December 2018: Cuba’s Decree 349, Russian rappers and LGBT police

20 December 2018








Message from the Executive Director

As 2018 comes to a close, I’d like to thank you for your support and highlight some of the great things that have occurred in the past 12 months for Freemuse.

In March, we launched our flagship report, The State of Artistic Freedom, documenting 553 cases of artistic freedom violations in 78 countries during the 2017 calendar year. While these violations are just the tip of the iceberg, the report shows the scale and depth of challenges facing artists across the globe.

We took a closer look at the inequality, exclusion and harassment of women artists and audiences in our second publication of the year, Creativity Wronged: How women’s right to artistic freedom is denied and marginalised. In November, we launched the report at the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen with the support of KVINFO and Yildiz Akdogan, MP.

Our work has been shared far and wide this year through workshops, debates and presentations at numerous events including: RightsCon in Toronto; the European Forum on Music in Oslo; the Fundamental Rights Forum in Vienna; and WOMEX at the Canary Islands. Together with Culture Action Europe we also held a conference, Listen to the Silenced, on freedom of artistic expression at the European Parliament in Brussels.

Through our reports, international networks and Music Freedom Day—a global event every 3rd March—we have continued to connect with artists in all art forms throughout the year. This led to assisting more artists than ever through our public and private campaigns, actions and online petitions.

As our State of Artistic Freedom report found, one artist every week is prosecuted for their creative expression. So there is still a lot of work to be done to find concrete solutions to such violations of artistic freedom, but with your help we can continue to fight to defend everyone’s human right to creatively express themselves.

Once again, thank you all for your support and interest during the past year.

Srirak Plipat 
Freemuse Executive Director

Decree 349 comes into force in Cuba

Freemuse and Cadal call for urgent intervention from the international community to save free speech and cultural expression in Cuba.
Photo: #NO AL DECRETO 349 song / David D Omni YouTube


Cuba’s controversial Decree 349 officially came into effect on 7 December, but exactly how and when it will start being enforced are yet to be determined.

Cuban artists have protested the new decree that institutionalises censorship of independent art and culture since it was first published by the government in July. The decree establishes violations for artistic services that are not regulated and recognised by the official cultural institutions in Cuba.

Cuban police have arrested performance artist Tania Bruguera and several other Cuban artists over Decree 349 protests.
Tania Bruguera / Facebook


Cuban performance artist Tania Bruguera (pictured above) said Decree 349 will make independent art impossible.

“The Cuban government with Decree 349 is legalising censorship, saying that art must be created to suit their ethic and cultural values (which are not actually defined),” she said in the open letter to the director of Kochi Biennale on 10 December, announcing she would not participate in India’s largest contemporary art event “when the future of the arts and artists in Cuba is at risk”.

Bruguera was arrested four times in the first week of December for protesting the decree, her sister Deborah Bruguera told Freemuse. On 11 December Tania Bruguera filed a defamation lawsuit against the government of Cuba for allegedly damaging her and her family “psychologically, socially and professionally”.

Clampdown on Russian rappers

Photo: Husky by Igor Klepnev / Husky Music VK


Freemuse spoke to DR – Danmarks Radio this week about music censorship in Russia, after President Vladimir Putin said it was important “to lead and guide” rap music, which is based on “three pillars: sex, drugs and protest”.

In November, rapper Husky (pictured above) was jailed for 12 days for petty hooliganism and refusing a drug and alcohol examination, following an impromptu concert where he performed on the roof of a car. In the weeks leading up to his arrest, the rapper had numerous concerts cancelled after authorities claimed his lyrics call for cannibalism. Authorities also blocked Russian audiences from viewing his video for Judas on YouTube, which has more than 5 million views. 

Listen to DR’s Kulturen på P1’s 18 December episode here.

