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25th December   

Landmines for the Soul...

German nutters produce the Cologne Declaration against 'killer games'
Link Here

A coalition of German nutters has published an anti-game violence position paper that is being referred to as the Cologne Declaration.

The declaration was issued in response to the German Culture Council's recent recognition of video games as cultural assets.

The Cologne Declaration argues that violent games are harmful to children as well as to the building of a peaceful society.

Several prominent German social scientists have signed on to the edict, which specifically refers to Counter-strike, DOOM 3, Crysis, Call of Duty 4 and Grand Theft Auto IV as killer games and landmines for the soul.

The document revives the notion that shooting games were developed by the U.S. military in order to condition recruits to kill and asserts that violent games further the aims of the military-industrial-media complex. Researchers who have defended games are labelled as collaborators and accomplices of the video game industry by the declaration, which calls for the government to end state support for game development and ban violent games. The document concludes with:


21st December   

France Dogged by Censors...

Police remove Russian art photos of naked man with animals
Link Here

An eccentric Russian performance artist who likes pretending to be a dog and biting members of the public has complained of censorship in France after police removed from a prestigious art fair in Paris several photographs of him cavorting with animals.

Police confiscated 30 photographs by Oleg Kulik. The pictures, taken in the late 1990s, show Kulik naked on all fours. In some of them he appears to simulate sex with animals.

Owners of XL, the Moscow art gallery, who were attending the international art fair, were questioned about the collection for several hours by police and complained of being handcuffed.

Martin Bethenod, head of the fair, denied the works were offensive. The art world had been deeply shocked by the raid, he said.

Photographs of Kulik in his kennel, in a pigsty and surrounded by cattle had previously been exhibited in France without any problem, he said, adding that the photographs had an unquestionable artistic status and that Kulik's art is represented in French national collections. The gallery, he noted, had put up a warning that some people might find the images distasteful.


19th December   

Update: Fit for Lords...

Fitna to be screened at the House of Lords
Link Here
Full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world

The UK's House of Lords will show Geert Willders' controversial Islam film Fitna . So says Wilders following the European Parliament's refusal to show the short film.

The European Parliament rejected a request by the UK MEP Gerard Batten of the anti-European Independent Party to allow Fitna to be shown in Strasbourg to MEPs and journalists. Wilders called the ban "censorship" and compared the European Parliament to Saudi Arabia.

Wilders has recently shown Fitna at meetings in Jerusalem and New York. He said the film will also be on view in the House of Lords in January.

Christian democratic MEP Maria Martens was pleased by the decision not to show Fitna in the EP. The film has nothing to do with freedom of expression. This freedom does not give the right to offend.

Conservative MEP Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert on the other hand called the banning of Fitna unbelievably stupid because the film does fall within the boundaries of the law and Wilders has now got more publicity and attention than if he had been able to show his film.


18th December   

Update: Not Fit for Euro Parliament...

Fitna banned from European Parliament
Link Here
Full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world

A press conference showing of Geert Wilders' anti-Islam/anti-immigration film Fitna has been cancelled by order of European party leaders.

UKIP MEP Gerard Batten had invited Wilders to the parliament to show the film and give a talk. Now he will just give a talk.


16th December   

Dangerous Cartoons...

European Court upholds conviction resulting from 9/11 newspaper cartoon
Link Here

The European Court of Human Rights held that the publication of a cartoon representing the attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, with a caption which parodied the advertising slogan of a famous brand: We have all dreamt of it… Hamas did it, provoked a certain public reaction, capable of stirring up violence and demonstrating a plausible impact on public order in a politically sensitive region, namely the Basque Country.

Therefore the conviction did not violate Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of the applicant's conviction for complicity in condoning terrorism.

The drawing was published in the Basque weekly newspaper Ekaitza on 13 September, 2001, two days after the attacks of September 11.

Following publication of the drawing, the Bayonne public prosecutor brought proceedings against the cartoonist Denis Leroy and the newspaper's publishing director on charges of complicity in condoning terrorism and condoning terrorism.

In January 2002 the court convicted them of these charges and ordered them to pay a fine of EUR 1,500 each, to publish the judgment at their own expense in Ekaitza and two other newspapers and to pay costs.

Denis Leroy then appealed to the European Court.

Summary of the judgment

The Court considered that the applicant's conviction amounted to an interference with the exercise of his right to freedom of expression. This interference was prescribed by French law and pursued several legitimate aims, having regard to the sensitive nature of the fight against terrorism, namely the maintenance of public safely and the prevention of disorder and crime. It remained to be determined whether this interference was necessary in a democratic society.

