January 2007

Fined for self censorship

From Twitch comes the news that NHK, the Japanese public broadcasting company, and two production companies were fined US $16,529 by the Tokyo High Court after being found guilty of self-censorship in a documentary aired in 2001.

The documentary was about a mock trial of Emporer Hirohito for alleged war crimes in WWII, including the authorization of Japanese military brothels staffed by Asian slaves. Before airing the film, NHK executives met with then-chief cabinet secretary Shinzo Abe, now prime minister, and Shochi Nakagawa of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, who voiced complaints about the anti-imperial tenor of the show and urged the broadcaster to be objective. NHK then re-edited the program, cutting out the guilty verdit at the end and the incriminating testimony of Japanese soldiers. The plaintiff, Violence Against Women in War Network Japan brought suit, saying that they werent consulted on the re-edit. Abe and Nakagawa were not punished. NHK has been known to buckle to political pressure, especially the majority LDP party, which sets the broadcasters annual budget.

No Gore in Schools

It may have been nominated for an Oscar, but Al Gores An Inconvenient Truth still has the ability to scare the superstitious.

Frosty Hardiman, a parent of seven in the southern suburbs of Seattle, learned that one of his daughters would be watching the film as part of a science class and immediately fired off an angry email to the school board.

No, you will not teach or show that propagandist Al Gore video to my child, blaming our nation the greatest nation ever to exist on this planet for global warming, Hardiman wrote.

The 43-year-old computer consultant is an evangelical Christian who said he believes that a warming planet is one of the signs of Jesus Christs imminent return for Judgment Day.

His angry e-mail, along with complaints from a few other parents, stopped the film from being shown.

The email also demanded that the school board impose a ban on screenings of the film for the districts 22,500 students and led to the science teacher being told that she would receive a disciplinary letter for not following school board rules that require her to seek written permission to present controversial materials in class.

The good news is that the ban - which the school board said was merely a moratorium - was lifted shortly afterwards, subject to conditions. But the fact that a ban was imposed in the first place has appalled the films producers and triggered a backlash.

Less happy is the fact that the school board has opted for balance. This means that the film can only be shown with the written permission of a principal and only when it is balanced by alternative views that are approved by both a principal and the superintendent of schools.

(Via CHUD)

The cost of censorship

One of Googles founders, Sergey Brin, admitted on Friday that the companys decision to censor its search engine in China had been bad for business. When the company launched the Chinese version of their search engine in 2005, it was modified to exclude certain topics - such as the Tiananmen Square massacre and the Falun Gong movement.

The company has only once expressed any regret and never in as strong terms as yesterday. Mr Brin said the company had suffered because of the damage to its reputation in the US and Europe.

Last year in a speech in Washington Mr Brin admitted the company had been forced to compromise its principles to operate in China. At the time, he also hinted at a potential reversal of its stance in the country, saying perhaps now the principled approach makes more sense

Its unlikely that well see a policy change in the near future. Co-founder Larry Page said: We always consider what to do. But I dont think we as a company should be making decisions based on too much perception. He claimed that most of the harm to the company had come from newspaper headlines, which affected the perception of people who didnt go on to read the actual articles.

(Via The Melon Farmers)

Poms whinge so hard that beer ad is pulled

Back in December I mentioned that a group of British expats in Australia calling themselves British People Against Racial Discrimination (BPARD) had launched a legal action to try and ban an advert for Tooheys’ Supercold beer.

Sadly, they succeeded.

The radio advertisement for Tooheys brewery and its New Supercold beer employed a group of Englishmen to sing the tune of Land of Hope and Glory using various synonyms for whinge, including whine, moan, slag and complain.

The advertisement ended with a voiceover saying: “Introducing Tooheys New Supercold, served so cold it’s a Pom’s worst nightmare.” The bureau ruled that negative words in the advertisement detracted from what it said was the otherwise playful nature of the word Pom. Instead, Pom had been given “a derogatory and almost hostile meaning”, Mark Jeanes, the acting chief of the bureau, said. The advert has been withdrawn.

The group had also contested another version of the advert that had been made for TV. It featured footage of an overweight, pale man, wearing a Union Jack T-shirt, cringing in fear at the offer of a cold beer. The advert was withdrawn before the action against it could proceed.

(Via The Melon Farmers)

Silent Radio

The Tiraspol Times (via) reports that for more than a month, listeners in Moldova have not been able to listen to the Antena C radio station after the broadcaster was was silenced by the Moldovan government on December 16.

In mid-December, the popular Chisinau-based public radio station Antena C went off the air, and it is doubtful if the countrys authorities will ever allow the signal to be restored.

The worldwide Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, which is based in New York issued a highly critical statement deploring the suspension of Antena C. The station, which frequently aired reports critical of the government, has been off the air for more than a month, and local sources said they fear it is part of an official clampdown on news ahead of May elections.

