UN: Global study on the right to artistic freedom

13 November 2012

The United Nations special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights has sent a questionnaire to all member states asking them to report on legislations and practices related to artistic freedom and censorship. Freemuse’s Programme Manager has been attached as a consultant for the world organization’s upcoming study and report on conditions and right to artistic freedom of expression.

“This is the first time such a comprehensive study is carried out. Unfortunately artists all over the world are trapped between political, religious, cultural and economic interests,” said Programme Manager Ole Reitov, who has written a background draft report to the UN office.

“It is not exactly an optimistic report. Too many artists have been killed, attacked or imprisoned in recent years. Censorship legislations in many countries are neither respecting international conventions nor providing any options for artists and cultural producers to appeal. The questionnaire request the UN member states to analyze their policies and legislations,” Ole Reitov explained.

Based on the background report as well as a forthcoming experts meeting and an open consultation in Geneva, the UN Special Rapporteur Ms. Farida Shaheed will submit her final report to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2013.
Key questions for democracy
“The issue of artistic freedom is crucial to any nation. It is not ‘just’ about the artists’ rights to express themselves freely, it is also a question of the rights of citizens to access artistic expressions and take part in cultural life – and thus one of the key issues for democracy,” said Mr. Ole Reitov:

“The protection of artistic expression is just as important for the development of democracy as the protection of media workers. It is frequently artists who – through music, visual arts or films – put the ‘needle in the eye’ and strike a chord with millions of people, some of them unable to read and with no access to express themselves.”

The core work of Freemuse continues to focus on the defence of musicians’ rights to free expression, but Freemuse has in the past two years, though networking and experience, collected a vast knowledge of repression of other artistic expressions as well.
First world conference and global network
In October 2012, Freemuse initiated and co-organised the world conference ‘All that is Banned is Desired’ which gave voice to artists from all fields, who have experienced censorship, persecution, imprisonment, threats and even abduction.

The website which was created for the world conference is already very substantial and includes highly informative feature articles and reports on violations of artistic freedom. Furthermore, in the past year Freemuse has played an essential role in creating a new global network of organisations defending artistic freedom – artsfex.
Click here to open Microsoft Word document
The UN questionnaire
Click here to open scanning of the letter in PDF
Letter about the UN consultation on 6 December 2012
Freemuse – 30 July 2012:
Freemuse: Grounds pass to the United Nations
The United Nations has granted a ‘Special consultative status’ to Freemuse


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