Censorship

Arizona National Guard v. Clark

Date: 

07/19/2005

Threat Type: 

Disciplinary Action

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Specialist Leonard A. Clark

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Material Removed

Description: 

Specialist Leonard A. Clark, a member of the Arizona National Guard serving in Iraq, was demoted to Private First Class for allegedly releasing classified information on his blog.  According to press accounts, Clark's blog was openly critical of the war in Iraq. The Army punished Clark after his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel James F. Switzer, found him guilty in a nonjudicial proceeding on July 19, 2005. Clark's blog and its host site, LeonardClark.com, are no longer active.

According to a U.S. Central Command press release, the charges and specifications against Clark included failure to obey an order or regulation under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice by releasing information about the movements, tactics, and rules of engagement of U.S. troops, as well as information about improvised explosive attacks on U.S. convoys, thereby violating an order against releasing such information. Clark was also charged with reckless endangerment under Article 134 for revealing this type of information and "encouraging its widespread publication," such that "with that information it was likely that the enemy forces could cause death or seriously bodily harm to U.S. forces."

Some military bloggers familiar with the content of Clark's blog posts doubted that the posts revealed any military secrets or compromised the security of military operations. Others argued that Clark should have known that his posts were in a gray area and in any case were subject to Army approval.

Clark could have requested a court martial instead of a hearing before his commanding officer, but he declined to do so. According to the press release, Lieutenant Colonel Switzer found Clark guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and sentenced him to a 1-grade reduction in rank, forfeiture of $820 pay per month for two months, 45 days of travel restriction, and 45 days of extra duty. The restriction and extra duty were suspended for 5 months.

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Threat Source: 

MLRC

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Turkish Court Ends Latest YouTube Ban

The Guardian reports that a Turkish court has lifted the ban on YouTube in that country, imposed by an Ankara court in May 2008 after it determined that certain videos posted on the popular video-sharing site insulted Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey.

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Iran Moves One Step Closer to Ratifying Death Penalty for Blogging

Online free speech has never been well received by the Iranian government, but now Tehran is just one step away from making blogging on certain topics into a capital crime. 

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WIA Releases Report on Arrests of Bloggers, Does It Overcount?

According to a new report by the World Information Access (“WIA”) Project, 64 independent bloggers have been arrested since 2003, suggesting governments around the world are growing more aware of blogs and more likely to act to silence bloggers.

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Turtle Mountain Chippewa Indians v. Port

Date: 

05/11/2007

Threat Type: 

Disciplinary Action

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Rob Port; Steve Cates; Dakota Beacon

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Description: 

In May 2007, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians banished Robert Port from the tribe's lands for publishing an article, "The Appalling State of North Dakota Indian Reservations," on the Dakota Beacon website and on his own blog, Say Anything Blog.  The banishment order also alleged that comment threads on the Say Anything Blog included "anti-Indian and anti-reservation comments," including that "reservation peoples are living on the Government's 'welfare tit.'"  The order also purported to require the Dakota Beacon and its editor, Steve Cates, to publicly retract the article.

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Threat Source: 

MLRC

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Senator Lieberman Asks YouTube to Take Down Radical Islamist Videos

On Monday, Senator Joe Lieberman wrote to Google's CEO Eric Schmidt, asking the company to remove content produced by Islamist terrorist organizations from YouTube. The May 19 letter pointed out that many videos posted by radical groups violate YouTube's own terms of service because they contain "graphic or gratiuitious violence." But Sen.

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U.S. Treasury Department v. Marshall

Date: 

10/01/2007

Threat Type: 

Other

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Steve Marshall

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Publication Medium: 

Website

Status: 

Concluded

Description: 

Steve Marshall, an English travel agent operating out of Spain, had approximately 80 of his websites shut down as a result of the U.S. Treasury Department's placing them on its blacklist. Many of the sites discussed Cuba, some offering commentary about Cuba, and others offered online travel services to European tourists interested in travelling to Cuba.

According to the Treasury Department, the websites were added to the U.S. Treasury Department's Blacklist because they breached the U.S. trade sanctions with Cuba by enabling U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba.  Treasury claims that its action was part of a broader effort to prevent tourist dollars propping up the "oppressive" Castro regime.

Marshall's US-based domain registrar eNom, Inc. disabled the domains in October 2007 when it was contacted by Treasury and informed of the blacklisting. Marshall reports that he has chosen to put the sites up using new, non-U.S.-registered sites.

