December 2007

Copyrighting deities

According to BosNewsLife (via), Malaysian authorities are threatening not to renew the publishing license of a Catholic weekly newspaper if it continues to use the word Allah in its Malay language section.

The Herald, the organ of Malaysias Catholic Church, has translated the word God as Allah but it is erroneous because Allah refers to the Muslim god, said Che Din Yusoff, a senior official at the Internal Security Ministrys publications control department, in remarks monitored by BosNewsLife Friday, December 21. Christians cannot use the word Allah. It is only applicable to Muslims. Allah is only for the Muslim god.

The Malay language Bible uses Allah for God and Tuhan for Lord. This is the convention that the Herald in their Malay language section. Che Din Yusoff, however, insists that, since Christians dont say Allah when speaking English, they shouldnt be allowed to use the word in Malay either.

The use of Allah outside of Islam has previously attracted the attention of the religiously over-sensitive. Four years ago, an Iban language version of the Bible was reportedly banned because it translated the word God as Allah Taala, which is a bit like the Islamic Allah.

Censoring reality

The MPAA has rejected the promotional poster (see left) for Alex Gibneys acclaimed documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side. The image shows two U.S. soldiers walking away from the camera with a hooded detainee between them and the MPAAs reason for rejecting it is that a hooded detainee implys torture.

An MPAA spokesman said: We treat all films the same. Ads will be seen by all audiences, including children. If the advertising is not suitable for all audiences it will not be approved by the advertising administration.

As Mark Urman - president of the ThinkFilm, the films distributor - points out, this is an inconsistent ruling - to say the least - given the artwork that was approved for films such as Saw and Hostel.

Not permitting us to use an image of a hooded man that comes from a documentary photograph is censorship, pure and simple, said producer, writer and director Gibney. Intentional or not, the MPAAs disapproval of the poster is a political act, undermining legitimate criticism of the Bush administration. I agree that the image is offensive; its also real.

ThinkFilm plans to appeal the ruling, although Urman admitted that he doesnt know what that entails. Ive only appealed ratings before.

If ThinkFilm decides to ignore the MPAA and use the unapproved poster, they run the risk of the films rating being revoked.

How to guarantee an election result

Television executives in Pakistan have been warned (via) that they could be imprisoned and fined for giving critics of President Pervez Musharraf a live forum in the run-up to the parliamentary elections on January 8th.

Pakistans regulators ordered all satellite television channels to stop airing such live programs, talk shows and contents immediately, according to a copy of a letter Tuesday obtained by the Associated Press.

The regulators warned that the channels could be taken off the air and that those responsible - the networks license-holder or its representative - could face up to three years in prison and fines of up to $170,000.

Journalists in the country have accused the state media regulator of trying to restrict their coverage of the elections and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists called it an attempt to silence the free media.

Information Minister Nisar Memon insists that independent channels must not stir up any tensions. The networks are expected to comply by avoiding live coverage of speeches by opposition leaders such as Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, former prime ministers who returned in recent months from exile.

BBFC seeks to maintain Manhunt ban

Manhunt 2 Remember Manhunt 2? The game that was banned by the BBFC back in June. There has been some movement.

Last week, Rockstar Games - the developers of the game - won an appeal to force the BBFC to look again at the ban. The BBFC has today responded by insisting that they are right, the court is wrong and that the ban shouldnt be lifted.

According to David Cooke, director of the BBFC, they had played Manhunt 2 for well over 30 hours prior to our decision. Nice that someone got the chance.

The law of unintended consequences

German politicians are currently piloting legislation through the Bundestag aimed at stamping out child prostitution. The intent here is, of course, perfectly commendable but the proposed laws are so badly drafted that they have attracted a storm of protest (via) from legal experts, liberal politicians and even sex therapists. The law was due to be introduced last week but the Government withdrew it at the last minute because of the scale of the opposition.

The new law reduces the minimum age at which sexual offenders can be prosecuted from 18 to 14, and raises the maximum age at which a victim is entitled to legal protection from 16 to 18. The idea is to stop the recruitment of minors as prostitutes by other minors — pimps in big cities are often 17 or younger — but the initiative is a legal minefield.

According to Jerzy Montag, a Green MP who is trying to rally opposition in parliament: “If a 15-year-old says to a 17-year-old, ‘Ill invite you to the cinema providing we have a bit of heavy petting afterwards, then that will now be a criminal offence. Even if the 17-year-old says no, it will still be illegal. The mere attempt to secure sexual favours in return for payment in kind is against the new law.”

Magazines, such as Bravo, which are aimed at teenage girls will have to think again before publishing photo-stories of scantily clad young couples in passionate embrace, or risk landing their editors in jail for ten years. And writers and painters will have to be careful when depicting under-age subjects in sexual situations. They too could be sent to prison.

Andreas Hill, a sexual researcher in Hamburg is one of several experts calling on the Government to drop the bills. “This is going to lead to a wave of pointless investigations and court cases,” he said. “They will burden the already overloaded police to such an extent that the really relevant cases slip out of view.”

