This research report (HRC/44/49/Add.2) accompanies the Special Rapporteur’s thematic report to the 44th Session of the Human Rights Council. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted artistic creation, production, distribution and access. As we observe the impact of a public health crisis, it may also be a moment to reflect on and condemn the many forms of repression of artistic freedom outside of crisis – the censorship that denies communities access to cultural or religious art, the blasphemy laws that interfere with creative consideration of questions of conscience and belief, the targeting of political cartoonists and cultural activists, the denial of space for theatrical events and the arbitrary arrest of playwrights and actors and directors, the assaults of LGBTQI persons challenging legal restrictions on gender identity, and so on.
This research report begins with a discussion of the legal framework applicable to artistic freedom of expression and then addresses the ways in which States and other actors often fail in their obligations or responsibilities to promote and protect freedom of opinion and expression. It is meant to highlight a variety of concerns; it is not meant to address all rights of artistic freedom, many of which have been addressed by other Special Procedures and international human rights mechanisms. (It does not, for instance, address the ways in which copyright law often interferes with artistic expression, a subject addressed substantially elsewhere.) Far from exhaustive, this research, it is hoped, will help artists, audiences and advocates defend their specifically artistic rights to free expression and guide States in better promoting and protecting them.