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Artistic censorship report: Filmmaker abducted, street artists fined

Tunisian artist spray paints
Tunisian artist spray paints "Free Zwewla" - Zwewla is a collective of artists known for their graffiti in support of underprivileged groups in Tunisia

Facebook/Zwewla Tunisian collective

In its Artist Alert report for April 2013, ARTICLE 19 highlights cases from Cameroon, Kenya and Nigeria among others.

Art, in any form, constitutes a key medium through which information and ideas are imparted and received. Artist Alert, launched by ARTICLE 19 in 2008, highlights cases of artists around the world whose right to freedom of expression has been curtailed and abused, and seeks to more effectively promote and defend freedom to create.


AFRICA

CAMEROON: FILMMAKER ABDUCTED AND TORTURED

Unidentified men abducted the Cameroonian filmmaker, Richard Fouofie Djimeli, from his home sometime between 23 and 24 March. Djimeli was found alive on 3 April, though his body had been harmed, including the amputation of a finger.

The director and actors from his film 139 . . . Les dernières prédateurs (139... The last predators) received death threats weeks before the film's launch, warning them to stop the screening of the film.

The movie is about a 139-year-old totalitarian regime in an imaginary country named Chimpanz. It is believed that the film satirises Paul Biya's regime, which has held power in Cameroon since 1982.

KENYA: HIGH COURT LIFTS BAN ON PLAY


The Kenyan Ministry of Education's National Drama Committee banned a school group from performing Shackles of Doom at the upcoming National Drama Festival. They claimed that the play, which highlights power and inequality among ethnic groups in Kenya, was likely to incite hatred and thus endanger national security.

In response to a petition by the human rights activist, Okiya Omtatah, the High Court removed the ban. The Court ruled that there had been an abuse of process in the decision to ban the play.

NIGERIA: DOCUMENTARY ABOUT GENERAL STRIKE CENSORED


On 8 April, the National Film & Video Censors Board wrote a letter preventing a documentary from being publicly screened. The documentary, Fuelling Poverty, is about the strikes and protests that took place in Nigeria in January 2012 when President Goodluck Jonathan removed subsidies on gasoline.

The film, sponsored by the Soros Foundation's Open Society Justice Initiative for West Africa, includes headlines from newspapers and television news and footage. The Censors Board deemed it "too provocative" and "likely to incite or encourage public disorder and undermine national security". Producers were also warned that security forces were "on alert" about the film.

SOUTH AFRICA: PAINTING DEPICTING PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA AND NELSON MANDELA AS WHITES REMOVED FROM GALLERY

Simunye (the Zulu word meaning 'we are one') is the title of a painting by artist Kobus Myburgh depicting President Jacob Zuma and Nelson Mandela as whites. On 15 April it was reportedly removed from an art exhibition in Nelspruit in eastern South Africa.

The artwork was due to be exhibited at a local museum to mark World Art Day. However, an inspection by the Head of the Arts and Culture Council resulted in the painting being deemed "not suitable for public viewing" and locked in a storeroom.

The artist explained that Simunye was not a protest but "a positive message that says that we are actually all alike [ . . . ] We are and remain equal, regardless of the colour of our skin.


AMERICAS

CHILE: DOCUMENTARY ABOUT MEDIA LINKS WITH DICTATORSHIP PULLED FROM CHILEAN TV CHANNEL

The documentary El diario de Agustín (Agustin's Newspaper) was pulled from the broadcasting schedule of the Chilean cable TV network ARTV on 25 April. The film documents the relationship between Agustín Edwards, owner of leading Chilean newspaper El Mercurio, and Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean dictator who was in power from 1973 to 1990.

El diario de Agustín was edited three years ago to meet "public television standards" but has never been broadcast.

VENEZUELA: TEAR GAS ATTACK DURING PLAY

On 11 April, tear gas was fired inside a theatre while Venezuelan female actor, Norkys Batista, was staging her play Orgasms in Caracas. This came a month after Batista had been forbidden from staging her play at State-run venues as a result of her support for an opposition candidate in the 14 April presidential elections.

The actress said that she had been warned the week before that pro-government groups were going to attack her during her performance. Almost 2,500 people had to be evacuated from the theatre after the tear gas was fired.


ASIA

CHINA: SINGER'S SATIRICAL ONLINE VIDEO BLOCKED

On 8 April, Chinese singer Li Lei launched his satirical video, The Chinese Dream, about President Xi Jinping's plans for the country. The video was reportedly blocked on YouTube on 10 April. The song, which refers to Xi's slogan, "The Chinese Dream", was dedicated to Xi's wife and the lyrics were about dictatorship and totalitarianism in the country.

"The Chinese Dream is not a dream of corrupt officials. The Chinese Dream is a dream of the people," was one the controversial verses in the song. This challenges the official definition of "The Chinese Dream" coined by the Communist Party. The official interpretation says: "The Chinese dream means to uphold and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics."

