Campaigns and support to musicians

28 January 2015

Freemuse initiates and organises several campaigns and advocacy initiatives for musicians and composers at risk. Freemuse has also provided substantial support to persecuted and prosecuted artists.

Current Freemuse campaigns

Currently Freemuse (openly) campaigns for the release of the following artists. Other cases are under investigation or involve non-public actions.

Rajabian - Emadi - Rajabian
Yousef Emadi (left), Mehdi Rajabian and Hossein Rajabian (right)

Mehdi Rajabian along with his brother Hossein and filmmaker Yousef Emadi have been sentenced to three years in prison in Iran for their art and their business to produce, promote and spread music across Iran.

Freemuse and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran along with 14 other human rights and arts organisations call on the Iranian authorities to drop all charges against the two musicians and a filmmaker and release all imprisoned artists.

» Read more

El Dkano
El Dkano

On 28 January 2015, rapper El Dkano (real name: Maikel Oksobo) was sentenced to a year in prison in Havana. It is generally believed he was targeted for having used music to express his dissenting political opinions.

» Read more


China/Tibet: Freemuse is campaigning for the release of nine imprisoned Tibetan singers, and among other things has requested the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights to discuss the imprisonment of the nine singers with the Chinese government.

» Read more

El Haqed
Released after four
months in prison.
Court case still pending

Hoang Nhat Thong
Sentenced to six
years in prison


Most of the work Freemuse does for musicians is never publicised as it would further endanger artists already living under severe conditions.

Freemuse support includes:
– Publicising cases at and
– Organising campaigns for the release of prosecuted musicians and composers
– Alerting and briefing network partners and media on cases
– Advising musicians at risk
– Providing legal and financial assistance
– Conducting prison visits
– Verifying cases to lawyers and organisations involved in asylum cases and support for artists at risk
– Providing platforms for censored artists
– Linking censored artists to festivals and conferences
– Highlighting specific cases at events such as the annual Music Freedom Day, 3 March
– Advocating for safe cities/residencies for musicians at risk
– Advocating for artistic freedom of expression at UN and towards Freedom of Expression and Artists’ organisations
– Initiating a global network for artistic freedom –
– Presenting cases at international conferences and events
– Creating regional and local support networks for musicians at risk

Freemuse depends on financial support to conduct this work and consequently has to make priorities.


Previous Freemuse campaigns

Previous campaigns include the three year long campaign and support for Lapiro de Mbanga, the successful campaign for the release of Iranian singer Arya Aramnejad, and the nominations for international awards to Lapiro de Mbanga, Deeyah and Win Maw.

From 2012–2015, Freemuse campaigned for the release of Viet Khang from Vietnam. He was released on 13 december 2015 after four years in prison.

» Read more

AlShuaibi90x110In 2014-2015, Freemuse campaigned for the release of the Moroccan rapper Abdul Mou’men Al Shuaibi, who was imprisoned four months after having criticised Moroccan Police in a song. He was released in February 2015.

» Read more



Click to read more
Pussy Riot

Two members of the punk band
were each sentenced to two years
in prison.

Released: 23 December 2013
Click to read more
El Haked
Sentenced in May 2012 to one year in prison.
Released: January 2012
Click to read more
Iran / Germany:
Shahin Najafi
Sentenced to death in absentia by
religious authorities in Iran.



Read more about Lapiro de Mbanga
Lapiro de Mbanga
In prison 2008-2011.
Released: 8 April 2011.
Click to read more
Myanmar / Burma:
Wim Maw
In prison 2008-2012.
Released: 13 January 2012.
Read more about Tunc
Ferhat Tunç 

For several years Freemuse has
been following the continuous
harassments and court cases
against Ferhat Tunç in Turkey.

Click to read more
Arya Aramnejad

Arrested in December 2012 and
convicted to three months in prison.

Released: January 2013.



Click to read more about the Visa white paperFreemuse’s Visa Campaign

The Freemuse report ‘Visas / The Discordant Note’ – which was based on input from various European tour and festival organisers and their experiences with visa issuing offices outside Europe – was published in 2009 with various recommendations to these administrators of the visa systems. Since then, numerous reports and events have referred to the document. Read more…

• Freemuse Quick Guide: ‘Artist Visa Applications: Arguments for Success’


