Culture minister ‘empirically wrong’ to ban carnival float, Book Council chairman says

Mark Camilleri, one of the authors of the the defamation and anti-censorship laws, says Herrera’s decision to ban a carnival float is wrong

The executive chairman of the National Book Council Mark Camilleri has said a carnival float depicting the Archbishop was neither defamatory or constituted hate speech.

He hit back at culture minister José Herrera’s decision to have the float’s design banned by Festival Malta for this year’s Carnival defilé, saying the minister’s decision was “empirically incorrect”.

“The minister is either being outright dishonest, disingenuous or false. The float doesn’t constitute hate speech,” Camilleri, one of the authors of Malta’s anti-censorship and defamation laws, said.

“If the carnival float is defamatory, this can only be established by a civil court. In case the float is defamatory on the children’s home, then that can only be considered as such by a civil court if the children’s home feels aggrieved by the float,” Camilleri said, insisting that the onus of the proof had to be brought to a court by the injured party.

The book council chairman went on to ask who is the victim in the case. “Against whom is it defamatory? The Archbishop? The children’s home? Herrera is incorrect, he is clutching at straws,” he said.

On Friday culture minister Jose Herrera defended a decision to ban a controversial carnival float after legal advice obtained by the government suggested it was defamatory and constituted hate speech, as it linked the Archbishop to a history of sex abuse.

The carnival float was banned for participation in the Maltese carnival by the minister after it juxtaposed the head of the Catholic church with two horned cherubs and the name ‘St Joseph Home’, as well as inserting an LGBTQI rainbow in the pastiche.

One of the victims of the historic abuse scandal said that he found nothing wrong with the float. “If you’re a public figure this stuff is going to happen to you, like it happened with Joseph Muscat and others in the past. I don’t see anything wrong with it, it’s carnival,” Lawrence Grech told Lovin Malta.

Grech’s only criticism was that the float depicted the archbishop, rather than the priests who carried out the abuse.