The Front Against Censorship hopes that common sense will prevail in the consideration of an appeal by the Attorney General from a judgement handed down by Magistrate Audrey Demicoli which cleared Mark Camilleri and Alex Vella Gera of writing and publishing pornographic material and offending public morals
Mr Vella Gera is the writer of the explicit story Li Tkisser Sewwi, which was published in the student magazine ir-Realta, edited by Mark Camilleri.
Addressing a news conference in front of Parliament this morning, Ingram Bondin from Front against Censorship said that in his appeal, the AG put forward a number of dangerous arguments which the front disagreed and found fault with.
Giving an example, he said the front disagreed with the AG’s argument that the story “may not be interpreted as fictional” because it was a monologue.
Had this been the case, every novel written in the first person could be potentially subject to censorship.
The AG had also based an argument on fact that the newspaper was also distributed to minors at Junior College.
Mr Bondin said that pretty much all students at the college had come into contact with Maltese and English literature and it was very condescending to say they were unable to distinguish fact from fiction. If this was the case, substantial doubts should be raised about the country’s education system.
The front also disagreed with the usage of the usual dishonest cliché of attempting to link the story to the exploitation of women and child pornography.
This argument completely ignored the message of the story which was to raise the readers’ disgust at the behaviour of the fictional character.
The story also made it very clear that the male character was being used by one of the women.
In his appeal, Mr Bondin said, the AG indicated that the story rendered null the right of a reader to choose what to read. He also argued that the individual right of the author to publish attacked the right of a community not to want to read such works.
Mr Bondin argued that basically, anyone who wanted to stop reading or put the text away could do so and it seemed the AG was saying there were some community rights to censor any content he did not appreciate.
The AG was interpreting freedom of expression to be that the author had the right to write anything as long as it was not published because it might not please other readers.
He said he found it very disturbing that the AG had introduced religion into the argument, whereby public morality was identified with confessional morality.
Mr Bondin said that one point the appeal turned into a tirade which had no other aim but to vilify and demonise the author.
The most worrying argument was that although the AG used the fact that rector Juanito Camilleri had reported the case to the police, he warned the court not to consider the opinion and testimony given by various academics who spoke in favour of the story because these were not appointed by the Court but were summoned by the defence lawyers.
It was ridiculous to think that these experts’ opinion would change had they been summoned by the Court.
The AG had condescendingly dismissed the academics’ opinion by saying that they did not take into consideration the impact the story would leave on other people.
The appeal, Mr Bondin said, was a text book case of ultra conservative arguments and legal paternalism.
It resorted to scaremongering and rhetoric to blow things out of proportion.
The front was deeply disappointed at this gross waste of public resources used for witch hunts instead of for more serious matters, Mr Bondin said.
Mr Camilleri, who was present for the conference, said it was blatant hypocrisy that the University Students’ Council spoke about the case when everything was almost over.
He said that as writer and editor, he and Mr Vella Gera should win the appeal because the AG’s arguments were weak.
In a statement this morning, AD reiterated its support of the Front in the its demands for modern legislation regaring censorship.
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