The applicant complained that the French courts had denied his real intention, which was governed by political and activist expression, namely that of communicating his anti-Americanism through a satirical image and illustrating the decline of American imperialism. The Court, however, considered that the drawing was not limited to criticism of American imperialism, but supported and glorified the latter's violent destruction. In this regard, the Court based its finding on the caption which accompanied the drawing, and noted that the applicant had expressed his moral support for those whom he presumed to be the perpetrators of the attacks of 11 September 2001. Through his choice of language, the applicant commented approvingly on the violence perpetrated against thousands of civilians and diminished the dignity of the victims.

Although the domestic courts had not taken the applicant's intentions into account, they had examined whether the context of the case and the public interest justified the possible use of a measure of provocation or exaggeration. In this respect, it had to be recognised that the drawing had assumed a special significance in the circumstances of the case, as the applicant must have realised. He submitted his drawing on the day of the attacks and it was published on 13 September, with no precautions on his part as to the language used. In the Court's opinion, this factor - the date of publication - was such as to increase the applicant's responsibility in his account of, and even support for, a tragic event, whether considered from an artistic or a journalistic perspective. In addition, the impact of such a message in a politically sensitive region, namely the Basque Country, was not to be overlooked; the weekly newspaper's limited circulation notwithstanding, the Court noted that the drawing's publication had provoked a certain public reaction, capable of stirring up violence and demonstrating a plausible impact on public order in the region.

Consequently, the Court considered that the grounds put forward by the domestic courts in convicting the applicant had been “relevant and sufficient”.

In conclusion, having regard to the modest nature of the fine imposed on the applicant and the context in which the impugned drawing had been published, the Court found that the measure imposed on the applicant had not been disproportionate to the legitimate aim pursued. Accordingly, there had not been a violation of Article 10.


14th December   

Update: Jobs for the Girls...

Recent developments in Irish film censorship
Link Here

I decided to fire off some more questions to the Southern Irish State Film Censor, John Kelleher.

Here are a few news articles covering some of the film censorship developments over recent times.

This one is particularly interesting, and depressing. At least the censors hired by the BBFC aren't selected on a party political-jobs for the boys basis.

I said to the Irish Censor, about a year ago, that the assistant censors were largely female, and married (or had children) or were older, and that all three of these factors had been shown to give a predisposition towards censorship.

He had the nerve to question my basis for saying that!

5 minutes spent reading the public research on either the BBFC or Ofcom websites would convince anybody of that, quite apart from it being plainly obvious to anyone who has talked about these issues to these different groups or just has a grasp of real life.

Of course I was on the wrong tack, what I didn't know back then was that the assistant censors were largely picked for their present or past membership of the Fianna Fáil political party!

In addition, despite the appeal by Shauna's Adult shop over Anabolic Initiations No.5 to the Supreme Court still not having been resolved, the police here are still seizing adult dvds on the basis that they don't have a certificate from IFCO which IFCO refuses to grant, of course.

This article says that it's IFCO sending them in.

But the censor told me that they were just called in by the police to adjudge whether a seized video was something that would be classifiable or not, ie just an expert witness which is also the BBFC official line.

Other articles:

There is now a new act, the catchily named Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2008 . It is available online as a pdf

The sections to do with censorship are sections 9 and 10.

It amends the law on cinema certification and dvd certification, reaffirming as it does so, a ban on a cinema certificate if the film contains blasphemy , something I raised with the censor as they clearly just copied the phrases used in the Censorship of Films 1923 Act.

The (Irish) Video Recordings Act 1989 in contrast talks about stirring up religious hatred which isn't quite as bad, or out of date as a concept if still objectionable on free expression grounds.

This new law was reported in the press:

I have received a reply from the censor but I want to follow up some of his answers so I'll send you more when I have it.


13th December   

Broken TV Censorship...

Italians unimpressed by TV's cutting of key scenes in Brokeback Mountain
Link Here

Italian politicians, commentators, and gay rights groups are taking Italian state television to task for airing the 2005 film Brokeback Mountain without two scenes depicting sexual encounters between its male lead characters, reports the Associated Press.

The Oscar-winning film tells the story of two cowboys who fall in love and have a years-long secret affair. Protesters say that the unaired scenes — in which the two lead characters, played by Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger, kiss and have passionate sex in a tent — are central to the film's plot and would never have been cut from the film if they involved heterosexual characters.

RAI TV said in a statement that the cut version of the film, provided by the distributor to be shown during prime time, had been aired by mistake. No one had checked for an uncut version for the late-night airing in question, it said.

But some protesters said that the scenes should have stayed in no matter when the film was shown.

I don't believe it was an oversight, I believe it was preventive censorship, said gay rights advocate and former lawmaker Vladimir Luxuria, adding that cutting the key scenes was like showing the Mona Lisa without its head.

It is grotesque that RAI censored scenes that have the same content as those seen in most prime-time movies,
conservative lawmaker Benedetto Della Vedova was quoted as saying by the Corriere della Sera newspaper. Luigi Vimercati, a center-left lawmaker, told the paper he would take up the issue in parliament.


