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Artistic censorship report: musicians targeted, videos censored for explicit content

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei at the door to his studio in Beijing, 22 May 2013. Ai made his first foray into the musical world with the release of the song
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei at the door to his studio in Beijing, 22 May 2013. Ai made his first foray into the musical world with the release of the song "Dumbass" that takes inspiration from his detention in 2011

REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic

In its Artist Alert report for May 2013, ARTICLE 19 highlights cases from Nigeria, Zambia, Argentina and Canada 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

NIGERIA: SINGER FACES TRIAL OVER "BLASPHEMOUS" SONG

Nigerian singer Rabi'u, also known as Taka Lafiya, was brought to trial before the Kano State Censorship Tribunal on 31 May for releasing a "blasphemous" song named Barhama Nake Bautawa [I worship Barhama].

The singer will remain in jail until the court decides on 3 June whether or not he can be released on bail.

ZAMBIA: STATE AGENTS BREAK INTO SINGER'S HOUSE


Singer Pilato was arrested on 11 May after releasing a song called Bufi [Lies], criticising Zambia's president Michael Sata and his government and asking the President to fulfill his promises. The song went viral. President Sata has suggested that this song could be fuelling opposition protests against his government.

Men suspected to be state agents reportedly subsequently broke into singer Pilato's house on 18 May. A video camera, two laptops and Pilato's wife's mobile phone were taken in what looks like an attempt to implicate the singer in criminal activities.


Americas

ARGENTINA: LOCAL AUTHORITY EXPELS STREET MUSIC ARTISTS

Jamaicaderos, a local street music group that plays in a tourist spot in Buenos Aires, was expelled from San Telmo Square by the local authorities on 16 April. Around 20 agents from the City Council asked them to stop playing and moved the group, accusing them of "disturbing" public spaces and illegally distributing their discs.

The group said that the Mayor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri, was censoring them for opposing his policies, in particular for protesting last year when the Mayor vetoed a law that would have entitled musicians to receive the state pension.

ARGENTINA: PRO-GOVERNMENT GROUP PROTESTS AGAINST ANTI-CORRUPTION SCHOOL MURAL

On 28 May, an Argentinian pro-government youth group, La Cámpora, protested against a local school mural with the theme of anti-corruption. In the mural, President Cristina Kirchner was depicted with moneybags covering a boy's mouth alongside the message: "In democracy we have free expression but corruption still exists".

The mural was part of an anti-corruption art project, which coincided with the president's involvement in a corruption scandal.

La Cámpora said they would be raising the issue with the Ministry of Education and asking them to punish "the students, the school and the arts professor" for mocking the president. La Cámpora is a group known for its support and close links to the late former president, Nestor Kirchner, and his wife and current President, Cristina Kirchner.

CANADA: VIDEO CLIP WITH BULLYING SCENES CENSORED IN QUEBEC AND FRANCE

The video of the song College Boy by French band Indochine was censored in Quebec and on YouTube following its premiere on 5 May. The video, shot in Canada, shows its main character, a gay teen, being bullied, beaten, harassed, crucified and shot multiple times.

Xavier Dolan, the French Canadian filmmaker who directed the video, said he wanted to show the difficulties that teenagers face in school and insisted that the video had an anti-bullying message. The video is not allowed to be shown in France during the day. The French censorship board is due to decide the future of the video in the next days.

COLOMBIA: NEW LEGISLATION UNDERMINING PARODY AND COMEDY SPARKS OUTCRY


A proposed Colombian law, Bill 001, on copyright and intellectual property, which aimed to protect the integrity of authors and their work pitted comedians against writers. Under the proposed law, comedians' work would only have been protected as long as it did not "undermine the interests of the authors".

The bill was brought before Congress on 16 April and was widely opposed by comedians. Political parody and comedies are very popular in the Colombian media. The bill was subsequently dismissed in Congress on 14 May.

CUBA: STREET ARTIST'S WORK CONFISCATED


Cuban graffiti artist, Danilo Maldonado, also known as 'El Sexto' [The Sixth], was briefly detained after the police broke into his house on 18 May. The police, who confiscated his sprays and laptop, said that they were investigating "some incidents".

In his work, El Sexto usually expresses support for the opposition group, Las Damas de Blanco, criticising the Castro brothers' regime.

