Thursday, February 11, 2010

Freedom of Speech Elsewhere

I was going to be done for the day, having taken advantage of the snow day to get a bunch of posts out, but I just saw a post from my former teacher and mentor Aaron Landsman (of Elevator Repair Service)'s post about a colleague named Ozen Yula that he met while working with Free Theater Belarus:
His most recent is called Yala Ama Yutma, translated roughly as, "Lick But Don’t Swallow". An Islamic fundamentalist newspaper called Yakit has begun an attack on the production, and the company producing the show is actually in fear for their lives. Supporters of Yakit have been known to assassinate the targets of the paper's ire in the past.
From Mr. Yula's press release:

Vakit has made factually incorrect and libelous statements about the authorship of the play, the producer of the play and the intent of the play. Vakit’s website includes posts which are dangerous and which appear to be inciting others to violence and criminal action. The venue Kumbaracı50 that is rented by the independent theatre group had been receiving threatful phone calls and emails from unknown callers, which have referred to Vakit’s inaccurate statements. On February 8, Kumbaracı50 has been closed down by officals of Beyoglu district. The reason given for the closure was the absence appropriate fire escape.
On February 9, the mayor of Beyoglu has announced that he is supporting the independent theatre and their play “Lick But Don’t Swalllow”. He also claimed that the venue will be open after they had their fire escape completed. He also announced that if the fire escape cannot be completed in time, he will provide a suitable venue for the production. However, threatening commentaries are continuing on some websites and a provocative propaganda against the play are being created in these websites by mostly anonymous guest writers. The future of the play is still uncertain because of the growing potential for violence, the loss of valuable rehearsal time, and the financial costs of disrupted produciton.
This is going on in Istanbul, so there isn't much it seems like we can do. It's depressing to think that this is Turkey, which compared to much of the Middle East is a liberal pluralist democracy.

It also puts into stark relief the difference between this and the "sinister censorship" that some believe will take place if the NEA increases its budget and hands out more subsidies.