Bangladesh

Author threatened again

A week ago Taslima Nasreen was moved to a safe house in Inda - following threats from fundamentalist groups - and promised to remove controversial passages from her autobiography Dikhandito (Split Into Two). But this isnt enough for some people (via).

Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the chief cleric of New Delhis Jama Masjid mosque, demanded on Monday that Indian Muslims should not tolerate the infamous authoress Taslima Nasrin on the Indian soil unless she offered a written apology for what he called her anti-Islamic publications.

The apology must bear her assurance that in future she will desist from repeating such venomous writing that may have any inkling of blasphemy, he said in a statement.

India is a democratic nation and the constitution here neither does permit any citizen nor allow any foreign national to be irreverent to the tenets of any religion, the cleric continued.

The entire responsibility of the consequences shall rest upon the government of India, Bukhari warned.

Interesting definition of democracy, and suggesting that the consequences shall rest upon the government sounds suspiciously like a threat

Self-censored

The Times (via) reports that feminist author, Taslima Nasreen is to rewrite her autobiography after she was forced to flee from Muslim extremists who placed a bounty on her head. She said on Friday that she hoped the move would appease fundamentalist groups and end a controversy that forced her to leave Calcutta last week.

“The book was written in 2002, based on my memories of Bangladesh in the 1980s, during which time secularism was removed from the Bangladesh constitution. I wrote the book in support of the people who defended secular values. I had no intention to hurt anybody’s sentiment,” she said today from a secret location.

“I have done what I have never done in my life. I have compromised even in a secular India.” She added that she hoped she would now be able to “live peacefully” in India.

Prashant Mukherjee, her publisher in Calcutta, refused to divulge the exact text that had been deemed offensive by Muslim fundamentalists, but indicated that two paragraphs would be deleted.

Ms Nasreen, who describes herself as a “secular humanist”, fled her homeland of Bangladesh in 1994. Her other works, including the 1994 novel Lajja (Shame), have provoked extremists to call for her execution for blasphemy.

Doing down Dhaliwood

Bangladeshs censor board said Tuesday it had banned a quarter of all films made by its small Dhaliwood movie industry in the past year, according to AFP (via). Their justification is that they are stamping out immoral cinema in the Muslim-majority nation.

The Dhaka based industry made 86 films in the year to June at an average cost of 6.5 million taka ($100,000) aimed at 1,000 cinemas nationwide. But a quarter of these were banned because of excessive fight scenes and dirty dancing, according to vice-chairwoman of the censor board Kamrun Nahar.

An Islamist-allied government began the campaign against obscene films in 2004. It amended the film censorship act last year to include a three-year jail term for producers whose movies are judged to be against Bangladeshi cultural values.

Nahar said, however, that some producers were able to show movies after extensive cuts were made, though 14 film companies were warned for compelling directors and actors to make immoral films.

We have this time warned only the producers because it was found that they are the ones who are responsible for these immoral films. Its their money that made these unhealthy films, she said.

Bangladesh has been ruled by a military-backed emergency government since January.

Emergency censorship

IRNA (via) is reporting that immediately after the Bangladesh president declared a state of emergency, the Press Information Department (PID) under the Information Ministry verbally imposed censorship on the media.

The PID officials made phone calls to different print and electronic media and directed them not to be critical of the government.

When the press contacted the PID, its officials said the presidents office gave them the verbal instructions on the matter and to convey the order to the media.

A high official at Bangabhaban on condition of anonymity told The Daily Star that the restrictions have been imposed as it had been during previous emergency periods.

The government directed the private electronic media not to broadcast news during the emergency. It also barred the media from telecasting any sort of talk-show or news analysis.

Print media have also been instructed not to publish any news item criticizing the government and its activities. Political news including rallies, processions and related pictures, features, editorials, and cartoons have also been banned.

Embarrassed censors in Bangladesh

Bangladeshs censor board has reinforced a ban on two films and warned others of possible action.

The film censor board Tuesday ordered a reinforcement of its earlier ban on Bengali films Lalu Kashai and Bostir Rani Surya after a court in Faridpur withdrew an interim injunction against the sanction, Bangladesh Observer reported.

The two films had been showing scenes cut by the censors. The censor board decision was challenged and subsequently withheld by the Faridpur court, which vacated the injunction.

