Freemuse raport The State of Artistic Freedom 2021: ‘pandemic intensifies oppression against artists’

Freemuse raport The State of Artistic Freedom 2021: ‘pandemic intensifies oppression against artists’

Freemuse’s The State of Artistic Freedom 2021 is an in-depth analysis of of 978 acts of violations of artistic freedom in 2020 in 89 countries.
Lotte Bosch

On February 25 Freemuse’s annual The State of Artistic Freedom report was launched. The new report documents an analysis of 978 acts of violations of artistic freedom in 2020 in 89 countries and online spaces. The analysis shows how the pandemic did not stop the oppression of artists’ voices. In fact, the number of violations is higher than the year before the pandemic.

The report was launched right after the opening of Re:Writing the Future Festival. This year’s digital edition of Re:Writing the Future is about artistic freedom, cultural resilience and international solidarity, connecting artists from around the world, the international cities of refuge network and cultural institutions in Berlin. One of the partners of the festival is Freemuse: an independent international non-governmental organisation from Denmark advocating for freedom of artistic expression and cultural diversity. The State of Artistic Freedom report is a key moment of the organisation’s activities.

It is unimaginable that the record high of prosecution and imprisonment of artists will happen to be in the year when artists and the culture sector have already suffered the loss of their livelihood
Dr Srirak Plipat, Freemuse Executive Director
Global trends

The report consists of three chapters in which all aspects of global artistic freedom are analysed. Besides giving an overview of the numbers, the report analyses the most important global trends. Naturally, the covid-measurements had an immediate impact on the enjoyment of cultural rights and freedom of artistic expression and creativity, for example the limitations of a digital artistic space. Furthermore, the pandemic resulted in a ‘disinfodemic’: authorities prosecuting artists for alleged spreading of ‘disinformation’ about the way governments handled the pandemic and the crises arising from it. Other global trends are racial and homophobic discrimination, targeting women’s artistic expression and gender inequality. The report also shows Freemuse’s concerns about the situation in specific countries, like Bangladesh, China, Kuwait and Russia.

Shocking numbers

The 978 acts of violations of artistic freedom includes abduction, threatening, destruction or damage of art works, travel bans and censorship. Moreover, 17 artists were killed, 82 were imprisoned and 133 detained. In 2020, 26% of all documented restrictions of artistic freedom took place in Europe, followed by 22% in North and South America, 19% in the Middle East and North Africa, 15% in Asia and Pacific, 9% in Africa and 9% online. 74% of all documented imprisonments of artists concerned criticising government policies and practices, with 44% of all imprisonments happening in the Middle East and North Africa. Politics was the main rationale of 71% of detentions of artists.

The livestream of the first day of the Re:Writing the Future festival is available to rewatch via YouTube.