British Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Catherine Bearder banned 12 of the 28 cartoons set to be shown at the “EU Turns 60: A Cartoon Party” exhibition at the European Parliament as they were deemed to be “controversial”. The exhibition, which was set to open on 26 September 2017, was organised by Greek MEP Stelios Kouloglou and French MEP Patrick Le Hyaric, who made the case public in a press release.
The censored cartoons, were created by French and Greek artists and dealt with a range of delicate topics, including: the rise of fascism in the EU; child poverty; the EU’s handling of the refugee crisis; the dominance of Germany in EU policy, exerting abuse over Greek pensioners; and Brexit.
Bearder, who is tasked with dealing with exhibitions at parliament, argued that the artworks were “controversial” and that some of the cartoons that negatively depicted German Chancellor Angela Merkel could interfere with the German elections, despite the fact that the exhibition was set to start after the elections.
She also invoked Article 2, Section 3 of the “Rules governing cultural events and exhibitions on Parliament’s premises”, which mandates that content in such events shall not be “offensive”, of an “inflammatory nature”, contradictory to the values of the EU, or likely to cause “disturbances in the exhibition area”.
The organising MEPs sent a complaint letter to European Parliament President Antonio Tajani asking him to support the exhibition and revoke Bearder’s decision. In the letter, Kouloglou stated that “the right of artistic creation and freedom of expression are part of the European Union’s fundamental values”.
According to an additional 27 September 2017 press release form the MEPs, Tajani had not replied to the complaint letter; however, it was mentioned that after appealing the decision to Bearder, only five cartoons remained banned, though the reasoning behind lifting the ban on some of the works remains unclear.