Dr. Srirak Plipat: "We support a call for equal opportunity in access to funds for cultural communities"
Laura Palenčíková, Michal Micovčin / June 24, 2019
( 2 min read )
Artistic freedom, being a major domain for the freedom of expression, belongs to the fundamental pillars of democracy. It is art which encourages diversity of cultural expression by embodying heterogeneous values, ideas and worldviews. It can address the societal problems well, creatively and inspiringly speak out for the public and spark the chance for social change. Maybe these are the reasons of those who try to limit the artistic and cultural freedom. The international organisation, which attempts to promote and defend the freedom of artistic expression, Freemuse, shares a similar view: “We believe that at the heart of the violations of artistic freedom is the effort to silence the opposing or less preferred views and values by those in power – politically, religiously or socially – mostly due to the fear of their transformative effect.”
The reason why we decided to address this issue is both because of its vividness and seriousness at the same time. Slovak society is unfortunately being the witness of an incomprehensible and a yet unexplained situation in the world of its culture. Lowering or completely diminishing the financial subsidies to several grant applicants by the Ministry of Culture, inconsistent actions contrary to the strategic documents and other non-system steps of our Minister of Culture, Mrs. Laššáková. All of this and even more reflect the current situation in society and more importantly the message of political forces emerging into a warning stage.
So are these strategic, planned and explainable restrictions on financial support with legitimate reasons or real attacks and threats to artistic and cultural freedom in Slovakia?
We talked with Dr Srirak Plipat, the Executive Director of Freemuse, whose answer is clear.
Dr Plipat: “Based on our research we have found, that incredibly, a number of cases of LGBTI communities are being targeted or silenced through various means. And cutting funds is one of the mechanisms that is being used quite widely. It is alarming to see that this is happening in a country like Slovakia. So on one hand, the countries that are generally known, or accepted as democracies, and on the other hand LGBTI artist are becoming a target. We support a call for equal opportunity in access to funds for cultural communities. If there is any evidence that this is being targeted against the LGBTI in particular, then it is very concerning. And we actually see this as part of the violation of artistic freedom, by restricting access to funds for example. I would need to look into more detail but as it sounds at the moment, this is quiet an alarming trend indeed. It is a signal of threat.
It is a concerning development. Partly because it is happening in other countries as well, where governments use the same tactics basically to restrict, illegitimately, the freedom of artistic expression by cutting funds or because there are pressures from various groups against LGBTI communities. We have done research, and we are really looking at this sometimes, because the content of the work is related to LGBTI and therefore they can censor it or attack it. Sometimes it is because the artists are themselves openly LGBTI. Then they become a target. And sometimes it is because an artist himself shows particular scenes that are not accepted by others, for instance women kissing women in a scene and things like that. So it could be both the content or the artists but it could also be because of the platform for expression of LGBTI. LGBTI are subject to censorship in Europe.”
How should we understand that main cultural institutions in Slovakia, such as the Slovak National Gallery or Kunsthalle were subjects of cutting funds as well?
Dr Plipat: “Threatening artist communities is a warning sign of what has been developing in Slovakia. Regarding the cutting of funds, it is basically a negative development. Many countries are now calling for at least 1% of the cultural budget to be allocated to these marginalized groups, as culture is a very important part of democratic societies, where you should have freedom and diversity of expression, whether it is an expression coming from minorities, in terms of ethnicity, sexual orientation or political affiliation. A healthy society will have to have this diversity of views as well as artistic expression. On a second note, it is very alarming to see that the cultural minister comes up, speaks and sends negative signals in terms of safety of artists. I mean, generally there has already been a call for the protection of safety of the artists and audiences, which has been discussed quite widely. At the 2005 UNESCO Convention Committee there has been a plan to discuss the United Nations Action Plan for Safety of Artists and Audiences and this development is actually going against the trends that the international committee is trying to set up. So, we call on the cultural minister to really ensure the safety of the artists and make sure that everyone can express artistically, free of fear, prosecution or any other revenge of that type. I think that would be a healthy democratic society.”
Following introduction of Freemuse is taken from their official webpage freemuse.org:
“Freemuse is an independent international organisation advocating for and defending freedom of artistic expression.
We believe that at the heart of violations of artistic freedom is the effort to silence opposing or less preferred views and values by those in power – politically, religiously or societally – mostly due to fear of their transformative effect. With this assumption, we can address root causes rather than just symptoms – if we hold violators accountable.
Our approach to artistic freedom is human rights-based as it provides an international legal framework and lays out the principles of accountability, equality and non-discrimination, and participation.
To accomplish such fundamental change, we monitor and document violations of artistic freedom, expose laws and policies that enable and sustain these violations, and leverage evidence-based advocacy for systemic structural changes at international, regional and national levels. Working with partners, artists and activists in the global south and north, we campaign for and support individual artists, focusing on women artists and other vulnerable groups of artists. We facilitate and grow locally-owned national coalitions in their campaigns and capacity building to monitor and defend artistic freedom.”