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Raphael Vassallo

Pull the other one, Carm

The only values this country has ever upheld are those of avarice and hypocrisy. I certainly do not endorse either.

Raphael Vassallo
14 July 2010, 12:00am
Home Affairs Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici has come out guns blazing in defence of the recent amendments to Article 208 of the Criminal Code, lambasted by the Front Against Censorship for creating a 'culture of terror' aimed at intimidating authors and artists from portraying sexual themes in their work.

His argument? That these amendments, which came into effect on Friday, were "intended to protect children from sexual exploitation, pornography and grooming on the internet with the intent of engaging them in sexual acts and paedophilia.'

"The fact that The Front Against Censorship is opposing such legal provisions is a clear indication that the Front has either failed to understand the aim of these amendments or is evidence of the fact that the Front does not endorse the same values the people of this country have consistently upheld," he said.

Well, Carm Mifsud Bonnici is simply playing with words.

Fact of the matter is that Article 208 is the exact same article of law currently being cited against both editor Mark Camilleri and author Alex Vella Gera for the publication of Li Tkisser Sewwi in the eighth edition of campus newspaper Ir-Realta'.

I quote from a newspaper report dated Wednesday, 16 June 2010:

"Mr Vella Gera pleaded not guilty to breaching article 208 of the Criminal Code, which deals with the distribution of pornographic or obscene material, among others. If convicted he could be jailed for up to six months or fined up to €465.87."

With the new amendments, the stipulated fines have been increased almost sixfold to €3,000. The prison sentence for the same offence has been doubled to one year.

What Mifsud Bonnici also fails to mention is that while "the definition of the possession of pornographic material depicting minors had been extended to the acquisition through information and communication technology", it was in no way amended with regard to its applicability to perceived 'obscenity' in literature or art.

The new amendments - which incidentally were unanimously approved by Parliament, with the full support of the 'progressive' Labour Party - may therefore be used in future to prosecute writers, artists and film makers on the basis of an entirely subjective interpretation of their work... as indeed is happening even as I write.

Furthermore, Mifsud Bonnici appears to be unaware that there is a world of difference between the intention behind a law or legal amendment, and its subsequent application by the police and law courts: both of which are (theoretically, at any rate) independent of government.

It is for this reason that lawmakers have to be particularly attentive to the precise wording of the laws they make... something I am afraid I just can't say for the present legislature, which is proving to be singularly cavalier and irresponsible in its entire approach to legislation.

Even if we accept Mifsud Bonnici's lame defence of the recent amendments, I for one do not for a second believe his claim that the laws were intended only to protect minors from exploitation. Recent history suggests the very opposite - in the past two years alone, various articles of law have been invoked to censor plays and art exhibitions, to prosecute writers and editors, to press charges against people for dressing up in fancy dress costumes at a Carnival... while at the same time, we have witnessed an explosion of unlicensed lap-dancing clubs in Paceville and elsewhere, and the government has to date stolidly refused to amend the relevant codes of law to at least regularise this dubious industry.

Malta has meanwhile risen to become a major hub for international online billing agencies, some of which openly advertise internet porn sites among their clients. And yet there has not been a single prosecution of anyone for 'distribution of pornographic or obscene material', despite the fact that this a precise definition of the internet porn industry as a whole.

The Front Against Censorship is absolutely right to be vigilant. We are witnessing a steady emergence of a culture of moral bullying, which now uses the global fight against child pornography as just another weapon in its ongoing war on freedom of expression. Meanwhile, no action whatsoever is taken against real internet pornography, in which the present government has a declared stake running into millions of euros.

Having said that, there is at least one part of Mifsud Bonnici's statement with which I wholeheartedly agree: "the Front does not endorse the same values the people of this country have consistently upheld".

The only values this country has ever upheld are those of avarice and hypocrisy. I can't talk on behalf of the Front Against Censorship, but speaking entirely for myself, I certainly do not endorse either.

