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political Statement

v3.5 | 22 12 01

Dear colleagues,

as members of FOKUS, the Austrian Association for Cultural Economics and Policy Studies, we would like to draw your attention to the fact that the freedom of science and the arts is seriously damaged by the current Austrian government.

As you all know Austria is governed since the beginning of this year by a coalition of the FPOe, a "right wing populist party with extremist expressions" (Ahtisaari/Frowein/Oreja ), and the conservative OeVP. Since the outset of the new government science, media and the arts have been threatened by two parallel strategies:

1. Opponents of the government are consequently sued by the FPOe and often also convicted. The FPOe is represented in these lawsuits by the chambers of the current Minister of Justice who has been the lawyer of Joerg Haider, the de-facto-leader of the FPOe, for many years. This strategy has affected up to now social scientists, journalists, members of the Jewish Community, politicians and artists. The most prominent victim is the renowned political scientist Anton Pelinka who has been sued and convicted in a lower court for having maintained that Joerg Haider played down the cruelties of national socialism. For many smaller media and single persons the costs for these lawsuits are existentially threatening. As a consequence of this practique the public space for controversial discussions is decreasing dramatically. So it comes that weekly demonstrations against the government with far more than 1000 participants are not even mentioned by the media.

2. Budgetary constraints are used as an argument to cut subsidies; innovative artistic initiatives and especially initiatives and people who have been openly showing their disapproval of the new government are considerably more affected than others by these cuts.

The most outrageous examples for this strategy are the two initiatives "Public Netbase" and "depot" which are both currently closed down. Public Netbase is an Internet-initiative hosting most resistance activities in the Internet; the depot is a very active initiative devoted to arts theory which has been organising hundreds of discussions and lectures during the last year besides of building up a special library. During the last months the depot also served as a meeting point for cultural and other initiatives active in the resistance movement against the government. Both institutions are located in the "Museumsquartier", a huge quarter of museums and cultural initiatives still under construction. Public netbase and the depot will loose their rooms in the Museumsquartier (officially to make place for other, newly-to-develop innovative activities) and, at the same time, their subsidies have been cut down to a point where any future work is impossible.

This situation has been dramatically aggravated during the last weeks as the report of the "three wise men" of the EU has been interpreted by the Austrian government as an unconditional acquittal. The current conditions in Austria are threatening and deeply disturbing for independent artists and scientists as many of them have been living mostly of subsidies and state commissions up to now. Total refusal of every contact with this government is not a viable way for everybody; the question which degree of collaboration is still acceptable therefore a crucial one. Another pressing problem important in the short as in the long run is how to find financial means out of other sources.

We are currently starting a discussion process on how artists and scientists could deal with this government while being financially dependent of the state and would be grateful for any comments and suggestions on these theme as well as for the spreading of information on the situation in Austria. It goes without saying that we are only too willing to answer all questions on this theme.

Sincerely yours
Elisabeth Mayerhofer, Monika Mokre und Paul Stepan

~Public Netbase
press releases

~June 27, 2001
~April 11, 2000
other press releases are only available in german..

~press releases by other institutions


~Statement from
members of FOKUS




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