USA: YOUTUBE REMOVES DAVID BOWIE VIDEO BECAUSE OF RELIGIOUS REFERENCES


On 8 May, YouTube censored David Bowie's new video, The Next Day because of its religious references. In the video, the British singer is featured as a Messianic character joined by priests drinking in a bar and interacting with women. The video was replaced with a notice saying it violated YouTube's terms.

YouTube subsequently reinstated the video, which now appears with a warning that it is only suitable for viewers over the age of 18.

USA: FOX ORDERS GOOGLE TO REMOVE BOOK OVER ALLEGED COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT

On 20 April, it was reported that US TV channel Fox had ordered Google to remove the link to download Homeland, the book by Canadian online activist, Cory Doctorow. This was an attempt to fight copyright infringement of Fox's TV show of the same name.

Cory Doctorow, who is also an anti-copyright activist, made his novel available to download without charge on multiple websites. Homeland tells the story of an infowar, the suppression of information and the fight against censorship.

VENEZUELA: CARTOONIST THREATENED BY MINISTER OF ENERGY

Venezuelan cartoonist, Rayma Suprani, reported that Rafael Ramirez, Minister of Energy and also President of the State-run oil company PDVSA, was about to file a complaint against her on 3 May.

The complaint was about one of Suprani's cartoons, which had been published in El Universal newspaper on 9 April. The cartoon showed a man with a box on his head with a label that read "new PDVSA". This was around the same time as a video that had gone viral, causing a scandal. The video showed a PDVSA manager with a box over his head, holding a naked party on his boat at a public beach.

The cartoonist received death threats a year ago from pro-government groups as a result of another of her cartoons that criticised the housing policies of former president, Hugo Chávez.


Europe and Central Asia

BELARUS: POLICE BREAK UP PLAY PERFORMANCE

Police broke up a performance of the play Animal in Minsk by the Belarus Free Theatre on 18 May. The play was staged in a secret location since its performance is prohibited in the country. The police asked all members of the cast and audience for their full names.

Natalia Kaliada, the director of Belarus Free Theatre, said this action might be linked to a speech she had recently given. She had spoken at a forum on artistic freedom in Oslo about the state of the arts in Belarus.

BELGIUM: FLEMISH MP COVERS FRENCH WORDS FROM CARTOON

On 17 May, a leaflet promoting an exhibition of cartoon strips in the Belgium Parliament had its speech bubbles covered because they were written in French. The pieces written in French were also removed from the exhibition catalogue, posters and invitation. The artists, Benoît Peeters and François Schuiten, protested against the censorship, saying in a statement: "the decision is contrary to artistic freedom and distorts the original board design".

ITALY: TV CHANNEL CENSORS SPANISH SOAP OPERA OVER SAME-SEX LOVE SCENES

On 16 April, it was reported that the Spanish soap opera, Tierra de Lobos [Land of Wolves], was shown in a censored version on the Italian TV channel, Rete 4. The scenes that were removed were those showing same-sex couples.

The soap opera tells the story of two siblings who try to find their real father. One of the main characters, female actor Adriana Torrebejano, discovers that she is a lesbian and falls in love with a prostitute. The female actors' love scenes were deleted in the Italian version of the programme.

RUSSIA: FILM PREMIERE DELAYED OVER SEX SCENES

Goltzius and the Pelican Company, a film by British director Peter Greenaway, was due to be released in Russia on 16 May. However, the premiere of the film has now been delayed until later this year. The film includes sexually explicit scenes and is critical of religious beliefs.

The distribution company has denied that the film has been censored, but media reports claim that there are two DVD versions of the movie. One version is considerably shorter than the other, which suggests that scenes from the movie have been removed to meet Russian standards.

TURKEY: LESBIAN KISS AT TV MUSIC CONTEST CENSORED

On 16 May, the broadcast of the Finnish entry in this year's Eurovision Song Contest, which ended with a kiss between two women, was censored in Turkey. The reason given was the alleged "lack of audience".

The Finnish contestant, Krista Siegfrids, staged the lesbian kiss at the end of her semi-final performance of Marry Me as a statement about same-sex marriage.

UK: VISA DENIED TO ARTIST BECAUSE OF DISABILITY

On 7 May, Kazakh artist and anti-nuclear campaigner, Karipbek Kuyukov, claimed that the UK Immigration Agency had refused his visa application because he was unable to provide fingerprints. Kuyukov said he received a letter from the British Embassy in Turkey stating that the "biometrics were of poor quality" and that he needed to reapply.

