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Egyptian Blogger’s Appeal Tomorrow March 12, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Africa, Censorship.
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Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak probably had no idea what a firestorm would be let loose when his courts sentenced a blogger to four years in prison for defaming Islam and insulting Mubarak.

Egyptian blogger Kareem Nabeel Sulaiman’s appeal is expected to be heard by an Alexandria court tomorrow. (March 12)

The Egyptian blogger made history last month by being the first writer in his country to be sentenced to four years in prison for articles he wrote on his blog.

Source: globalvoicesonline.org

The latest reposte to Mubarak came in the form of a letter to the editor of the Washington Post  from Representative Trent Franks (R-Arizona).

What can Mubarak lose by freeing this blogger? Not much. If anything, he will have to take some misplaced criticism charging him with being an American toady. But he will have an easy comeback to that, since this harsh sentence has generated outrage all over the world. Freedom of speech is not an exclusively American value.

Related Link:Free Kareem: a website dedicated to the blogger’s release

Flickr Filtered in Iran,UAE: Resistance February 17, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship, Information policy, Middle East, Political Technology.
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Internet users in the United Arab Emirates and Iran discovered some time ago that their access to Flickr, the popular social networking-photo archive site had been blocked yet again, for the third time. In the UAE, the major Internet service provider, Etisalat, is the responsible party. But dedicated photojournalists and ordinary users alike may have a new technological countermeasure, a free Firefox extension called Access Flickr that is the brainchild of Hamed Saber, an Iranian with a technical bent, an ingrained opposition to Big Brother, and a belief that “no one has the right to censor anything for me”.

In a Global Voices interview with Sami Ben Gharbia, Saber said that he was unaware of any similar Firefox extension specifically designed to circumvent censorship. The idea was to create something similar to Tor, but more accessible. Saber says that the tool is “so simple.. not sophisticated and powerful like Tor.” It sounds easy enough:

 

This extension just substitutes some parameters in HTTP request header
before sending it, and after receiving the response, again it
substitutes some other parameters in the HTTP response header. The
source code is not encoded, and the extension is open source, anyone
can read the simple source code!

Source: globalvoicesonline.org

Other forms of resistance to internet filtering in Iran ( Filtering Country Study) and the UAE( Filtering Country Study) are spearheaded by the Open Net Initiative. Because the technology is simple, the obvious solution for the censors is to block the extension- and what will Saber do if that happens?

He’ll just develop another “bypassing way.”

With people like Saber in the world, we can all take heart. We are , collectively, smarter than they are.

Related Link: Freedom for UAE Flickr Users Petition UAE

Tags: vs | users | Filter | Extension | Community | Citizens | access | United Arab Emirates | Technology | saber | Middle East | Iran | internet | hamed | Flickr | Africa

Stevens Bill: Banning Wikipedia? February 16, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship, Libraries, Political Technology, U.S. Congress.
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The Congressional response to the problem and the pseudo-problem of online predation via social networking sites has reached a new nadir. Ted Stevens introduced Senate Bill 49 last month . The putative legislation requires that “any school or public library that gets Federal Internet subsidies would have to block access to interactive Web sites, including social networking sites, and possibly blogs as well.

Here’s the newest from Sen. Ted Stevens, the man who described the Internet as a series of tubes: It’s time for the federal government to ban access to Wikipedia, MySpace, and social networking sites from schools and libraries

Source: computerworld.com

The new bill is closely related to DOPA ( HR5319) a bill that passed the House. But Marianne Richmond, among other commentators, rightly states that the bill goes well beyond that previous piece of censorious legislation. One part requires that sites distributing adult content excise the adult content from the homepage and to publish a warning on the homepage. The real menace comes in title 2, the subsidies section. This section also appears to require that schools monitor the net activities of students when not supervised by faculty.Such a duty would cause no end of headache and heartache for parents, school administrators, and teacher, even if , as would probably be the case, the more onerous duties were removed through a series of court cases. Who needs this expense? Who wants to generate this much confusion?

Bastards and Roses: A Love Story February 14, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship.
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There will be no “Love Song on the Bank of Mekong” tonight if Laos has its way with Thai television . “Love Song” is the title of a soap opera scheduled to play this evening:

Vientiane has conveyed their concerns to the television executives through the Thai Foreign Ministry last week that the soap opera “Pleng Rak Song Fang Kong” (Love Song on the Bank of Mekong) contained many scenes deemed inappropriate and contradicting to Lao culture, said Lao foreign ministry’s spokesman Yong Chanthalangsy.

Source: nationmultimedia.com

Apparently, the Laotians object to the melodrama on two grounds. One is that the female romantic heroine’s mother is unmarried, which makes our lead- not to put to fine a point on it- a real bastard. The other is that in a fit of romantic pique, the lady trashes a flower- in this case a white fragipani, which happens to be the national flower of Laos.

Apparently, the depiction of the heroine as a bastard offends the national sense of decorum, as does the impression that she is an “easy woman”. And the flower is definitely treason by another name:

“You might get angry with your boyfriend who hand you (sic!) the flower, but the national flower should not be thrown away in that manner… why didn’t the producer use rose or the other kind, rather than our national flower?” whined the official, patriotically and pathetically.