13th December   

Update: Politically Safer...

EU starts a Safer Internet Programme on 1 January 2009
Link Here

JThe EU will have a new Safer Internet Programme as of 1 January 2009.

Following the overwhelmingly positive vote on 23 October in which the European Parliament expressed its support for the new Safer Internet Programme, the Council of Ministers has adopted the new Programme. The €55 million  programme will cover the period 2009-2013.

A new Eurobarometer survey shows that 60% of European parents are worried that their child might become a victim of online grooming and 54% that their children could be bullied online.

The proposed new programme will co-fund projects to:

  • Increase public awareness: empower young people, their parents and teachers to make responsible choices online by advising them on relevant precautions to take.
  • Provide the public with a network of contact points that could be reached either via a website or a phone number, for reporting illegal and harmful content and conduct, in particular on child sexual abuse material, grooming and cyber bullying.
  • Foster self-regulatory initiatives in this field and involve children in creating a safer online environment.
  • Establish a knowledge base on new trends in the use of online technologies and their consequences for children's lives by bringing together at European level technical, psychological and sociological expertise.

The € 55 million budget for the new Safer Internet Programme will be distributed as follows: 48% should serve to raise public awareness, 34% to fight against illegal content and tackle harmful conduct online, 10% to promote a safer online environment and 8% to establish a knowledge base.


4th December   

Banner Protest...

Berlusconi to steer G8 nations into regulating the internet
Link Here
Italian president and media baron Silvio Berlusconi has said that he would use his country's imminent presidency of the G8 group to push for an international agreement to regulate the internet.

Italy's G8 presidency begins on January 1. The holder country is responsible for organising and hosting the G8's meetings and setting the agenda.

Berlusconi didn't explain what he meant by regulate the internet , but the mere mention of it has prompted dismay among Italian commentators. Berlusconi owns swathes of the Italian mass media.

The left-wing newspaper L'Unita wrote: You can not say that it is not a disturbing proclamation, given that the only countries in the world where there are filters or restrictions against internet are countries ruled by dictatorial regimes: those between China, Iran, Cuba, Saudi Arabia.

La Stampa reports Italian bloggers are planning to protest against any move by the president to tighten government control over the web tomorrow. They plan to display anti-Berlusconi banners on their websites.

Any G8 move next year to regulate the internet led by Berlusconi is likely to attract criticism. He has often been accused of using his power to try to silence dissent. He lost a long-running libel battle against The Economist earlier this year after it said he was not fit to run Italy and was this week suing American critic Andrew Stille for defamation*.


1st December   

Hard Graft...

Irish politicians given a cushy number of censoring films
Link Here

Ten politically appointed censors were each paid an average of €30,000 a year for watching films.

The Assistant Classifiers earned a total of €1.2m in pay and expenses over the last four years for travelling to Dublin to watch movies and deciding whether or not they should be banned, or for what age group they are suitable.

Assistant film classifiers earn €182 a day plus travel and subsistence for their work of classifying videos, said the Fine Gael justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan.

Of the 10, many of whom have no apparent qualifications in the area of film, a number have been Assistant Classifiers for 15 years.

Among them is former Fianna Fail Dail candidate Olga Bennett, the Fianna Fail Meath activist Tony Stapleton, former Kildare Fianna Fail county councillor PJ Sheridan and the former Fianna Fail TD Marian McGennis. Former Fianna Fail senator Tom Fitzgerald, who was a close associate of Charles Haughey, has been in the job for the last six years. A more recently appointee is Green activist Elizabeth Davidson.

In this new age of quango busting, where departments were supposed to look forensically through their books, it was amazing this convenient retirement home, where ex Fianna Fail politicians and one Green activist get paid to spend the day watching films, had escaped unscathed, said Flanagan: The minister should give this particular perk an X-rating and abolish it.


30th November   

Hardly Stimulating the Economy...

Italy resurrects it's 25% porn tax idea
Link Here

The Government of Italy, headed by President Silvio Berlusconi decided to apply a special tax on materials and artistic expressions related to pornography.

The measure, approved recently by the Council of Ministers to fight the ongoing global financial crisis, establishes a tax of 25% that will be applied to pornographic newspapers and magazines, including DVDs and associated products.

The Italian Government left no room for doubt as the tax covers all literary, theatrical, cinematographic, audiovisual and multimedia works, including those made and reproduced with computer or tele-matic support, in which there are sexually explicit images or scenes ... by adults, Section 31 of the Article says.

The porn tax was initially proposed in 2002 by Vittorio Emanuele Falsita, the then Parliamentary Representative of the Italian political party Forza Italia (Italian Force) - founded by Berlusconi in 1994 -, but was never applied.

