Index Index – International free speech round up 12/02/13

David Cecil, the British theatre producer who faced a legal battle with Ugandan authorities for staging a play about homosexuality has been deported from Uganda. Cecil’s legal team had been hoping to appeal the Ugandan court’s deportation ruling, but he was flown from the country unexpectedly on Monday, leaving behind his partner and two children. Cecil was arrested in September last year for his play The River and the Mountain, which explored the difficulties of being gay in Uganda, where homosexuality is illegal. He faced two years in prison before charges were dropped, due to a lack of evidence but was rearrested last week. Cecil’s legal team are planning to contest the decision.

Stephen Wandera - AP

Playwright David Cecil has been deported from Uganda for his homosexual themed play

Women and children in Saudi Arabia have been arrested for protesting the conviction of their relatives, who are political prisoners. At least 26 women and five children at demonstrations in the cities of Riyadh and Buraida were taken into custody on 9 February. They had been protesting against the imprisonment of relatives they say have been held for years without access to lawyers or a trial. According to reports three of the arrested women are the wife, daughter and granddaughter of political activist Suleiman al-Rashudi, who was imprisoned in December for saying that protests were permitted in Islam during a lecture. He had previously spent five years in detention before being charged with financing terrorism, attempting to seize power and incitement against the king.

Haiti’s government has denied claims that entertainers were banned from performing at its annual three-day carnival for being critical of the state. In a press release, the office of Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe strongly refuted the claims, after at least three Haitian bands said on 9 February they were banned from performing at the city of Cap-Haitien carnival for having songs critical of the government. President Michel Martelly openly mocked authorities during his music career as “Sweet Micky”, by dressing in drag and mooning audiences as he lambasted the government during carnival performances. Amongst the rejected bands was Brothers Posse, who were included in the original line up before being removed by the carnival committee. Their song Aloral criticises the government for failing to implement improved policies on education, environment, law, employment and energy. Martelly said in a radio interview that the music didn’t promote a positive image of Haiti, saying “We’re organising a party, not a protest.”

A judge has condemned Salford University’s attempts to sue a former lecturer for libel after he compared managers to Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Senior officials were accused of abusing the high courts by a judge after they lost the defamation lawsuit filed in March 2010 against Dr Gary Duke, it was reported today (12 February). They attempted to sue their former colleague over posts he had written on a university blog for anonymous users, acting as a forum for criticism of the university’s services. Duke compared Salford University managers to a “bureaucratic dictatorship” in a blog post, saying that Hezbollah was “more accountable and transparent” than the university’s administration. Mr Justice Eady dismissed the case last week, saying it was up to individuals to seek libel action. The case is thought to have cost at least £100,000 and enlisted US court action to force internet company WordPress to hand over details of its users. Duke was fired in 2009 after spoof newsletters criticising university policy were handed around campus, and later lost a wrongful dismissal suit against the university. Salford University said they were considering an appeal against the verdict.

A Russian figure skating star is planning to sue a television commentator after he expressed doubts that the skater underwent spinal surgery as he claimed. Evgeny Plushenko said Eurosport commentator Andrei Zhurankov libelled him by voicing his doubts that he had undergone surgery during a weekend broadcast of the Four Continents figure skating world championships. Zhurankov referenced reports by some Israeli media which said there were no records of his surgery at local hospitals. The 2006 Olympic champion had been forced to withdraw from January’s European Championships, and his coach Alexei Mishin later said he had disk-replacement surgery in Israel. Plushenko’s attorney, Tatyana Akimtseva filed a lawsuit on 11 February.

Index Index – International free speech round up – 11/02/13

A boy has died today (11 February) after being shot by security forces in Kashmir during protests against the execution of a separatist. Ubaid Mushtaq, said to be 12 or 13 years old by doctors, died in a Srinagar hospital from bullet wounds following the 10 February protests in the village of Watergam, in which paramilitary forces opened fire on demonstrators.

The news of Mohammed Afzal Guru’s death in a New Delhi prison on 9 February ignited fierce objection and protests in three areas of India administered Kashmir, surrounding claims the men accused had not been given a fair trial.  The Kashmiri man was from a village close to Watergam, and had been convicted of helping to plot an attack on the Indian parliament in 2001 that left 14 people dead. Police said an inquiry has been launched into Mushtaq’s shooting.