It will be small comfort to the would be Laotian censors that it is Valentine’s day in some places, and that the tale of bastards and roses will ring out many variations tonight, with happy and otherwise endings. No doubt many roses and precious few single fragpiani will find a dustbin home today, some hurled in anger, some dropped indifferently. And the appellation “bastard” will no doubt be applied more than a few times, although not mostly in the genealogical sense. Let’s hope the nascent Laotian censors just sit back and enjoy the Thai program- because not even the most melodramatic and cliched art deserves to be censored. After all, life does often imitate it.

Tags: urged | television | suspension | spokesman | soap | scenes | opera | inappropriate | EXECUTIVES | deemed | Culture | conveyed | contradicting | contained | Concerns | Yong | Vientiane | thai | Politics | Pleng | MINISTRY | laos | Kong | fang

UN to Somalia: Release Journalists Support Press Freedom February 13, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Africa, Censorship.
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The United Nations’ independent expert on human rights in Somalia , Ghanim Alnjjar,has called for the release of three Somali journalist detained shortly after Ethiopia’s lightning invasion of Somalia in late December 2007. The Ethiopians invaded that country to displace the Islamic Courts Union (BBC Backgrounder) and to aid in the installment of a transitional federal government.

The capital, Mogadishu, was warlord-dominated before the rise of the ICU, and Reuters reports that the four outlets shut down in Modadishu were HornAfrik Media, Shabelle Media network, a Koranic radio station (IQK), and the local office of Al-Jazeera.

The three journalists detained in Somaliland, which declared independence from Somalia after dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991, worked for a group called Haatuf Media Network.

The U.N. expert named them as Yusuf Abdi Gabode, Ali Abdi Din and Mohamed Omar Sheikh, but gave no indication of the charges against them.

Source: today.reuters.co.uk

The three were detained in Somaliland, a self-proclaimed independent entity with no international recognition.

The Bush administration regards Ethiopia as a major U.S ally in the Horn of Africa, and U.S. helicopter gunships aided the Ethiopians during the December invasion.

Relevant Links: Alnjjar’s U.N. Press Release

More Articles by Ganim Alnjarr


Tags: Alnajjar | threats | Media | journalists | independent | freedom | Expert | called | somaliland | Somalia | Politics | Mohamed | Mogadishu | Abdi

Atheist’s View of Quran Banned from YouTube? February 10, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship.
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Nick Gisburne is a self-professed atheist whose latest video, a selection of verses from the Quran describing what should happen to infidels, was allegedly banned from YouTube. It is unclear whether Mr. Gisburne has been reinstated or has been readmitted under another name, since both the original video and a video he made asking to be reinstated both are present, as of this writing, on the YouTube site.

However, Mr Gisburne has sparked a mini-rebellion against the banning, according to one writer:

 

The video that got him banned, however, has since been reposted dozens and dozens of times.

Source: freerepublic.com

The video in question simply displays verses (suras) from the Quran , set to music. It is much less obnoxious that some permitted YouTube videos, and it is hard to imagine why what amounts to a set of photographs of words ever fell into the category of prohibited material.

Tags: video | posted | KILLED | dozens | deleted | banned | account | YouTube | teachings | Quran | Politics | ISLAMIC | Cruelty

Global Internet Freedom Conference: Corporate Moral Dilemma February 1, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship, Coporate Policies.
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Google, Yahoo and Microsoft representatives on Tuesday implored the U.S. government to help set ground rules for complying with demands by foreign law enforcement agencies for user records or censorship.

Anne Broache, CNET

The U..S State Department has just wrapped up its first annual Global Internet Freedom Conference, an event that is sure to grow in importance as private Web companies deal with the various countries attempting to filter content and stop dissent. Faced with a confusing welter of international laws governing content of both personal communications and web sites, Microsoft and the other corporate giants have come belatedly to the recognition that only a unified government policy can provide them with the legal and moral stance they need to answer the censors in consistent ways.

Under United States law corporations are legal “persons”. In pure form, Internet companies are the same as soap manufacturers, and legally have a one dimensional morality- they are obligated to increase and preserve shareholder profits by any means possible. Of course, a company that kills off large numbers of people with a contaminated or dangerous product will not last long (unless it is a tobacco company). Stakeholder , as opposed to shareholder considerations mitigate this process somewhat, and most companies view their constituencies as being much larger than a limited group of shareholders.

However, the legally simple moral imperative remains, and it is inadequate to the task of coping with the ethical dilemmas posed by governments that use stored information to imprison or eliminate dissidents, usually a relatively small portion of the public. Clearly, it is in the interest of Google shareholders to have a presence in China, even if it is a modified presence, and since government censorship or filtering does not affect most Chinese (let alone most residents of the United States), Google or any other corporate entity has no built-in way to solve the problem, even if it wishes to do no evil.

As the CNET story indicates, there are a variety of solutions. One is for government to take up the idea that censorship constitutes a kind of trade barrier. Another is more purely political, and demands that censorship be treated as a key human rights concern. That’s the approach supposedly advocated by the U.S. State Department’s Global Internet Freedom Task Force.

