Artistic Freedom in a digital age and sustainable development challenges. UNESCO’s global report Re|Shaping Cultural Policies launched during World Press Freedom Day

What is the impact of the new digital environment on the diversity of cultural expressions, from creation to distribution? How to encourage creativity and civil participation in the digital environment? And how to improve legislation to protect and promote artistic freedom, in particular for women as creators and producers of cultural goods and services?

These were some of the issues discussed during two side events organized on 2 and 3 May 2016 by UNESCO in cooperation with the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture and the Hanasaari Culture Center for Sweden and Finland.

The first event, taking place at the National Museum of Finland on 2 May afternoon, brought together a panel of artists to prolong the high-level debate organized in the morning with the Director-General of UNESCO and the Nordic Culture Ministers on Re/Shaping Cultural Policies.

The panel included Deeyah Khan, Film Director and human rights activist (Norway), Jude Dibia, writer (Nigeria), Adel Abidin, visual artist (Iraq-Finland), Aude Pariset, visual artist (France) and Leevi Haapala, Director of the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art (Finland).

“Until artists are free to express themselves, they cannot make income form their art. Freedom comes first”, stated Deeyah Khan.

Panelists went on to discuss the impact of digitization on distribution models, fair remuneration for artists, access for all to cultural goods and new forms of cultural participation.

Digital technology has become an important part of everyday life. It plays a part in the management of social relations, in community formation and in communication, panelists said.  “Creativity is not only about income generation, underlined Adel Abidin, it is also about recognition and visibility, as well as agency and self-determination”.

“Our responsibility is to enhance within the public sphere the specific voices of artists, share their work through new platforms and give wider access to creative tools and expressions”, emphasized Leevi Haapala. “Opening on 31 March 2017 at the Kiasma museum, he added, will be the ARS17 exhibition on the global digital revolution. This will be a major opportunity to showcase artists of the new millennium and offer a fresh approach to contemporary art”.

Concluding the debates, Danielle Cliche, Secretary of the 2005 Convention and Chief of the Section for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, thanked Sweden and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency for their support to UNESCO’s first global report Re|Shaping Cultural Policies,

‘This is the first time artistic freedom is associated with World Press Freedom Day. This agenda also needs to be fed by the realities faced by artists and creators. Clearly, we must address the new challenges to creativity, artistic freedom in the digital age, in the pursuit of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals”, she underlined.

Issues relating to artistic freedom as a new development challenge were taken up during the talk show organized as one of the side events during the World Press Freedom Day celebrations on 3 May.

The talk show was moderated by Jussi-Pekka Rantanen, journalist, Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE, with  Mike van Graan, Executive Director, African Arts Institute (South Africa), Ammu Joseph, journalist, media watcher (India), Ole Reitov, Executive Director, Freemuse NGO and  Marie Ottosson, Assistant Director-General, Swedish Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) .

Opening the debate, Sanni Grahn-Laasonen, Minister of Education and Culture, Finland said: “Artistic and creative experiences are critical to democratic life. Artists are at the forefront. We must stand up for their rights, and ensure equitable and social rights for them as well”.

Journalist and media watcher, Ammu Joseph, brought forward the message that women remain poorly represented in a number of cultural and media professions.

Other experts joining the debate reviewed the state of artistic freedom and mobility of artists, and outlined how legislation, policies and practices can enhance fundamental principles and freedoms defined in the Convention in these core areas and create positive change in the process of developing modern, sustainable and democratic societies.

“We need an holistic approach to cultural policies, emphasized the Assistant Director-General of the Swedish Development Cooperation Agency, Marie Ottosson. Artistic freedom, as a basic human right, needs to be put back on the agenda”.

UNESCO’s  Global Report entitled: “Re|Shaping Cultural Policies: A Decade Promoting the Diversity of Cultural Expressions for Development" displays many innovative cultural policies and measures implemented around the world over the past 10 years to support the creation, production, distribution and access to diverse cultural goods and services, also in the digital environment. The Report highlights the challenges which need urgent attention - not least in the field of gender equality, mobility of artists and artistic freedom.

Follow the conversation on Twitter: #supportcreativity

Programme of Events for Press Freedom Day 2016

Read More: Re|Shaping Cultural Policies