The Front Against Censorship is today to hand MPs a document proposing the abolition of censorship.

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and mandatory censorship of the arts and entertainment was being imposed mainly through the courts as a result of outdated laws; the Malta Broadcasting Authority, the Board of Film and Stage Classification and also the University of Malta 'which is supposed to nurture artistic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 group said that 2009 alone, censorship was imposed in several guises, which included the prosecution of persons wearing religious vestments at the Nadur Carnival, the ban of the theatrical play called Stitching, the warning given to producers of a programme that showed a photoshoot taken at the Addolorata cemetery, the removal of unclothed mannequins from a shop window in Mosta, which were on display to symbolically demonstrate white slavery, the suspended prison sentence given to a young man for posting a clip of the Pope after a naked woman in an artistic video clip during a musical event, and the ban of Issue 8 of Ir-Realta` from the University campus.

"The legal apparatus of the State should not be used to enforce a certain type of morality over individuals. We feel that the choice is between a mature society open to debate about the culture it is producing, and a repressive and closed society where one cannot speak about that which is taboo."

Furthermore, it said it agreed with the proposal of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Doc. 11296 (8 June 2007) entitled ‘Blasphemy, religious insults and hate speech against persons on the grounds of their religion' that:

"...national law should penalise expressions about religious matters only when such expressions intentionally and severely disturb public order and call for public violence or call for a person or a group of persons to be subjected to hatred, discrimination or violence."


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."

These two acts are direct attack on criticism against the Roman Catholic Church and other religions, on artistic freedom, on events like the Carnival festivities and on anyone who would like to satirically present Roman Catholicism or other religions for critical and/or artistic purposes.

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.

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