The Government has established what it considers pornography but the Executive will still have to approve a decree within two months in which all the details will be given and the different categories established, including what is sexually explicit and what is not, Italian media said.


30th November   

Chilling Laws...

Counter terrorism laws counter media freedom
Link Here

Privacy International have a new report, Speaking of Terror: A survey of the effects of counter-terrorism legislation on freedom of the media in Europe.

It finds:

International bodies including the Council of Europe (CoE) and the European Union (EU) have adopted many international agreements that either ignore or only pay scant attention to fundamental human rights and the importance of a free media. Their agendas are often driven by those countries that are most aggressive in adopting expansive counter-terrorism laws including the UK, US and Russia. The role of European institutions such as the EU and the CoE have resulted in greater adoption and harmonization of these laws than most other regions.

New laws on prohibiting speech that is considered extremist or supporting of terrorism have been a particular problem. These laws are used in many jurisdictions to suppress political and controversial speech. Newspapers have been closed and journalists arrested. Web sites are often taken down or blocked.

State secret and national security laws are regularly being used against journalists and their sources even as access to information laws are widely accepted and adopted across the CoE. There are also growing restrictions imposed on photographers not based in law.

Protection of journalists' sources are often undermined by governments seeking to identify officials who provide information even though they are widely recognized both in national laws and in decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. Newsrooms are often searched.

New anti-terrorism laws are giving authorities wide powers to conduct surveillance. Other new laws impose technical and administrative requirements on the ability to intercept communications and keeping information. Of particular concern are data retention laws which require the routine surveillance of all mobile and Internet users that can be used to easily identify sources and journalists' investigations.


28th November   

Update: Nutters vs Games...

German nutters and politicians discuss violent computer games
Link Here
Full story: Games Censorship in Germany...German politicians target video games

German nutters and politicians have just held a conference on violent computer games:

Douglas Gentile was, by far, the most moderate of the panel. He called to get rid of the simplistic idea that video games are either good or bad. And although he criticized ESRB, he opposed to a ban of the most violent games, asking for more media literacy instead.

Werner Hopf, who presented a longitudinal study claiming that violent video games is the most important risk factor in violent criminality rejected this idea, claiming that it was a trick of video game industry. Not only did he call for a ban of extremely violent computer games, but he also called for the suppression of USK (German rating systems) because according to him it's too close to the industry. He asked for its replacement by a more independent rating organization.

[Hopf's study found that (1) playing violent electronic games is the strongest risk factor of violent criminality and (2) both media-stimulated and real experiences of aggressive emotions associated with the motive of revenge are core risk factors of violence in school and violent criminality. The results of our study show that the more frequently children view horror and violence films during childhood and the more frequently they play violent electronic games at the beginning of adolescence the higher will these students' violence and delinquency be at the age of 14].

USK was also criticized by researchers from the KFN, the Criminology Institute lead by Christian Pfeiffer, one of the most vocal German opponents against killer games . Regine Pfeiffer, Christian's sister, even attacked Electronic Arts violently, calling it a pig company.
[According to the report, she was frustrated in her efforts to sue EA over a violent game (Dead Space?) because the publisher is not headquartered in Germany].
Finally, journalist Rainer Fromm reiterated his objections against sadistic and militaristic games. But he also said that he considered video games per se as a great hobby, even telling that he plays them regularly as well as his children. He also reiterated his very positive opinion of eSports.

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Hermann was happy about the success of this conference, and it confirmed him in his view that some violent games such as GTA 4 or The Godfather : Don Edition must be banned...


27th November   

Navel Gazing...

Sex workers speak against Nordic nutters who want remove prostitution from MEP's hotels
Link Here

A new morality restriction being put up for proposal by the European Parliament would forbid any MEP from staying at a hotel that maintains contacts with prostitutes.

The Sex Workers Interest Organisation (SIO) in Denmark has condemned the move by the EU, saying that it stigmatizes prostitutes.

The SIO has called on all European sex workers to boycott any politician who supports the policy at next year's European Parliament elections.

One sex worker named Sue told Politiken: The hotels are where we work. We can't do it in backyards or in cars. The proposal will force many out into the streets.

Soren Sondergaard of the People's Movement Against the EU defended his position by saying that his proposal is neither for nor against prostitution ...BUT... that he is primarily concerned about protecting the women. If you're just a little bit internationally founded and don't just sit around fiddling with your navel, you'd know that lots of women are kept as slaves and have no free choice in what they do. If the Sex Workers Organisation can't see that, they're a really bad union, Politiken quoted the left-wing Sondergaard as saying.


21st November   

Update: Pegging On...

PEGI to roll out new rating symbols in Europe next spring
Link Here
Full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

The new traffic light rating system from PEGI is to be introduced into mainland Europe this spring.

