NO to censorship! Reinstate funding for Aichi Triennale 2019!

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Japanese version:

The Agency for Cultural Affairs has announced that it will withhold the funding it granted Aichi Triennale 2019. We strongly object to this decision and demand the reinstatement of the grant.

It is completely unprecedented for a government body to rescind an already approved grant without due process. Although the Agency for Cultural Affairs contends the decision has nothing to do with the content of the exhibition, many Japanese people see it as an act of state censorship.

The Agency lists the following reasons for rescinding the grant:

1) Lack of detail in the application
2) Failure to report threats when they were made and as they persisted
3) Unfeasibility of the project being carried out as planned upon the suspension of the exhibit

But the government’s rescinding of a grant that was awarded according to proper procedure while the project in question is still ongoing indicates the arbitrariness of the decision.

Moreover, the budget for the “After ‘Freedom of Expression?’” section of the Triennale was 4.2 million yen, a fraction of the total grant of 78 million yen. The Agency is unfounded in rescinding the entire grant. On the second point (reporting of threats), under usual circumstances both the applicant and the Agency would be involved in reporting and fact finding. In fact, the Agency was well aware of the incident from the start, because it contacted Aichi Prefecture when the problem happened, with nationwide media coverage heating up thereafter.

Above all, the Agency’s citing of the unfeasibility of carrying out the project as planned is utterly one-sided logic. Alongside anonymous threats via telephone, fax, and email, protests by public officials also precipitated the suspension of the exhibit. The rescinding of public funds after public officials called for works to be removed from the Triennale is a clear act of censorship, and should be denounced as such.

It would set a dangerous precedent if part of a project were suspended due to telephone attacks and other threats and then the Agency for Cultural Affairs rescinded its funding on top of that. This would signal to the world not only that Japan has no will to fight terrorism, but also that the Agency is willing to abet terrorists.

As opposed to terrorism and violent threats, culture enables diverse people to present themselves and their opinions without fear of reprisal. Undermining this fundamental tenet of culture, the Agency’s decision is an endangerment to the Constitution of Japan, which protects the basic cultural needs of all citizens, and to democracy itself.

This decision will adversely affect the future programming of public museums and theaters, publicly supported creative activities such as art festivals, the performing arts, film, and music, and all other cultural activities including education and research. Japan will lose international credibility as a culturally progressive society. This outrageous act will destroy the foundations of the cultural policies and public subsidies that our predecessors built up.

We demand a system that supports art and culture according to the principles of democracy! The Agency for Cultural Affairs must repeal its decision at once. Please join in our petition.