Egypt: Lawsuit filed against TV series for allegedly offending president

Lawyer Samir Sabry filed a lawsuit to Egypt’s general prosecutor against TV series ‘La Tofte’ El Shams’ (Don’t Let the Sun Set) for allegedly offending the country’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, reported Egyptian Streets on 11 June 2017. The lawyer referred to an episode that briefly featured a piece of graffiti written on a wall […]

Russia: Theatre, director’s home raided in fraud investigation

By Oksana Chelysheva The morning of 23 May 2017 in Russia began with news of a scandal that swept across social media – authorities searched the flat of Russian stage and film director Kirill Serebrennikov. Soon after, news came out that riot police raided Gogol Centre, the theatre that Serebrennikov has been artistic director of […]

Egypt: Writer wins appeal, court orders retrial

A Cairo court of misdemeanour cassation ruled on 21 May 2017 in favour of writer Ahmed Naji’s appeal to cancel his initial two-year prison sentence for publishing “sexually explicit” writings in one of his novels, reported Ahram Online on 21 May 2017. The court ordered a retrial for the writer to be heard by a […]

Spain: Rapper appeals three-and-a-half-year prison sentence over lyrics

Spanish rapper Valtonyc (real name Miquel Arenas Beltrán) and his lawyer confirmed they presented an appeal to the Spanish Supreme Court to repeal his three-year-and-six-month prison sentence on various charges related to his lyrics, reported Europa Press on 9 March 2017. The Spanish National Court, a High State Court directly under the Supreme Court that […]

Algeria: Writer under investigation over allegedly insulting Islam in novel

PEN International has called on Algerian authorities to abandon the investigation of writer Anouar Rahmani for allegedly insulting Islam in his latest novel ‘Jibril’s Hallucination’. If prosecuted under article 144 (bis 2) of the penal code, the writer could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 100,000 dinars (approx. […]

Egypt: Writer’s prison sentence suspended pending final verdict

Egypt’s highest court suspended the two-year prison sentence against writer Ahmed Naji who was imprisoned for “violating public decency” by publishing “sexually explicit” writings featured in his novel that also appeared as excerpts in a literary magazine, reported Reuters on 18 December 2016. The court temporarily suspended the writer’s sentence and was set to be […]

Egypt: Writer remains imprisoned after court rejects third appeal

On 26 November 2016, a Cairo misdemeanour court ruled against novelist Ahmed Naji’s third appeal over his two-year prison sentence for “violating public decency” by publishing “sexually explicit” passages in his novel ‘The Use of Life’, which were also published in a literary magazine in 2014, reported Ahram Online. The author was sentenced to prison […]

Egypt: Author’s sentence upheld over “sexually explicit” novel

On 27 August 2016 a Cairo misdemeanor court rejected author Ahmed Naji’s request to suspend his two-year sentence on charges that he “violated public decency” by publishing “sexually explicit” passages in his novel ‘The Use of Life’, reported Ahram Online on 27 August 2016. The author was sentenced to prison in February 2016 in a […]

Israel: Detained Palestinian poet heads to trial over poem

On 6 September 2016, Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour heads back to trial facing charges that one of her poems posted on YouTube and two Facebook posts constitute “incitement to violence”, a charge that carries a prison term of up to eight years. The charges mainly relate to Tatour’s poem on YouTube, ‘Resist my people, resist’, […]

Malaysia: Artist released on bail; investigation pending

Malaysian artist Namewee was released on bail in Penang on 25 August 2016 after four days in detention over charges that a recent video he starred in, directed and produced allegedly insulted Islam, reported Reuters on 25 August 2016. Penang district police chief Mior Faridalathrash Wahid said they have referred the case to the Penang […]

India: Writer detained over attempted murder charges

Dalit writer Durai Guna and activist friend Bhoopathy Karthikeyan were arrested on 10 June 2016 for attempted murder during the Chennai Book Fair, though those close to the writer and human rights activists claim the charges are false and are a continuation of harassment Guna has suffered for works he’s published on Dalit issues, reported […]

Chile/USA: Former military officer convicted for murdering singer Victor Jara

On 27 June 2016, a jury in Orlando, USA, ordered the former Chilean military officer Pedro Pablo Barrientos Nuñez to pay US$28 million in damages to Chilean singer Victor Jara’s widow and daughters. The court found the 67-year-old former senior military officer, who lives in the US, liable for the torture and murder of the […]

Russia: Performance artist Pavlensky released with fine

The ‘art or arson’ court case against Pyotr Pavlensky for setting fire to the door of the Federal Security Service – the KGB successor – has finally come to a verdict at a Moscow court on 8 June 2016. Surprisingly Pavlensky was released, though he was at the same time sentenced to pay a fine of […]

Malaysia: Artist charged over caricature of prime minister

Malaysian ‘visual disobedience’ artist Fahmi Reza has been charged over a clown caricature of Malaysian Prime Minister Razak. He faces a possible one-year prison sentence and a US$16,580 fine, said his attorney according to AFP on 6 June 2016. On his Facebook page, the 38-year-old artist wrote: “I am not afraid to stand trial for […]