Age rating symbols are yet to be finalised, but the current imagery that includes a spider, fist and syringe, is to be expanded on to include descriptive text. This follows suggestions from the Byron report that the symbols were previously too confusing for consumers.

When settled upon, age ratings will be coloured red, orange and green, rather than the current black and white. However, they are currently being reworked from the first design to avoid copyright issues with the UK's BBFC colour-coded ratings.

PEGI has agreed those changes and they will be implemented as part of the PEGI system in the new year, probably in the spring by the time the information has been transmitted to all publishers and incorporated as part of the approvals process for the format holders, said Michael Rawlinson, managing director of ELSPA.

It's still unclear if the traffic light system will be used in the UK as the government is currently looking through information submitted following the Byron review before it decides on the way games should be rated.

The introduction of traffic light colours and changes to the descriptors have been approved, they are now being worked through with lawyers to ensure they do not infringe any existing trademarks and can be adopted smoothly.


19th November   

No Easy Solutions Verified...

European Commission publishes reports on classification and age verified
Link Here

The European Commission have reported on the results of a public consultation on Age verification, Cross media rating and classification and Online social networking:


The detailed responses received to these questions are indicative of the seriousness with which respondents view the issue of the safety of minors using social networking services. The areas of consensus, as set out in the points 1-5 of the introduction to this summary document, cover many of the most important policy aspects of social networking:

  • Bullying and other threats which young users inflict upon each other may be more likely to arise than threats from adults.
  • Much is known about potential risks, but more research on the nature and extent of harm actually experienced by minors online is needed.
  • Parental involvement in their children's online activity is important, but principles of privacy and trust should dictate how parents help children to stay safe.
  • Education and awareness are the most important factors in enabling minors to keep themselves safe.
  • Industry self-regulation is the preferred approach for service providers to meet public expectations with regard to the safety of minors. Legislation should not place burdens on service providers which prevent them from providing minors with all the benefits of social networking. However, available safety measures vary greatly from one provider to another and mandatory minimum levels of provision may need to be established.

They have also published an expert report on age verification solutions and cross media rating and classification, including the results of the public consultation on these topics.


A significant number of stakeholders gave their input to the online consultation and provided valuable input at the Safer Internet Forum on the issues of pan-European Cross Media Rating and Classification and Age Verification Solutions.

Industry and consumer organisations do not believe that a pan-European Cross Media Rating and Classification policy is either feasible, or instrumental for the protection of minors from harmful content for traditional offline media distribution platforms. Users are accustomed to existing national solutions and efforts to introduce a new system will only create confusion and not the clarity sought after by the approach.

PEGI, the cross border solution for games has been a success, even if improvements may still be achievable. There are also national and industry driven initiatives for rating and labelling of web pages and video on demand that are promising, including machine readable techniques. Some Member States are also considering implementing Cross Media Solutions based on the model of Kijkwijzer.

The Commission is, however, not pursuing a top down approach, but will continue to act as a facilitator and encourage the uptake of solutions for the protection of minors within the EU.

A number of Age Verification Solutions are available for the protection of minors within the EU, some of which were presented at the Safer Internet Forum. In some Member States there are legal requirements for their use. There is an overall consensus, however, that existing technologies are not sufficiently effective and should not be used to replace educational efforts, parental control and other means of protecting minors online. Despite the shortcomings, there is a certain market acceptance for their use. Concerns were also raised about the false sense of security that might be provided and the adverse effects on safety this might have. Privacy and data protection were also raised as important issues. Additional research is needed, and a standard for Age Verification can be pursued.


18th November   

The Wikipedia Stasi...

German politician censors local wikipedia
Link Here

A far-left German politician has been forced to withdraw an injunction against online encyclopedia Wikipedia after it revealed details of his Stasi past.

Former secret service bodyguard Lutz Heilmann faced a storm of criticism and ridicule after taking legal action forcing the website to remove the information

Donations to the German Wikipedia soared five fold to around 16,000 euros a day, fuelled by angry users. The response has been overwhelming, said Mathias Schindler, a spokesman for Wikimedia, a non-profit group that supports Wikipedia's German-language version. It's reassuring that an attempt at censorship triggers such a huge reaction from the public.

Heilmann was reportedly upset that Wikipedia stated he had not finished his university degree, had worked for an pornography company and had been a bodyguard for the Stasi secret police until it was disbanded after the communist regime's collapse in 1989.

While the first two claims were untrue, the third was a case of hairsplitting, Schindler said.  Heilmann quit the Stasi several days before it was disbanded, he said.

These details have been changed but it was the heavy handedness of Heilmann's response that sparked anger.

The portal – the doorway to German-language Wikipedia entries – resumed service at lunchtime yesterday after Heilmann dropped his injunction and offered his sincere regret. In no way did I intend censorship, he said.

