How we advocate
Freemuse defends the right to artistic freedom worldwide. We advocate and take action to free artists, change repressive laws, and fight violations of artistic freedom.
We use our thorough research and documentation of violations of artistic freedom to influence governments and decision-makers to change laws and practices that limit artistic expression. We work with international bodies – including the UN Human Rights Council, special procedures and special rapporteurs, UNESCO and EU institutions – to secure the right to artistic expression, as guaranteed by international human rights conventions, is respected, and to ensure that violations are monitored and violators are held accountable.
We take action on behalf of individual artists and audiences whose rights to artistic freedom have been violated. We campaign for the release of imprisoned artists in collaboration with other artists, local groups and lawyers, and our international network of human rights and cultural organisations standing up for artistic freedom. We also work behind the scenes in cases where public attention jeopardises putting the artist further at risk.
When the situation forces an artist to leave their country, we work with art residencies and so-called safe havens to help secure the artist can continue their artistic work in a safe environment.
In a limited number of cases, Freemuse can provide direct financial assistance to musicians whose needs cannot be addressed by advocacy and other non-financial efforts alone.
Want to help us defend artistic freedom? Here are a few things to get started:
How we document
Freemuse focuses on artistic freedom issues in music, visual arts (including commissioned street art), films (both fictional and documentary), theatre (including performance art), literature (excluding academic and other nonfiction books) and dance. We pay particular attention to satire expressed though different forms, such as cartoons, stand up comedies and different video forms of satiric commentaries. When an artist is active in multiple artforms or if an authorities’ decision affects more than one artform, we tag these cases as multiple artforms. Our team monitors and documents violations of artistic freedom across the world and developments at local, national and international levels on cultural policies and laws, as well as changes to the social and cultural context around artistic freedom. Freemuse applies regional approach towards research with each regional researcher focusing on monitoring the state of artistic freedom in the region they are based in.
We source our information from respected and established media groups worldwide and whatever verified information we can collect from trusted sources, including partners, civil society organisations, journalists, researchers and artists, all over the world. We use these various groups and sources of information to verify incidents, laws, and media organisations to ensure that responsible documentation is provided.
Freemuse considers a case confirmed only if we are reasonably certain that artists are targeted in reprisal for their artistic work or for their appearances in public spaces advocating for different causes. We conduct our own independent research based on various sources to determine the motive. When authorities make up false accusations, such as economic fraud or drug possession in an attempt to silence an artist, the case is included in our documentation. Artists killed in a car accident or prosecuted for an actual crime unrelated to their artistic work are not included. When the motive of persecution is unclear, Freemuse considers the case unconfirmed and continues to investigate.
While Freemuse makes the bulk of cases public on its websites, not all cases are documented online for a variety of reasons, including if publicly documenting the case would endanger an artist’s life or the lives of their family members, would compromise an investigation or legal case, or would further cause harm to the artist if they are already being threatened or attacked.
Freemuse does not cover press freedom issues or non-fictional works and thus does not focus on journalists, bloggers, and writers who work for news ventures, magazines or blogs, as well as writers who produce non-fiction works. The violations of artistic expression of these groups of writers have been monitored by several of our sister organisations, such as PEN International, Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists and the umbrella organisation IFEX.
How we categorise
Freemuse categorises each piece of news in the world of artistic freedom in a variety of ways to help understand and monitor the state of artistic freedom worldwide.
We cover artists who have been abducted, attacked, detained, imprisoned, killed, prosecuted, sentenced or threatened. These violations also cover when audiences, venues or events have been attacked.
Violations also take into account what happened to the artwork or venue, as well as when they have been censored (including items being seized, banned, excluded, taken down, or when performances have been cancelled), interrupted, destroyed or when an attempt was made to censor an artist, work or venue. The damage and destruction of artworks put on display in public spaces have also been monitored. We also document cases of self-censorship, but this data in is not included in our annual statistics.
If the reason behind the violation can be determined, then we use some frequently occurring topics that routinely apply to artistic freedom stories. Freemuse pays particular attention on cases in which women, LGBTI and artists coming from different ethnic and racial groups face discrimination or when artworks treating these forms of discrimination are subject to censorship. The topics also include legislation issues, including when laws and policies change, visa issues when artists have their mobility restricted, when a market, corporation or business employs censorship, or when art is affected by conflict. Politics is a large topic within artistic freedom and includes when art is used in elections or support of people and parties, as well as when political pressure is exerted by political groups, whether national or international. It further encompasses censorship and legal prosecution cases in which artists face consequences for expressions deemed defamatory against public figures or insulting of state symbols. Religion and its connection to morality is another widespread topic used to suppress artistic freedom, as is indecency, which is sometimes connected to religion, but is also to cultural norms, obscenity and sexuality issues. Freemuse also monitors various violations of artistic freedom in digital space, including art censorship by social media platforms, cases of removal and editing of films on online streaming platforms, as well as legal prosecution of artists for their expressions in digital space.
We also track who is violating artistic freedom, including when any government body perpetrates the violation (including police, military, officials, ministries, censorship boards, public schools and political parties), when non-state groups are responsible (including gangs, rebel groups, civil society organisations, churches or religious groups), and when the artistic community, via curators, unions or syndicates, are responsible for such acts. We also document violations committed by private entities such as online film streaming platforms, private schools, media, etc. When the violator is unknown, we make that distinction as well.