Index Index – International free speech roundup 23/01/13

A magazine editor in Thailand has been sentenced to 11 years in jail today (23 January) for insulting the monarchy. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk was found guilty of violating Thailand’s lese majeste laws, after he printed two articles in his magazine Voice of Taksin featuring comments deemed insulting to the royal family by prosecutors. Prueksakasemsuk’s arrest on 30 April 2011 came five days after he launched a petition campaigning to reform article 112 of Thailand’s penal code, making it an offence to defame the monarchy — a sentence which imposes prison sentences between three to 15 years. The author of both articles, Jakrapob Penkair, former spokesperson for Thaksin, is living in exile in Cambodia and has not been charged.

Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers – Censored by the BBC for using racially sensitive terms

Nine human rights lawyers have been jailed in Turkey. On 22 January, Istanbul court ordered the pre-trial detention of nine of 12 lawyers arrested on terrorism charges on 18 and 20 January. Güçlü Sevimli, Barkın Timtik, Şükriye Erden, Naciye Demir, Nazan Betül Vangölü Kozağaçlı, Taylan Tanay, Ebru Timtik, Günay Dağ, Selçuk Kozağaçlı have been jailed whilst a further three were freed. Prosecutors could decide to try the group as part of a wider investigation against people suspected of being involved with the armed and outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front. The group has carried out attacks on the military, politicians and the police in the past. The jailed lawyers had been particularly active in defending against police brutality in the past, as well as defending human rights activists in court. A secrecy order on the investigation means specific charges are unclear.

The Nigerian government has banned state officials from talking to the press. On 21 January, Lagos authorities issued a notice barring civil servants and political offices from granting interviews or speaking on the government’s behalf. The notice sent from Governor Babatunde Fashola was intended to curb the flow of information to the public, saying that policies that had not yet been formally approved were being discussed with the media. The notice ordered all government workers to request permission from the Ministry of Information and Strategy before giving interviews, so the information could be edited by the ministry prior to its release to the public. It also warned that in the event of officials offering public speeches, they must stick solely to their planned speech which would have to be approved by the ministry prior to the event.

Pakistan has imposed a ban on the sale of the video games Call of Duty and Medal of Honour. Saleem Memon, president of the All Pakistan CD, DVD, Audio Cassette Traders and Manufacturers Association, released a statement calling for the boycott of the games after they received dozens of complaints, saying that they violate the country’s unity and sanctity. Memon said “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” and “Medal of Honor: Warfighter” depict Pakistan’s intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISS), as pro-Al Qaeda and Pakistan as a broken state and a safe haven for terrorists. Shopkeepers have been warned of the “consequences” of being caught attempting to buy or sell either of the games.

Famed scenes of Fawlty Towers have been cut by the BBC, to protect racial sensitivities. The Germans, an episode of the popular 1970s TV series was repeated on 20 January on BBC2, with a scene from the bigoted Major Gowen edited. Racist language was removed from the clip, a move taken to keep in tune with a shift in public attitudes according to the BBC, but listener complaints were filed following the broadcast, with some remarking that it was an “airbrushing of history”. The episode satirises xenophobia in its different forms and features John Cleese’s famous “Hitler walk” — a scene considered to be one of the greatest moments on British television.