He is reportedly pursuing legal action against three individuals who he claims contributed to the entry.


18th November   

Update: Taking Offence at Insulting Football Songs...

Sectarian football song condemned in the European Parliament
Link Here
Full story: Football Sectarianism...Sectarian Rangers football song wind up

THE notorious Famine Song sung by Rangers fans was condemned on the floor of the European Parliament last night.

Irish MEP Eoin Ryan described the chant aimed at Celtic supporters as despicable, and has written to all Scotland's MEP's, seeking their support to end the sectarian behaviour.

The Famine Song

I often wonder where they would have been
If we hadn't have taken them in
Fed them and washed them
Thousands in Glasgow alone
From Ireland they came
Brought us nothing but trouble and shame
Well the famine is over
Why don't they go home?
Now Athenry Mike was a thief
And Large John he was fully briefed
And that wee traitor from Castlemilk
Turned his back on his own
They've all their Papists in Rome
They have U2 and Bono
Well the famine is over
Why don't they go home?
Now they raped and fondled their kids
That's what those perverts from the dark side did
And they swept it under the carpet
And Large John he hid
Their evils seeds have been sown
Cause they're not of our own
Well the famine is over
Why don't you go home?
Now Timmy don't take it from me
Cause if you know your history
You've persecuted thousands of people
In Ireland alone
You turned on the lights
Fuelled U boats by night
That's how you repay us
It's time to go home.


16th November   

Update: Face/Off...

Facebook removes pages inciting violence against gypsies
Link Here

Facebook has removed several pages from its site said to have been used by Italian neo-Nazis to incite violence after European politicians accused the Internet social networking site of allowing a platform to racists.

Seven different group pages had been created on the site with titles advocating violence against gypsies.

The existence of these groups is repulsive, said Martin Schulz, Socialist leader in the European Parliament which lodged a complaint with the California-based company.

Facebook said it had removed the pages because they violated its terms of use: Facebook supports the free flow of information, and groups provide a forum for discussing important issues. However, Facebook will remove any groups which are violent or threatening .

Italy's Roma, or gypsy, communities have been subjected to several attacks in recent months while Italy's media has focused attention on violent crimes committed by gypsies. The government has dismantled illegal shantytowns where many Roma live.


13th November   

Petting with Pets...

Sweden debates bestiality
Link Here

The unmasking this week of an animal sex network by the Stockholm newspaper Expressen has  highlighted the issue of bestiality.

Members of parliament are urging a tightening of the laws (bestiality was decriminalised along with homosexuality in 1944) but the government is resisting the pressure.

Should a human be allowed to affectionately stroke the teats of a female dog? asked Eskil Erlandsson, the Agriculture minister, explaining the complexities of an anti-bestiality law: or does that count as the sexual abuse of an animal? The minister, famed for his outspoken manner, later left many Swedes aghast when he gave an even more explicit example.

One, the Swedish Animal Welfare Agency, registered 115 cases of bestiality between 2000 and 2005. This is regarded however as the tip of the iceberg and some published projections suggest that between 200 and 300 dogs and cats a year are being sexually assaulted.

The Expressen story has stoked up the debate even more. It infiltrated a reporters into a group run by the organiser of a flourishing internet animal sex forum. He owns a farm with dogs and horses and told the newspaper that he had regular sex with his female dog but claimed the animal initiated the act. This is a sufficient defence under current Swedish laws to prevent prosecution under charges of animal cruelty.

The network of around 30 people, mainly men, organise regular rendezvous with different farmyard animals and dogs. The events are often filmed for later use in pornographic films.


11th November   

Victims of Intimidation...

Call for protected freedom of speech for muslim reformers
Link Here

Governments across Europe must do more to safeguard freedom of speech for Muslim reformers who face threats from extremists, a think tank has warned.

The UK-based Centre for Social Cohesion highlighted the cases of 27 writers, including Sir Salman Rushdie, activists, politicians and artists.

The centre said they had suffered violence and intimidation for criticising Islam or seeking reform.

It said governments had a duty to ensure free speech for all citizens.

The report - Victims of Intimidation: Freedom of Speech within Europe's Muslim Communities - said official failure to offer victims the protection they needed had left "significant numbers" of Muslims unable to express themselves.

It said this also created the impression that more Muslims were opposed to free speech than was actually the case.

The centre called for European governments to promote greater religious and social harmony by demonstrating that they see Muslims and those of Muslim background as complete citizens, neither restricted in their freedoms nor unduly permitted to issue threats against others.

Douglas Murray, director of the Centre for Social Cohesion and co-author of the report, said Muslims found it increasingly difficult to criticise elements of their faith or culture without fear of reprisal.

In a free society, no belief or set of values should remain beyond open criticism. To grant a belief system amnesty from discussion concedes that intimidation and violence can succeed.