Articles and posts

about Freemuse’s campaigns


Freemuse campaign: Singer Arya Aramnejad released from prison
Iranian singer Arya Aramnejad, who was given 91 days prison sentence, is out prison. He was allegedly released due to international reactions.
29 January 2013
Iran: International artists support imprisoned Iranian musician
In a letter to the Iranian authorities, world renowned artists join Freemuse in a protest against the imprisonment of their Iranian colleague Arya Aramnejad
16 January 2013
Iran: Singer Arya Aramnejad once again in prison
Singer Arya Aramnejad is serving a 91 days prison sentence. Freemuse has once again protested to the Iranian authorities against the imprisonment of the Iranian singer
10 January 2013
Turkey: Ferhat Tunç’s prison sentence turned into speaking ban
A court turned Ferhat Tunç’s two years prison sentence for having promoted İbrahim Kaypakkaya into a three year ban on speaking about the same subject
20 December 2012
Cameroon: Petition for musicians
LabourStart has launched an online campaign in defense of the hundreds of members of the Musicians Union of Cameroon who were savagely attacked by police
22 November 2012
Freemuse sends appeal letter to president of Vietnam
Freemuse requests the attention of the President of Vietnam to the recent imprisonment of two songwriters who have been convicted for anti-state propaganda
05 November 2012
Russia: Pussy Riot member freed, two others to remain in prison
A Moscow appeals court freed one of the jailed Pussy Riot members, but upheld the two-year prison sentence for the two others
10 October 2012
Freemuse: Manu Chao supports Freemuse campaign
“Freedom of expression is important to anyone and we must fight for it. I am supporting the work of Freemuse and I’m here to help,” says singer Manu Chao
28 August 2012
Russia: Pussy Riot on everyone’s lips
Pussy Riot’s court case in Moscow placed musical freedom of expression high on the agenda of the Western media during July and August 2012
23 August 2012
Russia: Pussy Riot found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison
On 17 August a judge announced that the members of Pussy Riot are guilty, and that they “deeply insulted the faith of believers with their disrespectful criminal act”
17 August 2012
Russia: Prosecutor seeks three years sentence for members of Pussy Riot
On the seventh day of the legal proceedings, the prosecutor called for a three year prison sentence for the three members of the Pussy Riot punk collective
07 August 2012
Morocco: Rapper El Haked’s sentence upheld in Casablanca’s court of appeal
On 27 July 2012, the Casablanca court of appeal upheld the one year prison sentence given to the rapper El Haked in May for a song which is ‘detrimental to public servants’
01 August 2012
Russia: Freemuse calls for free and fair trial for Pussy Riot
Freemuse sends appeals to President Vladimir Putin calling for a fair and free trial for the three band members of Pussy Riot who are to remain in detention until January 2013
30 July 2012
Turkey: Ferhat Tunç sentenced to two years in prison
A court in the eastern province of Malatya sentenced the Kurdish singer on terrorism related charges due to his invocation during a speech he held in 2011
27 June 2012
Russia: Detention of Pussy Riot members extended again
On 20 June 2012, a court ruled to keep three detained band members of Pussy Riot in prison until 24 July while the police probe continues
25 June 2012
Morocco: Call for solidarity with Mouad Belghouat, known as El Haked
This letter was sent by Freemuse as a call for solidarity from artists performing at the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music 2012 in Morocco
09 June 2012
Morocco: One year prison sentence for rapper who criticized police
The sentencing of rapper El Haked on 11 May 2012 to one year in prison for “insulting the police” shows continuing intolerance for those who criticize state institutions
12 May 2012
Iran: Death sentence against Iranian rapper in Germany
A cleric issued a death sentence against Iranian rapper and rock guitarist Shahin Najafi for having produced a song which is believed to be offensive to Imam Naqi
10 May 2012
Iran: Singer Arya Aramnejad prosecuted for his songs
28-year-old Iranian singer Arya Aramnejad, who was recently released after his second term in prison, has been informed he has been given a one-year prison sentence
23 April 2012
Morocco: Drop charges against detained rapper
Repressive speech laws enforced despite rights-friendly constitution. Statement and report by Human Rights Watch concerning the imprisoned rapper El Haked
18 April 2012
Morocco: Rapper El Haked arrested again
24-year-old rapper Mouad Belghouat, the Moroccan rapper known as Lhaked or El Haked, was arrested again because of one of his songs
13 April 2012
Myanmar/Burma: Aung San Suu Kyi congratulates Freedom to Create Prize winner
A specially recorded congratulatory message for Win Maw from Burma’s pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi
20 November 2011
Myanmar/Burma: Win Maw receives Freedom to Create Imprisoned Artist Prize
Burma’s famous musician and human rights activist Win Maw received the 2011 Freedom to Create Imprisoned Artist Prize in absentia
