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I'd rather live in Iran - Labour MP

'Service in high demand'

Labour MP Adrian Vassallo would rather live in Iran and riot in the streets to defend his religion than live in a country where pornography is available in hotel rooms.

"Regardless of what (Labour MP) Owen Bonnici says, I am 100 per cent in favour of censorship and I told the party that if there's a vote, I will not vote against censorship," he said yesterday.

He gave the example of a film recently aired on cable television showing a man being cloned from Jesus. In a Muslim country, a similar film about Mohammed would provoke riots, he said. Asked whether he preferred to live in such a society, he said he would not only prefer it but would be one of the people rioting.

"I honestly believe that's the only solution... I don't think we can keep on living like this with everyone ridiculing religion."

Dr Vassallo, 55, last week asked in Parliament whether any action would be taken against hotels that made money from pornographic TV channels. He also complained about pornographic channels on cable television.

In a written reply in Parliament yesterday, Justice Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici said the police would investigate the allegations.

Contacted to elaborate on his views, Dr Vassallo said he asked the question because he did not tolerate people breaking the law and if the government wanted pornography to be legal it should change the law, not just ignore those who broke it.

He said pornography was degrading and unhealthy for society and hotels that offered pornography on TV in their rooms should be treated no differently than the porn cinema in Valletta that was shut down last year.

Dr Vassallo agreed "100 per cent" with Nationalist MP Edwin Vassallo who recently said the state had a role to inform people about the consequences of their private decisions and that what happened in the bedroom assumed a public dimension when it was the government that had to deal with the problems caused there.

Thirty years ago, Dr Vassallo noted, he had not heard of single mothers but now he feared Malta was on its way to becoming like the UK "where children kill and rape each other".

When contacted, shadow culture minister Dr Bonnici said the laws on whether pornography could be allowed in hotels were unclear but this was a standard accepted throughout Europe.

He said that as long as pornography was not accessible to children and consumed as a conscious choice, it did not bother him.

Dr Vassallo was one of his closest friends and such disagreements made the party healthy.

Meanwhile, hoteliers Winston J. Zahra and Claire Xuereb said pornographic pay-tv channels in hotel rooms were standard worldwide and, as long as there was no access to children, it should remain that way.

"If the law needs to be updated to reflect this reality then a proper mature discussion should take place... but let's not use the moral high horse approach on visitors to our island who may have differing values on the matter," Mr Zahra, CEO of Island Hotels Group, said.

Ms Xuereb, of The Palace Hotel, said this was a service hotels should offer because it was in high demand by corporate clients.

The president of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association, George Micallef said not all hotels provided such services but the association had no problem with those that did, as long as it was not against the law.

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