The Malta Independent 16 December 2019, Monday

Anti-censorship bill a reflection of today’s society – Owen Bonnici

Wednesday, 13 July 2016, 14:28 Last update: about 4 years ago

A Bill approved by Parliament yesterday evening, which does decriminalises the vilification of religion, has been done to “protect those who are most vulnerable but at the same time..opens doors to freedom of artistic expression,” Justice Minister Owen Bonnici

The Bill also seeks to put an end to censorship, which will “better serve society’s needs,” he said at a press conference today.

He also added that the newly approved legislation pushes “old-fashioned laws” to the wayside and is more reflective of today’s world.

Dr Bonnici noted how artists have been calling for an end to the law which deeply limits their freedom of expression, which is conveyed through their work.

“Opening the doors to criticism is in no way dangerous. It’s keeping these doors locked and shut that creates a problem, that stifles democracy,” he said.

Adding to the modernity of such a law, the Bill also criminalises revenge porn. This has been done in a minority of countries around the world, however in light of the many stories which emerge about disgruntled ex partners sharing personal pictures/videos on social media – such a law is certainly warranted.

 Yesterday evening, Archbishop Charles Scicluna levelled heavy criticism against the Bill through the form of a tweet: “demeaning God and man indeed go hand in hand. A sad day for Malta. Lord forgive them: they do not know what they do.”

Asked about this comment by members of the press, Dr Bonnici said that he respected the Archbishop’s comments. He added however that should the pair sit down and have a detailed chat about the issue at hand, he believes that they would see eye to eye on a number of aspects.

A story published some years ago in the student magazine Realta’ had initially sparked a debate about the limits to freedom of expression in Malta. The story, penned by Alex Vella Gera and Mark Camilleri described explicit and pornographic content. This sparked outrage when it came to light that the magazine was being distributed at Junior College Sixth Form, where there are minors present.

The pair were faced with criminal action but were subsequently acquitted.

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