On 22 October, Freemuse addressed the letter to Serbian authorities on the attack on art exhibition “Imali su oko sebe taj neki sjaj”.
Freemuse is concerned about the 13 October 2020 attack on comic art exhibition Imali su oko sebe taj neki sjaj in the Belgrade Stara Kapetanija Gallery. We strongly condemn the attack on this exhibition by underground comic group Momci which was vandalized by 15 masked men who threw tear gas and destroyed the artworks on display, and regard it as an unlawful attack on freedom of artistic expression.
Freemuse welcomes the Serbian Ministry of Culture’s remarks stating that the attack should not have happened, but remain concerned that the statement also affirmed how the exhibition should not have opened due to “a few art pieces” that are “horrifying”. The Ministry of Culture also threatened to initiate lawsuits against prominent artist Nebojša Romčević and other Serbian citizens who criticised its inappropriate reaction to the attack on the exhibition.
These actions of policing artistic and creative content are in direct violation of Serbia’s national and international human rights obligations, specifically article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which were both ratified by the authorities in March 2001.
It is worth noting that Council of Europe principle on freedom of expression applies not only on inoffensive or neutral content, but also on that which shocks, offends and disturbs. We are concerned that such a public statement from the Ministry could be interpreted as encouraging censorship on artistic and cultural expressions considered to be unpleasant or insulting.
The attack on the exhibition came after a wave of online harassment towards the artists, including death threats addressed to its authors which they reported to police prior to attack. These threats were in response to the Kenjkavac drawing regarded as ‘sick, ‘morbid, ‘horror’, which depicts a bloody baby with an axe in its head accompanied with the text: “A baby who shits a lot [cries a lot] gets an axe in a head”. The organisers stated that the exhibition was not negative or anti-Serbian, but rather a reflection of the brutality of the 1990s when the exhibited artworks were created.
Freemuse urges you to ensure that a transparent and effective investigation is undertaken in this case and to make a public statement reassuring and defending the rights of Serbian citizens to freely express themselves without fear of persecution or harassment.