Category Archives: Eastern and Western European States, USA, Canada

Albanian National Theatre Demolished

On Sunday, May 17, the historic National Theatre in Tirana has been demolished. Since 2018, artists and citizens have staged the longest active protest in the history of Albania to protect the theatre from demolition by the government (see ACAR posts 1, 2)  The government moved in amidst the emergency situation and lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus crisis. Resisting citizens, sitting in front of the theatre, were removed and detained. The Albanian National Theater is officially part of Europa Nostra’s 7 Most Endangered European Heritage Sites list for 2020.

Albania’s President Ilir Meta has called the demolition of the National Theatre by his own government “a constitutional, legal and moral crime that cannot be granted amnesty.”, done by the Mafia. The decision to demolish Albania’s National Theatre was approved in secret and was not on the agenda for the meeting of the Tirana Municipal Council.

Sources: exit news 1, 2, 3, 4; Europa Nostra, video 

Yulia Tsvetkova is the Freedom of Expression Awards Arts Fellow 2020

The 20th Freedom of Expression Awards were held online on Thursday 16th April as a digital celebration. The Russian theater director, visual artist, and activist from Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Yulia Tsvetkova (see our posts 1, 2),  has been awarded the 2020 Freedom of Expression Award Arts Fellow. Index on Censorship works with the fellows during the awarding year to provide long-term, structured support. 

The other 2020 fellows are: Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei (campaigning); Turkish lawyer Veysel Ok (campaigning); 7amleh (digital activism) and OKO press (journalism).

Watch Yulia’s statement here

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 

Hungary: Pressure on Independent Theatres

 Hungarian theatre artists are on the streets of Budapest, protesting against new attempts of the Orban government against the remaining independent theatres. The well known Katona József Theatre experiences a defamation attack and sends the following letter, which we received via Mitos21  (please, note also the link to the online petition below):

Dear all,

We are writing to you because we need your help to make the international theatre scene aware of the attack that is currently taking place in Hungary against the cultural life and the Katona József Theatre.

The Hungarian government and Parliament will discuss a draft law next week in an exceptional procedure aimed at a drastical attack of the independent culture and independent companies (indirectly also against the directors of the classical theatres) and directly against those local governments led by the opposition supported that maintain theatres, including the Budapest municipal which are supposed to finance theatres.

The Independent companies will no longer have the system of operating subsidies (“TAO”) that existed before (but had already been cut down) that would mean the end of the entire independent scene.

In the case of classical theatres, the Minister of Culture would encroach on the appointment and eventual recall of directors, in exchange for possible state support. In the current structure, municipal-owned theatres (like Katona) receive most of their operating support from the central budget, with a share contribution from the municipalities.

This would also mean that the government could interfere in the appointment of the directors of the municipal theatres.

So while we thought we could breathe a little after the local elections, now we see that theatres are going into a much greater and more serious trouble.

One of the reasons for the changing of the law is a direct political attack against Gábor and the Katona.

A harassment case broke out in our theatre in mid-November. The case was treated by the theatre according to a previously (2 years ago) established procedure. The intruder (Péter Gothár) was banned from the theatre and the case was communicated transparently. The company, the victim and Gábor himself have been consulting a psychologist. In a “normal” democracy here we could put en end to this sad thing.

However, in Hungary, this seems like a great opportunity for the government and the media channeled to it to terminate the Katona that has always been considered a “left-liberal fortress”.
This is being created by a law to be adopted next week which explicitly requires performing arts organizations to work in accordance with the government in exchange for their support. This sentence itself is included in the draft law.

Of course, we try to fight against the law together with the professionals as a whole but we have no illusions that this will have no effect on decision-makers.

We know that the possibilities of our colleagues abroad are also quite limited but it would be important somehow to raise awareness of international cultural life and politics on the attack of Katona, the theatres and Hungarian culture as a whole.

Gábor Máté
Gábor Zsámbéki
Edina Weber
and the Katona

Ps.

A demonstration is being organized next Monday (details soon) and a petition has been launched

(translated to English) that all our friends abroad could sign:

https://terjed.ahang.hu/campaigns/fesz?fbclid=IwAR3-im7P3oioxZ2lFPYGfQooWas-bgkp1_CMusYLYzjI53luvXd8P1xvm_k

It would be great if you could share the link. Thank you.

WÉBER edina
katona józsef theatre
t. 36 1 3183269
www.katonajozsefszinhaz.hu