CHINA: AMERICAN FILM PULLED FROM CINEMAS AT LAST MINUTE


The American film, Django Unchained, directed by Quentin Tarantino, was blocked in Chinese cinemas allegedly due to "technical issues" just minutes before opening on 11 April.

The movie which, like most of Tarantino's movies, contains extensive graphic violence, tells the story of an American slave who rebels against his owners to rescue his wife. Its graphically violent scenes had been edited to meet the Chinese censor's standards. However, it is believed that the movie will probably undergo more edits to scenes including violence and nudity before it opens on 12 May.

PAKISTAN: AUTHORITIES BLOCK ONLINE VIDEO MOCKING THE MILITARY

On 20 April, a video of the satirical song, Dhinak Dhinak, by Pakistani group, Beygairat Brigade, that pokes fun at police and authorities in the country was uploaded on Vimeo and then blocked by the Pakistani Telecommunications Authority (PTA).

The group is well-known for its controversial songs about power and the status quo in Pakistan. At the end of this video, group members hold a placard that reads: "No need to like this video. We'll be dead anyway!"

SOUTH KOREA: PSY'S CONE-KICKING VIDEO BANNED FROM STATE TV


Gentleman, a popular video by South Korean singer Psy, creator of Gangnam Style, cannot be broadcast on the State-run TV network. The reason given is that the artist "abuses public property in the video" and the scene does not meet the broadcaster's standards of ethics. Psy opens the video kicking a cone that says "no parking."

The video has had almost 300 million visits on YouTube since its release on 12 April.

THAILAND: DOCUMENTARY ABOUT BORDER ROW BANNED

On 23 April, the Thai Ministry of Culture banned Boundary, a Thai-made documentary about the 1000-year-old dispute over the Cambodian-Thai border. The reason given for the ban is that the documentary includes "information on incidents that are still being deliberated by the Thai court and that have not yet been officially concluded."

The documentary, made by filmmaker Nontawat Numbenchapol, highlights stories about the thousands of people that were killed and displaced during a series of clashes in April 2011 in the Dângrêk mountains region. The region is currently claimed by both Thailand and Cambodia, and the UN International Court of Justice is to decide on its future.

Numbenchapol said that his "intention was to let the film be a space for the people in the troubled territories to voice their views and feelings to the outside world - which they haven't had a chance to express in other Thai media."

VIETNAM: POET JAILED FOR THE LAST 37 YEARS SERIOUSLY ILL


Vietnamese poet, Nguyen Huu Cau, who was detained in 1975 and again in 1982 for writing poetry about the power and corruption of Communist Party officials, is seriously ill. On 25 March, his daughter, Nguyen Thi Anh Thu, reported that he is suffering from heart disease and low cerebral blood flow (ischemia), as well as being virtually blind in both eyes.

Nguyen Huu Cau was arrested over "sabotage" charges and sentenced to death. His sentence was then changed to life in prison.


EUROPE AND CENTRAL ASIA

FRANCE: APPLE REMOVES 1,500 FRENCH ADULT COMICS FROM STORE FOR BEING "PORNOGRAPHIC FOR AMERICANS"

On 8 April, it was reported that the American company, Apple, had demanded that the French adult comics publisher Izneo pull 1,500 comic books from Apple's e-books store. The reason given was that they were "pornographic for the American [audience]". The publisher has 4,000 comic e-books available in the Apple store.

On 31 March, Izneo was given 30 hours to remove the offensive content or their application would be completely removed from the Apple store. Apple deemed as pornographic all comics with covers "revealing breasts, cleavage, or with suggestive poses".

GERMANY: ICELANDIC BOOK MENTIONING HITLER PARTIALLY REWRITTEN TO MEET GERMAN STANDARDS


Academics have recently discovered that the German version of the book, The woman at 1000 by Icelandic novelist Hallgrímur Helga, is much shorter than the Danish version. They reported this on 12 April when the Danish version of the book was launched.

The novel was published in Germany in 2011. Helga now finds that thirty chapters of his book, relating to Adolf Hitler, the SS and the war, were either rewritten or omitted from the German version. He hopes that a full version of the book will now be released in Germany.

SPAIN: BOOKSHOP CHAINS PULL BOOK ABOUT PRINCESS

On 7 April, it was reported that a controversial book about Princess Letizia, Spain's future queen, Adiós Princesa [Goodbye Princess], had been removed from the shelves of Spain's largest bookshop chains.

The book, written by David Rocasolano, reveals intimate secrets about Letizia. Rocasolano claims that she had a secret abortion before meeting Prince Felipe de Borbón at a time when abortion was still illegal in Spain. He also claims that she asked for all the medical records to be destroyed. The book's publication comes at a time of scandals about corruption in the royal family.

