Artist Alert: June 2013

staff image


17 Jul 2013



Art, in any form, constitutes a key medium through which information and ideas are imparted and received. Artist Alert, launched by ARTICLE 19 in 2008, highlights cases of artists around the world whose right to freedom of expression has been curtailed and abused, and seeks to more effectively promote and defend freedom to create. 


Kenya: Faith group wants “secular” songs banned 

On 1 June, a Christian group under the movement Beyond Limit Ventures threatened to file a lawsuit against musicians from the ethnic group, Kamba. They object to the musicians’ “secular” songs, which they consider “insulting towards women”. The Christian group said that Kamba songs and video clips were “promoting pornography” by showing half-naked women. 


Argentina: TV channel accused of censoring same-sex kiss in The Simpsons

On 22 June, Argentinian TV network Telefe reportedly reshowed the uncensored episode of The Simpsons where Homer Simpson kisses a gay friend. When the episode was aired for the first time on 24 March, the same-sex kiss was censored. Telefe was forced to air the uncut episode after LGBT groups complained to the Media Ombudsman.

USA: Facebook removes self-portrait of nude photographer with daughters 

On 15 June, US photographer and musician, Anastasia Chernyavsky, reported that Facebook removed a self-portrait she took of herself and her daughters because she was semi-naked.

The picture was taken from her personal blog but Facebook took it down when it started to be shared. Facebook has a policy not to show any photographic nudity whatsoever, regardless of the extent or context of the image. On 25 June, the social network also removed pictures of feminist group FEMEN in Tunisia and Germany over pictures in which the activists were protesting topless.

On 30 May, Facebook announced it  "would take immediate steps to monitor pages and posts that celebrated violence against women” after a campaign by a feminist group collected more than 200,000 signatures to call on the social network to revise its policies for pages encouraging gender-based violence. However, its nudity policy remains unchanged and pictures with bare breasts are not allowed.


Australia: Artist’s work seized and likely to face child pornography charges

On 1 June, police raided an art exhibition in Victoria and seized artwork over claims that it was child pornography. Everything is F***ed, an exhibition by artist Paul Yore, was a tribute to the controversial Australian artist, Mike Brown. Yore described the exhibition as being made up of collages of “everyday junk”.

One of the artworks showed the Canadian teenage pop singer, Justin Bieber, urinating from a sex toy. The exhibition was deemed “too controversial” for the general public and the Australian Classifications Board suggested to the gallery that elements of Yore’s exhibition should be restricted to people over 18. The artwork was seized by the police and reportedly Yore could face child pornography charges.

China: Disney character censored over resemblance to president

On 14 June, Chinese micro-bloggers posted a picture of Disney character Winnie the Pooh and his friend, Tigger, next to a picture of President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama. The post marked the likeness between the animated characters and the presidents. The picture went viral.

Chinese censors removed the image. When people attempted to repost it online, for example, on Weibo, the Chinese social media site, a message was sent: “The post is inappropriate to publish”. 

India: Court reverses ban on comedy TV network

On 28 May, an Indian court ruled in favour of Viacom18 Media, the company that runs the Comedy Central TV channel. The court set aside a 10-day ban imposed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, which had deemed episodes of two TV shows, Stand Up Club and Popcorn TV, “offensive” and “derogatory to women”.   

Comedy Central was suspended on 25 May and Viacom18 Media immediately challenged the Ministry’s decision. The channel was back on air shortly after the court ruling.

Philippines: Cartoonist suspended from newspaper over “offensive” content 

On 9 June, it was reported that cartoonist Pol Medina resigned from the newspaper, Philippine Daily Inquirer, after one of his cartoons, Pugad Baboy, was deemed “offensive”. In the cartoon, one of the characters suggests that Catholics are hypocrites for being homophobic and makes a reference to a Catholic all-girls school, implying that its students are lesbians.

The cartoonist was suspended and the newspaper said that the cartoon strip will not be published again until their investigation is complete. The president of the school has said that they might file a lawsuit against the newspaper. 

South Korea: Film screening banned over incestuous sex scenes

On 18 June, the Korean Media Rating Board (KMRB), the country’s censorship authority, gave a ‘restrictive rating’ to Moebious, a film by Kim Ki-duk. The rating was due to sex scenes between a mother and son. The film can be only screened in "specialist theatres" which are virtually non-existent in the country. 

The South Korean filmmaker said 21 scenes were cut in order to meet the Board’s standards and appeal against the decision. The film tells the story of a family that is destroyed when its members engage in incestuous sex.

