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
Today, a Moscow court has released theater director Kirill Serebrennikov together with two other suspects on bail after a year and a half spent under house arrest on criminal fraud charges.
Source: Moscow Times
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)
Artists at Risk Connection and Cubalex have announced a white paper on the rise of repression against in Cuba in 2018. Art Under Pressure: Decree 349 Restricts Creative Freedom in Cuba (31 pages, available in English and Spanish) examines the government’s efforts to institutionalize and expand limits on creative expression. Decree 349 was announced in July 10, 2018, and went into effect on December 7 of the same year despite the many concerns expressed by artists and activists in Cuba and abroad. The paper gives examples and experiences with the Decree from independent artists, analyzes aspects and terminology, and takes a look to the history of censorship in Cuba including legal conflicts conflict with the country’s international treaty commitments and obligations.
The EU will simplify procedures for requesting and issuing short-stay visas and will use the visa policy to encourage non-EU countries to cooperate on migration. On January 29th Parliament and Council negotiators informally agreed on a new EU Visa Code, establishing the procedures and conditions for issuing visas for short periods (up to 90 days in any 180-day period). The visa fee will rise from 60 to 80€, with some exceptions and reductions (children, students). Applications could be submitted earlier than now – between six months and 15 days ahead of the trip. Additional facilities are planned for well-known artists and high performance athletes touring in the EU, as well as multiple entry visas for frequent travelers.
The informal deal will now be put to vote in the Civil Liberties Committee. It will also need to be confirmed by the plenary before formal adoption by the Council of Ministers. The changes will be applicable six months after the text is published in the Official Journal of the EU.
Source: European Parliament, see also the text of the proposal of the European Commission from March 14, 2018