Russia: Artist convicted to 16 months in prison for vandalism

A Moscow court found Russian dissident artist Pyotr Pavlensky guilty of vandalism, Dimitri Kozlov of the Associated Press reported on 19 May 2016. The artist was convicted for setting fire to car tires on Saint Petersburg’s Tripartite Bridge during a pro-Ukraine performance, titled ‘Freedom’, in February 2014. While the court sentenced Pavlensky to 16 months […]

Azerbaijan: Prosecuted writer faces further charges

The case against Azerbaijani writer Akram Aylisli, who previously faced charges of ‘hooliganism’ after being detained at Baku Haydar Aliyev International Airport on 30 March 2016, has expanded to include charges of ‘resisting the authorities with violence’. Under Article 315.1 of the criminal code, this is punishable by up to three years in prison. The […]

UAE: New dance craze leads to arrest

A viral hit across the Middle East, reaching over 21 million views on YouTube since December 2015, of Saudi song and dance craze ‘Barbs’ has led many to post themselves on various social media outlets, including two Emirati soldiers who were arrested for performing the dance in uniform, reported The Washington Post on 11 April […]

Turkey: Baby donkeys, insults and presidents

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is notorious for bringing thousands of his citizens, including many artists, up on insult charges ever since he took power in 2014. Freemuse continues to report on the president’s repression of artistic expression; and while he currently tries to force another country – Germany – to do the same on his behalf, artists […]

Nigeria: Filmmakers in court over “unauthorised” movie release

Three filmmakers were summoned to the Kano State Censorship Board’s mobile court on 6 April 2016 in north-western Nigeria for the “unauthorised” release of their latest film ‘Ana Wata Ga Wata’, which was earlier banned by the board, reported newspaper Daily Trust on 6 April 2016. The three filmmakers include the film’s director Ali Gumzak, […]

Germany: Comedian faces potential prosecution for criticising Turkish president

German comedian Jan Böhmermann’s satirical and controversial poem criticising Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has not only pushed the boundaries of humour, but has also propelled political debate between the two nations and called into question the values of freedom of expression. The poem, which Böhmermann read on his public broadcaster ZDF television programme ‘Neo […]

Iran: Two musicians and a filmmaker sentenced

Branch 54 of the Tehran Appeals Court has issued their final judgment on Mehdi Rajabian, Hossein Rajabian and Yousef Emadi, sentencing each of the three artists to three years in prison, three years probation and a 200 million rial (about  USD 6,600) fine, reported the Human Rights Activists News Agency on 29 February 2016. According to a source of […]

Spain: Puppeteers arrested and accused of “glorifying terrorism”

On 6 February 2016, during a satirical children’s puppet show in Madrid, two puppeteers were arrested because their show featured the hanging of an effigy of a judge, the stabbing of a nun with a crucifix and several police beatings, according to the Spanish paper The Local. Puppets in the show held up a sign […]

Iran: Filmmaker loses appeal, receives reduced prison sentence and lashes

An Iranian appeals court sentenced filmmaker Keywan Karimi to one year in prison, 223 lashes and a fine for “shaking hands with women and drinking alcoholic drinks”, Reuters reported on 22 February 2016. In an interview with The Times of India published on 23 February 2016, Karimi said he would serve out the sentence and […]

Egypt: Author imprisoned for ‘violating public modesty’

On 20 February 2016, the Egyptian author Ahmed Naji was sentenced to two years in prison by a Cairo appeals court for having published in a magazine a sexually explicit excerpt of his novel that prosecutors said “violated public modesty”.  Naji (also spelled: Naje) was initially acquitted, but after the case garnered widespread media coverage, […]

Egypt: Film producer sentenced to jail and fined for “indecency”

On 11 January 2016 the Dokki Misdemeanors court in Giza ruled against film producer Rana Al Subki for promoting and releasing “racy” images in one of her recent films, sentencing her to one year in prison and fined 10,000 Egyptian pounds (about USD 1,275), reported Al Rai Press. Attorney Samir Sabri filed a claim against […]

Egypt: Novelist acquitted

The Egyptian novelist Ahmed Nagy was acquitted by the Cairo Bulaq Criminal Court of charges of publishing and writing an article with “obscene sexual content” on 2 January 2016. The novelist was referred to court in November 2015 after publishing a chapter of his novel ‘The Use of Life’ in Akhbar Al-Adab, a literary journal affiliated […]

Tunisia: Three artists imprisoned

Three Tunisian artists have been imprisoned for cannabis use, after being wrongly accused of terrorist activity. The law related to possession of narcotics is widely used in Tunisia against artists who are addressing social injustice and criticising government and police through art and activism. Photographer Fakhri El-Ghezal, artist Atef Maatallah, and filmmaker Ala Eddine Slim […]

Morocco: Prosecuted rapper cleared of all charges

The Moroccan rapper Al Muntaqim was arrested in August 2015 accused of inciting violence and drug abuse through his song ‘Korsika’. On 9 December 2015 the court cleared him of all charges. In August 2015, the Public Prosecution at the Court of First Instance in Khenifra city in Morocco instructed the judicial police to immediately […]

Iran: Music distributors await appeal decision for six years in prison

Two musicians and a filmmaker who were jointly sentenced to six years in prison and fined 200 million toman (about  USD 66,650) each for “insulting the sacred” and “propaganda against the state,” are awaiting a ruling by a Tehran appeals court, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. Mehdi Rajabian, a musician […]

Turkey: Blasphemy ruling reversed for pianist Say

Pianist Fazıl Say may no longer face a ten-month jail sentence for blasphemy charges related to his tweets as Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the decision, saying his social media posts fall within the realm of freedom of expression, Hurriyet Daily News reported. The court ruled by majority – four to one – that […]

Morocco: Rapper prosecuted over song deemed insulting

The Moroccan rapper Al Muntaqim was arrested in August 2015 and accused of inciting violence and drug abuse through his song ‘Korsika’. He has been released, but his court case is still pending. In August 2015, the Public Prosecution at the Court of First Instance in Khenifra city in Morocco instructed the judicial police to […]

Iran: Imprisoned cartoonist possibly prosecuted over handshake

Amnesty International reported that Atena Farghadani, 29, who was was sentenced to 12 years and nine months in prison after she depicted Iranian government officials as monkeys and goats in a satirical cartoon, may face a longer sentence amid claims over a handshake: her lawyer Mohammad Moghimi visited her in prison and shook her hand […]

Iran: Cartoonist convicted several years in prison for her art

Iranian designer and cartoonist Atena Farghadani could face years in prison for having drawn an image depicting members of the Iranian parliament as monkeys and cows. On 19 May 2015, she was convicted to 12 years imprisonment (some sources say 14 years). She has appealed the verdict. Cartoonists around the world have been drawing in […]

Iran: Call for the release of imprisoned writer and film producer

Writer and film producer Mostafa Azizi was arrested on 1 February 2015 and convicted of national security-related offences by Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran and sentenced to eight years in prison. PEN International is calling for his immediate and unconditional release. 52-year-old Iranian writer and film producer Mostafa Azizi is feared to […]

Zambia: Singer Pilato detained and prosecuted for song about president

In Zambia, the popular satirical singer Pilato (real name: Chama Fumba) is being prosecuted because of a song he wrote, entitled ‘Alungu Anabwela’. Officials said the song defamed President Edgar Lungu by accusing him of drinking too much and being incompetent. Police said that the song could “provoke public clashes”. Pilato was arrested on 8 […]

Turkey: ‘Organisation propaganda’ charge against children’s books

An investigation was opened against 24 books published by Aram Publishing within the last year with reasons of “organisation propaganda” and “recruiting members for an organisation,” according to the 15 May 2015 issue of the weekly Freedom of Expression bulletin from Turkish Initiative for Freedom of Expression. A case was opened by Diyarbakir 5th High […]

International coalition appeals to Cuba: Drop charges against performance artist

Along with an international coalition of arts and free speech advocacy groups, Freemuse appeals to the Cuban government to dismiss all charges against artist Tania Bruguera after she attempted to stage a performance about free speech in Havana’s Revolution Square. Bruguera, an internationally renowned performance artist who splits her time between the United States and […]

France: Verdict of three years imprisonment to rapper in Marseilles

The court in Marseilles summoned the French-Algerian rapper Lacrim (real name: Karim Zenoud), but he didn’t show up in court. He was consequently given status as a fugitive and sentenced in absentia to three years imprisonment. Lacrim was charged in court because of the video for his song ‘Viens, je t’emmène’, in which he uses […]

Syrian artists standing against tyranny

The nationwide uprising that swept through Syria in March 2011 has created a rift between the country’s artists and intellectuals. Some of whom took the regime’s side, some preferred to remain neutral, while others chose to join the revolution since its early beginnings. However, their support of the uprising has had serious repercussions: assault, threat, […]

France: Court sets precedent in Facebook vagina artwork censorship battle

A Paris court has announced that it can preside over a French citizen’s legal case against Facebook in a battle against the censorship of a vagina painting, despite the social network’s terms and conditions stating it can only be tried in the US. The case was sparked in 2011 by the deletion of teacher and […]

Bahrain: Student and teachers charged with ‘insulting Islam’ over Qur’an song

A Bahraini high school student and two teachers have been charged with “insulting Islam” after the boy sang verses from the Qur’an accompanied by musical instruments, the official BNA news agency reported on 11 March 2015. The student is shown in the clip singing verses from Al Fatiha – The Opening – the first chapter […]

Russia: Creators of ‘offensive’ Wagner opera acquitted

Two men who went on trial in Russia on 4 March 2015 over their staging of Richard Wagner’s ‘Tannhauser’ opera, which a senior Orthodox cleric complained was offensive to religious believers, were acquitted in court on 10 March 2015. Prosecutors said the modern-day staging, which fuelled anger among Orthodox Russians after it premiered in the […]

Turkey: Legal breakthrough in favour of prosecuted singer Ferhat Tunç

The European Court of Human Rights has convicted Turkey of violating freedom of speech in the case of singer Ferhat Tunç. A Turkish court had sentenced Ferhat Tunç to three months in prison and ordered him to pay a fine for having made dissident comments during a concert. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) […]

Cuba: Artist Tania Bruguera continues to be retained

After one month of having her only passport confiscated by the Cuban Ministry of the Interior and with no possibilities to exit from Cuba, artist Tania Bruguera – currently under conditional freedom – must wait for another period up to 60 days, so that the Prosecutor may weigh in on the charges brought by the […]

USA: Hip-hop artist prosecuted for rapping about shootings

The rapper Tiny Doo was charged with “criminal street gang conspiracy” over a music album, ‘No Safety’, reflecting gang culture. Tiny Doo (real name: Brandon Duncan) has no criminal record and says he has no knowledge of the crimes, which involved several shootings in San Diego from May 2013 to February 2014. But the district […]

Cuba: Rapper ‘El Critico’ released from prison

After nearly two years in prison, Cuban rapper Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga, best known as ‘El Critico’ from the underground hip-hop duo The Unwanted Children, has been released, along with several other political prisoners across the island. Remon was sent to prison in March 2013 after a violent, allegedly government-organised, mob attacked his home in […]

Turkey: Charges against musician of insult to prime minister

On 16 January 2015 an investigation was opened against folk music artist Kutsal Evcimen because of insulting the prime minister of the time, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, with the folk song ‘Satın Eşek Sıpaları’ which he sang – and with a short speech he made – during Malatya 11th International Arguvan Folk Music Festival. The Initiative for Free […]

Pakistan: 26 years prison verdict for playing religious song while staging mock marriage

The editor-in-chief of Geo TV, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, actor Veena Malik, her husband Asad Bashir Khan and tv-host Dr Shaista Lodhi Wahidi have been sentenced to 26 years in prison for an allegedly blasphemous tv-programme with a religious song, reported The Hindu, The News and Rural Media Network Pakistan. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman (sometimes also spelled: Mir Shakeel […]

New Zealand: Musician takes ban of his satirical song to court

New Zealand blues singer Darren Watson has taken the country’s Electoral Commission to court to try and reverse a ban on his satirical song ‘Planet Key’. The commision told him to stop promoting and selling the song, which makes fun of Prime Minister John Key, or face prosecution. A hearing in New Zealand’s High Court […]

USA: Petition to help artist arrested for painting a utility box

In California, USA, a local artist involved in helping build City of Santa Ana’s public art scene was arrested on 2 July 2014 for painting an electrical box. Artist Tony Pedraza faces up to a year in prison for making a piece of art that was done wholeheartedly with pride and love for his community. […]

Japan: ‘Vagina artist’ released after one week in prison

42-year-old sculptor and illustrator Megumi Igarashi has been released after spending a week in jail for distributing digital data that made it possible to recreate her genitals with a 3D printer, a possible violation of the Japanese law banning the distribution of “obscene” material, the Kyodo news agency reported Saturday. Megumi Igarashi who works under the alias […]

Senegal: Rapper Fou Malade acquitted in court

The prosecutor had asked for six months imprisonment to the rapper Fou Malade but eventually, the judge didn’t listed to him and gave him his freedom. Fou Malade – whose real name is Almamy Malal Talla – was detained after having delivered a speech where he said some controversial remarks about the Senegalese Minister of Interior […]

Senegal: Rapper faces six months in prison for criticising authorities

On 19 June 2014, at a ceremony in the suburbs of Dakar on the mobilisation against drugs, Fou Malade, one of the rappers from the Y’en a marre movement (‘Enough’s enough’), said aloud to the Senegalese Minister of Interior and to the Director General of Police what everyone thinks quietly. His remarks led him straight […]

Russia: Pussy Riot members appeal sentence in Supreme Court

The sentence of controversial Pussy Riot punk band members has been appealed again. The band member Yekaterina Samutsevich has filed with Russia’s Supreme Court a supervisory appeal against the verdict. In August 2012, the Khamovnichesky District Court in Moscow sentenced Samutsevich and two other Pussy Riot members – Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova – to […]

Cuba: Gorki’s trial suspended

On 10 February 2014 the news arrived, first as a rumour, that Gorki’s trial had been suspended. Then at 3:27pm over Facebook, Gorki Águila gave the following status update: “At 2:00pm, I was informed that the oral presentation of the trial scheduled for Tuesday, February 11 was suspended due to health reasons of my lawyer […]

Cuba: Punk rocker Gorki reportedly again faces years in prison

On 30 September 2013, Cuban punk rocker Gorki Luis Aguila Carrasco, lead singer of the band Porno para Ricardo, was arrested. On a citation for summary judgement dated 27 January 2014, Gorki has now been called to attend a summary trial on 11 February 2014. Exiled Cuban bloggers and reporters are all convinced that the […]

