Freedom of Speech in the Arts – Pia Zammit’s Case in Malta

Pia Zammit

Posted On December 6, 2020

Controversy arose after actress and Occupy Justice activist Pia Zammit lost her libel after being slandered and accused of being a Nazi sympathiser. Many posts were made on Facebook and other social media in support of Zammit, with actors posting photos of their roles using the hashtag  #istandwithpiazammit and explaining the necessity of separating the role from the actor, which the court failed to notice. 

The local paper, It-Torċa, exposed photos of the actress backstage during the WW2 play, Allo Allo. In these photos, Zammit was in a Nazi costume. The paper implied that she was promoting Nazism, stating how offensive it is to the victims of this fascist mentality.

Undoubtedly, the outcome of this situation depicts a threat to anybody pursuing a career in the arts, as well as unmasking the harsh reality of how flawed our Judiciary System really is. 

A day after the news broke out, Zammit spoke out publicly. She firstly said she was discussing matters with her lawyer, following up with thanking everyone for their support and saying that she will keep freedom of speech alive, advising artists to never let their voices be silenced. 

As an actress myself and someone who aspires to pursue a career in the Theatre industry, I am appalled at the way this case was handled. Although it is evident that the issue stems from partisan politics rather than the production, costumes or the photos themselves, it is quite concerning to see that in December 2020 there still has to be an explanation on how the role of the actor works. Not only is this ridiculous, but it portrays a dangerous message while attempting to silence and censor an artist’s work that was not even offensive or “insensitive”, (as Mifsud Bonnici described it) to begin with. 

Sadly, some actors have also used the hashtag #istandwithpiazammit to show off or use it as some kind of trend rather than to stand in solidarity with Zammit and all others in the industry. This is what Malcolm Galea wanted to address when writing his Facebook status about the situation, and I’d like to end with a quote from the post that I feel is relevant to all my fellow thespians about the situation: “feel free to wheel out your CV if you feel so inclined, but please don’t lose track of the real danger”.  

Featured image from https://theshiftnews.com

Written by Kaylie Magri

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