Melon Farmers Original Version

Censor Watch

2008: April

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21st May   

With increasing popularity and realism of games...

Why isn't there an epidemic of violence?
Link Here

Does playing violent video games make players aggressive? It is a question that has taxed researchers, sociologists, and regulators ever since the first console was plugged into a TV and the first shots fired in a shoot 'em up game.

Writing May 14 in the International Journal of Liability and Scientific Enquiry, Patrick Kierkegaard of the University of Essex, England, suggests that there is scant scientific evidence that video games are anything but harmless and that they do not lead to real world aggression. Moreover, his research shows that previous work is biased towards the opposite conclusion.

Kierkegaard points out that violent games are growing more realistic with each passing year and most relish their plots of violence, aggression and gender bias. But, he asks, Is there any scientific evidence to support the claims that violent games contribute to aggressive and violent behaviour?

Media scare stories about gamers obsessed with violent games and many research reports that claim to back up the idea that virtual violence breeds real violence would seem to suggest so. However, Kierkegaard has studied a range of such research papers several of which have concluded since the early 1980s that video games can lead to juvenile delinquency, fighting at school and during free play periods and violent criminal behaviour such as assault and robbery.

However, Kierkegaard explains, there is no obvious link between real-world violence statistics and the advent of video games. If anything, the effect seems to be the exact opposite and one might argue that video game usage has reduced real violence. Despite several high profile incidents in US academic institutions, Violent crime, particularly among the young, has decreased dramatically since the early 1990s, says Kierkegaard: while video games have steadily increased in popularity and use. For example, in 2005, there were 1,360,088 violent crimes reported in the USA compared with 1,423,677 the year before. With millions of sales of violent games, the world should be seeing an epidemic of violence, instead, violence has declined.

Research is inconclusive, emphasises Kierkegaard. It is possible that certain types of video game could affect emotions, views, behaviour, and attitudes, however, so can books, which can lead to violent behaviour on those already predisposed to violence. The inherent biases in many of the research studies examined by Kierkegaard point to a need for a more detailed study of video games and their psychological effects.


30th April   

Contempt of Court...

Lawyer on trial for accusing court of injustice
Link Here

Aamer Anwar is a lawyer who unsuccessfully defended a client on terrorism charges.

His client Mohammed Atif Siddique is currently serving eight years after becoming the first Scot to be convicted of al-Qaeda-inspired terrorism offences. The most serious being possessing al-Qaeda propaganda material on his laptop computer for a purpose connected with terrorism . He had also made a series of extremist claims to fellow students at Glasgow Metropolitan College, including that he would "blow up" the city.

Immediately after Siddique's trial, Anwar spoke with barely concealed rage from the steps of the High Court in Glasgow, he spoke. He unleashed a stinging verbal attack on Scotland's justice system.

Standing in the full glare nation's media, he described the verdict a tragedy for justice and insisted the prosecution had been driven by the state.

Anwar is now on trial himself accused of contempt of court as a result of those remarks seven months before. In particular he is accused of a common-law contempt or actions that are an affront to the court. That might be willfully impeding the smooth running of the court, or doing something that brings it into disrepute.

Supporters of free speech came out to support Anwar. They gathered in their dozens outside the court building, holding banners in support of the beleaguered lawyer.
Their message was simple: Defend Aamer Anwar. Defend the freedom of speech.

Lord Carloway, the judge in the terror trial of Mohammed Atif Siddique, described Anwar's statement as a multi-faceted tirade , and said much of it was untrue or misleading. Referring the case to the panel of three judges that yesterday began trying Anwar for contempt, Lord Carloway said a defence lawyer had specific duties not only to his client but to the court.

The case is unprecedented in British legal history. It has triggered grave fears among civil-liberty groups that Scotland's judiciary could be about to strike a serious blow against freedom of speech. The case is likely to be ultimately decided in the European courts.

High-profile human-rights lawyers, including Michael Mansfield, Gareth Peirce and Imran Khan, have publicly backed Anwar, as have writers, academics, anti-war protesters and politicians.

A full-page advert in a Sunday newspaper branded the trial against Anwar not only a violation of the right to free speech but also "an attack on the fundamental right of all lawyers to represent their clients".

Liberty, the UK civil-liberties group, has taken a keen interest in the case. Yesterday, a representative of the group stood before the three judges hearing the case and argued a guilty verdict would contravene the right to free expression enshrined in European law. Its director, Shami Chak-rabarti, earlier told The Scotsman: The ability of a lawyer to protest on behalf of his client is crucial to both free speech and justice in a democracy.

But while the roar of support from legal circles in England has been deafening, lawyers in Scotland have been conspicuously quiet. The Scotsman understands that many were asked to sign a letter of support, but refused. They say talk about a threat to free speech is overblown.

John Scott, president of the Edinburgh Bar Association, said: The problem was (Anwar] was inaccurately reporting what had happened in court. His take for the cameras of what the jurors had decided was very misleading. Aamer said his client had been convicted of finding answers on the internet. In truth, he was found guilty of very serious offences. Trying him for contempt was, I think, an overreaction.


30th April   

Menaced by the Authorities...

Blogger fined for minor 'menacing' comment
Link Here

A blogger who "let off steam" about the way he was treated by police has been convicted of posting a grossly offensive and menacing message.

Thae man was fined £150 with £364 costs by magistrates at Mold.

The court heard how he had been charged with theft offences - which have yet to be dealt with - and posted a message about a police officer's new-born baby. Magistrates said any reasonable person would find the comments menacing.

The court heard how detective constable Steve Lloyd conducted interviews, but was not present when the man was charged because his wife was having a baby. Prosecutor Liz Bell said someone unfortunately told the man why the officer was absent.

He then ranted about his perceived mis-treatment at the hands of police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

His posting ended: P.S. - D.C. Lloyd, God help your new-born baby.

In interview, he said he felt he had been mistreated and hoped the officer would not treat his child the same way.

The man was prosecuted under the Telecommunications Act, relating to the sending of an electronic message.

He claimed he had not meant to be offensive, had used the blog "to let off steam", but had not intended any harm. He apologised if it was perceived as a threat, offered to remove the offending words, and to write a letter of apology.

Flintshire magistrates, sitting at Mold, said the blog was articulate, detailed, specific and critical of the police and the CPS. They said any reasonable person would find the words about the baby to be menacing in the context of the overall blog.


30th April   

Update: Online Rating Games...

ELSPA boss reckons BBFC will be overwhelmed by online games
Link Here
Full story: Harmful Content...2007 Parliament Inquiry: Internet And In Video Games:

Plans to widen the use of cinema-style rating for computer games are at risk of failing, amid predictions that soon there will be too many for the censors to regulate.

Games industry bosses told MPs on the Culture Select Committee, who are examining harmful content on the internet and in video games, that an explosion in online gaming would mean up to 100,000 games appear a year – far more than the 1,750 titles produced today.

Paul Jackson, director-general of Elspa, the games industry trade body, said it would need to fill a tower block with censors to make the system work. He was responding to questions from John Whittingdale, the Conservative chairman of the committee.

Jackson's comments mean that government plans, announced this month, to introduce compulsory rating for all games that would attract a 12 certificate and above would collapse because the BBFC could not cope: We are concerned about plans to introduce a hybrid system. On the face of it, it means classifying another 500 games a year. But will they be able to rate 100,000 games and game elements in five years' time?

Comment: Future Proofing Games Ratings

Paul Jackson's comments are better explained in an interview with TechRadar

From TechRadar

Paul Jackson: Our concern is this – the games industry needs to be reassured that the British Board of Film Classification would be capable of delivering against a new remit. There are two broad areas of concern.

Firstly, it looks as though the PEGI system currently delivers a harsher rating on games than (historically) the BBFC has – and we want to understand why that is happening and, if it's not right, how we can fix it.

The second area of concern is about 'future-proofing'. We know that our industry is going online and we know that the methodologies used with PEGI allow complete flexibility, because it is generated from within the industry. Every product has got a product manager, so every product can be self-assessed. And then the checks and balances that are so important come into play after that.

With the BBFC system that has been developed since the 1930s it is based around individual censors reviewing each and every product. Now what does that mean in a world where there are perhaps a million online elements a year which need to be classified? I don't know? That is where we need to make sure that we understand how the BBFC would be capable of delivering against that remit.

TechRadar: The BBFC told TechRadar recently that they were more than happy and confident to take on what they estimate to be an extra three to five hundred games a year.

Paul Jackson: Yes, and at the level of three-to-five hundred, who would question that? The question really is – 'what happens in that online space?'

As the industry goes online over the next three to ten years what we don't want to do, including the BBFC, I'm sure – and this is why we keep talking about 'future proofing' – is we don't want to invest in a system that effectively becomes redundant over the few years' time.

TechRadar: Why would it become redundant?

Paul Jackson: Well if – and there are many 'ifs' in this which is why we want to work with government and with the BBFC over the next 18 months – if, for instance, one scenario is that the games industry moves almost exclusively online and then the products that we are selling, many of those products fragment… So, The Sims would be a good example here. If you look at The Sims as a product, it's a £30 purchase at the point of display and then just look at the number of items that are already available to purchase online for The Sims. Every one of those in future will need to be referenced and classified. How will that be done?

Those are the areas of concern we have got, because we are certainly not talking five to six hundred 'elements' per year over the next ten years. We're talking about hundreds of thousands, millions, who knows?

We've tried to word our concern very clearly. We are concerned because we don't understand how that is going to work. And if it doesn't work, if we've not 'future proofed' then we just have a system that's going to last us the next three years. Which is not what any of us want.


30th April   

Rewriting the Rules of Attraction...

Cuts mistake at Film Four ruins climatic scene
Link Here

Film Four's recent screened Roger Avery's THE RULES OF ATTRACTION.

Though the original NC-17 version of THE RULES OF ATTRACTION was passed uncut for theatrical screenings in the UK, the subsequent video version was cut to remove a shot of Teresa Wayman cutting her wrist lengthwise with a razor because the BBFC considered it instructional depiction of a potentially lethal suicide technique. The shot in question only lasts a few seconds, so the distributor removed it and then slowed down the remaining footage to cover the gap left by the deleted shot and allow the Harry Nillson song 'Without You' to play as it does in the uncut version. As a result the BBFC list a substitution cut of 1 min 34 seconds, the total amount of footage slowed to accommodate the cut.

The BBFC's intervention did not really lessen the power of this crucial scene, but unfortunately when the film was screened recently on Film Four, whoever prepared the film for broadcast misunderstood the technical aspects of this cut, and instead removed the 1 minute 34 seconds the BBFC appeared to mandate deleting the suicide scene in almost its entirety. Accidental though it seems to be, it' a crippling cut, but I'm sure a few helpful e-mails sent in Film Four's direction could sort this out.


30th April   

Pot Shot at Women...

Whingers complain about Pot Noodle advert
Link Here

The advertising censor, ASA, has received 10 complaints that Pot Noodle's resolutely un-PC television campaign, featuring a 1980s power ballad about how women should be easy, simple and hassle free , is sexist and portrays women as sexual objects.

Pot Noodle's latest ad, which launched earlier this week, features a crooner who wishes that women were as simple as the ready-to-eat snack.

Complaints to the ASA include the claim that the ad is: offensive and demeaning to women, is misogynistic and portrays women as sexual objects.

The ASA will now assess whether or not to launch a formal investigation into the campaign.

Pot Noodle's TV campaign, created by ad agency Mother, is a spoof of a 1980s music video. In the song a singer and his backing musician argue that if women were a Pot Noodle it would be farewell to nagging and random tantrums . They wish women could be freeze-dried and quick and done in a jiffy.

If she lived in a cupboard things wouldn't be so tough, runs one line. The final scene ends with a group of men raising their forks in unison to celebrate Pot Noodle, in praise of things simple, easy and more hassle free.


30th April   

Update: Police Censors...

Thailand passed film classification law
Link Here
Full story: Age Classification in Thailand...Thailand introduces age classification for films

Thailand's new Film Act will go into effect on June 4. And though nothing ever goes as planned when it comes to the Culture Ministry, moviegoers should brace for the historic introduction of the rating system, which is likely to be accompanied by confusion and clamour.

The Film Act was actually passed last December, but the Ministry Regulations, the practical rules that will implement various provisions of the law, are being written by the scribes at the ministry.

When the new law is applied in June, each movie, Thai and foreign, will be assigned one of six ratings:

  • G (fit for all age groups)
  • 13-plus
  • 15-plus
  • 18-plus
  • 20-plus
  • ''P'' an unusual label designed for films that deserve to be promoted to the society because of its content. For instance, a historical Thai movie that everyone including young children should be encouraged to see it because of its historical and patriotic values.

What's not clear right now is how the ratings and filtering will be enforced. As it is understood, theatre staff at the box office will check the IDs of customers before letting them buy tickets. But since nobody has seen the Ministry Regulations, it's not certain whether the age classifications are simply a guideline for parents and multiplexes, or are actual legal restrictions with punishment clauses.

It's rumoured that the ID check will be carried out only with the 18- and 20-plus movies. But if, say, a 19-year-old wants to see Rambo 4 with his father, will he be allowed to go in? And if not, why? Because when he goes to an election booth, a process more detrimental to his mental health, he doesn't have to bring his dad in there with him to tell him which box to tick or which politician is a thief.

I feel itchy about the 20-plus rating, itchier and sadder still that the new Film Act still has the cutting and banning provisions. Hardly any country in the world restricts access to cinema for its 20-year-old people, except, well, Singapore. What's very funny in the Thai law is that the 20-plus rating will not be applied to those who have reached their legal age of consent by marriage. So if you're a 17-year-old girl who's already married, you can breeze into the theatre to see a 20-plus film, supposedly because since you've already had sex, nothing else can shock you. Just remember to carry your wedding certificate as proof.


30th April   

Update: Censorial Gymnastics...

Russia to widen definitions of libel to further extend press control
Link Here
Bending over backwards to Putin's wishes

Russia's lower house of parliament voted yesterday to widen the definition of slander and libel and give regulators the authority to shut down media outlets found guilty of publishing such material.

The legislation, passed by the State Duma 339-1, is the latest attempt by the government to squeeze the country's increasingly embattled news media.

The bill allows authorities to suspend and close down media outlets for libel and slander — punishment that is identical for news media found to be promoting terrorism, extremism and racial hatred.

It also expands the definition for slander and libel to dissemination of deliberately false information damaging individual honor and dignity.

The legislation will be considered in two more readings, before heading to the upper house of parliament, where approval is likely, and then to Putin for signing.

The bill's passage comes just days after a scandal involving a tabloid newspaper that had reported that President Vladimir Putin had divorced his wife and planned to marry a champion gymnast.


29th April   

Dangerously Obscene Law...

Dangerous Pictures Amendments to be debated at 3rd reading
Link Here

Amendments to the Criminal Injustice Act have been tabled for the 3rd Reading

Baroness Miller and Lord Wallace have suggested that dangerous pictures should be defined as both violent and legally obscene. They have also proposed reducing the maximum sentence from 3 to 2 years.

The evil Lord Hunt has proposed a minor exemption. Those participating in the dangerous pictures and hence knowing that they were produced legally would be exempt. Surely a recipe for injustice as the same images would be legal for some to own and illegal for others

Clause 62


Page 49, line 31, leave out paragraph (b) and insert—
"(b) is obscene as defined by section 1 of the Obscene Publications Act 1959 (c. 66) (test of obscenity)."

After Clause 64


Insert the following new Clause—
"Defence: participation in consensual acts
(1) This section applies where—
(a) a person ("D") is charged with an offence under section 62, and
(b) the offence relates to an image that portrays an act or acts within paragraphs (a) to (c) (but none within paragraph (d)) of subsection (7) of that section.
(2) It is a defence for D to prove—
(a) that D directly participated in the act or any of the acts portrayed, and
(b) that the act or acts did not involve the infliction of any non-consensual harm on any person, and
(c) if the image portrays an act within section 62(7)(c), that what is portrayed as a human corpse was not in fact a corpse.
(3) For the purposes of this section harm inflicted on a person is "non-consensual" harm if—
(a) the harm is of such a nature that the person cannot, in law, consent to it being inflicted on himself or herself; or
(b) where the person can, in law, consent to it being so inflicted, the person does not in fact consent to it being so inflicted."

Clause 65


Page 52, line 3, leave out subsections (2) to (4) and insert—
"(2) A person guilty of an offence under section 62 is liable—
(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both;
(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years."


Page 52, line 8, leave out "depict" and insert "portray"


29th April   

Update: Elvis Lives...

Rockstar boss likens anti-games nutters to anti-Elvis nutters
Link Here
Full story: Grand Theft Auto...Grand Theft Auto brings out the nutters

The boss of Edinburgh video game company Rockstar North has said critics of the forthcoming Grand Theft Auto IV title are the same kind of people who complained about Elvis.

Leslie Benzies, the president of the Capital-based firm, made the claim amid waves of protest aimed at the game, which is due to be released tomorrow.

Benzies said the Grand Theft Auto games were victims of the same kind of misplaced moral panic that had greeted the early days of rock'n'roll.

He added: There is a big fear factor here. It's (like) the coming of the railways, it's Elvis shaking his hips. It's cars going over 25 miles per hour and making people explode. We've had such a beating over the past three years, by the US government, the British government, the Daily Mail. 'You kill prostitutes' – that's usually the objection. I ask if they've ever played the game. Invariably they haven't.

Benzies' reaction comes after top neuroscientist Baroness Greenfield, said yesterday that the rush of continually winning and losing at computer games produces "hits" of dopamine – a euphoria-inducing chemical that has also been linked to drug dependency. She added the long-term result could be damage to a part of the brain that is key to forming personality.

However, another leading neuroscientist, Stafford Lightman, professor of medicine at Bristol University, says there is "no evidence at all" for Baroness Greenfield's theory about the longer-term personality effect.

From the New York Times

Grand Theft Auto IV is a violent, intelligent, profane, endearing, obnoxious, sly, richly textured and thoroughly compelling work of cultural satire disguised as fun.

It calls to mind a rollicking R-rated version of Mad magazine featuring Dave Chappelle and Quentin Tarantino, and sets a new standard for what is possible in interactive arts.

It is by far the best game of the series, which made its debut in 1997 and has since sold more than 70 million copies.


29th April   

Update: Allah Heard in Court...

Malaysian catholics go to court to use the word 'Allah'
Link Here
Full story: Oh My God...Only muslims can use the word Allah in Malaysia

The lawsuit by the archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur against the government of Malaysia has been adjourned until April 29. The archdiocese is claiming the right to use the word "Allah" in its Catholic weekly, the Herald.

The standoff over the use of the word "Allah" is just one more chapter in the difficulties facing the majority Muslim country, where a secular constitution is accompanied by Islamic courts charged with applying sharia.

On December 10, the domestic security ministry had prohibited the Malay-language section of the Herald from using the word "Allah" to designate the Christian God, claiming it could be used in this way only by Muslims. Fr Andrew Lawrence, the director of the newspaper, was forced to accept the restriction, but the archdiocese decided to sue the government.

The archbishop of the capital, Murphy Pakiam, maintains that the domestic security minister and the federal government are making a mistake: I am advised by my solicitors that I have a legal right to use the word 'Allah' in the Herald, and this legal right stems from the right to freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.

Archbishop Pakiam further reports that he has been under constant pressure from the government to conform to the "directives". At the same time, numerous threats have been issued, creating a climate of "apprehension".

The bishop concludes by describing as unreasonable and irrational" the justification of the ministry, according to which the use of the word "Allah" is a security issue which is purportedly causing much confusion and which threatens and endangers peace, public order and security". Over thirteen years of publication, he adds, no article in the Herald has ever caused any incidents.


28th April   

First Amongst Nutters...

New Zealand nutters get wound up by Grand Theft Auto IV
Link Here
Full story: Grand Theft Auto...Grand Theft Auto brings out the nutters

Family First NZ is calling for the latest version of the Grand Theft Auto video game series to be banned in NZ.

Grand Theft Auto IV is scheduled for release this week. It follows on from previous Grand Theft Auto games which included constant graphic violence and sexual situations. Players could re-enact having sex with a prostitute, beating her bloody, taking her money and running her over with a car and shooting at police officers.

Rockstar Games which produces the game says the company is going even further in its pursuit of realism with this latest game in the series and players can buy cocaine, set enemies alight, shoot a policeman, drink drive, and visit strip clubs – all with improved physics and animation which makes the game feel more real, according to reviewers.

In Australia the graphic violence contained in the game was modified to meet an MA15+ rating, still with warnings of strong violence, strong coarse language, drug and sexual references. The Australian censorship board warned that as the violence is relatively frequent, causing blood spray and injury detail, the impact is strong.

It is completely naïve to believe that teenagers and young children won't have access to and be able to play the game, says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ: It is also completely unrealistic to believe that young people will not be influenced in their attitudes and behaviours by constant exposure to this type of material.

Family First says that with concerns in the increasing rates of juvenile violent and sexual offending, it is time we acted to protect our young people and communities from the effects and influences of these extreme types of video games.

So-called 'entertainment' and freedom of expression should never be at the expense of the safety of our community, appropriate emotional and moral development of our children, and promoting acceptable attitudes towards women, violence and law enforcement, says McCoskrie.

However, such is the popularity of the title that big electronics stores are planning midnight openings to cash in on demand from gamers.