There is some dispute over whether Marshall's company helped U.S. nationals to evade U.S. government travel restrictions. According to Treasury, it targeted U.S. citizens (see Press Release). According to Marshall, who is quoted in the New York Times, he is not interested in American tourists: "They can’t go anyway."

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Saudi Blogger Fouad Ahmad Al-Farhan Released

After four months, the Saudi Arabian government has released popular Saudi blogger Fouad Ahmad Al-Farhan without charge. Authorities arrested Fouad in December after warning him about posts supporting an activist group on his blog at فؤاد أحمد الفرحان. From the time of his arrest, Interior Ministry officials were evasive about the reason for his detention, explaining only that it was not related to state security.

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International Olympic Committee Thinks Blogging Is Not About Journalism

Ars Technica reports that the International Olympic Committee has lifted its ban on blogging. Athletes competing in Beijing 2008 will be allowed to blog about the Olympics, so long as they follow some, well, restrictive guidelines.

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Saudi Blogger Detained

The mainstream press (here, here) reports that the Saudi Arabian authorities have detained Fouad Ahmad Al-Farhan, a popular Saudi blogger whose blog has been a platform for criticism of government corruption and advocacy for political reform.

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Egypt v. Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suliman

Date: 

11/06/2006

Threat Type: 

Criminal Charge

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Public Prosecutor, Egypt

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suliman, a.k.a. Kareem Amer

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

International

Court Name: 

Maharram Beik Misdemeanor Court (Alexandria, Egypt); Court of Appeal (Alexandria)

Case Number: 

Case No. 6677 of 2006

Legal Counsel: 

Gamal Abdul Aziz Eid, Rawda Ahmed Said, Ahmed Seif al-Islam

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Verdict (plaintiff)

Description: 

Egyptian law student Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suliman ("Kareem"), using the psuedonym Kareem Amer, posted a series of articles critizing the Islamic faith, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Al-Azhar University to his blog and websites, Modern Discussion and Copts United. He was first arrested for his posts in October 2005, at which time he was detained for 12 days and forced to surrender his books and some personal articles and writings. In March 2006, Kareem was expelled from Al-Azahar University because of his posts. (For more information on the expulsion, see the CMLP database entry, Al-Azhar University v. Abdul Kareem Nabeel.)

Al-Azhar informed the Public Prosecutor's Office in Alexandria of Kareem's writings. On November 06, 2006, Kareem was arrested. When he refused to recant, he was held in solitary confinement until he could face trial. He was charged with three basic crimes: contempt for religion (both generally and Islam in particular), defaming President Mubarak, and disrupting public order.

On Feb. 22, 2007 in Maharram Beik Court, after what reports have described as only five minutes of consideration, Kareem was was sentenced to four years in prison for his speech -- three years for contempt of religion and one year for defaming Mubarak. The charges relating to alleged disruptions of public order were dropped.

On March 12, 2007, the Court of Appeals in Alexandria upheld Kareem's conviction and four-year sentence. The court also approved a civil claim brought by a group of Egyptian lawyers seeking to fine Kareem for "insulting Islam."

Status:

Several sources, including freekareem.org, have reported that Kareem's lawyers intend to appeal the case to the Court of Cassation, Egypt's highest appeals court.

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CMLP Notes: 

Details are sketchy due to lack of available court documents. Continue to monitor on (theoretical) appeal. {MCS 09/14/07}

Status checked on 6/3/2008, no new information (AAB)

Status checked on 2/19/2009 -VAF  (no new information re: a possible appeal)

 

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Al-Azhar University v. Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suliman

Date: 

03/14/2006

Threat Type: 

Disciplinary Action

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suliman, a.k.a. Kareem Amer

Type of Party: 

School

Type of Party: 

Individual

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Verdict (plaintiff)

Description: 

Egyptian law student Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suliman ("Kareem"), using the psuedonym Kareem Amer, posted a series of articles critizing the Islamic faith, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Al-Azhar University to his blog and websites, Modern Discussion and Copts United. Some of his posts critized the operations of Al-Azhar, where he was then a student, for its allegedly strict religious policies and gender discrimination. In October 2005 he was arrested and detained by Egyptian police for his postings, but he ultimately was released without criminal charge.

On March 14, 2006, Kareem was called before a discipinary panel at Al-Azhar University, Damanhour Campus. According to Kareem's blog (partially translated into English), he was accused of defaming the university and libeling the Grand Imam (the head of the Supreme Council that runs Al-Azhar). Kareem did not deny that he had written the posts and did not apologize, instead asserting a right to critize the university. Days later, Kareem was expelled from Al-Azhar.