19 November 2011
Myanmar/Burma: Awareness concert and award nomination for imprisoned singer
Concert event on 26 November 2011 in Thailand for Win Maw, imprisoned in Burma since 2008, and now shortlisted for the Freedom to Create Prize
16 November 2011
Turkey: Campaign for Kurdish singer and activist Gazin (Raziye Kızıl)
A petition addressed to the Turkish Prime Minister to free Gazin who was sentenced to one year in prison for having sung two Kurdish songs
26 October 2011
US visa issues: Two orchestras forced to cancel their concerts
An American festival had to cancel two shows and two workshops by international artists due to visa problems and alleged embassy discrimination
26 September 2011
UK: Public letter calls for a new visa system for leading performers
A campaign to remove short-term visiting artists from the unnecessary bureaucracy nears a policy breakthrough, according to its campaigners
01 August 2011
Cameroon: Lapiro back in court
Singer Lapiro de Mbanga has filed a case against the Chief Medical Officer of the Douala Central Prison for having denied him access to medical attention while in prison
20 June 2011
Singer and politician Ferhat Tunç receives violence threats
A gendarmerie commander reportedly ordered village guards to “break Ferhat Tunç’s legs” as Ferhat Tunç was starting a tour in villages in Cemisgezek/Dersim area
11 May 2011
Cameroon: First video interview after Lapiro’s release from prison
On 8 May 2011 Freemuse recorded singer Lapiro de Mbanga’s first video interview since he was released from prison in Douala on 8 April after three years imprisonment
08 May 2011
Freemuse campaign: Visa issues damage the music industry
European countries need to make visa and work permit procedures and the general access to the European market for artists more flexible, transparent and homogenous
04 May 2011
Cameroon: Singer Lapiro de Mbanga released from prison
Singer Lapiro de Mbanga was released from New Bell Prison in Douala on Friday 8 April 2011 at 2 pm after three years imprisonment under harsh conditions
08 April 2011
Cameroon: Lapiro appears at the Supreme Court
On Thursday 17 March 2011, the musician Lapiro de Mbanga was called to the Cameroon Supreme Court for what appeared to be superflous technicalities
24 March 2011
Cameroon: Freemuse visits Lapiro in prison
After years of international campaigning, Freemuse finally managed to have a personal meeting with Lapiro de Mbanga who has been imprisoned in Cameroon since 2008
17 March 2011
Cameroon: Lapiro receives award on Music Freedom Day
On Music Freedom Day, 3 March 2011, Freemuse visited Cameroon and handed over a much awaited award to the imprisoned singer Lapiro de Mbanga
09 March 2011
Myanmar/Burma: New Win Maw songs smuggled out of Burma
The singer and human rights activist Win Maw continues his struggle for freedom of expression from the prison. Freemuse received three new songs from him.
16 February 2011
Turkey: Ferhat Tunç receives 25 days prison sentence
The Kurdish-Turkish singer Ferhat Tunç was sentenced to 25 days in prison for a speech he made during a concert in 2006
27 January 2011
Turkey: Supreme Court re-opens case against Ferhat Tunç
Going to court is becoming a repeatative nightmare for the Kurdish singer Ferhat Tunç
04 January 2011
Turkey: Ferhat Tunc acquitted and immediately charged again
One day after the court in Diyabarkir acquitted Ferhat Tunç the Istanbul police turned up at his home today to inform the singer that he will be charged in two new cases
05 November 2010
Turkey: Ferhat Tunç acquitted
Freemuse Award winner, Ferhat Tunç was acquitted this morning from the Diyarbarkir Criminal Court in Turkey
04 November 2010
Cameroon: Lapiro – behind bars in Cameroon, behind a mic in Brooklyn
Singer Lapiro de Mbanga joins by phone from jail in Cameroon as U.S. Afro-pop band performs his banned song live in New York
28 October 2010
Cameroon: Interview with singer Lapiro de Mbanga in ‘Smashed Hits 2.0’
In ‘Smashed Hits 2.0’, Cameroonian singer Lapiro de Mbanga gives an exclusive interview to Daniel Brown from prison on protest, politics and the art of satire
25 October 2010
Artist Visa Applications: Arguments for Success – a Quick Guide
A few references that you can mention when you argue for smooth visa handling while dealing with visa issuing offices and embassies
20 October 2010
Cameroon: Musicians are silent after Lapiro’s imprisonment
The fact that Lapiro is in prison for his music has discouraged other artists in the country to create any kind of innovative projects or critical song lyrics
20 October 2010
Cameroon: Lapiro fires back at Minister of Communication
Lapiro de Mbanga, imprisoned since 2008 retaliates at Minister of Communication who on 30 July 2010 announced that Cameroon did not host any political prisoners
30 August 2010
Myanmar/Burma: Freemuse in joint campaign for imprisoned comedian
The Free Zarganar Campaign, which advocates for the release of Burmese comedian Zarganar, urges MEP’s to nominate him for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Price
25 August 2010
EU policy library refers to Freemuse Visa White Paper
