TIME Culture

In Free the Nipple Movie, Women Go Topless for Equality

“Someone is definitely getting arrested.”

Censorship matters to Lina Esco, whose new film Free the Nipple tells the story of a group of activists challenging laws by baring their chests in the streets.

For Esco, “It’s not about going topless, it’s about equality.” The movie grew out of a real-life campaign that questions a country that glorifies violence in the media but removes a woman from a flight for breastfeeding her baby. As one of the fictional activists says in the trailer, “Our sexuality has been taken away from us and is essentially being sold back to us.”

The movement got a jump-start when Miley Cyrus, who has faced plenty of censorship herself, tweeted a picture of herself holding a fake nipple last December, accompanied by the hashtag #freethenipple. It’s not lost on Esco that the sensationalism of a bunch of topless women can only help to spread the word about her cause. “If I would have made a movie called ‘Equality,’ and no one was going topless,” she acknowledged to Entertainment Weekly, “nobody would be talking about it.”

Free the Nipple hits theaters on Dec. 12.

TIME Burma

A Reporter’s Death Shows Just How Little Burma Has Changed

Than Dar, the wife of slain journalist Par Gyi, holds a family photograph showing herself, her husband and daughter posing with Aung San Suu Kyi at their home, in Yangon
Than Dar, the wife of slain journalist Aung Kyaw Naing, holds a family photograph showing herself, her husband and daughter posing with Aung San Suu Kyi at their home, in Rangoon, on Oct. 28, 2014 Soe Zeya Tun—Reuters

Forget the heady talk of reform. Burma will never get anywhere so long as the military remains unaccountable

When Than Dar first approached authorities in mid-October to find her missing husband, he was already dead. In late September, Aung Kyaw Naing had been covering renewed fighting between a band of ethnic Karen rebels and the Burmese military near the Thai border when he disappeared.

“The last time I had contact with Aung Kyaw Naing was Sept. 22,” says Than Dar. “That’s the last time I was in contact with my husband.”

After covering the conflict in Burma’s Mon State, Aung Kyaw Naing (who was also known as Par Gyi) was supposed to join his wife and daughter for a family reunion in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai. But he never made it.

On Sept. 30, the 49-year-old freelance reporter was taken into custody by an army infantry battalion in eastern Mon state. Days later, Aung Kyaw Naing had been killed by his captors and his corpse buried. The military admitted to killing the journalist in an unsigned email sent to Burma’s Interim Press Council on Oct. 23.

“He was treated not as a citizen,” Kyaw Min Swe, general secretary of the Interim Press Council, tells TIME. “Every citizen has a fundamental right to be protected under the law.”

The shocking death of Aung Kyaw Naing comes weeks ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s scheduled visit to Burma — formally known as Myanmar — to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit this month in the capital Naypyidaw.

Just two years ago Obama made his first, historic trip to the country, when it was grappling with fresh political and economic reforms after decades of military dictatorship. Now, with a year to go until widely anticipated elections, analysts say the country is now rapidly backsliding into the throes of authoritarian rule.

“Everyone in Rangoon has come to the conclusion that the reforms have either stalled or are starting to reverse,” David Mathieson, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch, tells TIME.

The peace process aimed at ending decades of civil war is stalling, while the nascent press freedoms that served as a hallmark of the reforms are failing to protect journalists. In the past year alone, President Thein Sein’s government has locked up 10 journalists under various pretexts. But the death of Aung Kyaw Naing stands as one of the harshest indictments of the country’s reformist narrative.

“It caps what has been a steady deterioration in press freedom conditions in the country over the past year and a half,” says Shawn Crispin, Southeast Asia representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “I think it has raised questions about [Thein Sein’s] government’s entire reform agenda.”

But who was Aung Kyaw Naing and why was he killed? Like many journalists in the country, he began his career as an activist during the antigovernment demonstrations in 1988 and briefly worked as a bodyguard for Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.

