Freemuse co-founder Ole Reitov, in his keynote speech on 2 May 2017 at the World Press Freedom Day event in Jakarta called on UNESCO, the UN and parties to strengthen their mechanisms and commitment to protecting artists and ensuring the safe promotion of art, as guaranteed by the 2005 UNESCO Convention.
Attacks on artists continue to rise globally, as evidenced by Freemuse’s Art Under Threat annual research on artistic freedom violations, and yet plans and programmes to safeguard their right to create, publish and distribute without facing censorship, intimidation or personal safety are limited and weak.
“Today I call on donor countries to develop, together with UNESCO, support programmes for those artists and cultural industries that have suffered immensely from the intentional destruction of the living arts,” Reitov said. “I call for the parties to the 2005 UNESCO Convention to show, through action, that they live up to the two main principles of the convention: Promotion and protection.”
Reitov pointed out that while UNESCO drafted the UN Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, no such plan exists for artists, who work, create and communicate in very different ways.
“Journalists are articulate, well organized and their work for the protection of journalists has led to a number of international declarations and support programmes. This is not the case with artists,” Reitov explained. “Artists express themselves differently and in many countries they are poorly organized. There should be no distinction between the condemnation of attacks on journalists and artists.”
Thus, Freemuse calls for the current and forthcoming Director General of UNESCO to strongly condemn censorship, imprisonment and attacks on artists, and to draft a UN Plan of Action for the Safety of Artists and the Issue of Impunity.
Further Freemuse also calls on UNESCO to revamp its mechanism for filing human rights complaints needs to be strengthened, made more accessible and easy to use.
“It is time for UNESCO to modernize its complaints mechanism or Human Rights Procedure as this mechanism is officially called. It is non-transparent and needs to be modernized on the same lines as the complaints mechanisms linked to the UN Special Rapporteurs,” Reitov said.
Parties can also show their commitment to artists by joining Freemuse in calling on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to initiate investigations and to charge well-known and identifiable leaders for their intentional destruction of intangible culture.