Friday, 19th March 2010 – 09:56CET

Ir-Realtà editor to contest KSU elections
David Schembri

The university student charged with publishing obscene material in the newspaper he edits will be ganging up with another two candidates to contest the student council elections.

The left-wing student organisation Pulse on Tuesday declared it was not contesting since the electoral system did not provide for proportional representation on the council.

This left the distinct possibility that the election, due to be held soon, would not take place since the only organisation ready to contest was the Christian Democrat organisation SDM. Now, 22-year-old Mark Camilleri has announced he will be standing alongside Andrè Vella and Robert Louis Fenech under the banner Moviment Indipendenti.

“We know that it will be very difficult for us to win the election but we’re doing this in the name of democracy; having a walkover would have been unacceptable” Mr Camilleri said.

He was speaking before the KSU annual general meeting on Wednesday, a meeting characterised by conflict, to the point that it was suspended before the agenda was even approved.

The young editor of Ir-Realtà has been accused of distributing and publishing obscene material under the criminal and press laws after publishing Li Tkisser Sewwi, a story containing foul language.

The article’s writer Alex Vella Gera is also expected to be taken to court over the story. Meanwhile, a group of authors, artists and people working in the cultural field yesterday called on the Justice Minister and Culture Parliamentary Secretary to assume their political responsibility and stop criminal proceed-ings against the two students.

The calls were made in letters of protest sent to Justice Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici and Parliamentary Secretary for Culture Mario de Marco, by Grupp29 – an organisation with some 90 members hailing from the cultural scene.

The case has drawn condemnation from a number of quarters over the past months by people and organisations who felt that such action was uncalled for in this day and age and that it stifled freedom of expression. Along with Grupp29, in fact, Alternattiva Demokratika also expressed its solidarity with Mr Vella Gera.

AD said “it is unacceptable that in a democratic European society authors are persecuted for their work. Using this logic, the next step would be to start emptying bookshelves at our libraries for literature not deemed fit by the authorities.”

The 1,300-word article is a first-person narrative by an imaginary, sex-craved Maltese man who speaks in degrading, sexual terms about women, whom he treats like objects. It has provoked much controversy both among the public and in the local media.

Grupp29 said: “In spite of the wave of public protest that Mr Camilleri’s case has provoked on the part of the country’s artistic and cultural communities, as well as the media, we are dismayed to see that the police have not only pursued their absurd case against him but have now extended the scope of their repressive actions to include the author himself.”The group added that such actions placed Malta in the same league as anti-democratic and intolerant regimes.

The group also appealed to the Justice Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary, in their respective remits, to abolish censorship of the arts, to update laws defining obscenity and to stop the criminalisation of art, as was required of a country that defined itself as modern and European.

Copies of the letter have also been sent to the European Commission, NGOs for civil rights, MEPs and the Opposition.

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