The Malta Independent 19 September 2019, Thursday

V18 crisis: More than 100 local artists sign petition calling for removal of Jason Micallef

Rachel Attard Wednesday, 25 April 2018, 09:00 Last update: about 2 years ago

Petition letter to be delivered to the Prime Minister today

More than 100 art professionals, including artists and authors,  have signed a petition letter calling for the removal of Valletta 2018 Chairman Jason Micallef, The Malta Independent has learnt. This petition will be sent to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat today.

The petition letter, which was seen by The Malta Independent, includes the signatures of authors Pierre Mejlak and Immanuel Mifsud, producer Adrian Buckle, actor Paul Portelli, artist Debbie Caruana Dingli and former V18 Executive director Karsten Xuereb.

Apart from the 134 artists who have signed the petition, another 24 have joined anonymously, stating that that they fear retribution since they are currently involved in cultural projects including some related to V18.  They have clearly stated that revealing their name may jepordise the other participants that are involved in the ongoing projects.

Last Sunday, The Malta Independent on Sunday revealed that a group of prominent Maltese artists were circulating a petition letter stating that they are unhappy with Micallef’s behaviour, his comments on the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, and his frequent comments attacking artists who try to criticise elements of the V18 or disagree with the government. The artists are of the belief that Micallef is no longer fit for purpose and that his behaviour, by default, does not represent the ethos of the European Capital of Culture.

Yesterday, this newspaper also revealed that the Chairperson of the monitoring and advisory  committee that monitored Valletta as European Capital for Culture in 2018, Ulrich Fuchs (above), will be boycotting all V18 events. Fuchs said: “I will certainly not attend any event held by the Valletta 2018 as long as people representing the project destroy European values.”

Some of the artists who signed this petition told this newsroom that, “V18 is a European project and it does not represent only us Maltese but also the European citizens. This petition letter is sending the message that what was meant to celebrate cultural diversity and European citizenship has ended up being used for partisan politics that is divisive. This is not a battle against Valletta 2018 but a call for politicians and politically appointed persons not to interfere with the cultural and artist work. Artists who are actually involved in V18 project said that important project developed by the foundation are being overtaken or over casted by Micallef himself. ”

“The fact that we artists do not have a representative body makes it very challenging to champion the arts and lobby for change in the sector. We are not censoring Micallef because as an individual he has the right to say anything he wants but as a public official he needs to shoulder responsibility because he is dragging down Maltese art and culture sector. Freedom of expression does not give you the licences to say whatever comes to your mind.  As Ulrich Fuchs said this is a project based on European Values. “

This petition letter, which will also be addressed to the Minister for Culture Owen Bonnici (above) and Parliamentary Secretary for Valletta 2018 Deo Debattista, states: “We, artists, curators and arts managers write to you to express our concern that the legacy of Valletta 2018 as European Capital of Culture is seriously jeopardised by the actions of Mr Jason Micallef, Chairman of the Valletta 2018 Foundation.

“His ongoing derogatory public comments about the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia do not reflect the European objectives and principles of the Capital of Culture initiative. As chairman of Valletta 2018 Foundation, Mr Micallef has been appointed by you to represent a European project, including ourselves, as laid out in European legislation. The role of a chairman of a European Capital of Culture cannot be partisan in attitude and purposely divisive in action.”

The letter goes on to recall how Micallef, on a number of occasions, “used his role as Chairman of the European Capital of Culture to publicly ridicule and attack artists who criticised and satirised those in power. His role as Chairman should be to safeguard this right, not to threaten it. Using artists, culture and Valletta 2018 for political expedience is shocking and outrageous.

“The irresponsible and embarrassing actions of Mr Micallef are causing irreparable damage to the reputation, programme and leadership of Valletta 2018. This is a legacy that the Maltese cultural sector does not need or want. We, the undersigned reiterate the call for Mr Micallef's immediate resignation. “

 

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