Pakistan: Music once again in the crosshairs

On 2 July 2017, Islamabad police raided a late-night dance party at the Grand Ambassador Hotel and arrested over 50 people, mostly male, including the hotel owner and manager, on charges of “obscene acts and songs”, reported The Express Tribune on 3 July 2017. Police officers stated that the male and female participants were dancing […]

Saudi Arabia: Books banned, performance interrupted at book fair

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture and Information banned and confiscated books by Egyptian writer Youssef Zeidan from the Riyadh International Book Fair, held from 8 to 18 March 2017, reported Cairo Portal on 12 March 2017. The writer told Masr Alarabiya on 11 March 2017 that his books were available during the launch of the […]

Egypt: Musician takes Music Syndicate head to court

Nearly a year after his arrest on charges of “devil worshipping” and “promoting music that contradicts Egyptian religious beliefs and cultural norms”, Egyptian heavy metal musician and concert promoter Nader Sadek is suing Head of the Music Syndicate Hani Shaker for libel and defamation. The initial hearing is scheduled to take place at the Abdeen Misdemeanour Court […]

USA: Censorship continues in public spaces and schools

Throughout 2016 and into the beginning of 2017, the US has seen multiple cases of censorship and attempted censorship of art in public spaces and schools. Murals on public walls or in university halls, books in school curricula and productions of plays and musicals have all been targeted by a variety of groups because of […]

Russia: Artistic freedom threatened by nationalist and orthodox groups

While Russian president Vladimir Putin vowed in a meeting with film directors and artists in early December 2016 to protect artistic freedom, he also said artists carry a responsibility not to offend religious believers, saying “there is a very narrow divide between dangerous shock value and freedom of creativity”, reported The New York Times on […]

Egypt: Two libraries shut down, one threatened with closure

On 1 December 2016, authorities shut down two al-Karama public library branches in Tora and Dar al-Salam. The libraries were founded by Gamal Eid, human rights lawyer and head of Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), without any warning or official reason, simply stating they had “received orders” to do so, reported Mada Masr. […]

Malaysia: Cartoonist arrested after exhibition attack

Cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, popularly known as Zunar, was arrested on 26 November 2016 for breaching the peace under Malaysia’s Sedition Act, just one day after an angry pro-government mob attacked his exhibition of satirical cartoons about the prime minister and other national leaders at the George Town Literary Festival, reported newspaper Free Malaysia Today. […]

Georgia: Conservative religious group disrupts rock festival

A group of priests and conservative Orthodox Christian activists attempted to violently shut down the annual Tbilisi JAM Fest, a two-day, open-air international rock festival on the outskirts of Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, reported Georgia Today on 5 June 2016. The group showed up at the festival location on 4 June 2016 in the Zahesi suburbs […]

Egypt: Heavy metal concert cancelled, three arrested

Concert promoter and musician Nader Sadek, along with two others, were arrested by Giza police when they stopped a heavy metal concert on 4 June 2016 featuring Brazilian band Sepultura before it even started due to a lack of permits, reported Ahram Online on 5 June 2016. Head of the Giza Security Directorate General Ahmed […]

China: Political art installation pulled from public space in Hong Kong

Government officials and exhibition organisers pulled a light installation just five days into its run set to be projected onto the façade of Hong Kong’s tallest building, the ICC tower, from 17 May 2016 to 22 June 2016 after the artists revealed that part of the piece had a political message, reported the BBC on […]

France: Music festivals cancel Eagles of Death Metal performances

Music festival organisers in France have cancelled performances by the American band Eagles of Death Metal following controversial remarks by its frontman, reported various international news providers. The band’s Bataclan concert in Paris in November 2015 was attacked by terrorists, who shot and killed 89 people there. Eagles of Death Metal’s leadsinger Jesse Hughes had […]

