October 2008

Stick pins in Sarkozy

President Nicolas Sarkozys attempt to stop sales of a satirical voodoo doll has failed. Dismissing the case, the Paris judge said the doll was within the authorised limits of free expression and the right to humour.

The doll, which is sold by KB Publishers comes with pins which users can stick into memorable quotes from the president printed on the doll, such as work more to earn more. Sarkozy sued, claiming that he had exclusive and absolute rights over his own image.

The company refused to stop selling the kit, pointing out that Mr Sarkozys reaction was totally disproportionate.

This is Sarkozys sixth legal action since he was elected last year, but it is the first case the courts have rejected.

A start

Microsoft, Google and Yahoo have signed a global code of conduct promising to offer better protection for online free speech and against official intrusion.

The Global Network Initiative follows criticism that companies were assisting governments in countries like China to censor the Internet and seeks to create a collaborative approach to protect and advance freedom of expression and privacy in the ICT sector by limiting what data should be shared with authorities, in cases where free speech is an issue.

While it is hoped many more companies will sign up, two European telecommunications firms, France Telecom and Vodafone, are already said to be considering adding their names.

Turkey bans Blogger

As of Thursday, anyone in Turkey trying to access either Blogger or any blogspot.com domain will be presented with a screen informing them (via) that Access to this website has been suspended in accordance with decision 2008/2761 of T.R. Diyarbakir 1st Criminal Court of Peace.

It is suspected that the reason for this has something to do with Muslim creationist, Adnan Oktar. Oktar has a history of bringing legal action against his online critics, including forcing the closure of Ateizm.org and convincing a Turkish court to block internet access to both WordPress.com and RichardDawkins.net.

Erdogan morally damaged by satire

Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a history of attempting to sue caricaturists, and hes finally been successful.

The cover of the February 6th edition of satirical magazine LeMan carried a photomontage of Erdogan showing his middle finger, while a speech bubble read ‘We have not adopted the education and science of the West, but only its immorality.’

Erdogan sued, claiming moral damage and the magazine has been ordered to pay YTL 4000 (1897 Euro) in compensation. Erdogan had wished to sue the caricaturist responsible for the image, Mehmet Cagcag, for YTL 25,000 (11,300 Euro).

Blasphemous repression

Almost a year after he was sentenced to death for distributing “blasphemous” material, Afghan journalist Perwiz Kambakhsh has been jailed for 20 years (via). The reporter was arrested in 2007 after downloading material from the internet relating to the role of women in Islamic societies – this was deemed “offensive to Islam” by a court in the Balkh province.

And In Jordan, a poet has been arrested (via) for incorporating verses from the Koran into his work. Islam Samhan, published his collection of poems, Grace like a Shadow, without the approval of the Jordanian government, and authorities say it insults the holy book, according to an official who asked to remain anonymous because he didnt have permission to talk to the media.

If convicted of “harming the Islamic faith” and violating the press and publication law for combining the “sacred” words of the Koran with sexual themes, Samhan faces up to three years in jail.

Sony gets sensitive

Sony has postponed the global release of a much- anticipated video game in order to remove parts of the soundtrack that may offend Muslims.

The game – LittleBigPlanet – has been described as game about making games and allows gamers built their own playground levels and then swap them with other players over the PlayStation Network.

After it emerged that a background music track contained two phrases from the Koran, Sony pre-emptively apologised and recalled copies of the game from shops worldwide. The potentially offending samples come from a Malian CD, which has been available with no problems for the past three years.

Eighteen months ago, Sony apologised to the Church of England after featuring Manchester Cathedral in Resistance: Fall of Man. The game however was released unchanged.

A modified version of LittleBigPlanet is due to be released next month.

Update

The Register notes that some early copies of the game claimed to contain the controversial music tracks in the fourth level have now begun to appear on eBay, selling for upwards of £135 ($236/€175) on the back of their rarity value.