The Freemuse report ‘Visas / The Discordant Note’ has been included as an official research document in the EU Commission’s ‘Library of Policy Documents’
11 August 2010
Turkey: Date of next hearing set in Ferhat Tunç’s case
The date for the next hearing in the case against musician and Freemuse Award winner Ferhat Tunç has been set to 30 September 2010
04 August 2010
Cameroon: International Pen and Freemuse in joint appeal for Lapiro
African Human Rights bodies and monitoring systems are urged to act on behalf of Cameroonian singer Lapiro de Mbanga
30 June 2010
Freemuse appeals to Turkish Prime Minister: Dismiss Ferhat Tunç’s case
Artists, human rights activists and scholars join Freemuse in an appeal to the Turkish government for the dismissal of the latest court case against Kurdish singer Ferhat Tunç
24 June 2010
Cameroon/Denmark: Danish minister drawn into Lapiro de Mbanga’s case
Danish politicians demand investigation of financial support to company accused of inhuman working conditions and co-responsibility for the imprisonment of singer Lapiro
22 June 2010
Cameroon: Lapiro de Mbanga’s legal team files petition to United Nations
On 16 June 2010, the international legal team for singer Lapiro de Mbanga filed an urgent action petition with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
18 June 2010
Cameroon: United Nations secretary-general urged to speak up for Lapiro
Freedom Now, a US-based lawyers’ advocacy organisation urges secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, to request that President Biya releases Lapiro de Mbanga
09 June 2010
Cameroon: Maersk Group accused for involvement in case against Lapiro
A.P. Moller – Maersk Group, the worldwide conglomerate operating in around 130 countries, is accused for being partly responsible for the imprisonment of singer Lapiro
26 May 2010
Cameroon: International PEN releases new protest campaign for Lapiro
The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN has launched a new protest campaign for the continuing imprisonment of singer-songwriter Lapiro de Mbanga
28 April 2010
Cameroon: Lapiro de Mbanga honoured at Cameroon Music Awards
Organisers of the Cameroon music and cultural awards, Canal D’Or, have honoured jailed singer Lapiro de Mbanga with a Life Time Achievement Award
28 April 2010
Cameroon / USA: American lawyers prepare UN petition for Lapiro
Cameroon keeping Lapiro imprisoned is a violation of international law, argues a team of four lawyers from a US law firm
25 January 2010
Cameroon: Free-for-download album in support of Lapiro de Mbanga
Mondomix has launched a free-for-download album in support of the imprisoned cameroonian singer Lapiro de Mbanga
06 January 2010
Cameroon: Lapiro de Mbanga wins global award
Imprisoned musician Lapiro de Mbanga is the 2009 winner of the ‘Freedom to Create’ Imprisoned Artist Prize
25 November 2009
Cameroon: Lapiro shortlisted for global award
High profiled panel points at imprisoned musician Lapiro for the final shortlist of The Orient Global Freedom to Create Prize
26 October 2009
Help free Lapiro de Mbanga! Sign the petition
Freemuse in action
13 October 2009
Cameroon: International lawyers support imprisoned singer Lapiro
Freedom Now, a US based lawyers’ advocacy organisation, is now officially monitoring singer Lapiro de Mbanga’s case
07 October 2009
Cameroon: Lapiro is the one who has to pay for all
In this complicated case, there are problems of leadership, tribalism and politics. Lapiro de Mbanga’s case is a political persecution in disguise, writes journalist Jen Bell
09 July 2009
Cameroon: Interview with human rights advocate about Lapiro’s case
“This was an unfair trial. Now there must be lobbying actions,” said Dr Hilaire Kamga is president of NHRC, New Human Rights Cameroon, about Lapiro’s court case
03 July 2009
Cameroon: Interview with Lapiro de Mbanga
“This is the trial of the voiceless,” said singer Lapiro de Mbanga when he was interviewed just a few hours before a court hearing on 24 June 2009 in Douala, Cameroon
03 July 2009
Cameroon: Lapiro’s case taken to Supreme Court of Appeal
“We are full of hope”, said Lapiro de Mbanga’s lawyer, Me Augustin Mbami, in an interview about which procedures are to be undertaken next, after losing the Appeal Court
02 July 2009
Cameroon: Singer Lapiro de Mbanga loses appeal court
Cameroon power system strikes back at the popular singer Lapiro de Mbanga. It seems obvious that he has not got a fair trial, says Freemuse programme officer
25 June 2009
Cameroon: New verdict, same prison sentence to Lapiro
Lapiro de Mbanga’s sentence of three years imprisonment and the fine of FCFA 280 millions was confirmed at a court hearing on 24 June 2009 in Douala, reported Jen Bell
25 June 2009
Protest petition: African artist’s tour cancelled due to blocked visas
A petition ‘against EU visa discrimination of musicians’ was started after the European tour of Zimbabwean Mokoomba was forced to be cancelled
17 June 2009
UK: New visa rules threaten dozens of concerts and festivals
A report reveals that more than 20 major arts events have been cancelled or badly affected by new UK visa regulations
17 June 2009


