Books ‘under lock and key’ at University library
by Chiara Bonello

Irvine Welsh’s Porno and the biography of the Marquis de Sade were found to be “under lock and key” at the University Library, Front against Censorship spokesman, Ingram Bondin, said yesterday.

Mr Bondin, who was speaking during a debate on censorship which took place at the university yesterday, said this was a classic case of censorship. He went on to say that Malta had seen a spate of censorship recently, ranging from the ridiculous to the plain dangerous.

The Front against Censorship was a reaction to this, he said, which included the removal of a shop display of chained mannequins in protest against white slavery, to the banning of Stitching and the Realta` issue.

The Front had come up with a number of proposals for the modification of the law, which include changing the fact that someone facing charges of vilification of the Roman Catholic religion can face imprisonment, the definition of what constitutes obscene or pornographic material and the role of a centrally-appointed Classification Board.

The discussion panel was made up of Professor Joe Friggieri, Mr Bondin, lawyer Alex Sciberras and journalist Raphael Vassallo. Labour spokesperson for culture and youth affairs, Owen Bonnici, was also present.

Parliamentary Secretary for Culture Mario de Marco was invited but was unable to attend due to the fact that the government is still analysing the issue.

Lawyer Alex Sciberras said he had his doubts regarding whether a state could stop a play from being put on at all, but refrained from going into the case too much since it is still being heard in court.

He went on to question how films like Trainspotting and The Godfather were allowed in Malta, since these contained violence, and according to the existing definition this also constitutes pornography, as does the excessive use of horror.

The concept of public morality was another issue, he said, as this was not a standard objective but had to be understood in the context of the time. It was not the opinion of the majority or the sentiments of the minority but a balance of both.

There was a certain irony in the fact that Jesus Christ himself had been sentenced to death for going against the church of the time, Raphael Vassallo pointed out, when the law made blasphemy a punishable crime.

The Press Act needed to be brought more up to date, Mr Vassallo said, as the way it is means that a journalist can be taken to court every day for a satirical article, since this was the nature of satire.

The law had to be made less vague, he said, since it can otherwise be used to silence someone who would otherwise reveal truths which may be uncomfortable for some.

It was not only a question of the court censoring journalists, he said, but in the end a journalist ended up censoring himself. Society paid a price for this too, as some things remained swept under the rug.

Professor Joe Friggieri said that the demands of morality change by time, pointing out that in some cases these could also get stricter.

His intention in attending the debate, he said, had been to stimulate debate on the proposals the Front was putting forward. In his opinion it was common opinion that not everything was acceptable.

The Opposition wanted a platform to start discussing the issue of censorship, but the government was apparently not interested, Dr Bonnici said.

It was a crisis, he said, that Mark Camilleri, editor of Realta` had been taken to court. He felt he could not live in a democracy where the state decided what creativity was, he said.

Dr Bonnici congratulated the Front on their proposals, even if he didn’t necessarily agree with all of them, and said there was room for discussion in the future.

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