27th April   

Credibility Theft...

Jack Thompson gets Miami to ban Grand Theft Auto IV bus adverts
Link Here
Full story: Grand Theft Auto...Grand Theft Auto brings out the nutters

A complaint by games nutter, Jack Thompson, has prompted Miami's transit authority to remove ads for Grand Theft Auto IV from local bus shelters.

Miami thus joins Chicago as the second major US city to pull GTA IV ads from its public transit system in recent days.

GamePolitics reported on Thursday that Thompson had complained about the GTA IV ads to Miami Mayor Carlos Alvarez. The GTA IV ads were apparently removed sometime on Friday afternoon.

Hugh Chen, Miami-Dade Transit's deputy director of operations, told GamePolitics on Friday evening, via e-mail: The posters were removed after a review of our approval process and contract… Be assured that the circumstances around placing and removing these specific posters were reviewed before action was taken. We are governed by our contract with our shelter contractor and County ordinances.

In the wake of this success, Thompson is proceeding to get all GTA IV ads pulled from all US transit systems since such ads clearly violate promises made by the [ESRB], found right at its web site, not to place “Mature-rated” game ads in venues that will be seen by teens.

However, Thompson's contention about the ESRB appears to be incorrect. An ESRB spokesman told GP on Friday, Considering the overwhelmingly adult demographic profile of mass transit riders… the placement of GTA IV ads in these types of outlets would typically not be in violation of [Ad Review Council] guidelines.


26th April   

Update: Sex Still Sells...

Sweden decides not to ban sexist advertising
Link Here

Sweden has decided not to ban sexist advertising, saying it would risk undermining the country's cherished right to freedom of speech.

But the decision puts the country at odds with its Nordic neighbours. Norway and Denmark have strict limits on the use of such images for commercial gain.

In Norway, sexist advertising has been banned since 2003. The ban forms part of a much broader package of legal limits on advertising, protecting the depiction of religion, sexuality, race and gender.

Basically, if something is offensive or it makes the viewer feel uncomfortable when they look at it, it shouldn't be done , explained Sol Olving, head of Norway's Kreativt Forum, an association of the country's top advertising agencies: Naked people are wonderful, of course, but they have to be relevant to the product. You could have a naked person advertising shower gel or a cream, but not a woman in a bikini draped across a car."

Norwegian firms that refuse to remove or alter offensive adverts after having a complaint upheld face a hefty fine of 500,000 Norwegian kroner (£49,000; 62,500 euros).

Both Norway and Denmark are keen to emphasise that their advertising limits do not prevent freedom of speech, stifle creativity or mean that there is never a beautiful naked human form on display.

Denmark's advertising ombudsman Henrik Oe says many advertisers are becoming increasingly creative, using humour to stretch the boundaries and appeal to Danish consumers. He says he receives only around 10 complaints about sexist advertising each year and that firms normally remove the offending images quickly.

Sweden, however, despite commissioning a special government rapporteur to look into the matter, is not following the legal professor's advice that freedom of speech does not extend to commercial messages and limits are needed.

This law would be against freedom of speech, which is protected by the constitution , said Malin Engstedt, spokesperson for Equality Minister Nyamko Sabuni: The minister is not convinced that this law would improve things.

See Also:


26th April   

Customary Bollox...

HM Thieves and exercise refuse to reveal reasons for seizure of DVDs
Link Here

Thank you for your e-mail dated 12 March 2008 asking for information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

You asked for:

I would like a list of all of the DVDs that have been stopped by Customs and Excise in the years 2006-2007. I would also like the reasons for the stoppages. So, I would like the DVD title, reason for the stoppage for the years 2006-2007

With regard to part one of your request we can provide the total number of DVDs stopped for the period 2006-2007 which is 121,102.

We are unable to provide you with a list of the DVDs that have been seized as we do not hold that information. The title of DVDs seized are also not necessarily recorded and we do not therefore hold that information. To answer this part of your request would involve either new analysis or the exceeding of the appropriate cost limit, which is specified in regulations and for central government is set at £600.

You also requested reasons for stoppages. This information falls within the provisions of the Freedom of Information act that may exempt it from disclosure. The exemption in question is section 31(1).

As far as section 31 (1) is concerned you have asked for data relating to reasons for stoppage of DVDs. That is directly related to our anti-smuggling activities. Criminals are known to research carefully UK Law Enforcement capabilities and border controls. Releasing this type of information might enable those intent on wrongdoing to subvert our operational effectiveness thus putting at risk law enforcement. Because of that s31 (1) (a) (b) and (d) are engaged.

These are qualified exemptions and we are required to weigh the public interest in maintaining the exemption against the public interest in disclosing the information.

Turning to the exemption in section 31 (1) I accept that there is a public interest in HMRC being accountable for the way it enforces the law and being open about results and practices. There is also a public interest in ensuring that the public understand that our operations provide value for money and are carried out fairly and effectively. These factors would favour disclosure. However, HMRC already publishes national seizure results, along with other statistical information such as operating costs, receipts etc in its Annual Report. That report is published to enable public scrutiny of the Department, including but not limited to its operational effectiveness. The fact that we publish annual seizure figures in our annual report meets our obligations to be accountable for our performance. You can see the Annual Report by going to the following link

There is however also a very strong public interest in protecting society from illegal imports and tax and duty evasion, and to do this we need to keep our risk assessment and operational procedures confidential in order to preserve the integrity of our systems for tackling smuggling and protecting the revenue. Providing the detailed criteria of what we are looking for would assist smugglers to evade our controls, and this would not be in the public interest.

In my view it is not in the public interest to set aside the section 31 exemption and release the information you have requested.

Mr. Sanjay Aeri
HM Revenue & Customs


26th April   

Filth: The Mary Whitehouse Story...

TV drama to be shown by BBC
Link Here

Wednesday 28 May 2008, BBC: Filth: The Mary Whitehouse Story

With Julie Walters starring as Mary Whitehouse and Hugh Bonneville playing her arch-enemy, BBC Director-General Hugh Carleton Greene, Filth: The Mary Whitehouse Story will bring to life the battle for Britain's morals that raged in the Sixties.

Julie Walters said: I am very excited to be playing Mary Whitehouse, and to looking at the time when she attacked the BBC and started to make her name.

The 90-minute film was written by Amanda Coe,


25th April   

Naff Nutter...

Swiss politician sues games shop for selling Stranglehold
Link Here

European electronics retailer Media Markt was sued by a Swiss politician for selling John Woo's Stranglehold . To be more precise, Roland Näf sued the manager of a local branch of Media Markt.

Now, the reason Näf is doing this is that he wants to see how effective this law is when used against video games. He states that Swiss law isn't strict enough in that respect. Even though the video game industry voluntarily uses a system that prohibits selling overly violent games to minors, kids could still easily get their hands on them, especially since the law doesn't forbid giving the games to them.

So Näf wants to ban video games from being produced or sold at all. He wants prohibition.

Actually, he already tried to change the law but was turned down by the parliament. They said that the law as it is now was good enough and that no connection between video games and violent minors was evident.

Good to know that there are some politicians who actually think about the matter instead of lashing out irrationally.


25th April   

Liberty Bell Reveals Cracks...

Court tests the sidelining of free speech into designated zones
Link Here

A US government decision to limit the First Amendment to certain often-fenced "zones" is being tested in a court case in Philadelphia by a man who was arrested for not following by the terms of a "speech permit" he didn't request and didn't agree to accept.

The judge hearing the case against Michael Marcavage of Repent America this week heard prosecution arguments, then agreed to review written motions to dismiss the case and said the hearing would be continued at a later date, if it is needed.

Marcavage is a street preacher who regales passers-by on public property with exhortations to review their own spiritual condition and consider their future whether they choose Christianity or not.

He was arrested in 2007 by rangers at the Liberty Bell Center in Philadelphia, which houses the Liberty Bell, the artifact from American history that rang to announce the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence and is inscribed with Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the inhabitants thereof.

Marcavage was speaking to passersby about the national issue of abortion when he was arrested.

This case is not just about Christians, he said: The outcome affects everyone. His arguments are focusing on the government's ability to censor the speech of dissidents by requiring them to protest in a single location separated from the audience the protester is trying to reach. The government alleges the preaching created a safety concern.

At the Liberty Bell Center, Marcavage had preached a number of times. But in the 2007 visit, he was told that new rules required him to be in a specially designated permit-required free speech zone that was located on the far side of the property away from the audience.

The ranger told him since it was a new policy, he would grant Marcavage a verbal permit for his preaching. Marcavage rejected that, saying he did not need a permit to exercise his First Amendment rights. He then was arrested for violating the conditions of the permit he did not accept.

Marcavage noted on a free speech blog that such free speech zones are routine when cities sponsor various "gay" parades or other events, as well as on college campuses where officials want to maintain a tight control over events.


25th April   

Update: A Change on the Books...

Little Sisters to pass on the fight with Canadian Customs
Link Here

They've been bombed three times, received death threats and stood before the red-robed justices of the Supreme Court of Canada.

No, Jim Deva and Bruce Smyth are not killers or terrorists. The soft-spoken Vancouver men sell books. And in some peoples' eyes, Deva says, that made the gay owners of Little Sister's Book & Art Emporium dangerous.

Only two years after the store opened in 1983, the owners took on a fight that bolstered and exhausted them, lasting until just last year and challenging Canada's censorship laws.

After 23 years of fighting Canada Customs' seizures of books bound for the gay and lesbian bookshop, the partners have put Little Sister's up for sale.

It's time to do something else, Deva says as he plans to get a choir booked for the store's 25th anniversary celebrations: It's probably time to pass on the torch hopefully to some younger, energetic people who are willing to work with our store. I'm not in a rush. We're going to take our time.

The fight against Customs put the store at the forefront of the battle against censorship in Canada. Among books seized were Jean Genet's Querelle , Quentin Crisp's The Naked Civil Servant , Joe Orton's Prick Up Your Ears , The Joy of Gay Sex and The Joy of Lesbian Sex .

I think it's our tenacity. We just wouldn't give up and came back again and again at them from every angle we could figure out.

But after all the court battles, Deva believes Canada Customs has developed a respect for the gay community's literature and imagery: They know that . . . when they make a sort of pronouncement on a book that they may well have to defend that. We still disagree with the process but it's certainly fairer than it was 20 years ago.


24th April   

Minor Euro Games...

EU pushes for more to protect children from games
Link Here

EU Information Society and Media Commissioner Vivianne Reding has told the industry that a code of conduct for retailers must be in place within two years, so that existing ratings systems are better known.

The Commission has found that 20 of the EU's 27 countries use the Pan European Games Information (PEGI) system for classifying games by age.

Only four of the EU's member nations have banned violent computer games. These are the UK, Ireland, Germany and Italy.

There are 4 countries with no classification system in place at all are: Cyprus, Luxembourg, Romania and Slovenia.

PEGI, as an example of responsible industry self-regulation and the only such system with almost pan-European coverage, is certainly a very good first step, said Reding. However, I believe it can be greatly improved, in Europe and beyond, by making the public more aware about its existence and fully implementing PEGI Online. I also call on Member States and the industry to govern the sale of video games in shops to respect the fundamental need to protect minors.

Reding wants the industry to do more to promote and raise awareness of PEGI, for EU countries to make PEGI a part of their own classification systems, for countries to co-operate on age verification systems, and for the industry to create the code of conduct for retailers within two years.

Update: Manhunt 2 in Ireland

The Film Censor's Office (IFCO) banned Manhunt 2 last year after finding the gross, unrelenting and gratuitous violence unacceptable. It is the only video game banned in Ireland.

Deputy Irish censor, Ger Connolly told The Irish Times today that the ban on Manhunt 2 remains in place and that the publisher Rockstar Games has not sought to appeal the decision.

Someone buying the game online or importing it from another country would be committing a criminal offence, he said.


24th April   

US Freedom Not Worth Fighting For...

Shameful politician sets out to ban Playboy from troops
Link Here

Adult industry attorneys today blasted a Georgia lawmaker, who has introduced a proposal that would further restrict adult material sold at military exchange stores.

The Military Honor and Decency Act, introduced last week by Representative Paul Broun would amend a provision of the 1997 Defense Authorization Act that limited sales of sexually explicit material on military bases.

Broun said in a statement that he wants to bring the Defense Department into compliance with the intent of the 1997 law so that taxpayers will not be footing the costs of distributing pornography. The Military Honor and Decency Act will right a bureaucratic — and moral — wrong , he said.

Broun's proposal would require the Defense Department to review on an annual basis all material that is not deemed sexually explicit now, and is therefore allowed in military stores, to determine if it should be prohibited.

Broun's legislation also would modify the current definition of sexually explicit, to lower the threshold required to deem material sexually explicit. It also adds a new definition of “principal theme,” adds a definition of “lascivious” that is broader than what is included in the current definition, and adds a definition of “nudity” that makes it much more difficult for the sale of sexually explicit material.

Attorney Greg Piccionelli told XBIZ that he was offended by the proposal by ignorant and intolerant hypocrites like Broun and his ilk that are currently plaguing the planet.

May I remind the congressman that our troops honor stems from their willingness to lay down their lives to preserve the very freedom that he is so willing to take away from them. They are defending our way of life, which fortunately includes our ability to read Playboy and Penthouse magazines. How dare he insult our brave soldiers by claiming they can be sullied by viewing ink on a page.

If one of our troops, who daily risks being blinded or killed by a roadside explosive tomorrow, would like to view nude images of one of God's greatest creations, a woman, on what could be his last day of sight, how dare this hypocritical imposter of a patriot try to take that sacred right away from one of our true guardians of freedom. Shame, shame, shame on you Mr. Broun.


24th April   

Nutter Bait...

Grand Theft Auto IV brings out the nutters
Link Here
Full story: Grand Theft Auto...Grand Theft Auto brings out the nutters

With the Grand Theft Auto IV launch less than a week away, the expected wave of nutter publicity continues with an alert issued by watchdog group the Parents Television Council.

According to PTC president Tim Winter:

Since the first version was released in 1997, the Grand Theft Auto series has lowered the bar for appalling video game content…

In past versions, players could re-enact having sex with a prostitute, beating her bloody, taking her money and running her over with a car; shooting at police officers; and, by using a code easily accessible on many internet sites, having a realistic sexual encounter on screen — complete with audio commentary.

In the alert, PTC urges its members to pressure retailers not to carry GTA IV. Or, if retailers do choose to stock the game, PTC suggest that it be displayed where minors will not see it.

Based on article from Game Politics

On the side of a bus kiosk in South Florida, there is a poster. On the poster is a drawing of a man. The man is sneering, but he's not doing anything remotely pornographic or violent. He's not doing anything, really. There are some words on the poster, too. They're not obscene. Nor do they incite violence. The poster is an ad for Grand Theft Auto IV.

And anti-game nutter attorney Jack Thompson wants it torn down and wrote: I was shocked today to see a six-foot-high advertisement for Grand Theft Auto IV, a hyperviolent video game… on the side of a Metro Miami-Dade bus stop located… near Children's Hospital. In fact, the advertisement was adjacent to a kids' park…

The Grand Theft Auto games have been obsessively played by a number of teens who have then copycatted the outrageous, sociopathic violence in the games and killed innocent people…

The ESRB descriptor on GTA IV indicates this game contains “Strong Sexual Content.” The sale of this game to any minor will constitute a criminal act violative of… Florida's “Sexual Material Harmful to Minors Law”…


24th April   

Short Shrift...

ASA whinge at 'being short' Paddy Power advert
Link Here

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ordered online gambling outfit Paddy Power "not to repeat" the approach it adopted in a newspaper ad which showed a "short man" in the back of stretch limo flanked by women under the title Who says you can't make money being short?

The offending advertisement, which appeared in the Times, attracted one complaint which challenged whether the ad irresponsibly linked gambling to seduction, sexual success, and enhanced attractiveness.

The ASA itself questioned whether the ad breached the [CAP] Code by implying gambling could improve self-image or self-esteem or was a way to gain control, superiority, recognition, or admiration.

The ASA continues: They said the ad targeted a very specific group of people in the financial spread betting community who would be aware of the connotations of 'going' or 'being' short. They said this was a term used to describe a particular financial spread betting activity.

The ASA ruled that the ad had breached CAP Code and said: We considered that the ad was likely to be seen to play on a traditional stereotype of male attractiveness that was sometimes prejudiced against shorter men and to suggest that desirable female companionship was attainable for short men too through the enhanced attractiveness provided by wealth (acquired by gambling).

It added: We concluded that, by showing the man flanked by two glamorous women in the context of a direct reference to making money through financial spread betting, the ad irresponsibly linked gambling with sexual success and enhanced attractiveness.

Paddy Power said that in the light of the ASA's communication with them, they had withdrawn the ad from all UK media outlets.


24th April   

Update: Discriminatory Themes...

Singapore gays unimpressed by being lumped in with criminals
Link Here

As reported recently, Singapore has adopted a rating system for video games.

While the move seems like a step in the right direction, not everyone is pleased with how the new ratings are to be assigned. People Like Us , which describes itself as a Singapore gay and lesbian group focused on advocacy and public education notes that that the government's Media Development Authority (MDA) lumps homosexuality with crime in an “Adult Theme” rating category:

People Like Us considers this new rule unjustifiably strict. Children should not have to be kept ignorant about the presence of gay people in society any more than they should be shielded from people of other faiths and ethnicities. The path to acceptance of gay people is through teaching children about diversity from a young age.

It is pejorative to lump gay sexual orientation with crime and drug use as the MDA's new guidelines do, as if gay orientation is some kind of social threat.


23rd April   

Labour Dragon Lanced...

Lords fight for St George, free speech and jokes about gays
Link Here

Comedians and church leaders have claimed a victory for free speech after Government plans to ban jokes about homosexuals were rejected in the House of Lords.

Peers inflicted an overwhelming defeat on the Government by amending the Criminal Injustice Bill to protect the freedom of speech of comics, rap artists and those who criticise other people's sexuality.

The television stars Rowan Atkinson and Christopher Higgins, who is himself homosexual, are among the prominent figures to have spoken out against the proposal to create a new offence of incitement to “homophobic hatred”.

Following the amendment, the offence will apply only to those who incite violence or harassment against homosexual men and lesbians, rather than jokes or broader criticism about alternative lifestyles, such as lyrics in rap songs.

Religious groups had campaigned against the Government proposal, saying it would criminalise those who voiced concerns on a range of issues, from the teaching on sexual orientation in schools to depictions of homosexuality in film and television.

Peter Tatchell, the prominent homosexual rights campaigner, also spoke out against the measure, arguing that freedom of speech should be sacrosanct.

Peers backed the amendment, tabled by the former Conservative home secretary Lord Waddington, by 81 votes to 57. He was supported by the Labour peer Lord Clarke of Hampstead, who told their lordships that critics of homosexuality should be able to speak freely without risk of police action.

If it is accepted by MPs, the new freedom of speech protection would prevent prosecutions such as that currently under way against the Oxford University student, Sam Brown, arrested after he called a police horse “gay” during a drunken conversation with two mounted police officers.

Ministers are now considering whether to seek to fight the amendment when the Bill returns to the House of Commons.

A spokeswoman from the Ministry for Justice said: We are disappointed by the outcome of the vote in the Lords on Lord Waddington's amendment.

Campaigners say they are confident the amendment will not be thrown out, as the Government is keen to rush other measures contained in the Bill, including a ban on strike action in prisons, on to the statute books.


23rd April   

Update: Imminent Danger...

Lords Amendment to scrap Dangerous Pictures clauses fails
Link Here

In the light of sheer intransigence by Lord Hunt on the part of the Government being totally unwilling to even consider the first set of amendments (ie incorporating the Sexual Offences Act, the Obscene Publications Act and the "consent" defence), Baroness Miller has withdrawn those and, instead, they are now voting on the Amendments to remove the Extreme Porn clauses entirely.

Unfortunately this amendment was defeated by 66 votes to 30.

There are further opportunities to vote eg at the 3rd reading but the feeling is that wider groups of Lords are even more likely to support the Dangerous Pictures clauses.

It looks like Britain will soon become an even more unpleasant land.

Update: A New Defence

Lord Hunt conceded there should be a new defence, which he will lay before the Third Reading: I am aware that the noble Lord has concerns about individuals who keep a record of themselves freely and willingly participating in bondage, domination, submission and sado-masochistic practices in which no unlawful harm occurs. I recognise that it would be anomalous for a person to be committing an offence by possessing an image of an act which he undertook perfectly lawfully. We intend to introduce at Third Reading a defence which addresses precisely that situation.

Comment: Says it All

From IanG on the Melon Farmers Forum
See also parliamentary transcript from TheyWorkForYou

Doesn't this say it all?

Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Labour):

My Lords, I, too, expressed reservations about these clauses in Committee and took very much the same line as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, did on that occasion. I looked carefully at the amendments that my noble friend brought forward and I said in Committee that I thought that they represented an improvement on what was there before.

I think that I am the only Member of your Lordships` House who took up the invitation of my noble friend to visit Charing Cross police station to view some of what one might call the exhibits that underlie the Government`s thinking on this matter. A variety of adjectives comes to mind, such as "bizarre", "unpleasant", "distasteful", even "repulsive", but the images were not in any sense sexually arousing. At the end of the visit, I was left with the question whether their possession is so threatening to society that it is worth turning people into criminals and sending them to jail if they happen to have them on a computer screen at home or have obtained them some other way.