Baden Roth - Demotix

Chinese authorities said Elton John dedicating his Beijing concert to Ai Weiwei was “disrespectful”

China has tightened its restrictions on foreign singers performing in the country after Elton John dedicated his Beijing concert to Ai Weiwei in November. Chinese police questioned John after his Beijing performance last year, which he had dedicated “to the spirit and talent of Ai Weiwei”. Authorities then allegedly asked John to sign a statement saying that he had been inspired by Ai’s artistic achievements exclusively, rather than for his efforts to defend free speech. John was permitted to go ahead with his Guangzhou show in early December, but an editorial letter in the state-run Global Times said that the singer was “disrespectful” to include political sentiment in his performance, adding that authorities would think more carefully before inviting foreign artists to perform in future. Culture minister Cai Wu is now allegedly requesting degree certificates from international performers since John’s appearance, only allowing them entry into the country if they can prove they have been university-educated. Classical musicians have reportedly been required to submit proof of degrees when performing in the country since the start of the year.

A Hong Kong activist has been sentenced to nine months in prison on 7 February after burning a Chinese flag. Koo Sze-yiu was also discovered to have burned a Hong Kong flag, during two separate demonstrations against the government. In June 2012, Koo burned a Chinese flag outside the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government, in protest against the staged suicide of Chinese activist Li Wangyang, and on 1 January he was seen waving a Chinese and Hong kong flag with holes in both. He was charged with four counts of flag desecration. The maximum punishment for flag desecration is three years in prison and a fine of 50,000 HK dollars (approximately £4,000). Shortly after his arrest, a Chinese netizen was arrested for posting a picture of a defaced flag on to a social networking site.

A UK journalist is fighting a court application submitted by the police requiring him to hand over video footage of the English Defence League (EDL), it was reported today (11 February). Jason Parkinson has refused to hand over his footage, saying that journalists are “not evidence gatherers for the police”. He fought a similar case in 2011, where police attempted to seize his footage of the Dale Farm eviction of travellers in Essex. Greater Manchester police applied for a production order hearing on 18 February to view all published and unpublished footage obtained during an EDL and counter protest march by Unite Against Fascism in Bolton 20 March 2010. The National Union of Journalists intends to contest the application. Parkinson said that handing over the evidence “could overturn the incredibly important victory for press freedom” that was achieved during the Dale Farm eviction.

In Bangalore, India an artist was forced to remove his pantings from an art gallery on 5 February because they depicted Hindu deities in the nude. Anirudh Sainath Krishnamani was told by police that they received a complaint from a member of Hindu nationalist political group the Bharatiya Janata Party, claiming the paintings “hurt the sentiments of society”. Police threatened to shut down Krishnamani’s exhibition at Chitrakala Parishath gallery if he refused to remove the offending pieces, which police said were a potential law and order threat and could cause protests or an attack. The paintings removed included a picture of a nude goddess Kali as well as Shiva and Sati hugging each other. MN Krishnamani, Anirudh’s father and a senior supreme court advocate will contest the decision.

Index Index – International free speech round up 08/02/13

An anti-corruption activist who leaked a sex tape featuring a Chinese Communist party official and an 18-year-old girl has said he is being slandered and intimidated by authorities. Since Zhu Ruifeng released the five-year-old tape in 2012, causing 11 officials in Chongqing to topple, police have interrogated the whistleblower, as well as threatening his wife. Zhu was released uncharged after 60 days of investigation and has now alleged that police have published an article anonymously online to tarnish is reputation. The story, “True face of anti-corruption fighter Zhu Ruifeng”, accuses him of accepting a bribe from Zhengzhou Technical Supervision Department. Zhu established his website Supervision by the People in 2006 and has since exposed more than 100 officials. He said he is planning to release six more tapes to incriminate the Chinese authorities.

Rachael Cerrotti - Demotix

Led by the Aerosmith frontman, the Steve Tyler Act protects celebrities from paparazzi

An Egyptian Salafi preacher has said that rape and sexual assault of women protesting in Cairo’s Tahrir Square is justified, claiming the aren’t gathering there to demonstrate, but with the aim of being sexually harassed, as they want to be raped. Ahmad Mahmoud Abdullah, also known as Abu-Islam said in a video posted online on 6 February that female protesters are “no red line”. The preacher, who owns private TV station al-Ummah, described the women as devils and crusaders, who talk like monsters. Twenty-five women were sexually assaulted during protests in Tahrir Square to mark the second anniversary of the revolution which replaced Hosni Mubarak with an Islamist government.

The Australian Green Party has said that the government has organised a cover-up after refusing media access to immigration detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island. Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young called for journalists to be granted access to the centres, bans on photographs and videos to be lifted and said that asylum seekers and refugees willing to be interviewed by the media should be able to freely. The proposal was rejected by the Federal Government. The department of immigration said the restrictions were in place as they were still in negotiation with the governments of Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Hanson Young said that her visit to the detention centre was tightly controlled, and the living conditions were deplorable — there were no doors on the toilets and the men were living in cramped conditions. Journalists are allowed access to detention centres on the Australian mainland but must adhere to a legally enforceable Deed of Agreement, imposing restrictions such as allowing the immigration department the power to review all footage.

