December 2006

Blasphemous Italians

Variety (via) reports that Italian broadcasters RAI and Mediaset have been fined by the countrys media regulator for airing blasphemous expletives during Celebrity Survivor and Big Brother.

Italys regulator, Agcom, has imposed fines of €100,000 apiece for violating norms on respect of religious sentiment and protection of minors.

Contestants on both shows were sacked on the spot after uttering strong swear words, directed at God, live in prime time. The incidents, which took place in October and November, were the first two of the type in the country and caused quite a stir, drawing fire from censorship enthusiasts at parenting organisation Moige and advocacy group Codacons, as well as the Vatican.

The fines are not that heavy monetarily, but do represent a regulatory milestone.

Turks acquitted for publishing Chomsky

A Turkish publisher, two editors and a translator have all been acquitted (via) of insulting Turkishness by translating and publishing Noam Chomskys book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.

The case against publisher Fatih Tas was brought under article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which Turkish officials have promised to work towards amending.

Also acquitted was author, Ipek Calislar, who had been accused of insulting modern Turkeys founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, by writing that he had once fled disguised as a woman.

Article 301 has also been used against dozens of writers, journalists and and publishers and has been highlighted by the EU as contributing to a “climate of self-censorship in the country”.

Irving released

Holocaust denier, David Irving has been released (via) after an Austrian court reduced his three year prison sentence for Holocaust denial.

The Regional High Court in Vienna upheld an appeal by Irving yesterday, converting into probation the three-year sentence handed down last February. Irving, 68, was arrested in November last year during a visit to Austria on a warrant dating back to 1989, when he held two lectures in Austria denying the existence of death camps and the organised mass murder of Jews during Nazi rule. He was held under a 1992 law that makes denial of the Holocaust a crime.

Frankly, its good that hes out. Irving is an idiot and a proven liar. As such, his claims are best dealt with by allowing a real historian to pull them apart rather than trying to hide them away in some cell.

Free explicit pornography online is illegal

LINX Public Affairs (via) has been looking at the answer Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker gave to Parliament last week when asked about the legal consequences of the judgment in the Court of Appeal in R v Perrin [2002].

The Minister declared that all R18 type material - that is, clear images of real sex between consenting adults - would be illegal to publish on the Internet unless “behind a suitable payment barrier or other accepted means of age verification”. This includes both commercial pornography and “non-commercial, user-generated material”.

In other words, free explicit pornography online is illegal.

Commercial sites arent much better off, either. Those that provide any sort of free tour - which is pretty much all of them - will now be considered to be breaking British law if they are deemed to operate within the UK jurisdiction. As for jurisdiction, Perrin was a UK resident but published his website using an American server.

In Perrin, the defendant faced two separate charges of publishing obscenity contrary to the Obscene Publications Act 1959; one charge related to material he was selling access to through his web site, the other related to material on his web site that was available before/without having paid.

The judge instructed the jury that that in respect of material paid for by credit card the legal standard is whether the material would “tend to deprave and corrupt” an adult, but in respect of freely available material the question is whether it would “tend to deprave and corrupt” a child, a direction approved by the Court of Appeal (albeit not without criticising the judge’s lack of clarity). The jury then convicted Perrin for the free pornography, but acquitted him for that which was sold.

Dangerous documentaries

JiFFest logo The Scotsman (via) reports that Indonesian censors have barred a documentary on the 2002 Bali bombings from being shown at the Jakarta International Film Festival citing concerns that remarks made by one of the bombers in the film could encourage terrorist attacks.

Titie Said, the head of the national film censor board, said yesterday the 70-minute film had been banned after one of the bombers had suggested carrying out suicide bombings was a way to enter heaven.

Promised Paradise, directed by Dutchman Leonard Retel Helmrich, explores the roots of the Bali nightclub bombings.

It includes a statement from one of the convicted bombers, Imam Samudra, who is awaiting execution along with two others for the attack.

Lalu Roisamri, programme manager of the Jakarta International Film Festival, said he had not yet received an official letter banning the film.

Petition against the violent porn proposals

there is a petition on the Number 10 Downing Street website against the Governments violent porn proposals.

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Abandon plans to make it a criminal offence to possess violent pornography.

This proposed law would create a Thought Crime making it illegal to possess sexual images that, in the subjective opinion of members of the Home Office, show activities liable to cause serious injury or death even if the participants were consenting adult actors.

Any UK citizen can sign it and over 1000 already have, so please put your name down if you want to keep Mister Blair out of your bedroom.

Indecent TV

The International Herald Tribune (via, via) reports that Indonesian police are investigating eight private television channels for allegedly broadcasting indecent material and excessive violence.

The Indonesian Broadcasting Commission posted a statement on its Web site saying it lodged a complaint Thursday against the channels, after repeatedly warning that their programming violated government regulations.

It was the latest attempt by Indonesian government-funded agencies in recent months to ban content deemed immoral or violent.

Last month, the Film Censorship Institute (LSF) banned four films on East Timor and Aceh that were to be screened at the 8th Jakarta International Film Festival.

