‘Turkish MP’s assistant defaced Maltese artwork which depicted Prophet Muhammad’ - CoE source
A source within the Council of Europe has confirmed that an installation by a Maltese artist which included an edited image of the Prophet Muhammad was defaced by a Turkish MP’s assistant. The head of the Turkish delegation at the Council of Europe has apologised for the incident.
The Malta Independent revealed exclusively yesterday how part of the 1,000 photo canvas was literally sliced off. Artist Norbert Francis Attard said he could not believe that this act of censorship had taken place at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, more so when his artwork was based on the concept of human rights, including freedom of expression.
He explained that the ‘offending’ piece was an edited version of the infamous Danish Muhammad cartoon, which had led to protests and violent riots in several countries.
“I obviously knew the history behind it so what I did was I covered the prophet’s face with a banner with the word ‘censored’ written over it. I did this so that it would not offend anyone.”
A source at the CoE told The Malta Independent yesterday that the exhibition “was damaged by a parliamentary assistant of a Turkish member of the Assembly. It is still in place.”
The source said that the President of the Assembly held a meeting on Thursday with the Chairperson of the Turkish Parliamentary delegation.
“The latter apologised for this incident. The Maltese artist will be invited to Strasbourg to close this regrettable incident.”
When contacted, Turkish Ambassador to Malta Reha Keskintepe said he had “read our report with sadness” but told us he had no information on the matter. “We have no information on the exhibition, let alone this incident you mention in the article.”
Norbert Francis Attard told this paper yesterday said he did not know who the perpetrator was but insisted that the CoE should publicly condemn the act.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry has meanwhile given its own account on the incident.
“The Ministry for Foreign Affairs was informed by the Permanent Representation of Malta to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg that an incident took place at the Lobby of the Parliamentary Assembly concerning an exhibition entitled “Exile Series: The Road Note Taken” by Maltese artist Norbert Francis Attard.
“The exhibition was inaugurated on Monday 10th October to mark the 50th anniversary of Malta’s signing of the European Convention on Human Rights in the presence of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and the President of the Parliamentary Assembly.
“Yesterday early afternoon, Malta’s Permanent Representative was verbally informed by Council of Europe’s Head of Protocol, that a part of the exhibit on show was torn out.
“This incident was subsequently confirmed by the Director of General Services of the Parliamentary Assembly who also informed the Permanent Representative that an internal report had been drawn up and sent to his superiors.
“The Permanent Representation informed both the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and artist Norbert Francis Attard about the occurrence. A meeting was called with the Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly to seek further clarifications with a request for a full report in writing on the matter to be submitted to the Permanent Representation of Malta to the Council of Europe.
“The Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly met the Permanent Representative and expressed his unreserved apologies to Malta’s Permanent Representative and artist Norbert Attard for this unfortunate incident.
“The Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly regretted the event and made it clear that such behaviour was considered to be unacceptable. It was reported that a Turkish Representative was involved.
“The Permanent Representative was also informed that this evening the President of the Parliamentary Assembly intended to meet the Head of the Turkish Parliamentary Delegation attending the October Part Session of the Parliamentary Assembly concerning the matter.
“A proposal was made by the Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly to the Permanent Representative by way of providing a practical solution to resolve the matter to the satisfaction of the Maltese artist in question.
“Pending the receipt of the formal report from the Parliamentary Assembly, this proposal was duly transmitted to Mr Attard for his consideration.”
Norbert Francis Attard