Yulia Tsvetkova on Shortlist for 2020 Freedom of Expression Award

Yulia Tsvetkova, the 26-year-old Russian theater director, visual artist, and activist who has been under house arrest in (far Eastern) Komsomolsk-on-Amur since November 22, 2019 on charges related to her work with the children’s theater “Merak” and her visual artwork published on social media. Yulia is the target of homophobic harassment and persecution for her work as a defender of the rights of women and LGBT people( see our post from December 12, 2019).
She is charged with “producing and trafficking pornographic materials” for administering a group on the Russian social media site Vkontakte called “Vagina Monologues,” which published artistic and educational images of the female body. If convicted, Yulia could be sentenced to up to 6 years in prison.
Yulia was the director of the activist children’s theater “Merak” in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. The group produced 9 performances, including a play that examined gender stereotypes, called “Pink and Blue.” In March 2019 Yulia and her theater were targeted by self-described “Anti-LGBT Activist” Timur Bulatov (Los Angeles Times), who has continued to harass her and make false claims against her to the Russian police. Because of this persecution and harassment, Yulia was forced to close the Merak theater.
In December 2019 Yulia was found guilty of “LGBT Propaganda,” an administrative offense for “promoting non-traditional sexual relations among minors” and fined 50,000 rubles (780 US dollars) for administering two LGBTI social media groups. Both groups were labeled “18+” in accordance with the requirements of Russian law. In January 2020 a new case was brought against her for a drawing she published on social media with the words “Family is where there is love. Support LGBT + families .”
Yulia is extremely geographically isolated in the Russian Far East. She is supported by her mother and a handful of people in her town, but otherwise she fears violence and harassment. She is allowed to venture 500 meters from home for one hour each day. She has been denied vital medical treatment.

The Human Rights Center “Memorial” has declared Yulia a political prisoner and Amnesty International recently updated their reports about Yulia and issued an Urgent Appeal for Action in her case. Index on Censorship nominated Yulia now for the arts section of the Freedom of Expression Award 2020. The 20th Freedom of Expression Awards will be held on 30 April 2020 in London.

The charges against Yulia must be dropped and she must be released from detention immediately.

Sources: Index on censorship,  post on Freemuse (March 2019),  HR center Memorial (Russian),  Amnesty International (Russian)
Artistic intervention: Solidarity Walk in Berlin,  February 2020 (Vimeo)
Facebook site Free Tsvet

New UN-Reports on Cultural Rights

The 2020 reports of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Karima Bennoune, to the Human Rights Council have been published. The Special Rapporteur will be presenting these reports to the Council on Tuesday, 3 March, tentatively at 16:00, Geneva time. The presentation will be available as live-webcast at the UN- website.

Cultural rights defenders – Report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights

Assorted Country reports and special reports (conflict and post-conflict situations and communications with governments) are available on the website of the 43rd session of the HRC (scroll down to A/HRC/43/50/Add.1  ff)

Source: SR Cultural Rights OHCHR  mailout 02/25/2020

Fresh Arrest Warrant for Osman Kavala after Beeing Acquitted

Today a Turkish court acquitted Osman Kavala and other defendants – amongst them the theatre artists Ayşe Pınar Alabora and Memet Ali Alaborafollowing – following a controversial trial over the anti-government “Gezi Park” protests of 2013. Kavala and two other defendants had been facing life sentences without parole. Kavala, founder of Anadolu Kultur, was arrested in Istanbul on 18 October 2017 (see ACAR posts Nov. 21, 2017 and Nov 2, 2018), followed by a wave of solidarity from artists and human rights activists. In December, the European Court of Human Rights called for his immediate release, saying there was a lack of reasonable suspicion that he had committed an offence.

Only few hours later Istanbul prosecutors have issued a new arrest warrant for Osman Kavala for his alleged ties to a failed 2016 coup.

Sources: Middle East Eye , T24, Deutsche Welle

Visa restricted for Algerian ITI Delegation

Our colleague, the director, festival director and president of the Algerian Centre of the International Theatre Institute, Mr. Okbaoui Cheikh , was refused a visa by the Austrian Embassy in Algeria in December. The reason given to him and his 9 colleagues – Bezia Cheddad, scenographer,; Smaani Arazki, actor;  Fellag Malek, actor; Kerdous Jedjiga, actress; Boutchiche Hamadache,  actor;  Kessir Sofiane, actor; Slimani, Samia, actress;  Belayel Rayel, actor;  and Sahnoune Kamel, actor – who had been invited to a conference of the International University Global Theater Experience (IUGTE) at Schloss Laubegg/Ragnitz, was that they did not have the means of subsistence and the intended return. They received the refusal of visas one day before the intended journey and had already transferred 50% of the conference fees as intended.
Okbaoui Cheikh has been representing the Algerian ITI centre at numerous international meetings of the ITI for many years and successfully directs a renowned theatre group as well as an international festival.

In a letter to the Austrian embassy ACAR pointed out: “It should be known that artists in non-European countries often work under comparatively precarious conditions, sometimes earning their living with several jobs, as many artistic professions are not officially recognized. Unfortunately, especially younger artists are often affected by restrictions on mobility, as they often have neither a secure income nor have started their own families.
Mr. Okbaoui Cheikh has been issued over 15 visas in recent years and his reliability in terms of compliance with travel conditions should be beyond any doubt.
We would urge you to review and revise the visa decision urgently.”

The State of Artistic Freedom in Europe

 At the European Parliament in Brussels, on January 21st, Freemuse in collaboration with Culture Action Europe is launching its first European report on the state of artistic freedom. The report first of its kind, outlines the emerging trends found to be particularly challenging in Europe in relation to freedom of artistic expression. Freemuse has documented 380 cases of violations to the right of freedom of artistic expression in Europe from January 2018 until October 2019. At the launch, concrete actions and recommendations will be proposed to the European Parliament ensuring that the right to artistic expression is not only better protected but also crucially better promoted across the continent.

Download the report (64 pages, pdf) from Freemuse.org 

UNESCO Study: Being an Artist in 2019

The new UNESCO study “Culture & Working Conditions for Artists” uncovers persisting and emerging challenges artists and cultural professionals face and examines how countries around the world are addressing these issues through policymaking. The study is based on a quadrennial global survey conducted in 2018 on the impact of the Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist, designed to track developments and identify emerging trends related to the status of the artist: over 90 responses from UNESCO Member States and non-governmental organizations, such as ITI, were received.

Source: unesco.org,  download the study here