Turkey: ‘Rock‘n’roll Imam’ under investigation

Turkish authorities are investigating whether the imam of a Mediterranean mosque, Ahmet Muhsin Tuzer, can continue his rock band, or whether the genre is incompatible with Islam. “I have heard that the decision will come in two to three weeks,” Tuzer said by telephone from Pinarkoy. Whatever the verdict will be, “I will continue to […]

Tunisia: Rapper Weld El 15 has been freed

On 19 December 2013, the Tunisian rapper Weld El 15 was acquitted on appeal of singing songs insulting to the police and has been freed, according to his lawyer and his mother. The case against Weld El 15 (real name: Ala Yaacoubi) goes back to August 2013, when Weld El 15 and fellow rapper Klay […]

Russia: Pussy Riot appeal referred back to Moscow Court

The Supreme Court has referred an appeal by three members of the Pussy Riot punk group against their prison sentences back to a Moscow court. Moscow City Court rejected an appeal against their sentences on 29 May 2013. The defense team then appealed that ruling at the Supreme Court. The imprisoned Pussy Riot members Maria […]

Russia: Pussy Riot members’ appeal accepted by Supreme Court

Russia’s Supreme Court has accepted the appeal by two imprisoned members of the punk band Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, and ordered a review of prison terms for the two, saying that the lower court ignored mitigating factors. The ruling on 10 December 2013 came three months before Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina […]

Tunisia: Freemuse condemns imprisonment of rapper Weld El 15

Rapper Weld El 15 (real name: Ala Yaacoubi) was sentenced four months imprisonment after he turned himself in to a court in Hammamet on 5 December 2013. Freemuse condemned the verdict. “Tunisia should live up to international conventions guaranteeing free speech,” said Freemuse Director Ole Reitov. Weld El 15 was sentenced in absentia earlier in […]

Tunisia: Rapper receives four-month reprieve on sentence

Rappers Men-Ay (real name: Aymen Feki), and Mister Mustapha (real name: Mustapha Fakhfakh) have been prosecuted for their alleged role in clashes with the police, “insulting a public official in the exercise of his duties” and “breaching good morals” – offenses punishable respectively by one year or six months in prison, according to the Tunisian […]

Tunisia: Fugitive rapper to appeal conviction

Tunisian rapper Weld El 15, on the run since receiving a 21-month jail sentence in absentia in August 2013, will appeal the ruling in court in December 2013, his lawyer said. The new trial will take place at the court in Hammamet on 5 December 2013, the lawyer Ghazi Mrabet told AFP, adding that his […]

Malaysia: Artist under government scrutiny for work critiquing USA

Malaysia’s painter J Anu recently came under government scrutiny for a work critiquing American involvement in Iraq. The artist was involved in a police investigation regarding one of his paintings, ‘I is for Idiot’, a piece that was in a public group show co-organised by the National Art Gallery of Malaysia. The work, which depicted […]

Iran: 18 months imprisonment of actress condemned by NGOs

Pegah Ahangarani, a 24-year-old actress, reformist filmmaker and blogger has been sentenced to 18 months in jail for the alleged crime of “action against national security and links to foreign media”. Already lionised for her 17 days’ detainment for ‘security charges’ in 2011, the reformist Iranian actor, filmmaker and blogger has now been sentenced to […]

Lithuania: Criminal investigation of performers’ use of national anthem

In a performance in 2012, three women sang the national anthem of Lithuania with slightly altered lyrics. A politician complained that this was a “desecration of a state symbol”, and now Lithuania’s criminal police commissioners have allegedly opened an inquiry into the case. Created in 1898, the Lithuanian anthem only names masculine features such as […]

Poland: Artist at risk of imprisonment for controversial sculpture

Jerzy Bohdan Szumczyk’s sculpture entitled ‘Komm, Frau’ (Come, Woman) describing a Russian Red Army soldier raping a pregnant woman – intended by the artist to dramatize rape victims’ suffering – has put him at risk of imprisonment in Poland with the charge of promoting national hatred. An outraged Russian ambassador in Warsaw called for an […]

Tunisia: Two rappers convicted to 21 months in prison

Two Tunisian rappers, Weld El 15 and Klay BBJ, have been given 21 month jail terms in absentia for insulting officials, their lawyer said on 4 September 2013, criticising the ruling as a new attack on freedom of expression. This was reported by AFP. The trial took place on 30 August 2013 without the rappers […]

Tunisia: Rapper sentenced to two years imprisonment, violence in court

On 13 June 2013, the Tunisian rapper Weld El 15 was (again) sentenced to two years in prison for insulting the police in a song. Weld El 15, who had previously been in hiding, turned himself in and was immediately taken into custody. Cries were raised in the court room when the verdict was announced. […]

Algeria: Singer imprisoned for song which mocks police

29-year-old Algerian raï singer Cheb Fayçal appeared in court before the Attorney General in Oran on 2 May 2013 where he was sentenced to six months in prison. He is prosecuted for having performed a song that poked fun at the police and mentions the name of its top official, Abdelghani Hamel. Cheb Faiçal (real […]