Slovakia: Theatre play stopped by controversial governor

On 13 March 2016, a community theatre production of play ‘Kováči’ (Blacksmiths) in the central Slovakian town of Brezno was halted halfway through its performance by controversial Banská Bystrica regional governor Marian Kotleba, who has already been embroiled in a fight with local theatres, reported The Slovak Spectator on 16 March 2016. The play, which […]

Ukraine: Italian opera singer cancels concerts in Crimea

After the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture said on 18 January 2016 that it would cancel Italian opera singer Alessandro Safina’s concerts in the country since he also scheduled performances in Crimea, the singer announced on 22 January 2016 that he would cancel his two dates in the contested region, reported Ukraine Today. Safina said he […]

Egypt: Government cancels concert marking revolution anniversary

The band Elawela Balady posted on its Facebook page that they were informed by the Ministry of State of Antiquities to cancel a concert they had scheduled on 24 January 2016 to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the January 25 Revolution, reported The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information. The cancellation comes despite the fact […]

China: Concert with North Korean band cancelled

The North Korean pop group Moranbong Band was scheduled to perform in Beijing, China, on 12 December 2015 to cultivate ties between the two countries, but their concert was abruptly cancelled without explanation a few hours before they were to have entered the stage at the city’s National Centre. A concert with the North Korean […]

India: Police remove floating cow art and detain artists

In India two artists were detained for their work on 21 November 2015: a life-size styrofoam art installation of a flying cow in Rajasthan’s Jaipur city. Following protests by right-wing Hindu groups alleging their religious sentiments were hurt, local police dismantled the work and detained the two artists. Later, amid public outrage, the chief minister […]

China: Authorities ban art exhibition on violence against women

Beijing authorities banned an art exhibition about feminism and domestic violence just before it was set to open, organisers said on 26 November 2015. The exhibition, timed for the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, was due to open on 25 November 2015 at Beijing’s Gingko Space art gallery. More […]

Iran: Concert cancelled for having female musicians

A concert by the Tehran Symphony Orchestra was cancelled at the last minute on 29 November 2015 because some of the musicians were female, reported The National.  The orchestra was due to play in Tehran before the World Wrestling Clubs Cup competition and was stopped from performing as it was readying itself to play the […]

Russia: Art gallery owner evicted

Marat Guelman was handed an eviction notice to clear out of his rented exhibition space in Moscow’s Winzavod art centre by 5 November 2015. He was served the notice on 20 October 2015, just two days after he hosted an auction to help 12 people who were imprisoned for participating in a 2012 protest against […]

India: Pakistani singer’s concerts cancelled after protests

Two concerts by the veteran Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali scheduled in the Indian state of Maharashtra were cancelled by the organisers after a regional Hindu right-wing party took exception to the events. The Shiv Sena, a Hindu nationalist party that is part of the coalition government in Maharashtra State, asked the organisers to cancel the […]

Turkey: Festival director steps down after censorship scandal

Azize Tan has stepped down after nine years following protests over censorship at the latest edition in April, which led to the cancellation of the festival’s competitions and closing ceremony. » Sourced through from: » – 16 April 2015: Turkey: Film festival censorship controversy and cancellations

Morocco: Continued harrasment and banning of performances

In Morocco, performances of the theatre piece ‘B7al B7al’ have repeatedly been interrupted and banned: On 13 June 2015 in Rabat, on 4 and 5 July in Tangiers, and then on 1 August in Fez. ‘B7al B7al’ is a creation of the Theatre of the Oppressed company from Casablanca – Théatre de l’Opprimé Casablanca – […]

USA: Freedom of expression violated when concert was shut down

Chicago rapper Chief Keef was to appear via hologram from California in a concert in a public park in Hammond, Indiana, on 25 July 2015, but police officers shut down the concert because they were concerned that the hologram would pose a threat to public safety. Chief Keef appeared via hologram on stage, but within […]

