Labour MP Owen Bonnici (left) and candidate Sigmund Mifsud.
While welcoming new amendments to laws governing freedom of speech and artistic expression - as announced by Culture Minister Mario de Marco earlier this week - the Labour Party has expressed skepticism about the timing of the proposed changes, while complaining that it wasn't consulted on the laws in any capacity while they were being discussed in parliament.
Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, Labour spokesperson for culture described the amendments proposed by de Marco - which would seek to fine-tune the way works of art are assessed, by means of the internationally-employed 'Miller's Test'- as a measure taken out of "convenience, not conviction".
"It's clear that following the result of the divorce referendum, the Nationalist Party has conveniently made a 180-degree turn in its approach. They've gone from being a party that has defended a decision to censor a play, as well as the decision to arraign two individuals, to party that suddenly fancies itself to be a champion of artistic freedom," Bonnici said, referring to the fact that a local production of the play Stitching was banned by the censorship board, and the Realta case involving then student paper editor Mark Camilleri and writer Alex Vella Gera, who were accused of distributing obscene material but were acquitted of all charges last February.
Bonnici also complained that the Labour Party was never consulted during parliamentary discussions of the proposals, but that the Party will nevertheless be contributing its feedback to the open call of suggestions, which closes on 10 August.
Mentioning that the PN underwent 46 parliamentary meetings until the issue was discussed, Bonnici said that he was not surprised the issue was given a "second class treatment, when one considers that this move was undertaken in a spirit of convenience, and not conviction.
"Then the PN had the gall to say that the issue was not moving forward due to the PL, simply because we believed that the issue needed to be given the attention it deserved - and certain members of the PN parliamentary group whom we spoke to privately agreed with us on this count."
During the conference, Labour candidate and musician Sigmund Mifsud said that the party believed that "artists should be free," since artistic freedom would by extension give way to an enriched cultural life.
"It's not necessary for works of art to be evaluated by a board of censors. We need to allow for individuals to determine which age groups their work should belong to - as this is in their interest. But there should definitely be less bureaucracy in this field, and any decisions pertaining to culture should be genuine, and not simply taken as electoral gimmicks," Mifsud added.