In an open letter to the European Commission a group of civil society organisations, including Freemuse, Culture Action Europe, Artists at Risk and Humanists International, has pointed out that whilst the EU Road map for its European Democracy Action Plan recognises the importance of media freedom for democratic and value-based societies to function, there is no self-standing mention of artistic freedom. This, despite the fact that, together with the free development of education in the arts, it is under increasing attack in continental Europe.
Artistic freedom is protected under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees freedom of expression to all individuals. Artistic Freedom is also protected by the right to science and culture, as articulated in Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,
In its 2020 Report on the State of Artistic Freedom in Europe, Freemuse highlights how, across Europe, in countries such as Spain, Russia, Belarus, and the United Kingdom, States have relied on on provisions within counter-terrorism laws, laws intended to prevent the hurting of religious sentiments and laws criminalising defamation, to suppress artistic expression.
As observed in the letter, “[l]ike journalists, artists are facing increasing hostility and their expression is met with similar illegitimate restrictions by governments attempting to control the narrative and fearful of art’s influence on public opinion and debate. Artists whose work is critical of policies and ideologies pursued by ruling parties, are being censored, prosecuted and forced into self-censorship and their access to public funding restricted.”
As part of the European Democracy Action Plan (EDAP), the letter urges the EU to:
Humanists International’s Director of Advocacy, Elizabeth O’Casey, commented:
“Artistic freedom is one of the hallmarks of a free and progressive society. The arts give contours to what it is to be human, and they dignify the human experience by giving voice to thoughts and emotions.
Artistic Freedom is also a fundamental right: an integral component of freedom of expression as well as a fundamental aspect of cultural rights.
It is therefore essential the European Union recognises this by giving Free Artistic Expression more weight in its action plan on democracy and by developing instruments to protect artists during a time of increasing threat against them”
Top image credit: Belarus Free Theatre, @BFreeTheatre on Twitter