A new report entitled Free to Create: Artistic Freedom in Europe examines the challenges European artists and cultural workers face in the practice of their right to freedom of artistic expression. These range from laws that curtail creative freedom, attacks from non-governmental groups and online threats to the “under-the-radar” pressures that contribute to self-censorship. Artistic freedom is a core human right requiring protection and it has worsened recently under multiple challenges – political extremism, economic collapse, a global pandemic, threats from digitisation, an emerging environmental catastrophe, and the return of war within Europe – all crises with major impacts on human rights across society.
This comprehensive overview reflects the work carried out by the Council of Europe, other international intergovernmental organisations promoting freedom of expression and human rights, and non-governmental, civil society and cultural organisations concerned with artists’ and cultural rights, as well as the experiences and perspectives of artists. It concludes with recommendations on measures to protect artistic freedom, by international institutions and by the cultural sector and artists themselves.
Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić stated: “With democracy under great pressure, the key role of arts and culture as powerful means for maintaining constructive dialogue in democratic, diverse and open societies becomes ever more evident. The right to freedom of artistic expression is a key to this and ensures the pluralism and vitality of the democratic process.”
The Manifesto on the Freedom of Expression of Arts and Culture in the Digital Era was launched on 10th November 2020, drawn up as a contribution by the Steering Committee for Culture, Heritage and Landscape (CDCPP) to the 70th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights and in response to concerns about consistent and varied attacks on freedom of artistic expression in Europe, and to remind and encourage member states to uphold and protect this right. The launch of the Manifesto was accompanied by an online exhibition of works by artists from Council of Europe member states, “Free to Create, Create to be Free”, reflecting on artistic freedom.