I suspect that, like me, many noble Lords have had a fair number of submissions on this subject from a variety of organisations. Some of them are very articulate and well argued. The main point that comes through was expressed by an organisation called backlash, which said: The proposals are still, despite the recent amendments, worded in such a way as to risk inadvertently criminalising hundreds of thousands of British citizens.

He went on to say:

Equally importantly, people will be deterred from exploring their sexual preferences for fear that their research may lead them into illegal territory which in turn can cause both distress and mental health issues as well as being a fundamental breach of their human rights".

The point is also made by a number of these organisations that most of the scenes to which my noble friend introduced me at Charing Cross are not real scenes but are faked for the benefit of their creation or are the product of an entirely consensual activity, as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, pointed out. I am at one with my noble friend Lord McIntosh and, I suspect, with the Minister in wanting to prosecute illegal activity that has taken place in order to create these images. However, if no illegal activity has taken place and we are concerned about merely the possession of the images, I really cannot imagine that any useful purpose is served by creating criminals out of the people who possess them.

My worry is that the wording of the Bill is still much too vague and could cover all sorts of light, consensual and safe imagery which many people enjoy and practise and which at present is perfectly legal but which as a consequence of these clauses will certainly become illegal. In Committee, I finished by asking my noble friend a question. I did not get an answer on that occasion and I therefore put the same question to him now. As a new offence is being created by these clauses, what will be the position of people who have already downloaded material on to their computers that until now has not been illegal but henceforth will be? Will the possession of that be regarded as a criminal offence and, if it is, what advice are the Government offering to help people to get rid of it? This is an important issue. This House cannot pass legislation that inadvertently turns people into criminals, particularly when the activity in which they are engaging is not doing anybody outside their own homes any harm.


22nd April   

Traumatic Censorship...

Contributing to the hype for Three and Out
Link Here

A British train workers' union will protest Monday at the London premiere of a comedy about suicides on the underground, describing the deaths as no joke to the drivers involved in the accidents.

The film, Three and Out , is about a train driver who accidentally hits two people. He learns if he kills a third person, he can retire early because of the trauma, and sets out to find someone interested in committing suicide.

The Associated Society of Locomotive Steam Enginemen and Firemen said the movie makes light of deaths that leave families grieving and cause drivers to have post-traumatic stress.

Every year, there's 249 drivers who have to get out of the cab and find there are bodies under the wheels, union spokesman Chris Proctor said. Not many people are amused by the fact they're responsible for a death.

Contrary to the film's title, there is no "three and out" rule, the union said.

Drivers will hand out leaflets at Monday's London premiere in Leicester Square, Proctor said.

Worldwide Bonus Entertainment, the film's distributors, said it worked with the London Underground while filming and fails to see why the union is only speaking out now: In our view, (the union's) objections to the film effectively amount to censorship," the distributors said in a statement. "While everyone is entitled to their view, we do not believe that (the union) has the right to say what is and is not suitable for cinema.


19th April   

Real Improvement...

Dangerous Pictures amendment to not include staged images
Link Here

A new amendment has been suggest for the Dangerous Pictures Act. This commendably limits 'dangerous pictures' to those featuring real unstaged violence.


Clause 65

Page 49, line 21, at end insert—
"(d) that they reasonably believe that no person portrayed in the image was made to act against their will.
( ) For the purposes of this section whether a belief is reasonable is to be determined having regard to all the circumstances."

Now we really have got to get those letters out. We have a few weeks left to get enough Lords to vote to get these amendments through.


19th April   

Inciting New EU Laws...

EU agree to offence of inciting terrorism via the internet
Link Here

European Union ministers have agreed to punish incitement to terrorism through the internet.

At a meeting in Luxembourg, EU justice and interior ministers tightened existing laws. Public provocation to commit terrorist attacks, as well as recruiting and training people for terrorism will be punishable offences throughout the EU.

EU officials said the decision to punish propaganda, recruitment and training for terrorism through the internet filled an important gap in European legislation.

They described the internet as a virtual training camp for militants, used to inspire and mobilise local groups.

Earlier this month, the EU anti-terrorism co-ordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, said the threat of terrorism in Europe had not diminished and about 5,000 internet sites were being used to radicalise young people.

National courts will now be able to ask internet service providers to remove such sites. But under pressure from Nordic countries and civil rights campaigners, ministers made clear that the new provisions may not be used to restrict freedom of expression.

Britain, Spain and Italy already punish public incitement to terrorism.

And as if to make the point

See full article from the Independent

A Muslim activist who became known for his publicly expressed extremist views was jailed for four and a half years yesterday for terrorism-related offences committed during a series of inflammatory speeches at a London mosque.

Judge Nicholas Price said that Abu Izzadeen a British-born convert to Islam, was a "leading light" in a group of men who used a gathering at the Regent's Park mosque in November 2004 to call for volunteers to fight British troops in Iraq and appeal for funds to finance insurgents abroad.

The judge said Izzadeen and his co-defendants had abused the right to freedom of expression. Izzadeen and Simon Keeler, another British-born convert from Whitechapel in east London, were singled out as having led the incitement. They were sentenced to serve four and a half years.

Judge Martin told Izzadeen: I am left in no doubt that your speeches were used by you as self-aggrandisement and not as an expression of sincerely held religious views. I find that you are arrogant, contemptuous and utterly devoid of any sign of remorse.

Abdul Muhid, also from Whitechapel, was sentenced to two years for fundraising for terrorism abroad. He will serve the term once he finishes a four-year sentence for soliciting murder during protests against the publication of cartoons in a Danish newspaper depicting the Prophet Mohamed. The other defendants were given prison terms between two years and three years nine months.


19th April   

Update: Ominous in Russia...

Registration of all Wi-Fi devices and vague content control of internet
Link Here
Full story: Internet Censorship in Russia...Russia and its repressive state control of media

Russia's recently formed regulatory super-agency, Rossvyazokhrankultura (short for the Russian Mass Media, Communications and Cultural Protection Service) has propose an ominous-sounding policy of requiring registration for every Wi-Fi device and hotspot.

Rossvyazokhrankultura's interpretation of current law holds that users must register any electronics that use the frequency involved in Wi-Fi communications, said Vladimir Karpov, the deputy director of the agency's communications monitoring division.

Aside from public hotspots, the registration requirement also applies to home networks, laptops, smart phones and Wi-Fi-enabled PDAs, Karpov reportedly said. Registration only permits use by the owner.

Registration for personal devices is said to take 10 days, but registering a hotspot - including a home network - is more complicated, involving a set of documents and technological certifications.

Any networks in Moscow or St. Petersburg need the additional approval of two federal agencies, Karpov said: Setting up a home Wi-Fi network or a hotspot would require what sounds like vast amounts of paperwork, akin to putting a cell tower, commented wireless pundit Glenn Fleishman.

Based on article from The Other Russia

Russia's Public Chamber, which oversees draft legislation and advises the Parliament, has upheld recent legislation that would regulate information on the internet. Members of the panel, which was formed by President Vladimir Putin in 2005, met at an extended session of the Committee for communications, informational policy and freedom of speech in the media. The group discussed legislation introduced by prosecutors that would put controls on cyberspace and attempt to keep the web free of supposedly immoral and unethical materials.

Senator Vladimir Slutsker, a Federation Council delegate from Chuvashiya who introduced his own version of an internet regulation bill in February, said that a new law was needed since the relevance of the regular law on mass-media was questionable. It is not clearly written into the law itself, and [cases] are now given up to the buy-out of the courts.

Nearly all the speakers agreed that controls on the internet must be reinforced.

One of the few dissenting voices came from Mikhail Fedotov, a Secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists, who co-authored Russia's the original draft law on mass-media. Fedotov asserted that a single amendment to the law on mass-media, which would allow for prosecuting slander on the web, would suffice.


19th April   

Update: Turkishness Still Nowhere Near Europeaness...

Turkey barely changes free speech gag law
Link Here
Full story: Insulting Turkishness...Insulting Turkishness law used to repress

This month, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) plans to soften the controversial Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which makes it a crime to "denigrate Turkishness."

The law has been used to prosecute numerous intellectuals (more...) who dared to speak out about the 1915 Armenian killings during the last years of the Ottoman Empire, most notably Turkish Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk and journalist Hrant Dink.

The bill to amend article 301 was approved by a parliamentary committee on Friday and is set to go to the floor on Tuesday.

AKP's original proposed amendment of Article 301 would have required prosecutors to seek approval from the Turkish president before filing any charges under the law. But sources in parliament say that, under pressure from the opposition, the draft has been changed so that the Ministry of Justice would be responsible for approval. The new law would also lower the maximum prison sentence from three to two years and thereby open the way for the suspension of prison terms. In Turkey, a prison sentence that does not exceed two years can be suspended by the court unless the offender commits the same crime again. With AKP controlling more than 60%of the seats in parliament, the measure is expected to pass by a comfortable margin.

But lawyer Cetin, who represents Dink's Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos, doesn't believe the change will make a difference for intellectuals in Turkey. She said that even the revised version of Article 301 could still be applied arbitrarily.

It is obvious that this amendment will not change anything, because its substance hasn't been changed, she said. There are taboos, and when you break them the state reacts in a knee-jerk way. These taboos include the Cyprus conflict, the Kurdish and the Armenian issue. And this causes self-censorship, which is the most dangerous one.

But even as the Turkish government moves to modify Article 301, legal experts are criticizing the fact that a number of statutes are still on the books in Turkey that pose a potential threat to free speech.


19th April   

Its the Nutters that Live in Fantasy Land...

Book Review: Grand Theft Childhood
Link Here

Don't judge a book by its cover (or its title, for that matter). I figured that I was in for another tedious anti-gaming screed full of myths and hysteria about games and gamers. Boy, was I wrong. Massively wrong.

Lawrence Kutner, PhD, and Cheryl K. Olson, ScD, cofounders and directors of the Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health and Media, have written the most thoroughly balanced and refreshingly open-minded book about video games ever penned. They cut through the stereotypes and fear-mongering that have thus far pervaded the debate over the impact of video games and offer parents and policymakers common-sense advice about how to approach these issues in a more level-headed fashion. They argue that:

Today, an amalgam of politicians, health professionals, religious leaders and children's advocates are voicing concerns about video games that are identical to the concerns raised one, two and three generations ago with the introduction of other new media. Most of these people have the best of intentions. They really want to protect children from evil influences. As in the past, a few have different agendas and are using the issue manipulatively. Unfortunately, many of their claims are based on scanty evidence, inaccurate assumptions, and pseudoscience. Much of the current research on violent video games is both simplistic and agenda driven.


They conclude, therefore, that “children are drawn to violent themes because listening to and playing with those frightening images helps them safely master the experience of being frightened. This is an important skill, perhaps even a life-saving one.” They also argue that “Video games give free rein to fantasies of power, glory and freedom. That's quite different from the mundane lives of must children.” (p. 121) In this sense, Kutner and Olson's argument is very much consistent with the work of Gerald Jones, who wrote the brilliant book Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super-Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence. In that book, Jones argued that:

One of the functions of stories and games is to help children rehearse for what they'll be in later life. Anthropologists and psychologists who study play, however, have shown that there are many other functions as well—one of which is to enable children to pretend to be just what they know they'll never be. Exploring, in a safe and controlled context, what is impossible or too dangerous or forbidden to them is a crucial tool in accepting the limits of reality. Playing with rage is a valuable way to reduce its power. Being evil and destructive in imagination is a vital compensation for the wildness we all have to surrender on our way to being good people.


19th April   

ITV Cut On Demand...

UK's ITV on demand to be censored and distributed globally
Link Here

Thanks to a content platform developed by BT, ITV will now broadcast their on demand service to viewers located around the world.

The platform will be using the BT Mosaic service; this will allow ITV to share their content with various networks and different devices. This service will also give ITV the option of allowing other broadcasters to opportunity to access the archive.

It is believed that other broadcasters would be able to censor programmes so that they fit into and fall well within the regions laws and customs which is said to be an important factor.

There are already over twenty thousand programmes that have digitised and ready for distribution to consumers.


18th April   

30 Days of Night...

Suitable for people aged 15+ but rated 18 to be on the safe side
Link Here

30 Days of Night is a 2007 US horror film by David Slade (Icon Home Entertainment)

It was passed 15 uncut for cinema in 2007 with the following explanation:

30 DAYS OF NIGHTS is a horror thriller set in a remote town in Alaska. As the long Arctic winter is about to begin the town receives some unwelcome visitors. The film was passed '15' for strong, bloody, horror violence and language.

The BBFC's Guidelines at '15' state that violence may be strong, but may not dwell on the infliction of pain or injury. Strong threat and menace are permitted, but the strongest gory images are unlikely to be acceptable. The violence in this film is certainly strong and gory, but the sequences are invariably brief and the fantasy nature of the work is a moderating factor. The BBFC's Guidelines at '15' also allow for the frequent use of strong language and this film includes the use of a moderate number of strong expletives.

30 DAYS OF NIGHT also contains a couple of innocuous drug references and very mild verbal sex references.

But by 2008, after a couple of complaints, the BBFC decided that the DVD release should be 18 uncut.

Perhaps the BBFC should should create a new certificate explanation: Suitable for people aged 15+ but rated 18 to be on the safe side.

Review from Amazon UK

'30 Days of Night' is the movie based on the best selling graphic novel by Steve Niles. The story begins when a group of vampires flock to Barrow, Alaska where the sun sets for 30 days, allowing them to feed without the burden of sleep to avoid lethal sunlight. Because of the cold, the vampires' senses are weakened and a few of the town's residents are able to hide. One resident is Sheriff Eben Olemaun (Josh Hartnett), who attempts to save the town and the lives of the few remaining townspeople, including his wife Stella (Melissa George).

This was probably the film that I was most looking forward to in 2007 and when I finally got to see it, I wasn't disappointed at all. At the time when I first watched this film I hadn't read any of the comics, so the story was new to me, but I enjoyed it all the same. I've read the comic since seeing this and the film version has a lot more added to it, which I feel was definitely necessary as only the beginning and the end are featured in the original. There's plenty of gore, a great storyline, good characters, lots of scares and some excellent camerawork. The setting of Barrow feels very isolated and creepy and very, very atmospheric. The vampires have twisted, ugly faces and make eerie, high pitched wails to each other and speak in their own language, taking the sexy, seductive image away from the over-used and tired character.

Overall this is without a doubt one the best films of 2007 and is definitely the best vampire film I have ever seen.


18th April   

Update: Bullied by Teachers...

Australian take aim at Bully Scholarship Edition
Link Here

Australian parenting and education experts have savaged the release of a new video game based on schoolyard bullying, which features animated blood and violence, sexual themes, crude language, and alcohol and tobacco use.

Bully: Scholarship Edition pits schoolchildren at a fictitious boarding school against one another in a violent struggle for control of the campus.

The game's rating is listed on an Australian government classification website as M, meaning it does not carry the age restriction attached to the higher MA15+ rating.

Parenting Australia chief executive Jane King described the game as "disturbing" and said it should never have been released: It's scary, it's outrageous, it's gross . I do think the classification system needs to be reviewed. I would be very concerned if my 13-year-old son played a game like that. I think the message of solving violence with violence is extremely disturbing. Ms King encouraged parents not to buy the game.

Australian Education Union president Angelo Gavrielatos said teachers worldwide were vehemently opposed to the game and the union had joined a coalition of eight teacher organisations from countries such as South Korea, the United States and Britain denouncing its release: What we are concerned about is the continuing production and development of such games that glorify violence and bullying. There's a point where the corporate world must take some responsibility to regulate these games. In a world where the issues of bullying and violence are a concern, the production of these games is not acceptable.

A spokeswoman for the Australian Classification Board said the game was approved because the themes were: moderate in playing and viewing and were justified by context. During the game the player is not encouraged to attack innocent bystanders or undertake acts of bullying and is not rewarded for doing so. The missions players undertake are generally about thwarting acts of bullying, exploitation or discrimination. If the player does bully another player out of context a punishment type bar increases and when full it causes the character to be apprehended by authority figures.

Analyst and gamer John Greentree said critics of Bully: Scholarship Edition might change their tune if they played the game. The purpose of the game is not to be a bully but survive a school that is full of bullies. The point of the game is to show that all groups are capable of being bullies and bullied. It's pathetic that your scare-mongering will actually scare people away from this sort of game that actually has real lessons.


18th April   

Update: Stolen Childhood...

Australian censor details MA15+ decision for Grand Theft Auto IV
Link Here

The Australian censor has issued a report on its decision to award a MA15+ rating for a pre-cut version of Grand Theft Auto IV.

The report does not identify what was pre-cut though. [Also Spoiler Warning!]:


Violence is relatively frequent and strong in playing impact.

During the game, the player (as lead character Niko Bellic) is required to undertake various missions, mostly involving criminal activity, in order to develop contacts, make money and protect his cousin Roman. These include pick-ups and drop-offs, killing / protecting various people, stealing, racing, chasing, eating, drinking, going out and dating. A number of tasks involve drugs (for example retrieving a stash of cocaine for a dealer) and violence (for example, rescuing Roman from a kidnapper).

Violence includes hand to hand combat (basic punching and kicking) and more regularly involves use of various weapons. These include knives, baseball bats, a nightstick, pistols, machine guns, shot guns, rifles, grenades and rocket launchers. The player is able to use these weapons to inflict injury on other participants which results in frequent blood spray. Blood spray occurs as victims are attacked and is also depicted on objects such as floors and walls. Blood pooling occurs under bodies that are shot at after death however no post mortem damage (such as decapitation or dismemberment) is possible. These is also infrequent blood splatter on the camera lens as the player manoeuvres their way through missions involving killing.

A less frequent example of violence includes the ability of the player to set an enemy alight causing them to burn. The victim is shown flailing and on fire before they fall to the ground. Bodies remain as long as the player lingers in a particular scene, however after this, they disappear.

As the violence is relatively frequent, causing blood spray and injury detail, the impact is strong.


Coarse language is frequent. Aggressive and/or strong coarse language is infrequent.

During the game play the characters are heard to use "fuck" language, primarily in a naturalistic tone but occasionally in an aggressive manner. This, coupled with the infrequent use of the word "cunt" (as well as some visual use written on a strip club wall) creates an impact which is strong.


In the majority view of the board the game contains drug and sexual references, which although moderate in impact, warrant flagging at the MA15+ classification.

These include a scene (with no player interaction) where a drug dealer is depicted implicitly, then explicitly, snorting lines of white powder (implied to be cocaine) from a table and the involvement of Niko in various missions dealing with drugs.

Further, there are sexual references which require flagging at the MA15+ classification. These include a scene (with no player interaction) at the beginning of the game depicting a woman in lingerie whipping a man in his underwear, tied to a bed and the general ability of the player to go on 'dates' and have sex with a 'girlfriend', to pick up a prostitute and have sex with her and the ability to attend a strip club and pay for a lap dance.


18th April   

Extreme Urgency...

Backlash Appeals for letters to lords to amend Dangerous Pictures Act
Link Here

The UK Government wants to force this Bill through by May the 8th 2008, meaning that they're likely to guillotine debate in the Commons and push it through using their Parliamentary majority without letting MPs discuss it properly.

If you think that this is an abuse of Government power, you're right, so write to the Lords and get them to amend it before it's too late!


18th April   

Gangs of Nutters...

Australian TV programme to be investigated after nutters whinge
Link Here

Australian Channel has received nine official complaints from the 1.25 million viewers who tuned each week into its gangland war series Underbelly .

But the network will still be investigated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority after a religious group alleged the show breached its 8.30pm M classification.

An ACMA spokesman confirmed Nine would be investigated after the South Australian branch of Christian group Festival of Light lodged a complaint.

Under the rules, viewers must first lodge a complaint with the networks, and if they are dissatisfied with the response in 30 days they can take it to ACMA, which is then obliged to act.

Nine's chief censorship officer Richard Lyle said the network would mount a strong defence and maintained the show fit within the strict ACMA guidelines: The sex scenes and language must be appropriate, but the fact is Underbelly is not fiction and it honestly portrays how they behaved and were able to get away with what they did .

The ACMA spokesman said the investigation would take three to four months, by which time the 13-part series would have finished.


18th April   

UAE Bans War...

UAE state issues fatwa against God of War
Link Here

Sharjah municipality in the UAE has launched a crackdown against the distribution of an old video game which has been banned.

Several residents complained about the game as it contains material offensive to religion, values and social norms.

The 18-rated video game God of War is based on Greek mythology that encourages players to kill different "gods" to reach the next level of the game. It contained sexual scenes.

A UAE national said: I knew that it was banned, but many of my friends were able to buy pirated copies from Dh5 to Dh10. I was shocked to see how much it contradicted Islamic values, said Khalid Bin Deemas, adding that it was dangerous as the video game was popular among children.

The permanent fatwa committee has instructed all concerned government departments to forbid the sale of such games and to confiscate them.

A Sharjah Municipality official confirmed that they continue to confiscate all video games that contain language and scenes that offend the religion, values and traditions of the country, including God of War. The games were confiscated during recent inspections.


18th April   

Blind Leading the Blind...

