Thursday, 25th February 2010

Valletta anti-censorship march targets five laws
Juan Ameen

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20100225/local/valletta-anti-censorship-march-targets-five-laws

Many with red crosses painted on their mouths, a crowd of about 300 people, including politicians and personalities from various cultural fields, walked down Valletta’s main thoroughfare to protest against censorship in a Maltese society that “does not tolerate what is out of the norm”.

Organised by 11 student organisations who came together to form the Front Against Censorship, the protest attracted a strong presence of actors, students, writers and theatre personalities.

“We came here to make history. We believe that no one has the right to determine what other people can read,” Ingram Bondin, from Front Against Censorship, said.

Censorship in Malta was not isolated to a few cases but was part of the country’s mentality, he said to a cheering crowd. People had no right to ban others from reading what they did not agree with.

Walking to the beat of two drums behind a large white banner with the words Front Kontra ċ-Ċensura, the protesters set off from City Gate at about 5.30 p.m. walked down Republic Street and stopped in front of Parliament.

Many had red crosses painted across their mouths and foreheads while others held placards with various messages such as: Censorship = Indoctrination Of A Nation.

In the sight of the protest were five laws on censorship, which, the promoters insisted, “are antiquated and outdated” and carry harsh prison sentences.

They are calling on the authorities to repeal the law banning anyone from making any form of artistic criticism of the country’s official religion and to eliminate the Stage and Film Classification Board’s power to censor or ban plays and films.

They also want to remove a clause in the Press Act stipulating that print material cannot carry any criticism of public morals and to abolish the Broadcasting Authority’s power to ban adult programmes after 9 p.m.

The promoters of the protest also want to see changes to the Pornography Act which, they believe, contains a blanket definition of sex. During the protest, which lasted less than an one hour, a letter by poet Ġorġ Peresso was read out with St George’s Square as a backdrop and accompanied by classical music.

Mr Peresso said he disapproved of a society that censored the effect and not the true cause.

“I wanted to speak out because I’m afraid that my beloved country will switch off to save a few euros and I will end up paying with my mind and ideas. I’m here with you as I’m afraid of the dark.”

Speaking on behalf of 90 Maltese authors, artistes and academics that formed Grupp 29, writer Manwel Mifsud said they supported the fight and condemned censorship, which “mentally repressed citizens and demoralised the spirit”.

The protest was concluded by University newspaper editor Mark Camilleri, who is facing court charges for publishing a controversial article called Li Tkisser Sewwi in the publication Realtà. “Censorship hurts the artist and viewer of the art. Let us work in peace,” he said.

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