Prague - Every day more than 1,000 people are affixing their names to the electronic petition supporting the amnesty of alternative artist group Ztohoven. By the end of last week the number of signatories was bordering on 10,000.
"We consider this to be a great success and we thank everyone," says one of the initiators, special assistant of new media studies at the Institute of Information Studies at Charles University, Josef Šlerka.
Signatures will continue to be collected throughout March; at the end of the month organizers will print out a list of petitioners, attach it to an appeal, and submit the entire "amnesty book" to the president of the country.
President can help
"Amnesty is completely within the competency of the president and in fact is not dependent on how many people join the appeal," clarified Šlerka. "But the number of those represented, which is now respectable, has great symbolic value."
At the same time it is apparently a message for Czech Television: its viewers are making known that something is not right with the way the network is behaving.
Seven members of the group Ztohoven infiltrated the broadcast of the public television station and transmitted a visual hoax, overlaying a nuclear mushroom bomb against the backdrop of the Krkonoše countryside. Their project was titled Media Reality.
Upon the initiative of Czech TV, the members were charged with the propagation of threatening news and are faced with a possible three years in prison.
Most recently the police phoned up even some members of the jury that had awarded the group the new National Gallery Prize.
If Klaus were to decide to oblige the petition, he could step into the matter at any phase, so certainly before the ruling. "It is clear, though," says Šlerka, "that they will live through at least the first part of the legal proceedings, which start before the end of the month."
Judgment on image
Aside from criminal responsibility, one additional issue in his opinion is at stake here: judgment on the state of the image. "In other words, if the camera is a witness of reality or if is manipulating. And this consequentially affects many other issues including, and foremost, the media of course."
Those who have already joined the petition include, for example, composer Petr Kofroň, journalist Jiří X. Doležal, translator Dana Hábová, writer Iva Pekárková, Matěj Ruppert of Monkey Business, and fashion designer Liběna Rochová.
Naturally, representatives of the local artistic scene also have a strong presence. Among them are art historians Jiří Zemánek and Vlasta Cíháková-Noshiro; Ludvík Hlaváček, Director of the Prague Center for Contemporary Art; and chancellor of Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design (VŠUP) Pavel Liška.
Artists against abuse of power
The petition has no shortage of artists themselves or university educators like Veronika Bromová, who directs the studio of new media at the Academy of Fine Arts (AVU).
Jiří David, the head of the division of freestyle art at VŠUP, signed the document even though he has a relatively critical opinion about the actions of Ztohoven, or more precisely about their acceptance of the National Gallery Prize.
"I added my signature primarily because in principle I resent any type of power, whether judicial, political, economic, or generally institutional, that demonstrates or abuses which paradoxically applies in the case of the 333 National Gallery Prize to the group Ztohoven its functional influence on people and primarily artists, who agitate and cast doubt through their creativity," stated Aktualně.cz.
Pizza makers and grave diggers
Most often signing the petition are students, but among signatories one can also find a pizza maker, a retiree, a grave digger, an immigration advisor, a concrete pourer, corporate professionals, career military officers, and a trash collector.
In view of the nature of the case, some "spicy" professions are reflected here as well: a specialist in network and broadcast television systems, a nuclear electrical plant attendant, an investigator, an attorney, and a prison guard.
All of them want to get Ztohoven "z toho ven" (or loosely translated, out of their mess).