News from Australia, Turkey and Egypt

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on February 17, 2015

AUSTRALIA – Australian broadcaster bans cartoon episode featuring a friendly spider

Australia’s public broadcaster has banned an episode of Peppa Pig, the popular children’s cartoon, because it featured a friendly spider and sent an “unsuitable” message to children that the insects may not be dangerous. Australia has some of the world’s most deadly spiders.

The five-minute episode, called “Spider’s Web,” features an apparently innocuous spider called Mr. Skinnylegs. The family takes a great interest in the spider and learns to avoid disturbing its web.

But a viewer in Australia, which has some of the world’s most venomous spiders, complained in 2012 about the episode’s message that the insects “are not scary.”

The ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation] agreed that the episode sent the wrong message to children and apologized for running it.

“The ABC considered the episode unsuitable for broadcast in Australia and it had been restricted from being aired on the ABC’s television networks,” the broadcaster said in a response in August 2012. “However, the episode was accidentally published online due to a technical problem. The ABC apologized to the complainant and advised that the episode was no longer available online.”

The complaint was reported in recent days by the local media, though it was not clear why the incident only emerged this week.

In the banned episode, Daddy Pig is seen repeatedly picking up the spider by a string from its web.  The family learns not to disturb Mr. Skinnylegs’ web after Daddy Pig declares: “It’s hard work weaving a web … If you do, the spider has to do all the work again.”

Deaths from spiders in Australia are exceedingly rare and the creatures are less life-threatening than sharks or bees. Antivenom for most of the country’s more dangerous spiders has been available for decades.

But the current summer in Australia has reportedly seen an increase in spider-related injuries and has led to public warnings.

Last year, paramedics in Sydney attended 319 spider-related incidents in Sydney. There have already been 102 incidents recorded in 2015.

Forty-three incidents in the past fourteen months involved the funnel web, the nation’s most dangerous spider. No deaths from funnel web spiders have been recorded since an antivenom was introduced in 1981.

TURKEY – Turkey’s crackdown on freedom of speech intensifies

Turkish authorities including government agencies have stepped up their crackdown on freedom of expression online in 2014, with figures from Twitter showing the problem getting worse.

Turkey is the country which made the most requests for removal from Twitter in the last six months of 2014, according to the social network’s latest transparency report.


Protesters hold placards reading ‘do not touch my twitter ‘, ‘communication right is a basic human right’ and ‘cencorship to internet! A dream comes true’ during a demonstration in Ankara in March 2014. (Photo AFP)

More than 470 content removal requests were made by courts, government agencies, police and others in Turkey, and Russia came second in a list of 10 compiled below. Despite threats to freedom of expression in Russia, only 91 requests were made between July 1 and December 31.

Twitter is extremely popular in Turkey with 12 million users in a nation of nearly 75 million – the total Twitter user population is 288 million, according to the Financial Times.

Overall, Twitter said demands by countries for content removal from the microblogging website were up by 40 per cent in the last six months of 2014.

The decision to block Twitter in March 2014 came after audio recordings allegedly revealed corruption among those close to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the then Turkish prime minister [who is now President]. They had been widely shared on Twitter.

It was a tense period ahead of the country’s local elections and despite the outrage and upset the ban caused, the leading [Islamist/conservative Muslim] Justice and Development Party (AKP) [Erdoğan’s party] won the majority of votes. Mr. Erdoğan became president in August.

According to Twitter’s report, the U.S. topped a list of countries’ governments requesting account information – Turkey came second with 356 requests made and in the UK, 116 requests were made.

Meanwhile, more than 90 per cent of tweets withheld after requests from authorities, courts and others, were made in Turkey. A total of 1,982 tweets were withheld, 1,820 within Turkey. …

EGYPT – Egypt hits ISIS targets in Libya with airstrikes

Egypt said on Monday it has launched airstrikes against ISIS targets in Libya after the extremist group released a grisly video showing the beheading of several Egyptian Coptic Christians it had held hostage for weeks.


Men in orange jumpsuits purported to be Egyptian Christians held captive by ISIS kneel in front of armed men along beach said to be near Tripoli, in still image from a Feb. 15 video.

A spokesman for Egypt’s Armed Forces General Command announced the strikes on state radio Monday, marking the first time Cairo has publicly acknowledged taking military action in neighboring Libya, where extremist groups seen as a threat to both countries have taken root in recent years.

The statement said the warplanes targeted weapons caches and training camps before returning safely. It said the strikes were “to avenge the bloodshed and to seek retribution from the killers.”

“Let those far and near know that Egyptians have a shield that protects them,” it said.

Libya’s air force meanwhile announced it had launched strikes in the eastern city of Darna, which was taken over by an Islamic State affiliate last year. The announcement, on the Facebook page of the Air Force Chief of Staff, did not provide further details.

The video purporting to show the mass beheading of Coptic Christian hostages was released late Sunday by militants in Libya affiliated with ISIS. [The Egyptian government and the Coptic Church, which is based in Egypt, have said the video is authentic.]

The killings raise the possibility that the extremist group – which controls about a third of Syria and Iraq in a self-declared caliphate – has established a direct affiliate less than 500 miles from the southern tip of Italy. One of the militants in the video makes direct reference to that possibility, saying the group now plans to “conquer Rome.”

The militants had been holding 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian laborers rounded up from the city of Sirte in December and January. It was not clear from the video whether all 21 hostages were killed.  Pope Francis also denounced the slayings, saying the Egyptian Coptic Christians were “assassinated just for being Christian.”

It was one of the first such beheading videos from an Isil affiliate to come from outside the group’s core territory in Syria and Iraq.

Libya in recent months has seen the worst unrest since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, which will complicate any efforts to combat the country’s many Islamic extremist groups.

The internationally recognized government has been confined to the country’s far east since Islamist-allied militias seized the capital Tripoli last year, and Islamist politicians have reconstituted a previous government and parliament. …

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at London’s Daily Telegraph on Feb. 13, Feb. 10 and Feb. 16.)