Freemuse, an independent international membership organisation advocating and defending artistic freedom, has released its annual statistics on censorship and attacks on artistic freedom in 2015 which shows that artists in many countries increasingly face attacks on their rights to freedom of expression.
According to the report, “Artistic freedom is under extreme pressure in many countries.” China tops the list of countries that systematically violates and fails to secure artistic freedom with 20 serious registered violations in 2015, followed by Iran with 16, Russia with 15, and three countries tied in fourth place with 10 violations each: Burundi, Syria and Turkey.
The Executive Director of Freemuse, Ole Reitov said “Freemuse statistics represent a cautious estimate. Artistic freedom violations continue to be under-reported in many countries due to lack of awareness, registration and reporting capacity. Artistic creativity demands an environment free from fear and insecurity. Although states are the main violators, increasingly, threats from non-state actors are leading to fear and self-censorship. At the UN level, there have been positive signs of larger attention being paid to the importance of protecting artistic freedom but 2015 was in general a dark year for artistic freedom.”
According to the group, “Freemuse in 2015 registered a total number of 469 cases of censorship and attacks on artistic freedom. This is nearly a two-fold increase (98%) from 2014 wherein Freemuse registered 237 cases. 2015 saw a 20% increase in registered serious violations – killings, attacks, abductions, imprisonments and threats – and a staggering 224% increase in censorship cases.
Nigeria was among the countries in 2015 where religiously motivated attacks on artistic freedom took place. Other countries are Bangladesh, India, Iran, Mali, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Syria. Paris experienced the worst single attack on artistic freedom in 2015 as heavily armed gunmen attacked the Bataclan club during a rock concert on November 13 killing 89 people and critically injuring 99 others. The attack sent shock waves around the world and spurred the cancellation of concerts and artistic events with immediate effect.
According to the report, the organization registered 3 artists being killed, 15 newly imprisoned, 31 imprisoned in previous years but still serving time, 6 abductions, 24 cases of physical attacks, 33 cases of threats or persecutions, 42 artists being prosecuted, 23 being detained, and 292 cases of censorship in 2015. The disturbing increase in registered cases can partially be explained by the fact that Freemuse and its collaborating partners have improved their documentation methods and strengthened their networks, as well as the fact that artistic freedom is an issue that is slowly gaining larger attention.