Kim Ki-duk is known for his experimental cinematic works. In 2000, the British Board of Film Classification delayed the UK release of one of his films, The Isle, for alleged depiction of animal cruelty.

Vietnam: Government contemplates requesting the introduction of “performing permits” for artists

On 3 June, the Vietnamese Minister of Culture said he has proposed a plan to introduce “performing permits” for models and singers. The licences would be issued only to applicants that “meet conditions of morality, professionalism and have a clean resume”. The move could be related to the recent scandals in the country when models wore what was deemed “revealing clothing” and singers lip-synced in public performances.

The Deputy Minister also commented, saying that as "veterinarians need work permits to treat animals, so artists, who are considered 'doctors of the spirit', will have to get a work permit to perform in front of the public".

Vietnam: Film banned from screening over “violent” portrayal of Ho Chi Minh

On 11 June, the Vietnamese Minister of Sports, Culture and Tourism banned Chinatown, a movie by Vietnamese-American director Charlie Nguyen. The film may not be screened or distributed in the country because of its violent scenes in Ho Chi Minh’s Chinatown. The authorities said that the film gave a negative portrayal of the city, showing it as a lawless place.

Although Nguyen said they had already edited the movie to meet the censor’s standards, the authorities asked for the script to be entirely rewritten. 


France: Movie poster pulled over same-sex kiss 

On 12 June, posters of the movie L’Inconnu Du Lac [Stranger by the Lake] were removed from the Paris suburbs of Versailles and Saint-Cloud because of the depiction of a gay kiss. The posters were removed at the request of town halls of the two suburbs. 

The film’s director, Alain Guiraudie, was awarded best director in last month’s Cannes Film Festival and the movie was released in France the same week. The French Minister of Culture, Aurélie Filippetti, called the poster removal an act of censorship and demanded that the posters be restored.

Russia: Art curator sacked over exhibition satirising forthcoming Winter Olympics

On 20 June, Marat Guelman, head of the Museum of Contemporary Art in the city of Perm, was dismissed after refusing to cancel an art exhibition. The exhibition, Welcome to Sochi 2014! by Vasily Slonov, parodies the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. It was also reported that Slonov was being sued for using Olympic imagery in the exhibition without permission. 

Russia: Elton John’s clothing deemed ‘homosexual propaganda’ by Communist group

On 6 June, the head of the Communists of Russia in southern city of Krasnodar, Mikhail Abramyan, warned British pop singer Sir Elton John that his clothing could be deemed ‘gay propaganda’. Gay ‘propaganda’ has recently become a criminal offence in many areas of the country, and John was being warned that he might face prosecution if he performs in Russia. The group also said that its 350 members would protest against the singer’s concert in Krasnodar on the 14 July if he does not change the way he dresses onstage.

UK: Album cover censored for supermarkets

On 6 June, it was reported that British band Beady Eye’s latest album will have its cover modified for sale in supermarkets, which are now a major source of sales for the music industry in the country. The original cover art features a woman showing a nipple and rather than place an adult warning on the album, the artwork will instead be changed for all. The advertisement for the new album was also flagged for adult content and removed from British supermarkets.

Uzbekistan: Pop performances not allowed because they lack “patriotism” 

On 21 June, five pop acts that were due to perform in Uzbekistan were banned as they failed to adequately “praise the motherland”. The National Culture Agency cancelled the artists’ performing licenses because "their songs do not conform to the nation's cultural traditions, [and] contradict our moral heritage and mentality”.


Egypt: Song reportedly prohibited for being “revolutionary”

On 29 June, Egyptian female singer Amal Maher reported that officers from the Ministry of Information had informed her that her song Ya Masryeen [Oh, Egyptians] will be banned. The Ministry claims that the song incites Egyptians to wage a revolution against President Morsi. 

Lebanon and Abu Dhabi: British comedian cancels Abu Dhabi and Lebanon shows over extremists’ threats

On 20 June, British comedian Russell Brand announced that his planned gigs in Abu Dhabi and Lebanon were cancelled as a result of threats received from extremist groups. The venue informed Brand that they could no longer guarantee his safety. In his show The Messiah Complex, Brand features figures like Malcolm X, Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus.

Saudi Arabia: Novelist released after 6 months in jail

On 5 June, Saudi Arabia released Turki al-Hamad, a liberal writer who was arrested in December 2012. His arrest came after he published tweets calling for an adaptation of Islam to modern times, and comparing some Islamist militants to Nazis. He remained untried and without conviction during his six months under arrest in detention.