In Brief

After Release from Cuban Jail, Tania Bruguera Files Defamation Case Against Government

After months of protesting against Decree 349, a proposed government sanction that would censor the arts, Bruguera will take legal action “against parties who have damaged myself and my family, psychologically, socially and professionally.” Lawyers say it is the first legal case of its kind.

Tania Bruguera (image courtesy the Tate Modern)

Cuban artist Tania Bruguera has dedicated her life and career to freedom of expression, and has now launched a legal case against the government of Cuba, accusing the Republic of defamation. Bruguera’s lawyers believe it to be the first case of its kind.

“Tired of suffering defamations in state media publications such as Gramma newspaper and Razones de Cuba as well as official websites from the Ministry of Culture such as La Jiribilla, I have decided to legally act against parties who have damaged myself and my family, psychologically, socially and professionally,” Bruguera writes in her statement, published in full below.

Recently, Bruguera and a slew of other Cuban artists and activists have been tirelessly protesting against Decree 349, a law which would severely limit artistic production in the country and place the arts under strict sanctions. Artists would require government approval to host artistic events or sell work.

Earlier this month, she and about a dozen other artists, including Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Yanelyz Nuñez Leyva, were detained by Cuban officials in relation to their planned sit-in outside the Ministry of Culture. The discovery of Decree 349 received international outcry — including a protest at Tate Modern (where Bruguera is hosting her ongoing exhibition 10,143,210) demanding the artists be freed, as well as public disapproval of the decree by Amnesty International

After the arrested artists were released from detention, the government announced the decree would no longer take effect as planned on December 7. Vice Minister of Culture Fernando Rojas told Associated Press that the government had insufficiently explained their motivations and goals for Decree 349 and would be enacting more exact regulations to be announced in the near future, but assuring that “artistic creation is not the target.”

However, Bruguera announced she will remain in Cuba to organize in opposition to the law despite these alleged provisions. The artist wrote in a statement: “As an artist I feel my duty today is not to exhibit my work at an international exhibition and further my personal artistic career, but to be with my fellow Cuban artists and to expose the vulnerability of Cuban artists today.” She says the decree still makes the production of the independent arts impossible.

“If it is true — as claimed by the lawyers who helped me prepare this defamation case against the Government — that this legal action is the first of its kind, then I hope it is the first of many,” Bruguera writes. “I hope that the government next time thinks twice before defaming publicly someone who makes them uncomfortable because they are saying and doing what they believe in. A nation doesn’t exist unless the rights of its citizens are respected.”

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Read Bruguera’s public statement in full below:

Tired of suffering defamations in state media publications such as Gramma newspaper and Razones de Cuba as well as official websites from the Ministry of Culture such as La Jiribilla, I have decided to legally act against parties who have damaged myself and my family, psychologically, socially and professionally. Though in Cuba today people may think that asking for your rights is a worthless act, all citizens must be heard and our rights restored, including the right to receive answers when one is defamed (as granted by article 63 of the current constitution – an act sponsored by the Government itself).

The Cuban Government should not apply laws selectively to suit its convenience, nor to protect only those who execute work which suits its political interests. The Government cannot be exempt of responsibility.

I feel my reputation among Cuban artists, my neighbours and my friends is permanently damaged thanks to the persistent acts of defamation that take place not only in the press but also in other arenas; for example at meetings held by functionaries of the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Interior, directors of the national museums and other functionaries and cultural agents working for the Government who have met with young artists, students and curators to discredit me. Unfortunately, the impact is not limited to this country – the defamation is designed to extend it’s [sic] tentacles, to reach other shores.

On December 11th, at the municipal police station correspondent to Old Havana I denounced the citizens Arthur Gonzalez, Antonio Rodríguez Salvador, the director of the website CubaDebate Randy Alonso Falcón, the director of La Jiribilla Anneris Ivette Leyva and the director of the Granma newspaper Yailin Orta Rivera. After this I went to the customer service office of the General attorney and of the Consejo de Estado to submit my notice of legal action. Then I went to the National offices of the Revolutionary National Police where they confirmed that my case has been recorded in the national system. As such, I have now started the countdown to the thirty working days they have to give me an answer.

What I am asking for is not economic compensation but a public retraction of such defamation in the same newspapers where they originally appeared, and in the case of online sites, a note on the original articles rectifying its content.

If it is true – as claimed by the lawyers who helped me prepare this defamation case against the Government – that this legal action is the first of its kind, then I hope it is the first of many; I hope that the government next time thinks twice before defaming publicly someone who makes them uncomfortable because they are saying and doing what they believe in. A nation doesn’t exist unless the rights of its citizens are respected.

 

Tania Bruguera

Havana, December 11, 2018

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