Stand up for freedom of expression on the place des Nations

News.- Monday 14 September marque the inauguration of the work of art Anything to say ? representing the bronze figures of Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, standing on chairs. An initiative to incite citizens to become aware of their right to express themselves freely. This itinerant monument is exhibited on the place des Nations until Friday 18 September. 


Four chairs and three bronze figures are standing there, in the middle of the place des Nations. Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, standing on a chair, overlooking the crowd. Beside them a fourth chair has voluntarily been left empty to incite bystanders to climb up themselves. The chance for everyone to freely express themselves next to these whistle-blowers that dared to reveal secrets that some would have never wanted to be revealed. A decision implying heavy consequences, that they are still paying for today. Julian Assange, co-founder of WikiLeaks, is prisoner of the embassy of Ecuador in London, whereas the American programmer Edward Snowden took refuge in Russia, far from American jurisdiction. An escape that Manning, the ex-soldier condemned to 35 years of imprisonment in the United-States for revealing state secrets, was not able to make.

Demand for asylum for Snowden and Assange

However, these three men became symbols of freedom of expression. “They are considered as traitors by their homeland, but for us they are heroes of our time”, explains Guy Mettan, chairman of The Geneva Press Club. This exhibition by the artist Davide Dormino is a tribute to the courage of these men, but not only. “This work of art is an attempt to explain to the greatest number of people that there is a need to go outside of comfort zones. Standing up on this chair means getting another perspective and creating a different vision of things”, says the sculptor. In place until Friday on the place des Nations, this exhibition is meant to accompany the parliamentary motion “For a better protection of whistle-blowers”, proposed by Swiss politician Oskar Freysinger, and exempt of any political consideration. This event is also a way for the Anything to Say? organisation, a partner of the event with the CIPADH and Press Emblem Campaign, to ask for political asylum for Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, as well as their naturalisation. At this time, a petition has been launched to support this motion. “This monument is first and foremost the expression of our freedoms. Switzerland should give political asylum to Snowden”, thunders Geneva parliamentary Patrick Dimier.

It isn’t the first time that these three bronze statues are exhibited. They had already been exposed in Berlin last May, then in Dresden in June and shortly they will come to Paris. And why not come back to Geneva permanently once the world tour is finished? “For me Geneva is an emblem of tolerance and culture”, says the artist. And when he is asked about the possibility that his work of art be exhibited in the United States, he surprises everyone: “We almost have a firm order for a replica from Berkley campus:” One thing is certain, this itinerant monument gives a new face to freedom of expression and to the right to information.


Grégory Chariot

Independant reporter