Later, Aung Kyaw Naing was among the many like-minded journalists and activists who congregated in exile in Mae Sot — a district of Thailand on the Burmese border. There, he documented human-rights abuses committed by the junta.

However, Burma’s military, the Tatmadaw, contends that the reporter was in fact an insurgent in disguise and working as a communications officer for the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army’s (DKBA) political wing.

“When they arrested him, they found a map of the position of military troops in that area and an identification card issued by the DKBA,” Ye Htut, a spokesperson with the President’s office, tells TIME. After five days in military custody, the army claims the reporter was killed after he attempted to steal a soldier’s gun and escape.

According to his wife, an official at Mon state’s Kyaikmayaw police station told her that her husband had been severely abused and tortured. The DKBA denies that Aung Kyaw Naing was working for them, and activists and fellow journalists have also dismissed the army’s version of events.

“’Shot while trying to escape’ is the most hackneyed and disturbing cliché in the field of extrajudicial killings,” says Mathieson.

In reality, human-rights activists say Aung Kyaw Naing was likely killed for doing what was previously unthinkable in Burma before reforms began: reporting openly on the military.

After ruling the country with an iron fist for nearly a half-century, the Tatmadaw appeared to slacken its grip on power by allowing a quasi-civilian government to replace the junta in 2011. However, Burma’s most feared institution has remained outside of the reform process and continues to hit back fiercely at the slightest investigation into its shadowy dealings.

“The military hasn’t reformed whatsoever,” says Mathieson. “Burma can only change when the military changes.”

Than Dar agrees. “The army is doing whatever they like,” she says. “It is obvious that the military is not following the constitution or the rule of law. There is no guarantee of political change for democracy.”

Earlier this summer, five journalists were handed lengthy prison sentences along with hard labor for publishing an article about an alleged chemical-weapons factory in central Burma.

The case, along with Aung Kyaw Naing’s death, provides a brutal indication of what happens when the country’s relative press freedoms collide with the vested interests of the military.

Aung Kyaw Naing’s wife is now leading a campaign to open an investigation into her husband’s death. Officials have also promised to act, but the chances that an inquest will be carried out independently are slim.

“If you look back in the past, there were so many incidents like this, especially in the ethnic areas and the truth never came out,” said Than Dar.

Now, Than Dar faces an uphill battle with authorities to retrieve her husband’s body and an even tougher fight with the military to find out what exactly happened on Oct. 4. However, if the past is any indication as to what lies ahead, getting Burma’s armed forces to openly discuss their murky deals may prove impossible.

“I’m looking for justice,” says Than Dar. “But I’ll have to wait and see.”

TIME Opinion

Instagram Is Right to Censor Chelsea Handler

2014 Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Prize For American Humor Honoring Jay Leno
Chelsea Handler at the 2014 Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Prize For Americacn Humor at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on October 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. Kris Connor--Getty Images) Kris Connor—Getty Images

Allowing nudity on Instagram would hurt more women than it would help

It’s Halloween, which means it’s the perfect time to stir up a smoking hot gender-politics brouhaha in the Internet cauldron. This time, it’s over comedian Chelsea Handler’s nipples, and whether she should be able to post pictures of them on Instagram.

The drama started Thursday night, when Handler posted a topless photo of herself riding a horse on Instagram, to mock Vladimir Putin’s topless horseback selfie from 2009. Her photo was accompanied with the caption, “Anything a man can do, a woman has the right to do better. #kremlin.” But Instagram took the photo down, citing its Community Guidelines, which prohibit sharing of “nudity or mature content.” Handler posted the notice that her post had been removed, with the caption “If a man posts a photo of his nipples, it’s ok, but not a woman? Are we in 1825?” She then took to Twitter, calling the removal “sexist.”

Breastfeeding moms have voiced similar outrage at social networks like Facebook and Instagram, complaining that their nursing photos have been taken down for being too revealing. And pro-nudity movements like the Free the Nipple campaign have argued that nudity laws policies like this amount to “female oppression.”