Whatever the approach, the companies clearly need the guidance and authority that a clear government policy can provide. In order to make that policy both credible and persuasive,however, the U.S. will have to apply its policy at home as well as abroad. Transparency and consistent efforts to roll back the current program of domestic spying will go a long way toward establishing any U.S. efforts to combat censorship in the rest of the world.

Tags: implored | user | Rules | representatives | RECORDS | Government | global | giants | freedom | feds | ENFORCEMENT | demands | complying | Censorship | agencies | Yahoo | Web | Washington | tuesday | Politics | Microsoft | internet

Googlepealago:China Censorship Bad for Business January 29, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship, Coporate Policies.
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Google’s decision to censor its search engine in China was bad for the company, its founders admitted yesterday.

Google, launched in 1998 by two Stanford University dropouts, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, was accused of selling out and reneging on its “Don’t be evil” motto when it launched in China in 2005. The company modified the version of its search engine in China to exclude controversial topics such as the Tiananmen Square massacre or the Falun Gong movement, provoking a backlash in its core western markets.

Jane Martinson, The Guardian

Finally, the Google founders have admitted that conforming to the wishes of Chinese government censors in the designing search engines was not such a good idea, if only because the decision to build in censorship caused a Western backlash. What in fact is happening is that Google, by agreeing to government restrictions on what Internet sites can be viewed in certain countries, is creating a Web equivalent to the Gulag Archipelago, the network of scattered areas of Soviet moral darkness so well described years ago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

The “bad for business” argument is weak, although probably true. What would be better is for Brin and Page to take a firm stand against such actions in the future, and to take corrective action on Google China. Would Google be completely excluded from censoring countries were the company to oppose them? Probably. And that would create work-arounds, the search engine equivalents of Samizdat, unrest among internet users in the information gulags, and a massive groundswell of support, both for Google and for an end to censorship in the “core Western markets.” That kind of defiance would not only earn the respect of users world wide. It would also be consistent with Google’s “Don’t be evil” corporate mantra.

Tags: reneging | Western | version | topics | SELLING | regret | provoking | movement | MOTTO | modified | massacre | launched | Founders | exclude | evil | DROPOUTS | decision | DAMAGED | core | controversial | Censorship | Censor | backlash | admit | accused | university | Tiananmen | stanford | Sergey | Politics | Larry | Google | GONG | FALUN | China | brin

Not Funny: A Nice White House Press Corps January 21, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship, Journalism.
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The White House press corps last week found itself embroiled in controversy — a controversy over its efforts to avoid controversy at an event whose guests include President Bush.

Source: washingtonpost.com

One of the purposes of the White House press corps is to provide a kind of scathingly loyal opposition. Journalists who do not question, investigate, and otheewise trouble the Chief are not doing their job, and as recent failures of critical journalism (think WMD in Iraq) prove, complacent journalists do not serve the public either. Traditionally, the annual press corps dinner has been a venue for at least a gentle roasting of the sitting president. According to this story in the Washington Post, Stephen Colbert hurt the presidential feelings last year, and this year everyone wants to make sure that Bush doesn’t feel like throwing his toys out of the pram. Solution? Replace Colbert with Rich Little.

Little is, of course, a great comedian. If he were a rock band, he would rank right up there with the Beatles. And he won’t mention Iraq, not because he was restrained from doing so, but because he doesn’t find any humor in the subject. His signature imitations have always been more or less apolitical. Content does not signify – Little can imitate anybody, with hilarious results. He is perhaps a fitting choice for a press corps whose output is usually innocuous, if not downright nice.And that is not funny-not in the least.

Tags: guest | embroiled | efforts | dinner | corps | controversy | avoid | president | Politics | nice | Las Vegas | impression | Carson | assured

CIA Stole Dr. Zhivago for Publication:Pasternak Won Nobel January 19, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship.
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CIA and British Intelligence agents forced a passenger plane to land in Malta in 1957, to go on board and steal the manuscript of the banned Russian novel ‘Dr Zhivago’, which was subsequently published and awarded a Nobel Prize.

Source: maltastar.com

In 1957, the Cold War and its psyops were in full swing, and the CIA, along with its British counterpart, were eager to embarrass the Soviets as often as possible. When the intelligence agencies learned that a copy of Pasternak’s manuscript was in a passenger’s suitcase, they arranged to have the plane stopped on a pretext at the Malta airport, where the plane was grounded for two hours while the spooks copied Pasternak’s book and then replaced it where they found it.

The story gets better. The Nobel Prize Committee stipulates that literary works be first published in their original language, so the CIA arranged for the book to look as if it had been printed in Russia by using paper that would be difficult to trace and commonly used Russian fonts. Members of the Academy were surprised to receive a copy of the book in time to consider it,

Under pressure from the Soviets, Pasternak ultimately refused the award.

Tags: subsequently | STEAL | published | passenger | NOVEL | MANUSCRIPT | forced | banned | AWARDED | Agent | Russian | Prize | Politics | nobel | malta | Intelligence | Central | British