The university submitted copies of Kareem's blog posts to the Egyptian government, which ultimately led to criminal charges being brought against him. In Feb. 2007, Kareem was sentenced to four years in prison. (For more information and continuing developments, see the CMLP database entry, Egypt v. Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suliman).

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Massachusetts State Police v. Jean

Date: 

02/14/2006

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Mary T. Jean

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Central Division; United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Case Number: 

4:06CV40031 (District); No. 06-1775 (Appeals)

Legal Counsel: 

John Reinstein, Daniel Shea

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Description: 

Mary Jean is the operator of Conte2006.com, which describes itself as being "designed for the sole purpose of stopping the re-election of [Worchester, MA] District Attorney John J. Conte." Jean posted a video to the site that showed state police engaging in a warrantless and possibly unconstitutional search of Paul Pechonis' home. The police depicted in the video allegedly were from a unit that reported to Conte and acted under his supervision. The video was recorded by Pechonis' child-security system (or "nanny cam"), and Pechonis himself gave the video to Jean.

On Feb. 14, 2006, the Massuchetts state police sent a cease-and-desist letter demanding that Jean remove the video within 24 hours or face criminal action. The letter cited a Massachusetts law regarding unauthorized recording and wiretapping as the basis for the takedown request (the police later clarified by stating that only the audio portion of the recording was at issue). Rather than removing the video, Jean filed a lawsuit in federal court requesting an injunction to prevent the Massachusetts police from pursuing legal action. The complaint named the state police, Massachusetts State Police superintendent Thomas G. Robbins, and Massachusetts attorney general Thomas Reilly as defendants.

Jean's complaint sought both an immediate temporary restraining order and a permant injunction that would prevent the police from taking action against her related to the video. The court granted the restraining order on the day the complaint was filed.

The district court ultimately granted the injunction as well. The court assumed for the sake of argument that Jean had reason to know that the recording might have been illegal when she posted it. Finding a public interest in Jean's publication of the information contained in the video, the court decided that the police's duty to restrain illegal recording could not counterbalance Jean's free speech rights. Key to this decision was the fact that Jean did not engage in recording herself, and thus punishing her would not serve the same deterrence goals as would punishing the recorder.

On appeal, the First Circuit upheld the injunction, echoing the lower court's comments regarding the balancing of free speech versus the police's law-enforcing goals.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

The Conte2006.com site is a good place to check for updates, in case the suit is appealed further. {MCS}

 

sam reviewing

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YouTube Suspends Account of Prominent Egyptian Blogger and Anti-Torture Activist

I've blogged before about Wael Abbas, an Egyptian blogger and political activist who has gained renown by, among other things, posting videos on YouTube revealing brutal scenes of torture from inside Egypt's police stations.

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Citizen Media Law Podcast #3: News Media Clampdown in Pakistan; Sam Bayard Interview on Internet Solutions v. Marshall

This week, David Ardia talks about threats to the Internet in Pakistan and Colin Rhinesmith speaks with Sam Bayard about a recent entry in our new legal threats database.

Download the MP3 (time: 7:30)

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Opposition News Sites Blocked in Kazakhstan

The OpenNet Initiative is reporting that four opposition news sites in Kazakhstan have been recently blocked, including www.kub.kz, www.zonakz.net, www.geo.kz, and www.inkar.info.

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ONI Releases Bulletin on Internet Shutdown in Burma

Yesterday, the OpenNet Initiative released an excellent report on the recent Internet shutdown in Burma, entitled "Pulling the Plug: A Technical Review of the Internet Shutdown in Burma." Besides the eye-popping technical analysis ONI was able to carry out in a matter of weeks, the report contains a great overview of the dramatic events of late September and early October 2007, including the role that citizen journalists and

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Bloggers Expose Torture in Egypt

The San Francisco Chronicle has an interesting article today about Egyptian bloggers posting cell phone videos to document endemic police torture in their country (thanks to 3arabawy for the tip). The most recent iteration of this phenomenon is a clip of a thirteen-year-old boy from Mansoura who died from injuries inflicted in police custody after he was arrested for stealing a few bags of tea a week earlier:

The explicit 13-minute clip is the latest of some dozen amateur videos - mostly from cell phone cameras - that have surfaced on blogs within the past year, showing systematic torture in Egyptian police stations. The videos have thrust a once rarely mentioned subject onto the front pages of Cairo newspapers.

