Freemuse Says Artists Face Sharp Rise in Attacks and Censorship  


Freemuse, an independent international organisation advocating and defending freedom of expression for musicians and composers worldwide, has released its report for 2016, indicating a sharp rise in attacks on and censorship of artists and their rights to freedom of expression in 2016.

The report, Art Under Threat, shows that in 2016, incidents of attack on artists and their freedommore than doubled those that took place in 2015, increasing by 119%; rising from 469 attacks in 2015 to 1,028 in 2016.

Freemuse reported that six countries: Iran, Turkey Egypt, Nigeria, China and Russia account for a total of 59% of serious violation in 2016 out of the 78 countries in which the violation happened.

Art under Threat, documents a total number of 1,028 cases of censorship and attacks on Artist freedom across 78 countries in 2016. This number more than doubles the 469 cases documented in 2015.  A total of 188 serious violations involved killings, attacks, abductions, imprisonments, and threats while 840 acts of censorship were also recorded.

The Freemuse report shows that while most acts of the acts of censorship were politically motivated wherein governments, such as of China and Turkey, in attempts to silence artistic freedom within their own borders also made further attempt to prosecute and censor artists aboard.

Freemuse also argued that religiously motivated attacks came to the fore in 2016 whereby the claim of defending   traditional values” or “the interest of the state” are, in many cases, the driving arguments behind the violations and these violation are carried out by militant groups as well as peaceful civil society group to restrain artistic expression and also discriminating against women and LGBT artist.

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 cases of censorship stemmed from Ukraine and Kuwait blacklists which banned hundreds of individual film titles.

Freemuse Executive Director Ole Reitov said: “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,” adding “Artistic expressions do not and should not fit into one frame. A healthy society needs alternative creative voices.”

Freemuse attributed the overall increase in registered cases, in part to the fact that Freemuse and its collaborating partners have improved their documentation methods and partly that some governments published lists of censored art.

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has reaffirmed the right to creative and artistic expression as an integral part of the protected human right to freedom of expression but unfortunately only 53 of the 193 UN member states supported the statement.