Let Women Sing

21 July 2017

In 2017, Freemuse began its Let Women Sing campaign, shining a spotlight on female artists, who face some very violent and direct censorship restrictions globally. The right to perform at a festival isn’t the same for everyone. In some countries, female musicians are censored, attacked, threatened or even killed, simply …

Read More »

What Drove Violations

8 February 2017

ART UNDER THREAT IN 2016: WHAT DROVE VIOLATIONS The following section of the Art under Threat in 2016 report explores the issues and tendencies that drove governments and other groups to limit artistic expression. TABLE OF CONTENTS * Click on the following titles to be taken to that part of …

Read More »


8 February 2017

ART UNDER THREAT IN 2016: CHINA SERIOUS VIOLATIONS: 14 ACTS OF CENSORSHIP: 20 While China has dropped from being the country with the most serious violations on artistic freedom of expression – an unenviable position it has had for two consecutive years – to the fifth country in 2016, China …

Read More »

China: Ministry of Culture allegedly blacklists 55 artists

13 January 2017

China has allegedly blacklisted 55 artists, a majority of whom are from Hong Kong and Taiwan, who have expressed views that China deems objectionable.

  China has allegedly blacklisted 55 artists, mostly musicians, a majority of whom are from Hong Kong and Taiwan, who have participated in pro-democracy movements or expressed political views that China deems objectionable, reported Quartz on 11 January 2017. Hints of the blacklist came a week earlier, on 6 January, …

Read More »

Afghan Star

19 December 2016

Afghan Star   A Channel 4 Documentary Foundation production in association with Tolo TV Directed by Havana Marking With the singers Setara Hussainzada, Rafi Nabaazda, Hameed Sahkizada, Lima Sahar, Daoud Sediqi In English, Dari and Pashtun with English subtitles. Running time: 88 minutes Distributor: Zeitgeist Films Film website: Afghanistan. 2008 …

Read More »

South Korea: Alleged government blacklist of 9,473 artists over politics

19 October 2016

South Korean daily newspaper Hankook Ilbo revealed on 11 October 2016 that the South Korean government blacklisted 9,473 artists from receiving state support, including financial support, due to their political activity of either being critical of the current government or backing opposition politicians, reported The Korea Times on 12 October …

Read More »

Vietnam: Popular music and censorship

14 October 2016

The Vietnamese state operates a thorough system of music censorship, and the few songwriters who dare to directly challenge the authority of the Vietnamese Communist Party or its policies face serious consequences. Focusing on popular musicians, this article charts the history of music censorship in Vietnam from the mid twentieth century through …

Read More »

Malaysia: Artist released on bail; investigation pending

2 September 2016

Malaysian artist Namewee was released on bail in Penang on 25 August 2016 after four days in detention over charges that a recent video he starred in, directed and produced allegedly insulted Islam, reported Reuters on 25 August 2016. Penang district police chief Mior Faridalathrash Wahid said they have referred …

Read More »

China: State agency reportedly bans South Korean stars over diplomatic feud

12 August 2016

Officials from China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television have allegedly passed down “verbal orders” to TV stations that approvals for South Korean programmes or those featuring South Korean stars would not be granted for the time being, reported South China Morning Post on 2 August 2016. …

Read More »

Uzbekistan: Suspended artists and instrument bans

11 August 2016

Ever-tightening restrictions on musicians and artists continue to take their toll in Uzbekistan as state-run arts association Uzbeknavo revoked the licenses of three pop artists for holding performances abroad to lacklustre audience numbers, reported Uzbek news outlet UZ24 on 20 July 2016. Uzbeknavo license department head Odiljon Abdukahhar said the …

Read More »

Malaysia: Rapper threatened with censorship and arrest

10 August 2016

Police plan to arrest rapper Namewee (real name Wee Meng Chee) when he returns to Malaysia over his recent video for a song he performed with Taiwanese hip hop trio Nine One One called ‘Oh My God’, which has allegedly insulted religion, reported Free Malaysia Today on 2 August 2016. …

Read More »

Pakistan: Music returns to region amid scepticism

10 August 2016

The provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the north-western region of Pakistan, announced a fund to support 500 artists, including musicians, in the area by giving them $300 USD per month to create and practice their art, reported Al Jazeera on 27 May 2016. Apart from the fund, the government is …

Read More »

China: American singer banned due to Dalai Lama meeting

6 July 2016

American pop star Lady Gaga is the latest addition to the ever-growing list of artists banned by China for their meetings with the Dalai Lama or stances on Tibet, reported The Guardian on 28 June 2016. The singer met with the Dalai Lama on 26 June 2016 at the US …

Read More »

Pakistan: Famed Sufi singer killed in drive-by shooting

23 June 2016

Two men suspected of killing Amjad Sabri, one of Pakistan’s most famous singers, were arrested by police as part of a city-wide crackdown in Karachi.