Yes, in an ideal world, women’s nipples would seem just as unsexy and random as men’s. But we don’t live in that world, and Instagram is right to censor Handler and other women who post topless pictures. Not because there’s anything wrong with female nudity, but because that kind of monitoring helps keep revenge porn and child porn off of the network. It’s not that kids on Instagram need to be protected from seeing naked photos of Chelsea Handler–it’s they need to be protected from themselves.

See, kids love taking nude selfies, and they have notoriously bad judgement when it comes to putting stuff on the Internet. A study in June by Drexel University found that 28% of undergrads said they had sent photographic sexts while underage. Another study, published in Pediatrics in September, also found that 28% of surveyed teens admitted to sending naked photos, and 57% said they’d been asked for a sext. At the same time, Instagram is quickly eclipsing Facebook as the social network of choice for young teens. According to a survey by investment banking company Piper Jaffray, 76% of teens say they use Instagram, while only 59% use Twitter and 45% use Facebook. So if Instagram didn’t have its nudity policy, it stands to reason that teens might just start posting their naked selfies there.

The nudity policy also keeps Instagram from being a revenge porn destination. A 2013 study by McAfee security company found that 13% of adults have had their personal content leaked without their permission, and 1 in 10 say they’ve had exes threaten to post personal photos. Of those who threatened to leak photos, 60% followed through. Without their policy, Instagram would be a destination for revenge porn as well.

To be fair, Instagram doesn’t have a share mechanism, so it would be harder for porn to go viral. But on the other hand, Instagram profiles can also contain personal details about users’ immediate surroundings, which could make teens or potential revenge porn victims even more vulnerable.

This is also a question of practicality. Ideally, Instagram would be able to distinguish between a naked 13-year old and a breastfeeding mom. In reality, it would be unrealistic to expect Instagram to comb through their content, keeping track of when every user turns 18, whether the user is posting photos of themselves or of someone else, and whether every naked photo was posted with consent. And even if they could do that, would you really want Instagram calling you up to verify you knew about that whipped-cream photo your ex posted? It would be creepy.

This kind of policy is what makes Instagram different than Tumblr, which has fewer restrictions and much more porn. Granted, Tumblr has recently made that content harder to find on its site, but it’s still a destination for revenge porn. And as Maureen O’Connor wrote for New York Magazine, the process of getting revenge porn taken down can be humiliating: victims have to send Tumblr a picture of themselves holding a piece of paper with their full name, to verify they’re the person in the pictures.

So which is more important: the rights of a few bold comedians or breastfeeding moms to feel validated by their Facebook followers, or the privacy of people who might have their private photos posted without consent? I would side with the latter any day of the week.

TIME movies

This Disney Censorship Story Is Udderly Ridiculous

Disney And Mickey
Walt Disney with Mickey Mouse, circa 1935 General Photographic Agency / Getty Images

The studio was founded on Oct. 16, 1923

When the Disney Brothers Studio got its start on this day, Oct. 16, in 1923, Walt Disney couldn’t have predicted that his animation studio would become the entertainment powerhouse that it’s been for nearly a century.

He also probably failed to predict that, within a decade, he’d get hit with what must be one of the sillier censorship cases in history.

Here’s how TIME described what happened in February of 1931:

Motion Picture Producers & Distributors of America last week announced that, because of complaints of many censor boards, the famed udder of the cow in the Mickey Mouse cartoons was now banned. Cows in Mickey Mouse or other cartoon pictures in the future will have small or invisible udders quite unlike the gargantuan organ whose antics of late have shocked some and convulsed other of Mickey Mouse’s patrons. In a recent picture the udder, besides flying violently to left and right or stretching far out behind when the cow was in motion, heaved with its panting when the cow stood still; it also stretched, when seized, in an exaggerated way.

That’s right: Clarabelle Cow’s udders were deemed inappropriate for tender American audiences, who one must presume did not know where milk comes from. Clarabelle was also censored at one point, in Ohio, after she was seen reading a racy book.

