Artists angry at COVID-19 restrictions could resort to a class-action lawsuit in the near future if their requests to the health authorities keep falling on deaf ears.
Howard Keith Debono, president of the Malta Entertainment Industry and Arts Association (MEIA), confirmed with Lovin Malta that the lobby group is considering this legal action, warning that the sector feels discriminated against and treated like a “sacrificial lamb”.
“We feel that our industry has been isolated from other industries,” he said. “We’re the only industry whose customers will have to present proof of vaccination to enter. The UK has just tossed that idea out of the window, but we’re still miles away.”
This evening, the MEIA will hold a press conference in Valletta intended to grab the authorities’ ears.
The event was originally scheduled as a socially distanced seated protest, with Debono stating that the health authorities had given them the impression that such a demonstration could take place.
“When we were in talks with the health authorities and told them that the demonstration will go ahead unless all criteria are all met, they gave us the impression that it can go ahead.”
“I genuinely believe that our industry needs to vent out. People are so fed up and angry that if you dont allow them to vent out, there will be problems.”
However, police yesterday warned the MEIA that the protest would breach COVID-19 laws.
The decision frustrated Debono, who said he tried to argue with the police that the MEIA had a constitutional right to protest and publicise it.
However, the police were having none of it, citing two legal notices which ban all organised events involving more than six people except religious events and weddings. Failure to abide by these laws carries a €6,000 fine.
Ironically, protests which police classify as ‘spontaneous’ don’t fall under this category, but in the MEIA’s case, the police made it clear that they considered their protest to be ‘organised’ as they had set up a Facebook event page and widely promoted it.
“We wanted to do organise a safe and controlled event but the law didn’t allow us to,” he said wryly. “Meanwhile, we’ve seen loads of videos of people standing up at weddings and gatherings.”
Debono warned that while it was tempting to hold the protest anyway against police orders, doing so would have risked backfiring on the MEIA’s efforts.
“We won’t do something illegal and give people a reason to demonise the sector even more,” he said. “They’ll say that not even the MEIA can act legally, let alone everyone else. We won’t fall prey to this.”
As it stands, Malta will allow organised events to recommence on 5th July, but only to people who present a vaccine certificate. Events will have to be seated and will be initially be capped at 100 people, before rising to 150 on 19th July and 200 on 2nd August.
However, the MEIA has warned that the restrictions render events completely unfeasible for some people in the entertainment industry, such as those whose business operations involve people standing up.
Cover photo: Howard Keith Debono (second from left) with other MEIA officials following a meeting with the health authorities (Photo: MEIA)
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