Berlin Senate drops controversial “anti-discrimination clause” for arts funding

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The Berlin Senate has dropped its requirement for cultural institutions to adhere to its controversial “anti-discrimination clause.”

In a statement published today (January 22), the Department of Culture and Social Cohesion confirmed that the clause will “no longer be a requirement” for grant applications, due to concerns over its legality.

Introduced in December last year, the “anti-discrimination clause” required cultural institutions to subscribe to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-semitism in order to receive arts funding, in line with the Berlin state’s 2019 strategy to combat anti-semitism.

Senator for Culture and Social Cohesion, Joe Chialo added to the Department of Culture and Social Cohesion’s statement, writing: “Without question: I will continue to work for the non-discriminatory development of Berlin culture.

“But I have to take seriously the legal and critical voices that saw the introduced clause as a restriction on freedom of art,” the statement continues. “We need the debates now more than ever, and it’s time to act – there is no doubt about that for me. I demand this discourse and I will build on bipartisan cooperation.”

The clause had been met with criticism from both German and International campaigners, with fears it would be used to curtail or censor demonstrations of solidarity with Palestinians amid Israel’s ongoing siege on Gaza; military action which is currently being investigated for allegations of genocide by the International Criminal Justice Court (ICJ).

Over 4,000 artists and culture sector workers signed a petition following the clause’s introduction, demanding that the clause be removed or amended in order to prevent the destruction of “artistic freedom.”

Meanwhile, Strike Germany – a movement calling on International artists to boycott German cultural institutions, in response to the German government’s crackdown on pro-Palestine protests – had labelled the anti-discrimination clause as a “McCarthyist” policy, further restricting the “freedom of expression” in the country.

Berlin’s CTM festival, which receives arts funding from the Berlin Senate of Culture, had shared its opposition to the anti-discrimination clause earlier this month,: “We therefore reject this clause in its current form, and emphatically endorse the appeal of the aforementioned groups and initiatives,” the statement reads.

A number of DJs and artists had withdrawn their participation in this year’s CTM as part of the Strike Germany movement, a position the festival had said it “respected,” continuing in a statement that it “remains steadfast in our support of artistic freedom and dialogue. We are actively engaging in many conversations at the moment, and are committed to continuing these exchanges.”

CTM’s curator Michail Stangl reacted to news of the Berlin Senate’s removal of the clause on Twitter, writing: “Just in: the Berlin Senate is dropping the highly contested and completely counterproductive anti-discrimination clause. Good work everyone.”

More details to follow.

Megan Townsend is Mixmag’s Deputy Editor, follow her on Twitter

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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