Mayor backtracks on plans for Nadur carnival censorship

Nadur Mayor Edward Said yesterday suggested that the police would be taking action against offensive costumes or behaviour at the Nadur spontaneous carnival

The van that caused outrage last year: Inset from top are Mark Camilleri, Justyne Caruana and Edward Said
The van that caused outrage last year: Inset from top are Mark Camilleri, Justyne Caruana and Edward Said

Nadur mayor Edward Said has insisted that no new guidelines will be enforced at the Nadur spontaneous carnival next month after suggesting yesterday that the police would be clamping down on offensive behaviour. 

State media yesterday reported comments by the Said who said the council had learnt from past mistakes and would be working to ensure they are not repeated.

Last year, a van poking fun at mental health problems stirred outrage across the country and was condemned by politicians, NGOs and citizens alike.

The statements were made in a video comment which Said gave to TVM following a press conference launching the carnival, which was also attended by Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana and Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government Silvio Parnis.

“You can’t expect to to offend people who might be sick and as regards cases that have happened in the past we have learnt our lesson…they will be stopped immediately by the police and security officials working with the local council,” Said told TVM.

Said was reported to have added that while costumes that offend religious morals wouldn’t be permitted, this won’t apply to political satire.

The news have raised the ire of advocates of freedom of expression, especially when considering that provisions in Malta’s criminal code that censored the vilification of religion and criminalised pornography were repealed by parliament back in 2016 as part of an electoral pledge by the Labour Party. 

In comments to MaltaToday, Said said that his comments had been taken out of context, adding that the council could not control how people dressed, but insisted that the event should not be used as an opportunity to hurt others.

Said streesed that there were many practices that used to be common in the spontaneous carnival and which no longer happened, including animal cruelty and the use of animals during the carnival, as was a certain type of religious mockery.

It was pointed out that there were laws which prohibited animal cruelty and that religious vilification was no longer a crime, to which Said ultimately responded that it was up to the police to decide what action to take.

“Ultimately it will be at the discretion of the police on duty to decide,” he said, adding that it was their role to maintain public order.  

Gozo minister stops short of condemning censorship plans

When contacted, Gozo minister distanced herself from Said’s comments, but insisted that she would not comments on what others had said.

Caruana stressed that she was present at the press conference to promote the upcoming carnival and that any questions about Said's comments should be directed to him.

“Like Hon. Parnis, I was there to promote the event. I have my role of Gozo minister and I won’t comment on what others said,” Caruana said.

She noted that a press release about the conference issued through the Department of Information made no reference to any censorship plans.

Despite this, Caruana came under fire from Malta Book Council chairman Mark Camilleri, who called for the minister’s resignation in light of the proposed plans.

“It’s started again. They want to censor the Nadur carnival,” Camilleri wrote on Facebook. “Minister Justyne Caruana should know that what she is doing here is illegal and a flagrant abuse of power given that the laws have changed, and in fact tolerate that which she, together with [Nationalist MP] Chris Said’s brother are trying to stop.”

Back in 2010, Camilleri was charged with breaching obscenity laws over an article which appeared in a university newspaper he was the editor of.

In his post, Camilleri went on stress that “the police are meant to enforce and operate according to the law and not the queen minister”.

“She should resign given that she does not agree with the Labour Party and its 2013 manifesto that clearly stated that censorship laws should be removed," Camilleri insisted.

More in National