Hearsay convictions

XBiz (via) reports that an Indian judge has ruled that obscenity charges may be prosecuted without requiring the court to actually review the materials in question.

The case stems from allegations by a local cyber cafe owner that Mayur Vihar resident Sanjay Gupta was playing a pornographic CD, potentially within view of other patrons.

The court ruled that the magistrate was not required to view the CD in order to verify its contents as being obscene as a prerequisite for proceeding with the obscenity charges against the defendant.

Gupta challenged the order, claiming that the magistrate was wrong for proceeding with charges against him without knowing what was actually contained on the CD he was charged with viewing at the time of his arrest — allegedly the only incriminating evidence against him.

Censorship in the Age of Uncertainty

Orthodox Christians in Ukraine are demanding that an exhibition, funded by local businessmen Viktor Pinchuk, should be banned (via) because they think its blasphemous.

‘Orthodox demanded that the organizers should remove a blasphemous exposition named ‘Jesus and twelve apostles’. It is a horrific exposition, where ‘the holy apostles’ are presented as 12 cows and bulls heads placed in 12 aquariums with formalin’, the statement of the action organizers’ reads

The participants of a pray-in last week distributed a statement insisting that the organizers should ‘stop the blasphemy’ and have also sent letters containing the statement to the Ukrainian Culture Ministry and Kiev’s Culture Department as well as to the Supreme Rada deputies with the request to make an inquiry to the Prosecutor Generals Office as to whether any laws have been broken.

Insulted by the truth

The Guardian (via) reports that yet another publisher has fallen foul of the infamous Article 301 of Turkeys penal code. This time for trying to promote reconcilliation between Turks and Armenians.

Ragip Zarakolu is facing up to three years in prison for publishing a book - promoting reconciliation between Turks and Armenians - by George Jerjian, a writer living in London.

Jerjians book, The Truth Will Set Us Free, which was translated into Turkish in 2005, chronicles the life of his Armenian grandmother who survived the early 20th century massacres of Armenians thanks to an Ottoman soldier. The historical account has prompted as much controversy among the Armenian diaspora, not least in the US, as it has in Turkey.

Accoding to Labour MEP Richard Howitt, who will attend the hearing at Istanbuls Asliye Ceze courthouse, Mr Jerjian is a highly credible author with very moderate views. If even he falls foul of Turkish law it shows how far they still have to go on freedom of expression.

Yesterday the Turkish justice minister, Mehmet Ali Sahin, reiterated the sentiment, telling Howitt that freely expressed views that neither promote terrorism nor violence should be protected.

But while Turkish diplomats admit the contentious law has probably done more damage to Ankaras efforts to join the EU than any other single piece of legislation, observers say there has been little headway made over reforming the spirit and letter of the law.

In a climate of unabated nationalism, state prosecutors and police officials continue to level charges against artists, musicians and writers perceived to publicly denigrate Turkishness.

Thai film censorship goes international

A new Film and Video Act is being railroaded through Thailands National Legislative Assembly by the Ministry of Culture, according to Wise Kwais Thai Film Journal (via).

The make-up of the proposed film-ratings board has already been decided by the NLA sub-committee, and the committee is now deciding on a proposed ratings system, which would restrict people as old as 24 from seeing certain films, or ban Thai films outright, from being exhibited anywhere in the world.

The moves by this military-installed parliament to clamp down on freedoms and stifle expression come ahead of a general election on December 23, and appear deaf to protests by the Free Thai Cinema Movement, which staged a demonstration on Wednesday, outside Parliament House in Bangkok.

Poet and writer Jiranan Pitchpreecha led the demonstration, by about 30 artists and filmmakers, including Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Wisit Sasanatieng, Pimpaka Towira and artist Manit Sriwanichapoom.

Jiranan submitted an open letter to Wallop Tangkananurak, a member of the NLA panel considering the act.

“The movement believes the new Film Act will impact on the freedom of expression of filmmakers as well as human rights of audiences, especially youths, who will be deprived of the opportunity to develop intellectual and analytical skills,” the letter said.

The group has asked that the provisions that empower the state to ban films and order filmmakers to cut scenes judged inappropriate, be stricken from the draft law. The filmmakers say the law is too vague and is open to broad interpretation. Furthermore, there are already laws on the books regarding national security, that could be applied to films. No need to single filmmakers out.

The Film and Video Act is intended to replace the existing Film Act of 1930, but rather than being more progressive than this 77-year-old law, the new act is even more restrictive. The Culture Ministry is also calling for an X rating, under which films would be banned outright, and their distribution outside the Kingdom would be prohibited.


Christian Voice has announced (via) that they are planning to appeal against the High Court verdict that they should stop being so silly over Jerry Springer: The Opera.

We must appeal this disappointing decision. The law as the Court has interpreted it now gives carte blanche to broadcasters and theatre companies to blaspheme, while the press still may not. That cannot be logical, let alone right

True. The press should be allowed to say what they like about religion as well. Heres hoping that Stephen Greens antics really do finally kill off this antiquated law.