“States should protect people from undue levels of commercial advertising and marketing while increasing the space for not-for-profit expressions,” says new report from the United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed.
“What is the space given to art compared to advertising?,” asks Ms Shaheed. In her report to the UN General Assembly on the impact of commercial advertising and marketing practices on cultural rights, she calls for increased scrutiny of the advertising and marketing industry and urges Governments to actively protect freedom of thought, opinion and expression, cultural diversity and ways of life, the rights of children with respect to education and leisure, academic and artistic freedom and the right to participate in cultural life and to enjoy the arts.
“Commercial messaging can deeply influence peoples’ beliefs, aspirations, cultural values and practices,” said the UN expert in cultural rights. “States wishing to protect cultural diversity need to protect their societies from undue levels of commercial advertising and marketing while increasing the space for not-for-profit expressions.”
In her view, such protection would support and open up the democratic debate, as opposed to interfering with the right to freedom of thought and opinion.
The Special Rapporteur pointed out the sharp disparity between the often slow action taken when removing illegal billboards, compared with the far greater resources devoted to removing illegal graffiti or artistic murals.
Ms Farida Shaheed took up her functions as Independent Expert and then Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights in August 2009. She has worked for more than 25 years promoting and protecting cultural rights by fostering policies and projects designed in culturally sensitive ways to support the rights of marginalized sectors, including women, peasants, and religious and ethnic minorities.
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