Broadcasting was interrupted at 3:00pm on December 16th while the station was airing a critical report of a government plan to privatize Antena C and the television station Euro TV. Antena C journalists had also recently protested the authorities’ decision to change the station’s management; Veceaslav Sitnic, former chief editor for the government radio station Radio Moldova, had been named the new director.

Police turned up at the station at 2:00am the following morning, searched the building and forced the employees to leave.

Censoring History

AsiaMedia (via) reports that Chinese authorities have banned eight books by renowned writers and intellectuals in a new move to tighten control on dissent and stifle discussion of sensitive historical events. Wu Shulin, the deputy director of the General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP) also vowed to impose severe punishment on their publishers.

All eight books are reflections by intellectuals on historical and social events of the past six decades, events that have traditionally been subject to tight censorship.

The ban and Mr Wus criticism of the books publishers were confirmed yesterday by an anonymous publication administration official.

Another administration source said Gapp came up with the ban after the Central Propaganda Department included the books on its 2006 list of publications that overstepped the line.

The banned books are:

  • Cang Sang by Xiao Jian tells the story of a man in northern Shaanxi from the 1911 Revolution to the Great Leap Forward.
  • I Object: The Road to Politics by a Peoples Congress Member by journalist Zhu Ling tells of the 12-year struggle of activist Yao Lifa to run for a seat in the local legislature.
  • Past Stories of Peking Opera Stars by Zhang Yihe is an account of the lives and deaths of seven Peking Opera artists.
  • The Family History of an Ordinary Chinese by Guo Ya describes the experiences of a normal Chinese family during the war of liberation, the Cultural Revolution and other eras.
  • The Other Stories of History: My Days at the Supplement Division of the Peoples Daily by Yuan Ying is a memoir of time working for the Peoples Daily.
  • Era of History edited by Kuang Chen is a historic series on major events from the 1950s to the 1980s.
  • This is How it Goes@sars.com by Hu Fayun tells the story of a woman who fell in love with the internet at the cost of her relationship with a vice-mayor during the Sars outbreak.
  • The Press by Zhu Huaxiang uses fictional characters to tell of the intrigues and behind-the-news stories of Chinas media industry.

Suspect in Dink murder makes another death threat

Yasin Hayal, who has confessed to inciting the murder of Hrant Dink shouted what sounded very much like a threat against Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk.

As he was being brought into an Istanbul court, earlier today, Hayal shouted: Orhan Pamuk, be smart! Be smart! Police quickly pressed his head down to silence him and led him away.

Hayal, a militant nationalist who served time in prison for a 2004 bomb attack, confessed to inciting last weeks slaying of the influential ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink and to providing a gun and money to the alleged killer, police said.

Hayal allegedly told the killer that Dink, who angered nationalists by calling the mass killing of Armenians in the early 20th century genocide, was a traitor to his country who insults Turks.

The suspected triggerman, a teenager named Ogun Samast, confessed to shooting Dink in a four-page statement given to prosecutors Wednesday, and was formally charged with the murder and membership in a criminal gang. He said Hayal gave him money and a picture of the journalist that he carried with him for several months, according to the Anatolia news agency.

Prosecutors on Wednesday also charged Hayal and three other people of inciting the slaying and of belonging to an armed criminal gang at the end of the legal four-day detention period, prosecutor Aykut Cengiz Engin said.

Like Dink, Pamuk has faced trial under Article 301 of the Turkish penal code for discussing the mass killing of Armenians during the final days of the Ottoman empire. And, like Dink, he received death threats at the time.

Greens blasphemy case falls flat on its face

After spending two years gathering the funding to prosecute the BBC for blasphemy over their transmission of Jerry Springer: The Opera, Stephen Green’s case has been thrown out of court.

Green has made no statement about his failure to clear the first hurdle.

Oppose Censorship

The Sexual Freedom Coalition has submitted an e-petition to Downing Street website.

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to authorise a full and independent re-examination of the findings of the Home Office Department Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship (Williams Committee) published in 1979 with a view to revising or scrapping the current legislation concerning censorship, much of which was originally based upon false or unprovable premise

Sign it and - maybe - the government will take the hint eventually.

(via The Melon Farmers)

Criminalising hormones

XBiz (via) reports that Utah students who view porn at school could be facing up to six months in jail or a hefty fine if a new plan proposed by a local politician is implemented.

Bud Bowman, R-Cedar City, who said there currently is no law that punishes students for viewing adult material on school grounds, is the bill’s sponsor. According to Bowman, the school leaders he spoke to have been supportive of the bill.

A spokesman for the Salt Lake City School District said his district uses filters that block adult entertainment websites, along with many blogs and chat rooms.

“We do a good job at keeping students away from [porn], but anything that can help encourage kids to stay away from that, especially in an education setting — we would be supportive of that,” Salt Lake City School District spokesman Jason Olsen said.