But, it turns out, Clarabelle wasn’t the only one of Disney’s creations to get adjusted by decency boards during the studio’s first decade. Canada banned another cartoon because of the way a fish got too close to a mermaid’s thigh, and German censors objected to a cartoon in which Mickey and friends were approached by cats wearing German military garb, which was seen as offensive to Germans. (It’s unclear from TIME’s coverage whether the German censors objected to being compared to undignified felines or to anti-Mickey predators.)

It was probably not because of her udders, but Clarabelle has largely faded away from the list of popular Disney characters, which means that–to paraphrase another cartoon icon, Bart Simpson–most of the studio’s movies these days do not, in fact, have a cow, man.

Read TIME’s 1937 cover story about Walt Disney here, in the archives: Mouse & Man

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 9

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Like Pakistan, Turkey nurtured a militant movement next door. Will ISIS enter Turkey as the Taliban made a new home in Pakistan?

By Michael M. Tanchum and Halil M. Karaveli in New York Times

2. Look homeward: America should form a new North American partnership with Canada and Mexico to tackle global challenges.

By Nicholas Burns in the Boston Globe

3. Protestors in Hong Kong and around the world can bypass government censorship with “mesh networks.”

By Gareth Tyson in the Conversation

4. Early childhood development can dramatically change a child’s life and future. Massively scaling up investment in youth could close the income and skills gaps, and accomplish much more.

By the Brookings Institution

5. Rural America has the nation’s fastest rising child poverty rate. To overcome it, we must confront the weaknesses in our economic recovery.

By the Rural Family Economic Success Action Network

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME China

China Keeps Citizens in the Dark Over Hong Kong Protests

The government blocked Instagram Sunday

China is well known for its censoring social media and certain websites when there’s news it wants to block out — and now that Hong Kong is ablaze with protests, the shutters have come down again.

Some Chinese newspapers have made no mention of the protests, and the countries authorities blocked photo-sharing app Instagram on Sunday, according to CNN.

China even blacked out a live CNN newscast about the protests as host Anderson Cooper narrated. “In the past, they’ve censored us, and it’s gone to black. They might do it again. They might censor us again tonight,” he said, seconds before authorities cut the stream off. “And, we’ve just gone to black in China,” he finished.

 

 

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 27

1. A reimagined NATO – with rapid response capability – could balance the Putin doctrine.

By David Francis in Foreign Policy

2. Hold the bucket: Focusing on a single disease isn’t a good use of philanthropy dollars.

By Felix Salmon in Slate

3. The Navy’s audacious plan for a new warfighting vessel was too good to be true. The result is a ship that meets none of our needs well. Cancel the Littoral Combat Ship.

By William D. Hartung and Jacob Marx at the Center for International Policy

4. The conventional wisdom is that social media stimulates debate, but self-censorship online actually leads to a ‘spiral of silence.’

By Keith Hampton, Lee Rainie, Weixu Lu, Maria Dwyer, Inyoung Shin and Kristen Purcell at the Pew Research Internet Project

5. Better living through design: Injectable, long-acting birth control will revolutionize family planning in the developing world.

By Heather Hansman in Pacific Standard

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME China

Want Some Entertainment in China? Don’t Turn On the TV

CHINA-ECONOMY
This photo taken on July 15, 2014 shows a couple watching TV in their apartment in Beijing. GREG BAKER—AFP/Getty Images

China’s TV and film watchdog has ordered a dull diet of nationalist fare ahead of the country's National Day in October

There’s nothing like coming home from work, plopping down in front of the TV and watching some relaxing antifascist and patriotic fare. That’s exactly the kind of prime-time programming China’s TV and film watchdog is ordering up for September and October, according to state media. One reason for this propaganda blitz? National Day falls on Oct. 1 and a line-up of TV shows glorifying, say, the Communist Party’s fight against the Japanese during World War II, will hopefully usher in a wave of jingoistic pride among citizens.

