Ireland’s Justice Minister Proposes to Repeal Outdated Censorship Laws
Helen McEntee, Ireland’s Minister for Justice, is poised to call for Cabinet approval today to repeal antiquated censorship laws that have held sway for almost a century. These laws, born out of the guidance from the ‘Committee on Evil Literature’ established in 1926, allow for the censorship of content deemed indecent, obscene, or excessively focused on crime. Over time, amendments have eased restrictions on topics such as contraception, abortion, and divorce. However, McEntee argues that the censorship board, operational since 1930 and responsible for the prohibition of over 12,000 publications, is archaic and unsuited to the modern day.
Repeal Doesn’t Imply Relaxation of Laws Against Illegal Content
The proposed repeal is not a call for laxity against the circulation, possession, and publication of illegal materials. Rather, it is an affirmation that the existing legislative provisions are robust enough to deal with the publication of threatening and offensive content. This change would not affect the legality of prosecuting individuals for possessing or disseminating child abuse material. The censorship board’s role of banning books and periodicals deemed unfit by its standards would be rendered redundant, and such publications would be removed from the existing register of banned literature.
A Shift in Societal Values
In the nearly 100 years since these laws were implemented, societal values have transformed dramatically. The current laws, which still permit the censorship and prohibition of books, magazines, and newspapers judged to be indecent or overly centered on crime, are deemed out of touch with the prevailing societal norms. The Minister is set to inform the Cabinet about the existence of other statutory provisions that handle threatening and abusive material and assure them that the repeal of these acts will not affect prosecutions for child abuse or threatening and abusive material.
A Response to International Criticism
Ireland has faced international criticism due to its censorship laws, with their reviews being undertaken by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The proposed repeal can be seen as a move to address this critique and modernize the country’s stance on censorship.
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