TURKEY: PIANIST SENTENCED OVER 'BLASPHEMOUS' TWEETS


On 15 April 2013, the prominent Turkish pianist, Fazil Say, was given a 10-month suspended jail sentence by the 19th Criminal Court in Istanbul. The Court found him guilty of violating Article 216 (3) of the Turkish Criminal Code, which prohibits the "denigration of the religious values held by a section of society".

In June 2012, Say was charged by the Istanbul Public Prosecutor's Office after he posted a series of tweets on Twitter that April. He maintains that he did not insult Islam and merely retweeted a verse from a poem.

There are concerns that there may be a political motivation behind Say's conviction. Say has openly identified himself as an atheist and is a prominent critic of the current government, led by the AKP (Justice & Development Party).

UK: WIZARD OF OZ SONG CENSORED FOR MOCKING MEMORIAL TO LATE MARGARET THATCHER

On 12 April, it was reported that the British broadcaster, the BBC, was reluctant to play the song, Ding-Dong! from the musical, The Wizard of Oz. The song was driven up the mainstream charts following purchases by opponents of the late former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. The BBC announced it would not play the full song on its chart-countdown radio show.

"Ding dong! The Wicked Witch is dead/ Wake up sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed" appears in one of the verses of the song. It is reported to have been used by opponents of her politics and her government to celebrate the death of the former prime minister.

UZBEKISTAN: WRITER RELEASED AFTER 14 YEARS IN JAIL

The 72-year-old Uzbek writer, Mamadali Makhmudov, was released after spending 14 years in prison. He was convicted in 1999 on what is believed to have been fabricated charges. While he was in jail, he was tortured and female members of his family were threatened with rape.

Although his sentence should have ended in February this year, he was given three more years on 8 April for allegedly breaching prison regulations. He was appealing against this sentence when he was surprisingly released on 19 April.


NORTH AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST

ALGERIA: RAPPER TRIED OVER SONG MOCKING POLICE

On 23 April, the Algerian rap singer, Cheb Faisal, appeared in court in Oran over one of his songs that allegedly made fun of the police. The song had not been recorded but he was performing it live in nightclubs in Oran. The Public Prosecutor requested a six-month imprisonment. The verdict was expected to be issued on 2 May.

EGYPT: COMEDIAN INTERROGATED FOR "INSULTING" PRESIDENT


Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef was interrogated by the Prosecutor General on 1 April for allegedly insulting Islam and President Muhamad Morsi Youssef. He was released on bail after a three-hour interrogation.

The prosecutor general alleged that Youssef insults religion and the president in his show Al Bernameg (The Programme), where he mocks fundamentalists and President Morsi. However, a court in Cairo dismissed this allegation on 9 April.

Previous lawsuits against the comedian have not succeeded. These include one filed by Mahmoud Abul-Enein, a Muslim Brotherhood lawyer, which demanded the suspension of the licence granted to the private satellite TV channel, the Capital Broadcasting Centre. This channel airs Youssef's Al Bernameg and the lawsuit accused the show of supposedly "corrupting morals" and violating "religious principles".

MOROCCO: RAPPER RELEASED AFTER SERVING ONE-YEAR SENTENCE

Rapper Mouad Belghouat, better known as El Haqed, was reportedly released on 2 April after serving a one-year sentence for his song Dogs of the State in which he criticises corruption and the monarchy's excessive wealth.

Belghouat was arrested on charges of disrespecting "public servants in the exercise of their duty," with the intention of "undermining their honour," and "showing contempt" toward state institutions.

In 2011, he was jailed as a result of what is believed to have been fabricated accusations.

LEBANON: FILM SHOT IN ISRAEL NOT ALLOWED SCREENING IN LEBANON


On 29 April, the Lebanese Ministry of Interior prevented the film The Attack, by Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri, from being shown in the country. The reason for this was that parts of the movie were filmed in Tel Aviv and it used some Israeli actors.

The Ministry of Culture argued that the movie was 'not Lebanese enough' to be screened and said that they will not allow Israeli actors to represent Lebanon in the Academy Awards.

The Attack tells the story of a Middle Eastern surgeon working in a Tel Aviv hospital, whose wife dies in a suicide bombing.

TUNISIA: STREET ARTISTS FINED, BUT "BREACHING THE STATE OF EMERGENCY" CHARGES DROPPED

Five months ago, graffiti artists Oussama Bouagila and Chahine Berriche were charged for "writing, without permission, on public property" and "breaching the state of emergency". This happened when they were caught by police whilst graffitiing the slogan, "the people want the poor's rights."

On 10 April, a Tunisian court in Gabes fined the artists 100 Tunisian Dinars (approximately 90 USD), dismissing the more severe charges of "breaching the state of emergency" and "publishing fake news that could disturb public order".

Bouagila and Berriche are part of Zwewla, a collective of artists that are known for drawing graffiti with messages about underprivileged groups in Tunisia.

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