The LSF has also forced a broadcaster to pull U.S. wrestling shows off the air.

In the same country, the editor of the Indonesian edition of Playboy (which contains no nudity) is facing legal proceedings which could result in a 36-month jail term.

A fright at the opera

The first showing of Berlins Deutsche Opers the now controversial production of Mozarts Idomeneo passed without incident last night, despite airport-style security checks.

The opera was cancelled back in September for fear of offending overly sensitive non-opera goers. This decision sparked debate in Germany about free speech, with Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble calling the decision crazy and Chancellor Angela Merkel warning against “self-censorship out of fear”.

The West, it seemed, was capitulating before Islam, surrendering Mozart, one of the defining symbols of European culture, on his 250th birthday. “The decision to cancel was insane, laughable and unacceptable,” Wolfgang Schäuble, the Interior Minister, said. Angela Merkel, the Chancellor, agreed. The Cabinet, which is dominated by Wagnerians, became fans of Mozart, an Austrian, overnight.

German politicians turned out in force at the performance and were determined to draw a line, if not between Islam and Christianity, then at least between artistic freedom and the paralysing fear of terrorism.

Mr Schäuble was there; Ms Merkel was not, but allowed Bernd Neumann, her Culture Minister, to leave a Cabinet session early so that he could get through the police cordons. Earlier, Mr Neumann had said: “If the mere fear of Islamic protest leads to self-censorship, then the democratic principle of the freedom of expression is directly threatened.” The leaders of the Green Party were in attendance, as was Klaus Wowereit, the Mayor of Berlin.

Newspapers sent their terrorism experts rather than music critics. They wore grim expressions, as if they were about to charge out of the trenches into the clash of civilisations.

Leaders of the Muslim community, having at first promised to attend, stayed away.

The production includes a scene - added by director Hans Neuenfels as a protest against organised religion - in which the severed heads of Muhammad, Bhudda, Jesus and Greek sea god Poseidon are presented by the king.

(via MediaWatchWatch)

Porn and pluralism

AsiaMedia (via) reports that an alliance of NGOs has filed a lawsuit with the Central Jakarta District Court against the House of Representatives over a bill they say endangers the multireligious and multicultural character of Indonesia.

The Alliance of Unity in Diversity Advocates demanded the House drop the highly controversial pornography bill, which they say is based on Islamic values and threatens pluralism in the country.

Its a big deal because its the first time that a civil group has filed a lawsuit against a state institution. We hope to teach the House a lesson from this case, lawyer Daniel Panjaitan said.

Daniel said the House had broken its internal rules in drafting the bill, which has met with strong opposition from some groups.

The bill should have dealt with the distribution of pornographic materials, not prescribe how citizens must behave according to the moral standards of a particular religion, he said.

The bill has received strong backing from some Muslim groups, notably hard-line groups that openly seek the adoption of sharia-based laws. But it has been opposed by pro-democracy, womens and human rights groups. The controversy moved lawmakers to delay discussion of the bill.

Daniel said lawmakers, in drafting the bill, failed to accommodate input from civil society.

According to the Alliance coordinator, Ratna Sarumpaet, the groups in the House promoting the bill are playing political games and people have become tired of them. We see a grand scenario behind the bill. Its an attempt to make Indonesia an Islamic state. It has to do with the issuance of sharia bylaws in certain regions. We raised this issue with the (Islamic-based) Prosperous Justice Party faction (in the House) but they were tight-lipped. For us their silence means yes, she said.

Ratna, also director of the Jakarta Institute of the Arts, reiterated that the alliance was against pornography, but opposed a bill that would allow the state to force citizens to behave according to the norms of a certain religion.

It is no longer necessary for the House to pass a pornography law because it is already covered in the Criminal Code and existing laws such as the broadcasting and press laws. Pluralism is the nations main characteristic and we have to accept local cultures and traditional customs, she said.

Death threats fail to stop a road movie to Kabul

After a bit of a hiatus its nice to be able to return to this blog with a positive post.

Although very popular in Afghanistan, Bollywood films didnt go down well - to say the least - with the Taliban and, when in power, the Islamic government banned the films. But now, with the Taliban out of power, the Indian film industry has broken new ground by releasing the first international movie filmed in post-Taliban Afghanistan.

Kabul Express is the tale of two Indian journalists out of their depth on the trail of Taliban and is set among the countrys spectacularly scarred landscape of gutted buildings and pitted flatlands. Shot over 45 days in and around Kabul, the Bombay film crew arrived in September last year during the resurgence of Taliban violence that saw three suicide bombings and the beheading of an Indian construction engineer.

The films director and writer, Kabir Khan says that it took just two weeks before the Taliban sent death threats to the movie set.

I was told by the Indian ambassador in Kabul that there was a five-man death squad sent by the Taliban. Everybody was pretty nervous. The Taliban wanted to send a message that you cannot have a normal life here. But the Afghan government really helped. They gave us 60 armed commandos and we used to roll around in 35 SUVs. In fact we looked like a militia.

The film went on general release in the UK on Friday.