V18 Artistic Director must go.

In a society supposedly promoting equality, dignity and respect for fundamental human rights it is unacceptable that women are labelled ‘sorry bitches’.

Recent public comments made by V18 Artistic Director Mario Philip Azzopardi fly in the face of Malta’s efforts at improving the way it treats all members of its society, particularly women.

Mr. Azzopardi’s disgusting insults might be his chosen method of expressing himself, yet they offend the laws, policies and values that secure the protection of all persons from vulgar insults intended to bully and intimidate.

His disgusting language cannot be defended by a government that has just adopted legislation protecting all persons from gender-based violence. He must go.

How would the government had reacted had Mr. Azzopardi called a gay man “sorry pufta” or a migrant “sorry nigger”?

aditus foundation condemns this horrid language, and urges the relevant public authorities to also express disgust at what is, essentially, an expression of verbal violence by a man holding public against a women exercising her fundamental rights.

Anything short of an absolute condemnation amounts to endorsement. He must go.

Inciting hostility against members of a particular faith cannot be accepted as legitimate!

We, the undersigned non-governmental organisations, are gravely concerned by the decision of the Magistrate’s Court in the case against Brandon Bartolo. We feel it gives a message that it is not only an acceptable, but also a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression, to express strong anti-Muslim sentiments and to state that members of this religious faith have no place in Malta.

We are also deeply upset that comments made by the Magistrate in delivering judgement, as reported in the local media, were irrelevant, populist and also factually incorrect. In expressing those views, the Magistrate essentially condoned anti-migrant sentiment instead of upholding the human rights values our Courts of Laws are intended to promote.

Bartolo had written “Tmur tihdu fox kemm anda … awnhekk edin pajjizna .. ahna religjon wihed biss … huma guests iridu jimxu al ligijiet tagna … ma jogobomx??

Fuck off back to your country!”

It is extremely worrying that one of the highest authorities in the country condones the use of such hostile and denigrating language against anyone, particularly when it is because of a personal identity characteristic such as religion, sexual orientation, gender, disability or their race.

Condoning such behaviour risks undermining not only the rights of members of the group directly targeted, but also the right of each and every one of us to be treated with respect, regardless of who we are or what we believe in.

While it is true that the law protects the right to freedom of expression and, to some extent, the right to offend, this freedom is by no means absolute. In fact, the European Convention on Human Rights specifically states that the Convention should not be interpreted as allowing anyone, be it the government or an individual, to behave in a way aimed at the destruction of the rights and freedoms laid down in the Convention.

In a case similar to the present one (Norwood v. The United Kingdom), the Court said that “a general, vehement attack against a religious group…is incompatible with the values proclaimed and guaranteed by the Convention, notably tolerance, social peace and non-discrimination”.

Statements which clearly incite hostility against members of a particular faith, and violate the prohibition on discrimination and the right to freedom of conscience and religion, cannot and should not be accepted as legitimate in a democratic society founded on respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Such tirades do not only damage, annoy and offend the individual concerned, they also run counter to and undermine the values on which we claim our society is based.

This statement is issued by:

aditus foundation, The Critical Institute, Drachma LGBTI, Drachma Parents Group, Integra Foundation, International Association for Refugees , Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), KOPIN, Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM), Migrant Women Association Malta, National Foster Care Association, Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM), SOS Malta, Troup 18:45, Women’s Rights Foundation.

Solidarity with MEP Mestola

The recent threats against MEP Roberta Metsola are a worrying reminder of what happens when societies ignore, support or fuel right-wing sentiments and expressions. It is unacceptable for any person to be attacked in such a manner,  and we expect a full and unequivocal condemnation of these threats by the competent authorities.

Discussions on migration are challenging and often trigger deep emotional reactions. It is a complex subject that touches upon those elements held so dearly by many persons: identity, religion, security and family. Because is so sensitive and complex, it demands respect for all involved, accurate information on which to base arguments and conclusions and a common understanding that the expression of disagreements is an integral part of democracy.

The values of decency, human dignity and fundamental human rights must be at the core of our discussions on migrants and refugees, whatever our positions and opinions.

Yet hatred, violence, and vulgarity seem to be the only values known to those persons who are unwilling to engage in a more respectful, dignified and constructive manner. They seek to instil fear in the hope that the debate will scurry away or, worse, that it will be killed.

“aditus foundation supports a more productive expressive freedom. Often on the receiving end of similar threats, we nonetheless insist on upholding fundamental human rights at all times, and at all costs. We therefore express our solidarity with MEP Metsola and with all persons and institutions who come under vicious fire for their work, opinions and beliefs,” commented aditus Director Dr. Neil Falzon.

We therefore invite the Maltese authorities and all of society to take a clearer stand against racism and hate speech, in support of a migration discussion that is inclusive, respectful and dignified.