Morocco: Rapper El Haqed – besieged, alienated and oppressed

Freemuse interview with the Moroccan rapper El Haqed, who was awarded with the 2015 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award for Arts. By Shaima Aly Mouad Belghouat (also spelled: Belrhouate) is better known under his artist name, El Haqed – the now world-famous Moroccan rapper and human rights activist who criticises the widespread poverty […]

Saudi Arabia: Concert with mixed gender audience cancelled

A concert scheduled for 6 May 2015 at the major Jeddah Amasy concert hall was cancelled by authorities, according to the daily Saudi newspaper Ajel. Apparently the concert audience was planned to be of ‘mixed gender’, which incited an opposition campaign against the concert on social media. The event was to feature the popular young […]

Morocco: Police blocks concert with rapper El Haqed

On 19 June 2015, a concert with the Morrocan rapper El Haqed was called off with 48 hours notice by the police in Casablanca. Right before the beginning of the show, Police allegedly blocked streets leading to the venue and asked the local power provider to cut electricity. The concert was organised at L’Uzine, a […]

USA: Anti-censorship theatre even censored

A benefit event for the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) scheduled for 14 June 2015 at The Sheen Center in New York City, was abruptly called off after the theatre hosting the show deemed some of the content offensive. The event has since been rescheduled. The show was cancelled by Sheen Management, which sought to […]

Lebanon: Armenian concert cancelled in Tripoli

An Armenian concert scheduled to be held at the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in Tripoli on 25 April 2015 was cancelled out of fear that it would be used to attack Turkish policy against Armenian people in the past and thus provoke Turkey. According to As-Safir, one of Lebanon’s leading daily newspapers, The […]

Sweden: Rap group’s concerts cancelled after free speech controversies

Hip-hop flirting with political violence causes controversy and debate around the world. The Swedes have recently been having a thorough public discussion about where to draw the line between illegal hate speech on one side, and artists’ democratic right to express themselves on the other. Here is a run-down of Kartellen’s free speech journey in […]

Canada: Controversy over concert cancellation sparks public debate

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has decided to cancel performances by the Ukrainian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa over what it calls her “deeply offensive language” and “inciting hatred” on Twitter because of her comments on the conflict in Ukraine. This has created an intense public debate in the country’s media and social media about artsfreedom and self-censorship. […]

Egypt: Premiere performance deemed ‘inappropriate’ and cancelled

Freemuse received the following press release from Sondos Shabayek on 17 March 2015: State theatres belong to the people, not the State Hanager Theatre has blocked the premiere performance of ‘500s’ on 15 and 16 March 2015. The manager of the Hanager Theatre, Dr Amany Youssef, prevented the premiere performance of the play, ‘500s’, which […]

Canada: Viet Cong banned from playing because of their name

The Canadian art rockers Viet Kong have had a show in Ohio cancelled because their name ‘deeply offends’ some people. Gig promoter Ivan Krasnov took to the Oberlin ‘Sco Facebook page to apologise for booking an act whose name “deeply offends and hurts Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American communities, both in Oberlin and beyond”. He extended his […]

Belgium: Film festival closed after terrorist threats

‘The Ramdam festival of disturbing films’ in the Belgian town Tourni has been closed after terrorist threats. After a court decision, Police sealed the area around the cinema complex Imagix for the entire duration of the festival. “Since its foundation in 2011, the festival Ramdam has given word to pluralistic sensitivities and values advocating openness […]

Afghanistan: Theatre performance attacked by suicide bomber

On 11 December 2014 a 17-year-old suicide bomber blew himself up inside a school auditorium in Kabul where a theatre play condemning suicide bombing, ‘Heartbeat: Silence After the Explosion’, was being presented by students of Kabul University’s Cinema and Theatre Department of Fine Art Faculty Several persons were killed by the bomb blast which came […]

Lebanon: Bans film on Iran protest movement

Lebanese authorities stop the screening of ‘The Silent Majority Speaks’, which depicts the 2009 post-election Green Movement protests in Iran, organisers of a local film festival said on 16 November 2014. Lebanon’s Censorship Committee is part of the General Security agency and monitors all films before screening in the country. General Security is regarded as […]

