Background Information


For UNESCO, artistic freedom is the freedom to imagine, create, and distribute diverse cultural expressions free of governmental censorship, political interference, or the pressures of non-state actors. It includes the right of all citizens to have access to these works and is essential for the wellbeing of societies.


Freemuse is an independent international NGO advocating for freedom of artistic expression and cultural diversity. It aims to improve legal and policy framework and practices of artistic freedom and cultural expression of state and non-state actors, by engaging with artists, activists, and others in using human rights-based research, advocacy and campaign to influence key policy and decision-makers.

Artistic Freedom Initiative (AFI)

Led by immigration and human rights attorneys, Artistic Freedom Initiative (AFI) facilitates pro bono immigration representation and resettlement assistance for international artists who are persecuted or censored. Driven by their commitment to create meaningful change in the field of artistic freedom AFI developed Artistic Freedom Monitor reports, which are the first-of-its-kind project focused on research and policy advocacy for free creative expression.

Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America (CADAL)

CADAL’s mission consists of research, dissemination, and support to the respect of civic, political and economic liberties. CADAL prioritizes the defense and strengthening of democracy as a cornerstone of economic and social progress, and the international promotion of human rights.

Artists at Risk (AR)

Perpetuum Mobile ry (PM), which runs ARTISTS at RISK (AR), is a non-profit organisation active at the intersection of human rights and the arts (501c-3 equivalency). Since 2013, PM has developed AR to become a mondial network of artistic institutions, non-profits, municipalities, state institutions and international organisations to assist, relocate and fund artists who are at risk of persecution or oppression, or are fleeing war or terror.

Artists at Risk Connection (ARC)

Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) safeguards the right to artistic freedom of expression and ensures that artists and cultural professionals everywhere can live and work without fear. The ultimate goal is to address the needs of artists at risk and the organizations that serve them.

International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN)

ICORN is an independent organization of cities and regions offering shelter to writers and artists at risk, advancing freedom of expression, defending democratic values, and promoting international solidarity. The 70 ICORN member cities offer long term, but temporary, shelter to those at risk as a direct consequence of their creative activities.

PEN International

PEN International, formerly known as International PEN, was established in London in 1921 in order to foster friendship and intellectual cooperation among writers worldwide. The association operates independent International PEN centers in more than 100 countries.

Free to Create: Artistic Freedom in Europe.  (February 2023)

Council of Europe report on the freedom of artistic expression written by Sara Whyatt

The report 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.

Article 19: Annual Report (2022)

The annual report of Article 19 presents the highlights of the organisation’s work internationally under the following 5 key themes: Promoting media independence, increasing access to information, protecting journalists, expanding civic space and placing human rights at the heart of developing digital spaces.

Artists Under Boycott. Sanctions against Russian artists and their work: their impact on artistic freedom and other fundamental rights  (Dec. 2022)

AGL has launched a White Paper calling upon cultural institutions and cultural event organisers to respect the rights of Russian artists and to show leadership in defending the universal right to freedom of artistic expression without discrimination. 

Art in Turmoil: Artistic Freedom and Human Rights in Latin America and the Caribbean. (2022)

Art in Turmoil shares personal insights from key stakeholders in the field of artistic freedom on the main challenges artists and human rights defenders in the region face today, from repressive state and non-state actors to COVID-19. The report also provides tools and recommendations intended to help artists – and the organizations that support them – continue to create and defend artistic freedom, even in the face of growing adversity.

Cultural Control: Censorship and Suppression of the Arts in Poland (Oct. 2022)

Systematic Suppression: Hungary’s Arts and Culture in Crisis (March 2022)

Driven by the commitment to create meaningful change in the field of artistic freedom and improve conditions for artists in their home countries, the Artistic Freedom Initiative (AFI) has established the Artistic Freedom Monitor as a first-of-its-kind project focused on research and policy advocacy for free creative expression.

Critical Voices (2021)

The report is part of a collaboration between the Nordic Culture Fund, the UNESCO’s Danish National Commission and Delegation in Paris under the fund’s initiative Globus. It analyses and maps UNESCO’s abilities to defend and support artists, journalists and researchers’ right to express themselves freely.

