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A liberal democracy jailed more artists than authoritarian regimes in Iran, Turkey and Russia in 2018, according to Freemuse, which warns of a rise in artistic censorship
By Jon Chapple on 27 Mar 2019
No fewer than nine countries, including democracies like Spain and Tunisia, used anti-terrorism and/or anti-extremism legislation to stifle freedom of expression in 2018, according to Freemuse’s latest State of Artistic Freedom report.
The State of Artistic Freedom 2019: Whose Narratives Count? analyses 270 cases of violations of musicians’ artistic freedom in 55 countries in 2018. The Copenhagen-based NGO identifies key challenges for artists’ freedom of expression, as well as violation patterns and trends, and calls for accountability for these violations.
Artistic censorship was practiced in at least 60 countries in 2018, affecting 1,807 artists and artworks, both musical and non-musical.
While the most hostile places to be a musician were Nigeria, Russia and Turkey – with those three countries accounting for around a third of all documented violations – Spain led the pack for musicians imprisoned for political ends, jailing no fewer than 14 artists, beating Egypt and China (six each), Turkey (four), Iran (three) and Russia, Malawi and Tunisia (all one).
The fourteen Spanish artists – all leftist rappers – were charged with “glorifying terrorism” under Article 578 of the Spanish criminal code. They include Pablo Rivadulla (aka Pablo Hasél), Miguel Arenas Beltran (aka Valtònyc) and 12 members of the collective La Insurgencia, with Arenas and Rivadulla additionally charged with insulting the Spanish state and royal family. Rivadulla will spend two years in prison, and was also fined €24,300.
Globally, a total of two musicians were killed, 16 were prosecuted, 36 imprisoned, 24 detained, six attacked, 31 persecuted, 44 sanctioned/fined and 14 received threats or were harassed, according to Freemuse’s research.
“The State of Artistic Freedom documents a pervasive human rights scandal involving counter-terrorism laws being used to silence artists”
Other notable musical violations in 2018 include:
Freemuse executive director Srirak Plipat says the State of Artistic Freedom 2019 illustrates the use of counter-terrorism legislation as a “troubling and growing method” of censoring musicians and artists.
“Freedom of artistic expression has been systematically restricted on illegitimate grounds both in the global north and south at alarming levels,” says Plipat, commenting on the report’s findings.
“The State of Artistic Freedom 2019 documents a pervasive human-rights scandal involving counter-terrorism laws being used to silence artists who criticise governments or question societal mainstream values.
Read the State of Artistic Freedom 2019 report in full here.