Freemuse calls for counter narratives to religious extremism On 22 June 2016, one of Pakistan’s most famous singers Amjad Sabri died in the port town of Karachi after two gunmen on a motorbike shot the singer in his car just a kilometre after leaving his home. The Taliban has claimed …

Read More »

India: Censors under fire

30 May 2016

Nearly halfway into the term of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, the world’s largest democracy is witnessing an increasingly polarised debate over freedom of expression; and what many critics and civil society members say is an atmosphere of intolerance in the country. By Ankush Arora    INSIGHT  When Indian …

Read More »

Afghanistan: Kandahar authorities ban broadcast of songs by women

26 May 2016

Local Ministry of Information and Culture authorities in the southern Kandahar province of Afghanistan have banned women’s songs from being broadcast across local media, directly affecting the 11 radio stations in operation in the area, reported Afghanistan’s TOLONews on 23 May 2016. Head of Wranga Radio in Kandahar told TOLONews …

Read More »

INSIGHT publication: Targeting the Arts 2015

18 May 2016

» Read on Targeting the Arts Documenting incidents of censorship has never been enough. From the very beginning Freemuse has attempted to put censorship of music and arts into a larger context. In 2015 we introduced INSIGHT – a series of articles providing readers with analytical stories on censorship of …

Read More »

China: British heavy metal band forced to alter show

4 May 2016

Iron Maiden have become the latest band to change their live performance in order to satisfy the Chinese government. The metal veterans played two shows in China – in Beijing and Shanghai – in the last week of April 2016. The band had to change lyrics and drop special effects …

Read More »

Bangladesh: Call for UNHRC inquiry into murders

4 May 2016

At least nine writers, bloggers, publishers, academics, and activists have been murdered in Bangladesh since February 2015, including four in the last month alone. Dozens of other individuals including artists face an imminent threat to their lives and livelihoods and live in a state of fear due to a lack …

Read More »

China: American pop star tour dates cancelled

27 April 2016

Chinese authorities have allegedly banned US pop star Selena Gomez from performing two dates in the country on her Revival Tour due to photos of her with the Dalai Lama posted on her social media profiles in 2014, reported The New Zealand Herald on 20 April 2016. The singer was …

Read More »

Uzbekistan: The naked truth about state censorship

20 April 2016

The Uzbekistan government tightens its control over the arts, prohibiting anything that is believed to threaten national values – including 700 films which have been banned, and musicians who have their performing licenses withdrawn. Censorship was a key instrument for controlling the masses during Soviet times. These days Uzbekistan’s ageing …

Read More »

Indonesia: West Aceh bans outdoor concerts

11 April 2016

The regency of West Aceh has banned all outdoor concerts based on a recommendation from a group of Muslim scholars trained in Shari’a law, reported The Sydney Morning Herald on 7 April 2016. Ulema, the body of scholars, believed that outdoor concerts had “more disadvantages than advantages”, leading West Aceh …

Read More »

Singapore: Madonna banned from performing sensitive song

9 March 2016

The Media Development Authority (MDA), Singapore’s governmental media regulatory board, banned Madonna from performing her song ‘Holy Water’ in her 28 February 2016 show at the country’s National Stadium, reported The Straits Times on 7 January 2016. The MDA rated the concert R18, meaning only those 18 years of age …

Read More »

Music Freedom Day in Pakistan: Call for cultural policy

4 March 2016

Participants gathered with great enthusiasm across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata to celebrate the annual Music Freedom Day, calling on their leaders to formulate a comprehensive cultural policy, reported Sher Alam Shinwari from the city of Peshawar on 3 March 2016. By Sher Alam Shinwari Senior artists, singers and writers at …

Read More »

