On 19 May 2019, artists*, members of the cultural landscape and cultural institutions called for the demo “UNITE & SHINE” in Berlin and several other cities in Germany. More than 5.000 people marched for artistic freedom, an open and democratic society, solidarity, diversity and tolerance. The artists demo, organized by the network DIE VIELEN (The Many) joined with the European wide march ONE EUROPE FOR ALL.
“Nous ne sommes pas doupes!” – in France, 1.400 artists and creative workers signed a solidarity address to the Yellow Vests movement: “What they ask for, they ask for it for all. Yellow vests are us.”
Sources: Unite and Shine, Nous ne sommes pas doupes!
By invitation of the Swedish Biennial for Performing Arts, ACAR organised together with ITI Sweden the seminar “Silencing the others – Censorship and self-censorship in the Performing Arts in Europe” . Moderated by Ann Marin Engel (ACAR, ITI Sweden), Sirak Plipat (Freemuse), Tamás Jászay (critic, editor, professor, Hungary) and Thomas Engel (ACAR, ITI Germany) introduced and discussed on May 15th with Swedish Theatre makers the increasing censorship and self-censorship in Europe in the performing arts. The rise of right wing parties and populism, pressure via social media, economic censorship and religious campaigns have brought Europe in an equal relation to the rest or the world in terms of reported attacks against freedom of expression. New alliances between artists and the civil society are needed. Gad Kaynar, the president of the Israeli Center described via voice message the resistance of the theatre sector in Israel against a radical nationalistic and conservative cultural policy in his country.
Since the end of November 2017, a preliminary investigation has been under way against the German performance group “Center for Political Beauty” (ZPS) according to §129 StGB at the request of the public prosecutor’s office in Gera (Thuringia) with serious suspicion of “forming a criminal organization”. The investigation was initiated one week after the start of the ZPS action “Deine Stele” (Your Stela), the construction of a copy of the Berlin Holocaust memorial opposite the house of right wing MP Björn Höcke (AFD).
Investigations according to §129 has never been used against artists before. They allow comprehensive surveillance and applied to particularly serious crimes such as terrorism and gang crime and which are punishable by terms of imprisonment of two to five years. The proceedings were also not discontinued after the Cologne Regional Court, in its decision of February 2018, clearly and unambiguously regarded the action of the ZPS as a “work of art” and assessed it to be fully covered by the fundamental rights of artistic freedom and freedom of expression.
The case became public by a parliamentary interpellation from the Left party, followed by investigative reports from the media. After 16 months, the case was dropped yesterday.
The Gorki Theater, Berlin which presented several ZPS projects , wrote an open letter of protest, signed by a large number of people and cultural institutions, including ITI, which protests against the criminalization of critical art: “We formally oppose and defend ourselves against a tendency towards the political-ideological criminalisation of art, which endangers the community and the free democratic basic order, and against the the instrumentalisation of criminal law on the basis of convictions.”
Sources: Gorki Theater, Center for Political Beauty
The State of Artistic Freedom 2019 report was launched on March 26 and informs about 673 cases of violations of artistic freedom that occurred in different cultural spheres in 80 countries throughout 2018. The 2018 report had 553 cases of artistic freedom violations in 78 countries. Growing: violating freedom of artistic expression by counter-terrorism legislation. 19 artist were imprisoned and 10 were detained under the guise of counter-terrorism. Freemuse’s research concludes that nine countries (Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Nicaragua, Russia, Spain, Turkey and the United States) are found to have used anti-terrorism and ant-extremism legislation and measures against artists in 2018.
David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression has urged the European Union to bring its Copyright Directive into line with international standards on freedom of expression.
“Article 13 of the proposed Directive appears destined to drive internet platforms toward monitoring and restriction of user-generated content even at the point of upload. Such sweeping pressure for pre-publication filtering is neither a necessary nor proportionate response to copyright infringement online” Kaye said, and added: “Misplaced confidence in filtering technologies to make nuanced distinctions between copyright violations and legitimate uses of protected material would escalate the risk of error and censorship. Who would bear the brunt of this practice? Typically it would be creators and artists, who lack the resources to litigate such claims.”
Source: United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR)