GENEVA, May 31, 2013–Today the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights, Farida Shaheed, delivered a landmark report on artistic freedom and expression to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. Shaheed is the first Independent Expert on cultural rights appointed by the U.N. The U.S-based National Coalition Against Censorship lauded the report as an important milestone for international mobilizing in support of free artistic expression as a human right.
The report calls attention to a "growing worldwide concern that artistic voices have been or are being silenced by various means" and cites "political, religious, cultural or moral" motivations for the censorship, along with economic interests.
The report goes on to describe how artists can be targeted for repression for similar reasons as journalists and political dissidents, in that they engage a public audience with controversial themes drawing the ire of governments or hostile groups. But artists are specifically vulnerable to censorship veiled in the elimination of state support for the arts, or “market censorship” where de-facto monopolization through consolidation of media, arts and entertainment holdings can exclude voices.
The document outlines a robust set of recommendations for states and NGOs to protect artists and cultural expression, ranging from abolishing prior-censorship bodies to adjusting visa issuances to accommodate the specific needs of touring artists and their host organizations.
The report is accompanied by a side event to take place on Monday 3 June, from 2:30 to 5 pm, at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, on the right to freedom of artistic expression. Several artists will make presentations.
Recent attacks on artistic freedom (the banning of music in Mali, the Pussy Riot prosecution in Russia, and Ai WeiWei’s arrest in China, among others) have alerted the international human rights community to the urgency of the threats facing artistic freedom globally. In response arts and human rights organizations worldwide recently launched a new global network, Artsfex, to support and promote artistic freedom globally.