Malta criminalized street photography, how to repeal the law?

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Malta criminalized street photography, how to repeal the law?
4 months ago

Is this forum ok for photography politics? should I have posted it on the off topic forum or elsewhere?

In Europe a small island near Italy called Malta has criminalized street photography and exploits EU privacy legislation to attack freedom of speech and photographers' rights. You can read the government's announcement from 2013 here:

Here's my understanding of what they did:

  1. Malta as a member of the European Union implemented a stupid EU law called "personal data" or "data protection" which states that no information identifying any person can be published without the consent of that person. European Union left the details of the implementation of this law to the member states (e.g. Britain's law says it doesn't apply to journalism or arts).
  2. The Maltese law seems to consider photos as "personal data" if a person's face is visible even if the photos are taken in public and are only to be published for editorial use.
  3. The Maltese government in the announcement says that the best way for street photographers to comply with the law is to seek written permission from people who appear in the photos, and if there is no written consent from someone then his or her face must be blurred (if the photographer can prove consent in some other way, written permission isn't necessary)
  4. The only other way for photographers to comply with the law is to not publish in any way any photos showing people's faces in public.

It looks like the government of Malta, an EU member, is trying to exploit the privacy legislation to attack photographers' rights, look what the government announcement says:

"this Office strongly recommends that when the photographer intends to publish or commercially use a photograph clearly identifying a data subject, the provisions of article 9(a) of the Data Protection Act must be satisfied. This shall mean that no processing shall be allowed without the informed consent of the data subject. Although the law does not specify that consent has to be in writing, this Office actively promotes the model that a valid consent should involve a positive action indicating that the data subject has effectively signified agreement to such processing. The most practical and secure manner how to implement this concept is by seeking a written consent. If, due to the restricted circumstances of the shot, the photographer is not a realistic position to obtain the consent and would still like to use the photograph for purposes falling outside the household exemption, this Office recommends the blurring of the face as a possible approach to render the individual unidentifiable."

Furthermore, the government of Malta says in the announcement:

"Our culture must change into one which accepts that all individuals enjoy a reasonable expectation of privacy. What might constitute a good candid picture for a street photographer might, on the other hand, adversely affect the privacy rights of the individual captured on the photograph, particularly where such person might be facing difficult situations or extraordinary life circumstances."

To me, this announcement reads like a declaration of war against street photographers.

And I want to fight whoever attacks street photographers' rights.

Malta wants street photographers to be slaves to the people who are the subjects in the photographers' photos. This law is against free speech. It is a violation of street photographers' human rights.

I don't live in Malta, but I intent to do everything possible to fight laws like this worldwide in any legal way I can. The question is: how? And do you want to help the street photographers in Malta who as a result of this law became slaves and lost their freedom of speech?

Some ideas:

  • We can start blogs and write our ideas against privacy in public places and explain our views on freedom of speech, the people of Malta will read our blogs and will demand their government to repeal the privacy law. We can do this from the internet without having to go to Malta.
  • We can send emails to political parties in Malta and ask them to change their law because it is against basic human rights.
  • We can refuse to go for vacations in Malta until the country's tourism industry demands a change in this law which also affects tourists who flickr or facebook photos.
  • We can, through facebook and blogs, help people in Malta who are against this law to organize and protest in the streets until their government listens to the people and repeals the "privacy" law and promises to protect the freedom of speech and artistic rights of street photographers.
  • If the problem is in people's culture rather than just in the government's law, we can change Maltese people's minds through blogs or facebook pages so that they stop demanding privacy in public and replace their privacy-first mindset with a free speech mindset.
  • We can ask the United Nations to intervene as the Maltese law is against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which recognize free speech as a basic human right.
  • As the Maltese law surely affects American tourists who wish to flickr or facebook their vacation photos from Malta, we can ask the American government to demand the government of Malta to change its stupid law. We don't need to live in America in order to do this, because now with the internet and email we can communicate our views to any government in the world and if an issue is about basic human rights then I believe the American government will want to help street photographers and other people who have lost their free speech rights in Europe.
  • We can travel to Malta and talk with local politicians there who are against this law, or with the people, and encourage protests against this stupid law
  • We can refuse to buy products from Malta until the local business world there demands to repeal this stupid law.
  • If some of us live in Malta we can form a political party there against this stupid law and win the elections and repeal the law when we become government.
  • If we live in a country which is important in the Maltese economy or diplomacy, then we can send an email to our government and demand we stop trading or having relations with Malta until they change their anti-photography law.
  • Even if we don't live in Malta, we can financially support local photographers there who might fight legal battles against this law in the courts.
  • If we live in a member state of the European Union, we can demand that the EU repeals its stupid "data protection" and "personal data" privacy legislation. This will have the added benefit of helping businesses, so I think we should also send emails to corporations that work with personal data (e.g. marketing and advertising firms) so that we can form a political alliance between street photographers and corporations to repeal this kind of "privacy" legislation.

Any other ideas? What can we do to bring freedom to street photographers in Malta?

Of course we should do the same for all other countries that have any law that may limit a street photographer's ability to take or to publish pictures or sell a book or sell fine art prints of the photos etc.

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"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." = If I demanded you not take or publish a picture of me then I would be guilty of censorship. Free speech rights include speaking about people and photography is free speech.

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