Artistic Expression Facing Threats Around the World

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"Artistic  freedom  is  being  shut  down  in  every  corner  of  the  globe,  including in the traditionally democratic West," the Freemuse report says. (Image by Stephen Poff, used under Creative Commons license.)

Freemuse, an organization that advocates for the freedom of artistic expression, has ranked Spain, Egypt, China, Algeria and Mexico as the main violators of artistic freedom and creativity, in its newly-released report title: the state of artistic freedom.

The other countries are Iran, USA, Nigeria, Tanzanian, Venezuela and Israel.

The report, led by author Srirak Plipat and a seven-research-member team, documented 553 cases of violations of artistic freedom monitored in 78 countries in the 2017 calendar year, combined with an analysis of legal, political and social developments that shed light on the motivations and rationales behind the violations.

According to the Freemuse report, during the year of 2017, 48 artists were imprisoned, 5 adduced 57 cases of prosecution, 246 artists and artwork were censored, and 50 detained.

The report also added 2 artists were killed, 57 attacked and 88 cases prosecuted/threatened with prosecutions. And that 48% of the cases were based on political reasons, as opposed to 23% for indecent, 14% on religion and 8% hate speech.

The  report  takes  a  further  in-depth  analysis  of  seven  other  countries,  reviewing  their  laws,  policies  and  practices  that  continue   to   sustain   their   troubling   record   of   silencing  freedom  of  artistic  expressions,  and  take  a closer look at emblematic cases that expose these continuing  violations

Srirak Plipat, Freemuse Executive Music Director, with a poster during the celebration of music freedom day.

Srirak Plipat, the report lead author, said: “Through our continuous monitoring and analysis, one prime aspect  in  2017  became clear in the world of freedom of artistic expression: a new global culture of silencing others is emerging.

“Artistic freedom is being shut down in every corner of the globe, including in the traditionally democratic West. Art in the online and digital space continues to challenge authorities and corporations who are quick to react by closing down expression rather than using it as an opportunity to foster it.

“Though government authorities continue to be the main group of violators of artistic freedom, curtailing expression is increasingly being taken on by other actors, including religious groups, political associations, criminal gangs, private individuals and the artistic communities themselves. This disturbing geographical spread and growing group of violators is enabled by weak accountability mechanisms that fail to hold authorities to task and continue to create a wide space for impunity.”

Freemuse latest report also finds that governments around the world are the key artistic freedom violators by implementing direct intimidation tactics toward artists and their families or bring criminal charges to silence voices in a way that does not raise flags for observers and human rights activists.

Moreover, the report revealed that religious  authority, which in many contexts is also aligned with government structures, are  groups that often take the law in their own hands and distribute their own brand of justice to  artists who they see as going against their doctrine.

In the report, governments accounted for 63% of direct violations of artistic freedom and for failure to protect, while the other 37% of violations are shared among religious organization, armed violent groups, professional artist organizations, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organization (NGOs), and private companies

“On  average, at least one artist was prosecuted per week in 2017.  Together they were sentenced to over 188 years in prison this year alone. Forty-eight artists were serving terms in prison for exercising their rights and expressing their views and feelings. Thousands of artists and artworks were banned,” Srirak Plipat continued.

“Freedom of artistic expression and creativity is being attacked at every front in every region of the world. In  this  process, a new global culture is emerging, one where censorship, attacks, prosecutions and other practices of silencing views one disagrees with is becoming the norm, driven both by governments and supported by large groups of people in society.”

Meanwhile, Srirak Plipat has urged governments to improve this situation by respecting and protecting the human right to freedom of artistic  expression, and must enact and implement national laws in line with international standards.

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