Artists gather to defend the right to artistic freedom in Bangladesh

19 May 2017

Dhaka, 19 May 2017 | Artists around the world face threats and limitations from government and non-state actors. Such challenges are also a daily reality for Bangladeshi artists. To address the issue and develop ways to improve the situation, artists and human rights activists gathered in Dhaka for a two-day discussion session organized by Drik and Freemuse.

Participants from all sectors of the art world, including dance, film,  music, theatre, fine arts and photography, came together to share experiences of facing and dealing with censorship and intimidations as a result of their work.

“Bangladeshi artists have historically championed freedom of expression. At a time when intolerance is rife and dissent is suppressed, artists need to stand up for the common voice and reclaim their space”, said Drik Managing Director Shahidul Alam. “This new initiative aims to improve the situation while holding the government accountable to its responsibility of securing the right to artistic freedom.”

The discussion sessions are part of an initiative led by Drik and Freemuse to improve and defend artists’ and audiences’ right to artistic freedom in Bangladesh.

The two organisations will submit a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council ahead of Bangladesh’s third cycle Universal Periodic Review – the UN system’s official mechanism for reviewing all member states’ human rights records in cycles of four-and-a-half years. The review will take place in Geneva in May 2018.

“Bangladesh is falling behind international standards when it comes to freedom of expression and artistic freedom,” said Freemuse Executive Director Srirak Plipat. “Criminalizing an act that ‘prejudices the image of the state’ or ‘lacks of respect for a religion’, including blasphemy, or ‘causes to hurt or may hurt religious belief’ is a clear violation of international human rights law.”

Drik Picture Library is an award winning innovative media organization known for its outstanding quality and social commitment. Established in 1989, its major areas of expertise include advocacy and awareness campaigns, production of communication material, research, and ‘state of the art’ multimedia services.

Freemuse is an independent international organization advocating and defending the right to artistic freedom worldwide. Freemuse has held Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) since 2012 and has previously submitted UPR stakeholder reports with local partners on artistic freedom in Belarus, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, United States and Zimbabwe.

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