September 2007

Censorship declared harmful to minors

WHIO (via) reports that a federal judge in Dayton has rejected a state law that restricts the dissemination of sexually oriented material over the Internet.

The law bars people from sending communications harmful to minors if the sender knows or should know that the recipient is under age.

In his ruling, Judge Walter Rice said the law violates the First Amendment because it was too broadly written and could have ensnared adults having sexually frank discussions in chat rooms.

He said theres no way to ensure that minors arent part of the conversation. The law was challenged by bookstores, publishers, music and video retailers and newspapers.

A little outrage goes a long way

Back in August, an amateur video of a Nigerian film actress in a sex scene prompted an outcry in the mainly Muslim state of Kano and led to 17 actors - who had no connection to the video - being expelled from the Kano state Filmmakers’ Association for being immoral.

A month an a half later, the Kano State Censorship Board is still milking this for all its worth, extending the suspension earlier imposed on film production in the state from three to six months and reeling out new restrictive measures to check the film industry.

Addressing a press briefing on Friday, the new executive secretary of the board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, explained that the extension of the suspension became necessary in order to enable his administration introduce new measures for the improvement of film production in the state, adding that the policy would be vigorously monitored by the board to ensure stringent penalties for defaulters.

The board has created additional guidelines for registration of production companies, artistes, internet cafés, publishers and authors and has cancelled singing and dancing of any kind in Hausa films. No producer will be allowed to go to location for filming without his script being approved by a recognised consultant and vetted by the board.

Members of the Kano State Association of Printers have also been advised to make sure that before they print any book or poster meant for public use they must obtain a clearance from the board.

These rules also affect authors, publishers, bookshops, poster sellers, distributors and vendors, all of whom are expected to register with the board in compliance with the requirements of the Censorship Board Law 2001.


Philippine censors have lifted the ban on a collection of 13 short films on human rights in the country, but restricted them to viewers aged 13 and above.

Kiri Dalena, one of the filmmakers, welcomed the decision, but said, I still think the reaction of the public toward the censorshipcontributed largely to the change in the decision.

Filmmakers, artists and human rights activists had expressed indignation over the boards earlier decision to ban the collection which had been inspired by foreign television advertisements on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

A right royal censorship dispute

Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne The Guardian (via) reports that Ben Hills, the author of a controversial biography of Crown Princess Masako has accused the Japanese government of censorship after newspapers refused to carry advertisements for the book.

The English version of Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne was published in February, sparking protests from the Japanese foreign ministry and the imperial household agency, which accused the author of insulting the royal family. The Japanese translation of the book was scrapped, but the English version was released in Japan three weeks ago.

Hills, an Australian journalist, claims that Masako, who gave up a promising diplomatic career to marry the heir to the throne, Crown Prince Naruhito, in 1993, is suffering from clinical depression.

This has become a freedom of speech issue, Hills said during a visit to Tokyo. I dont care whether the Japanese people like my book or not - they should have the chance to read it and make up their own minds. This is what the foreign ministry and imperial household agency were trying to prevent.

The books publisher in Japan, Daisan Shokan, was refused advertising space in all of the major newspapers, including the Asahi Shimbun, which positions itself as the countrys leading liberal voice. One paper said it would not take an ad because [Hills] had not responded to the government protests, said Daisan Shokans president, Akira Kitagawa. I find that reasoning very strange.

Hills said he had received threatening emails ahead of the Japanese publication of the book, and Daisan Shokan has also been the target of intimidation by ultra-nationalist groups.

The foreign ministry, predictably, denied there had been pressure on newspapers from it or the royal household.

Human Rights Porn

Cartoon ABS-CBN (via) are reporting that Philippine filmmakers are up in arms over the latest decision of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), stopping the commercial showing of independently produced short films on human rights in the country by giving them an “X” rating.

On September 18th, the MTRCB reviewed the collection of 30-second to one-minute films, which tackle unexplained killings and enforced disappearances involving activists and journalists, among others. The following day, they announced that the films had been rated X which means they are unfit for public viewing.

The 13 short films contain excerpts from news video footage from the era of martial law, the killing of former Sen. Ninoy Aquino, and demonstrations during the Marcos administration, up to the killings of militant leaders, and the abduction of others, including Jonas Burgos.

The 13 short films titled “RIGHTS” were supposed to be shown yesterday at the Indie Sine cinema in a mall in Ortigas Center, in commemoration of the 35th anniversary of martial law and International Day of Peace.

Although the launching of the short films pushed through Friday afternoon, their public viewing was halted due to the MTRCB ruling issued on Sept. 19.

Multi-awarded filmmaker Carlitos Siguion-Reyna of the Directors Guild of the Philippines Inc. (DGPI) and Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) described the MTRCB decision as being indicative of “an abusive law”.

