Artsfreedom newsletter: Does artistic freedom matter?

18 May 2016

News and knowledge about artistic freedom of expression                    View this email in your browser


As our world is experiencing dozens of internal and international conflicts, and millions of people are forced to leave their home countries due to conflicts or poverty, you may ask the question: does artistic freedom matter? Isn’t the work for protecting and promoting artistic freedom a luxury?

Several governments seem to believe so, and some northern-based governments, which traditionally have supported freedom of expression, are downsizing their support to human rights defenders and spend large percentages of their development assistance budgets internally to receive refugees, who are victims of repressive regimes.

In the recent UNESCO report ‘RE | SHAPING CULTURAL POLICIES’, former UN Special Rapporteur Ms Farida Shaheed wrote:

“Artistic expression is not a luxury, it is a necessity – a defining element of our humanity and a fundamental human right enabling everyone, individually and collectively, to develop and express their humanity and world view (…) I am pleased to note a growing realization of the crucial role artists and artistic creativity play in our societies, and the vitality of ensuring that artistic voices are not silenced by different means (…).”

It is true that the awareness is increasing. During the World Press Freedom Day in Helsinki in the beginning of May, artistic freedom was addressed at two sessions for the first time, but unfortunately those who control national budgets still seem to lack awareness of the importance of including culture and arts (and the defence of this) in foreign policies – not as a tool for vested interests – but as an essential element for human beings and our understanding of “the other”.

Targeting the arts – INSIGHT
Understanding “the other” does not necessarily mean that we have to agree. Art sets new agendas, gives us pleasure, but even provokes sentiments and conflicts. At Freemuse it has never been a goal just to register censorship, violations and conflicts. One of our main goals has been to analyse and understand the background to conflicts over artistic expressions. Our websites offer thousands of pages of documentation, several reports and analytical material.

Last year we introduced ‘INSIGHT’ – a series of articles providing our readers with analytical stories about controversies and conflicts over art. We have now put 14 of these articles together in a compilation, ‘Targeting the Arts’.

Edited by Marie Korpe, co-founder and former Executive Director of Freemuse, it covers 11 countries and topics as diverse as Syrian art in the diaspora, punk music and Shari’a in Indonesia, art under threat in Sweden and Russia and the challenges of promoting co-existence through art in Paris and the use of the N-word in arts.

We invite you to read, reflect and redistribute.

Yours sincerely
Ole Reitov




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