Spain, US, 16 Others on Watch List for Violating Freedom of Artistic Expression

Ole Reitov, Freemuse
Ole Reitov, Freemuse

The Freemuse annual State of Artistic Freedom 2018 Report has indicted 18 countries, including Spain, the United States, China, Cuba, India, Malaysia, Nigeria, Poland, and Turkey, for exhibiting alarming developments in how they treat artists and their freedom of artistic expression, noting that “these countries are ones to keep a watch on throughout 2018.”

Cautioning “the emergence of a new global culture of silencing ‘others,’ where artistic expression is being shut down in every corner of the globe, including in the traditionally democratic West,” the Report revealed how freedom of artistic expression was dealt a new blow in 2017 with 48 artists serving combined sentences of more than 188 years in prison for expressing themselves.

The first-of-its-kind Report which was  launched  on Thursday  March 15, 2018 online and at an event in Stockholm, Sweden, in partnership with PEN Sweden, revealed that on the average, one artist per week in 2017 was prosecuted for expressing himself or herself.

Apart from specifically indicting Spain for imprisoning more musicians – 13 rappers – in the year under review than any other country, the Report also revealed that artists from minority groups suffered violations of their artistic freedom in a near 50/50 split between countries in the global North and South.

Alarmingly, the Report revealed that 70 per cent of violations against women artists and audiences were on the grounds of indecency, a rationale used in 15 countries across Europe, North America, Asia and Africa.

Dr Srirak Plipat, Executive Director of Freemuse 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.”

“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.” Plipat noted.

The State of Artistic Freedom 2018 report documented and examined 553 cases of artistic freedom violations in 78 countries, exploring the rationales and mechanisms in place that allow for these violations to take place.

Commenting on the Report, Anna Livion Ingvarsson, Secretary General of Swedish PEN, said: “The consequences of these violations against art and artists are incalculable. Artists 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.”