China: Singers banned for nationalist statements and actions

21 January 2016

Taiwanese-born singer Michael Huang’s songs and appearances on shows have been banned on Taiwanese media after he made critical comments against a teen pop star holding up the island’s flag during her appearance on a TV show, reported Now K Pop. On 8 January 2016 Huang posted a message on …

Read More »

Indonesia: Punk documentary released worldwide

12 January 2016

In Banda Aceh, on the northwestern tip of the island of Sumatra, there is a small and often misunderstood group of punks that have become labelled as a “social disease” as Shari’a law continues to grow over the last 10 years since the Indian Ocean tsunami. ‘Street Punk! Banda Aceh’, …

Read More »

China: Hip-hop group censored and detained

6 January 2016

Chinese rap trio IN3 may never be able perform in Beijing after garnering the current unenviable status of having the top 17 spots in China’s list of 120 banned songs, according to the Daily Mail. Due to the blacklist the Beijing-based group has had a difficult time finding venues to …

Read More »

Uzbekistan: Musicians regulated to conform to ‘national values’

18 December 2015

Uzbekistan’s government has ordered the state agency in charge of giving licenses to performers to tighten conditions under which they are granted, citing a plethora of pop songs, videos and concerts that fail to conform to the “country’s spiritual, cultural and national values”, according to Transition Online and BBC News …

Read More »

Vietnam: Release of musician after four years in prison

16 December 2015

Authorities in Vietnam have freed prominent musician Vo Minh Tri from prison after serving his full four-year sentence for writing politically sensitive songs, which he said he has “no regrets” about composing. Tri, a 37-year-old drummer who is also known as Viet Khang, was released early on Sunday 13 December …

Read More »

India: Singer prosecuted for song critical of state government

15 December 2015

Arrested for singing a song critical of the government of the South Indian state Tamil Nadu, folk singer and activist Kovan has now been released on bail. His arrest is part of a larger crackdown on activism and freedom of expression, reports Lakshimi Sarah At the end of October 2015, …

Read More »

China: Concert with North Korean band cancelled

14 December 2015

The North Korean pop group Moranbong Band was scheduled to perform in Beijing, China, on 12 December 2015 to cultivate ties between the two countries, but their concert was abruptly cancelled without explanation a few hours before they were to have entered the stage at the city’s National Centre. A …

Read More »

Singapore: Petition launched to ban singer from performing

30 November 2015

Over 20,000 “concerned citizens, parents and individuals” in Singapore have signed a petition to stop Adam Lambert from performing at the Countdown 2016 New Year’s Eve concert due to his “promotion of LGBT rights,” reported The Independent. The group petitioned both the government and concert organisers, MediaCorp, and said, “a simple online …

Read More »

South Korea: TV bans sexy music video

13 November 2015

Korean television has banned K-pop star Jay Park’s latest music video due to its sexual imagery, The Korea Times reported. The video for Park’s lead single, ‘You Know,’ from his new album features Park dancing with fellow K-pop star HyunA. South Korean monitors gave the video a 19+ parental advisory …

Read More »

India: Punjab government bans ‘vulgar’ music in state-run buses

11 November 2015

On 2 November 2015, the state government in Punjab imposed a ban on playing ‘vulgar’ music in state-run buses with immediate effect, reported DNA India. “Random surprise checks would be conducted by a specially constituted committee to check the use of provocative music in buses,” an official spokesperson told the …

Read More »

China: Tibetan musician released from prison

30 October 2015

Chinese authorities had sentenced Pema Rigzin to two and a half years in prison, but released him after 11 months. After his release, a crowd welcomed him home. Freemuse welcomes the release of Pema Rigzin (also spelled: Rigdzin). “Many Tibetan singers produce songs about issues of concern to a majority …

Read More »

China: Malaysian rapper told to make no controversial statements

26 October 2015

The Malaysian rapper Namewee (real name: Wee Meng Chee) has become the latest to join a growing number of artists and brands facing limitations on their performance in China. Namewee posted a statement on Facebook on 19 October 2015 that he had been forced by his Hong Kong concert promoter …

Read More »

India: Pakistani singer’s concerts cancelled after protests

16 October 2015

Two concerts by the veteran Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali scheduled in the Indian state of Maharashtra were cancelled by the organizers after a regional Hindu right-wing party took exception to the events. The Shiv Sena, a Hindu nationalist party that is part of the coalition government in Maharashtra State, asked …