Joe South
So two illegal immigrants were "punished" for breaking the law and the PM listened to what the AFM said and decided not to hold an inquiry...... What does the church has to do with this?? Are you obsessed with the church?? Are you paranoid about what the church does? The church, LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT.
Michael001
I will tell you what values the Maltese hold most dear. I am giving you two weblinks of The Times online comments, with permission from this service, so that you can see for yourselves what values we have: http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20100723/local/immigrant-jailed-for-escaping-another-charged-with-theft http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20100723/local/prime-minister-rules-out-inquiry And where does the Church stand in all this? The Church barely says anything, focussed as it is on the issue of divorce, the issue of same-sex partnerships, cohabitation, etc... THIS IS THE SHEER HYPOCRISY THAT WE ARE LIVING IN AND WHICH WE ARE PASSING ON TO OUR NEXT GENERATION! And what about the individual Ministers and MPs? Do they write individually about this? Do they criticise and speak against xenophobia? Only in conferences, merely to show that they are adding their voice. HYPOCRISY AT ITS WORST. AND BOTH SIDES! THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EITHER!
gp
True what you say re self-fulfilling prophecies, however you do have to acknowledge that old habits are hard to give up and there is a cognitive process to it. You need a change in perception first. The Maltese tend to favour disengagement as a strategy, indeed it seems as if this is some endemic defense mechanism that will see them through the life span. Youths and university students are a prime example. Yes most are eager enough to style themselves as liberal/ humanists when they face outwards in cyberspace or abroad however once they land back on the rock they sink back into the oblivion of disengagement. I doubt very much a real change in perception has occurred. Many still believe themselves to be powerless. "The only values this country has ever upheld are those of avarice and hypocrisy" Well said!! I would go one further and say that cognitive dissonance is the national sport. Needless to say some excel more than others at it.
Joe South
The majority of Maltese people do not give a hoot about the national debt going over four billion euros or that it went up by 10.4% in the first five months of this year.....what makes you think that they care about a little movie??
maltesegirl
I, a Maltese national who has been living abroad for the past 11 years or so, continue to find it hard to believe how many Maltese close-minded nationals (especialli prominent people covering public positions) continue regressing, rather than progressing, in their views and standpoints regarding cultural, politcal and societal issues. Please don't get me wrong, I understand that living on an island may not be easy, and also means having to face and live with issues which are looked upon and lived with in a manner which is completely different to those experienced on mainland Europe. But what seriously gets to me is how many people still accept and actually seem to enjoy to be treated as idiots and/or ignorant.... How is it that months have gone past and nobody (as I can gather from reading various Maltese newspapers on a daily basis) has asked himself how the famous much-raved about, but especially hardly-worked-for Movie 'Agorà' has not made it to the Maltese cinemas yet? I do not want to make any allegations or sweeping statements but.... I seriously think that Maltese censorship must have gotten in the way somewhow, albeit the what I consider 'duty' of the authorities concerned to show to the Maltese, a good chunk of the island had worked hardkly for! My opinion is based on what happened here in Italy before it came out. Before the movie actually made it to the movie theatres (April 24th), there was a huge public debate on why the movie delayed so much in making it to the screens. To makie the story short, censorship got in the way. Here...have a look yourselves at a number of articles written on the matter: http://www.google.com/#hl=it&source=hp&q=agor%C3%A0%2Bcensura&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=&fp=f84880c22853ed78 So... the point is... Italians finally made...they pressured and pressured and the movie finally made it...the rights were bought...and the movie was shown. Freedom of expression won! I was so happy to watch the movie (and honestly see my father get his 3-second-closeup once-in-lifetime glory), yet what I was so angry about after the viewing was.... why the hell was I not supposed to watch such a movie?! Who on earth had the right to decide whether I was not supposed to watch it or not? What role is really sensorship meant to play in such a situation, where I am paying to watch a movie behind closed doors? I won't ruin the movie by telling you what it's all about, even if I do highly reccomend the movie as it is a fantastic production, on so many fronts., and I am so proud of the Maltese that contributed to such a unique production...Bravi!...but what I am trying to say is..please...Raphael... suss out why this blessed movie did not make it to the Maltese cinemas yet, and.... please help me understand whether Maltese 'censorhip' had to do with this issue or not. Tanks in advance..
Joe South
People who want to see this country regress are in a position of influence or power. The common man/woman can only do something once every five years, vote trhem out....only one problem, the new ones will be the same if not worse. What is there to do....go march in the capital with a few other protestors?? If the govt. didn't pay attention to tens of thousands that protested the high tariffs, do you think it'll pay attention to the few?? You might see some change another 20/30 years but till then you're just wasting your time.
I'm tired of hearing people say 'nothing will change'. If you resign yourself to no change, then no change is what you're going to get. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. And besides, things ARE changing... for the worse. Why? Because the people who want to see this country regress are NOT sitting back and saying 'nothing will change'. They are making things happen.
Joe South
Since when do politicians listen to the people?? And since when do they care, except every five years? Unless the electoral system is changed and people vote for the candidate and not the party, nothing will change.
probably for blasphemy as well...
guido
But then you might be arraigned for incitement, whatdya think Raph?
People to open their traps about it and tell them where to get off.
Joe South
They're politicians, whaddya expect?
being hypocritical, as usual
Joe South
Is the government breaking any local or foreign laws?? Except maybe being hypocritical?
http://archive.maltatoday.com.mt/2006/03/12/top_story.html http://archive.maltatoday.com.mt/2010/01/24/raphael.html
Joe South
[.......Meanwhile, no action whatsoever is taken against real internet pornography, in which the present government has a declared stake running into millions of euros.] Can you please clarify that?