New global culture threatens artistic expression: Report

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Jonathan Mbiriyamveka

Harare – Freemuse has warned of a new global culture of silencing artistic expression by shutting down every corner of the globe including in so-called traditionally democratic West.   

Freemuse is an independent international organisation advocating for and defending freedom of artistic expression.

In a first-of-its-kind report assessing the global state of artistic freedom, titled “The emergence of a global culture of silencing others”, Freemuse reports that in 2017, 48 artists were serving combined sentences of more than 188 years in prison.

“Spain imprisoned 13 rappers – more musicians than any other country. On average, one artist per week in 2017 was prosecuted for expressing themselves.

“Egypt, Russia and Israel accounted for one-third of violations against LGBT artists and audiences,” according to the report.

At least 70 percent of violations against women artistes and audiences were on the grounds of indecency, a rationale used in 15 countries across Europe, North America, Asia and Africa.

And artistes from minority groups suffered violations of their artistic freedom in a near 50/50 split between countries in the global North and South. 

“The nationalist politics in the US and Europe has created a new legitimacy to dismiss perspectives and artistic expression of ‘others’. Together with traditional repressive regimes, the new global culture of silencing others has taken freedom of artistic expression to a new low,” Freemuse executive director, Dr Srirak Plipat, said.

“Our research and analysis show that those in power anywhere share a will to silence those with whom they disagree, dislike, fear or simply see as different.” 

Freemuse launched its report on March 15, 2018, online and at an event in Stockholm, Sweden, in partnership with PEN Sweden.  

“The consequences of these violations against art and artises are incalculable. Artistes challenge authorities by their creativity and by their power to convey sharp observations and ideas that many people share. “When authorities silence artists, it affects a wide group of readers, listeners and audiences,” Anna Livion Ingvarsson, Secretary General of Swedish PEN, said. The State of Artistic Freedom 2018 report documents and examines 553 cases of artistic freedom violations in 78 countries, exploring the rationale and mechanisms in place that allow for these violations to take place.  

“Through this comprehensive analysis, we have identified 18 countries, including China, Cuba, India, Malaysia, Nigeria, Poland, Spain, Turkey and the US,  that have exhibited alarming developments in how they treat artists and their freedom of artistic expression and are the ones to keep a watch on throughout 2018,” Ingvarsson said.  

This report is part of Freemuse’s research and advocacy initiative to promote and defend freedom of artistic expression.

Freemuse is supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the cultural section of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Fritt Ord Norway. 

 

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