Australian senators govern without being able to see the internet
Link Here

Senator Steve Fielding is obsessed with pornography. His greatest direct contribution to public policy since he was "elected" was to badger the Howard Government into wasting tens of millions of dollars on the ludicrous Netalert internet filter scheme.

Now he has managed to impose the views of his bizarre monotheistic cult on other Senators and their staff. Since 28 March, Senators have been prevented from accessing "inappropriate" internet content at the request of Senator Fielding, who has convinced Senate President Alan Ferguson to impose the same filter as that in place for bureaucrats.

Accordingly, anything related to sex, drugs, weapons or other "inappropriate content", regardless of what it actually is, is blocked.

Senator Lyn Allison has written to Ferguson demanding to know why Fielding was permitted to impose his own reactionary view of the online world on other Senators, who determines what is "inappropriate" and how Senators are supposed to do their job properly.

Allison reels off a number of topics now blocked by the Fielding Filth Filter: reproductive health; sexualisation of children; drug abuse and rehabilitation, the opium crop in Afghanistan, weapons trading – all issues of legitimate interest to those engaged in the policy process, and all now blocked as "inappropriate".


17th April   

Update: Less Game for More Bucks...

Australians not impressed by the children's version of GTA IV
Link Here

The year's most highly-anticipated video game, Grand Theft Auto IV , hits stores on April 29 but many Australian gamers have cancelled their orders.

Already angered by the price of the blockbuster in Australia - $120 compared to $64 in North America - gamers have reacted with outrage to news that developer Rockstar has edited the game for Australia in order to obtain an MA15+ rating.

Many gamers said they cancelled their orders with Australian shops and will import a cheaper, uncut version, flouting the law.

A Rockstar spokesman says a censored version of GTA IV was developed to comply with the Australian classification system, which does not have an R18+ rating. The spokesman declined to reveal what was cut. [There have been unlikely sounding rumours that the game is cut to remove an object being rammed up somebody's arse]


17th April   

Update: Hastings Plays an Open Game...

Lack of Australian adult rating pushes adult games into 15 category
Link Here

Gameplanet put a few questions to Bill Hastings, New Zealand's Chief Censor about the censored version of Grand Theft Auto IV submitted by the distributor

GP : If they submitted the edited Australian version, why was it rated R18 here instead of a rating more in line with Australia?

Bill Hastings : The game was classified R18 in New Zealand because the version we examined was sufficiently violent to warrant an R18 classification. We noted little, if any, difference between GTA IV and any of the other games in the series.

You should also consider that Rockstar says it edited the game to comply with Australian law, not New Zealand law. In the past, US/EU versions of the Grand Theft Auto series have complied with New Zealand law without the editing required to comply with Australian law. This is because, unlike Australia, New Zealand has always had R16 and R18 classifications available for games.

I leave it to you to surmise what pressure there must be on the Australian MA15+ classification to absorb games that would otherwise have to be banned in Australia because they have no R classifications.

GP : If our readers import the unedited version from, for example, the UK, what is the likely penalty if they get caught?

Bill Hastings : Unless the game a person imports is objectionable (as is the case, for example, with Manhunt 2), there is no penalty for importing a game for your own use. A foreign classification is no guarantee that a game is not objectionable under New Zealand law. In the case of GTA IV however, I note that the British Board of Film Classification has given it an 18 certificate, so I rather doubt that either version is objectionable.


17th April   

Update: Bingeing on Censorship...

Australia to follow French ban on pro-ana sites
Link Here
Full story: Pro-anorexia Websites in France...France bans pro-anorexia websites and infor

A federal Labor MP has called on the Australian Government to follow France's lead and ban pro-anorexia websites.

Anna Burke said she had been calling for ban on anorexia websites for some time: It's something we really need to explore. This is dangerous information on the internet.

The Government is developing a cyber-safety policy that includes internet service provider filtering for all Australian homes, schools and public computers, but there is no indication that pro-anorexia sites would be included in the "black list" created by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Nicola Roxon, the federal Minister for Health and Ageing, said the Government would consider whether any action regarding the sites was appropriate.

But Bruce Billson, the Opposition spokesman for broadband, communications and the digital economy, said it would be difficult to regulate and it was the parents' responsibility: Parents should maintain an active interest in the use of the internet by members of their family .


17th April   

Update: Taliban Telly Ban...

Afghanistan reverting to old ways
Link Here
Full story: TV Censorship in Afghanistan...Afghanistan TV, an unsuprising target for censors

An Afghan legislative committee has drafted a bill seeking to introduce Taliban-style Islamic morality codes.

The draft, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, needs approval by both chambers of the Islamist-dominated parliament and President Hamid Karzai signature to become a law.

Women and girls are obliged to not wear make-up, wear suitable dresses and observe hijab (veil) while at work or classrooms, said one article of the draft.

It also aims to ban women dancers performing during concerts and other public events as well as on television. The mass media including television and cable networks must avoid broadcasting programmes against Islamic morals, it said without giving details.

Men and young boys must avoid wearing bracelets, necklaces, "feminist dresses," and hair-bands, the draft reads.

The proposals also demand an end to dog and bird-fighting, pigeon-flying, billiards and video games, all past times favoured by many Afghans.

It demands separate halls for men and women during wedding parties.

Update: Shameful President

22nd April 2008

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai defended a decision by his government to ban Indian soap operas, saying they violated his nation's moral standards and culture.

The culture ministry has given several privately run television stations until today to stop showing certain popular serials based on tales of love, disputes and the daily lives of Indian Hindu families.

At least one has already been taken off air after the ban, which authorities say was prompted by a call from religious scholars who labelled the shows “un-Islamic”.

Asked about the move, Karzai told a media briefing his government was committed to media freedom ...BUT... like the rest of the countries in the world, we want our television broadcasting to be in line with our culture, based on our society moral standards,


17th April   

Update: A Lost Cinema Classic...

Credibility blown away about Marilyn Monroe film
Link Here

A deeper investigation into the story that a sex-tape of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe had been sold to an anonymous New York collector, shows that the sale of the tape is most probably a hoax.

The New York Post's Hasani Gittens broke the story after speaking with Keya Morgan, a memorabilia collector who claimed to have sold the 15-minute reel of a young Monroe performing a sex act on an unidentified male.

However, Morgan is well known in Monroe memorabilia collector circles as being hungry for press to promote his upcoming documentary on the silver screen starlet.

Morgan did not give details or the name of who he sold the alleged tape to, and has not been able to provide evidence that the sale of the tape even occurred.

Collector keeps Marilyn Monroe blow job film to himself

15th April 2008, See full article from the Guardian

A 15-minute film of Marilyn Monroe engaging in an oral sex act with an unidentified man will be kept from public view by a New York businessman who has bought it for $1.5m (£750,000), the broker of the deal said.

Memorabilia collector Keya Morgan said he recently arranged the sale of the silent, black-and-white film from the son of a dead FBI informant who possessed it to a wealthy Manhattan businessman who wants to protect Monroe's privacy.

The gentleman who bought it said out respect for Marilyn he's not going to make a joke of it and put it on the internet and try to exploit her, said Morgan.

Monroe is clothed and the man's head remains out of the frame for the entire 15 minutes of the film, said Morgan, who viewed the footage.

Monroe was rumoured to have had an affair with former US President John F Kennedy, and Morgan said former FBI director J Edgar Hoover, a Kennedy rival, went to great lengths to try to prove it was Kennedy in the film.

Morgan said he learned of the existence of the film while working on a documentary about Monroe. A former FBI agent told him about it, and Morgan said he confirmed it by tracking down the son of the FBI informant, who had provided a copy to the FBI.


17th April   

Chequered Career...

News of the World publishes dangerous pictures of Max Mosley
Link Here
Full story: Max Mosley Privacy...Max Mosley, spanking and Nazi sex

Max Mosley (son of Sir Oswald the fascist) was caught in a News of the World sting visiting a BDSM dungeon.

Film, widely available on the web, initially starting on the News of the Screws' own site, is censored with black squares on Max's bum and that of a girl he canes, but raises some interesting issues about the Dangerous Pictures Act.

Presumably, even if uncensored, the vids would escape the DPA because they weren't produced for purposes of sexual arousal but as part of a shock horror investigation of pervy Max.

See full article from The Register
see also article from News of the World

Formula One boss Max Mosley lost a High Court bid to stop the News of the World from putting a video of him and five prostitutes back on its website.

Mr Justice Eady came to the conclusion that because the material has already been widely reported, and is still widely available, granting an injunction would serve no purpose.

Eady said: I have, with some reluctance, come to the conclusion that although this material is intrusive and demeaning, and despite the fact that there is no legitimate public interest in its further publication, the granting of an order against this respondent at the present juncture would merely be a futile gesture.

Mosley was featured in a front page story by the Sunday paper which accused him of paying five prostitutes to dress in German Nazi-style uniforms and what look very like concentration camp uniforms for the S&M session.

Mosley, the son of British fascist Sir Oswald Mosley, is taking the News of the World to court on privacy grounds - the two sides will be back in court in July.

The newspaper has only released a 95 second section of the video including clips of Mosley being beaten and enjoying a refreshing cup of tea after his five hour session. Mosley denies any Nazi connotations to the session.

Update: Formula 1 Circus Moves on to France

19th April 2008

A French judge will render a decision on April 29 on whether to ban a video showing Formula One chief Max Mosley cavorting with five prostitutes from being aired in France.

Mosley's lawyer Philippe Ouakrat said that the video "characterises a violation of his right to respect for his private life" and demanded that the tape be banned from being aired on French territory.


17th April   

Block Text...

FCC considering telecoms company's blocks on SMS services
Link Here

The FCC has been collecting comments on the subject of text message censorship in preparation for a policy review that will address whether or not mobile carriers should be allowed to discriminate against text message transmitters based on content.

The controversy over text message censorship began last year when Verizon initially declined to permit pro-choice abortion activism group NARAL to use an SMS short code for distributing opt-in messages to Verizon customers. Verizon doesn't monitor or filter individual messages, but does reserve the right to deprive short code holders of access to its networks in cases where the company deems the content too controversial. Verizon was the only carrier to turn down NARAL, and quickly reversed the decision after receiving widespread criticism.

Tech freedom advocacy group Public Knowledge, Free Press and other groups were unsatisfied with Verizon's turnaround and have asked the FCC to issue a clear policy position that will block Verizon from engaging in similar practices in the future. Noting that the FCC already unambiguously forbids similar discrimination in voice calls and e-mails, the activist groups argue that there is no reason why those same protections shouldn't extend to SMS messaging, especially since it is becoming an increasingly important vector for communication.

On the other side of the debate, the carriers claim that regulation barring any discrimination of short code usage would be detrimental because it would weaken their ability to block legitimately obnoxious content like Viagra ads and phishing schemes.

The FCC will have to decide whether SMS short codes should be held to the same standards as common carrier services like voice and e-mail.


16th April

 Offsite: BBFC Less Harmless...

Link Here
Full story: Manhunt 2...Computer game proves controversial
BBFC feel justified in censoring at lesser levels of harm

See article from


16th April   

Never Enough...

US nutters prefer prosecutors to target more mainstream porn
Link Here

Reacting to the US Justice Department's indictment of producer John Stagliano on obscenity charges, executives from nutter groups said their organizations are pleased by the indictment, but concerned about the type of material being prosecuted.

Early indications lead us to believe this material is once again the 'worst of the worst,' said Daniel Weiss, the senior analyst for media and sexuality at Focus on the Family: The Justice Department does nothing to stop the mainstreaming of pornography by only prosecuting material at the extreme edge of society.

Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media, concurred with Weiss and called on the government to initiate far more obscenity prosecutions: The case is an important obscenity case, but standing alone it isn't going to stem the tide of obscenity. They've just got to do more cases, or the pornographers are going to win.

Peters asserted that, despite the proliferation of pornography in American society and the “mainstreaming” of adult content, Americans are not accepting of pornography: Just because there's a lot of pornography around doesn't mean the American people accept it .

Diane Duke, the executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, told XBIZ that: It's difficult to win any obscenity case, and it will be difficult for them to convict Evil Angel, because most people really don't want to tell their neighbors what they can or can't watch.


16th April   

Update: Thin End of the Wedge...

France parliament passes laws against encouraging anorexia
Link Here
Full story: Pro-anorexia Websites in France...France bans pro-anorexia websites and infor

Internet sites and blogs which assert an anorexic lifestyle to teenage girls were outlawed by the French parliament yesterday.

The law is the first attempt anywhere in the world to stamp out the "pro-ana" movement, a cult-like attempt to promote anorexia as a lifestyle which began in the United States eight years ago.

If, as expected, the legislation is also approved by the Senate, it will become a criminal offence in France to encourage another person to seek excessive thinness... which could expose them to a risk of death or endanger their health. Offenders risk two years in prison or a €30,000 (£24,000) fine.

Although the law would also apply to magazines, it is mostly aimed at internet sites and blogs which have sprung up in France in the past two years. These sites, which also exist in the UK, worship extremely thin female celebrities, including Nicole Richie and Victoria Beckham.

The French Health Minister, Roselyne Bachelot, told parliament: Giving young girls advice about how to lie to their doctors, telling them what kinds of food are easiest to vomit, encouraging them to torture themselves whenever they take any kind of food is not part of liberty of expression. The messages sent out here are messages of death.

A typical French blog, Be Perfect, Be Pro Ana, carries a long letter signed your future best friend Ana . It encourages teenage girls to refuse food, to make themselves sick and to take laxatives in order to match the body shape of their "thinspirations" such as Richie and Beckham.

The law's author, the centre-right deputy Valerie Boyer, says that between 30,000 and 40,000 people in France have anorexia.  She says this kills more people in France each year than any other mental disorder.

At the same time, Mme Boyer and the Health Minister have drawn up a voluntary charter on bodily image and anorexia . French advertisers, model agencies and pret-a-porter fashion houses have agreed to sign the charter and to refuse to publish images, especially of young people, which could promote an ideal of extreme thinness


16th April   

Kicking Butt...

John Stagliano launches Defend Our Porn website
Link Here

Evil Angel has launched, a website that will serve as the company's hub of information related to the obscenity prosecution brought against its owner, John Stagliano (alter ego Buttman). contains news links about the case from numerous media outlets, a Contact Your Congressperson button, a PayPal page to make a donation to Stagliano's legal fund and a guestbook.

Evil Angel established the Defend Our Porn fund in response to fans wanting to help Stagliano's defense effort. Donations initially will be applied towards Stagliano's case, and the fund will live on after the trial. Any funds left over will be rolled over to other free speech causes.

Stagliano will be arraigned April 21 in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. after which he will hold a press conference where he and his attorney, Allan Gelbard, will make statements and answer questions from the press.


16th April   

Kissed by Repression...

Singapore censor fines cable company for lesbian kiss
Link Here

Singapore's censor, the Media Development Authority (MDA) has fined StarHub Cable Vision $10,000 for airing a commercial that depicted lesbian kissing scenes.

The MDA posted a statement on its website about the cable operator's breach of TV advertising guidelines, which disallows advertisements that condone homosexuality.

The commercial, which aired over two days in November on MTV's Mandarin-language channel, was to promote a song by pop singer Olivia Yan.

Her music video from the album Silly Child featured two scenes of herself and Taiwanese actress Pei Lin in a "passionate embrace", as described last November in the Taipei Times: The portrayal of a lesbian in a music video was supposedly a first for Taiwan.

According to the MDA, in the commercial, romanticised scenes of two girls kissing were shown and it portrayed the relationship as acceptable.

The MDA said it had taken into account the "severity" of the breach and that the commercial was aired on a youth-oriented TV channel.


16th April   

Babylon AD Hype...

Rumours of long version of Babylon AD quashed
Link Here

Babylon AD is a new movie that has generated itself a bit of always appreciated publicity. Rumours of a long version running an hour extra to the version to be released at the cinema have now been quashed.

There are however suggestions that there are differences between the US PG-13 version and the European version recently passed 12A by the BBFC.

The BBFC passed a cinema version running for 90:08s uncut at 12A with the following comments:

BABYLON A.D. is an adaptation of Maurice G. Dantec's science fiction novel Babylon Babies . It is set in a post apocalyptic society and tells the story of Toorop; a veteran soldier turned mercenary who is hired to transport a young girl from Russia to Canada.

The BBFC passed the film 12A for infrequent strong language and moderate violence. The film contains one clear use of strong language that is directed from lead character Toorop to the female character of Rebecca; however, its use has no sexual connotations and forms the role of establishing the two opposing characters. This is in keeping with the BBFC's current 12A Guidelines which state that the use of strong language must be infrequent . The film also contains frequent use of moderate language – including 'bitch', 'shit' and 'arse'.

The moderate violence featured is of the standard action movie fare and includes explosions, impressionistic fight scenes and gun battles. There are occasional bloody moments including a brutal cage fight between Toorop and a viscious gladiator and another scene which features a slow-motion bullet entering the body of Rebecca. These moments in the film are infrequent and do not linger on bloody injuries. Their inclusion is largely mitigated by the fantastical science-fiction context and well contained within the current 12A Guidelines which allow for occasional gory moments only.


16th April   

Update: Canadian Human Rights Commission backs off...

Lately seen to be defending the 'right' not to be offended
Link Here

The Ontario Human Rights Commission said yesterday it will not proceed with a complaint against Maclean's magazine for an article titled The Future Belongs to Islam by columnist Mark Steyn that appeared in October 2006.

The Canadian Islamic Congress complained to the commission that the content of the article and the Maclean's refusal to provide space for a rebuttal had violated its human rights.

The commission said the Ontario Human Rights Code did not give it jurisdiction to deal with the content of magazine articles through its complaint process.

Steyn's article argued that high birth rates among Muslims points to them becoming the majority in Europe, an eventuality that would fundamentally transform the West. It also says some Muslims are violent radicals.

While freedom of expression must be recognized as a cornerstone of a functioning democracy, the Commission strongly condemns the Islamophobic portrayal of Muslims, Arabs, South Asians and indeed any racialized community in the media, such as the Maclean's article and others like them, as being inconsistent with the values enshrined in our human rights codes, the commission said in a statement: Media has a responsibility to engage in fair and unbiased journalism.


15th April   

A Fucking Good Christmas Show...

Ofcom clears Catherine Tate Christmas Special
Link Here

Catherine Tate Show posterOfcom have cleared BBC1's Catherine Tate Show of breaching broadcast regulations with an expletive-littered Christmas Day episode that became the most complained-about programme of the festive period.

Forty-two people complained to Ofcom about the number of four-letter words and stereotyping in the show, which featured a sketch in which a Northern Ireland family exchanged presents including a knuckleduster, balaclava and chocolate penis.

More than 100 viewers also complained to the BBC about the show, including the excessive use of the word "fuck" by Tate's foul-mouthed character Nan Taylor in the first sketch of the show. Nan's catchphrase is "what a fucking liberty".

The regulator cleared the show, saying viewers were already aware that the show was likely to contain offensive language. It said it had been preceded with a warning about offensive language and was broadcast 90 minutes after the watershed.

Overall this episode was typical of the Catherine Tate Show and would not have gone beyond the expectations of its usual audience, said Ofcom in its ruling: For those not familiar with the show, the information given at the start was adequate.

The regulator said the depiction of the Northern Irish family, who discover that their son is gay, did not breach broadcast standards: In Ofcom's view it would have been clear to the audience that, in a comedy show such as this, exchanging Christmas gifts of terrorist paraphernalia was absurd in the extreme . Comedy has a long tradition of engaging with challenging subjects and confronting taboos.

The Catherine Tate Christmas Special, which guest-starred George Michael, was broadcast at 10.30pm on Christmas Day and was watched by 6.4 million viewers. In all it received more than 100 complaints.

The regulator reported: As for the use of this language on Christmas Day, the BBC said that it does not regard any word as being more obscene on one day than on another. It did take account of the different audience expectations on different occasions, but in its view it was not the general expectation of audiences that everything broadcast on Christmas Day should reflect its character as a religious festival.

John Beyer 'Confused' by Watershed Concept

From Mediawatch-UK

Speaking today John Beyer, director of Mediawatch-uk said that this finding “is a disgrace” and “seriously inconsistent” with Ofcom's finding last week about the obscenities used in the Live Earth concert.

No wonder the viewing public is confused and have lost confidence in the regulation of broadcasting. Considering that Ofcom has itself found that the majority of viewers believe there is too much swearing on television, this finding is all the more extraordinary. The Communications Act 2003 requires that “generally accepted standards” are applied to the content of television and radio services and it seems to me that Ofcom is failing to take public opinion into account - and that is a breach of trust and certainly not what Parliament intended when setting up the new regulatory regime.


15th April   

Update: GTA IV: Children's Version...

New Zealand also treated like kids
Link Here

The news that kiwi gamers were dreading has come through today: Take-Two Interactive has contacted retailers to notify them that New Zealand will be receiving the same edited version of Grand Theft Auto IV as Australia.

Rockstar has created an edited version of Grand Theft Auto IV specifically for the Australian market. It has not yet released details of what has been edited out. The game attained an Australian MA15+ rating in December, with the warning that it contains strong violence, strong coarse language, drug and sexual references.

In New Zealand, the game received an R18 rating from the NZ OFLC in February, which only warned that it contains violence and offensive language.

Only the version of the game which has been rated in New Zealand (which would be the Australian version) is legal to be sold in NZ. Imported copies of the unedited version cannot be sold because they have not been rated.