Egyptian actress faced legal action for wearing a revealing dress

Egyptian actress Rania Youssef could be jailed for five years if convicted of "inciting debauchery" with her revealing dress on the red carpet.
Photo: Rania Youssef at the Cairo International Film Festival / Ferkesh TV


Lawyers lodged a lawsuit against Egyptian actress Rania Youssef, accusing her of “public obscenity” and “inciting debauchery” for wearing a revealing dress at the Cairo International Film Festival on 29 November 2018.

In a statement, lawyers Amr Abdel Salam, Hamido Jameel Al-Prince and Wahid Al-Kilani said their legal action was “out of concern for public order and ethics and sensing the danger facing the Egyptian society as a result of that incident, committed by a popular public figure with an audience that will try to imitate them, which may lead to the spread of chaos and the violation of standards of values ​​and ethics.”

The trio dropped the lawsuit after Youssef publicly apologised.

Theatre students arrested and fined for LGBT artistic stunt in Belarus

Three student activists were arrested and fined for dressing as police officers with rainbow epaulettes in a performance about homophobia in Belarus.
‘Policeman Deconstruction’ performance in Minsk / The Ministry of Counterculture YouTube


Three of Belarus Free Theatre’s ‘Studio Fortinbras’ students were arrested and fined in December for “holding an unauthorised mass event” when they dressed as police officers with rainbow epaulettes for a public performance addressing homophobia.

“These arrests are completely disproportionate to the supposed offence and an indication of the Belarusian authorities’ determination to clamp down on freedom of speech and freedom of assembly,” Belarus Free Theatre said in a statement to Freemuse.

One of the students spent three nights in detention without food or water before being found guilty of staging an unauthorised mass event and fined the equivalent of 150 euros by a court in Minsk. The other two students, who had been in hiding, were arrested later, detained overnight and also found guilty of holding an unauthorised mass event and fined.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights turned 70 

On 10 December, Freemuse observed UN Human Rights Day and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by highlighting statistics from our newly released report Creativity Wronged: How women’s right to artistic freedom is denied and marginalised.

Women’s rights are still repeatedly denied and marginalised throughout the globe, despite 70 years of the milestone declaration on human rights.


Twelfth session of the Intergovernmental Committee; Create | 2030: UNESCO Paris
11-14 December 2018

Srirak spoke on behalf of civil society organisations to the 12th Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) of the 2005 Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions at UNESCO headquarters in Paris on 11 December 2018.

He called on the IGC to: 
1. Prioritise the safety of artists and audiences, as attacks on artists and artistic freedom continue to rise.
2. Urge state parties to use legal and policy measures to protect women, LGBTI and minority artists from attacks and violations of artistic freedom. 
3. Publicly recognise artists as human rights defenders and coordinate protection with existing international protection mechanisms.

Click here to see UNESCO’s film “What is artistic freedom to you?”, based on interviews made in Norway, Senegal and Indonesia, which was presented during a public debate on artistic freedom at Create | 2030.

STL Annual Conference
Oslo, 4 December 2018

Freemuse attended The Council of Religious and Life Stance Communities in Norway (STL) annual conference in Oslo, Norway.

UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights Professor Karima Bennoune gave the keynote speech, addressing the cultural rights approach to the universality of human rights and the close interrelationship between universality and cultural diversity.

Norwegian Minister of Culture Trine Skei Grande and Freemuse Executive Director Srirak Plipat then joined Professor Bennoune in a conversation on:

What can we do about restrictions on freedom of speech and participation for women within religions?

How can contribution of artistic and cultural initiatives create and develop right-respecting societies?

Safe Havens
Malmö, 5-7 December 2018

The Safe Havens 2018 conference in Malmö, Sweden, brought together artists, lawyers, activists, arts councils, culture departments, cultural organisations, artists’ residencies and artists-rights-defenders such as Artists at Risk, Freemuse, ICORN, PEN, Safemuse, Swisspeace, and others.

Freemuse presented its new report on women and artistic freedom, Creativity Wronged: How women’s right to artistic freedom is denied and marginalised, and a special briefing on the state of artistic freedom in Europe.

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