The censor board also issued a stern note of warning against two other films Dushmoner Dushmon and Kathin Protigya saying they too might face the same fate if exhibited with vulgar scenes.

The owners and exhibitors of the two films had obtained a pre-emptive order against a possible ban on the movies from another Faridpur court, which too vacated the injunction Tuesday.

The censors actions and warnings reflect a growing campaign against vulgarity in Bangla movies with the Information Ministry issuing a statement urging filmmakers to abide by ethics and codes. Apparently, some scenes in contemporary films even expose the censor board members to embarrassment.

Poor dears.

Bangladesh to destroy its film industry

According to The Melon Farmers, adoption of a far reaching anti-obscenity law by the Bangladeshi Parliament has revived nutter hopes of bringing back golden days to the film industry as the makers and those involved in pornographic films have gone into hiding.

Parliament on January 31, adopted the anti-obscenity law that can land any pornographic/ vulgar filmmaker in prison for three years. Action can be also taken against the artists, crew, officials, exhibitors and any person involved with the vulgar film.

Producers of vulgar films have stopped their ongoing projects realising perhaps they would be in trouble if they continue.

Producers themselves halted the making of around 30 films after the adaptation of the new law, said Kamruzzaman Babu, staff reporter, daily Prothom Alo: Producers of these low grade films fear that their movies would not run and they will not be able to be make any profits.

According to different newspaper reports, the law-enforcing authority has shutdown three cinema halls for screening uncensored and vulgar Bangla movies. Another 16 cinema halls known to be screening pornographic films are marked to face the same fate if the allegation against them is proved.

With such initiative from the government, we hope to see more family oriented movies, that would increase the number of viewers, said Chashi Nazrul Islam, director and member Bangladesh Censor Board.

Nut to be cracked by hammer

WebIndia 123 (via) reports that the Bangladesh Ministry of Information is proposing a law to ban the exhibition of English films in cinema halls in the districts and local levels as part of a drive against obscenity.

According to M Shamsul Islam, the Information Minister, some dishonest producers, distributors and cinema hall owners were showing uncensored and obscene English films, which could lead to the moral degeneration of society, particularly the young generation. So, we must take action against those who are responsible for the exhibition of obscene films, he added.

Index also notes that The Censorship of Films (Amendment) Bill 2006, which was passed on 31 January, has increased penalties for filmmakers and actors whose works are ruled obscene.

The Dhaka-based Bengali film industry churns out more than 100 low-budget movies a year at an average cost of 6.5mn taka ($100,000) each. Under the new law filmmakers, actors and exhibitors can be jailed for up to three years if their products include nudity or vulgarity. The bill also gives authorities the power to confiscate films.

Gagged Week

This is a bit of an experiment, but I keep seeing stories that are worth highlighting but which I dont have a great deal - if anything - to add. So rather than continue with a bunch of posts that are little more than quotes from other sources, here is a list of links from this weeks press.

Film censorship dramatically increased

In one year, the censor board of Bangladesh has banned 59 films and shut down 39 cinemas for alleged obscenity - a record figure to mark the government’s latest crackdown on movies.

Greek Television stations censor documentary

Greek Helsinki Monitor has condemned Greek television stations for censoring parts of a documentary on the massacre at Srebrenica as broadcast on 2 and 3 June.

This is no sort of way to make a law – and no sort of law to make - Matthew Parris on the UK Government’s Racial and Religious Hatred Bill

The whole point of the rule of law is the certainty it gives the citizen. There is no greater injustice than for a citizen to be unable to determine what legal consequences would flow from an action contemplated. The bill, which passed its Second Reading last week, could be used to criminalise great swaths of speech and literature, ancient and modern.

Big Brother discovers porn

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales put tighter regulations on the porn industry into effect on 23 June.

Japanese schoolbooks seized by Chinese customs

Books on their way by mail to a Japanese school in the north-eastern Chinese city of Dalian were seized by authorities and the school itself fined because the school books have maps that use different colours to mark the island of Taiwan and mainland China.

Indymedia computer seized in pre-G8 police raid

A web server run by the Indymedia alternative news organisation has been seized by police in Bristol. An Indymedia volunter was also arrested during the raid.