Take-Two has not provided any explanation as to why New Zealand is receiving the Australian version this time around. New Zealand stocks for most games usually come from Australia, so the most likely explanation is that it came down to supply logistics.


15th April   

Age Old Censorship...

Singapore introduces games classifications
Link Here

Gamers in Singapore can look forward to a greater variety of video games with a new two-rating classification system that will be launched end April, the Board of Film Censors (BFC) under the Media Development Authority (MDA) announced today.

With effect from 28 April 2008, the new video games ratings are:

  • Mature 18 (M18) – For persons 18 years old and above. M18 is a restricted category and retailers will need to conduct age checks at the point of sale.
  • Age Advisory – Suitable for persons 16 years old and above. This is an advisory category to assist consumers in making informed choices. While retailers need not conduct age checks at the point of sale, they are encouraged to exercise responsibility by not selling these games to those below 16 years of age.
  • Games that do not fall into the above two categories but are approved for general consumption are not required to carry any rating stickers.

The video games classification system was developed over a two-year period involving detailed research and extensive consultation with key stakeholders, including members of MDA's advisory committees, representatives from the video games distribution and retail sectors, as well as parents, academics and gamers.

The new guidelines build upon the interim M18 rating, which was introduced in November 2007 to prepare the industry for the video games classification system. Since then, eight games, such as Conan and God of War: Chains of Olympus , have been brought into Singapore under the interim M18 rating.

In line with the BFC's practice of co-regulating with the industry, the classification system requires companies to declare all games meant for local distribution and sale via an online questionnaire. Companies will be required to submit physical copies of the titles only when the game contains mature content. In addition, the BFC will conduct periodic checks on games declarations to verify accuracy of declarations.

In explaining the benefits of such a co-regulatory system, Amy Chua said, Getting the industry to declare information about the games will speed up the classification process and facilitate time-to-market for new titles. Such industry involvement is crucial to the classification of video games due to the amount of time required to assess each game. This will also help BFC to focus on content that is not suitable for the young and keep compliance cost affordable. Under the system, it costs S$50 and takes six to 10 working days to rate a M18 game. A premium service is available for companies looking to shorten the processing time.

Classification Guidelines:

An Age Advisory label indicates that the game contains some contentious elements that are not recommended for the young. Games that contain the following elements may be required to carry an age advisory label:

  • Violence
    Moderate level of violence. This refers to realistic but not excessively graphic violence with depiction of blood which may be included in the gameplay.
  • Sex
    Portrayal of implied sexual activity.
  • Nudity
    Nudity without details, e.g. no nipples, genitalia or pubic region (includes hair).
    Still or moving images which may be mildly suggestive may be featured, e.g. scantily-clad women in bikinis or lingerie.
  • Language
    Coarse language should generally be limited to the use of words like “fuck”.
  • Drug Use
    Depiction of illegal drug use which is incidental to the game and not realistic. Content of the game does not encourage drug use.

The M18 rating indicates that the game is restricted to persons 18 years andabove. These games may contain the following:

  • Theme
    - Treatment and exploration of mature themes appropriate to 18 years and above.
    - Content that requires the player to engage in illegal activities or play the role of a criminal so long as it does not contain detailed instructions for committing crimes.
    - Some homosexual content, provided it does not glamorize the lifestyle or is exploitative.
  • Violence
    Depictions of realistic violence, such as killing, maiming or causing other serious injury to humanoid characters if the violence is not sadistic, cruel and abhorrent.
  • Sex
    - Portrayal of sexual activity with some nudity, both topless and frontal, if not detailed.
    - Homosexual activity should be limited to kissing and hugging.
  • Nudity
    - Depiction of topless nudity or occasional full frontal nudity, if not exploitative. Nudity should not titillate or be the main feature of the game.
    - Still or moving images which may be sexually titillating (but does not contain nudity), e.g. scantily-clad women shown in a manner that is sexually suggestive, if not excessive or gratuitous.
  • Language
    Frequent use of strong coarse language, such as “motherfucker", "cunt", and "cocksucker”.
  • Drug Use
    There may be realistic depiction of illegal drug use, but portrayal should not include instructive details. Games should not glamorise or encourage drug taking or the primary intent of a game should not be to encourage the consumption of drugs to achieve success, e.g. kill the enemy or complete a level.

Banned : Not Allowed for All Ratings (NAR)

  • Content which denigrates any race or religion, or undermines Singapore's national interest.
  • Content that glorifies deviant sexual behaviour or activities such as paedophilia or bestiality. Games dealing with alternative lifestyles such as sadomasochism and group sex.
  • Clear instructional details of criminal activities, such as step-by-step guide to making a bomb.
  • Detailed and bloody depictions of sadistic and cruel violence, including horrific, brutal or repulsive depictions of death, injury, dismemberment or torture.
  • Depiction of sexual violence, including rape.
  • Content where the primary purpose is for the players to engage in sexual activity.
  • Detailed and frequent depiction of sexual activity, such as depictions of actual sexual intercourse including content which depicts explicit sexual activity where genitals may not be visible.
  • Exploitative and excessive depiction of nudity. This refers to male and female nudity where genitalia are clearly depicted. This would include content where the presentation of nudity is exploitative and nudity is a constant feature of the game.
  • Coarse language which is religiously offensive and denigrative.
  • Content that glamorises or encourages the use of illegal drugs. Or serve as a step-by-step guide to preparing and consumption of illegal drugs.


15th April   

Vacant Headed Nutters...

Nutters write to Marriott Hotels asking them to remove adult TV
Link Here
Full story: Nutter Friendly Hotels...Nutters campaign against hotel room adult movies

Nearly 50 nutter organisations are asking the Marriott hotel chain to take pornographic movies out of guest rooms.

In an April 3 letter to CEO John Marriott III, 47 pro-family nutters requested a meeting to discuss the issue. The letter goes on to say that pulling the pay-per-view movies would be in line with Marriott's public statement of promoting the well-being of children and families and stand against ... such tragedies as human trafficking and the exploitation of children.

Among the nutters who signed the letter are: Dr. James Dobson (Focus on the Family), Bishop Harry Jackson (High Impact Leadership Council), Tony Perkins (Family Research Council), Paul Weyrich (Free Congress Foundation), Dr. Richard Land (Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission), Matt Staver (Liberty Counsel), and Robert Peters (Morality in Media).

Don Wildmon, the founder and chairman of the American Family Association, was one of the signatories to the letter. He says it is time for Marriott to put families first: Children can go [into a Marriott room and] accidentally ... access the porn. So we're asking Marriott simply to put people above profits and [to] drop the porn movies from their guest rooms."

Wildmon says so far, Marriott has not responded to a request to meet with representatives of the pro-family groups to discuss the matter.

According to a press release from AFA, Marriott has approximately 2,800 hotels in the U.S. -- and about 2,400 of them offer in-room pornographic movies.


14th April   

Censorship Police...

Nigerian censorship board officials raid theatre
Link Here

A court in Nigeria's Muslim dominated north, where the Islamic Sharia law is in force, has slapped jail terms or fines on 13 people for staging “indecent” shows, according to court documents.

The performers were arrested by officials of the censorship board of the northern Kano State while performing a dance and drama show.

The Kano court ruled that they should either serve prison terms of four months or pay fines of $333 each for publicly engaging in an indecent stage show with intent to corrupt.

The arrests were made under the state's 2001 cinematography law, which was interpreted to also cover the performing arts and even the use of theatre premises for private events deemed to be immoral.

Kano, one of the most conservative of the northern states, had also staged a crackdown on the local film industry Kannywood. The state government first banned all film-making in the state for six months and then, at the expiry of the ban, imposed a series of 32 restrictions on the industry. Filmmakers said the restrictions were so crippling that they amounted to a continuation of the six-month ban.


14th April   

Valuing Repression...

Internet be decimated according to UAE values
Link Here

One of the two major ISP's in the United Arab Emirates is to begin censoring the Internet immediately.

du, which is 40% owned by the Federal government, will commence blocking non-conforming sites on Monday.

du subscribers were notified mid-afternoon Sunday by a general-circular text message to their cell phones, which said sites that do not conform to the moral, social and cultural values of the UAE, will be blocked as of Monday.

Separately, du said in a statement: The World Wide Web offers us great opportunities to get and share information and to communicate... HOWEVER... it is imperative that when making use of this technology for its enormous benefits, we respect the moral, social and cultural values of the United Arab Emirates.


14th April   

Sounds like Pedantry...

BBFC charge double for to censor DVDs with commentary
Link Here
Full story: DVD Commentary at the BBFC...Charging to censor DVD commentary soundtracks

Back in October 2007 the BBFC issued the following press release:

The BBFC has recently received legal advice on the issue of audio commentaries. Our advice is that audio commentaries will almost always constitute new video works and consequently require classification.

The only exceptions are audio descriptive tracks which involve very simple and short descriptions of the action on screen (eg for the visually impaired).

A distributor on the Criterion forum noted:

The BBFC are more and more redundant and reviled in this modern age. Far from thinking that they do a "great and necessary" job, I believe that the job they do is completely without purpose (thanks to the internet) and that the restrictive and costly BBFC practices to which all UK distributors are forced to comply can now be challenged in the European courts. At the very least, by government decree their work should be carried out for free.

I'm not a fan, and even less so since they decided that all commentary tracks had to be certificated due to being "further video content". This is at a cost of around £1,000 GBP for a 95 minute film, and again, another £1,000 GBP for a commentary track -- and the delays involved in the production process while they certificate prevent us from getting things out more quickly.

Audio books, radio shows, and other audio content released on CD in the UK is not certificated by the BBFC, and a DVD audio commentary does not constitute "further video content" in our book because it is audio content, so I am strongly against this inane ruling.

It's fair to say we could release films more quickly for less money if the BBFC was "opt-in" like in other progressive countries.

So how many films remain unavailable to Brits because the censorship fee makes it commercially unviable? And how many small distribution films are bought from abroad to get the best value on extras?


14th April

 Offsite: Marathon Sentence for Chinese Blogger...

Link Here
Full story: Human Rights in China...Chinese round up the usual suspects
Zeng Jinyan speaks out on Hu Jia's sentencing

See article from


13th April

 Offsite: Censorship 2.0...

Link Here
The US can't censor the internet...can it?

See article from


13th April

 Offsite: Gagging for It...

Link Here
Full story: Insulting Turkishness...Insulting Turkishness law used to repress
Fighting for free speech in Turkey

See article from


12th April   

Update: Judicial Bully...

Brazilian judge bans Bully
Link Here

A judge has suspended the sale of the video game Bully in Brazil on the grounds that its content is too violent for young children and teenagers.

Judge Flavio Rabello prohibited the game from being imported, distributed, sold or promoted on Web sites and stores in Latin America's largest nation. Rio Grande do Sul state prosecutor Alcindo Bastos added that they would have 30 days to comply with the order.

Bastos said the judge found the game was inappropriate for children: The aggravating factor is that everything in the game takes place inside a school. That is not acceptable.

The request to ban it came from a local youth support center.


12th April   

Update: Hindu Love Guru Nonsense...

Nutters demand preview
Link Here
Full story: Love Guru...Love Guru Mike Myers movie winds up hindus

Nutter clamour is growing against the upcoming Hollywood movie The Love Guru over denigrating Hindu traditions.

The movement is spearheaded by Hindu chaplain and Indo-American leader Rajan Zed.

Zed has been saying that from the information available about the movie, it appears to be lampooning Hinduism and Hindus and using Hindu terms frivolously.

Swami Pooja Saraswati, a spiritual leader says: I watched the trailer of the movie Love Guru and was shocked that any respectable movie producer would so blatantly ridicule a great world religion, a culture, spiritual path and sincere way of life, portraying it as farce. Producers Paramount Pictures will agree to make changes suggested by Rajan Zed and other Hindu leaders, during the premier of this insulting film before millions of Hindus, yogis and people of high spiritual consciousness around the world feel hurt, offended and outraged, she added.

Reverend John J. Auer, Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Reno added his support: Neither Zed nor I have any interest in censorship... HOWEVER is crucial that every faith tradition be given the chance to be heard in response to any portrayal in popular culture of elements of that tradition that might be easily misrepresented and/or misunderstood .

Alison Pratte, a yoga leader, has stated, I was offended after watching the trailer of The Love Guru . The depiction of the main character in the movie seems more than a harmless spoof. It is loaded with an ignorant stereotype of a culture and religion that is already misunderstood and stigmatized. This movie will only cause more ignorance and bring shame to a beautiful tradition that has existed for thousands of years.

The Love Guru is a comedy film starring Mike Myers (who is also the co-writer and co-producer), Jessica Alba, Justin Timberlake and Ben Kingsley, is directed by Marco Schnabel and due for release on June 20 this year. In this film, Myers as Pitka, an American, raised in an ashram in India, moves back to US as Guru to seek fame and fortune in the world of self-help and spirituality.


12th April   

Update: Tube Unblocked...

YouTube unblocked in Indonesia except for Fitna pages
Link Here
Full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world

Indonesia's ISPs have restored access to YouTube and MySpace after a ban on the sites for carrying a the controversial film Fitna .

An association of Indonesian ISPs has announced that they would only block access to specific pages carrying the film.

The decision to lift the internet ban followed protests by web users who were unable to access several sites including YouTube, Multiply and MySpace, an industry official said: We don't need to block the sites but only links that broadcast the film. If the film is moved to another site, we will keep on chasing and block it .


12th April   

Supporting Free Press...BUT...

Yemen closes down newspaper
Link Here

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns an order by the Yemeni government to cancel the license of the independent weekly newspaper Al-Wasat.

Yemeni Information Minister Hassan al-Lawzi ordered the newspaper's license terminated because the paper had damaged relations with Saudi Arabia, and violated technical provisions of the press law.

A Yemeni government spokesman who asked that his name not be used told CPJ that the Information Ministry revoked Al-Wasat's license because the paper had published articles threatening national unity, and spreading messages that promote violence and hate. Yemen supports the freedom of the press [...BUT only that ...] that adheres to professional standards and practices.

Contrary to the government's lofty statements in support of a free press such shameful acts of censorship have regrettably become the norm in Yemen, said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon: We call on the Yemeni authorities to reverse this flagrant measure immediately.


11th April   

For the Record...

US Government get hearing to re-impose 2257 record keeping restrictions
Link Here
Full story: 2257 Record Keeping...US adut industry onerous requirements

The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has granted the federal government's request for a rehearing on the 2257 federal record-keeping law struck down as unconstitutional by a 6th Circuit panel last October.

The 2257 rules require adult producers to keep onerous records of participants ready for inspection at short notice. They are onerous to the point of being repressive and are way beyond the requirements of checking for under age performers.

The government filed its petition for a rehearing on the 6th Circuit ruling in January. While the decision to move forward with an en banc (full court of senior judges) rehearing of the panel decision is bad news for the porn business, it comes as no surprise.

When any kind of federal statute is struck down, there's a much higher likelihood of an en banc hearing being granted than there is with any other form of ruling, attorney Jeffrey Douglas told AVN: While this news is certainly disappointing because of how bad the law is, it can't be characterized as surprising.

The original panel ruling striking down 2257 as unconstitutional and overbroad was the result of a long, hard-fought battle by Rondee Kamins of GVA and attorney J. Michael Murray. The rehearing could overturn a major victory for the adult industry - but Douglas remains optimistic: Because the opinion by the panel was so well-written and well thought-out, and because of my confidence in [attorney] Mike Murray, I'm still optimistic that this is going to come out right .


11th April

 Offsite: Concerns About Political Games...

Link Here
Full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection
Byron on Vaz and a concern about her review being hijacked for political games

See article from


10th April   


Ofcom whinge at strong language in Live Earth
Link Here

Ofcom sanctioned the BBC over unexpurgated, pre-watershed swearing during its coverage of Live Earth on 7 July last year, and has directed the channel to broadcast a summary of its findings on both BBC1 and 2.

The Ofcom adjudication explains: 22 viewers complained that the BBC broadcast unacceptable language before the watershed during this programme. There were six instances of performers using the most offensive language, such as 'motherfucker' and other variants of the word 'fuck'.

Although the BBC broadcast an apology for the multiple outrages, Ofcom notes that there was in some cases a considerable delay in the broadcast of an apology.

  • The breaches involved the repeated use of the most offensive language before the watershed
  • the breaches involved the transmission of some of the most offensive language at a time children were likely to be in the audience (in the afternoon on a Saturday)
  • the BBC had previously been made aware that Ofcom had serious concerns over compliance failures with regard to the broadcast of similar and/or comparable events
  • the BBC had failed to deploy effective and appropriate procedures to prevent the broadcast of the most offensive language in a 'live' music event.

Ofcom said it would not impose a financial penalty for the breaches, but ordered: The Committee considered that a direction to broadcast a statement of Ofcom's findings on each of BBC1 and BBC2 in a form to be determined by Ofcom and on a specified occasion is a sufficient, and the most appropriate and proportionate sanction in this case.

Such a statement would alert viewers to Ofcom's decisions and the BBC's repeated failure to comply with the Code, and through the adverse publicity created, act as an effective disincentive for the BBC not to repeat the sanctionable conduct.


10th April   

Heavy Handed...

France to consider laws against encouraging anorexia
Link Here
Full story: Pro-anorexia Websites in France...France bans pro-anorexia websites and infor

Pro-anorexic websites which persuade young women to starve themselves could face punishment under new French proposals.

The French National Assembly will next week discuss bringing in a law to offer jail sentences of up to three years and €45,000 (£35,700) fines to anyone encouraging others to slim to the point of death.

It comes after the campaign headed by anorexic French model Isabelle Caro who appeared in a controversial advertisement showing her skeletal frame during Milan fashion week last. There has been a huge backlash across Europe against pro-anorexic websites.

Now Valerie Boyer, a French politician, has brought a motion to drive the sites out of action and deter others from setting them up. It is hoped the law would deter fashion houses from using very thin models to promote their clothes.

Boyer proposes jail sentences of up to two years and £23,800 fines for anyone who persuades a person to lose weight excessively enough to "compromise their health". In extreme cases, where the sites can be shown to have led to the actual death of an anorexic the punishment would increase to up to three years' jail and £35,700.

Boyer said anorexia was being promoted by magazines, internet sites and blogs. Judicial and penal sanctions were the only way to fight these abuses, she said.

Gerard Apfeldorfer, a French psychiatrist, said: There is a difference between incentive to 'go on a diet' and to encourage anorexia. Anorexia is a mental illness, often caused by imitation. But I am not sure the best way to prevent the disease is to put pressure on the advertising and fashion magazines. But he hoped it would persuade current sites to operate within the new law.


10th April   

The Inappropriate Simpsons...

Venezuela bans The Simpsons
Link Here

The Simpsons has been dropped from morning TV in Venezuela after being deemed unsuitable for children - and has been replaced by Baywatch .

The popular US cartoon about the yellow dysfunctional family was branded "inappropriate" and pulled by the country's television authorities.

The country's TV regulator said the saga of Homer Simpson, wife Marge and their three children flouted regulations that prohibit messages that go against the whole education of boys, girls and adolescents. It said that some unspecified complaints had been received from viewers.

Comment: Brave or What

14th April 2008 from the Times

It is not always wise to cross the cartoon's creators. George Bush Sr and his wife Barbara became frequent and unwilling characters on the show after the former President said that Americans should strive to be more like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons. The creators hit back by having the Simpsons watch the 1992 speech, with Bart objecting that they were, in fact, a lot like the Waltons – we're praying for the end of the Depression, too.

President Chávez, Venezuela's leader, has not pronounced on the Simpsons controversy, but on past form he does not respond well to mockery: he made his irritation known last week with a photo from the Reuters news agency in which he appeared in front of two black circles, making him look as if he were wearing a pair of Mickey Mouse ears. State-controlled media attacked the picture as an act of “media terrorism”.

Update: Simpsons Back Later

20th April 2008

The Simpsons has returned to TV in Venezuela after it was deemed unsuitable for children - and was replaced by Baywatch .

A spokeswoman for the station Televen said the popular US cartoon about the yellow dysfunctional family would now be shown in an early evening slot.

Venezuela's TV authorities forced the network to take it off air by threatening to fine it.


10th April   

Nile Sat Shat on Al Hiwar...

First casualty of new Arab satellite TV censorship agreement
Link Here

HRinfo condemns the banning of the Al Hiwar channel on the Nile Sat satellite by Egyptian state-owned Nile Sat administration. The channel was banned without any explanation on 1 April 2008. The action coincides with the implementation of the new Principles for Organizing Satellite Radio and TV Broadcasting in the Arab Region approved by Arab information ministers in February.

Banning the Al Hiwar channel contradicts all professional and free expression values. It also reveals the wrathful attitude of the Egyptian government towards trustworthy and serious media outlets that aim to provide Arab audiences news of all kinds.

This decision reveals the falsity of assertions made by Arab information ministers who said that the new document on broadcasting principles would not harm serious information channels. The Al Hiwar channel commenced broadcasting in mid-2006, and was known for its serious and objective handling of public issues.

We knew about the wrathful censorship, even hidden, of some satellite channels, especially Egyptian ones , said Gamal Eid, the executive director of HRinfo. Banning the Al Hiwar channel is a cruel inauguration of the Arab information ministers' document. Only in the Arab world can minor authorities such as information ministers control the fate of television channels. It is an Arab scandal.

