Violations on artistic freedom of expression in 2013 – By Arts Freedom


Freemuse monitored and documented violations on artistic freedom of expression on in 2013. The compilation presents a glimpse of repression of artistic freedom worldwide in 2013 and includes cases from 48 countries across the fields of dance, film, music, theatre, visual arts and literature (journalists not included) as they were documented on

The statistics present an overview of the situation for artists worldwide who were:

– Killed
– Imprisoned
– Detained
– Prosecuted
– Abducted
– Attacked
– Threatened/persecuted
– Censored

A total number of 199 cases of attacks on artists and violations of their rights have been registered. The cases include 19 artists being killed, 27 newly imprisoned, 9 imprisoned in previous years but still serving time, 8 abducted, 3 attacked, 13 threatened or persecuted, 28 prosecuted, 19 detained, as well as 73 cases of censorship.

» Artsfreedom Newsletter no. 2: Reflections over the statistics

The statistics are based on reports published on in 2013 and include incidents taking place during 2013. They are not a complete survey and do not give full picture of the situation globally; they only represent the tip of the iceberg. Many artistic freedom violations are never made publicly known – whether they include the thousands of artists – not least musicians – who experience daily threats from fundamentalists in Northern Mali, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan or are victimised by the internal conflicts of Syria or Sudan.

Neither does the statistics necessarily include all cases presented by PEN international Writers in Prison committee which has produced an extensive case list and statistics concerning violations committed against writers as well as journalists.


The following principles of statistical registration have been used:

If an artist is threatened and attacked while abducted the case is only listed as “abducted” in the statistics. If an artist is detained, prosecuted and then consequently imprisoned for the same incident the violation is only listed as “imprisoned”. E.g. when the Danish poet Yahya Hassan received death threats for his poems collection and later was physically attacked the series of events is only listed as one incident under the “attacked” category.

“Attacked” refers to an artist being physically attacked.

Imprisoned artists are divided in two categories. Artists who were sent to prison in 2013 are listed in the category “newly imprisoned”. Artists who were imprisoned before 2013, but who remained in prison during 2013 are registered in the statistic category “still imprisoned“.

The “censored” category contains various kinds of incidents such as concerts being stopped and fans arrested, films, books and music being censored and banned and works of arts being removed from exhibitions.

Iran: Signals of growing musical freedom of expression – By Freemuse


With women singing on stage and a playlist of Western pop songs sung in English during performances of ‘The Last Days of March’ in Tehran, Iranian musicians are breaking new ground, reported Scott Peterson for Christian Science Monitor.

Musicians and actors say that Iran’s culture space has opened up noticeably under the centrist President Hassan Rouhani, who was elected last year. The article by Scott Peterson highlights a number of new developments in the country. For example:

“Exhibit A is a groundbreaking show that just finished a 20-gig run in Tehran’s renowned Vahdat Hall. Redefining what is acceptable on stage, women sang solos; Western songs filled the playlist, from John Lennon to Frank Sinatra; and most lyrics were in English.

Audiences who crammed into the plush multi-story theater gasped at the spectacle, some singing quietly along as the lead female vocalist – wearing a maroon head scarf that fell to her waist – belted out Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black.”

“From the third night, ticket sales shot up. People were very surprised… we could have doubled the run,” says Behrooz Saffarian, the musical director.”

Iran begins to rock out
In 2008, Iran banned all pop music. But a recent female solo performance signals growing freedom in a country where heavy metal musicians have been told to stay seated on stage. Article by Scott Peterson

Photo above: Courtesy of Ehsan Neghabat