Unless Muslims are allowed to discuss their religion without fear of attack there can be no chance of reform or genuine freedom of conscience within Islam.


10th November   

Humourless in Belgium...

Magazine forced to censor mock up of police chief having sex with secretary
Link Here

Reporters Without Borders condemns a Brussels court ruling on 4 November ordering the weekly Humo to immediately withdraw all copies of its latest issue from sale on penalty of paying a fine of 250 euros for each copy left on sale.

The summary judgment was issued in response to an action brought by the federal police chief about a satirical photo-montage showing his head, and that of his secretary, super-imposed on naked bodies.

After the newspaper filed an appeal, the court put a ceiling of 25,000 euros on the fine.

We deplore the court's ruling and the disproportionate nature of the legal procedure used,” Reporters Without Borders said: Satire is by definition an inalienable part of freedom of expression. Morality and good taste cannot under any circumstances justify media censorship in a country that belongs to the European Union.

The satirical section of Humo 's 4 November issue, called the Het Gat van de wereld (Backside of the world), had photomontages of federal police chief Fernand Koekelberg frolicking naked with his secretary, Sylvie Ricour, who had been suspended after several newspapers suggested there was something irregular about the way she got the job - only to be reinstated on the orders of the Council of State.

Humo put a new version of the issue on sale today with a black strip across the cover page and the words Humo censored. Page 175 with the photomontages was kept, only now the photos were covered with a black strip and the word Censored.


10th November   

Googling For Prosecution...

Italy to take Google employees to court over YouTube bullying video
Link Here

Google is awaiting confirmation that four employees will face charges in Italy for failing to stop the publishing of a video of a disabled teenager being bullied.

The employees will face charges of defamation and failure to exercise control over personal data, with court proceedings to start Feb. 3 in Milan.

Prosecutors appear concerned that the video also highlighted the boy's disability, which could run afoul of data protection rules, said Marco Pancini, Google's European public policy counsel.

The three-minute video in question depicts four youths harassing a boy with Down's Syndrome and eventually hitting him in the head with a pack of tissues.

It was posted in September 2006 on Google Video, one of the company's video upload sites. Google removed the video within a day after it received a complaint from the Italian Interior Ministry, which has a department that investigates Internet-related crime. By that time, the video garnered around 12,000 hits.

Google maintains charges against the employees are unwarranted, Pancini said. Europe's E-commerce Directive exempts service providers from prescreening content before it is publicly posted, he said. Also, the video was technically uploaded to a Google server in the US, not in Italy, Pancini said.


10th November   

Long Running Censorship Saga...

Little House on the Prairie 18 rated in Finland
Link Here

Finland has just rated the DVD release of the children's television series, Little House on the Prairie , as suitable only for adult viewing.

In an attempt to save money, the heads at Universal Pictures decided not to submit the series to the censors for inspection.

Turns out that Finnish authorities charge around $2.57 per minute to assess the age limit on films and television series.

The distributors who decide not to pay the fee can only sell their flicks with the sticker Banned for under-18s.

Matti Paloheimo, Director at the Finnish Board of Film Classification, said Long series can get quite expensive to check, and some use this exemption in the law to their advantage. Such unchecked material should not be shown to children publicly.


7th November   

An Indirect Insult to Dutch Freedom...

Insulting religion to carry a 1 year jail sentence
Link Here

It appears we were a little hasty in celebrating the demise of the Dutch blasphemy laws.

Danish journalist Flemming Rose has contacted MWW, relating the concerns of a Dutch colleague about this supposed repeal. All is not as it seems.

The intention is to introduce the concept of indirect insult and expand an existing law which protects people on the basis of race, age, disability, and sexual orientation to include protection on the basis of religion or conviction . This means that remarks directed at Islam, Christianity, Buddism or - depending on your interpretation of conviction - even homeopathy and astrology, could be interpreted as indirect insults to people, and prosecuted as such.

According to a commenter on the original story, this law carries a maximum sentence of 12 months, whereas the original defunct blasphemy law carried a maximum 3 month sentence.

Writes Rose:

This spring the Dutch minister of justice Hirsch Ballin wrote a note to parliament asking them to consider stiffening blasphemy laws. In the aftermath of the scandal surrounding the arrest of Gregorius Nekschot parliament refused to go along, and this proposal is the compromise that the government came up with.


6th November   

Update: Barely Legal...

Constitutional challenge to impossibly vague German law
Link Here

Hustler Europe has filed a constitutional complaint against a newly enacted section of German law that criminalizes sales and distribution of content depicting adult actors who show a youthful appearance.

The new law, section 184c of the German criminal code, went in effect November 5. It immediately affects the Barely Legal series produced by Larry Flynt Publications' company in Europe.