Egypt: Novelist prosecuted for blasphemy

The prominent Egyptian novelist Youssef Zeidan, author of the bestselling book ‘Azazil’, stands trial for blasphemy and contempt of Islam, Christianity and Judaism because of his book ‘The Arabic Theology’. Zeidan appeared in front of the High State Security Prosecutor in mid-February 2013. The official memo which notified the author of the investigation was very stern and […]

Turkey: Pianist Fazil Say sentenced for Twitter posts

World-renowned Turkish pianist Fazil Say was given a 10 month suspended jail sentence for blasphemy by the 19th Criminal Court in Istanbul on April 15 2013 after retweeting an ancient poem on Twitter. Fazil Say, 42, was found guilty of violating Article 216 (3) of the Turkish Criminal Code, which prohibits  the ‘denigration of the […]

Egypt: Comedian on trial: “They try to exhaust us”

The popular satirist and comedian Bassem Youssef was interrogated nearly four hours in court on 31 March 2013 for alleged insults against President Mohamed Morsi and Islam. His case has intensified discussions about freedom of expression in the country. “A new complaint has been filed against me by the state prosecutor for spreading rumors and […]

Iran: Passport of Swedish-Iranian actress confiscated by police

The Iranian actress Maryam Moghaddam, who lives in Sweden and who participated in the controversial film ‘Closed Curtain’, remains stuck in Iran after she received a travel ban and her passport was confiscated by Iranian police. Maryam Moghaddam traveled from Sweden to Iran to visit her mother in a family matter in early March 2013, […]

Qatar: Poet’s life sentence reduced

On 25 February 2013, poet Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami’s life sentence for a critical poem was reduced to 15 years. A final ruling by the Supreme Court is expected within 30 days, reported PEN International. The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International considers Al-Ajami to be convicted in violation of his right to freedom […]

Cuba: Writer sentenced to five years in prison

Writer and blogger Ángel Santiesteban Prats has been sentenced to five years in prison for alleged trespassing and assault on the basis of an apparently flawed trial, wrote The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International on 22 February 2013. Ángel Santiesteban Prats is an award-winning writer and author of the blog ‘The Children Who […]

Turkey: Pianist Fazıl Say in court for the second time

The celebrated Turkish pianist, composer and writer Fazıl Say will be appearing in court for the second time on Monday 18 February 2013. Fazıl Say is on trial for some comments he posted on Twitter and is charged for blasphemy and insulting religious values, with a possible 18-month prison prison sentence. (More about the charges […]

Iran: Singer Arya Aramnejad released from prison

Less than two weeks after a group of international artists joined Freemuse in a campaign for the release of the Iranian singer Arya Aramnejad, who was given 91 days prison sentence, he was able to leave prison. According to Freemuse’s sources, he was released due to so called “international reactions”.  In 2012, Aramnejad was given […]

Cameroon: Seven-year prison sentence confirmed for writer

On 8 January 2013 it was announced that writer Enoh Meyomesse is to be honoured with an Oxfam Novib / PEN Freedom of Expression Award. More than a year after his arrest, he was sentenced to seven years in prison on 27 December 2012. The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International believes Meyomesse’s detention, […]

Egypt: Prosecutors investigate comedian for insulting the president

A popular Egyptian political satirist, Dr Bassem Youssef, who shot to fame with his amateur internet videos poking fun at public figures in the wake of the February 2011 uprising, is being investigated by prosecutors for allegedly insulting the president. This was reported by BBC World. A formal complaint was brought against Bassem Youssef for […]

Chile: Arrest order issued for the killers of singer Victor Jara

A judge in Chile has ordered the arrest of eight former army officers over the murder 39 years ago of well-known left-wing singer Victor Jara — one of the best known victims of Chilean military rule. A few days later, four of the men handed themselves in to the authorities, reported BBC News and Fox […]

Mongolian dissident writer wins Hellman/Hammett Grant

Ms. Huuchinhuu Govruud, also known as Gao Yulian, a Southern Mongolian dissident writer, activist, and member of a banned organisation called the Southern Mongolian Democratic Alliance, won the prestigious Hellman/Hammett Grant for 2012, being one of 41 recipients from 19 countries. In early November 2010, Huuchinhuu was arrested by the Chinese authorities for rallying the […]

Turkey: Ferhat Tunç’s prison sentence turned into speaking ban

On 27 June 2012, Dersim Malatya Third High Criminal Court sentenced singer Ferhat Tunç to two years in prison for having promoted İbrahim Kaypakkaya in a speech he held on 1 May 2011. According to new legal rearrangements, the sentence has now been turned into a three year ban on speaking about the same subject. […]

Denmark: Art happening or hate speech?

