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Artistic Freedom in the Global Landscape

In its May 2023 report on ‘Defending Creative Voices: Artists in Emergencies, Learning from the Safety of Journalists’, UNESCO called for more protection for artists under attack.

The new study from ifa – Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen “The Fragile Triangle of Artistic Freedom: A Study of the Documentation and Monitoring of Artistic Freedom in the Global Landscape” by Ole Reitov and Sara Whyatt explores the current status of artistic freedom monitoring and documentation systems. It identifies gaps in the promotion and protection of artistic freedom, including what is needed to address them, and points to a number of positive developments as well as negative trends.  Unlike media protection organisations, which receive verified documentation on attacks on media professionals from professional unions as well as individuals from all over the world, the CSOs documenting artistic freedom violations rarely receive any information from organisations representing artists. Added to this are the ‘under-the-radar’ examples of self-censorship by artists, curators, librarians, galleries, film distributors and producers, and others working across the cultural value chain.

Download the full study


Russia (update): Pre-trial Detention of Yevgenia Berkovich and Svetlana Petriychuk Extended for a Further Six Months

Yevgenia Berkovich and Svetlana Petriychuk were arrested one year ago and have been accused of “justifying terrorism” in their award-winning play “Finist, the Brave Falcon”.  (See ACAR post 1). Without a trial having taken place so far, the pre-trial detention has since been extended several times (2,3); on 10 May again by 6 months until 22 October 2024. In April, both were placed on a list of alleged “terrorists and extremists” by the authorities in Moscow.  Berkovich is the mother of two underage children and had already been sentenced to eleven days in prison in 2022 for a protest action against the Russian war in Ukraine.

Source: Die PresseMoscow Times

2023 Annual Report on Humans Rights in Iran

The Annual Report, issued by the Human Rights Activists in Iran network (HRAI), counts in the field of cultural rights violations a 114% increase in citizen arrests compared to the previous year.  17 reports have been recorded. They included the arrest of 15 individuals and 10 cases of employment prohibition. 4 individuals were sentenced to 24 months of suspended imprisonment, with 12 months of these sentences issued by appellate courts. The highest number of violations in this category occurred in August and September.

In the category of freedom of thought and expression, reports of citizen arrests increased by 86%, and the issuance of prison sentences by the judiciary increased by 68% compared to the previous year.

The report has grown to 20 chapters on different fields of human rights, such as ethnic and religious rights, education, work and trade unions, children, women, gender, and sexual minorities. Additionally, the cases are arranged by months and regions.

Source: HRANA

Germany: Scholarship for Artists and Cultural Actors at Risk

The Martin Roth-Initiative supports worldwide artists and cultural actors at risk by providing financial support for temporary relocation to Germany or within their region of origin. Until 15/04/2024, artists and cultural actors at risk can apply together with Germany based non-profit host organisations for safe and creative residencies in Germany of up to 15 months.

The sholarships are channelled through designated host organisations. An application can only be made in tandem by an artist or cultural actor with a host organisation. Host organisations can be cultural institutions or collectives in Germany (e.g. museums, theatres, festivals etc.) and other relevant organisations. They host scholarship holders and provide support for their personal wellbeing and professional development. Direct grants without a host organisation are excluded. Only one application per host organisation can be accepted.

Application deadline: 15/04/2024, 23:59 Berlin time/CEST
Start of scholarship from 01/09/2024 onwards

Application website  for artists and host organisations

Supporting Artists on the Frontline

In March 2023, at the Salzburg Global Seminar session “On the Front Lines: Artists at Risk, Artists who Risk”, a global assembly of fifty artists, activists, and representatives from supporting organizations spanning forty countries united to create the Salzburg Statement on Supporting Artists on the Front Line. The session explored the intersection of contemporary art, activism, politics, law, research, technology, ethics and organizing.  The final statement urges institutions shaping social and cultural policies to create an enabling, human rights-based environment that supports artists at risk.
By the end of 2025, policymakers, funders, and international organizations are called upon to:

  1. Conduct a comprehensive study of factors inhibiting creative workers’ artistic freedom and cultural rights.
  2. Produce a detailed report on best practices for identifying, evaluating, and addressing the needs of creative workers at risk.
  3. Establish legal frameworks for Emergency Artistic Freedom visas, ensuring entry and work authorizations for creative workers at risk.
  4. Allocate resources to support the relocation and professional development of at-risk creative workers.
  5. Integrate artistic and cultural rights into international policy work, prioritizing them in state and human rights NGO agendas.
  6. Recognize artists as essential partners in addressing sustainable development, democracy, and innovation, prioritizing their collective expression and activities in the human rights field.

Sources:  Meeting report (PDF), The Salzburg Statement (PDF)

Iran: Germany Refuses Visa to Actress Soheila Golestani

Director and actress Soheila Golestani was imprisoned and banned from working in Iran for her public performance on the web about her refusal to wear a head covering in public (November 2022).
One year later, she was invited to the festival “Three Days to Liberation” by the Volksbühne Berlin for a preview screening of scenes from her film “There Were Three of Us” and her VR installation about flight and migration “If You Go Away”. Her visa application was rejected by the German embassy in Tehran and only approved two days after the end of the festival following an intervention by the German Foreign Office.

Sources: Volksbühne Berlin, Instagram, VOA