnap and arson, will be subject to strict controls, he continued. Detailed reports of detective work and investigations by the police will be banned and detailed descriptions and analysis of criminal methods and motives will also be banned.

Zhang also said that TV programs should not exaggerate violence, murder, pornography and horror scenes and the name, address, photograph and anything else that might reveal the identity of a juvenile delinquent should not be mentioned.

Chad press suspended

IFEX (via) reports that Reporters Without Borders are calling on Chadian members of Parliament to take the necessary steps to ensure the NDjamena press may continue to publish without restrictions, as they did before the a state of emergency was declared on 13 November 2006. Following the decisions of bi-weekly NDjamena Bi-hebdo and weekly Le Temps to suspend publication until the end of the the initial period of the state of emergency, the only source of news available to residents of the nations capital is the pro-government Le Progrès.

Nadjikimo Benoudjita, publication director of the independent weekly Notre Temps, also told RSF that he has decided to suspend publication until the state of emergency is lifted, after the state intelligence bureau (lAgence nationale de sécurité, ANS) ordered him to stop reporting on clashes between rebels and government troops in the east of the country. On 15 November, about 15 intelligence officers appeared at the directors home, which is adjacent to the papers office, and seized all the copies of the paper they found. Street vendors with copies of the latest edition were ordered to turn them over to the police. Benoudjita was made to promise not to distribute any copies not seized by the officers and was summoned to appear before the director-general of national security the next day, who warned him against any attempt to circumvent prior censorship measures set in place by the government for the state of emergency.

The 15 November edition of Notre Temps did appear however, after Benoudjita asked the State Prosecutor to rule on the question of the retroactivity of the measure. Notre Temps had in fact been published before the state of emergency was declared.

In another case, Abdelnasser Garboa, editor-in-chief of the independent weekly LObservateur, told RSF that on 21 November, the Communications Ministrys censorship committee ordered him to reconfigure the layout of the issue set to go to press, so that it would not be noticeable that entire segments that had been removed. The previous weeks edition, like that of many others still being printed in the capital, was published with black strips covering the censored articles, over which the words Censored were printed. The journalist refused to comply.

RSF has facsimiles of the censored pages of Le Temps on their website. Click here to see them.

Another day, another panic

According to The Times (via), young Muslims are becoming dangerous radicals because of hip hop.

Intelligence agencies have identified music as a “tool for indoctrination”. The phenomenon began with an American group called Soldiers of Allah. The group has since disbanded but its music and lyrics remain popular on the internet. Other groups in Britain, France and the US have been identified as giving cause for concern. Many use the derogatory term “kufur” to describe non-Muslims.

Madeleine Gruen, an American intelligence analyst with nothing better to do, has suggested that the lyrics of British group, Blakstone might be a gateway to extremist politics. You can listen to a few of their songs here and make up your own mind - something which the vast majority of people are capable of doing.

In the 1980s it was heavy metal. Now its hip hop. It twenty years time, The Times will be trying to scare us all about something else again.

Turkey to amend Article 301

Following a critical European Commission report on Turkeys accession process to the EU earlier this month which highlighted Article 301 of the countrys penal code as contributing to a climate of self-censorship in the country, Turkish officials have announced that they will work towards amending the article before EU leaders meet for a 14-15 December summit meeting.

The article, which makes insulting Turkishness a crime, has been used against various writers and publishers in the country and many parts of Turkish civil society are also keen to get rid of it.

Turkey has also suspended military ties with France over the ridiculous law adopted by the French National Assembly (but still waiting for approval from the Senate) which makes it a crime to deny that Armenians suffered genocide by the Ottoman Turks.

No Welcome in Greensborough

Tom McEvoys Welcome to Greensborough first screened at the 2005 Melbourne Underground Film Festival where it picked up a couple of awards, including Best Guerrilla Film.

According to the Australian Film Commission, Welcome to Greensborough is:

A controversial film that depicts suburban teen life through the metaphor of pornography: monotonous, misogynistic and dirty. A slow-burning sexually intense ride through the misguided minds of suburban male youths as they compete to become the alpha male.

A bit too controversial, apparently, as the film has been banned by the Australian Classification Board.

(Via The Melon Farmers)

Press under pressure in Sudan

Human Rights Watch (via) is reporting that the Sudanese government is engaged in an increasingly blatant effort to muzzle and intimidate the country’s independent press.

“While international media attention has been focused on Darfur, the Sudanese authorities in Khartoum have been stepping up their harassment of Sudanese journalists and newspapers,” said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The harassment is symptomatic of Khartoum’s fear of mounting popular dissent and frustration at government policies and actions.”

Since the beginning of 2006 at least 15 Sudanese and foreign journalists have been arrested and detained. And in recent months, government forces have stepped up their activities, carrying out numerous acts of censorship, arrests of journalists, and arbitrary inspections of newspaper offices and printing presses. In some instances editions of newspapers have been banned altogether.

In September, newspaper editors were warned not to cover the violent police actions against anti-government demonstrations which took place in Khartoum on August 30 and September 6 following the announcement of price increases for fuel, sugar and other basic goods.

The government also imposed a ban on reporting or comment on the case of Mohamed Taha Mohamed Ahmed, the editor of the Islamist al-Wifaq newspaper, whose decapitated body was found on September 6, a day after he was abducted by a group of armed men from his home in Khartoum.

In addition Sudanese security services have routinely restricted the international and Sudanese media’s coverage of the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Even once they have obtained visas for Sudan, international media face increasing restrictions on their travel to Darfur and their ability to move freely and interview individuals in the region.

“The government’s strategy of intimidating journalists in Khartoum has had some effect,” said Takirambudde. “The Sudanese media, especially Arabic newspapers, toe the government line on key issues such as Darfur. And the human rights violations being carried out by the security forces in the region are not being reported.”

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