The Civil Court has found that the Film and Stage Classification Board did not violate freedom of expression when it banned the play Stitching last year.

The play, penned by Scottish writer Anthony Neilson, addresses such themes as death and abortion.

The case was instituted by Adrian Buckle, Christopher Gatt, Maria Pia Zammit, Mikhail Basmadjian and Unifaun Theatre Productions Ltd against Teresa Friggieri, the prime minister, the Police commissioner and the Attorney General.

The producers had pleaded that the banning of the play, in January last year, violated their fundamental right of freedom of expression.

They also pointed out that the script of the play was freely available in Malta and the play had been staged in many other European countries.

They called for the classification of 'banned' to be replaced by another classification which would enable the play to be staged.

The court in an 115-page judgement said it had been asked to decide whether the decision by the board to stop the staging of the play had violated freedom of expression.

It had no hesitation in saying that the decision of the board was correct and according to law.

The court said the board was obliged to follow the law. There as nothing unreasonable in the board having viewed the play as being offensive to the culture of this country in its broadest sense.

It was not proper, even in a democratic and pluralistic society as is Malta's, for the lows of human dignity to be exalted even on the pretext of showing how a couple could survive a storm.

One could not make extensive use of language which was vulgar, obscene and blasphemous and which exalted perversion and undermined the right to life. Neither could one undermine the dignity of women including the victims of the holocaust, reduce women to a simple object of sexual gratification, and ridicule the family.

A civil, democratic, and tolerant society could not allow its values to be turned upside down simply because there was freedom of expression.

The court said the board was right to view the play as exalting perversion as if it was acceptable behaviour. Bestiality, the stitching up of a vagina as an act of sexual pleasure and having a woman eat somebody else's excrement, rape and infanticide were unacceptable, even in a democratic society.

Furthermore, the fact that a person was allowed to blaspheme in public, even on stage, went against the law.

The court therefore found that there had been no violation of fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Constiuttion and the European Convention of Human Rights when the play was banned.

The court was presided by Mr Justice Joseph Zammit McKeon.

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