Finland’s minister for justice Anna-Maja Henriksson is backing a bill planning to extend anti-pornography laws. Under current Finnish law, the National Bureau of Investigation blocks access to child pornography, which would extend to porn containing animals and violence. Some members of the government have objected to the proposal, with Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen doubting the need to extend pornography censorship at all. Under laws adopted in 2006, the NBI maintains a block list of restricted sites, punishable under the Prevention of Distribution of Unchaste Publications Act 1927.

Aerosmith frontman Steve Tyler will attend a hearing in Hawaii today (8 February) to discuss a proposed law he backed to limit freedom to take pictures and video of celebrities. Hawaii’s Senate Judiciary Committee considered the Steven Tyler Act in a public discussion. The bill will allow families to receive damages from anyone who photographs, distributes or sells pictures taken in an offensive way, during a personal or private time. As well as Tyler, celebrities including the Osbourne family, Britney Spears and Tommy Lee have supported the measure. Famous people in support of the act have said that it would allow them to do everyday activities without fear of the paparazzi documenting their lives. Senator Kalani English, from Maui, said he introduced the law at the request of Tyler, who owns a multi million dollar mansion in Hawaii. More than two thirds of the states governors have co-sponsored the bill, which is hoped to encourage the visit of celebrity tourists, boosting the island’s economy. Laurie Temple, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union said stalking laws need to be improved, rather than creating new legislation.

Index Index – International free speech round up 07/02/13

A woman in Timbuktu says she was lashed by Islamist militants for talking to a man who wasn’t her husband. Salaka Djicke was caught talking to her lover on 31 December last year and was then sentenced to 95 lashings by a Islamic tribunal on 3 January. Djicke fell in love with the married man after he accidentally called when dialling a wrong number more than a year ago, and their relationship quickly blossomed. When Islamic extremists occupied Northern Mali in April 2012, Shariah law was quickly implemented, forbidding women from communicating with men. Her punishment was captured on film by local residents. The man — who Dijcke didn’t name in fear of rebel fighters returning — remains in Mali’s capital after fleeing the night they were discovered. Prior to France’s intervention in Northern Mali earlier this year, Islamist militants introduced strict Shariah law, issuing punishments such as flogging and stoning for perpetrators.

Hubert - Shutterstock

  — Is this how you remember Michelangelo’s David? A town in Japan want to preserve the statue’s modesty

On 6 February, a radio station owner was murdered in Paraguay. Marcelino Vázquez was shot by unknown assailants as he left work at Sin Fronteras 98.5 FM in the city of Pedro Juan Caballero. He was on his way from the radio station to a local night club he also owned, but was stopped by two men on a motorcycle and shot several times. While Sin Fronteras is predominately music-focused, it features a regular news show covering a variety of issues. A parliamentary coup in June 2012 and the subsequent removal of President Fernando Lugo has had a negative impact on freedom of information and expression in Paraguay.

Lawyers for three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot are appealing their convictions at the European Court of Human Rights. Representatives for Maria Alekhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Natalia Tolokonnikova are in Strasbourg today (7 February), after they filed a complaint on 6 February against their two year prison sentences. They said the convictions violated four articles of the European Convention on Human Rights: the right to free speech, fair trial, liberty and security and the prohibition of torture.The trio was first sentenced following their “punk-prayer” performed at Moscow’s main cathedral in February 2012 protesting Vladimir Putin’s return to power.

A radio journalist was shot on his way to work in Peru on 6 February. At the time of the attack, Juan Carlos Yaya Salcedo was driving to the Radio Max station where he worked, in the town of Imperial. He was shot in the leg by an unknown assailant and is expected to make a full recovery and return to work soon. Yaya, who hosts radio show Sin Escape (Without Escape), has never faced threats in the past but police said the attack was likely the result of his journalistic work, as the perpetrators didn’t attempt to steal anything. Yaya said the attack could have resulted from his reporting on the poor construction of a community building in the nearby town of Nuevo Imperial.

Residents of a town in Japan have complained about the erection of replica statues of Michelangelo’s David, requesting that he wear underpants. Okuizumo citizens told town officials that the 16-foot renaissance sculpture’s exposed penis could frighten their children, as some of the replicas, funded by a local business man, were installed in a local park where children often play. Most of the town’s 15,000 residents approved the Renaissance art tributes, and no plans have been made to clothe the statue. Japan has stringent laws regarding nudity. While watching and distributing porn is legal in the country, the country’s authorities request that genitalia be pixelated.