Update: The Markings of Censorship

13th April 2008. See letter from CPJ

Zaher Birawi, Al-Hewar TV's program director, called Nilesat's move “surprising” and “unjustified.” Al-Hewar TV said in a statement that it might be linked to “the dissatisfaction of the Egyptian government with the high level of freedom with which the channel tackles different issues, particularly those related to the situation in Egypt.”

Al-Hewar features talk shows such as “Peoples' Rights,” which often invites human rights activists harassed or persecuted by Arab governments, and “Egyptian Papers,” which has hosted prominent Egyptian government critics such as editor Ibrahim Eissa and dissident judge Hisham Bastawissi.

Last week, the Egyptian daily Al-Dustour quoted Al-Hewar's lead shareholder Azzam Tamimi as saying that the Nilesat decision could also be related to the channel's coverage of popular support for Palestinians under siege in the Gaza Strip—stories that highlighted inaction on the part of Arab states and Egypt.

The secretive closure of Al-Hewar TV bears the markings of censorship and poses a grave threat to the free flow of information. We call on you to publicly clarify the reasons for terminating Al-Hewar TV's signal and see to it that the station is able to resume broadcasting immediately.


9th April   

Cut Here...

ASA ban adverts for Kane and Lynch game
Link Here

A promotional campaign for a violent computer game must never be shown again, after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) decided to uphold complaints received.

Advertisements for Kane & Lynch were accompanied by the claim that the game is grittier and nastier . . . than anything you've seen before, the violence . . . visceral, brutal and very, very real.

Kane & Lynch is made by Eidos and carries an 18-rating.

Posters for the game depicted a gagged woman in tears. A scarred man wearing surgical gloves pulled her head back by her hair while a second man behind them held his finger on the trigger of a rifle.

Those who complained to the ASA said they found the graphic depiction of violence towards women in the advertisements, seen on posters, on television and in magazines, distressing. They complained that the ads condoned violence towards women and would have been seen by children.

After yesterday's ruling, Eidos said it had not wanted to offend anyone. The firm said it had dropped the posters as soon as complaints were received and that the advertisements were only placed in adult male life-style magazines and specialist publications. Both Five and Channel 4, which screened the adverts, apologised for any offence caused.

The ASA ruled that the poster and magazine ads breached decency and responsible advertising codes while the TV ad broke guidelines on harm, offence, violence and cruelty.


9th April   


Talk and screening of notably banned TV dramas
Link Here

Thursday 10th April, 6:30pm
National Media Museum
Free tickets but booking required

While films have always seemed to lead the way when it comes to shock and horror, TV has never been that far behind and the National Media Museum in Bradford is about to celebrate the work of the censors pen in an event simply entitled Banned!

We thought it would be a nice idea to bring together some of the BBC dramas that were banned and explain what made them so controversial and the reception they had when they were eventually screened, says Kate Dunn, curatorial assistant at TV Heaven. The idea is to give people more insight into the background story behind them.

The event will look at a number of banned television dramas, including Peter Watkins's The War Game a dramatised documentary about events leading up and the aftermath of a nuclear war was never aired because, in 1965, the BBC thought it was too horrifying for the medium of broadcasting and Dennis Potter's Brimstone and Treacle , which included a rape scene described as "nauseating" back in 1976.

Perhaps most controversially, the event will screen in full Scum , the drama which depicted life inside a Bristol borstal and featured scenes of male rape, suicide, violence and strong racist language.


9th April   

Respect for the Law?...

Accusations of lèse majesté in Thailand
Link Here
Full story: Lese Majeste in Thailand...Criticising the monarchy is a serious crime

A police officer filed a criminal complaint yesterday seeking to have a journalist for the BBC charged with insulting His Majesty the King.

Pol Lt-Col Wattanasak Mungkandee said he filed a complaint against British reporter Jonathan Head in connection with remarks he allegedly made when moderating a panel discussion at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand on Dec 13 entitled Coup, Capital and Crown. Lese majeste carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

Pol Lt-Col Wattanasak said the police's Crime Suppression Division will have to translate the evidence he presented to see whether it would pursue the case.

Update: Charged

13th April 2008

The charge against Jonathan Head was filed on 8 April 2008 by Pol Lt Wattanasak Mungkitjakarndee, Investigation Officer of Bang Mot Police Station, seconded to Phaholyothin Police Station. Pol Lt Wattanasak alleged that during the FCCT seminar Head used phases that constitute a violation of the laws on lèse majesté.

Pol Lt Wattanasak then gathered evidence in the form of a CD of the seminar, an English transcript of Head's speech, and a Thai translation and handed this to Pol Maj Boonlert Kalayanamit, an Investigation Officer at the Crime Suppression Division. Pol Lt Wattanasak has also filed a similar charge against the Committee of the FCCT.

Taking a Stand

See full article from Prachatai

A Thai man and his female friend have been charged by police with lèse majesté for not standing for the royal anthem at a movie theatre in Bangkok late last year.

On April 5, 2008, Pathumwan District Police called to Chotisak Onsung and his friend, asking them to visit the police station to hear the charge for the offence alleged by Navamintr Witthayakul who was among the cinema audience.

A panel under the National Police Committee will make the final decision on whether to pursue the case or not.

On September 20, 2007, Chotisak and his friend went to a cinema in Central World shopping complex in downtown Bangkok. They were urged by Navamintr to stand up for the royal anthem which precedes every movie shown in Thailand's cinemas, and they had a heated argument with the man.

They claimed that they were physically abused. Afterwards they filed complaints at a police station against Navamintr for verbal and physical abuse, damage to personal property and coercion, while Navamintr filed a lèse majesté complaint against them.


9th April   

Dangerous Pictures Appropriate to Scotland...

Scottish Parliament plans for extreme pornography law
Link Here

Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill

Elaine Smith (Coatbridge and Chryston) (Lab): I note that the legislative consent memorandum refers to three specific areas of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill. I was concerned when I saw it last week—I understand that the motion does not include clauses 113 to 120, which relate to pornography. I would be grateful if the minister could confirm that the issues around possession of extreme pornography, which are covered in the Westminster bill, will be dealt with by Scottish legislation, as was indicated by the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing in response to an oral question from me. She stated:

We have consulted on new law to prohibit extreme pornographic images, and will now work to implement the outcome of the consultation "

Women's organisations in Scotland and organisations with an interest in tackling violence against women would welcome having input into the implementation of that process and are keen to ensure that the issue will still be dealt with as a devolved matter.

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Kenny MacAskill) : I am aware of Elaine Smith's track record in quite correctly pursuing the matter. The point that she raises is perfectly valid, and it is appropriate for me to explain clearly that, as is mentioned in the legislative consent memorandum, we are seeking to address various gaps, for example relating to violent offenders doing something significantly wrong. I refer to actions that are taken—as is sought south of the border—regarding those people if it is felt that they might escape punishments or requirements by moving north of the border. Clearly, people have been seeking to do that.

There are matters under the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill that are being legislated on south of the border that relate to pornography. As Elaine Smith has correctly said, legislation that will apply south of the border is being introduced in that regard. As was mentioned and has been dealt with by my ministerial health colleagues, there was a joint Scottish Executive and Home Office consultation on extreme pornography. We have legislative competence on that area here in Scotland.

We are working on proposals and are more than happy to meet Elaine Smith because of the valuable input that she and the people with whom she has communicated and whom she has represented can give. We intend to legislate on the matter in due course, rather than introduce measures that have been decided on south of the border and which are predicated on the situation there. To an extent, the member answered her own question. I can say that, in due course, we intend to address the matter that she correctly raises, but we will do so within the competence of the Parliament and in a manner that is appropriate for Scotland.


9th April   

Update: Police Censorship in Brighton...

Public screening in Brighton for On the Verge
Link Here
Full story: On the Verge...Police vs documentary showing them in poor light

A controversial documentary prevented from being shown after police intervened has been screened to the public in Brighton.

On The Verge tells the story of protest group Smash EDO's campaign to close Brighton weapons manufacturer EDO MBM Technologies.

When the group tried to show the film on March 17 at the Duke of York's Picturehouse in Brighton, it was stopped after police contacted the council. The officer warned that the cinema would be in breach of its licence by showing the film because it did not have a certificate from the BBFC.

Smash EDO claims its freedom of speech had been interfered with and arranged a screening at the Friends Meeting House in Ship Street.

A spokeswoman for the BBFC, which classifies films on behalf of local authorities and can be overruled by them, said the council was responsible for granting a licence for film festivals. She said: If you want to show a film in a licensed cinema, it has to be classified by us or by the local authority - or the cinema will be in breach of its licence under the Licensing Act. There is nothing illegal against showing a film in unlicensed premises because lots of film clubs do it. The problem for this film is that they tried to show it in a cinema.


9th April   

Update: Free Fouad...

Saudi blocks website campaigning for freedom of imprisoned blogger
Link Here
Full story: Blogging in Saudi...Saudi bloggers arrested and imprisoned

The blog of the detained Saudi blogger Fouad Alfarhan has been blocked today in Saudi Arabia, along with Freefouad website dedicated to Alfarhan's case and the pro-reformist blog Freedoms .

Users trying to access these blogs from Saudi Arabia were met with a notice saying “Blocked URL. Dear User, Sorry, the requested page is unavailable.

115 days after his arrest, on 10 December 2007, Fouad Alfarhan remains jailed for unspecified violation of non-security regulations.


8th April   

Art Grabs Christians by the Balls...

Nutter outrage over Vienna art exhibition
Link Here

Nutter outrage, has prompted Vienna's Dommuseum, the art gallery attached to St. Stephen's Catholic cathedral, to remove some of the works in a supposedly blasphemous exhibit of paintings and sculptures. One of the most noted works in the exhibit depicts Christ and his Apostles as homosexuals engaged in an orgy.

The Gloria TV website carried a short film of the exhibition and Catholics around the world responded condemning the depiction of Christ as an active homosexual.

The artist, Alfred Hrdlicka, a Marxist and self-proclaimed atheist, had titled the exhibition of his work Religion, Flesh and Power, and said that he was pleased it was being displayed in the Catholic museum.

He told Reuters, however, that he had been surprised that the museum had agreed. For me it was quite surprising the museum wanted to show the piece in the first place. If the Cathedral Museum is having problems now, it's not really my affair, it's for the Cathedral Museum to deal with.

The museum's curator, Bernhard Boehler, replied to the complaints saying, I don't see any blasphemy here. People can imagine what they want to. He referred to a depiction of the flagellation of Christ that showed a Roman soldier holding the Lord's genitals.

Boehler told Reuter's news service that the work that drew the most complaints was the painting of the Last Supper that depicted Christ and his Apostles in a homosexual orgy. The museum said many of the complaints came from overseas where people had read about the exhibition online.

A statement from the Cardinal's office said that the removal of the works has nothing to do with censorship, [...BUT...] rather corresponds with the understood 'reverence for the sacred'.


8th April   

Steve Sinnott Bows Out...

Anti-games campaigner bows out from the fray
Link Here

Steve Sinnott was the general secretary of the National Union Of Teachers. He has featured on Melon Farmers several times but most recently he was part of a campaign to ban the video game Bully: Scholarship Edition which he and other campaigners claimed encouraged bullying amongst children is school.

Steve Sinnott died suddenly yesterday, only weeks before he was due to lead the first nationwide classroom strike for two decades. The 56-year-old's death from a suspected heart attack stunned the education world and triggered a wave of tributes from political friends and opponents alike.

He was praised by fellow union leaders as a "doughty fighter" who campaigned for the rights of children in Britain and against "injustice and tyranny" around the world.


8th April   

Update: Harmful Laws...

Two Japanese internet censorship bills submitted without press attention
Link Here
Full story: Internet Censorship in Japan...Japan considers internet censorship

Japanese bloggers have been making noise the past few days in reaction to two separate bills, submitted first by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP) and next by the leading opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), each aiming, in apparently similar ways, to legislate regulation over Internet content deemed to be “harmful” to minors.

On March 19th, LDP Diet Member Takaichi Sanae submitted a bill to a government panel to legislate the prevention of browsing on the Internet of information harmful to young people in an attempt to maintain the sound upbringing of young people.

Shortly thereafter on April 2nd, Diet Member Takai Miho of the Democratic Party submitted a bill with the aim to create an environment that makes it possible for children to safely use the Internet. According to bloggers, the bills goes significantly further than earlier legislation introduced late last year, which mandated default filtering on mobile phones for minors. Nonetheless, aside from a single article in Asahi shimbun on the topic, the two bills appear to have been granted no mainstream media attention.

 The main issues are:

1. An organization made up of a small number of people, established by the Cabinet Office and called the Committee on the Promotion of Sound Upbringing of Young People (at most five people), is drawing up evaluation criteria, for all content on the Internet, defining what is and is not harmful to young people. And incidentally, declarations of objection to this standard is probably impossible.

2. Administrators of all websites, including individuals, will also be required, in cases where the contents of their site meets the above standards for harmful content, to do things such as implement a membership system on the whole site so that minors cannot access it, or apply to have filtering software applied to their own site.

3. All employees of ISPs, ASPs, and so on are required to eliminate all harmful content and suspend all harmful services, and there is a punishment being put in place for cases in which these rules are not followed. As a result, deletion of web content will be carried out.

4. Compulsory participation in the pre-installation of national standards-based filtering software or filtering services will be imposed on PC makers as well as carriers for all PCs and mobile phones.


8th April   


Research suggests that violent video games calm people down
Link Here

A new study in the UK has found that playing online violent games actually reduces anger and relaxes gamers.

While some anti-gaming activists would love nothing more than to find new research that definitively links real life violence with violence in video games, one recent study in Britain found that playing violent video games online actually has a tendency to make people less angry.

Miss Jane Barnett and her colleagues at Middlesex University are presented their results at the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference in Dublin.

For the study, 292 male and female World of Warcraft players, aged between 12 and 83, were given a questionnaire on anger, aggression and personality. The participants then played the game for two hours and then completed the survey yet again. Ultimately, the results showed that the gamers were more likely to feel calm or tired after playing – but there were differences depending on sex, age and personality.

There were actually higher levels of relaxation before and after playing the game as opposed to experiencing anger but this did very much depend on personality type. This will help us to develop a emotion and gaming questionnaire to help distinguish the type of gamer who is likely to transfer their online aggression into everyday life, explained Barnett.


7th April   

Filters and Freedom of Expression...

Council of Europe report on the use of internet filters
Link Here

The Council of Europe has released a set of recommendations regarding the use of Internet content filters, in which the council called for a balance between freedom of expression and protection of children from harmful content.

In its recommendations, the council acknowledged that while voluntary and responsible use of Internet filters ... can promote confidence and security on the Internet for users, in particular children and young people, its members believed that: use of such filters can impact on the right to freedom of expression and information, as protected by … the European Convention on Human Rights.

Some of the council's recommendations included:

  • Developing and promoting a minimum level of information for users to enable them to identify when filtering has been activated and to understand how, and according to which criteria, the filtering operates (for example, blacklists, whitelists, keyword blocking, content rating, etc., or combinations thereof)
  • Developing minimum levels of and standards for the information provided to the user to explain why a specific type of content has been filtered
  • Regularly reviewing and updating filters in order to improve their effectiveness, proportionality and legitimacy in relation to their intended purpose
  • Providing clear and concise information and guidance regarding the manual overriding of an activated filter, namely whom to contact when it appears that content has been unreasonably blocked and the reasons which may allow a filter to be overridden for a specific type of content or URL
  • Promoting initiatives to raise awareness of the social and ethical responsibilities of those actors who design, use and monitor filters with particular regard to the right to freedom of expression and information and to the right to private life, as well as to the active participation in public life and democratic processes
  • Development of strategies to identify content carrying a risk of harm for children and young people, taking into account the diversity of cultures, values and opinions
  • Informing children and young people about the benefits and dangers of Internet content and its filtering as part of media education strategies in formal and nonformal education


7th April   

Auto Autism...

Computer game addicts like people with Asperger's
Link Here

People who are addicted to playing computer games show some of the same personality traits as people with Asperger's syndrome.

This is the conclusion of Dr John Charlton of the University of Bolton and Ian Danforth of Whitman College, USA. Their results were presented at the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference in Dublin,

The researchers questioned 391 computer game players, 86% of whom were male. They considered relationships between addiction, 'high engagement' and personality.

They found that the closer the players got to addiction the more likely they were to display negative personality traits. And that as players showed more signs of addiction they were increasingly characterised by three personality traits that would normally be associated with Asperger's, a variety of high functioning autism. These were neuroticism, and lack of extraversion and agreeableness.

The researchers believe that these people are not classifiable as having Aspergers syndrome but share some of the same characteristics because they find it easier to empathise with computer systems than other people.

Dr Charlton said: 'The thinking in the field is that there is a scale along which people, even those considered to be 'normal', can be placed upon. And that people such as engineers, mathematicians and computer scientists are nearer to the non-empathising, systemising, end of the spectrum, with people with Asperger's syndrome even further along again.

Our research supports the idea that people who are heavily involved in game playing may be nearer to autistic spectrum disorders than people who have no interest in gaming.

Update: Poor Communications

8th April 2008

Dr John Charlton, a psychologist from the University of Bolton, has clarified that gaming does not cause Asperger Syndrome. Dr Charlton pointed out that some media outlets have been misinterpreting his research into video game addiction, which noted that some addicted gamers exhibit characteristics similar to those of people with Asperger Syndrome.

In no way can it be said that Asperger's can be caused by game playing (Asperger's is thought to have a biological basis) , SPOnG was told.


7th April   

Games Take the Rap...

Gang murder blamed on violent games and music
Link Here

A grieving father has blamed the murder of his 14-year-old son on computer games and violent music. Amro Elbadawi died from a knife wound to the throat after a fight with another teenager in London last week.

Internet photographs of him published soon after his death show Amro posing with a group of sinisterly masked youths. But his father Sabri Elbadawi last night claimed his son was a star student who had nothing to do with gangs but instead loved maths and science and had ambitions to become a doctor.

He said violent computer games and aggressive music were leaving teenagers with no respect for life: Technology is part of the problem. Kids are on the internet making these websites. They are nonsense. These violent computer games where you go round stabbing and shooting people are awful. They encourage this behaviour. I also blame the music the kids listen to, full of swearing, with no respect for life.


6th April   

Visions of a Visions of Ecstasy Release...

Repeal of blasphemy laws signals end to long standing film ban
Link Here

A landmark decision to ban a film showing Christ being caressed on the cross on the grounds that it was blasphemous could be reversed after almost 20 years.

The 1989 ruling by the BBFC to refuse a certificate for Visions of Ecstasy , a low- budget film depicting the 16th-century Spanish mystic St Teresa of Avila caressing the body of Jesus on the cross provoked a nutter furore.

While the film's director, Nigel Wingrove, believed he was making art, the board, under its heavily censorious director James Ferman, took a different view and said its mix of pornography and religion risked upsetting the Anglican Church.

Now, however, in a sign that Britain's social mores have moved on, Craig Lapper, of the board's examining body, has invited Wingrove to resubmit the film for classification.

The invitation comes ahead of the repeal in June of the blasphemy law, which has long been a source of anger for those working in the creative industries who complain it is an archaic piece of legislation that stifles art.

A decision to allow the film's release would bring to an end one of the most controversial chapters in British cinematic history. The board's decision was seen as an attack on freedom of speech by organised religion. The debate raged all the way up to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which upheld the decision to ban the love scene, thereby killing the film's release.

Wingrove, now a distributor of horror movies, said the suggestion he should resubmit his most notorious work had come completely out of the blue and that he was in two minds about whether to agree: If I made the film now I would make it very differently. I was exploring areas of dark eroticism, but I had worked chiefly in prints, not films. People say I should put it out, but on a personal level I have reservations. If I did release it, I would need to put it into context and perhaps release a documentary to accompany it.

Visions of Ecstasy was Wingrove's most famous battle with the board and one he did not see coming. I can be incredibly naive, he said. I was gobsmacked by the reaction. I can see why some people might have been offended, but it was pretty mild stuff really.

Nevertheless, the obscure film became a focal point of political protest as the barrister Geoffrey Robertson took up Wingrove's case and a campaign was launched to secure the film's release. A lot of people had their own agenda, Wingrove said: They wanted the law of blasphemy repealed. He likened the courtroom battle in Strasbourg to a scene from the Nuremberg trials with all those people pontificating on my little 19-minute film; it was absurd.

Now, however, Wingrove may find himself an unwitting cause célèbre again as secular groups encourage him to seek a release licence as a way of signalling the death knell of the blasphemy law.

The restraining effect of the blasphemy law on artists and writers has long been a blot on Britain's tradition of free speech, said Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society. It has put into the hands of bigots a weapon to punish those who want to criticise or satirise religion. We hope that the BBFC will now give a certificate to Visions of Ecstasy as a signal to film makers that they need no longer censor themselves when exploring religious themes.

A board spokeswoman stressed the invitation to Wingrove to resubmit his film for classification was Lapper's personal decision. Craig was being helpful, the spokeswoman said, pointing out that the repeal of the blasphemy law in June probably convinced Lapper that the time was right to review the film's ban.


6th April   

Arabs, Terrorists and Censors...