Some activists hope the incriminating videos will spur a wave of reforms within the justice system.

"Activists that have worked to end torture have told me: 'You've done more in a few days what we were not able to do in 10 years,'" said Wael Abbas, a 32-year-old Egyptian blogger, who recently received the 2007 Knight International Journalism Award by the International Center for Journalists in Washington for posting police torture videos on his Web site.

It's encouraging to see the continued influence of bloggers on the mainstream press in Egypt, but it's been rough couple of month for journalists and activists of every stripe. If you're interested, the Christian Science Monitor has some informative reports on the recent crackdown (here and here).

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School Forced to Defend Removal of Student Posters Referencing Website Containing Links to Violent Videos

Last week a Massachusetts district court rejected a school district's effort to dismiss a novel student speech case, Bowler v. Town of Hudson, in which school administrators removed the Hudson High School Conservative Club's posters advertising its first meeting because the posters contained the website address for the club's national organization, which in turn contained a link to graphic videos on another site that depicted beheadings in Iraq.

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Hudson High School v. Bowler

Date: 

05/17/2005

Threat Type: 

Disciplinary Action

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Christopher Bowler; Hudson High School Conservative Club

Type of Party: 

Individual
School

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts

Case Number: 

1:05-cv-11007-PBS

Legal Counsel: 

Gregory A. Hession

Publication Medium: 

Print
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)
Settled (total)

Description: 

In the fall of 2004, two students at Hudson High School ("HHS") in Hudson, Massachusetts formed a Conservative Club in an effort to provide a forum for pro-conservative views on campus. The HHS Conservative Club was affiliated with a national organization, the High School Conservative Clubs of America, whose slogan is "Protecting American Freedom, Faith, and Morality." Among other things, the group endorses Second Amendment rights, the "restoration" of Christian values to schools and government, and the closing of the nation's borders to all immigrants; the group is opposed to gay marriage, affirmative action, and abortion.

When the HHS Conservative Club put up posters advertising its first organizational meeting, included on these posters was a link to the club's national organization's website. At the time this case arose, this website contained a banner entitled "Islam: A Religion of Peace?" Underneath the banner was a still shot from a video depicting a beheading (the still depicted the scene immediately before the actual beheading) as well as a link to five beheading videos. The links to these videos were accompanied by a warning that the videos were extremely graphic but that the group feels "it is necessary to provide them so you can see the true doctrines of Islam put into action."

Alerted to the HSCCA website by a faculty member, the HHS Technology Director reviewed it and decided to block access to it from all the school computers. When she told the assistant principal about the website, he ordered all of the group's posters removed. The school principal later permitted the group to put up posters as long as the HSCCA website was blacked out. The school officials contend that the graphic content available on the HSCCA website would disturb some of the students at the school, some of whom were under 12, and that the posters threatened to disrupt the operation of the school by requiring teachers to take time away from their lessons to discuss the videos with psychologically scarred students. The leaders of the HHS Conservative Group sued the school district as well as school administrators for violating their First Amendment rights; the defendants later moved for summary judgment to dismiss the plaintiffs' claims.

On October 4, 2007, the Massachusetts district court largely rejected the defendants' motion for summary judgment. In the first part of the court's opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Saris noted how far removed the posters were from actually presenting violent images:

To access the videos, a student would need (1) to view the posters and then, later, (2) access the website (and he could not do so at school because the website was blocked by the time the posters were removed), (3) discover the beheading videos among the other content, (4) navigate past an express warning, and (5) affirmatively click a link to the videos. There is no allegation that plaintiffs were publicizing the graphic content of the website. Thus, students at HHS were not a "captive audience" for the videos; rather, the videos were only available to the students, outside of school, as a matter of conscious choice.

The court also noted that the Technology Director's decision to block the website was akin to censoring a book in the school's library and might also be a separate constitutional violation; however, the plaintiffs in this case had not made that argument.

The district court then went on to grant the individual school officials qualified immunity, explaining that "[t]he First Amendment jurisprudence governing a school's regulation of student access to violent speech on the internet with the benign intent to protect students from images which may be upsetting and psychologically damaging is not settled . . . ." The court confused the issue of whether blocking access to the HSCCA website on its computers would be constitutional-certainly an open issue-with the issue of whether it was constitutional to force the group to eliminate any reference to the website on its posters.

Update:

April 2008 - The parties settled the case and filed a stipulation of dismissal

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