November 2017: Cartoonist detained over 60 days with no charge

23 November 2017

Cartoonist detained over 60 days with no charge

Freemuse, along with 17 other organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have sent an open letter to Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo calling for the release of artist Ramón Esono Ebalé, who has been detained for over 60 days without charge.

The cartoonist is known for his works that are directly critical of the president and his government. He left his country in 2011 for Paraguay where he could pursue his art without fear of censorship, but returned to Equatorial Guinea on 29 August to renew his passport. He was arrested on 16 September.

Artistic freedom curbed in Bangladesh 

The literary and artistic community in Bangladesh, including organisers of artistic festivals and filmmakers, face significant restrictions in exercising their right to freedom of expression, despite constitutional protections and Bangladesh’s obligations under international law, according to a new report by Freemuse, Drik, PEN International and PEN Bangladesh submitted to the UN Human Rights Council.

In connection with a workshop hosted by Freemuse and Drik in Dhaka earlier this year with local artists, journalists and human rights advocates, Freemuse and Drik also met with the Minister of Cultural Affairs Asaduzzaman Noor, who offered to set up an inter-ministerial meeting to address some of the challenges facing artists in Bangladesh.

The report was filed on 5 October 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.

News from our regional offices

Freemuse was proud to participate in two large events in Lagos, Nigeria: Felabration 2017 and the 19th Annual Lagos Book and Art Festival.

Felabration is an annual music and arts festival commemorating the life and times of Nigeria’s foremost musical icon and human rights activist: Fela Anikulakpo Kuti. Freemuse facilitated the performance of group Chicoco Sound Club, a collective of musicians and singers from around the world coordinated by Grammy Award-winning musician Mark LeVine. The festival took place on 13-14 October.

At the 19th Annual Lagos Book and Art Festival, held on 6-12 November, Freemuse’s partnership with the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) / Arterial Network Nigeria was officially announced at an event on 9 November. The partnership continues to strengthen the organisations’ commitment to ensuring that artistic freedom of expression is protected and enjoyed in Nigeria and other African nations. 

As part of the event, Freemuse held a session for the Nigerian media, arts and human rights activist communities on reporting violations of artistic freedom, highlighting the country’s rising trend of limiting people’s freedom of artistic expression. Editors and journalists at the event noted the rise, calling it an “urgent priority” for them. 

Moddi playing at Global, Copenhagen
Freemuse is proud to be a co-organiser of Norwegian singer Moddi’s concert at the Global venue in Copenhagen, Denmark. Moddi’s latest album “Unsongs” features his version of songs that have at one point been banned or censored.

One of the tracks is his stirring take of Pussy Riot’s “Punk Prayer”, the song the Russian group played in a Moscow cathedral in 2012 that landed three of the members in prison.

In 2016, Moddi was met with pressure when he wanted to perform the song at a festival in Norway with a Russian orchestra and was indirectly informed that members of the orchestra could face legal action back home if they played that song with him. 

Moddi will hit the stage at 21:00 on Saturday 25 November. 

Freemuse welcomes new staff
In November we welcomed Jasmina Lazović as our new Eastern Europe Regional Programme Officer based in Belgrade, Serbia. Jasmina is a human rights activist and has extensive experience in monitoring the implementation, as well as advocating for the improvement, of laws on human and minority rights throughout the region of former Yugoslavia. She is also frequently involved in organizing festivals that use arts and culture to raise awareness, and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.

Arts Freedom Watch

Vietnamese musician and activist Mai Khoi has once again been targeted by authorities, this time for protesting Donald Trump’s visit to Vietnam, and has been evicted from her home for a second time since returning to her home country in 2017. 

Popular and influential Uyghur singer Abdurehim Heyit has been detained and held without formal charge in China’s regional capital Urumchi since April 2017.
Syrian filmmaker Muhammad Bayazid was stabbed in Istanbul, Turkey, at a fundraising meeting for his upcoming movie “The Tunnel”, in which he depicts the “brutality of the Assad regime”.

Three Iranian poets have either disappeared or been arrested in the last several weeks:

  • Omid Aghdami has been missing since 5 October after he tweeted authorities searched his home;
  • Dr Sedigheh Vasmaghi was detained, and later released on bail, when she returned to Iran after living in exile in Sweden; and
  • Reza Ekvanyan was sentenced to three years in prison and 40 lashes for charges of “propaganda against the state” and “insulting the sacred”.
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