Earlier this year, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (commonly known by its previous acronym SARFT) also urged TV stations to present entertainment that propagated President Xi Jinping’s ideological catchphrase, the “Chinese Dream.” Applicable programming, according to the official Xinhua News Agency, includes such delights as a program on the navy’s activities in the Gulf of Aden and a 48-episode series on the life and times of Deng Xiaoping, the late leader who spearheaded the nation’s economic reforms. (Deng would have celebrated his 110th birthday on Aug. 22.)

What exactly constitutes patriotic programming? The China Daily, the government’s English-language mouthpiece and no stranger itself to jingoistic content, reported that “patriotic TV shows should promote the protection of the home country, as well as entrepreneurship and innovation.” As for antifascist TV material, anything to do with World War II, or what China calls the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, should do nicely.

Smaller TV stations will have more latitude than major networks in controlling their schedules. They can, for instance, reserve patriotic programming for prime time and relegate anti-fascist material to less coveted time slots, according to the China Daily. On Aug. 13, the China Youth Network also assured viewers that the premieres of a couple highly anticipated TV dramas shouldn’t be affected. Nevertheless, one user of Weibo, China’s microblogging platform, quipped “The authorities force the masses to watch such rubbish. Who is the fascist here but SARFT?”

Chinese viewers have been clamoring for TV programming with modern entertainment value in recent years — just as censors have begun clamping down. In 2011, as China celebrated the 90th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party, SARFT railed against films and shows that depicted time travel because they were “treating serious history in a frivolous way.”

Then, in April of this year, authorities began restricting foreign material that could be watched through streaming websites. A particular favorite was the geeky U.S. sit-com The Big Bang Theory, which racked up 1.3 billion views in China before it was banned. (The Good Wife, NCIS and The Practice were also targeted.)

Other areas of online space have been encroached on. Weibo has lost some of its edge because of industrious censorship and a crackdown on its more high-profile users. This month, the crackdown was extended to mobile instant messaging services, like the hugely popular WeChat.

As for the upcoming two months of antifascist and patriotic TV, even the Global Times, a Beijing-based daily that often takes a nationalist line, grumbled in an Aug. 15 article. “It is also an administrative order,” the story reported, “that many TV shows producers often see as ‘annoying.’”

Imagine how the people who are expected to tune in to such partisan programming feel.

with reporting by Gu Yongqiang/Beijing

TIME Video Games

Google Removes ‘Bomb Gaza’ Game From Play Store

Google Play

The company has removed several other games related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in recent days, claiming they violate the the Google Play store's policies.

In Bomb Gaza, a game about doing precisely what its peremptory title commands, you play as the Israeli Air Force, tapping a touchscreen to pour red-nosed bombs into a 2D multi-level landscape filled with cartoonish people wearing white robes and clutching children — meant to signify civilians — as well as others draped in black, clutching rifles, touting greenish headbands and grinning maniacally. The goal is to hit those black-garbed militants — presumably members of Palestinian militant group Hamas — while avoiding the white-clad civilians.

At some point in the past 24 hours, Google removed Bomb Gaza from its Android Play store (the game was released on July 29). It’s not clear why. Google’s only officially saying what companies like it so often say when handed political hot potatoes: that it doesn’t comment on specific apps, but that it removes ones from its store that violate its policies. The game’s dismissal comes just as Israel says it’s pulling out of Gaza in observance of a three-day ceasefire, on the heels of a month-long fight that has to date left nearly 1,900 Palestinians (mostly civilians) and 67 Israelis (mostly soldiers) dead.

It’s unclear which of Google’s policies Bomb Gaza might have infringed, but in Google’s Developer Program Policies document, it notes under a subsection titled Violence and Bullying that “Depictions of gratuitous violence are not allowed,” and that “Apps should not contain materials that threaten, harass or bully other users.” Under another titled Hate Speech, Google writes “We don’t allow content advocating against groups of people based on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity.”

Bomb Gaza isn’t the only Gaza-centric game Google’s removed: another, dubbed Gaza Assault: Code Red is about dropping bombs on Palestinians using Israeli drones. Its designers describe the game as “[bringing] you to the forefront of the middle-east conflict, in correlation to ongoing real world events.” It was also just yanked, as was another titled Whack the Hamas, in which players have to target Hamas members as they pop out of tunnels.

