The Times Wednesday, 20th January 2010 – 13:53CET

Government to convene committee to discuss definition of obscenities

Updated with government reaction:

The government announced this evening that it would be convening a parliamentary committee to discuss the definition of obscenities and pornography, as well as ways to control racism and xenophobia.

The announcement came in the wake of a statement by Opposition MP Owen Bonnici who called on the government to set up the committee – already provided for in the Criminal Code – to advise the minister responsible for culture on definitions of obscenities and pornography.

Dr Bonnici told a press conference today that the Criminal Code provided that there should be a committee headed by the Minister of Justice and including four MPs nominated by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, to advise the minister on regulations defining obscenities and pornography.

The Criminal Code also empowered all the members of this committee who disagreed with any of the regulations made, to raise the issue before the whole House.

Dr Bonnici noted that the only time that regulations defining obscenities had been published in Malta was on July 15, 1975. Since then, there had been a whole series of judgements by the European Court on Human Rights which defined what constituted pornography, even in the context of freedom of expression and artistic freedom.

Malta, Dr Bonnici said, needed to review the freedoms of expression as soon as possible.

Government reaction

In a reaction, Justice and Home Affairs Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici said he welcomed the fact that the voice of reason was finally prevailing over political opportunism.

He said he looked forward to presiding over the meetings of the committee to hear all the voices of society on such a delicate subject and the need to safeguard the dignity of the vulnerable and children, while also controlling racism and xenophobia.

He said the Prime Minister would be nominating the government MPs to the committee shortly and he hoped the Opposition would do likewise.

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