Read More »

India: Religious group issues fatwa against composer A. R. Rahman

16 September 2015

A Muslim group in India has issued a fatwa against the Indian musician and composer A. R. Rahman and the Iranian film director Majid Majidi. A Sunni-Muslim group in Mumbai called the Raza Academy has issued the fatwa in protest against Majidi’s film ‘Muhammad: Messenger of God’ – Iran’s most …

Read More »

Azerbaijan: Russian opera star banned

11 September 2015

Foreign nationals who took part in the concert of internationally renowned Russian opera singer Lyubov Kazarnovskaya in the city of Hankendi (Stepanakert) in Nagorno-Karabakh on 2 September 2015 have been placed on the list of undesirable persons, head of the press service of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry Hikmet Hajiyev said. …

Read More »

China: Government blocks American rock band over Tibet issue

11 September 2015

Chinese fans of the American rock band Bon Jovi have been given a taste of bad medicine after authorities pulled the plug on plans for the group’s first concerts in the country. The band were scheduled to perform in Shanghai Monday 14 September 2015 and in Beijing the following Thursday. …

Read More »

Malaysia: Youths arrested during music gig

2 September 2015

163 youths, including a photographer from The Malaysian Insider, were detained by the police on 28 August 2015 while watching a Bersih music countdown at the independent punk music venue Rumah Api in Ampang Jaya, according to Malaysian Insider and other sources. According to one of those detained, Aizuddin Ismail, …

Read More »

China: 120 songs banned for promoting obscenity and violence

12 August 2015

On 10 August 2015, China released a blacklist of songs claiming they promote obscenity or violence and ordered website administrators to remove them from their sites, according to Xinhua News Agency. The order from the Ministry of Culture accompanied a list of 120 songs that trumpeted “obscenity, violence, crime or …

Read More »

China: US pop group banned because of a tweet

4 August 2015

The US pop group Maroon 5 have felt the wrath of China’s stringent government policies, getting banned from entering the country allegedly after posting a tweet showing support for the Dalai Lama. The group’s Beijing and Shanghai concerts scheduled for September 2015 as a part of their larger Asian tour …

Read More »

North Korea: House-to-house searches to confiscate banned music

4 August 2015

The North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has issued a decree demanding the destruction of tapes and CDs that could threaten the regime, reported Daily NK. Concerned about possible threats to his regime, the North Korean leader has reportedly ordered music censorship to be extended, banning not only foreign songs but …

Read More »

India: Film makers threatened to remove song from film

30 June 2015

The makers of the film ‘Guddu Rangeela’ have reportedly been threatened by religious groups that if they don’t remove the song ‘Mata Ka Email’ from their film, they risk facing “dire consequences”, including disruptions at the theatres. In Ludhiana, there has been demonstrations demanding a ban to be put on the film, …

Read More »

Azerbaijan: Call for American singer to stand up for political prisoners

27 June 2015

“Lady Gaga’s surprise appearance in Baku, Azerbaijan, where she performed at the opening ceremony of the inaugural European Games, drew immediate condemnation from the international human rights community — as well it should,” wrote Global Post’s Rebecca Vincent. “Lady Gaga’s appearance was a stark contrast to Bono’s impassioned appeal for …

Read More »

Australia: Transgender musician bashed in Sydney live music venue

15 June 2015

Sydney musician Stephanie McCarthy was allegedly bashed in Newtown’s Town Hall Hotel on 12 June 2015 as she was waiting to go on stage to perform with her band, Love Maul. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Stephanie McCarthy was approached by five males who began to verbally and physically …

Read More »

Indonesia: Punk music and Shari’a law

12 June 2015

Punks face the tightening grip of Shari’a law in north Sumatra. This is documented in ‘Street Punk! Banda Aceh’ – a film about a punk community that refuses to die. Freemuse asked the film’s production team, director Maria Bakkalapulo and producer Niall Macaulay to tell about the struggle. By Maria …

Read More »

Singapore: Music video banned for its pro-LGBT content

27 May 2015

According to Global Voices and Focus Taiwan, the Taiwanese pop songstress Jolin Tsai’s song and her musicvideo ‘We’re All Different, Yet The Same’ has been banned from broadcast in Singapore. The Singapore government’s Media Development Authority has confirmed that it advised local broadcasters in Singapore not to air the music …

