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Updated: Live industry reacts to Catalan leaders’ arrests

The team behind Barcelona festival Primavera Sound is among those to have released a statement in support of “the free exercise of democracy”, following the arrest of nine leaders of the 2017 Catalan independence movement.

“In the face of the guilty verdict from the Spanish Supreme Court against the Catalan politicians and activists, Primavera Sound manifests its unconditional support to the free exercise of democracy and of dialogue to reach an understanding to resolve political conflicts,” reads the statement from the Primavera team, which also runs events in Portugal and Los Angeles.

“The criminalisation of peaceful movements and civil demonstrations sets a dangerous precedent for everybody.”

The statement follows yesterday’s (14 October) sentencing of nine politicians and activists to 9 – 13 years in prison for “sedition” and “misuse of public funds”. A further three defendants were found guilty of “disobedience” and released on bail.

The individuals on trial organised the Catalan independence referendum in 2017 and declared independence of Catalonia, a semi-autonomous region in northeast Spain, from the rest of the country. The referendum and ruling were later declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court.

“From the team of people that make up Primavera Sound,” continues the statement, “we want to show our empathy and support to all those condemned and to their families at this time. And, as always, we call for debate and serene, civil and peaceful expression.”

The organisers of Festival Cruilla, which also takes place at Primavera Sound home Parc del Forum, shared an image with the Catalan words: La presó no es la solució – imprisonment is not a solution, in English.

“The criminalisation of peaceful movements and civil demonstrations sets a dangerous precedent for everybody”

The Catalan association of agents, promoters and managers (Associació de Representants, Promotors i Mànagers de Catalunya) has also spoken out against the arrests.

“As a representative body of the live music sector, the ARC Association expresses its rejection of the Supreme Court’s condemning sentence against the Catalan social and political leaders,” reads a statement on the association’s Twitter page.

Catalan venues and cultural centres have also showed their solidarity with the jailed leaders, with the Barcelona Centre of Contemporary Culture, La Nau Bòstik and Sala Flyhard among those to close their doors in protest.

Barcelona opera house el Gran Teatre del Liceu issued a statement to saying, “we defend political dialogue as the only pathway for the urgent resolution of this conflict.” Programming is continuing as normal as the opera house, which serves as “an open space for freedom of expression”.

Another figure of the classical music scene, the Catalan choral society (Orfeó Català), weighed in to say that the sentencing “worsens the situation in the country and leaves the conflict further from being resolved”.

A whole host of Catalan artists have also expressed support for the leaders, including pop group El Amics de les Arts, folk band Els Catarres, reggae group Oques Grasses, guitarist Mazoni and singers Sílvia Pérez Cruz, Núria Graham, Cesk Freixas and Gerard Quintana.


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“Better each year”: success for Roskilde 2019

Denmark’s Roskilde festival had its 49th outing this weekend, selling out all tickets and featuring headline performances from Bob Dylan and Cardi B. However, despite this commercial success, it appears that social activism remains at Roskilde’s core.

“It was a really fantastic year,” Roskilde chief executive Signe Lopdrup tells IQ. Aside from less than favourable weather, “there were no big issues at all.”

Organised by the Roskilde Festival Charity Society and working with 30,000 volunteers each year, the Danish festival has always had a humanitarian and social aim.

This focus was apparent this year through the announced partnership with Freemuse, an organisation defending freedom of artistic expression. The festival pledged 1.5DKK (£180,770) to Freemuse over three years to “help make the world safer for artistic expression”.

On stage, there was no shortage of artistic expression at Roskilde, which featured a “really strong” arts and activism programme, alongside a full music schedule.

“The programming came together very well this year,” says Lopdrup. “We always aim to give a voice to the youth in society and we managed to do that really successfully this year.”

The music programme also placed a special focus on young talent, despite a bill of headline acts such as the Cure, Robyn and Travis Scott, as well as Bob Dylan and Cardi B.

“One of our goals is to show fans something they haven’t seen before”

Presenting plenty of new acts is something Roskilde has worked on over the years, says Lopdrup, facilitated by a large, diverse line-up and “curious festivalgoers”.

“One of our goals is to show fans something they haven’t seen before,” explains the Roskilde chief.

Major breakthroughs for this year included the presence of “a lot of strong female artists”.

Rather than using quotas to ensure an equal representation of women, Roskilde focuses on “presenting strong and progressive female artists”, giving them slots that allow them to “make their mark and inspire others”.

Christine and the Queens, Rosalía, Jorja Smith and Janelle Monáe were among high-profile female acts on the bill at this year’s Roskilde.

Looking ahead to the festival’s 50th anniversary next year, Lopdrup prioritises a future-facing attitude over a celebration of the past.

“We are a youth-focused festival – the average age of attendee is 24 – and our goal is to engage with the younger generation and with the future. As a festival, we have a special responsibility to tackle important social and global issues and to continue looking ahead.”

Roskilde Festival 2020 will take place from 27 June to 4 July.


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Spain leads 2018 music censorship rankings

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.


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Artistic freedom under attack in 2016

There were 86 ‘serious violations’ of artistic freedom in music, including murders, abductions and imprisonments, worldwide in 2016, as the global industry came under attack from terror and state repression.

The alarming statistics come courtesy of Copenhagen-based NGO Freemuse, whose 2016 Art Under Threat report, released today, reveals the music industry was once again the target of more serious violations than any other artform (film, dance, literature, theatre, visual arts and mixed/misc.), and second only to film in ‘overall violations’, which also includes non-violent censorship.

Three people lost their lives in 2016 for musical activities: two musicians, Pakistani singer Amjad Sabri, who was killed by the Taliban, and Pascal Treasury Nshimirimana, shot by Burundian police, and a 15-year-old Iraqi boy, who was murdered by IS for listening to Western music.

In 2016, Freemuse registered 1,028 attacks – more than double 2015 – on artists in 78 countries, something the organisation says “continu[es] a worrying trend of artistic freedom increasingly coming under threat”.

Other music-industry casualties included those injured at a festival bombing in Ansbach, Germany, in July, Kurdish musician Kutsal Evcimen, who was sentenced to 11 months in prison for performing a song deemed insulting to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and K-pop artists and promoters, who faced an unofficial cultural boycott by the Chinese state.

The report also highlighted continued repression by Hany Shaker’s Musicians’ Syndicate in Egypt and its counterpart in Tunisia.

“With populists and nationalists on the rise globally, artists continue to play an important role in expressing alternative visions for society”

By country, Iran tops the list of the most serious violators, with 30 serious violations and nine incidences of censorship. As Freemuse notes, “artists are often charged with and sentenced for ‘insulting the sacred’, ‘propaganda against the state’ or ‘spreading depravity'” in a state where “music has landed in the middle of the battlefield between President Rouhani’s administration and the Supreme Leader [cleric Ali Khamenei] and his religious institutions, where permissions to hold concerts given by the Ministry of Culture are withdrawn by religious authorities.”

Behind Iran were, in order, Turkey, Egypt, Nigeria, China, Russia, Malaysia, Syria, Tanzania and Uzbekistan.

Commenting on its findings, Freemuse executive director Ole Reitov says: “Populists and nationalists, who often portray human rights as a limitation on what they claim is the will of the majority, are on the rise globally. As this phenomenon rises, artists continue to play an important role in expressing alternative visions for society.

“In 2016, artists were censored, tortured, jailed and even killed for their creative expressions. Claims of defending ‘traditional values’ or ‘the interest of the state’ were, in many cases, driving arguments behind the violations. […]

“With populist and nationalist leaders questioning the universality of human rights, now is the time to document violations and use those facts to defend and amplify threatened artistic voices.”


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