Update 2

Sony should not have removed controversial background music from its LittleBigPlanet game simply because it contained words from the Koran, an influential Muslim has said.

Jasser said he didnt approve of the use of the words of God from the Koran in games without an educational intent.

However, he added, Muslims concerned about the game’s audio content should, instead, have been given the choice not to buy the game. “The free market allows for expression of disfavour by simply not purchasing a game that may be offensive,” he said.

Blogger forced offline by fundamentalists

The blogger Possummomma has been forced to take her blog, Atheist in a Mini-van offline following a campaign of extreme harassment and accusations from, believe it or not, Christian fans of a reality TV show.

The Calladus Blog has the long story, the short version comes via Pharyngula:

Venomous Christians, threats, and stalkers. Enough was enough. Possummomma has been libeled and attacked online, and stalked in real life. This isnt good for her family, or for herself. Stress aggravates the symptoms of SLE, and who needs that? This is one more drama, and P-momma just doesnt have the energy to deal with it. Shes offline now, and the rabid Gosselin cult can high-five the fundamentalist preachers with a hearty, Well Done!

Christians start to notice the dangers of anti-Blasphemy laws

For quite some time, various secular and free speech campaigners have been highlighting the attempts by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to enshrine a special status for Islam into international law as well as their efforts to ensure that “religious defamation” is banned during discussion at the United Nations’ Human Rights Council.

Now, as the Christian Post (via) reports, Christian leaders are starting to cotton on to the dangers posed by these resolutions.

“This anti-blasphemy resolution is mostly seen to be putting a ‘chilling effect’ on Christian work and outreach around the world, and that is a very troubling development for us,” said Carol Moeller, president/CEO of Open Doors, according to Mission Network News.

The non-binding resolution was first introduced by Pakistan and the OIC at the UN Human Rights Council in 1999. It was amended to include religions other than Islam, and has since passed every year. In 2005, Yemen proposed a similar resolution before the General Assembly and now the 192-nation Assembly is set to vote on it again.

Resolution 62/145, which was adopted in 2007, says it “notes with deep concern the intensification of the campaign of defamation of religions and the ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim minorities in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.”

It “stresses the need to effectively combat defamation of all religions and incitement to religious hatred, against Islam and Muslims in particular.”

Moeller points out that the net effect of this resolution is for Christian evangelists to be silence or to be intimidated whenever Christianity and Islam encounter each other within a culture.

Although the resolution is non-binding, it has been passed several times giving it a kind of authority and, in effect protecting militant Islamists who retaliate against perceived offenses, Moeller said.

The slope is so slippery because everything that purports to criticize Islam is considered blasphemy. Anything that promotes another religious viewpoint, like Christianity, is considered blasphemy,” he said. “It really becomes the ultimate weapon against free religious speech around the world.

Other religious freedom advocates have also disapproved of the resolution, including Kevin “Seamus” Hasson, founder and president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and Paul Schriefer, advocacy director for Freedom House.

Religious restrictions for Harry Enfield

Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse have reunited after eight years to make Harry and Paul, a sketch show with a completely new gallery of characters and, as Media Watch Watch notes, the post-watershed comedy has already fallen afoul of religious sensibilities.

First of all is the news that two of the characters – an unnamed Muslim hoodie and a paedophile Catholic priest – were scrapped on the instructions of executives at the Tiger Aspect production company. According to Enfield: I was told, Dont even go there.

Separately, the Philippines government has written to the BBC to complain about a sketch in which a character attempts to mate a northerner with a Filipino maid. You can see the sketch below and its quite clear that the racist attitude of Enfields character is the butt of the joke – but who needs irony when theyre being sensitive?

Seditious blogging trial opens

The Guardian (via) reports that the trial of Malaysian blogger, Raja Petra Kamarudin behgan today. The British-born 58-year-old is already being detained - without trial - under the Internal Security Act and faces a further three years in prison if found guilty

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