Cyprus: Police confiscate photos of Greek trans activist

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The empty walls following the confiscation of Paola Revenioti’s work (Photo: Accept)

Gay rights NGO Accept-Cyprus LGBT has slammed police censorship, after photographs of the Greek trans activist Paola Revenioti were confiscated and its chairman charged with exhibiting obscene material in a public space. Revenioti’s photo exhibition “Diorthosi” (Correction) was staged at Nicosia Municipal Market to mark Transgender Day on 20 November.

“This incident, unfortunately, was not something that surprised me. Censorship of art still exists in our so-called ‘democratic’ society,” Revenioti told Index on Censorship.

“Although this confiscation brought the issue of censorship to the forefront, which is a good thing, it overshadowed the essence of the exhibition, kept people away from the project. This is scandalous. Art is the way every one communicates his own truth. And with this action, they have vulgarised my own truth,” she stressed.

The exhibition, part of a series of events organised the NGO, was seized following a complaint by a citizen who disagreed with the content of the photographs which depicts life through the lens of Revenioti. Police acted without informing the municipality of Nicosia, which had licensed the space of the market for this exhibition, or the organisers, Accept said.

Costa Gavrielides, president of Accept, was questioned and officially charged with “publication of lewd content” in public space. Some of the photos eventually were returned, and others that depict male nudity were withheld as evidence for the subsequent trial.

The NGO filed an official complaint regarding the incident to the national anti-discrimination body, the Office of the Ombudsperson, and will further make a formal complaint to the local authorities as well as the European Parliament and the European Commission.

The Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre condemned the action as an “overt form of censorship” that affects the artistic community of Cyprus.

“The police acted in a legal way,” was the response from police spokesperson Andreas Angelides.

This article was published on 26 November 2014 at

Chinese delegation pull out of Sheffield Doc/Fest after organisers refuse to censor programme

The Chinese delegation of commissioning editors has pulled out of the Sheffield Documentary Festival due to the screening of a film about artist Ai Weiwei called Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry. Directed by Alison Klayman, the film observes the subversive Chinese artist as he balances his art in Beijing with the politics that inform it. The internationally famous artist is one of the Chinese regime’s most outspoken critics and the film documents his working process, his family life and his clashes with police and authorities between 2008 and 2010. The film came to prominence when the artist was arrested over alleged tax-fraud in 2011.

Seen as the poster child for acceptable, overt political dissent in the mainstream, Wei Wei challenges the censorship and suppression of free expression in China. He turns ordinary items into the unexpected. Some works are like subtle asteroid strikes — like filling Tate Modern with delicate handmade sunflower seeds. Others, such as a notorious photograph of Weiwei flashing a middle-finger salute at Tiananmen Square, are more direct. All of it is an affront to the rosy, progressive image of a happy China willing to profit from capitalism but rejecting of democracy.

One of the scheduled Chinese delegate sessions at Doc/Fest would explore how filmmakers could work as creatives with Chinese outlets, platforms and agencies. Seen as a new and exciting market and target audience to documentary makers, festival organisers regret the delegation’s 11th hour decision to withdraw.

Heather Croall, director of Sheffield Doc/Fest says:

Officially we have been told that the reason the Chinese delegation cancelled is related to a restriction on the number of travel trips they can make to Europe. Unofficially though, there were a number of difficult conversations regarding films we are screening in our programme that challenge issues of freedom of speech in China. We came under pressure to not show certain films. We resisted the pressure, and the films remain in the programme.

Filmmaker and journalist Sean McAllister, whose film “The Reluctant Revolutionary” features at the festival, says the Chinese delegation’s withdrawal has sparked the Streisand Effect.

“They’ve succeeded in promoting the very film they are boycotting because everyone wants to see it now. Maybe this time off will give [the Chinese] some time to reflect on their support for Assad’s murderous regime [in Syria].”

Festival organisers say that the official Chinese delegation cancelled on 5 June – one week before its start. The programme also features a film on Chinese citizen journalists fighting against the Great Firewall of China called “High Tech, Low Life”. The delegation’s attempts at censoring the Festival have resulted in them banning themselves and a Doc/Fest spokesperson said “there may still be some Chinese producers and directors who’ve attended independently.”

The delegation of 10 and the Chinese embassy in London could not be reached for comment.

Leah Borromeo is a journalist and filmmaker who has worked as deputy foreign editor at Sky News, Channel 4 News and APTN

South Africa: “The Spear” gets age restriction

Controversial painting of South African President Jacob Zuma has been given an age restriction. The piece entitled “The Spear” which displays the president with his genitals exposed, has been given a 16N rating by The Film and Publication Board, meaning children under the age of 16 cannot view the work because it contains nudity. Anyone who wishes to reproduce the image will also be subject to the restriction. Earlier this week, City Press were forced to remove an image of the painting from their website. Zuma has taken legal action to have the painting removed from the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg.

South Africa: Jacob Zuma painting vandalised in gallery

A controversial painting depicting South African president Jacob Zuma exposing his genitals has been vandalised at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg. The image, which has prompted Zuma to take legal action to have it removed from the gallery, has been covered in black and red paint. The painting — entitled The Spear — by provocative artist Brett Murray, has already been sold for $14,000 (£9,000). The vandals claimed the the painting is “disrespectful to President Zuma”.