Saturday, October 20, 2012

All that is banned is desired - World Conference on Artistic Freedom of Expression


For all artists who have been struggling with censorship, repression, intimidations, and whimsical laws, take heed and have faith because soon, you shall not be alone any longer. “All that is banned is desired” (yes, the title does stem from the Arabic saying “koul manou3 margoub”) is a conference is organized and hosted by Fritt Ord Foundation (The Freedom of Expression Foundation, Oslo) and Freemuse (The World Forum on Music & Censorship), and dubs itself as a “World Conference on Artistic Freedom of Expression”.
The conference will take place at the Oslo Opera House, Norway, 25-26 October 2012 and will focus on contemporary censorship of the arts and limitations of artistic freedom of expression. The sessions will include artistic performances, dialogues and discussions with censored artists, observers and cultural operators.
Ole Reitov, co-founder of Freemuse spoke to Beirut/NTSC on the importance of the conference and its timely scheduling in today’s world. According to Reitov, “for years, freedom of expression has been understood by many media workers as freedom of opinion for media workers and politicians. There is a blind spot amongst politicians, media workers, human rights organizations and even artists how important artistic freedom is.”
But, when we lived in today’s world where anything artistically related can become a mediatic storm, something which the Scandinavian countries have experienced first-hand with the “Danish cartoons crisis” for example, it becomes hard to dissociate where freedom of expression lies before it is considered as a social taboo. On this angle, Reitov reiterates that “although we understand that an image, cartoon, song or poster in fact may inspire millions and make other millions angry, we tend to forget the role of arts and artists in our societies. Artists' organisations - except writers - have neither been very active in promoting their rights to artistic freedom and whereas media workers have united in promoting their rights artists have often competed or not connected in their strive for artistic freedom.”
“The artists will get a broader vision of how their colleagues in many countries and working in different fields of art are suffering repression, persecution, non-transparent legislation and even abduction and killing. But they will also understand different strategies to target this.” He also emphasizes that the conference will display and showcase “examples of campaigns resulting in great support for artistic freedom.”
This state of affairs globally gave rise to the necessity of an organized, centralized body which will make it a priority to defend artists as they struggle to break rigid social norms and break taboos and notions of repressions. As a matter of fact, one of the chief objectives of the conference seems to be a step in that direction. “The day after the conference artists’ organizations and freedom of expression organizations will gather to create a new global network artsfex.org for the advocacy and protection of artistic freedom. The artists will know that they are not alone and states hopefully will get the message that they can no longer repress artists’ right to freedom of expression and get away with it without global noise.”
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