Slovakia: Artists protest Governor after he blocks anti-xenophobia project funding
In the Banská Bystrica Region of Slovakia artists are protesting the actions of Governor Marián Kotleba, who is known for his admiration of the WWII-era clerical Fascist Slovak State, his anti-Romani posturing, and his extremist political opinions. The Governor has refused to sign already-approved subsidies for projects aiming to warn young people against the dangers of extremism and xenophobia.
The artists have announced they are holding a non-violent "White Ribbon" protest in response to the Governor's moves. Kotleba first refused to sign an approved subsidy from the Slovak Culture Ministry in August so that the Štúdio tanca (Dance Studio) theater could receive funds, resulting in the closure of a planned international festival, and one month later he refused to sign off on an already-awarded subsidy from the Slovak Foreign Ministry for the Bábkové Theater ensemble.
That company was supposed to tour high schools with a play by Irena Brežná, "List černému synovi" (Letter to a Black Son) and discuss extremism and human rights violations with students and Amnesty International staffers. News server DenníkN.sk reports that the company held its own public collection for the project in response and wants to give the performances despite this "new totalitarian censorship", as they called the Governor's behavior.
Slovak theologian: Kotleba is a neo-Nazi
"The co-organizer of these performances or trainings was the international non-governmental agency Amnesty International, which in the past has charged Slovaks several times with extremism and xenophobia over the alleged discrimination of gypsies. It is, naturally, a question who they would be charging with extremism at these trainings, but in general we reject the idea that a non-governmental organization paid from abroad would run around our Slovak schools to decide and teach about who is an extremist and who isn't," Kotleba supporter Milan Uhrík said on the Czech Radio program "Focus" ("Zaostřeno").
Program host Petr Vavrouška mentioned that it is not just artists protesting Kotleba's decision not to sign off on the awarded subsidies, but other figures such as Slovak theologian Michal Havran. "In a commentary for the daily Sme, [Havran] wrote that Marián Kotleba is a neo-Nazi and represents the failure of the political system. A country where Kotleba has this kind of influence over the existence of culture and no one publicly opposes him must ask itself whether it still needs culture at all," the host said during the program.
Vavrouška also reported that the Slovak Culture Ministry is preparing changes to its grant policy because of Kotleba's actions. Next time the Governor will play no role in the awarding of money to cultural organizations, which will receive state financing directly.
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