Artsfreedom newsletter: Egypt five years later – artistic freedom under attack

25 January 2016

News and knowledge about artistic freedom of expression          

Five years ago, tens of thousands of people marched to Cairo’s Tahrir Square in protests calling for freedom. On the fifth anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution there is little to celebrate, and the government has warned it will deal firmly with protesters. Gone are the days when Ramy Essam, ‘the Singer of the Revolution’, could sing “Irhal — down with Mubarak” with thousands of fans echoing his words.

What seemed a successful uprising against a brutal dictatorship has only culminated in a new era of repression, described by Egyptian human rights defenders as “the worst repression in the history of organisations, artists, campaigners and bloggers.”

On 28 December 2015 Cairo’s Townhouse Gallery, one of the country’s most important cultural and art spaces, was stormed by security forces and closed without an official reason. Merit, a publishing house that promotes anti-censorship and freedom of speech has also been raided.

Five years after the 2011 mass uprising in Egypt calling for ‘freedom’, state censorship of the arts in the name of “protecting public morals and state interests” still continues to stifle free artistic expression. In the wake of a security clampdown on free expression since the military takeover of the country in July 2013, rights advocates lament that the space for free artistic expression and creativity has diminished in Egypt as restrictions on art and literary works that address politics, sex and religion, remain firmly in place.

Journalist Shahira Amin quit state-run tv during the 25 January revolution in protest at the biased coverage of the Tahrir events. Freemuse has asked her to report on the situation for artistic freedom in 2015 — five years after the revolution. The picture she paints is grim.

The adoption of a new, “more progressive” constitution in early 2014, guaranteeing freedom of thought and opinion, bolstered optimism, she writes. But despite the more progressive legislation, “artists and writers have faced multiple challenges over the past year including intimidation, arrests and detention, strict censorship of their work and difficulties in finding the space to exhibit their artworks.”

Read Shahira Amin’s article

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Copyright © 2016 Freemuse, All rights reserved. This is Artsfreedom newsletter no 12 which was sent to 1,593 subscribers

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