‘It’s good to know how much one is worth’

MoDog Ive not been following the Swedish MoDog controversy as closely as I could have been, but heres the story so far:

On August 18, Swedish newspaper, Nerikes Allehanda published a by Lars Vilks as part of an editorial piece protesting the lack of art galleries willing to show such work. The image is based on the odd Swedish phenomenon known as roundabout dogs. Inevitably enough, outrage followed, with Iran leading the charge with the claim that it was all part of some Zionist Plot.

The Swedish government, media, and the newspaper in question have been very clear that no apology will be forthcoming and, following protests in the country, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said:

I think its important to say two things. First, we are eager to ensure that Sweden remains a country in which Muslims and Christians, people who believe in God and people who dont believe in God, can live side by side in a spirit of mutual respect.

We are also eager to stand up for freedom of expression, which is enshrined in the constitution and comes naturally to us, and which ensures that we do not make political decisions about what gets published in the newspapers. I want to make sure we keep things that way

Recognising a handy distraction, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt and Jordan all jumped on the offended bandwagon.

And then the death threats started. A woman was arrested for threatening the artist. She attempted to justify the attacks by claiming that “her beliefs and convictions had been desecrated and attacked”. Aww.

The latest news is that Swedish companies are lowering their profile in the Middle East amid fears of violence and a statement purporting to be from al-Qaeda put a $100,000 (£50,000) bounty on the head of the cartoonist.

The internet threat stated: “We know how to force you to apologise. If you do not, expect us to strike the businesses of firms like Ericsson, Scania, Volvo, Ikea and Electrolux.”

Mr Vilks, however, is taking things in his stride:

“I suppose that this makes my art project a bit more serious. It is also good to know how much one is worth,” he said.

A leading Swedish daily newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, yesterday republished the cartoon in an act of solidarity with Nerikes Allehanda and the daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet has urged Swedes to defend their right to free speech in the face of religious fanaticism.

“Freedom of expression is not a privilege for the media companies and journalists but a guarantee that citizens can have different impressions, numerous sources of information and inspiration, as well as the possibility of drawing their own conclusions.”


Christians censor YouTube by lying for Jesus

YouTube has closed the account of atheist activist group, the Rational Response Squad, after they pointed out that convicted fraudster Kent Hovinds Creation Science Evangelism Ministries was making false (and therefore illegal) copyright claims for the anti-evolution videos which they have released without copyright restrictions.

Media Watch Watch has the full story.

Fear of flying saucers

Still from Sang Sattawat Apichatpong Weerasethakul, whose Sang Sattawat (Syndromes and a Century) is facing demands from Thai censors for four scenes to be cut before it can be released, writes in The Guardian:

There will be those who wonder why this matters; why an independent film-makers movie getting shelved should be of concern to anyone. Its because what happens in the film industry shows us more than how the board of censors works. It shows us how Thailand works. And that really is important.

Read the whole thing, as they say.

Horrific censorship

Hostel Part II As, Im sure, most of you are aware, Eli Roths Hostel received a fair bit of criticism for its explicit violence when it was released. And, when the sequel came out, New Zealands Office of Film and Literature Classification felt it was a difficult film for the censors to rate, so they arranged a controlled public viewing of the film.

The people involved in the viewing represented a broad spectrum of the New Zealand public - not all horror fans - and most of whom would normally avoid such films. After the viewing, the audience was surveyed and 64 percent said the film should be given an R18 rating and released uncut.

So the censors demanded cuts (via).

Sony Pictures (NZ) says it is not financially viable to edit the film - which has been released uncensored in the UK, Ireland, Australia, the United States and most of the world - for a theatrical release in New Zealand, so horror fans in that part of the world are going to miss out entirely.

Nutters demand special privileges

Attempting to cash in on recent religious controversies, the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, a US based nutter group has published (via) a set of guidelines attempting to restrict what the media may or may not say about religion and the activities of the religious. Typical of these sorts of stunts, the Media Charter attempts to equate criticism of religious groups with discrimination against religions, and then use this as a basis to to prevent any discussion of the beliefs or activities of religious groups.

For example:

A responsible media does not intrude on sacred matters relating to creed, religious rites and religious institutions. It refrains from encouraging or instigating discrimination, contempt, bias, ridicule or hatred based on religion or belief.

So, on sacred matters relating to creed, if your religion calls for apostates to be killed, a responsible media should not intude on your drawing up of death lists. And whats this about not intruding on religious institutions? Does that mean that if a church tries to cover up the paedophile activities of some of its priests then a responsible media should look the other way?

The document is carefully worded to sound, at first glance, reasonable and open-minded. But when you look at what they are asking for, theyre looking for the same old special privilege of being able to say what they want without having to face any criticism in return.

Anyone is entitled to believe anything they want but, once you start taking those beliefs into the public sphere you have to accept that everyone else has the same right to challenge your views as you have to challenge theirs.