Students protest against censorship
A solitary drum beat mechanically, a bonfire of burning newspapers raged and students, some masked, others with handkerchiefs and scarves gagging their mouths braved the pouring rain yesterday in a demonstration against censorship.
Despite the miserable weather, about 150 students and members of the public gathered at the University's main square for a peaceful protest against censorship, following the ban of the satirical student newspaper Ir-Realtà.
Standing in front of a banner which read Front Kontra ċ-Ċensura (Front Against Censorship), theatre studies student Franco Rizzo said the aim of the protest was to demonstrate that University students were fed up with the blatant imposition of censorship and would like to have it abolished.
Mr Rizzo organised the event with Front Against Censorship, set up by the publishers of the newspaper.
The newspaper was banned by the University rector because it contained a short story about sexual violence which the University at first said was also discriminatory against women. In a later statement, it said the newspaper should have warned readers it was adult reading.
After reading an extract from University rector Juanito Camilleri's article that appeared in The Times yesterday, Mr Rizzo said he understood the rector was legally bound to take the decisions he did. However, he drew attention to the fact that no distinction was made between University and Junior College students. As a result, the adult University environment was being placed on the same level as that of adolescents. There had to be a reinforcement of classification and precaution to keep the distinction clear. "In this adult environment, the decision what to read and what not to must be left up to the individual," he said.
"Censorship is confusing the formation of proper ideas and opinions, even if these could be controversial. Censorship doesn't lead to the criticism and/or appreciation of a literary, theatrical or art work, which helps people understand the message the artist is bringing across and whether this strengthens the artistic value of the work or whether it is seen as mediocre."
During the protest, which included the participation of activist group Moviment Graffiti, three students read out extracts from "controversial" literature: Lady Chatterly's Lover (D. H. Lawrence), Crash (J. G. Ballard) and Il-Manifest tal-Killer (Karl Schembri). The latter was banned from being aired on Campus FM, the University's radio station.
Mark Camilleri, the editor of the publication and a 21-year-old history student, concluded the demonstration by pointing out that, although the demonstration voiced protest against censorship, it was not completely against censorship and that works that incited hatred had to be censored.
Mr Camilleri is facing a maximum jail term of three months and a fine if he is arraigned, charged with obscene libel, defined as "injuring public morals or decency", and found guilty. Although apparently contradictory, a student who was burning copies of the very newspaper that was being defended explained this was symbolical of the destruction the authorities were causing to the paper.