Rule of law conditionality essential for artistic freedom in Freemuse countries of concern

27 July 2020


Rule of law conditionality essential for artistic freedom in Freemuse countries of concern

Protection of artistic freedom of concern in release of EU budget deal


23 July 2020: Freemuse, the human rights organisation which defends the right to freedom of artistic expression, has expressed concern for the rights of Europe’s artistic community and the impact on civil society and democracy in light of the potential deal on the EU Budget (2021-2027). Freemuse echoes the concerns of the European Parliament and stresses the need to uphold the highest standards on rule of law, fundamental rights and democracy.

“Freemuse is concerned that a lack of rule of law conditionality indicates an unwillingness from key countries to align with European cultural values. Those values are imperative in providing a safe environment for artists, particularly as we record an alarming deterioration of the right to freedom of expression in Europe,” said Dr Srirak Plipat, Freemuse Executive Director.

By capitulating to state rule of law and without the appropriate recourse (namely, financial) for countries who fail to uphold European values, Europe risks undermining its cultural values, of which its democracy is dependent. Freemuse research has documented a rise in violations and illegitimate restrictions across Europe including in EU Member States. The deteriorating context means that artistic expression, and freedom of expression more widely, is under significant duress, not just in countries where this right has always been contested but also in countries previously understood to be flag bearers of human rights.

Since 2018, Freemuse has been supported by the Swedish Postcode Foundation to extensively focus on the state of artistic freedom in Europe, with a focus on key countries of concern.

“Freemuse’s report indicates a development that should be taken seriously and be a concern for all of us. Changes in artistic freedom and freedom of expression, are early signs of a less democratic society and thus Freemuse’s role and work is of high importance,” said Marie Dahllöf, secreteray general of the Swedish Postcode Foundation.

Having examined 380 violations of artistic freedom (Jan 2018 – Oct 2019) in 28 countries across Europe, including 17 EU member states, Freemuse has witnessed that artists across the region have had their rights violated as a result of their legitimate expressions of political dissent, their vocal opposition to governments or royal families, their representation of religious symbols, allegations that their expression insults officials or state symbols and for artistically expressing support for LGBTI rights. Deliberate attempts to exercise control over cultural and arts institutions have ensured that only those artworks found to suit the mainstream political narrative have been exhibited. Together, these constitute the main challenges to artistic freedom in Europe today.

The integration of culture—and artistic freedom by inference—is crucial to European societies and recognised in the Treaty on the European Union, requiring EU member states to contribute to “the flowering of the cultures of the Member States” and to support and supplement artistic and literary creation. 

Freemuse will continue to monitor the situation in Europe and advocate for States to uphold their duty to respect obligations under international law, as well as to prevent abuses and to take positive action to create an enabling environment for a democratic and culturally rich society.

Read Freemuse’s comprehensive report on the state of artistic freedom in Europe  Security, Creativity, Tolerance and their Co-existence: The New European Agenda on Freedom of Artistic Expression and learn more about countries of concern on Artistic Freedom Europe.

Freemuse wishes to acknowledge the Swedish Postcode Foundation in its support for the  Freemuse project: Defending Artistic Expression in Europe.




Emily D’Alterio
Communications Manager
T: +45 3332 1027

About Freemuse

Freemuse is an independent international organisation advocating for and defending freedom of artistic expression. We believe that at the heart of violations of artistic freedom is the effort to silence opposing or less preferred views and values by those in power—politically, religiously or societally—mostly due to fear of their transformative effect. Our work includes monitoring and documenting violations of artistic freedom, as well as exposing laws and policies that enable and sustain these violations. Freemuse’s approach is human rights-based and provides an international legal framework, as well as lays out the principles, for accountability, equality, non-discrimination and participation.

About the Swedish Postcode Foundation

The Swedish Postcode Foundation aims to promote positive social impact and seeks long-term solutions to local and global challenges. The Foundation works universally to support projects that promote human rights, nature and environment, arts and culture, and sports. This variation creates a dynamic collection of multi-level actions that result in positive change and ultimately a better world. The Swedish Postcode Foundation is a beneficiary to the Swedish Postcode Lottery and since its establishment in 2007, has distributed over 1,5 billion SEK in support of more than 600 projects in Sweden and internationally. For additional information, visit 

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