Why Artistic Freedom Europe Matters


Arts and culture are crucial for developing vibrant societies, broadening people’s perspectives on different political, cultural and social issues as well as being important indicators of democratic health.  The right to freedom of creative and artistic expression is recognised as a fundamental human right under international law. According to Freemuse research, violations and illegitimate restrictions of artistic freedom are on the rise in Europe. 

Freemuse has witnessed that artists across Europe have had their rights violated as a result of their legitimate expressions of political dissent, their vocal opposition to governments or royal families, their articulation and representation of religious doctrines and symbols, allegations that their expression insults officials or state symbols and for artistically expressing support for LGBTI rights. Security, Creativity, Tolerance and their Co-existence: The New European Agenda on Artistic Freedom of Expression is an analysis of the human right to freedom of artistic expression based on monitoring of legal and policy development and individual cases of violations of artistic freedom in Europe over the past two years (January 2018 to October 2019).  



Freemuse is an independent international non-governmental organisation advocating for freedom of artistic expression and cultural diversity. Freemuse has United Nations Special Consultative Status to the Economic and Social Council (UN-ECOSOC) and Consultative Status with UNESCO.  

Freemuse operates within an international human rights and legal framework which upholds the principles of accountability, participation, equality, non-discrimination and cultural diversity. We document violations of artistic freedom and leverage evidence-based advocacy at international, regional and national levels for better protection of all people, including those at risk. We promote safe and enabling environments for artistic creativity and recognise the value that art and culture bring to society. Working with artists, art and cultural organisations, activists and partners in the global south and north, we campaign for and support individual artists with a focus on artists targeted for their gender, race or sexual orientation. We initiate, grow and support locally-owned networks of artists and cultural workers so their voices can be heard and their capacity to monitor and defend artistic freedom is strengthened.   

Through the Defending Artistic Expression in Europe project, Freemuse is able to forge strategic partnerships with plethora of relevant stakeholders in Europe to act as watchdogs, awareness raisers, public mobilisers and change influencers, to mobilise wider support for artistic freedom by engaging activists, artists, members of the public, the private sector and the media. 

This project is funded and supported by the Swedish Postcode Foundation.  



The objective of the work of Freemuse in Europe is the following: 

  • Promote a high level of understanding of artists’ rights to freedom of expression in Europe  
  • Raise awareness of the nature of violations to freedom of artistic expression in Europe  
  • Engage with the EU institutions to achieve explicit recognition of the right to freedom of artistic expression in order to ensure the respect of all aspects of freedom of expression both inside and outside the EU.  


Facing what?

380 cases of violations were documented by Freemuse across 28 countries in Europe, including members of the European Union and candidate countries between January 2018 to October 2019.  The range of violations documented in European states include heavy prison sentences or extreme measures to criminalise artists. Statutory orders have been issued, creative works have been censored by state bodies from public view, and state authorities have exerted undue control and arbitrarily exerted control over content in cultural programmes or placed loyalists in key positions within the cultural and arts sector.  The looming presence of authoritarianism is a recurring feature across the region, tightening its grip over free debate and expression.  Censorship, instigated by both state and non-state actors, has been the most widespread form of artistic expression across Europe, with more than 179 acts of censorship documented in 27 countries, affecting 809 artists and artworks.  Government authorities were responsible for 61% of these censorship cases.    


Read or Download in pdf format :  Freedom of artistic expression in Europe

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