Russia: Opera premiere cancelled after its composer was attacked

The premiere of a new opera in St. Petersburg has been cancelled after two venues refused to host it and the composer was savagely beaten and death threats were issued. The opera ‘New Jerusalem’ is composed by award-winning local composer Ilya Demutsky with librettist Artyom Suslov. The opera follows the actions of an individual who […]

Iran: Security forces shut down poet’s commemoration

The fourteenth commemoration ceremony for the passing of Iranian poet Ahmad Shamloo was interrupted by Islamic Republic security forces. HRANA reports that the ceremony was organised by Iran’s Writers’ Association and was held on Thursday 25 July 2014. Source:

Belarus: Minsk authorities banned Amaroka band concert

Officials have refused to issue a touring certificate for a concert of Amaroka. The musicians were explained that their art could be treated as war or extremism propaganda and pose a threat to national security. Head of the Department of Culture of the Minsk City Executive Committee, Vitalina Rudzikava, has officially prohibited a concert by […]

Egypt: Revolutionary singer stopped from performing

The Egyptian singer Mohamed Mohsen known for his anti-government songs said Saturday that authorities stopped him from performing at an arts festival attended by the country’s interim president and military chief for “security concerns”. Mohsen told The Associated Press he thought officials might “specifically targeted” him over his revolutionary songs or because he participated in […]

Pakistan: Five killed in cinema attacked with hand grenades

On 2 February 2014, two hand grenades hurled into a cinema hall in Peshawar killed five persons and injured 31. Police were reportedly not surprised – they had been warning cinemas for a while that they needed to step up security. A stampede following the blasts was responsible for many of the injuries. Around 100 […]

India: Film screening stopped by police

Kamal Haasan’s controversial film ‘Vishwaroopam’ is facing a two-week ban in Tamil Nadu amid protests by Muslim community. It was released in Kerala, but its screening was stopped by police in Hyderabad over security concerns. Made in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi, ‘Vishwaroopam’, which revolves around the adversities of war, is produced and directed by Kamal […]

Russia: Christian activists sabotage theater production

Ultraconservative Christians who have previously targeted erotica exhibits, Pastafarians and supporters of feminist punk group Pussy Riot have attacked a theatre performance in Moscow. Dmitry Enteo and a female accomplice hijacked the stage during a performance of Konstantin Bogomolov’s ‘An Ideal Husband’ at the Chekhov Moscow Art Theatre on 28 November 2013. The duo spent […]

Denmark: Police threat assessment stops event with young poet

A debate and event with the young poet Yahya Hassan was cancelled due to a threat assessment by the police on 21 November 2013. 18-year-old Yahya Hassan of Palestinian decent is under police protection after being violently attacked and receiving death threats following the publication of his collection of 150 poems, which criticizes the Danish […]

Bahrain: Exhibition stormed and destroyed by police

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses concern in regards to the ongoing attacks on freedom of expression in Bahrain demonstrated in the recent destruction and banning of an art exhibition of the Bahrain Revolution. On 30 October 2013, police forces in Bahrain stormed the building where an exhibition of the Bahrain revolution was on […]

United Kingdom: Gallery censored nude watercolours

Artist reveals her fury after ‘fearful’ gallery censored her nude watercolours with strips of paper A teacher’s complaint during a school trip to an exhibition at Birmingham’s Botanical Gardens prompted the removal of three watercolours of naked women. Later, the watercolours were put back up, but covered with bits of paper. The artist, Danuta Gray, […]

Turkey: Ferhat Tunç concert interrupted by protesters and power cut

A group of protesters intervened in folk singer Ferhat Tunç’s concert by singing the Turkish national anthem. The concert was organised by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in Dikili, Izmir. Following a power cut in the concert area, Ferhat Tunç ended the concert saying he would keep singing freedom songs. Clashes broke out between […]

