In her second report to the 34th session Human Rights Council (27 February-24 March 2017) Karima Bennoune – the United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights – explains this growing challenge must be faced with urgency, using a human rights approach and stressing the centrality of cultural rights in combating such threats.
Download the full report from the UN OHCHR site here (Word document, 23 pages)
Poland’s Roman Catholic church has slammed The Curse, directed by Croat Oliver Frljic, as being “blasphemous”. Polish prosecutors have begun investigations to examine whether the play, which opened to the public end of February at Warsaw’s Teatr Powszechny theatre, offends religious feeling and whether the play “incites the murder” of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party. The Curse is an adaptation of famous Polish author Stanisław Wyspiański’s 1899 play of the same name. The performance received excellent reviews and standing ovations during every reprise.
Frljic wrote an open Letter to Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission. The letter refers to the enormous wave of verbal attacks and defamations that have happened after the Polish TV posted illegally taken video footage of excerpts from the performance. “If institutions and political representatives within Poland are not able to protect basic human rights and freedom of speech,” Frljic writes, ” it is imperative that we hear the voice of representatives from the EU. The absence of this voice is being interpreted as approval of the situation, and as support for those who launched and orchestrated this disgraceful campaign against the actors, authors and producers of the performance.”
Already in December 2013, a work by Frljic was cancelled at the National Stary Theatre in Kraków: Nie-Boska komedia. Szczątki (The Un-Divine Comedy: Remains) an adaptation ofa classic of Polish Romanticism, Zygmunt Krasińki.
The Mladinsko Theatre (Slovenia), were the Goran Injac, dramaturg of The Curse, comes from, published a statement of solidarity: “We are asking the authorities of the city of Warsaw to protect the currently extremely important space of a dialogue, the Poswszechny Theatre. We are also calling on both to prevent the implementation of new mechanisms of conservative censorship which seriously endangers the freedom of arts.”
Regarding the dismissal of professors and research assistants of the theatre department of the Ankara University ACAR wrote to the Turkish government: “We, representing the international theatre community in many countries, express our deep concern about these dismissals of colleagues – professors as well as all the many Turkish artists and intellectuals being suspected and threatened within the past months.
We urgently ask your government to reconsider this decision.” Letter to Turkish Government
Seven members of Ankara University’s theatre department have been dismissed and claimed as threats to national security. The members of the Theatre Department published the following protest statement.
“Ankara University, Theatre department professors, namely Prof. Dr. Selda Berk Öndül, Prof. Dr. Tülin Sağlam, Prof. Dr. Beliz Güçbilmez, Dr. M. Elif Çongur and the research assistants Ceren Özcan and Şamil Yilmaz have been exported from duty by the new Decree-law No 686. With Assoc. Prof. Dr. Süreyya Karacabey, who had been exported before by the Decree-Law No. 679, seven of our colleagues who form the majority of our department have been expelled from work in government offices. As a result, the undergraduate programs of our department have received an irrepairable blow and the post-graduate programs are almost out of the question.
The exportation of our professors, who have invaluable works and undeniable contributions to the theatre world of Turkey, by the laws which, by definition, pertain to only those who “are connected with or are members of or partake in terror organizations, groups, organisms or organizations or other structures which are claimed by the National Security Council as threats to our national security” is inexplicable and wrong as far as justice and conscience are concerned.
This exportation process spreading in the Higher Education System, ie., in the majority of universities in Turkey via the new decree-laws has turned into a clearance or liquidation operation. Governance of universities, which are supposed to be institutions of freedom of thought and expression, by decree-laws can by no means be accepted. It is undoubtedly obvious that this attitude will bear critical outcomes and give an irredeemable harm to our colleagues’ and to our department’s future, as well as to our university, to the academia in general and to our country. We here resolve to blame the Ankara University rectorate and demand that our colleagues be returned to their posts immediately.”
Freemuse released today its new report on artistic freedom violations in 2016. The number of cases registered in 2016 more than doubled the amount in 2015, increasing by 119%, rising from 469 attacks. Of those more than one thousand cases, Freemuse documented 188 total serious violations of artistic freedom and 840 acts of censorship. Iran tops the list of countries, followed by Turkey, Egypt, Nigeria, China and Russia.
The festival ran from 4-15 January 2017. Two performances – Singaporean danceer Ming Poon’s ‘Undressing Room’ and Canadian Thea Fitz-James’ ‘Naked Ldies’ – were cut by Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), stating that the works have exceeded the R18 rating. Poon’s performance is a “one-to-one performance where the performer and an audience-participant execute a ritual of undressing each other in total silence” and is done in private, without an audience. Fitz-James’ performance is a “lecture about the history of the naked female body”, which the artist delivers in the nude. Festival organisers decided against compromising on the artistic integrity of these works and stay convinced that the performances made “deliberate attempts to distinguish nudity from sexual connotations”.
A Festival press realases says “Through history, the arts have demonstrated its power to open minds and hearts, to transform and heal, and to inspire – if not effect – real, valuable change. We stand resolutely for this, and despite the hurdles that can seem daunting and sometimes enervating, we are not backing down from doing what the Fringe Festival does best: challenge all that is taken for granted as intransigent, unwavering and unforgiving.”