Read More »

Cambodia: Film about Khmer Rouge regime’s music censorship

20 April 2015

After a decade of research, the American filmmaker John Pirozzi is telling the story of music censorship in Cambodia in the 1960s and 1970s in the film ‘Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll’, which opens at Film Forum in New York, USA, on 22 April 2015. “Through …

Read More »

Pakistan: DJs and singers silenced with new loudspeaker regulation

13 April 2015

In the Punjab province in Pakistan, DJs, singers and show organisers are threatening to launch province-wide protest if Police continues to register cases against them while seizing their music equipment and loudspeaker systems because of a new legislation, the ‘Punjab Sound System Regulation Ordinance 2015’. The Punjab Government enforced the …

Read More »

Pakistan: Drummer and performer killed by armed men

8 April 2015

In Swabi in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, two people were killed in a violent attack in the middle of the night when a group of transgender dancers and musicians was returning home after performing a show at a wedding party. The attackers were waiting for the musicians and dancers in a …

Read More »


26 March 2015

A list of films and documentaries relating to music and music censorship Last updated on 26 March 2015     Please note that only few of the film titles listed below are about ‘music censorship’ as the only topic. In numerous cases, coverage and story telling about music censorship and …

Read More »

Pakistan: Artists and singers need safety, not a Censorship Act

3 March 2015

The local government of Pakistan’s northwest province wants to impose a Censorship Board Act to silence singers’ voices and curb artists’ activities, reports Sher Alam Shinwari from Peshawar By Sher Alam Shinwari The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) coalition government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the northwest province of Pakistan, has recently tabled a …

Read More »

Pakistan: Music shops disappeared as result of war on music

25 February 2015

Around 95 per cent of all music shops disappeared as result of war on music in Swat Valley. There was a time when Swat Valley in Northern Pakistan was described as the ‘Switzerland’ of the British Empire. Today the beautiful valley is under threat of the Taliban. The valley became …

Read More »

India: Censorship board bleeps out ‘Bombay’ from music video

2 February 2015

Mihir Joshi, an Indian musician recording his first album in 2014, needed a word to rhyme with ‘today’ in one of his songs and found one that he thought fit perfectly. But India’s Central Board of Film Certification disagreed. The censorship board replaced it with a beep when the music …

Read More »

Campaigns and support to musicians

28 January 2015

Freemuse initiates and organises several campaigns and advocacy initiatives for musicians and composers at risk. Freemuse has also provided substantial support to persecuted and prosecuted artists. Current Freemuse campaigns Currently Freemuse (openly) campaigns for the release of the following artists. Other cases are under investigation or involve non-public actions. Mehdi …

Read More »

India: Singer calls for a censor board in the music industry

27 January 2015

“Like movies, censorship of music is a must and should be implemented immediately in our industry. This is the only way to preserve the sanctity of our music,” the renowned Indian singer Sukhwinder Singh told Times of India. He is displeased with the “visible vulgarity in present-day songs”. Sukhwinder Singh …

Read More »

Afghanistan: Theatre performance attacked by suicide bomber

13 December 2014

On 11 December 2014 a 17-year-old suicide bomber blew himself up inside a school auditorium in Kabul where a theatre play condemning suicide bombing, ‘Heartbeat: Silence After the Explosion’, was being presented by students of Kabul University’s Cinema and Theatre Department of Fine Art Faculty Several persons were killed by …

Read More »

China: Tibetan folk singer sentenced to two and a half years in prison

8 December 2014

On 27 November 2014, the Intermediate People’s Court in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, sentenced the well-known folk singer and music producer Pema Rigzin to two and a half years in prison and a fine of 50,000 yuan (US$ 8,130) for composing, releasing, and distributing music with alleged political overtones. Pema Rigzin, …

Read More »

China: Tibetan singer sentenced to four years in prison

2 December 2014

The popular Tibetan singer Kalsang Yarphel has been given a four year imprisonment verdict for belting out songs calling on Tibetans to speak their own language and to forge unity among themselves. Kalsang Yarphel, 39, was sentenced by a court in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, where he had …

Read More »
Home / News