The Times of Malta Tuesday, 19th January 2010

PN backbencher seeks ‘unprejudiced’ debate
Christian Peregin

Nationalist backbencher Charlò Bonnici has called for an “unprejudiced” debate on censorship, soon after the Justice Minister proclaimed himself against its total removal in the arts.

Mr Bonnici said he was prepared to stick his neck out for people like student editor Mark Camilleri who could end up in prison for using their artistic freedom. Mr Camilleri is facing charges for publishing an “obscene” story in his newspaper that was banned from the University.

Education Minister Dolores Cristina declared Cabinet had approved a draft National Cultural Policy, which called for a revamp of laws related to freedom of expression.

The policy recommends such laws to be “updated to reflect 21st century reality” – something the anti-censorship front welcomed as a step in the right direction.

In Parliament, Mr Bonnici stressed that artistic works must be considered within their contexts and said he was against censorship in the fields of culture and literature.

“I believe with all my heart that if we give the state or some other institution the right to start interfering with literary or cultural work, there will be no limit to such interference. Then what will be left of our freedom of expression?

“I am anxious for us to have the opportunity to discuss this subject in Parliament.

“We should all contribute without any exaggerated passion or prejudice.” Contacted for his reaction to the Justice Minister’s declaration, he said it was important to have a debate on such issues to find a way to remove censorship in the arts while protecting minors and making sure no one abuses of their freedom.

The authorities, including the police and the University rector, could not be blamed for following the law but the government could not sit idly and should work quickly to revamp the laws, Mr Bonnici said.

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