Film Festival highlights censorship in Singapore
Link Here

Singapore's censors have banned four documentary films from a movie festival for portrayals of terrorism, depicting gay Muslims, and excessive scenes of sado-masochism.

Two movies Arabs And Terrorism and David The Tolhildan , were disallowed on account of their sympathetic portrayal of organizations deemed terrorist organizations by many countries, Amy Chua, chairman of the Board of Film Censors, told the pro-government Straits Times: Films which portray terrorist organizations in a positive light by lending support and voice to justify their cause through violence are disallowed under the film classification guidelines.

The four films were among 200 submitted for classification by organizers of the Singapore International Film Festival , which started on Friday and ends April 14.

Arabs And Terrorism is a series of interviews with academics, U.S. policymakers and Middle Eastern political factions and their conflicting views of terrorism. The documentary turns a critical eye on current American perceptions regarding the hypothetical link between "Arabs" and "Terrorism," while cutting to the heart of the historic and ongoing conflict of ideas between the Arab World and the West.

David The Tolhildan depicts the life of Swiss national David Rouiller who leaves home to join the militant Kurdish Workers' Party, while In A Jihad For Love includes interviews with gays and lesbians in Muslim communities.

Bakushi , the fourth film that was banned, is a documentary on the practice of kinbaku, a Japanese form of sexual bondage which involves tying up women in elaborate rope patterns.


6th April   

Update: Not Fitna for Indonesians...

YouTube blocked on Government instructions
Link Here
Full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world

The Indonesian government has ordered the country's ISPs to block Youtube for publishing the 15 minutes anti-Muslim film Fitna made by the Dutch MP Geert Wilders.

Some of the country's ISPs followed the block order, but Fitna could still be viewed through other providers.

A letter was sent to Internet providers asking them to block any site or blog posting the film Fitna . Not only YouTube has uploaded the film, so it is up to the ISPs' discretion to block these sites, communications and information ministry official Ferdinandus said.


5th April   

Tox on the Box...

The Toxic Avenger showing uncut on Zone Horror
Link Here

The Toxic Avenger is a 1985 US horror by Michael Herz & Lloyd Kaufman (Prism Leisure)

All the UK releases to date have been heavily pre-cut versions (not actually cut by the BBFC, just cut in fear of the BBFC)

The Toxic Avenger is now being shown on Zone Horror in the uncut version. All the gore and nunchaku scenes are included-even the famous head squash in the gym! Graphic yes, but its so badly done that to me it just becomes a moment of black comedy genius, a la Bad taste , Braindead etc.

To be honest if Braindead can get through uncut in the UK over a decade ago and Re-animator having been passed (and society didn't crumble from the release of either) I really cant see how the Toxic Avenger would cause any concern.

The Toxic Avenger is available in an unrated "director's cut" that contains an additional 23 minutes which is available via UK Amazon . I am not convinced that the stand alone DVD is in fact the advertised directors cut. The best bet seems to be the box set


5th April   

In the Name of God the Censor...

First Pakistan film to get release in India for 40 years
Link Here

It became the most successful Pakistani film of all time. Bold, striking and widely acclaimed by critics and audiences alike, Khuda Kay Liye focuses on the lives of Muslims in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and the Bush administration's "war on terror".

Now, it has become the first Pakistani film in more than four decades to go on full release at cinemas across its predominantly Hindu neighbour, India, receiving rapturous applause at its Indian premiere in Mumbai.

The film, the Urdu title of which translates as In the Name of God , is the first film directed by Shoaib Mansoor.

Since the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the two countries have officially banned each others' films, despite the fact that Bollywood movies and songs, pirated and easily available, are hugely popular in Pakistan.

In recent years, however, with relations between the countries considerably improved, the authorities have made exceptions. In 2003, India permitted the Pakistani film Khamosh Pani – Silent Waters – on limited release while in 2006 Pakistan allowed three Indian films to be shown.

Mansoor's film has already faced considerable controversy. When it was released in Pakistan last summer, there was a backlash from some religious extremists who said it should be banned. Nevertheless, the film won the Silver Pyramid Award at last year's Cairo International Festival.

When Khuda Kay Liye was released in Pakistan, Mansoor, said he had been driven to make the movie after a friend of his announced that he was giving up music because he had reached the conclusion that it was banned by the Koran. I thought that the need of the hour was to study the whole mindset which gave birth to such wrong notions about Islam.


5th April   

Manhunt for a Nutter...

Keith Vaz pushes for parliamentary debate about video games
Link Here

Keith Vaz (Leicester East, Labour)

When can we have a debate on the excellent Byron review, which was published this morning? It accepts finally and for the first time that children can be affected by violent video games and access to the internet, that that process needs to be monitored carefully, and that we need a new partnership between parents and the industry. Will the Government accept the recommendations in full? If they are prepared to accept the recommendations, when can the House debate the matter, as so many Members on both sides are keen to do so?

Harriet Harman (Lord Privy Seal, House of Commons)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his long-standing work on and concern about these issues. That would be a good subject for a topical debate, and I accept what he says as a proposal for such a debate. I thank Tanya Byron for her work. It is common sense that there should be clear labelling so that we can understand the different levels of videos and games. She is absolutely right that there needs to be joint work and that responsibility lies with the Government, the industry and parents, who all need to take action and work together on this.

I want, too, to acknowledge the work of the Internet Watch Foundation, which works with the industry and provides a hotline for parents. The Government accept the findings of the Byron report. We will produce an action plan, but before that it would be a good idea to have a debate in the House.

Simon Hughes (North Southwark & Bermondsey, Liberal Democrat)

May I follow the last exchange by joining the tribute to the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee? I support the call for a debate on the labelling of videos and also on the management of amusement arcade machines, which often have equally violent scenes. It is obvious nonsense that we have never managed to get a grip on the sort of violence youngsters can see in places to which they have easy access. If we can debate that soon, it would be welcome.

Early Day Motion 1271

See full article from Parliament

Byron Review

Submitted by Keith Vaz

That this House warmly welcomes the publication of Tanya Byron's report Safer Children in a Digital World; notes that it accepts that violent video games do have an effect on children and therefore their availability to children needs to be properly controlled; considers that it is only through a partnership between parents, retailers and the video games industry that these issues can be tackled; and calls on the Government to implement the recommendations immediately in full.

Signed by

Keith Vaz, Peter Bottomley, Glenda Jackson, Chris McCafferty, Mike Hancock, Katy Clark, Jeremy Corbyn, David Taylor, Martin Caton, Andrew Dismore, David Drew, Mark Durkan, Robert N Wareing, Brian Jenkins, Elfyn Llwyd, Alasdair McDonnell, Hywel Francis, Rudi Vis, Janet Dean, Betty Williams


5th April   

Possessed by Good Sense...

Indian High Court finds that it is legal to own and watch porn
Link Here

The Indian High Court has held that privately watching obscene films does not constitute an offence under the Indian Penal Code, and quashed the criminal proceedings that had been launched against three college students.

Peenya police had caught 3 students of Acharya Polytechnic and Engineering College, Bangalore on November 30, 2005 when they were watching obscene films on their personal computer, at their rented room in MEI Layout.

The 7th Additional Metropolitan Magistrate had taken cognisance of the case and initiated criminal proceeding. The students had challenged the action.


5th April   

Update: Dark Sector: Children's Version...

Distributors of Dark Sector to cut game for MA 15+ certificate
Link Here

Following up on the Australian censors ban in February, Dark Sector 's local distributor, AFA Interactive has confirmed its intentions to release a build based on the sanitised Japanese version of the game down under.

AFA Interactive reveals it is simply waiting for publisher D3 Interactive to send out the new iteration of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 title. With no decapitation and toned down... limb severing on humans (only) , AFA hopes this build will guarantee a MA 15+ reclassification under the ever hypocritical rules of the Australian censors.


5th April   

MidAfternoon Murders...

Ofcom whinge at afternoon repeat of MidSomer Murders
Link Here

ITV has been criticised by Ofcom for screening an episode of MidSomer Murders in the afternoon that showed a man being electrocuted.

Ofcom upheld a complaint that the episode, which featured a body with a severely burnt hand, was "inappropriate" for a 4pm slot when "significant" numbers of children could be watching.

The ruling comes a few months after Ofcom criticised ITV and Channel Television, the company responsible for checking that the detective series complies with the broadcasting code, for screening two episodes in the afternoon that showed strangulation, bad language and a man cutting his throat with a razor.

In the latest incident, a viewer complained about the second episode of a two-parter called The Electric Vendetta, which was aired last November.

Channel Television said that the electrocution scenes were "shortened and made less explicit" for the afternoon show, which was a repeat of an episode normally screened at 8pm.


5th April   

Update: All War and No Play...

Unislamic dancing to be banned from Afghan TV
Link Here
Full story: TV Censorship in Afghanistan...Afghanistan TV, an unsuprising target for censors

Afghanistan's lower house of Parliament has passed a resolution seeking to bar television programs from showing dancing and other practices deemed un-Islamic.

The decision came just days after the private Tolo TV channel aired a dance number featuring men and women together on an Afghan film awards program.

The Information and Culture Ministry condemned the scene, saying dancing by men and women together was completely against the culture of the Afghan, Muslim society.

The parliamentary resolution, drafted by a commission for cultural and religious affairs, said dancers should not be shown on television, and un-Islamic scenes should be cut from Indian TV series broadcast in Afghanistan, said Din Mohammad Azimi, a lawmaker and member of the commission.

The resolution, which is not now legally binding and cannot be enforced, will go before the upper house of Parliament for consideration, Azimi said. It would also have to be approved by the president before becoming law.

Tolo TV's owner Saad Mohseni said the dancing on the awards show Friday was very tame by any standard and the women were dressed modestly.


4th April   

Update: Retailers Sold on BBFC...

But games producers not so sure
Link Here
Full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

Dr Tanya Byron has told the biggest names in UK video games publishing that retailers persuaded her to give more power to the BBFC over PEGI.

Addressing ELSPA members in Portman Square, London at a closed meeting this morning, also attended by specially selected press, Byron said that retailers very strongly backed BBFC logos on the front of all games boxes to assist the with parental confusion at the point of sale.

However, publisher bosses such as EA UK general manager Keith Ramsdale, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe president David Reeves and SCE UK boss Ray Maguire showed their disagreement with the decision during a show of hands.

Despite largely positive soundings on the Review in general, when asked if they would prefer the current hybrid of BBFC and PEGI classification or one single ratings system, around 90% of ELSPA members opted for the latter.

Byron used the opportunity to praise the UK publishing sector and the manner in which it self-regulated prior to the Review and once again, Byron took the time to dismiss inaccurate reports that she recommended stricter penalties for retailers.

See full article from Mad

Retailers and wholesalers of video games in the UK have pledged to offer their support in implementing an age rating system for games, as recommended by Tanya Byron.

Speaking at a meeting today,The Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) said its 200 members will adopt the main conclusions of the government-led study.

The ERA's members account for around 90% of packaged entertainment sales in the UK, a market it values at £5.3 billon which includes Game, HMV, Zavvi, Woolworths, WH Smith, Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys as well as many independents.


4th April   

Grand Theft Auto IV: Children's Version...

Australia treated like kids again
Link Here

While debate rages over an adult classification for video games in Australia, RockStar announce that they will bypass the furore by presenting a children's version of Grand Theft Auto IV to retail shelves.

With Grand Theft Auto IV slated for an April 29 release, RockStar Games have given an interview response detailing a special version for the Australian PAL market.

A Rockstar spokesperson confirmed that the company had produced a special version of GTA IV to comply with the Australian classification system, which does not currently contain an R18+ rating, but declined to reveal what material had been cut.


4th April   

Update: Olympic Sport of Internet Blocking...

China promises unfiltered internet for foreign media at least
Link Here
Full story: Internet Blocking in Olympic China...Chinese Olympics herald a lull in internet censorship

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has confirmed that international media will have access to uncensored internet during the 8-24 August sportsfest in Beijing and that TV transmission of the games will not be subject to a delay.

According to Reuters, the IOC's chief inspector said that, despite the Chinese regime's routine censorship of net content and penchant for delaying or censoring TV signals, this would not affect the 30,000-strong foreign media expected to cover the games.

Hein Verbruggen told a press conference concluding the committee's final inspection of the games: We were satisfied by the assurances we received across a number of areas - media service levels, including internet access ... and the live broadcast feed.


4th April   

Update: UNHuman Rights...

UN vote marks the end of Universal Human Rights
Link Here
Full story: Defamation of Religion...OIC pushes for global blasphemy laws at UN

For the past eleven years the organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), representing the 57 Islamic States, has been tightening its grip on the throat of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On 28th March 2008, they finally killed it.

With the support of their allies including China, Russia and Cuba (none well-known for their defence of human rights) the Islamic States succeeded in forcing through an amendment to a resolution on Freedom of Expression that has turned the entire concept on its head. The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression will now be required to report on the “abuse” of this most cherished freedom by anyone who, for example, dares speak out against Sharia laws that require women to be stoned to death for adultery or young men to be hanged for being gay, or against the marriage of girls as young as nine, as in Iran.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan saw the writing on the wall three years ago when he spoke of the old Commission on Human Rights having become too selective and too political in its work. Piecemeal reform would not be enough. The old system needed to be swept away and replaced by something better. The Human Rights Council was supposed to be that new start, a Council whose members genuinely supported, and were prepared to defend, the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Yet since its inception in June 2006, the Human Rights Council has failed to condemn the most egregious examples of human rights abuse in the Sudan, Byelorussia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China and elsewhere, whilst repeatedly condemning Israel and Israel alone.

Three years later Annan's dream lies shattered, and the Human Rights Council stands exposed as incapable of fulfilling its central role: the promotion and protection of human rights. The Council died yesterday in Geneva, and with it the Universal Declaration of Human Rights whose 60th anniversary we were actually celebrating this year.

There has been a seismic shift in the balance of power in the UN system. For over a decade the Islamic States have been flexing their muscles. Yesterday they struck. There can no longer be any pretence that the Human Rights Council can defend human rights. The moral leadership of the UN system has moved from the States who created the UN in the aftermath of the Second World War, committed to the concepts of equality, individual freedom and the rule of law, to the Islamic States, whose allegiance is to a narrow, medieval worldview defined exclusively in terms of man's duties towards Allah, and to their fellow-travellers, the States who see their future economic and political interests as being best served by their alliances with the Islamic States.

Yesterday's attack by the Islamists, led by Pakistan, had the subtlety of a thin-bladed knife slipped silently under the ribs of the Human Rights Council. At first reading the amendment to the resolution to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression might seem reasonable. It requires the Special Rapporteur: To report on instances in which the abuse of the right of freedom of expression constitutes an act of racial or religious discrimination …

For Canada, who had fought long and hard as main sponsor of this resolution to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, this was too much.

Canada's position was echoed by several delegations including India, who objected to the change of focus from protecting to limiting freedom of expression. The European Union, the United Kingdom (speaking for Australia and the United States), India, Brazil, Bolivia, Guatemala and Switzerland all withdrew their sponsorship of the main resolution when the amendment was passed. In total, more than 20 of the original 53 co-sponsors of the resolution withdrew their support.

On the vote, the amendment was adopted by 27 votes to 15 against, with three abstentions.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights died with the vote. Who knows when, or if, it can ever be revived.

I used to wonder what States who felt it necessary to kill people because they change their religion thought they were doing in the Human Rights Council. Now I know.

...Read the full article


4th April   

A Problem Shared...

Is a problem banned, China bans 25 video sharing sites
Link Here

Reporters Without Borders is worried about the future of blogging in China after the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) closed down 25 websites that allowed video-sharing. The SARFT said they were obscene , violent or threatened national security or national interest.

Thirty-two other websites including, one of China's most popular video-sharing sites, were given warnings. This is the first time the authorities have applied a law concerning the regulation of audio and video files that was adopted on 31 January.

Videos filmed by Chinese citizens are not welcome, Reporters Without Borders said. You now need a government licence to put videos online. Furthermore, this measure cannot be circumvented by using proxies. It has come just when it was needed by a government that is trying to control the dissemination of video footage of the unrest in Tibet. This law is a threat to news and information.

Since 31 January, websites have been required to have prior government authorisation in order to disseminate videos. They are also supposed to be at least partially state-owned.

This is the list of websites with videos that were closed yesterday by the SARFT:


4th April   

Blaming Media...

Ten things wrong with the 'effects model'
Link Here

This article is published in Roger Dickinson, Ramaswani Harindranath & Olga Linné's, Approaches to Audiences – A Reader , published by Arnold (1998)

The article provides an overview and restatement of what I was trying to say in Moving Experiences . The book examines all of the studies in detail, and generally concludes that the research has failed to show that the media has any kind of direct or predictable effects on people.

This essay takes a slightly different approach, setting out ten reasons why 'effects research' as we have seen it so far seems to be fundamentally flawed and is often surprisingly poor.

This leads to a slightly different (implicit) conclusion, that media influences are something that we still know very little about, because the research hasn't been very good or imaginative... and so, therefore, it's still an open question.

...Read full article


3rd April   

No Bounty...

Bounty Killer concerts cancelled after campaign against homophobia
Link Here

Ragga star Bounty Killer has had two of his three UK concerts cancelled following a campaign by gay rights group Outrage.

The concerts in Bradford and Birmingham have been axed, causing the star to lose thousands of pounds in performance fees, because the lyrics of his songs are considered homophobic.

In Germany, Bounty Killer's performance in Essen was also cancelled and further concert dates in the country are now in doubt.

It is part of a Europe-wide campaign by the group to halt his Deadly Alliance tour of the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland.

Bounty Killer has come under attack by the group for his refusal to sign the Reggae Compassionate Act in which artistes agree to not perform songs that encourage or glorify violence.

Coordinator of Outrage, Peter Tatchell, expressed his delight that the concerts have been scrapped: Bounty Killer bragged that he was invincible. He vowed his concerts would go ahead and boasted that no gays could stop him. Look who's crying now . There must be zero tolerance of singers like Bounty Killer who advocate the murder of other human beings.

Despite the shows being cancelled, a concert at the Stratford Rex in east London went ahead recently.


3rd April   

Shrine to Censorship...

Tokyo cinema won't show war documentary after nationalist protests
Link Here

Japanese nationalists have forced plans to screen a film examining the country's wartime excesses to be abandoned after a campaign of intimidation that included blockading cinemas.

A new documentary film, Yasukuni , was due to open at cinemas in Tokyo and Osaka on April 12.

The film, by the Chinese director Li Ying who lives in Japan, is about the Tokyo shrine that honours the nation's war dead, and examines Japan's imperial ambitions in the early decades of the last century.

Japanese politicians and commentators attacked the decision by cinema managers, who were targeted by ultra-nationalist protesters who parked vans covered in nationalistic slogans outside the cinemas and broadcast military anthems over loudspeakers.

Excessive 'self-censorship' has trampled on freedom of expression, said an editorial in the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper.

The documentary shows scenes from the grounds of the Shinto shrine on Aug 15, the anniversary of Japan's surrender at the end of the Second World War. What has particularly upset nationalists is the part of the film that deals with the Rape of Nanjing, Japan's most notorious war-time atrocity. More than 150,000 Chinese men, women and children were murdered by Japanese troops in 1937 at the outset of the Sino-Japanese war.

Tomomi Inada, of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said that she believed the film's "ideological message" had been to portray Yasukuni as a tool to mobilise the Japanese people for a war of aggression. Mrs Inada criticised the decision to cancel the public screenings as "regrettable" however, adding that street campaigns should not stand in the way of freedom of expression.

There is no reason whatsoever for cinemas to refrain from showing the film, she said.


3rd April   

Update: Marathon Sentence...

Pre-Olympic round up of China's usual suspects
Link Here
Full story: Human Rights in China...Chinese round up the usual suspects

After spending over four months in detention, Beijing-based blogger Hu Jia has now been sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for “state subversion,” which, according to his lawyer Li Fangping, is a decision that is likely to draw more international criticism of the country's political controls ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

Hu has ten days in which to file an appeal.

Reporters Without Borders previously said: Together with the Fondation de France, we had just awarded Hu and his wife, Zeng Jinyan, a special prize on 5 December for their courageous stance in defence of human rights in the approach to next year's Olympic Games in Beijing.

We express our solidarity with Hu and Zeng and their six-week-old daughter and we urge the European Union and the rest of the international community to rally to Hu's defence so that he does not become another victim of China's pre-Olympics repression.

Hu participated in a European parliamentary hearing in Brussels on 26 November on the human rights situation in China. He said at one point during the hearing: It is ironic that one of the people in charge of organising the Olympic Games is the head of the Bureau of Public Security, which is responsible for so many human rights violations. It is very serious that the official promises are not being kept before the games.


3rd April   

Update: Fitting the Stereotype...

Taliban claim attacks on Dutch soldiers were revenge for Fitna
Link Here
Full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world

The Taliban has said two attacks on Dutch forces in Afghanistan were in retaliation for the anti-Islamic film Fitna. 

In a communique posted on the Internet, the Taliban said its Shura Council leadership announced reprisal operations against Dutch forces because one of the members of the Dutch parliament produced a film that hurts Islam, and he published it with bad intentions.

The Taliban statement referred to two attacks on Sunday, which it said killed a large number of "occupier soldiers."

The Dutch Defence Ministry said five Dutch soldiers were wounded in two separate incidents on Sunday, including one soldier who lost both his legs. None died.


