250 turn out for protest against censorship
Some 250 politicians, columnists, university students and other members of the public united to protest against censorship this evening walking from City Gate to Parliament in Valletta.
The protest, to convince Parliament to reform “outdated and theocratic” censorship laws, was organised by the Front Against Censorship. It included the participation of Labour MPs Evarist Bartolo and Owen Bonnici, AD chairman Michael Briguglio, columnists Lou Bondi and Andrew Borg Cardona and the group Graffitti.
The protest was organised to fight outdated laws on censorship which carry harsh punishment, including a prison term. Ingram Bondin said people who joined the protest believed that no one had the right to say what they could read or watch. Maltese society, he said, did not tolerate what was out of the norm. Censorship, he said, was part of the country’s mentality.
One’s right to express oneself was a basic freedom. If one believed something was scandalous, it did not mean that he could decide for others that it was. People, he said, should have the freedom to say something shocking and not be silenced. This was even allowed by the European Court of Human Rights which in a judgement said that freedom of speech could be shocking.
The front wanted to see the law which did not allow one to artistically criticise the official religion of the country repealed. It also wanted the board of Stage and Film Classification, which had the power to censor plays and films from appearing and being held, lose this power.
It wanted the removal of a clause in the Press Act which said that one could not publish anything that criticised public morals and it called for an amendment to the law removing the powers of the Broadcasting Authority to censor adult programmes aired after 9 p.m. Mr Bondin said the organisation also called for the decriminalisation of pornography. The Pornography Act called for the setting up of a committee whose role was to define pornography.
This committee has not met since 1975 and it should be removed. During the protext a letter by Gorg Peresso, who could not make it to the activity, was read out. Writer Manwel Mifsud read out a statement on behalf of Grupp 29, a group of 90 Maltese writers, artists and academics who supported the front’s cause and condemned censorship as mental repression against citizens.