Berlinale Files Criminal Charges Over "Antisemitic" Instagram Hack

Berlinale Files Criminal Charges Over “Antisemitic” Instagram Hack

Berlin Film Festival organizers say they have brought criminal charges against unnamed hackers of its Instagram page for briefly posting statements seen as antisemitic on Sunday.

The Berlinale in a statement said the Instagram channel for its Panorama sidebar was briefly hacked on Sunday and “anti-semitic image-text posts about the Middle East war with the Berlinale logo were posted on the channel.”

The fest organizers said the statements did not come from the Berlinale or represent the festival’s stance on the Israel-Gaza conflict. “The Berlinale condemns this criminal act in the strongest possible terms and has deleted the posts and launched an investigation. In addition, the Berlinale has filed criminal charges against unknown persons. The LKA (the state criminal office) has begun an investigation,” the festival added.

The Berlinale’s definition of what might be considered antisemitism differs from the the German criminal code. The hacking incident would be judged illegal, but messages in support of Palestinians may be protected under Germany’s free speech laws.

The Berlinale also commented on its awards ceremony on Sunday, where winning filmmakers made statements in support of Palestinians when accepting their trophies. “The sometimes one-sided and activist statements made by award winners were an expression of individual personal opinions. They in no way reflect the festival’s position,” Berlin fest organizers insisted as they again distanced themselves from controversial remarks in support of Palestinians made at this year’s festival.

“We understand the outrage that the statements made by some of the award winners were perceived as too one-sided and, in some cases, inappropriate,” Berlinale executive director Mariëtte Rissenbeek added in her own statement on Monday.

During the closing ceremony, Dahomey documentary director Mati Diop, who won the Golden Bear for best film at the 74th Berlin Film Festival, made a direct political statement when accepting her award. “I stand with Palestine,” Diop said.

Her prize was announced by this year’s International Jury president, Lupita Nyong’o, the Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave and Black Panther actor, during the Berlinale Palast ceremony.

Also Saturday night, Basil Adra and Yuval Abraham, two of the four directors of documentary No Other Land, called on the “powerful people in this room” to support a ceasefire in Gaza and to “stop the occupation” of the West Bank by Israel when picking up the audience award for best documentary.

The 2024 edition of the Berlin Film Festival being overshadowed by political debate around the war in Gaza put event organizers in a bind as they balanced a need for open discussion among artists at the Berlinale with Germany’s official state policy to support Israel as part of a battle against rising antisemitism amid the Israel-Gaza conflict.

“The Berlinale stands for democracy and openness. We explicitly oppose discrimination and all forms of hatred. We want to exchange ideas with other social and political institutions on how to conduct a social discourse on this extremely controversial topic in Germany – with the inclusion of international perspectives – without individual statements being perceived as anti-Semitic or anti-Palestinian. We have to face up to this controversial topic – as an international film festival and as a society as a whole,” Rissenbeek argued.

Gaza war protests at the Berlinale this year were especially controversial as Germany continues to deal with the Second World War Holocaust as a reminder of the horrific atrocities of the country’s Nazi past, which literally was led from Berlin.

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