The Front Against Censorship has handed MPs a document proposing the abolition of censorship in Malta.
The group said that explicit and mandatory censorship of the arts and entertainment was being imposed mainly through the courts as a result of
outdated laws; the Malta Broadcasting Authority, the Board of Film and Stage Classification and also the University of Malta which is supposed to nurture artistic freedom and not suppress it.
It is highly unacceptable and even offensive
by EU standards, let alone by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that censorship is prevailing in Malta of the 21st century.
The group said it was not referring to the censorship of hate-speech which maliciously belittled specific
groups in society, but about censorship which only seemed to defend and uphold the morality of the predominant religion, or any other religion for that matter.
We believe that the Catholic Church has a right to preach its values to society
openly and freely. We will defend that right should it be denied in some form or other, directly or indirectly. We will never agree, however, that the values of the Church are the values of Maltese society in its entirety, despite the fact that the Roman
Catholic faith is predominant. Individuals should have the right to express themselves in a free and unfettered manner in the same way that the Chursh is free to preach its values openly and freely.
The Front proposed the repeal of Article 163
of the Criminal Code, which states that:
Whosoever by words, gestures, written matter, whether printed or not, or pictures or by some other visible means, vilifies the Roman Catholic Apostolic Religion which is
the religion of Malta, or gives offence to the Roman Catholic Apostolic Religion by vilifying those who profess such religion or its ministers, or anything which forms the object of, or is consecrated to, or is necessarily destined for Roman Catholic
worship, shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term from one to six months.
Similarly, it proposed the removal of article 164 of the Criminal Code, which imposes similar constraints on criticising other
religions recognised by the State. This article states that:
Whosoever commits any of the acts referred to in the last preceding article against any cult tolerated by law, shall, on conviction, be liable to
imprisonment for a term from one to three months.
The group said it was calling for a change in the definition of pornography in article 208 of the Criminal Code. Under the current law, that which is considered obscene and
pornographic is decided by a particular parliamentary committee. The only time this committee met was in 1975.
The definition given was Work is obscene or pornographic when its dominant feature is the exploitation of, or unnecessary
emphasis on, sex, criminality, fear, cruelty and violence. We propose that this definition should be changed to any product which graphically depicts sexual acts with the intent of causing sexual arousal. The distribution and production of
pornography should not be illegal as long as it does not involve human trafficking, the abuse of minors, the exploitation of the human person or any other criminal acts defined by law.
The group called for the repeal of article 7 of the Press Act
which states that:
Whosoever, by any means mentioned in article 3, directly or indirectly, or by the use of equivocal expressions, shall injure public morals or decency shall be liable on conviction to
imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to a fine or to both such imprisonment and fine.
It also called for the abolition of the role of a centrally-appointed Classification Board for theatre performances and
film, which has the authority to block and censor and to establish a set of criteria for self-classification in the performing arts based on a consultation exercise among the performing arts community. All classification systems (including
self-classification for performances and classification for cinema) should be based on a list of established and transparent criteria, which should be made publicly available, and which should be re-evaluated from time to time in the light of
international developments in these art forms.
Lastly, it called for the removal of article 13 of the Broadcasting Act which states that :
nothing is included in the programmes
which offends against religious sentiment, good taste or decency or is likely to encourage or incite to crime or to lead to disorder or to be offensive to public feeling.
The Front said this should be replaced with a paragraph
which allows such mentioned content from 10pm onwards.