Melon Farmers Original Version

Front Against Censorship

Censored article leads to Maltese protest

23rd June

Update: Up Front Proposals...

Front Against Censorship proposes to repeal censorial Maltese law

The Front Against Censorship has handed MPs a document proposing the abolition of censorship in Malta.

The group said that explicit and mandatory censorship of the arts and entertainment was being imposed mainly through the courts as a result of outdated laws; the Malta Broadcasting Authority, the Board of Film and Stage Classification and also the University of Malta which is supposed to nurture artistic freedom and not suppress it.

It is highly unacceptable and even offensive by EU standards, let alone by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that censorship is prevailing in Malta of the 21st century.

The group said it was not referring to the censorship of hate-speech which maliciously belittled specific groups in society, but about censorship which only seemed to defend and uphold the morality of the predominant religion, or any other religion for that matter.

We believe that the Catholic Church has a right to preach its values to society openly and freely. We will defend that right should it be denied in some form or other, directly or indirectly. We will never agree, however, that the values of the Church are the values of Maltese society in its entirety, despite the fact that the Roman Catholic faith is predominant. Individuals should have the right to express themselves in a free and unfettered manner in the same way that the Chursh is free to preach its values openly and freely.

The Front proposed the repeal of Article 163 of the Criminal Code, which states that:

Whosoever by words, gestures, written matter, whether printed or not, or pictures or by some other visible means, vilifies the Roman Catholic Apostolic Religion which is the religion of Malta, or gives offence to the Roman Catholic Apostolic Religion by vilifying those who profess such religion or its ministers, or anything which forms the object of, or is consecrated to, or is necessarily destined for Roman Catholic worship, shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term from one to six months.

Similarly, it proposed the removal of article 164 of the Criminal Code, which imposes similar constraints on criticising other religions recognised by the State. This article states that:

Whosoever commits any of the acts referred to in the last preceding article against any cult tolerated by law, shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term from one to three months.

The group said it was calling for a change in the definition of pornography in article 208 of the Criminal Code. Under the current law, that which is considered obscene and pornographic is decided by a particular parliamentary committee. The only time this committee met was in 1975.

The definition given was Work is obscene or pornographic when its dominant feature is the exploitation of, or unnecessary emphasis on, sex, criminality, fear, cruelty and violence. We propose that this definition should be changed to any product which graphically depicts sexual acts with the intent of causing sexual arousal. The distribution and production of pornography should not be illegal as long as it does not involve human trafficking, the abuse of minors, the exploitation of the human person or any other criminal acts defined by law.

The group called for the repeal of article 7 of the Press Act which states that:

Whosoever, by any means mentioned in article 3, directly or indirectly, or by the use of equivocal expressions, shall injure public morals or decency shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to a fine or to both such imprisonment and fine.

It also called for the abolition of the role of a centrally-appointed Classification Board for theatre performances and film, which has the authority to block and censor and to establish a set of criteria for self-classification in the performing arts based on a consultation exercise among the performing arts community. All classification systems (including self-classification for performances and classification for cinema) should be based on a list of established and transparent criteria, which should be made publicly available, and which should be re-evaluated from time to time in the light of international developments in these art forms.

Lastly, it called for the removal of article 13 of the Broadcasting Act which states that :

nothing is included in the programmes which offends against religious sentiment, good taste or decency or is likely to encourage or incite to crime or to lead to disorder or to be offensive to public feeling.

The Front said this should be replaced with a paragraph which allows such mentioned content from 10pm onwards.


2nd February

Update: Front Against Censorship...

Maltese anti-censorship Facebook group starts up

A protest opposing Malta's censorship laws will be organised at City Gate on February 24, with organisers seeking as many people as possible to make their voices heard.

The organising group, Front Kontra ċ-Ċensura , was set up in the wake of a 21-year-old editor of a student newspaper facing Court charges over an article.

The October edition of Realtà featured a short story Li Tkisser Sewwi by Alex Vella Gera whose explicit content led the university to remove it from campus and to report its editor, Mark Camilleri, to the police.

The Front includes the Realtà Collective, the newspaper's producers, and a number of other groups, including the youth wings of Alternattiva Demokratika and the Labour Party as well as Unifaun Theatre Productions, whose production of the play Stitching was banned in early 2009.

The group's Facebook page has attracted over 3,000 members and it hopes that it will similarly attract large numbers its upcoming protest.

The group plans to organise a National Protest Against Censorship to attract a larger crowd. Starting at City Gate at 1700h on February 24, the group aims to move down Republic Street to the Palace, where it will present proposals to remove artistic censorship to MPs as they enter the building.

In the meantime, Camilleri is awaiting his arraignment in Court. He faces a possible jail term for distributing obscene or pornographic material and for injuring public morals or decency.


11th January

21st Century Reality...

Malta to update censorship legislation

Maltese laws related to freedom of expression need to be updated to reflect 21st century reality according to a draft National Cultural Policy to be launched in the first week of February.

A spokesman for the Culture Ministry told The Sunday Times the draft policy had been approved by Cabinet and included the recommendation that the ministry should start a process of updating Maltese legislation.

The news comes just two days after police confirmed they will be charging a 21-year-old history postgraduate, who is also editor of student publication Realta with offences connected with distributing obscene or pornographic material after he published a graphic short story containing sexual violence. Mark Camilleri could face a prison sentence if convicted.

Camilleri said he never expected so much hassle when he chose to publish the first-person narrative about sexual violence. He said the University authorities acted irresponsibly and hypocritically , and when he tried to contact them to discuss the issue, he was always ignored: They are meant to be working in the students' interest, but instead they are doing a disservice to students. They didn't even have the decency to meet us.

The University rector banned the newspaper Ir-Realta and reported the case to the police after it carried an article in Maltese written by Alex Vella Gera. Dr Lauri said: We are not passing judgment. But since there was a possibility he broke regulations, it was our duty to inform the police. If it emerges that he didn't break the law, then we are fine.

Camilleri's case has already been taken up in solidarity by lawyers Alex Sciberras and Lara Dimitrijevic. If they lose the case, they are prepared to take it to the European Court of Human Rights.

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