2nd April   

Explanation Theft...

BBFC pass Grand Theft Auto IV 18 uncut and then withdraw explanation
Link Here

The temporary BBFC ban on Manhunt 2 seems to have generated a bit of extra publicity for every violent game that is presented to the BBFC. It is now a news story when such a game isn't banned.

The BBFC seem to have added to this particular press interest by first of all providing their extended explanation of their 18 rating and then promptly withdrawing the explanation. Apparently the extended advice should only be made available 10 days before release.

Furthermore the withdrawal of the extended classification explanation also seems to be blamed for a rumour of a ban on the game that circulated yesterday.

Anyway the BBFC have awarded Grand Theft Auto IV and uncut 18 certificate with the following withdrawn comment:

GRAND THEFT AUTO IV is an open world action adventure game in which the player character is an Eastern European immigrant working for organised crime gangs in a fictitious city in the USA. The game has been rated '18' for strong violence, very strong language, very strong sex references and drugs use.

Violence is a central theme of the game, with the character able to engage on missions which invariably involving killing in return for money and other in-game rewards. The character can gain use of a variety of weapons including machine guns, Molotov cocktails, a serrated knife and a rocket propelled grenade launcher.

Injuries and death are shown with blood including blood projected onto nearby walls, windscreens and the camera lens. The character is able to attack and kill any other character in the game, including 'innocent' non player characters, although this carries a strong risk of being pursued by the police providing a negative consequence for such action.

The game includes several uses of very strong language and frequent use of strong language. The very strong language occurs within 'cut scenes' in which the story and character development take place, in spoof television episodes and during a stand up comedy routine.

Sex references also occur during cut scenes, including references to strong sexual behaviour. During gameplay the character can pick up prostitutes and pay for three different levels of service. What follows is an un-detailed portrayal of masturbation, fellatio and intercourse. The character can also visit lap dancing clubs and request a private dance. While the game contains sexualised dancing and the portrayal of sex, there is no sexualised nudity.

Reference is made to drugs trafficking and several cut scenes portray cocaine snorting. There is also a satirical reference to the domestic production of a hard drug, but it does not contain the detail necessary to reproduce this in the real world.

GRAND THEFT AUTO IV has been classified at '18' and is appropriate for adults aged 18 and above only.


2nd April   

Tired Faces...

How many more reports on the harms of social networking sites?
Link Here

Facebook and other social networking sites would have to advertise the 999 emergency number on their pages under new Government guidelines to improve the safety of children online.

A copy of the draft guidance, obtained by the Telegraph, shows that the Home Office wants sites like Bebo and MySpace to display adverts for the emergency services to encourage children to call the police directly if they think they are being targeted by people who might be trying to abuse them.

It also suggests sites should take steps to make it more difficult for children to lie about their age and gain access to sites aimed at older users.

These could include offering free software which parents could download to enable them to restrict the websites children visit and the amount of time they spend on them.

In the first report by the Home Office into social networking sites, a powerful coalition of experts warn that children are at risk of online bullying, sexual "grooming" by paedophiles and online fraud.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, will publish the 73-page document on Friday, which also warns parents about anorexic websites which encourage teenage girls to compete to lose weight, and sites which promote self-harm and suicide.

It is understood that sites will be urged to set the default privacy settings of under-18s to "private" to prevent strangers accessing their profile pages. Currently, the default settings on many social networking sites are "open", allowing personal information to be shared with all users.

Most children and young people use the internet positively but sometimes behave in ways that may place them at risk, says the document, which has been drawn up by the Home Office's taskforce on online child protection in consultation with websites, mobile phone operators, children's charities, parent groups and academics.

Young people may also engage in behaviour that is risky to themselves including cyber-flirting and cyber-sex. These situations can quickly escalate to a point where they may lose control.

Parents will be issued with an eight-point guide on how to ensure that their children use social networking sites safely. They will be urged to discuss with their offspring the dangers of flirting online and meeting strangers they have encountered on the internet. They will also be encouraged to contact the police immediately if they suspect that their children are being "groomed" by online predators.

See full article from the Guardian

Millions of children are using social networking websites intended for older users, according to a study by the media regulator, Ofcom.

Research into internet use has found that, among children with internet access, more than a quarter of eight to 11-year-olds claimed to have a profile page on a social networking website. This is despite nominal age restrictions aimed at preventing pre-teens from using such sites.

MySpace, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, says its users should be at least 14 to register, while Facebook and Bebo claim an age limit of 13.

The study, commissioned by the regulator's media literacy unit, surveyed more than 7,000 adults and children around the UK.

It outlined a disparity between the perception of social networking among adults and children. While 65% of parents said they set rules for the way their children used social networking sites, only half of children said their families had laid down restrictions. A further 43% said their parents placed no limits on what they could use sites for.

The use of the internet by children is something of a hot political topic at the moment. As well as the Byron review, the home secretary is due to unveil a series of reforms later this week that are aimed at increasing safety for children online. These are believed to include a voluntary code of good conduct for websites.


2nd April   

Update: Google in Camera...

Parliament committee inquire about YouTube censorship
Link Here
Full story: Harmful Content...2007 Parliament Inquiry: Internet And In Video Games:

Google resisted calls to screen videos before they appeared on YouTube, despite admitting it had been too slow to take down a clip which showed a 25-year-old mother being gang-raped.

The search giant was attacked by MPs after admitting it was "clearly a mistake" that a video showing the woman being raped was watched 600 times before being removed from YouTube, the video-sharing site it owns.

Giving evidence before a Commons select committee, Google's general counsel, Kent Walker, said it would go against the spirit of the internet to require all videos to be screened and resisted calls for tighter regulation of sites like YouTube.

Asked about the site's failure to take down the footage - which showed the mother being sexually assaulted by three boys after her drink had been spiked - more quickly, Walker told MPs: I do not know exactly what happened but it was a mistake.

Walker was giving evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport committee, which is investigating the dangers posed by the internet to children. He told the committee that YouTube's reviewers looked through "a huge amount" of material. He added that, of the offensive videos that were flagged to the site, more than 50 per cent were removed within half an hour. A large majority is removed within an hour.

Walker came under heavy fire from MPs, who said his inability to disclose how many staff were employed by Google to monitor footage flagged on YouTube suggested his defence was "incredible". Do you know how absurd you are sounding? asked Paul Farrelly, the Labour MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme.

Walker said, however, that it would be "neither efficient not effective for YouTube to screen the entirety of the content uploaded by its users - about 10 hours of footage every minute - before it was made public: That would burden the process of creativity. You do not have a policeman on every street corner to stop things from happening, you have policemen responding very quickly when things do happen.


2nd April   

Moving with the Times...

Old films allowed to have new certificates
Link Here

The BBFC have issued the following press release

Following fresh legal advice and consultation with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the BBFC is happy to be able to introduce new flexibility with regard to previously classified video works.

In the past, any new video submission which was identical to a previously classified video work could only be classified at the existing category. This led to works being classified at categories which were no longer appropriate under current guidelines. It also meant that distributors had to artificially add or subtract material in order to 'work around' the restriction. This was not in the interests of the industry, the public or the BBFC.

Distributors wishing to rely on an existing classification will still be able to choose to make use of our 'Distributor Change' or 'Technical Comparison' services but from 14th April 2008 all other new video submissions will be viewed and classified according to current guidelines and policy.


2nd April   

Update: Netherlands to Prosecute Wilders?...

Or is the Dutch ambassador placating Qatar?
Link Here
Full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world

The public prosecutor of the Netherlands is looking into Fitna , and based on the prosecutor's findings, charges could be filed against the far-right lawmaker Geert Wilders in a court, Dutch Ambassador to Qatar Hans Van Vloten Dissevelt told Gulf Times yesterday.

Dissevelt said Dutch leaders had time and again unequivocally made it clear that the film did neither convey the stance of the government nor the people but the personal view of an individual.

In Holland, we have full freedom of expression. There is absolutely no censorship. People are expected to behave responsibly and those who cross the limits will be accountable for their actions, the ambassador said.

Besides the public prosecutor, some NGOs are also considering taking Wilders to court, the envoy said. If the judge found Wilders has crossed the limits, he would be sentenced.

Asked why the government could not prevent the launch of the film Fitna , the ambassador said the Dutch government was not in a position to stop people from expressing their views before hand.

He said his country was pleased with the response to the film from governments and people around the world. Most of the people realise that it has got nothing to do with the Dutch people or their government. They have been able to identify the difference between the standpoint of a nation and the viewpoint of a national. A country should not be punished for the action of a single citizen.


2nd April   

Update: The Calendar Game...

Timetable for implementing Byron Review recommendations
Link Here
Full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

The Byron Report suggests a timetable for changes in classification

By Autumn 2008:

  • Consultation on changes to classification system underpinned by clear plans for potential legislative change
  • Industry commits to develop minimum standards for parental controls
  • Campaign to raise awareness of age ratings and parental controls underway
  • Retailers make improvements to in-store information
  • UK Council for Child Internet Safety establishes sub-group on online gaming
    Industry and classification bodies commit to develop single set of standards for managing safety in online games

By Spring 2009:

  • BBFC and PEGI agree and publish standards for managing safety in online games
  • Research into role of video game advertising on underage game play completed
  • Industry guidelines on advertising of video games produced

By Summer 2010:

  • Changes to classification system in place
  • Ongoing monitoring and enforcement of sales of age-rated video games.
  • Government identifies ways for game based learning to be evaluated in different educational environments


1st April   

Update: Press Games...

Newspapers playing games with video games
Link Here
Full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

Dr. Tanya Byron has said that press reports that the Byron Review recommended stiff prison sentences for retailers who sell games to underage gamers is "plain wrong."

Early reports on the content of the Review by the Times Online and other media outlets claimed it would recommend retailers who sell videogames to anyone under the age rating on the box... face a hefty fine or up to five years in prison. But the author of the report has told MCV that current penalties for selling games to underage customers are adequate, and that no such recommendation exists.

That's nowhere in the Review. Nowhere. I haven't recommended any scary new legal threats to retailers. That's plain wrong. I've read that elsewhere and I'd like to be really clear about that. The law as it stands says you can't sell games to anyone under the statutory age of a BBFC-rated product. I didn't make that up. It's the law, and retailers already know it. All that's changed is that "12" will now join "15" and "18" as a statutory rating.

See full article from Game Politics

An unnamed British newspaper is soliciting tales of those who turned to a life of crime, thanks to playing video games.

A message posted on Star Now, a UK website for aspiring entertainers, reads:

A national newspaper wants your story and will pay hundreds of pounds to the right person.

Write a few lines about how computer games turned you to crime and if it's something we like, we'll call you straight back…

Newspaper request answered by IanG on the Melon Farmers Forum

Dear Sir,

As a criminal I have no moral obligation to tell the truth, indeed, I like to lie and deceive in order to con people out of lots of money. Therefore I have decided to answer your advert for people who`ve been afflicted by game-induced criminal tendencies. As you appear more than willing to believe such nonsense and pay good cash to people like me for such stories I dare say you will be flooded with responses. So let me make my position clear - I`ll say ANYTHING you want to hear - how I raped and murdered wholy ficticious women and children, battered old grannies, burned down public buildings - I`ll say ANYTHING AT ALL as long as the money`s right.

A. Dodger

See also Anne Diamond article from the Daily Mail

And also a reminder of the Daily Mail story with Anne Diamond and a Ban these sick games for the sake of our children story:

According to Ms Diamond some games such as Resident Evil 4 shouldn't be allowed to be sold even to adults. Does her role as a Mum of 4 give her the authority to tell us adults what games we should and should not be allowed to play? No!


1st April   

Wrestling with Inanity...

Male nipples cause offence in Orlando
Link Here

Nipplegate 2008 has broken out in Florida! Wrestlers John Cena, Triple H, Randy Orton and Big Show are all proudly baring their nipple-free chests on a huge banner in downtown Orlando.

City officials met with some WWE suits to figure out how to keep the wrestling poster from looking "too provocative." The outcome - the WWE have airbrushed the nipples into oblivion.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Mayor Buddy Dyer liked the nipple-free poster and added that there was some sort of city ordinance that banned public display of male nipples. But according to the city's press secretary no such ordinance exists.


1st April   

Update: Pissed Off...

Complaints about the Brit Awards not upheld
Link Here

The Brit Awards have been cleared of breaching the Ofcom's broadcasting code. The TV censor received 128 complaints about bad language and alcohol at the music awards ceremony.

The incident which provoked the most complaints saw the host Sharon Osbourne verbally attack the comedian Vic Reeves, whom she accused of being drunk at the televised bash.

As Reeves apparently struggled to announce the award for Best British Album, Osbourne turned to him and said: Get on with it, you pisshead! Shut up, you're pissed, piss off. Piss off you bastard piss off!

At another point, Sheffield band the Arctic Monkeys launched what appeared to be an alcohol-fuelled attack on the Brits school for performing arts, before being cut off.

But watchdog Ofcom said the show, broadcast from 8pm on ITV1 in February, had a "particular reputation" and the swearing would be considered "quite mild". It also said images where alcohol appeared would have been cautionary rather than glamorised.

It said: While we understand this language may have been offensive to some viewers, it was broadcast after the watershed and in a programme with a particular reputation.

We believe regular viewers would have been aware of the likelihood of this kind of material. Further, Ofcom research indicates that the examples of language quoted are generally considered quite mild.

As to the portrayal of the use of alcohol, Ofcom considered this was limited and incidental to the coverage.


1st April   

Race Hate Race...

Australia considers blocking race hate websites
Link Here

Race hate websites could be banned under an internet censorship proposal being considered by Australia's state and federal attorneys-general.

The plan, which is in its early stages, has aroused concern among civil libertarians who fear it could be used to stifle political debate.

The attorneys-general, meeting in Adelaide last week, commissioned a report on the viability of authorising the Australian Communications and Media Authority to combat race-hate sites by ordering internet service providers to take them down.

At present, ACMA polices websites that breach copyright, promote terrorism or publish extreme pornography.

There are racial vilification laws, but the problem with the internet is you can't trace down the people, NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos said. Any material that incites vilification and hatred is of concern. Material on the internet is a particular concern because it provides a cheap and easy means of dissemination to a very wide audience.

The proposal, which would be open for public consultation before any decision was made, followed a referral to the attorneys by state and federal police ministers, Hatzistergos said.

For the ACMA to be able to take down sites, it would require a new definition of the "refused classification" category used by the federal Government's Classification Board to deal with violent pornography and similar material.

But Dale Clapperton, from the online civil liberties group Electronic Frontiers Australia, said a problem with banning such sites was that it inevitably turns them into martyrs and gives more attention to the type of material you are trying to suppress"

The best cure for 'bad' speech is more speech, Clapperton said.


1st April   

Uninviting Hostel...

Hostel 2 butchered for the lurid delight of the New Zealand censor
Link Here

A horror film that censors ruled could not be screened in New Zealand cinemas uncut is finally being released for fans to enjoy at home.

Hostel: Part II has had its notorious 'bloodbath' scene censored for the version of the movie being released on DVD in New Zealand.

Sony Pictures, the film's distributor in New Zealand, fought the decision to have the film censored last year and is still unhappy with the result: What a waste of time the whole process was, says General Manager Andrew Cornwell. It's cost a fortune for us to have our own special DVD version and has meant a delay to the DVD release. Everyone who wanted to has seen the bloodbath scene on YouTube anyway.

After the film was denied a classification by the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC), the decision was appealed at the Film and Literature Board of Review.

The Board of Review disagreed that the entire scene should be removed and with the rationale applied by the OFLC for the censorship. They did, however, rule that scene had to be censored before release in New Zealand, by a vote of 3 - 2.

Hostel: Part II is now believed to be one of the most illegally downloaded films of all time in New Zealand.

The New Zealand release date for the DVD is 30 April.


1st April   

Update: Advertising Responsibility...

Byron recommends research about advertising for video games
Link Here
Full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

The advertising and video game industries are set to work closely with the government to assess the impact of marketing to children following recommendations in The Byron Review.

The report recommends that new research is needed to examine if video games are being advertised responsibly, and also to look at marketing's role in stimulating children's desire to play video games not appropriate for their age.

According to Tanya Byron, an irresponsible video game ad has the potential to be a piece of inappropriate content itself, and can also be part of a process that encourages children to play unsuitable products.

Efforts to ensure the responsible advertising of video games should be seen as one of the key mechanisms to minimise and manage potential risks to children and young people from playing video games that are not appropriate for their age.

Byron suggests the research is completed in time for the government to take stock of the evidence and act accordingly by spring 2009.


1st April   

Update: Hacked Off...

Hackers protest at Indonesia's repressive online porn law
Link Here
Full story: Internet Censorship in Indonesia...Indonesia passes internet porn bill

Hackers took over an Indonesian government website for several hours to protest against a new law banning online pornography, the information ministry said.

The protesters posted a message on the ministry of information website challenging it to prove that the law was not drafted to cover the government's stupidity.

Indonesia's parliament have just passed a law against producing or accessing websites with pornographic or violent content.

The message seemed to be directed at the law that was just passed by parliament, said ministry official Ferdinandus Setu, adding the site was taken down for a period but was now back to normal.

The new law, which has still to be approved by the president, provides for a maximum penalty of six years in jail or a fine of up to 1 billion rupiah ($110,000) for disseminating pornographic material online.

The ministry said it would start distributing software Saturday to allow Internet users to block pornographic sites.

Sylvia Sumarlin, who chairs the Indonesian Internet Providers Association, warned that it would take time to block all pornographic sites. We have recommended that the government form a body to check websites and block unacceptable ones throughout the country. The government accepted our recommendation, but it will take time to implement it and in the meantime the ministry is recommending the use of the filtering software.


1st April   

Update: Sh-ite Politics...

Lebanon unbans Persepolis after accusations of kowtowing to Iran
Link Here
Full story: Persepolis Banned...Iran tries for worldwide ban of movie Persepolis

The Lebanese authorities have rescinded their decision to ban the prize-winning animated film Persepolis following an outcry and accusations that the censorship was aimed at pleasing Iran and local Shiite clerics. We have given the green light for Persepolis , one official from the censorship bureau said on condition of anonymity. She did not elaborate.

General Wafiq Jizzini, head of the Interior Ministry's General Security department - which administers Lebanon's censorship regime - told AFP he had decided to ban the film after Shiite officials expressed concern that its content was offensive to Muslims and to Iran.

His initial decision was widely condemned, with some Lebanese saying it smacked of hypocrisy and showed that some within the government were kowtowing to Iran.

Culture Minister Tarek Mitri said he saw no reason why the film should be banned and that he had urged the ministry to rescind its decision.

Bassam Eid, production manager at Circuit Empire, the company that was to distribute the film, blasted the ban as ridiculous, especially since pirated copies were widely available - including in Beirut's mostly Shiite southern suburbs.

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a leading member of the coalition of parties currently dominating the Lebanese Cabinet, said he was stunned by this cultural faux-pas that allows a security service to evaluate artistic and cultural works.

Update: Poisoned Chalice of Censorship

20th April 2008

General Wafiq Jizzini, head of the general security department at the interior ministry said he wanted to be rid of this poisoned chalice, saying that censorship should come under the ministry of culture, not interior.

However Culture Minister Tareq Mitri wants to abolish what he called an "outdated" practice: A draft law is in the works that would abolish censorship and set up an independent 'committee of wise men' instead .


1st April   

Update: Fitna Censored...

Mohammed cartoon cut from Fitna which is banned in Indonesia
Link Here
Full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world

Geert Wilders, author of Fitna , has said he will edit out a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad shown in the movie.

Wilders said he would remove images of a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad, showing the Islamic prophet wearing a turban with a bomb in it.

Wilders's announcement comes after the Danish Union of Journalists said it would sue the MP for copyright infringement. The picture's author, Kurt Westergaard, said he was not contacted with a request for permission to use the picture: I don't want my drawing to be used in something that I don't know anything about. Had Mr Wilders contacted me, we could have talked together and I could have found out what he wanted with the drawing.

Wilders's office said the picture would be replaced with another cartoon of the prophet Muhammad. Additional, minor edits will also be made, said Wilders's representatives.

Meanwhile, UK website, which removed Fitna from its website on Friday after staff received death threats, reinstated it two days later. We will not be pressured into censoring material which is legal and within our rules, reads a statement heading the video.

We apologise for the removal and the delay in getting it back, but when you run a website you don't consider that some people would be insecure enough to threaten our lives simply because they do not like the content of a video we neither produced nor endorsed but merely hosted, it added.

Even later the video on LiveLeak has been removed again for the copyright reason mentioned above. There is a note that an edited version will appear soon.

See full article from the BBC

Indonesia has banned Fitna. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch right-wing Freedom Party (PVV), would also be barred from the archipelago. Yudhoyono said world leaders had a moral responsibility to prevent the making of such films.

See full article from the BBC

Dozens of Indonesians have demonstrated outside the Dutch embassy in Jakarta over Fitna.

Some protesters hurled eggs and plastic water bottles at the embassy as riot police formed a wall to keep them away. The demonstrators from the Muslim group Islamic Defenders Front, held placards saying Geert Wilders is a Christian terrorist , Kill Geert Wilders and Holland go to hell!

Hundreds of Indonesian school students also demonstrated against the film in central Java on Sunday.

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