Limits of free expression in the arts are currently being discussed and tested in court in Denmark. In a trial on 13 December 2012, the prosecutor claimed the artist Firoozeh Bazrafkan has violated the Danish “racism article” against hate speech, while the artist claimed it was an art happening and even turned her own trial […]

Turkey: Authorities’ persecution of Kurdish artists continues

The first hearing of the court case against four members of Grup Yorum along with nine others who are charged with ‘membership of and propaganda for a terrorist organisation’, DHKP-C, was held at İstanbul No. 15 High Criminal Court. In a defense statement Ayfer Rüzgar said that the accusations simply can be seen as an […]

Qatar: Poet Al-Ajami sentenced to life in prison

A Qatari court’s life sentence for the poet Muhammad Ibn al-Dheeb Al-Ajami after a grossly unfair trial on 29 November 2012 “flagrantly violates the right to free expression”, Human Rights Watch said on 4 December 2012. AMY GOODMAN, journalist, Democracy Now: “So, if someone read Mohammad’s poem today in Qatar out loud, they too would […]

Malta: Ban of theatre play upheld by Constitutional Court

Shocked producers of the play ‘Stitching’ will take their case to the European Court of Human Rights after Malta’s Constitutional Court of Appeal on 29 november 2012 upheld a ban on performing the production in Malta. “We feel that this sentence is not a gag on the play ‘Stitching’ but on all artists,” stated the […]

Russia: No regrets for Pussy Riot despite bad treatment during court case

Index on Censorship had the exclusive opportunity to interview Pussy Riot member Ekatrina Samutsevich who was freed by a Moscow court on 10 October 2012. The interview took place during the same week as Samutsevich’s friends and fellow band mates Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were sent to prison camps in remote Russian regions. Samutsevich […]

European Commission: Artists are free to ‘offend, shock or disturb’

The European Union criticised Poland’s supreme court for allowing prosecutors to try Adam Darski, lead singer in the heavy metal band Behemoth, for illegal artistic expression. At issue is the interpretation of Article 196 of the Polish penal code referring to “the crime of offending religious sensibilities.” While on stage in 2007, singer Adam Darski […]

Lebanon: Censored film director initiates legal case against the state

All three of Lebanese director Danielle Arbid’s films have been banned in her native Lebanon. She has initiated a legal case against censorship and the Lebanese state – the first trial of its kind. “This is in motion. If we win, this will help other directors and artists to be more conscious of their rights. […]

Turkey: Court case against pianist adjourned until February

Turkish pianist Fazil Say appeared in court in Istanbul but the court adjourned his case until 18 February 2013. Fazil Say is charged with inciting hatred and insulting the values of Muslims because of some Twitter posts, some of which he didn’t write himself, but simply forwarded. Fazil Say denied the charges in front of […]

Turkey: Grup Yorum members allegedly tortured in custody

A singer and a violinist with the left-wing band Grup Yorum claim they were tortured in police custody after they were detained during an unauthorized demonstration in İstanbul’s Yenibosna neighborhood. Grup Yorum vocalist Sema Altın and violinist Ezgi Dilan were taken into custody after they had participated in protests in front of the Council of […]

Pussy Riot found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison

On 17 August 2012, the three members of the punk collective Pussy Riot received guilty verdicts and were each sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. According to the judge, they had “deeply insulted the faith of believers with their disrespectful criminal act and that the punk protest was blasphemous against the orthodox church.” When the heavy […]

Morocco: Rapper El Haked’s sentence upheld in court of appeal

On 27 July 2012, the Casablanca court of appeal upheld the one year prison sentence given to rapper El Haked in May. The court confirmed that his police-critical song circulating on Youtube together with a ridiculing photo-montage was ‘detrimental to public servants’.  24-year-old rapper Mouad Belghouate, known as El Haked

Russia: Rock‘n’roll support for Pussy Riot

As the case against the Russian feminist punk protest band Pussy Riot gains international attention, musicians and artists from all corners of the world have joined the long line of human rights activists’ protests against the continued persecution of three of the band members. In mid-July 2012, Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of the world-famous American rock band […]

Russia: Freemuse calls for free and fair trial for Pussy Riot

Freemuse sends appeals to President Vladimir Putin, Kirill I of the Russian Orthodox Church, the public and district prosecutor and the district court, calling for a fair and free trial for the three band members of Pussy Riot In an appeal letter sent to Russian authorities on 27 July 2012, Freemuse reminds the public prosecutor and the […]

Russia: Pussy Riot band members to remain in detention until 2013

At a closed hearing on 20 July 2012, the Khomovnichesky District Court extended until 12 January 2013  the detention of three members of the female punk band Pussy Riot who are prosecuted for having performed an anti-Putin song in a Moscow church. The decision prompted immediate condemnation from their lawyers, opposition figures, human rights activists and supporters from all over the world. […]

Turkey: Court case against ‘obscene’ books postponed three years

On 5 July 2012 at the Çağlayan Courts of Justice in İstanbul, a judge set aside expert opinion that would have ended the trials against the publishers of the Turkish editions of William Burroughs’ ‘The Soft Machine’ and Chuck Palahniuk’s ‘Snuff’. Instead they, and the books’ translators, face three more years of uncertainty after the […]

Kenya: Three musicians investigated for propagating hate speech

Popular live musicians John De’ Mathew, Muigai wa Njoroge and Kamande wa Kioi have been accused of propagating hate speech.   The Mugithi singers, who are popular live musicians, singing songs in Kikuyu language that border on ‘hate speech’ against Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is one of the contenders for the top seat in […]

