Earth Garden DJs targeted by ‘discriminatory’ legal action

Justice ministry says police practice targetting persons with simple possession convictions gives rise to a legitimate concern • government to enagge with police to examine practice

Earth Garden organisers said they have since met with the ministry to discuss a way forward.
Earth Garden organisers said they have since met with the ministry to discuss a way forward.

The refusal to allow DJs to perform at the Earth Garden festival – based on prior drug convictions – has been slammed as “discriminatory” by one of the DJs affected by the decision.

Stressing that the team behind Earth Garden were willing to cooperate with the police and that they hope a more reasonable compromise could be found in the future, Earth Garden organiser Reuben Spiteri also lamented the apparently inconsistent way that DJs have been targeted.

“What I find particularly strange is that this particular law applies only to DJs… if you’re a singer or a guitar player, you’re exempt from having to submit your police conduct…”

Spiteri told MaltaToday that, prior to the festival, the Earth Garden organisers were asked to submit the list of DJs set to play during the three-day festival. Having complied with this request, they were then told that a handful of DJs on the list would have to be barred from performing owing to prior drug convictions – some of them going back to over two decades ago, and for minor offences such as being caught with a single joint.

It was claimed that this has been “happening since the 90s” and that this particular case elicited public attention only owing to the fact that Earth Garden is a fairly prominent event in the summer cultural calendar.

“At the end of the day, the festival went on more or less as planned – rather than the organisers, it’s the performers who were affected. We’re more than willing to give our input to the authorities whenever we can, because ideally the law should tackle these things on a case-by-case basis: for example, I would never let someone who is trafficking drugs perform at my concert – it’s just not in my interest. But when it comes to cases that took place years ago, and where the sentence was served, I think we should be reasonable and accept that anyone can make a mistake.”

One of the DJs affected by the legal action spoke to MaltaToday on condition of anonymity, and similarly complained that the law appears to be far too arbitrary.

“I’m not sure if it is even legal, let alone fair. If it is legal, it is definitely infringing on the rights of the individual, since no one can be prevented from carrying out any legal activity unless it is part of one’s court sentence,” the DJ said.

Having been barred from performing due to a conviction which dates back to nine years ago, the DJ said that since he had already served his sentence, he shouldn’t be prevented from continuing to pursue any activities.

“The case isn’t even on my police conduct. As I see it, it’s putting a lot of discretionary power in the hands of the police, whose job isn’t to judge or come to conclusions, but to follow procedure. Any legal mechanism that bars an individual from performing an activity should have a recourse system,” the DJ said, while also asking why DJs in particular are being targeted.

“Why aren’t band and live acts also the subject of such scrutiny? And if we don’t want to give a bad influence to minors, why was Snoop Dogg brought over and allowed to perform in front of thousands of people?” the DJ asked, in reference to the Isle of MTV 2011 performance by the popular American hip-hop performer… whose predilection for marijuana is no secret.

Contacted for comment, the Ministry of Justice and Culture said that “this practice has been established in the Police Force during the past years and essentially it has the aim to protect vulnerable young people.

“However if this practice leads to persons with simple possession convictions which happened years ago to being barred from DJ-ing, this gives rise to a legitimate concern.

“The Ministry, assisted by the Office of the Attorney General, will engage with the Police Corps, to examine this practice.

“If there is need for rationalising this practice, as in other circumstances, this government will surely be pro-active.”

Speaking to MaltaToday on Friday, the Earth Garden organisers said that they have since met with the ministry to discuss a way forward.