The Freemuse has indicted Nigeria for excessive regulation of artistic expression, with music accounting for 93% of censored art; various sanctions imposed on radio stations for airing artistic content alleged to be vulgar and arbitrary use of ambiguous rules on vulgarity to censor works of art that criticise the government.
The group, in its “State of Artistic Freedom 2019” Report analysed 673 cases which occurred in different cultural spheres in 80 countries throughout the 2018 calendar year. Findings from the Report show that the intolerance and violence against artists and all who have the right to freedom of artistic expression have been widespread. Freemuse said Musicians’ freedom of expression was limited in 55 countries, with one third of all documented cases concerning musicians occurring in three countries: Nigeria, Russia and Turkey.
According to the Report, in August 2018, the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) NBC fined Jay FM 101.9 radio station 100,000 Nigerian Naira for airing the banned song ‘This is Nigeria’ by Folarin Falana, a musician popularly known as Falz, on the ground that the song’s lyrics were vulgar with parts of the video showing dancing girls dressed in hijab.
In like manner, “NBC also banned the song ‘See Mary, See Jesus’ by rapper Olamide for its ‘casual use’ of the names Mary and Jesus, which are regarded as sacred by the Christian faith,” the Report added.
Citing further incidents, the report said in February 2018, the NBC issued 11 fines of 100,000 Nigerian Naira each to radio stations across Nigeria for allegedly breaching sections of the broadcasting code by airing music with vulgar lyrics between October and December 2017.
Similarly, in September 2018, the Report further noted, NBC issued nine sanctions to radio stations that aired music with alleged vulgar and/or indecent lyrics between April and June 2018 adding, the radio stations were warned or fined 100,000 Nigerian Naira.
The Report said: “Using sanctions as a tool for censoring art is a growing trend in Nigeria and is concerning. It threatens the right of artists to freedom of expression and undermines citizens’ right of access to information and diverse opinions.”
The Freemuse Report documents the death of four in 2018 – two killed in Pakistan, one in Brazil and one in Bangladesh. It shows that 14 other artists were attacked. At least 157 artists were imprisoned or detained in 29 countries. Spain, Turkey and Russia jailed the highest number of artists in the Global North, while China, Egypt, Iran and Cuba jailed the highest number of artists in the Global South.