Turkey: Singer Ferhat Tunç sentenced to two years in prison

A court in the eastern province of Malatya sentenced Kurdish singer and composer Ferhat Tunç to two years in prison on terrorism related charges due to his invocation during a speech in 2011 where he mentioned names of three deceased Turkish leftists, reported BIA News Center on 27 June 2012. During the May 1st celebrations […]

Russia: Punk group Pussy Riot to remain in prison

On 20 June 2012, a Tagansky district court ruled to keep the three detained band members of Pussy Riot in prison until 24 July 2012 while the police probe continues. Since February 2012, three band members of the all-female punk rock band from Moscow have been in the Butyrskaya prison, while two other members are […]

Iran: Travel ban on film director

In the past two years, the Iranian government has moved from merely banning films – most of which were allowed to be released internationally – to arresting actors and filmmakers, reported PressPlay. Jafar Panahi is the highest-profile director to suffer such treatment. A harsh legislative decision banned the Iranian director from filmmaking and travelling for […]

Turkey: Acclaimed pianist charged for blasphemy

Turkish composer and pianist Fazil Say faces trial on 18 October 2012 on charges of insulting religious values, with a possible 18-month prison sentence, his lawyer Meltem Akyol told news agencies in Istanbul.  Fazil Say has long been a controversial artist in Turkey. He is a classical musician who declares himself an atheist in a […]

Spanish artist facing prison for ‘cooking crucifix’ film

Leading Spanish artist Javier Krahe faces up to a year in prison after being prosecuted for “offending religious feelings”. Appearing in court in Madrid, Javier Krahe said he would go into exile in France if found guilty. He faces a possible fine of 144,000 euros.     In a parody on the resurrection of Christ, […]

Pakistan: Possible death sentences for dancing at a wedding party

Pakistani media is bringing confusing reports from northern Pakistan about a tribal court which allegedly handed down death penalty to four women and two men for dancing at a wedding party. Rumours said the four women from Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhunkhwa were shot dead by their families. However police and official sources rejected this […]

Myanmar/Burma: Seven performance artists face charges

Seven Burmese performance artists will face charges in a Mandalay court on 31 May 2012 after they allegedly broke an obscure law last week by performing in public with five foreigners who were subsequently deported. Irrawaddy’s Man Thar Lay writes: Officials from Mandalay’s Police Station No. 2 charged seven artists on Tuesday 29 May 2012 […]

Another legal action against Turkish singer Pınar Aydınlar

The following was published by Antenna-TR in its Freedom of Expression Weekly Bulletin Issue 19/2012 on 11 May 2012: A lawsuit was filed against folk singer Pınar Aydınlar (also known as Pinar Sağ) and the Group Munzur members Özlem Gerçek and Erkan Duman demanding between one and five years of imprisonment for terrorist organisational propaganda […]

Sudan: Reported death sentence against poet

Sudanese poet Abdelmoniem Rahma was reportedly tried in a military court in November and there have been alarming reports that he has since been sentenced to death. It is unclear, however, on what charges he has been convicted. He has been denied access to a lawyer and his family do not know his whereabouts. There are […]

Belarus: Trial of pro-opposition singer-songwriter

Pro-opposition singers Igor Simbiryov and Dzmitryy Bartosik were arrested during an open-air performance near Minsk on 6 May 2012, the Belarusian news agency Belapan reported on 7 May 2012. According to opposition activist Yuryy Hanchar, policemen brought the musicians and some spectators to a police station in the town of Zhdanovichy in Minsk Region. “After […]

Egyptian court upholds comic actor’s prison sentence

A court in Egypt has upheld the three-month prison sentence given to leading comic actor Adel Imam for insulting Islam in his films and plays, reported BBC News on 25 April 2012. 71-year-old actor Adel Imam was also fined 170 US dollars by the court in the capital, Cairo. The case brought against Adel Imam […]

India: Writer challenges police censorship in court

Writer N. V. Sankaran – also known as Gnani – has taken the ‘procedural practice’ of submitting threatre scripts to police for prior approval to be tried at the Madras High Court. This was reported by Times of India Unlike other states in India, theatre groups in Tamil Nadu must submit a copy of the […]

Lebanon: Two stand-up comedians detained for breaching public morality

This was reported by al-Akhbar newspaper on 24 April 2012. Edmond Haddad, known for his role on al-Jadeed television’s Chi.N.N. comedy show, and Rawiya al-Shab, who is a theatre and film actress, were detained for a stand-up show they presented in 2009 at a pub in Gemmayzeh. A local media outlet was covering the event […]

Azerbaijan: Two musicians detained

Two musicians and the leader of a youth organisation were detained after protests in the capital Baku on 17 March 2012. They are currently being held in Sabael District Police Office, and there is concern that they have been subjected to torture. “Fresh doubts have been raised about the suitability of Azerbaijan to host May’s Eurovision […]



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