Malta: Theatre censorship law debated in parliament

A bill replacing theatre censorship with a classification system was presented to the Parliament of Malta in March 2012. It was expected that the bill would be approve, but the opposition requested more time for discussion. The parliamentary debate is set to continue in October 2012.

Anti-censorship demonstration in Malta. Photo from the documentary ‘Malta’s Cry for Freedom’

In January 2012, the Maltese government announced plans to over-haul censorship laws which affect stage performances and films. Culture Minister Mario de Marco explained that the proposed amendments will move towards a system of self-regulation. The amendments also propose that the cinema and stage regulations will be transferred from the police laws to the law which regulates the Malta Council for the Arts.

“An effort should be made for a fair balance to be found between the freedom of artistic expression and respect to Maltese culture and society,” said the governments’ spokesman Owen Bonnici at a press conference on 4 August 2012.

Imported material subject to examination
All material imported – a book, film, video or a theatre play – is subject to examination by the Customs Department or the Post Master General in Malta. Section 27 (1) of the Post Office Act empowers the Post Master to open, check, read, watch anything that come through. Malta has laws against the vilification of religion, and against immorality, and has had this practice since the 1500s.

In 2009, the Scottish play ‘Stitching’ was banned from being performed, even though it only had a 14+ rating in the United Kingdom.

In 2010, when various bands who were going to play in the Nadur Carnival were being asked for lyrical content by the police, this sparked an up roar within the Maltese population, and after a couple of days, the police revoked the order.

On censorfortress.wordpress.com, an anonymous blogger wrote in 2011 that “since then the arts censorship has increased in the fortress. We are now hearing of university students being arrested for publishing or writing fictitious controversial stories and other issues that are a hot debate on the island.”

A 25-minute documentary about censorship in Malta, ‘Malta’s Cry for Freedom’, was aired by Al Jazeera in 2011, focusing on the story of student editor Mark Camilleri who was charged for publishing an explicit piece of prose on newspaper Realta’. The documentary portrays Malta as a country stuck to its Catholic traditions. It also features the story of the banned play Stitching. The documentary can be viewed in its full length on aljazeera.net and youtube.com.

 
List of censorship incidents in Malta

Video footage for a tv documentary about censorship of the arts in Malta

 
Find more about this topic on:

Times of Malta:
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120801/local/Free-to-make-art-within-legal-limits.431003
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120710/local/Curtain-remains-down-on-the-new-theatre-law.427915
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120717/opinion/To-cut-or-not-to-cut-.428937
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120716/local/Culture-Minister-explains-anti-censorship-law-delay.428733
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120712/local/Theatre-groups-will-be-able-to-classify-their-own-productions.428201
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20110731/opinion/Presenting-pornolitics.378160
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20090713/local/the-not-so-sexy-side-of-politics.264869

Local blogs:
http://andrew-sciberras.blogspot.com/2012/03/very-brief-legal-history-of-artistic.html
http://andrew-sciberras.blogspot.com/2012/03/very-brief-legal-history-of-artistic_20.html
http://censorfortress.wordpress.com/

International coverage:
http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/witness/2011/04/20114513374987686.html
http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/theatreblog/2009/feb/20/anthony-neilson-stitching-ban-play
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2010/aug/05/an-obscene-crackdown-on-maltese-culture

 

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