Four essential values to be prioritized for artistic freedom

Hilmar Farid is giving his opinions on the artistic policies in a session of Re-shaping Cultural Policies for Artistic Freedom in World Press Freedom Day in Jakarta, Indonesia. | Photo by Jing En

Critical and creative, art is a realm that never fails to insinuate discussions in the society. To stir a critical discussion that leads to a matured and inclusive society, artists must enjoy a great level of freedom to create, express and share their pieces of work. An infinite number of obstacles lies ahead for the artists. These four priorities will be vital in making artistic freedom workable.

1) Don’t cut, don’t ban.

In the era of globalization where technology allows for a greater access to tens of thousands of cultural products from any nook of the world, each country carries the responsibility of protecting their national identity. Despite so, it doesn’t legitimize the need of censorship on what seems to be detrimental to the national identity or national security.

Often, censorship takes its vicious lap on the ideas that politically criticizes the dominant thought in the society, may it be the religion, language or ruler. Whether it’s a developing nation or developed nation, the government must treat the people as a matured society and not to use pseudo-nationalistic slogans to restraint contrasting ideas that threatens their political hegemony.

2) Being formal all the time is not so cool

Knowing the fact of procrastination and being delayed, formal meetings consume lots of time and energy, as the bureaucratic process can be pretty annoying. Therefore, when the government comes forward to create avenues that provides a two-way communication between the state and the artists, it will exhibit the government’s sincerity in having a nation that allows artistic freedom.

This might be tricky as informal dialogues could be perceived as ‘not so serious’ talk by certain parties. However, it will create an easily accessible platform for discussions, arguments, exchange of ideas and solutions without compromising the freedom of expression of one’s thought, in this case, the artist.

3) Irony of artistic freedom

While many countries are making allegiance to artistic freedom, these promises remain a rhetoric rather than practice. Countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam and Cambodia have been clamoring their participation in promoting the way forward for artistic freedoms.

However, the reality hits right on the face with Vietnam practicing pre-censorship from cinema to fine art, the notion of artistic freedom that they claimed to be championing is little vague here. Irony as this needs to be eradicated before moving to the next level in the steps of making artistic freedom a reality.

4) Freedom comes without a price

History have shown us that freedom comes with a price, but it should not be the precedence anymore. With tangible threats such as imprisonment and murder are prevalent, the artists are forced to seek refuge from producing arts that challenge these dominant ideas, which leads to the undesirable self-censorship. To achieve the true essence of freedom which will lead to diversity in artistic productions, such psychological abuses that constraint artistic freedom must be stopped.


This was reported from a session entitled Re-shaping Cultural Policies for Artistic Freedom: Ministerial Panel and Artists’ Panel on May 2, 2017.

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