Hungary: Free SZFE!

The Hungarian government continues to expand its influence on universities and cultural institutions in the country. A reform is planned to transform the Theater and Film University in Budapest (SZFE) into a foundation close to the right-wing national government of Victor Orbán and to better adapt the challenges of the market for the whole educational sector. An adjustment process originally planned for six months was shortened to three months and the university senate was excluded from all structural discussions by the supervisory board of the future foundation appointed by the responsible Ministry of Innovation and Technology, writes Anna Lakos, the long-standing Hungarian ITI director. The supervisory board is headed by the director of the Hungarian National Theatre Attila Vidnyánszky, an actor of the National Theatre, a film producer and the directors of two oil companies.
The occupation of the university by its students to protest against the complete loss of independence, experienced solidarity from theatrical artists from all over the world (#FreeSZFE). Here is the text of the SZFE “Magna Charta Universitatum”. The “Call for Academic Freedom in Hungary”  has been signed by more than 100 playwrights. 

Public sources: New York Times online, Nachtkritik.de

2020 Report to the UN on Artistic Freedom of Expression

The Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and promotion and protection of  the freedom of opinion and expression was given to the Human Rights Council at the UN General Assembly on 15 June – 3 July 2020.

The report starts with an explanation of the legal framework applicable to artistic freedom of expression and then addresses the ways in which States and other actors often fail in their obligations or responsibilities in this field. A main result is, that states are restricting repressions increasingly in the form of art. For online content filtering mechanisms, private companies should also adopt the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. 

The report is available at the HRC site (in English only)

Hella Mewis Freed

Security officials in Bagdad announced today, that German curator Hella Mewis was released at 6:25 a.m. (03.25 UTC/GMT) in a security operation at Rusafa, eastern part of Baghdad. Iraqi authorities did not give any information about who was behind the kidnapping. No one was arrested during the operation.

Hella is presently under the protection of the German embassy in Baghdad. She is already the sixth foreigner to be abducted in the Iraqi capital this year and dozens of activists have been kidnapped in recent months.

Sources: Deutsche Welle, The Arab WeeklyNeue Züricher Zeitung (German)

Baghdad: German Cultural Manager Kidnapped

The cultural manager and curator Hella Mewis has been active in German-Iraqi cultural exchange for many years. At the Berlin based network for cultural reconstruction in Iraq, she was involved in numerous initiatives and projects that were intended to enable the Iraqi cultural scene to join the international cultural exchange after decades of isolation through war and terror. Some of these could also be realized with the help of the ITI. Since 2012 she continued her work from Baghdad. She built up the cultural centre “Beit Tarkib” under the most difficult conditions and got support by the Goethe-Institut for festivals, concerts, readings, workshops and exhibitions.
Hella was, as usual, travelling by bicycle when she was kidnapped by armed men from two cars near the cultural centre in the evening of July 20. It is speculated that the perpetrators are close to the Hezbollah militia. The German Foreign Office has set up a crisis management team. Media and networks are following the case. #hellamewis, #freehella

Sources: AFP Germany (Video), Euronews, The Art Newspaper, Associated Press,  New York Times, Neue Zuericher Zeitung (German), Sueddeutsche Zeitung (German)

Serebrennikov Convicted of Fraud

On Friday, June 26, the Moscow judge gave Kirill Serebrennikov a suspended sentence to three years probation and a three-year ban on leading any state-backed cultural institution in Russia. However, the judge said that the defendants would be required to repay nearly 129 million rubles in compensation for the money allegedly embezzled. Co-defendants Yury Itin and Konstantin Malobrodsky were also found guilty of conspiring to mislead the culture ministry for “personal enrichment” and also sentenced to probation. The fourth defendant, Sofya Apfelbaum, was convicted of negligence.

Artists around the world expressed their solidarity, an online petition in Germany got 57.000 subscribers.  The representative of the EU foreign service Peter Stano and Germany’s Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance Bärbel Kofler expressed their demand for a fair and transparent trial. 

Sources: The Guradian, NY Times, German Federal Office, TASS