In the complaint filed with the Federal Constitutional Court, Hustler Europe alleges the law violates constitutionally protected rights to freedoms of opinion, occupation and property. It is asking the court to suspend the provision until it reaches a final decision.

The Federal Constitutional Court will have to check whether §184c Criminal Code violates the constitutionally guaranteed freedom rights, Marko Dörre, Hustler Europe's attorney, said. We demand clear regulations for more legal certainty.

Hustler Europe Managing Director Helen Clyne told XBIZ it was ultimately about more than the affect on Barely Legal , a popular series both in the U.S. and in Europe.

Until the court rules, Hustler Europe is barred from distributing Barely Legal , Not the Brady XXX series and This Ain't the Munsters XXX.


5th November   

Offending Africa...

Irish press council ruling is limiting freedom of speech
Link Here

Freedom of speech is being limited by the Irish Press Council and its Press Ombudsman.

Some editors are worried by a decision of the Press Council relating to Africa. They believe these decisions may make it harder for writers to say what they feel, or for the media to report on stories that matter to the public.

Columnist Kevin Myers has just been rapped across the knuckles by the Press Council for his offensive opinions on Africa. It has never been a crime simply to cause grave offence, nor can you sue if offended by someone's words unless you are actually libelled.

Kevin Myers is a controversialist who caused consternation in last July's Irish Independent, he claimed that Africa is giving nothing to anyone ... apart from Aids.

The Press Council received dozens of complaints about that Myers article.

Principle 8 of the Code of Practice of the Press Council, as agreed with media, states: Newspapers and periodicals shall not publish material intended or likely to cause grave offence or stir up hatred against an individual or group on the basis of race, religion, nationality, colour, ethnic origin, membership of the travelling community, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, illness, or age.

The Press Council found against Myers because he used the failings of some to stigmatise whole societies, employing a level of generalisation that was distorting and seriously insulting to Africans as a whole. His article was likely to cause grave offence to people throughout sub-Saharan Africa and to the many Africans in particular who are now resident in Ireland.

Which is no doubt true. But the Press Council specifically rejected complaints that Myers was anything more than offensive. It did not find reason to conclude that the article was likely to stir up hatred or that there was any intention of doing so.

So it is now clear that Principle 8 of the Press Council code is actually two principles. The first is simply that Newspapers and periodicals shall not publish material intended or likely to cause grave offence, to anyone! The rest of Principle 8, including its long list of possible victims, relates only to cases where someone has stirred up hatred.

Where is the balance between causing offence and suppressing freedom of speech? Many readers welcome some offensive comments about the powerful or rich, or about irritable self-righteous pressure groups. What is freedom of speech if it is not the freedom to say on occasion things that most people in society find offensive?


2nd November   

Backward Censors...

Swedish number plate censors and oral sex
Link Here

Officials with Sweden's Road Administration (Vägverket) have denied a driver's request for a licence place with what at first glance appears to be a completely innocent combination of characters.

Recently, the agency received a request from an individual who wanted a licence plate reading X32IARO. Despite no obviously offensive reference in the desired combination, Vägverket nonetheless rejected the application.

When read in reverse, as it would be seen through a rear-view mirror, X32IARO suddenly appears nearly as ORALSEX.

The guiding principle is that a licence plate shouldn't be offensive, regardless of whether it's read forwards or backwards.


1st November   

Netherlands Sees the Light...

Dutch Justice minister recommends to repeal blasphemy law
Link Here

Justice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin (Christian Democrats) has finally given into pressure and is to recommend that blasphemy is no longer a criminal offence.

Although the law, which was brought in to protect Christians from being insulted is almost defunct, in the past the minister has believed it to be useful to protect Muslims from Islam-bashing, says Friday's Volkskrant.

The law was last used in 1968 against the writer Gerard Reve. He was found not guilty.

Hirsch Ballin had suggested expanding the current legislation to cover all religions but MPs were against the move, arguing it would conflict with freedom of speech, the Volkskrant says.


1st November   

Update: Formula Voodoo...

Website wishing misfortune on Hamilton under fire
Link Here

The Foreign Secretary was urged to make a formal protest to the Spanish government over online racist abuse of Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton.

The FIA, the sport's world governing body, and McLaren, Hamilton's F1 team, have condemned a voodoo-style website in Spain where hundreds of abusive messages, many of which refer to Hamilton's colour, have been posted.

Visitors to the site – about 20,000 to date – are encouraged to drop imaginary nails, pins or porcupines on a mock-up of the Interlagos circuit, in Sao Paulo.

Hamilton will take to the circuit on Sunday for the Brazilian Grand Prix, needing only to finish in the top five to become the youngest champion in Formula One history.

Labour MP Keith Vaz, the chairman of the party's Ethnic Minority Taskforce, condemned the abuse and said more action needed to be taken. He urged the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, to make a formal protest to Spain asking them to stop the abuse.

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