UNESCO: The Rise of Artistic Freedom Violations

UNESCO Published a Report Describing the Threat to Artists' Freedom of Expression, as Well as the Greater Number of Prison Sentences for Them.

May 10, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
The World Pres Freedom Day Conference, Jakarta 2017. Via UNESCO.


UNESCO’s newest report describes the bad situation in which artists all over the world find themselves, which is getting worse and worse. Freedom of expression was threatened. There are also more frequent arrests and even death. “Defending Creative Voices” is a title of the report, in collaboration with Freemuse NGO. Freemuse is a consultant for UNESCO and works on protecting the freedom of expression of artists.


UNESCO: 1200 Artists Faced Freedom Restrictions in 2021

Fans hold up a shirt with the name of Mahsa Amini. PHOTO MATTHIAS HANGST/GETTY IMAGES


Research data show 1,200 artists faced restrictions on their freedom during 2021. The circumstances vary: from censorship to attacks on artists and works of art. Also, 29 artists lost their lives, and 119 are in prison. The last few years saw an increase in conflicts in many countries: Ukraine, Iraq, Yemen… Tactics organizations once used to protect journalists, and now are using them to protect artists.


“The safety of journalists in emergencies has received significant attention over the past decades, resulting in the establishment of a strong body of international, regional and national law and policy in this field. Artists and cultural professionals lack the same opportunities and safety nets of protection, despite facing many of the same threats to their safety and livelihoods that journalists endure”, the report reads.


press freedom


The protection of artists will be implemented through constant monitoring of their activities, especially during crises. Also, it is important to determine in time when they become a vulnerable group. The report also lists what makes them vulnerable. That is a lack of steady employment or renumeration, a lack of insurance and pensions, and obstacles to collective negotiation.

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How to Protect Artists?

©UNESCO/Dmytro Kuyznietsov


The report also includes recommendations for the protection of artists. This includes the protection of artwork, cultural institutions, artists abroad and ones in exile. Journalists received help from qualified judicial operators. According to UNESCO, judicial actors would also benefit creatives, ultimately resulting in improved legal frameworks for expression and free thought.


UNESCO also created a $1 million endowment In Latin America and Africa, the mission is to introduce new policies to protect journalists. Also, funds will be delegated to non-governmental organizations for the purpose of organizing training and research on the freedom of artists.


©UNESCO/Dmytro Kuyznietsov


According to a Freemuse report from 2021, one out of every three cases of artists being detained, tried, and sentenced involved their online behavior. Digital spying is only a small portion of the issue. As well as the restriction and self-censorship that result from ambiguous community norms on social media, harassment and trolling of artists, particularly female artists, is a rising problem that is frequently challenging to address in a legal setting.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.