Harstad in Norway: First ever safe haven city for persecuted musicians

28 February 2013

On Thursday 14 February 2013 at the Nordic music industry conference by:Larm in Oslo, the Norwegian Musicians’ Union presented their new project SafeMuse – and the first ever ‘safe haven city’ within the field of music: Harstad.

Imagine that the police would come to the door of the artist and musicians after the concert in Oslo yesterday…

A number of musicians, artists and composers are experiencing this. Freedom of speech is not to be taken for granted — also not for musicians. The Pussy Riot case was an eye-opener for many. The current situation in Mali likewise. Persecution, imprisonment, torture and murder of musicians — because they are musicians and performing their music — is the reality for far too many. In 2011 the international organisation Freemuse documented more than 100 violations. Musicians and artists around the world are arrested, tortured, attacked and even killed due to their artistic activities.

40 safe cities for authors
Since the introduction of the idea of safe havens or cities of refuge for persecuted writers in the 1990s, this has become a worldwide scheme of 40 cities organised in the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN).

To date there has been no parallel scheme for safe music havens. In 2011, the Norwegian Musicians’ Union (MFO), in close cooperation with Freemuse, the World Forum on Music and Censorship, and professional organisations in the Nordic countries, took the first steps towards establishing a safe music haven scheme, because they felt there is a need for increasing awareness of these issues, to promote initiatives that strengthen the freedom of artistic expression and democracy building, and organise support for persecuted musicians world-wide.

MFO has now put a Safe Music Havens Initiative in place as a parallel to the safehaven-cities for authors. The first city has been identified, Harstad, which is ready to welcome a persecuted musician to a life where music creation and performance can be made in a secure environment where there is freedom of speech – in line with the UN Declaration of Human Rights. And thereby, in the bigger picture, contribute to increasing freedom of speech and democracy in exposed areas of the globe.

Harstad is a city of 23,000 citizens, situated 300 kilometres north of the polar circle.

SafeMUSE, the Safe Music Havens Initiative, has the ambition to establish an international scheme of safe music havens for persecuted artists, musicians and composers, initially in the Nordic countries.


“Music in itself is the expression of freedom.”

– Angelique Kidjo


• Deeyah – Artist and human rights activist, Fuuse
• Knut Reiersrud – Artist
• Ole Reitov – Programme manager, Freemuse, The World Forum on Music and Censorship
• Edvard Valberg – Artist, Honningbarna

• Jan Lothe Eriksen – Project manager, SafeMUSE / Norwegian Musicians’ Union

by:Larm is “Scandinavias new conference and networking arena for tech & change oriented people where technology and music interact”.

Seminar session details

Time: Thursday 14 February 2013 at 12:00 noon to13:00
Place: ‘Safety Pin’, Clarion Royal Christiania Hotel, Oslo

by:Larm home page:
SafeMUSE – Music in itself is the expression of freedom

Media coverage

Sveriges Radio, Kulturnytt – 13 February 2013:
‘Musiker får en första fristad i norska Harstad’
“Kulturnytt kan idag berätta vilken ort som blir den första i världen att ge en fristad åt förföljda musiker. Det blir Harstad i Nordnorge, 25 mil norr om Polcirkeln i höjd med Abisko.”

Listen to: Kulturnytt 20130213 18:07
Aftenposten – 13 February 2013:
‘Harstad blir friby for musikere’
“Forfulgte musikere kan få sitt første fristed i Harstad, som blir verdens aller første musikkfriby.”
NRK – 13 February 2013:
‘Harstad blir verdens første friby for musikere’
“Over hele verden blir musikere arrestert og tvunget til taushet. Nå blir Harstad verdens første friby for musikere og skal ta imot forfulgte artister.”
Harstad Tidende – 13 February 2013:
‘Harstad er første friby for musikere’
“Som den første by i verden har Harstad sagt seg villig til å være vertskap for musikere som er forfulgt i sine hjemland for sin kunst.” Af Ivar L. Paulsen.

Harstad Tidende, Papirutgaven, side 37 (PDF) – 6 April 2013:
Åpent møte om fribyen Harstad
“Hvilken forfulgt musiker som skal bosettes i Harstad holdes hemmelig, men hva er en friby for musikk? Og hvilke musikere trenger fribyopphold?”
Harstad Tidende – 9 April 2013:
Verdens første friby
“Sommeren 2013 kan en forfulgt musiker komme til Harstad for første gang.” Af Tore Skadal

More information

• About SafeMUSE — on MFO’s home page:
‘MFO’s Safe Music Havens Initiative’

• About Harstad — on Wikipedia, the open encyclopedia:

• About Troms County Council — on the council’s official homepage:



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