July 2008

Tiananmen taboo still in force

A tabloid newspaper in China has been withdrawn from news stands after publishing a photo from the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.

The photo - of two wounded young men being taken away on a rickshaw - was carried in Thursdays Beijing News.

The picture was simply captioned The Wounded, and no mention of the protests was made in the text.

But observers suggest newspaper staff could face further punishment for broaching what remains a taboo subject.

Up to 3000 people are thought to have been killed when Chinas ruling Communist Party sent in soldiers to pit down student pro-democracy protests in June 1989. Not surprisingly, they still dont like being reminded of this.

The photograph was printed alongside an interview with the Hong Kong-born American photographer Liu Xiangcheng as an example of his work and it seems likely that the use of this particular picture was a mistake by staff who didnt realise its. Significance.

As soon as Chinese officials noticed, they ordered the removal of the paper from the news-stands and part of its website was blocked.

Last year the authorities sacked three editors on a provincial newspaper for printing an advert praising the mothers of the Tiananmen victims for their campaign for justice.

Redefining hatred

First they went for the breweries, and now Catholic pressure group Hazte Oir is objecting to the gay community. Specifically, they have filed a complaint (via) with Spain’s Attorney General this week against the organizers of a July 5 gay pride parade. Some of the participants, they claim, “dress up in clerical or religious garb” which they seem to think amounts to “inciting religious hatred”.

US Court Calls COPA Unconstitutional. Again

Ten years after it was passed by US legislators, the free-speech-throttling Child Online Protection Act (COPA) took another blow this week as a federal appeals court upheld (via) an earlier ban on the statute.

The law, which has not taken effect, would bar web sites from making “harmful content” available to minors over the Internet. The act was passed the year after the Supreme Court ruled that another law — the Communications Decency Act — was unconstitutional in the landmark case Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU challenged the 1998 law on behalf of a coalition of writers, artists, health educators and the publisher Salon Media Group.

ACLU attorney Chris Hansen argued that Congress has been trying to restrict speech on the Internet far more than it can restrict speech in books and magazines. But, he said, the rules should be the same.

Indeed, the Child Online Protection Act would effectively force all Web sites to provide only family-friendly content because it is not feasible to lock children out of sites that are lawful for adults, said John Morris, general counsel for the Center for Democracy Technology, a civil liberties group that filed briefs against the law.

The courts ruling on Tuesday concluded that the Child Online Protection Act is unconstitutionally overly broad and vague and that it also violates the First Amendment because filtering technologies and other parental control tools offer a less restrictive way to protect children from inappropriate content online.

Salo banned again

Pasolinis Salo has been outlawed in Australia again, with the Office of Film and Literature Classification voting to ban it last week.

The film was released in 1975 and immediately banned until 1993. Four years later it was banned again. Melbourne based music and DVD distributor, Shock Entertainment, acquired the rights to the film and re-submitted it for classification by the offices classification board, which last week voted to refuse classification.

Made by the Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, Salo, or 120 Days in Sodom, was viewed by 13 board members who voted 7-6 in favour of the ban, with the minority stating that the film could warrant an R18+ rating.

The minority felt that the age of the film and the careful construction of the narrative serve to mitigate against a higher impact, Ms Bowdler said.

A freedom of speech body, Watch on Censorship, disagrees. A committee member, the film critic Margaret Pomeranz, decried the ban as yet another attack on artistic expression.

Salo is a film by a significant filmmaker, but there are some confronting scenes in it, she said.

Theres always one

With hindsight it was probably inevitable that, following the news that the current mayor of Aberystwyth, is trying to overturn a near 30-year ban imposed by the town on Monty Python’s Life of Brian, some ignorant fundamentalist would demand that the ban be kept in place. So step forward Reverend Stuart Bell, Rector of St Michael’s Church.

The reverend hasnt seen the film, and doesnt want you to either. Of course, if he hasnt seen the film it does beg the question of what exactly he finds offensive about it.

(Hat tip Media Watch Watch)

Blasphemy down under

A 16 year old boy in Australia has been charged (via) with offensive behaviour under the Summary Offences Act 2005 for public nuisance for wearing a t-shirt. The shirt in question (pictured) is for English metal band, Cradle of Filth and claims Jesus is a Cunt.

