Russia (update): Detention Extended for Yevgenia Berkovich and Svetlana Petriychuk

Another court hearing took place on 2 November. The public prosecutor’s office again applied for an extension of the pre-trial detention without presenting any evidence that the theatre makers were guilty. The court granted the public prosecutor’s request and extended the period of pre-trial detention until 10 January 2024.
In solidarity with those arrested, Berlin-based Russian-language theatre director Oleg Hristolübskiy staged a staged reading of “Finist, heller Falke” with Berlin actresses Katharina Spiering, Suse Wächter and Elisabeth Heckel, which was shown in Berlin on 28 November and 7 December, followed by discussions.

See also ACAR post 1 and 2


Sources: Finist heller FalkeDeutsche Welle (TV Report in Russian)


Israel/West Bank: Ahmed Tobasi and Mustafa Sheta Arrested

On Wednesday, 13 December, the Freedom Theatre Jenin was once again raided by Israeli security forces. Artistic director Ahmed Tobasi, producer and general manager Mustafa Sheta, and Jamal Abu Joas, who recently graduated from the Freedom Theatre Performing Arts School, were detained.  Ahmed Tobasi was released the next day, Sheta remains in detention.

In January, Yahya Zubeidi, the brother of the Freedom Theatre co-founder Zakaria Zubeidi, was arrested with no news on his release since.

According statements of the Freedom Theatre Jenin in the last few weeks three members of their company have been killed: Yamen Jarar, a 16-year-old Freedom Theatre participant, by drone fire on Nov. 3, theatre member Jehad Naghniyeh Torokman, 25, by an Israeli military officer, also on Nov. 3,  and Mohammed Matahen, an usher and front-of-house staffer, killed on Nov. 9.

PEN international calls for Ahmed Tobasi and Mustafa Sheta to be immediately and unconditionally releases and for an end to the targeting of writers and artists in Palestine.

Sources: PEN international, American Theatre

Russia: Author Ivan Vyrypaev Sentenced to 8 Years

On 14 December, a Moscow court sentenced Russian playwright and director Ivan Vyrypaev in absentia to eight years in a penal colony. The prosecution had asked for a ten-year sentence. In May, Vyrypaev was put on the wanted list and arrested in absentia. It emerged in court that the case had been opened in October last year.

The playwright was found guilty in the case of disseminating “fakes” about the Russian military motivated by political hatred (Article 207.3, Part 2, Paragraph “d” of the Criminal Code).  The court referred to Vyrypaevs public statements and interviews including an open letter to the Russian theatres from March last year where he has informed all Russian state theatres in which his plays have been performed that the money he receives from them will be donated to Ukrainian funds to support refugees.

Sources: Mediazona,

Preasure on Cultural Organisations in France: Suspending all Further Cooperation with Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso

On Wednesday 13 September a letter by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs caused widespread furore within the cultural community of France. In the wake of the crisis between France and the three Sahelian countries the letter called for an immediate halt to all projects involving nationals from Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. Subsidized cultural establishments would have to “suspend, until further notice, all cooperation…without delay, and without exception.” The letter further states: “All financial support must also be suspended, including via French structures such as associations… Similarly, no invitations should be extended to any nationals of these countries. Students with valid visas and flight tickets are already denied entry to France.

The National Syndicate for Artistic and Cultural Enterprises union (SYNDEAC) released a statement saying that the radical measures represented the intrusive influence of politics in cultural programming and a dent in France’s policy of international artistic solidarity – in particular a damaging blow to the 2005 UNESCO Convention “on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions”. 

In response to the protests, French Cultural Minister Rima Abdul-Malak declared “We never boycott artists from anywhere.” She added that the measures are not a shift in policy but  an adaptation to an extremely deteriorated security context. They will only affect new projects hat would require travel visas for artists.

51 arts organisations signed a press release on 19 September calling for a space for dialogue and inter-ministerial work with the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of the Interior and Overseas: “We reaffirm that these obstacles to the mobility of artists and cultural actors from these countries cannot be based on the closure of embassies and the absence of a team on the spot: we recall that the issuance of visas can be done without the presence of a local embassy and that solutions exist.”

Public discussion: “Artists from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso without visas: exceptional situation or systemic problem?” Wednesday 11 October at 10.30 am on the Elysée Montmartre workshop (Paris).

At the regional level, political influence has been increasing for quite some time. Earlier this year, in March, the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region adopted a “Charter for the defense of French values and secularism” by 152 votes to 32. The charter covers a wide range of concepts, from freedom and secularism to “anti-corruption policies”. It aims to fight “in particular against religious fundamentalism such as Islamism”, against “the so-called inclusive scripture” and against “Anglicism”. Associations and foundations could have their regional subsidies withdrawn if they violate the “republican commitment contract”.

Sources: France 3, Zone Franche, euronews.culture




Development and Trade Organizations are Currently Failing to Respect Cultural Rights

This year’s second report of the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Ms. Alexandra Xanthaki, focuses on “Development and cultural rights: the international governance”. Key findings include the rejection by some organisations of their responsibility to respect cultural rights, the lack of understanding of their scope and how they relate to the work of the organisations, and the predominance of economic development or other interests.  Recognition of the cultural dimension, and in particular cultural rights, of sustainable development remains a challenge. Major international development organisations such as the IMF, WIPO, World Bank, WTO, UNESCO and UNHCR have not yet developed clear processes to mitigate and prevent violations of cultural rights and to promote their realisation in development. 

The Special Rapporteur will be presenting her reports to UN General Assembly this week, on Wednesday 18 October, 4 pm, New York time (10 pm CET). 

Report Development and cultural rights: the international governance (available in all UN languages)