Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 15:14 GMT

UNHRC: Oral statement on the right to freedom of artistic expression

Publisher Article 19
Publication Date 3 June 2013
Cite as Article 19, UNHRC: Oral statement on the right to freedom of artistic expression, 3 June 2013, available at: [accessed 19 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

ARTICLE 19 welcomes the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights' report on the right to freedom of artistic expression and creativity, and supports the recommendations included.

Art is explicitly highlighted as a form of protected expression under international law and interference in the right to freedom of artistic expression deserves more focused attention and action by the Human Rights Council.

Artists and cultural workers have become victim to growing intolerance and been subjected to imprisonment, harassment, violence and censorship due to their artistic expression which is routinely perceived as subversive or threatening even though it is the very nature of art to challenge, critique and mock. ARTICLE 19 alone has highlighted over 300 such cases during the past five years and although cases are common in Russia, Iran, Turkey and China, no country or continent has a monopoly.

Such violations are overwhelmingly on grounds that are inconsistent with the International Covenants, such as the insulation of the powerful from criticism and the protection of so-called "traditional values".

Most restrictions of freedom of artistic expression contravene international law; they are not provided by law or applied by courts, they do not pursue a legitimate aim, and they are neither necessary nor proportionate.

ARTICLE 19 urges states to properly implement their existing obligations under international human rights law.

In particular, states should ensure that the protection of the powerful or the preservation of "tradition values" are not used to stifle or censor artistic dissent or artistic debate.

Moreover, states should protect artists from violence from third parties and hold accountable all persons found to have committed such abuses.

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Copyright notice: Copyright ARTICLE 19

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