Freedom of Artistic Expression in the European Union (November 2021)

The Freedom of Artistic Expression in the European Union publication presented by the Greens/European Free Alliance Group and Culture Action Europe, commissioned by MEP Diana Riba i Giner, offers a general overview of the global and European legislative framework and case-law, outlining further possible courses of action aiming at strengthening the legal protection of Freedom of Artistic Expression at a European level.

The State of Artistic Freedom 2022 (Feb. 2021)

Freemuse reports shows the extent of attacks on artists and creative freedom in 2021 through numbers and infographics that illustrate the stark reality of the struggle for rights

Painting the Rainbow: How LGBTI Freedom of Artistic Expression is denied (Dec. 2020)

The pioneering Freemuse report, reveals that even though LGBTI artists have been facing different types of discrimination in many different social, political, and legal contexts no laws, traditions, or religions can entirely stop artistic expression around these issues.

Freedom and creativity: defending art, defending diversity (2020)

The UNESCO report focuses on one of the 2005 Convention’s overarching goals: the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms and, in particular, artistic freedom. Freedom of expression, information and communication, as well as the ability of individuals to choose cultural expressions is a prerequisite for the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions.

The right to freedom of artistic expression and creation (2013)

In this thematic report, the Special Rapporteur focuses on the right to freedom of artistic expression and creation, which includes the right of all persons to freely experience and contribute to artistic expressions and creations, through individual or joint practice, to have access to and enjoy the arts, and to disseminate their expressions and creations.

9th World Summit on Arts & Culture: Discussion paper 

The 9th edition of the World Summit Discussion Paper sparks initial thinking around some of the complex issues surrounding artistic freedom to be explored in the programme in 2023, and the ways in which we might respond.

Safety Guide for Artists

The Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) of PEN America has developed A Safety Guide for Artists, a first-of-its-kind manual that offers practical strategies for artists to understand, navigate, and ultimately overcome risk. While such tools have been developed for journalists, human rights defenders, and cartoonists, no guide has been designed specifically for artists. A Safety Guide for Artists fills this crucial gap in providing artists with a resource tailored to their needs.

Free to Create, Create to be Free

A concept for a digital exhibition on artistic freedom by the Council of Europe’s Steering Committee for Culture, Heritage and Landscape.

Council Resolution on the EU Work Plan for Culture 2023–2026 2022/C 466/01

Culture Resource (Al Mawred Al Thaqafy)

Culture Resource seeks to fulfill its mission to support artists from the Arab region and cultural organizations and the cultural sector throughout the region with a range of services and programs.

Freedom House

Freedom House is a non-profit organization group in Washington, D.C. They are most known for its political advocacy on behalf of human rights, political freedom, and democratic principles.

Front Line Defenders

Front Line Defenders (FLD) is an international human rights organisation founded in Dublin in 2001, with the specific aim of protecting human rights defenders at risk (HRDs).

International Federation for Human Rights

FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) is an international human rights NGO federating 188 organisations from 116 countries. Since 1922, FIDH has been defending all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. is the European Union Human Rights Defenders mechanism, led by a Consortium of 12 NGOs active in the field of Human Rights. Their mission is to protect defenders at high risk and facing the most difficult situations worldwide.

Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights

Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights is a feminist fund that protects, strengthens and sustains women and transgender human rights defenders at critical moments. They intervene quickly when activists are poised to make great gains or face serious threats to their lives and work.

  • Free to Create – European Union Conference on Artistic Freedom and Cultural and Creative Industries

16 – 17 February 2023, Umeå, Sweden
Conference hosted by the Swedish Ministry of Culture as part of the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union during the first half of 2023.

3 – 5 May 2023, Stockhom, Sweden
Organised by the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA) in partnership with the Swedish Arts Council. The Summit is a highly participatory platform that fosters exchange between representatives from government, cultural and non-cultural sectors and civil society. In 2023, it will focus on the topic of “Safeguarding Artistic Freedom”.