Artists face sharp rise in attacks and censorship

Artists and audiences are under increased threat globally, according to a new report, Art under Threat, released by Freemuse today. Iran tops the list of countries that systematically violated and failed to secure artistic freedom in 2016, followed by Turkey, Egypt, Nigeria, China and Russia. These six countries combined account for 59% of the total serious violations on artistic freedom registered in 2016.

Art under Threat analyses the dominant threats to artistic freedom including how governments, such as China’s and Turkey’s, in addition to silencing artists within their own borders, attempt to censor and prosecute artists abroad. The Freemuse report describes how violent militants as well as peaceful civil society groups target artists and audiences by very different means, but with the same intent, to stifle artistic expression; how women, as well as LGBT artists, are discriminated against; and how even artist syndicates in some cases play the role of censor. Claims of defending “traditional values” or “the interest of the state” are, in many cases, driving arguments behind the violations.

“When populist and nationalist governments, as well as others in a position of power, forcefully try to secure a single dominant narrative, artists are at increased risk,” said Freemuse Executive Director Ole Reitov. “Artistic expressions do not and should not fit into one frame. A healthy society needs alternative creative voices.”

Freemuse in 2016 registered a total number of 1,028 cases of censorship and attacks on artistic freedom across 78 countries. This number more than doubled the number of cases registered in 2015, rising from 469. Freemuse documented 188 total serious violations – killings, attacks, abductions, imprisonments and threats – and a staggering 840 acts of censorship.

Broken down, Freemuse registered three killings, two abductions, 16 attacks, 84 imprisonments and detentions, 43 prosecutions, 40 persecutions and threats, and 840 acts of censorship in 2016. Music was the worst hit art form with 86 cases of serious violations, followed by theatre and visual arts. Film was the most censored art form representing 79% of all cases of censorship registered; the majority of those cases stemming from Ukraine and Kuwait blacklists banning hundreds of individual film titles.

The overall increase in registered cases can partially be explained by the fact that Freemuse and its collaborating partners have improved their documentation methods and partly that some governments published lists of censored art.

Despite these considerations, however, the fact remains that attacks on artists and their artistic freedom disturbingly increased in 2016 by a measure Freemuse hasn’t seen since it started tracking violations in 2012.

From: FREEMUSE | 8 February 2017 > click to read

Help them share their report on social media by using #ArtUnderThreat

Freemuse is an independent international membership organisation advocating and defending artistic freedom. Freemuse runs and and has Special Consultative Status with United Nations since 2012. Established in 1998, Freemuse is based in Copenhagen, Denmark.