Censorship in Europe?

39% of cases in Music

On 21 January, 2020, Freemuse presented its report Security, Creativity, Tolerance and their Co-existence: The New European Agenda on Freedom of Artistic Expression at the European Parliament. The event was co-organised by Culture Action Europe and hosted by MEPs Domènec Ruiz Devesa and Julie Ward.

In line with first of the IMC’s 5 Music Rights “The right for all children and adults to express themselves musically in all freedom”, the EMC would like to strengthen this right again and calls on European decision makers to ensure that musical and artistic expression is guaranteed across Europe and beyond. Freedom of musical and artistic expression is key to a culturally diverse, open, democratic and free Europe.

While we may wish to think that all European societies are open and free, reality paints a different picture. According to the Freemuse report, the situation of artistic freedom in Europe is critical. In 72% of the 380 cases, government authorities are responsible for violations and the art form censored the most is music with 39% of the cases.

In addition to concrete censorship, diverse European governments are replacing key figures of artistic institutions with politically aligned personnel. Recent media laws endanger diversity and media plurality as anti-terror legislation is misused to silence disfavoured voices. There is also another form to silence: to simply cut funding for areas of the arts seen to be critical, or simply to cut funding support so much that a striving artistic scene will suffocate. We can also see that officials start to give in to populist attacks, instead of protecting and promoting artistic freedom. Authoritarian methods of governance suppress elementary civil rights, also in the field of culture and music.

Music and Culture are bearers of identities and reflect the social fabric of our societies. It is this role that makes music and culture vulnerable, because they are easy to attack and become targets for symbolic politics.

The different mechanisms revealed in the Freemuse report are depicted in chapter 4 “Challenges to artistic freedom in Europe”:

• Anti-terrorism legislation used to silence dissent.

• Religious values overriding artistic freedom.

• Insult to the state and its symbols.

• Undue government influence on museums and arts institutions.

• LGBTI artists and artworks targeted.

The EMC strongly welcomes Freemuse’s recommendations to all governments, European Union bodies, the Council of Europe and the United Nations. The EMC will continue to engage in the topic as described in the recommendations to civil society organisations.

Ian Smith, President of the European Music Council: “We must use all possible means to counter anti-democratic thinking in Europe to ensure the freedom of artistic and musical expression. Populist politics must not be allowed to silence the voice of art throughout Europe. Culture and the arts must be protected from being misused purely for political gain. Europe’s core strength is its cultural diversity which must be safeguarded in all European countries and beyond.”

Celebrate Music Freedom Day on 3 March 2020

• Want to engage for musicians, please read this plea from SafeMuseHavens and the Finnish Music Council