News | Sunday, 08 March 2009

Majority against ban on Stitching

51.1% of the Maltese oppose the ban on Anthony Nielson’s play Stitching imposed by the censorship board, with a majority stating they want the censorship board stripped of its power to determine what adults can watch.
This emerges from a MaltaToday survey conducted among 300 respondents between Tuesday and Thursday.
Younger people in the 18-34 age group are the most opposed to censorship, with 59% opposing the ban on Stitching, and 61% opposing the censorship’s board power to curtail artistic freedom.
On the other hand, older people support both the banning of Stitching (48.1%) and the censorship board’s power to ban artistic productions in general (56.3%).
Curiously more respondents opposed the specific ban on Stitching (51.1%) than the censorship board’s power to ban artistic productions (48.1%).
Stitching was banned by the censorship board chaired by Therese Friggieri on the grounds that it contains blasphemy against the state religion, contempt for the victims of Auschwitz and references to the abduction, sexual assault and murder of children.
Production company Unifaun has taken the government to court over the ban, citing the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling that freedom of expression is “applicable not only to ‘information and ideas’ that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the state or any sector of the population.”
The ban has also attracted international criticism with the Guardian’s theatre correspondent Andrew Haydon taking the Maltese government to task for operating theatrical censorship, arguing that “it is unacceptable that the police force of a European democracy in the 21st century has the power to issue notices ordering that a play is not performed.”
Despite the media attention that focused on the play, only 14% said they would see the play if it is staged.
This shows that a large number of people support the producers’ right to stage the play without having any interest in seeing it staged.
This also reflects a general lack of interest in theatre productions.
In fact 60.3% have never been to a theatre in the past year and 18% have only attended a theatre production once. Only 8% have been to the theatre more than 3 times.
Even among respondents with a tertiary education, 50% have not been to a theatre production in the past year. Among people with a secondary level of education only 37.3% have been to a theatre in the past year.
The most popular theatre in Malta is the Catholic Institute with 31.7% claiming to have attended a play in the theatre.
But this is not the case with people with a tertiary or post-secondary education, who mostly attend the Manoel Theatre. St James Cavalier emerges as the third most popular theatre but its audience is mostly restricted to people with a tertiary education. While 16% of university-educated people have watched a play at St James, only 8% of those with a secondary education have done likewise.

The survey was held between Tuesday 3 March and Thursday 5 March. A total of 442 persons where randomly chose from the telephone directory. 300 accepted to be interviewed. The survey has a margin of error of +/-5.7%.


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