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Artistic Freedom Under Threat

Danish free speech advocacy group Freemuse has released its annual report, “Art Under Threat,” documenting the state of global artistic freedom in 2016. The report showed a sharp rise in attacks and censorship, with 1,028 violations of artistic freedom throughout 78 countries, up 119 percent from 2015.

Freemuse divides attacks on artistic freedom into “serious violations”—including killings, abductions, attacks, imprisonments, prosecutions and persecutions/threats—and acts of censorship. Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Nigeria, China, Malaysia, Syria, Tanzania, and Uzbekistan led in serious violations, while Ukraine, Kuwait, China, Egypt, India, Russia, Turkey, the U.S., Pakistan, and Iran accounted for the bulk of censorship cases.

The report reflects on the effects of rising populism and nationalism on artistic expression and cultural diplomacy. For instance, the Russia-Ukraine and India-Pakistan cases show how conflicts create hostilities against cultural exchange. 2016 also marked a startling increase in governments, specifically those of China and Turkey, attempting to censor and prosecute artists and art outside their own borders.

The full report is available for download here.

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