Politics & Society

Index Index – International free speech round up 04/02/13

Chinese communist party newspaper The People’s Daily has today denied allegations that China hacked into the computer systems of various US media outlets. The state-run newspaper denied that officials had hacked The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, also refuting claims from The Washington Post that it had been targeted. The People’s Daily said that the national security allegations from the US were a cover-up for imposing economic sanctions on China. The Obama administration will reportedly address the attacks as an economic threat in a National Intelligence Estimate report, meaning the US can impose sanctions in China in response. Concern has been mounting in America that China has been responsible for a series of sustained cyber attacks on government agencies, US companies and media outlets — a US congressional report last year named China “the most threatening actor in cyberspace”.

A french journalist researching prostitution and human trafficking in Cambodia has had a seven year jail sentence in absentia upheld under prostitution charges. Daniel Lainé was charged by Phnom Penh City Court on 29 January for soliciting prostitutes and issued with a “red notice” by Interpol following a request from the court, banning him from reporting anywhere outside of France. Lainé had originally been sentenced in 2010 after being caught secretly filming a prostitute without permission, a charge the journalist denies. The charges are thought to be linked to Lainé’s 2003 documentary exposing sex tourism in Cambodia and are allegedly supported by a written witness statement from someone who never appeared in court during the case. Lainé is a filmmaker for Tony Comiti Productions and was winner of a World Press Photo award in 1991.

These crisps have caused offence amongst the Catholic community

On 1 February, a film maker accused the Italian government of censorship for calling off the screening of his film for being too political. Bill Emmott, former editor of the Economist, was due to show his documentary Girlfriend in a Coma on 13 February at the National Museum of the 21st Century Arts, but the organisers were contacted on 1 February to say that the ministry of culture had ordered the event to be postponed ahead of the parliamentary elections on 24 February. Emmott, who’s film takes a critical look at Italy and the problems it faces, said there is a culture of denial in the country. The film has already been screened in several European countries and the US and is expected to remain postponed until the elections are over.

An appeals court in the Philippines has upheld a decision to pursue a libel case and issue of arrest warrants against a minor and five other people for online defamation charges made on 13 March 2012. A teenage blogger was accused of posting defamatory comments on Celine Quanico’s blog on 6 April 2008, along with Justine Dimaano, Francesa Vanessa Fugen, Anthony Jay Foronda, Roberto Armando Hidalgo and Danielle Vicaldo. Quanico said that Dimaano had posted a Yahoo messenger conversation titled “meet my backstabber friend”, but had changed the alleged victim’s name — who was 16 at the time of the alleged offence. Other insults posted on the site included “bitch”, “ugly”, “loser” and “liar”. The Cyber Crime Prevention Act went into effect on 3 October in the Philippines, after it was suspended following calls to remove the law from constitution.

Chain sandwich store Pret A Manger has withdrawn a new “Virgin Mary” brand of crisps from shelves following religious complaints. The bloody mary cocktail flavoured crisps had been introduced last week, but prompted complaints, including from Catholic groups that the brand was offensive to Jesus’ mother. The company said it removed the product to avoid further offence after noting the “strength of feeling” behind the few complaints they received. The unsold crisps will be donated to homeless charities across the country. Among the complainants was The Reverend Nick Donnelly, deacon of the Diocese of Lancaster, who said after Pret removed the product that the incident taught the Catholic community how to defend their faith in the future.

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