UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights Karima Bennoune during her 12-day mission, was able to visit Gdańsk, Kraków, Oświęcim, Warsaw and the village of Żelazowa Wola, as well as to meet people from other regions who travelled to see her. The Special Rapporteur appreciates the fact that she was able to travel unhindered, to visit many places and sites with no obstacle save limitations of time.
The Special Rapporteur was concerned to hear that some in the cultural field were beginning to engage in self-censorship to protect themselves and their institutions, and that a few highly skilled cultural professionals were making plans to leave the country, which is a loss to cultural life here.
The rapporteur – Karima Bennoune – underlines that the role of the ministry should be to guarantee a rich cultural life and not to impose political orientation.
The report that appeared after her visit indicated: The dissolution of Mr. Pawel Machcewicz’s contract as director of the World War II museum in Gdańsk and the ongoing efforts to modify the museum’s permanent exhibition is emblematic and well documented, but the Special Rapporteur also met with other directors and former directors of Cultural Institutions who have experienced similar pressure to conform. For the Malta theatre festival in Poznań, disapproval of a curating choice translated into denying its organisers previously agreed funding. The role of the Ministry must clearly remain one of ensuring diversity of offerings and programming and the exercise of the right to scientific and artistic freedom as guarantees for a rich cultural life, not molding the political orientation of cultural programming so as to achieve a monoculture.
The Malta Festival Poznań which took place from 16 to 25 June 2017 was unique not only due to its programme, but also its specific circumstances. Several dozen Polish and international artists and cultural institutions took part in an auction for the Malta Festival. Moreover, 1838 people took part in the crowdfunding campaign Zostań Ministrem Kultury (Be a Minister of Culture) on the wspieramkulture.pl website. Within two weeks, we collected PLN 392,889.50. The donations made it possible to fully deliver the festival programme as planned, in addition to other programme activities of the Malta Foundation, including the Nostalgia Festival, which for the past several years has not been supported by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.
In 2017, the Minister of Culture and National Heritage Professor Piotr Gliński declared in the media that the festival would not receive the grant necessary to fund its 27th edition despite the grant having been approved pursuant to a three-year agreement made in 2016.
The circumstances forced us to take necessary legal action. On 5 June, 2018 we filed a lawsuit seeking an order that the State Treasury pay the approved funding. The Malta Foundation had satisfied all the conditions of the said agreement, and this made the refusal to pay the grant unreasonable. The Helsinki Foundation of Human Rights, lawyers Wojciech Marchwicki and Przemysław Tacij of Hogan Lovells are representing us in this case pro bono.