Police have also conducted inquiries at Australia Fair shopping centre, where the teen said he bought the shirt, to find any shops selling it.

The incident has parked debate about Australias lack of a Bill of Rights. Lawyer, Bill Potts has pointed out:

One of the great problems with our country is that we talk about rights such as privacy and freedom of speech and the like but they are not enshrined or protected in any way as they are in America.

While there are always limits on freedom of speech, you cant incite violence or anything like that, it seems to be now more than ever that our rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression should be protected.

A Bill of Rights which enshrines that protection is long overdue in this country.

And in New Zealand, the Chief Censor’s Office has permanently banned (via) the t-shirt. The ruling (inaccurately) claims:

A fair interpretation of the messages conveyed by this T-shirt is that Christians should be vilified for their religious beliefs, and that women, including chaste and celibate women, cannot stop themselves engaging in sexual activity.

Arbitary and Capricious

A US appeal court has thrown out the $550,000 fine levied against CBS following Janet Jacksons wardrobe malfunction during 2004s Super Bowl.

Three judges ruled the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) watchdog acted arbitrarily and capriciously in levying the fine.

Although CBS, MTV and the performers all all apologised at the time, insisting the move had not been intentional, the FCC still went ahead and fined 20 CBS-owned TV stations the maximum penalty for indecency - $27,500 - each. This was the largest fine ever handed to a US broadcaster - all over nine-sixteenths of a second of nipple.

The FCC cannot impose liability on CBS for the acts of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, independent contractors hired for the limited purposes of the half-time show, wrote the chief judge on the panel, Anthony Scirica.

No statement on the ruling has yet been issued by CBS or the FCC.

Mayor seeks to end ban on Brian

Sue Jones-Davies, the current mayor of Aberystwyth, is trying to overturn a near 30-year ban imposed by the town on Monty Pythons Life of Brian. If the name rings a bell its because, almost 30 years ago, she played Judith Iscariot in the film.

It is understood a committee made up of church leaders in Aberystwyth recommended a ban in 1979.

Ceredigion council has the power to lift it, but a spokesman said no-one in the licensing department knew about the ban.

But Michael Davies, the owner of Aberystwyths Commodore Cinema, said he was sure it was still in place.

Theres more over at Savage Popcorn.


So afraid of singers are the Chinese authorities that they have announced that foreign entertainers that threaten national sovereignty will be banned from the country. This announcement follows a concert in Shanghai in March at which Bjork nearly brought the country to its knees by shouting Tibet, Tibet.

According to a statement from the Chinese ministry of culture: Any artistic group or individual who have ever engaged in activities which threaten our national sovereignty will not be allowed in.

The latest announcement follows the banning of pop festivals and the tightening of rules on outdoor events in the months leading up to the Olympics as the government fears embarrassing protests from crowds.

The ministry has said that even encores must be approved in advance.

Taiwanese pop star Chang Hui-Mei was banned from playing in China for a year after she sang Taiwans national anthem during an inauguration ceremony for the islands president in 2000

Australian censor bans Fallout 3

The Australian censor has effectively banned the Fallout 3 video game by refusing to grant it a certificate. At issue is that the censor believes the game rewards drug taking.

The chemical in question is morphine, which the player can inject during the game to reduce the impact of damage taken during the violent post-apocalypse shoot-em-up.

The [Classification Board] is of the opinion that the use of morphine in the game has the positive effect of enabling the character to ignore limb pain. This ability to progress through the game more easily is the incentive to take the drug while the reward is in the characters abilities.

The Board might have granted Fallout 3 a higher rating, but Australias game certification system tops out at MA15+ - MA stands for Mature Adult. According to a Sydney Morning Herald report, any title that contains more violence, sex or drug use than that category permits doesnt receive a certificate and so cant be sold in Australia.

Australian gamers are protesting the decision, pointing out that the censors have already passed other games, such as Grand Theft Auto IV, that feature stronger drug use. More to the point is that morphine is a first-aid drug which makes its comparison to hard drugs rather foolish.