UNESCO Warns of Rising Violations of Artistic Freedom and Calls for Strengthened Protections

KEY TAKEAWAYS
Rising violations of artistic freedom: The article highlights the increasing danger faced by artists, with over 1,200 violations of artistic freedom occurring in 2021. This includes censorship of artworks, attacks on artists, imprisonments, and even deaths.
Similar strategies as journalists' protection: UNESCO suggests implementing strategies used to protect journalists to safeguard artists. This includes robust monitoring of artistic freedom, recognizing artists as a vulnerable group, and providing support during emergency situations.
Collaborative programs for artists' safety: The report recommends establishing collaborative programs to ensure artists' safety, including assisting artists in exile, matching them with international residencies, and protecting artworks and cultural spaces. It also emphasizes the importance of training judicial actors to better support artists.
UNESCO's investment in artistic freedom: UNESCO has committed $1 million from the UNESCO-Aschberg Programme to fund projects worldwide, aiming to develop new laws and policies protecting artistic freedom. Governments, NGOs, and training programs will receive funding for this purpose.
Digital surveillance and censorship challenges: The article highlights the growing issue of digital surveillance and censorship, with online activity being a significant factor in arrests and prosecution of artists. Harassment and trolling of artists, particularly female artists, and vague social media guidelines contribute to censorship and self-censorship, disproportionately affecting artists challenging traditional views and marginalized groups.

 

In a recent publication, UNESCO highlights the increasing danger to artistic freedom as more artists face imprisonment and even death due to their work.

The report, titled “Defending Creative Voices,” reveals data from Freemuse, an NGO focused on artistic freedom.

Over 1,200 violations of artistic freedom occurred in 2021, including censure of artworks, attacks on artists themselves, 39 artists losing their lives, and 119 imprisoned.

Building on Strategies to Protect Journalists

UNESCO believes that similar strategies used to protect journalists should be implemented to protect artists.

It suggests robust monitoring of artistic freedom in crisis contexts, recognizing artists as a vulnerable group.

The report notes that the precarious nature of an artist’s life makes them even more vulnerable during emergency situations.

Collaborative Programs for Artists’ Safety

The publication recommends the establishment of collaborative programs to ensure artists’ safety, including assisting artists in exile, matching artists with international residencies, and protecting artworks and cultural spaces.

It also emphasizes the importance of training judicial actors to help artists, ultimately leading to better frameworks for creative and free speech.

UNESCO Invests $1 Million to Support Artistic Freedom

UNESCO has committed $1 million from the UNESCO-Aschberg Programme to fund projects worldwide.

Governments in Latin America and Africa will receive funding to develop new laws and policies that protect artistic freedom.

NGOs will also receive funding for training programs, advocacy, and research focused on violations of artistic freedom.

Over 1,200 violations of artistic freedom occurred in 2021, including censure of artworks, attacks on artists themselves, 39 artists losing their lives, and 119 imprisoned.

Digital Surveillance and Censorship

The UNESCO report highlights the growing issue of digital surveillance and censorship, with a 2021 Freemuse report finding that one in three cases of artists being arrested, prosecuted, and sentenced was due to online activity.

Harassment and trolling of artists, particularly female artists, is a growing problem that is challenging to address in a court setting.

Additionally, vague community guidelines on social media lead to censorship and self-censorship, disproportionately impacting artistic expression that challenges traditional views and work created by female and LGBTQ artists.

Recommendations for International Community

UNESCO’s report suggests several recommendations for the international community, including:

  • UN-wide monitoring of artistic freedom in emergency contexts, recognizing artists as a vulnerable group.
  • Collaborative support programs for artist safety and the protection of artworks and cultural spaces in emergency situations.
  • Tailored capacity building for judicial and legal actors to protect artists through investigations and prosecutions.

Recent Cases and Practical Measures

Recent cases have shown the importance of emergency practical measures, such as training on artistic freedom, temporary art residencies, temporary financial assistance for culture professionals, expedited issuance of visas, and prioritization of artists within evacuation and resettlement programs with specific attention to women creators.

Strengthening Legal Frameworks

To improve the resilience of artists in emergency contexts, the report recommends stronger legal frameworks and better legal recognition of the status of the artist.

Governments and civil society organizations in over 25 countries will benefit from technical and financial assistance to develop laws, regulations, or policies in favor of artistic freedom, decent work, and enhanced status for artists and culture professionals.

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