Today is Music Freedom Day, a Freemuse initiative to help promote awareness of violence against musicians after their recent annual report highlights a spike in attacks on artistic freedom, as Alexandra Petropoulos discovers
Last year proved to be a bad year for artistic freedom worldwide according to the latest annual report on artistic censorship. Freemuse, the international organisation that advocates for freedom of expression for musicians and composers, recently released its annual report on attacks on artistic freedom for 2015, which included several alarming statistics.
The year was marked by distressing increases in reported cases: there was a 98% increase in total number of registered cases; a 20% increase in cases of artists being killed, attacked, abducted, imprisoned and threatened and a whopping 224% increase in acts of censorship.
Despite the fact that Freemuse and its partners have improved their documentation methods, which can partially explain the increase in case from 2014, the numbers in the report are still only offered as a cautious estimate as many violations will go unreported ‘due to lack of awareness, registration, political will and reporting capacity.’
It is noted in the report that in addition to politically motivated attacks, there was a rise in religiously motivated attacks, marked by the November Bataclan attack in Paris, which killed 89 people. Freemuse makes it clear that ‘artistic freedom include the right to access cultural events free of fear or repression’, and there was a noted decline in museum, concert and theatre attendance after the Paris attack. It is, of course, impossible to measure a shock wave such as this on cultural events, but it is estimated that millions of people were prevented access to cultural experiences free from threat.
Other worrying figures included China, who registered 146 overall violations of artistic freedom and 20 of which were regarded as serious cases. The country has at least ten Tibetan musicians imprisoned or detained, and last year the country’s Ministry of Culture officially released a blacklist of 120 censored songs, which is mainly responsible for the rise in cases. Iran and Russia registered at second and third worst offenders with 16 and 15 serious cases respectively.
The most important finding of this report, for this journalist anyway, is that music ranked as the most attacked art form. Attacks on music and musicians accounted for 309 individual cases or 66% of total violations, proving music’s power to help people express hard truths that many do not want told.
Read the full report on the Freemuse site.