Culture Minister Mario de Marco told Parliament on Tuesday that there would be a shift from a preventive system of censorship to a system of auto-classification. To date, films and theatrical plays were still subject to preventive censorship and this limited the contribution of serious artists.

A modern society acknowledges the role of the artist, the actor and the filmmaker

Speaking during the debate in the second reading of the Bill amending various laws dealing with the classification of films and stage productions, he said theatrical companies in Malta would be able to classify their own works, thus balancing their freedom of expression with their obligations.

A modern society acknowledged the role of the artist, the actor and the filmmaker. It acknowledged works that provoked intellectual debates.

The government believed such changes were positive and constructive. Instead of the Censorship Board prohibiting material from being published, it would provide adequate standards that reflected a mature society.

Earlier, Dr de Marco said that the proposed amendments would reflect contemporary systems.

The Bill proposed to transfer the laws regulating classification from the ministry responsible for the police to that responsible for culture. Such regulations would be amalgamated with the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts Act.

This change reflected the maturity of the Maltese people and related to freedom of expression in modern times. It was essential for a democracy and people were obliged to ensure that no institution hindered this principle.

To date, Maltese legislation required artists to present their works to the Censorship Board before publication.

If the board thought such work did not comply with what was acceptable, it would prohibit the work from being made public. Members of the board did not have an easy task.

Dr de Marco said the legislation would only serve as a framework and the arts sector would become completely self-regulatory.

Nevertheless, the Bill did not affect other legislation and essential rules such as laws protecting minorities, minors and those guarding against libel. He said such laws would remain applicable to the theatrical and film sectors.

Turning to the film sector, Dr De Marco said that new age classification benchmarks were being introduced. The Bill would not change the requirement of obtaining a certificate before viewing, since it was only for theatrical performance that this requirement would no longer be needed.

The proposals for age classification took in consideration guidelines put forward by the Ombudsman and in line with other European practices.

The Bill also deals with the much-awaited changes in censorship of dramatic and other theatrical performances. Censorship would be completely eliminated as producers and artists should themselves classify their own production and work.

The Bill introduced guidelines that would always be adjusted and updated, in parallel with that in broadcasting.

Dr de Marco assured this was not an end to the reform process but only the beginning, where other areas such as literature would be tackled in the near future.

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