The artist, who has no arms and paints holding a brush in his foot or mouth, was planning to attend an anti-nuclear conference in Edinburgh, Scotland.

UK: LOCAL AUTHORITY REMOVES MURAL DEEMED "TOO POLITICAL"

On 2 May, Graffiti artist, Dean Tweedy, painted a mural depicting US actor Charlie Sheen with the message 'this town needs a new Sheen'. He did this in the run-up to local elections in Kent, England. The local council ordered him to remove the mural as it was deemed 'too political'. The artist removed the message and added a zip to Sheen's mouth as a sign of protest against the censorship.


Asia

CHINA: AI WEIWEI'S MUSIC VIDEO BLOCKED ON INTERNET

On 21 May, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei released his first video of the song Dumbass. This is the first track on his heavy metal music album, Divine Comedy.

The video, which tells the story of his 81-day detention in 2011, was blocked on the Internet by the Chinese authorities. It was reported that web searches of "Ai Weiwei" were also blocked. The album will be released in June 2013.

INDIA: RAPPER FACES CHARGES FOR "VULGAR" LYRICS

Indian rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh is facing charges over the lyrics of one of his songs, Main hoon balatkari [I am a rapist]. The lyrics were deemed "disrespectful towards women". On 14 May, a Punjabi court said that such singers should be boycotted. If found guilty, the rapper could face up to three years in prison.

SOUTH KOREA: TV SHOW SUED OVER PUNDIT'S JOKE

On 9 May, media critic and commentator Byun Hee-jae sued the makers of the South Korean version of the popular American TV show Saturday Night Live over a joke made about him. The joke, part of the show's news segment, referred to him as "an attention seeker who, though said to have a job, we have no idea what he really does". In the same segment, he was nominated as "Weirdo of the Week".

Byun said the news segment of the comedy show was "illegal" and claimed that it "manipulates public opinion".

THAILAND: PRIME MINISTER SUES CARTOONIST OVER FACEBOOK COMMENTS


Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is suing cartoonist Somchai Katanyutanan over a comment he posted on Facebook. In the comment, he compared Shinawatra to a prostitute for "selling out her country".

The leader filed the lawsuit on 3 May and accuses the cartoonist of three offences:
* insulting an official during an official event
* defaming another person publicly
* violating the Computer-related Crimes Act, which prohibits posting defamatory comments against others on the Internet.

The cartoonist is being sued in three different courts.

Katanyutanan posted photographs of the prime minister delivering a speech with the caption: "Please understand that prostitutes are not bad women. Prostitutes only sell their body, but a bad woman has been wandering around trying to sell the country."


Middle East and North Africa

ALGERIA: SINGER SENTENCED TO SIX-MONTH IMPRISONMENT OVER SONG MOCKING POLICE

On 21 April, Algerian singer Cheb Fayçal was arrested over a song that mocked the police and one of the top police officials. On 2 May, an Oran court sentenced him to six months in prison. The song has not been recorded but he has performed it in several Oran nightclubs.

ARAB LEAGUE: MEMBER STATES ASKED TO BOYCOTT MOVIE SHOT IN ISRAEL

Countries who are members of the League of Arab Nations boycotted the film The Attack by Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri on 14 May. The reason for the boycott was the fact that the movie had been partially shot in Israel. The boycott means that the film cannot be shown in commercial theatres or at private screenings. The movie had already been censored in Lebanon in April for the same reasons.

The movie is based on Yasmina Khadra's novel of the same name and depicts the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Before the Arab League's call for the boycott, The Attack was due to be screened in 12 countries across the Middle East.

EGYPT: MPS CALL TO BAN BALLET


On 31 May, ultraconservative members of the Egyptian parliament called for ballet performances to be prohibited in the country. They described ballet as "immoral" and "nude art". MP Gamal Hamed said that ballet performances at the Opera House spread "immorality and obscenity to the people". The ban has not yet gone through.

IRAQ: MINISTRY OF CULTURE DEMANDS SHUTDOWN OF PLAY OVER NUDITY SCENES


A German play which was part of the Experimental Theatre Festival in Iraq was shut down on 9 May. The shutdown was because of a scene in which a female actor removes her clothes. In the play, the actress ends up semi-naked onstage.

The Iraqi Ministry of Culture released a statement demanding the play be shut down. It suspended Shafiq Mahdi, the Director-General of the Department of Cinema and Theatre, and called for an investigation into the festival's organisers.

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