UK: Visa system forces Russian ballet company to cancel shows
A Russian ballet company has been forced to cancel its 2009 programme after failing to obtain UK visas for its dancers in time
17 June 2009
Visa report highlighted but serious problems remain
While visa issues continue to create controversy, the Freemuse white paper ‘Visa / the discordant note’ plays an essential role in various international fora
17 June 2009
Cameroun: Musician Lapiro de Mbanga faces new trial
Musician Lapiro de Mbanga faces a new trial on 20 March 2009 because of accusations that a song of his led to the destruction of a banana plantation
11 February 2009
Sweden: Minister of Migration welcomes visa white paper
“The ‘white paper’ points its fingers at very essential problems,” said Tobias Billström, the Swedish Minister of Migration, in a live radio programme
21 January 2009
Cameroun: Campaign for release of Lapiro
Vigier, the company that has supplied the singer Lapiro de Mbanga with a guitar, launches a new campaign for the release of the Cameroonese musician
17 December 2008
White paper launched at Womex: ‘Visa issues – the discordant note’
White paper on visa issues launched at an international music trade fair: ‘European countries need to make visa procedures more flexible, transparent and homogenous’
31 October 2008
Cameroun: Appeal for songwriter detained for his lyrics
International Pen Writers in Prison Committee sent this appeal on 7 august 2008 protesting the arrest and four-month detention of singer-songwriter Lapiro de Mbanga
07 August 2008
Campaign: Urge for immediate release of Burmese musician
Freemuse joins campaign supporting Win Maw, arrested on 27 November 2007. His arrest is thought to be part of the wider crackdown on pro-democracy activists.
25 April 2008
Campaign: Urge for immediate release of Cameroonian musicians
Freemuse joins campaign supporting the two musicians arrested in Cameroun
25 April 2008
Campaign: Urge for immediate release of Tibetan singer
Freemuse joins campaign supporting the Tibetanian singer and song-writer arrested by Chinese authorities
25 April 2008
Freemuse campaign: ‘Safe cities’ should include all artists
Freemuse initiates a campaign for inclusion of musicians and other artists in the Danish ‘safe cities’ system
10 January 2008
Freemuse campaign: Visa issues kill music
In collaboration with international artists organisations Freemuse launches an investigation of visa and work permit procedures in order to influence policy makers
26 November 2007
Ferhat Tunç campaign 2007
International campaign in support of musician on trial for remarks on Kurdish issue. Freemuse request the Turkish State to drop its case against singer Ferhat Tunç
02 October 2007
Freemuse Press Statement: Drop the cases against Ferhat Tunç
Freemuse Press Statement requesting immediate dismissal of all cases against Mr. Ferhat Tunç
01 October 2007
Statement against the use of music as torture
Freemuse supports the Position Statement on Torture adopted by the British Society for Ethnomusicology
11 June 2007
Bahrain: Freemuse declaration read aloud
A request to Bahranian politicians in response to fundamentalist attacks on culture festival
18 April 2007
Declaration demanding abolishment of Turkey’s Article 301
29 non-governmental organisations have released a joint declaration demanding abolishment of Article 301 of Turkish Penal Code and other articles violating freedom of expression
12 February 2007
Ferhat Tunç campaign 2005
International campaign: Freemuse and musicians world-wide request the Turkish State to drop its case against singer Ferhat Tunç
06 December 2005
The case of Gorki Luis Águila Carrasco
The controversial Cuban rock artist Gorki Luis Águila Carrasco who was sentenced to four years imprisonment in 2003, was released 16 March 2005.
17 March 2005

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