Bill would make cultural participation a human right

Lawmakers are considering a proposed law that would regulate culture. The proposal goes far beyond simply reforming the government culture organizations. It imposes obligations on members of the public.

Those who own what are considered cultural goods would be required to register them with the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud and take good care of them.

The 62-page, 120-section law seems to run into trouble trying to adjudicate both cultural goods, like stamp collections, and intangible cultural expressions, such as dances.

The measure includes both heavy civil penalties and up to six years in prison for violations in the possession of cultural goods, such as export.

The law also established 11 rights of citizens to participate in culture and tells the state to promote such activity.

The measure is in the news because the former culture minister appeared before a legislative committee to promote passage of the bill.

He is Manuel Obregón López, and the committee is the Comisión Permanente Especial de Educación, Ciencia y Tecnología. The measure is No. 19.054, Ley General de Derechos Culturales. Also appearing was Giancarlo Protti Ramírez, who was identified as coordinator of the Comisión de la Política Nacional y Ley General de Derechos Culturales.

Both men told the committee that the measure sees culture as a right and that the state ought to guarantee culture to the citizens.

The bill also is about money. A short section in a summary says that the culture agency should get 1 percent of the national budget instead of the current half percent.

The culture ministry supervises a vast number of other agencies and facilities, such as museums, the Archivo Nacional, the Sistema Nacional de Educación Música, the Comisión Nacional de Defensa del Idioma, two major theaters, the Sistema Nacional de Radio y Televisión Cultural and the Editorial de Costa Rica. There also are cinema facilities, bands, a dance troupe and even the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional and other orchestras.

The summary of the bill says that the goals of the ministry are to promote the production and diffusion of culture and artistic works, to rescue, conserve and protect tangible and intangible culture and to create space and opportunities for participation by youth

There is a heavy emphasis on the cultural rights of the native population. But the bill also says urban art, including graffiti, should be encouraged and supported.

Effective participation in cultural life is a right of all persons and groups, said the bill. Also rights are freedom of cultural expression, the right to receive stimulation to create and protection of the created works.

However, the bill makes clear early that protected culture does not include anything that encourages hatred, racism, other forms of discrimination or subjugation of women.

The law has a vision of culture that is respectful of the dignity of humans in their harmony with nature, says the summary.

The bill also provides for a right of information and communication that calls on the state to avoid the monopoly of communication and the inequalities in access to information. This is not explained further.

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