Politically-themed games about touchy current issues have been around for years, from depictions of deadly international situations like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to others modeled on flashpoints like school shootings. In late 2008, a game called Raid Gaza! appeared around the time Israel was carrying out “Operation Cast Lead,” a conflict that left 13 Israelis and some 1,400 Palestinians dead. In that title, you’re tasked with killing as many Palestinians as you can in three minutes, and actually afforded bonuses for hitting civilian targets, all while listening to a version of the Carpenter’s saccharine “Close to You.”

But the game wasn’t merely a pro-Israeli celebration of violence against Palestinians, it was a pointed editorial reflection on the horrors of the Gaza conflict. As games critic Ian Bogost wrote at the time:

The game is headstrong, suffering somewhat from its one-sided treatment of the issue at hand. But as an editorial, it is a fairly effective one both as opinion text and as game. It is playable and requires strategy, the exercise of which carries the payload of commentary.

Other games about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict persist: There’s Peacemaker, a more serious and simulation-angled game about the conflict that its developers say was designed “to promote peace.” Another, called Iron Dome (still available on Google’s Play store), lets players intercept incoming rockets using Israel’s eponymous missile defense system. A third, called Rocket Pride (also still available on Google’s Play store), lets players provide “support for the besieged Gaza Strip” by firing rockets at targets in Israel. There’s clearly a winnowing process here, in other words, with Google favoring some apps but not others. It’s just not clear what that process is.

I haven’t played Bomb Gaza, so I can’t speak to its efficacy as either a game or an editorial commentary (or whether it was even intended as the latter). When I reached out to the game’s creator, he told me it had been “developed without any budget” and “more for fun,” and that he was “very surprised to catch such attention with it.”

But the game’s removal raises older questions that we need to keep asking: Should companies like Google remove politically charged games because passerby find them offensive? Are we overreacting to some of these games instead of taking the time to consider whether they’re intended as satirical (be it nuanced or crude, successful or misguided)? Are games that depict violence related to a current event fundamentally so different from caustic political cartoons or scathing op-eds? And should companies like Apple and Google and Amazon — and thereby the swiftly narrowing channels through which we’re acquiring more and more of our content — also be the arbiters of what’s morally tasteful?

TIME Video Games

Thailand Bans Tropico 5 City-Building Game Over Security Concerns

Kalypso Media Group

The military-ruled country is banning an irreverent PC strategy game in which you play as a dictator, fending off military coups, rigging elections and ruling with a iron fist

If you live in Thailand, it looks like you’ll have to find a way around the country’s military junta if you want to play Tropico 5.

The Associated Press, citing a game distributor, reports that censors in Thailand operating on behalf of the country’s military leaders have put the kibosh on sales of developer Haemimont Games’ city-building simulation because it might “hurt the country’s security.”

Thailand’s military launched a coup against the civilian government on May 22, 2014, and currently holds sway under the rubric of a group called the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The NCPO has been cracking down on what it views as radical elements in the media and online ever since, and the junta’s film and video censorship wing reportedly opted to block sales of Tropico 5 over concerns it “might affect peace and order in the country.”

That’s presumably because Tropico 5 — the fifth in a long-running series of PC-based city-building games — is about ruling a Caribbean island as “El Presidente” soup to nuts, including dictatorial maneuvers like rigging elections, strong-arming the media and pretty much doing whatever floats your boat. The goal is less about improving the lives of your citizens than staying in power, fending off military coups and steering clear of Cold War superpowers.

It’s not clear what about Tropico 5 specifically so worried the junta’s censorship office that it banned the game outright, but the distributor cited by AP notes prior series installments were sold in the country. And it’s worth noting that while measures like these indicate a much harsher stance, the country’s long-standing censorship practices, which range from sanitizing or outright banning certain books and magazines, media stories, Internet URLs, television shows and films, predate the May coup.

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