Art Under Threat: Attacks on artistic freedom in 2015

22 FEB 2016
By: 


Freemuse Annual Statistics on Censorship and Attacks on Artistic Freedom in 2015

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Artistic freedom is under extreme pressure in far too many countries. The Freemuse annual report summarises censorship and threats on artistic freedom in 2015 in over 70 countries.

In total, Freemuse registered 469 cases of censorship and attacks on artists and violations of their rights in 2015, making it our worst recorded year yet, nearly doubling the number of cases from 2014 with a 98% increase from the year previous, wherein 237 cases were registered.

While at the UN level there have been positive signs of larger attention being paid to the importance of protecting artistic freedom in 2015, sadly the year was dominated by a 20% increase in registered killings, attacks, abductions, imprisonments and threats, and a staggering 224% increase in acts of censorship.

2015 case break down

The disturbing increase can partially be explained by the fact that Freemuse and its collaborating partners have improved their documentation methods and strengthened their networks, as well as the fact that artistic freedom is an issue that is slowly gaining larger attention. However, that change is slow and artistic freedom violations continue to be under-reported in many countries due to lack of awareness, registration, political will and reporting capacity.

In 2015, China had 146 overall violations of artistic freedom. In the censorship category, China accounts for 126 cases. This large number of cases is explained by the fact that its government released a “blacklist” of 120 songs in August 2015. Freemuse considers each of those censored songs to be individual instances of censorship.

Excluding censorship, Freemuse notes that China tops the list with 20 registered serious violations, followed by Iran with 16, Russia with 15, and three countries tied in fourth place with 10 violations each: Burundi, Syria and Turkey.

Top 10 Serious ViolatorsClick image to enlarge

Freemuse focuses on music, visual arts, cinema/films (fictional), theatre (including performance art), literature (fiction) and dance. The statistics cover artists who were attacked, persecuted, killed, abducted, detained, prosecuted, imprisoned and censored within a calendar year. The statistics even cover attacks and censorship of artistic productions, venues and events. This is Freemuse’s fourth consecutive report on violations of artistic freedom.

The Freemuse statistics represent a cautious estimate as most violations are never reported. As an example there are no real statistics available on film censorship. The global film industry ignores its responsibility to register and report on films either being stopped by censors before production or films being censored for screenings. Further, it is virtually impossible to document cases of self-censorship when artists feel social or political pressures to either not artistically express themselves or compromise their expression by creating something they did not intend to avoid controversy or personal attack.


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