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HFHR’s letter concerning attempts to cancel the premiere of a theatre play

HFHR sent a letter to the Chairman of the Lower Silesia Regional Council concerning the attempts to ban a theatre production.

The letter concerned the premiere of Der Tod und das Mädchen (Princess Dramas: Death and the Maiden) which was scheduled for 21 November at Polski theatre in Wrocław. The city councillors were strongly against the premiere; they also implied that it may be a reason for limiting the public funding for the theatre in the future. According to the media reports the city councillors were considering ways to stop the performance and “an idea came up” to recall the theatre’s manager.

In its letter, HFHR stressed that such actions were an example of “unacceptable pressure on the management of a cultural institution by the representatives of the local government which was in violation of their duty to protect the constitutional freedom of artistic expression and the right to access cultural assets.” The authors of the letter also recalled the most important standards in that respect laid down in the Constitution and in the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

“We have pointed out that it is unacceptable for the local government authorities to take any actions to stop the performance of a specific production only because it contains contents that some politicians may find objectionable”, says Dorota Głowacka, a lawyer of the HFHR. “The same applies to indirect methods affecting the artistic freedom, such as depriving artists who are not endorsed by the ruling party of financial support from the public funds or unjustified interference in the decisions concerning the staff of a cultural institution”, adds Ms Głowacka.

It was also emphasised that the limits of artistic freedom were broader if the organiser of an artistic event that might cause controversy had taken measures to give notice of the event’s nature and to limit the access to that event for minors and other incidental addressees who might feel offended.

The letter was accompanied by HFHR’s most recent publication called “Artistic freedom. Practical guide”.

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