Art and artists have a unique ability to challenge majoritarian norms, encourage public debate and strengthen democratic institutions. Because of this – artists are often persecuted, censored, intimidated, harassed and prosecuted for exercising their human rights. Across the world, artists are facing a growing clampdown on their rights and civil liberties. In 2020, 978 violations of artistic freedom were documented by Freemuse [State of Artistic Freedom 2021, Freemuse], an increase as compared to previous years. These incidents have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as political upheaval and crises in different parts of the world, such as the crises in Afghanistan in 2021 and the Russia-Ukraine war in 2022. Artists without legal protection are often exposed to situations of risks, which may also have humanitarian consequences on them and their families. This may deprive them of their right to live in a safe space and expose them to situations of violence or torture, severely impacting their physical and mental health as well as their right to a dignified life.

‘The ‘Art’ of Defending Artists’ is a course that was offered in October 2022. It built capacity amongst key stakeholders in the domain of artistic freedom, equipping them with the knowledge, skills and tools to competently engage with international and regional mechanisms in order to defend artists. The experts guided participants in developing practice-based strategies and skills in order to effectively defend artists-at-risk and provide robust legal assistance to ensure the realisation of their rights. 

The sessions were led by international experts with significant practical experience of working within the international and regional mechanisms and included senior staff from regional courts, senior staff from the UN as well as independent experts. The course focused on theoretical as well as practical learning, through the delivery of presentations, group exercises and discussions, encouraging self-directed reading as well as analysis of case studies. A reading list was shared with the participants.


Navigate international mechanisms and regional bodies and design litigation strategies for artists at risk. Gain a deeper understanding of procedural specificities of international mechanisms and regional bodies. Use legal and advocacy based tools to successfully defend artists in situations of increased vulnerability. 


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