Nearly all the posts are bilingual.
Presque tous les articles sont bilingues.

English spoken. On parle français. (وكمان منفهم عربي، حبيبي)

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La plupart du contenu de ce blog est soumis aux droits d'auteurs. Par exemple, nombre des illustrations les plus récentes sont faites par moi. Je suis du genre coulant. Si vous comptez emprunter du contenu, SVP contactez-moi en laissant un commentaire. :-)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Censorship in Lebanon

Ceci est la traduction de l'article paru en Français en novembre 2007 ici-même, et toujours 100% d'actualité. Pourquoi le traduire aujourd'hui? Réponse peut-être prochainement...

Snip-snip! GRRRRR!
This is the translation of a news article in French that I blogged in November 2007. Still true to the last word...
[BTW, as usual, if you see a new article, it means I have posted the translation in the previous one.]

Censorship in Lebanon, blurry application and obsolete legislation
Original article by May MAKAREM

Allegorical figure of censorship, lady Anastasia holding big scissors and set in her General Security office has a face and name... that of colonel Hind Mneimneh. Books, newspapers and magazines, songs, theatrical plays, feature movies, advertising clips, all go under the scrutiny of her magnifying glass before they are allowed publication to the public. The play by Rabih Mroueh, which managed to defeat the censorship, has set on her the spotlights of the media.

«The ruckus he raised eventually made lots of promotion for his play! We had just asked him to abstain from mentioning the names of political parties to avoid awakening political strife that's still smouldering in the country», to conform with the law. Which, the colonel reminds, prohibits anything that harms public morality. Anything that deals with religion and the religious figures, and can fan confessional or political discord. «I'm in charge of an executive department. We obey the instructions given to us, to uphold the law on printed works. However, the real problem doesn't lie there, but at the level of texts which aren't often coherent with each other. Also, the law, created in 1962, has become obsolete and is no more in phase with our time which is much more permissive and open. This is why sometimes I circumvent it... but I can do nothing more. I know we live in the age of the Internet and the blogs, but if I don't enforce the law, I'll get sanctioned.»
Col. Mneimneh insists however on the fact that her office is not paranoid ; that the rules aren't fiercely applied and that they're not meant to gag the citizens, but that freedom of speech ends where nonsense and blasphemy begin. Movies on «the theme of pornography» and those «glorifying Satan», deemed «obscene» and «harmful to moral and family values», are of course prohibited from distribution. But scenes once labeled «indecent» no more receive that restrictive measure, except «in very few instances» and «never without considering the coherence of the content», she insists. She notes, as an example, that the sex scene in Rocky Mountain was cut off, «not out of narrow-mindedness, not because the scene was really blamable, on the contrary the scene was so beautiful that it could encourage young people to undertake that kind of experiment. It was out of consideration that we demanded a little cut. To protect some people, more or less fragile and inclined to weakness, against some drifts.»
In summary, «the bureau doesn't amputate for the pleasure of butchering, at most it restricts the reach of some movies to (age) limited audiences». Samely, «we're lenient on many things» such as the notorious «black list» of producers, actors and singers, prohibited by the Israel boycott bureau (attached to the Ministry of Economy and Trade), and we do so as long as the movie or its soundtrack are not making propaganda for that country.
As for the prohibition of a book, magazine or movie, colonel Mneimneh points out that it's not up to her bureau to take such a measure. «The decision is up to the Ministry of Information, which also supervises and manages the media ; or to the reversal jurisdiction to which the religious instances or plaintiff refer». Thus, the best-seller Da Vinci Code by american novelist Dan Brown was removed from bookstores «following the request of the Catholic information center», because of «slanderous» statements against the Church and the reference to the the private life of Jesus. «We've been living with that practice for a long time, and it cannot be helped.»

Tarek Mitri's ideas
Well, yes, it can be helped, declares minister Tarek Mitri, for whom freedom of speech is a non negociable democratic principle. This law, which is «very disparate, with decrees going back to the Forties and texts with many possible interpretations», is a blemish. He'd like to abolish it and create a «high national authority» or «an arbitration instance» for the preservation of liberties, public order and public morality. «The real problem, he says, is that precedence is granted to repression, not prevention (...), we should abolish initial censorship and instate posterior censorship where courts of law would rule. Books, movies, would circulate freely. Then, if an individual feels he's defamed or the prosecutor's office assesses there is disturbance of the public interest, a lawsuit will be launched, and, if it is won, the work will be removed.»
The minister's proposal was examined at the ministers Council but is met with «plenty of oppositions», mainly coming from the religious instances that feel «unsettled without the support of a law». A new system implies «an evolved mentality» and «the culture of respecting others. But we haven't gathered enough mutual respect to dare step forward...».


Paradoxally, calls to censorship represent a genuine advertising that, by stirring the public's curiosity, brings about the opposite result of what was sought.
Movies like Amen and Last temptation of the Christ, or the book titled The coranic verses got word-to-mouth which they probably never would have received without the threats aimed at these works or their authors.

Historical glimpse

The struggle for freedom of speech goes way back in time with Euripides who defended freedom of speech in the 4th century B.C. And the most famous censorship affair is Socrates condemned to drink the hemlock for inciting young people to debauchery.
Censorship has accompanied freedom of speech since the beginning of history. The origin of the word goes back to the position of censor, created in Rome in 433 B.C., whose goal was to regulate morals.
The birth of the catholic Church and its need to maintain orthodoxy developed censorship exponentially. Many censorship measures were enforced to eradicate heretic threats to the christian dogma. For instance, in 1515 during the 5th Latran synod, pope Leon the Xth ordered the prohibition of printing books, in the dioceses, before the texts got examined by the bishop or his representative, under penalty of excommunication.
Other random fact, under the rule of Elisabeth the Ist, the Master of Revels was in charge of approving theatrical plays. In 1662, the british Parliament voted the «Licensing Act».
Following the placards affair, on October 18th 1534, king François the Ist ordered the heretics hunt and issued an edict against unsubmissive printers.
In 1692, Richelieu laicized censorship, which until then was under catholic responsibility.

France also amputates

During the french Revolution, the Declaration of human and citizen's rights solemnly stated that none must be troubled for their opinions, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by the law. In 1810, a decree by Napoleon officially re-established censorship, but it disappeared with the issuance of the July 29th 1881 law on freedom of the press. However, theatrical censorship remained until 1906.
While censorship was never officially re-established in France, except in war time, mainly during both world wars and the Algeria war, elements of direct or indirect censorship remain. To name but a few examples, in the middle of the Eighties, a book by Jean-Bedel Bokassa, charging former french president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing about the diamonds affair, got pulped.
Le grand secret (The great secret), by Claude Gubler, former physician of president François Mitterrand, got banned by a court ruling a few days after it came out in 1996. In June 2000, french rock group Matmatah got fined 15,000 francs (about $3,000) for provocation to narcotics use and to the presentation under a positive light of drug use and traffic.
The cancelling by the general management of the Comédie-Française of the performances of Peter Handke's play, Voyage au pays sonore ou l’art de la question (Travel in the ringing land or the art of questioning), represents a form of censorship. It is the consequence of Handke's presence at the funeral of serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic and, more generally, of Peter Handke's opinions on the role of Serbia in the yugoslavian conflicts of the Nineties.
More recently, french media speak of censored books (such as Serge Portelli's) and videos about Sarkozy. Samely, the Sacem censored a song spoofing the french president.


© 2007, L'Orient-Le Jour. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

xmung said...

us silly humans, always trying to tell people what they can and cannot say, watch or listen to!

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