99 convicted of blasphemy in Malta
Malta, which has widely respected freedom of speech laws, is still convicting people for "public blasphemy" crimes
A report on human rights around the world from the US Department of State has revealed that 99 individuals were convicted in Malta last year for "public blasphemy", down from 119 in 2011.
Malta, which is predominatly a Roman Catholic country with a significant British ex-pat population, is known for its architecture, weather and to many as being a key planning location in the allied defense of Europe.
But despite its popularity amongst Brits, many are unaware that Maltese law prohibits the vilification of or giving offense to the Roman Catholic Church. It is a criminal offense to utter publicly any obscene or indecent words, make obscene acts or gestures or in any other way offend public morality, propriety or decency.
The report, which was generally positive about the freedom of the press in Malta, stated that, "From January to September  there were 99 convictions for public blasphemy, compared with the 119 convictions from January to July 2011."
It also pointed out that international media could operate freely and there was no indication of reprisals against individuals for either public or private criticism of the government.
However, the existence of a blasphemy law that is so heavily enforced tells a different story about the rights of individuals to say what is on their mind – particularly if it is about the Catholic Church.
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