Troubling events in the world of artistic freedom

Over the summer and beginning of autumn, Freemuse has called on the authorities of several countries to drop charges on and release artists that are being unjustly targeted, as well as calling on authorities to strengthen their protection of artists and audiences.

Freemuse was deeply saddened by the attack on the audience of the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas. The right of artistic freedom is not just for those who create art, but also for those who choose to experience it, and as such authorities should do all they can to protect those who create art or enjoy artistic and cultural events.

Tunisian rapper Klay BBJ has once again caught the attention of authorities and police, and is facing trial for defamation in accordance with the country’s law on freedom of press, printing and publishing. Freemuse is deeply concerned over the charges and the continued harassment the rapper has received over the last several years.

Freemuse remains concerned about the prolonging, year-long case against Tanzanian musicians Mwana Cotide and Mussa Sikabwe, and the political developments against human rights defenders in the country that have led to the violent attack on their defence lawyer and Member of Parliament Tundu Lissu – one of the country’s leading oppositional voices.

Cartoonist and activist Ramón Esono Ebalé (pen name Jamón y Queso) was arrested on 16 September 2017 and is currently being detained without formal charges in Equatorial Guinea’s notorious Black Beach prison in capital Malabo. Freemuse is concerned about Ebalé’s arbitrary arrest and detention and calls for his release. Ebalé is known for his works that are directly critical of Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang and his government.

Ethiopian authorities charged seven artists with terrorism in late June 2017 for producing and uploading “inciting” political songs and videos. Freemuse is concerned about the charges and the continued erosion of freedom of expression in Ethiopia, especially of the Oromo people, the largest ethnic group in the country.

Freemuse at Roskilde music festival

Freemuse was all over the camping and festival grounds of 2017’s Roskilde Festival in Denmark (25 June – 1 July) engaging the approximately 130,000 visitors in learning about the inequality that female artists face in the art world, as well as the discrimination women face as audiences experiencing art.

Listen to artists speak at Roskilde about this inequality in our short video.

Freemuse is focusing on women in art, learn more at Let Women Sing.

Freemuse welcomes new staff

In August we welcomed Ayodele Ganiu as our new Africa Regional Programme Officer based in Lagos, Nigeria. Ayo has a long history working as an advocate and activist in the field of arts and culture, especially as it applies to human rights and cultural policy. He is also the national coordinator of CORA/Arterial Network Nigeria.

In July we welcomed Ziva Larsen as our new Administration Officer. Ziva comes to Freemuse with 27 years of experience in accounting and administration, working for a variety of small and large businesses.

We are also pleased to announce that Paige Collings is now pursuing an internship with Freemuse. She will be working with us on strengthening EU advocacy in the field of arts and human rights.

News in brief

A year after she was boycotted and at constant risk of imprisonment, musician Mai Khoi returned to Vietnam to re-start her career with a new music group, but the censorship system continues to watch her closely.

Seelan Palay was detained by police in front of Singapore’s Parliament House on 1 October 2017 during his performance of a political piece.

On 25 September 2017, authorities in Egypt arrested seven men accused of being gay after they raised a LGBT flag at a concert by band Mashrou’ Leila, who is now banned from the country.

Poet Wu Mingliang (aka Langzi) was detained in China on charges of “illegal business operations” allegedly related to an anthology of poems he wrote, edited and compiled commemorating 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo. Langzi was later released on bail with restricted movement as the case is ongoing.

On 8 August 2017, Chechen singer Zelim Bakaev disappeared in the republic’s capital of Grozny while he was there from Moscow to attend his sister’s wedding.

Singer Silya Ziani, who has been detained since 5 June 2017 for her participation in Rif movement protests in Morocco, was royally pardoned and released on 29 July.