China: American western pulled from screens on its opening day

Following an announcement that the Beijing International Film Festival and cinemas across the country would be screening ‘Django Unchained’ for select audiences, Chinese authorities banned the American movie from release and interrupted the film during its first screening. On 11 April 2013, cinemas across the country had to abruptly cancel the screening of Quentin Tarantino’s […]

Egypt: Concert cancelled because of threats

In Cairo, singer and guitarist Ramy Essam, winner of Freemuse Award 2011 who performed in front of hundred thousands of people during the final days of the 2011-revolution on Tahrir Square, had to cancel his performance to a few dozen fans due to threats of physical violence. Ramy Essam’s manager received information that groups of […]

USA: Climate change sculpture removed after upsetting donors

Does corporate sponsorships by companies like BP and Shell have an impact on artistic freedom in the UK and USA? After a controversial climate change art installation was removed from a US university campus because it upset donors from the energy industry, Kevin Smith, co-editor of Not If But When – Culture Beyond Oil, is […]

Syrian film removed from Egyptian film festival

Official sources at the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF), which launched on 27 November 2012, said that the Syrian film ‘El Asheq’ (The Lover) was disqualified from the festival’s competition because of the lead actor’s and director’s support for Syria’s current ruler Bashar El-Assad. Syrian film director Abdul Hamid’s ‘El Asheq’ was supposed to had […]

Namibia: Artist banned due to “formal and content” issues

A controversial and edgy exhibition of works by renowned Namibian artist, Imke Rust, has been banned from the Woermannhaus gallery due to the critical stance the artist takes on environmental threats affecting the coast. Other artists are now threatening to boycott the gallery in protest against the decision to ban the work of Imke Rust. […]

Nepal: The rise and ‘ban’ of the collateral

How a young Nepali painters’ works raised questions on artistic freedom in Kathmandu, the City of Temples. BY KANCHAN G. BURATHOKI • OCTOBER 2012 • [A4 PDF] On Tuesday afternoon, 11 September 2012, when the exhibition ‘The Rise of the Collateral’ had only nine days left to conclude, after having been at display at Siddhartha […]

Zimbabwe: Board of Censors ban a theatre play

On 3 September 2012, Radio COP reported that Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) have petitioned the High Court seeking to overturn a ban of the theatre play ‘No Voice No Choice’. The play ‘No Voice No Choice’ – a production by two community theatre groups, Edzai Isu Theatre Arts Project and Zvido Zvevanhu Arts […]

Tunisia: Artists under attack

Art pieces at the ‘Printemps des Arts’ fair in Tunis have caused public outrage for being ‘blasphemous’ and offensive to Islam. The artists involved have received death threats and their works at the art fair were destroyed. The Minister of Culture condemned the artworks, which in return caused an uproar in the Tunisian arts community. […]

Malaysia: Book banned after pressure from religious group

Human rights organisations and journalist unions criticise the Malaysian government’s decision to ban a book on liberal Islam by the Canadian Muslim activist Irshad Manji. On 29 May 2012, Malaysian Home Affairs Minister Hishammuddin Hussein banned Irshad Manji’s new book ‘Allah, Liberty and Love’, saying it was “prejudicial to morality and public order.” Deputy Home […]

Censorship controversy at Tunis Art Fair

Hours after the opening of Printemps des Arts fair in Tunis, a controversy broke out when one of the organisers asked the artist Electro Jaye to take down his piece, ‘La république Islaïque de Tunisie’. (The word “islaïque” is a combination of the word “Islam” with the word “laïque,” which means “laic” or “secular.”) The […]

Artistic censorship denies opportunity for dialogue and growth

The mural ‘Fast Life’, created by the French street artist MTO, was whitewashed due to censorship over its perceived meaning, wrote Denise Kowal, Event Chair of Sarasota Chalk Festival in Florida, USA, who argued that this kind of artistic censorship denies an opportunity for dialogue and growth: “It was a skilled work of art that […]



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