Banned musicians feted as world marks freedom day

Friday March 06 2020

Last December, Yvonne Chaka Chaka was thrown out of Uganda before she could perform. FILE PHOTO | NMG


The world marked Music Freedom Day this year by standing in solidarity with artistes facing travel bans and restrictions.

Freemuse (international defenders of artistic freedom) and their partners in 40 countries held online and local events on March 3 to celebrate the 14th annual celebration.

In a report marking the 2020 Music Freedom Day, Freemuse said artistes and art freedom defenders whose creative expressions question political narratives, religious beliefs and social values are being hounded.

In 2019, at least 20 artistes were denied entry, banned, deported or blacklisted by the country they were travelling to perform in because of their creative expressions and beliefs.

In Uganda, South African pop star Yvonne Chaka Chaka was thrown out of the country before she could perform. She was in the country on the invitation of pop-star-turned opposition politician and People Power leader Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu aka Bobi Wine, who has not been allowed to perform in Uganda since 2018 by state functionaries for fear that he will use his music for political gain and popularity.

Bobi Wine, a fierce critic of President Yoweri Museveni, has declared his intention to run against the president in the 2021 presidential election.


Iranian film director Mohammad Rasoulof could not attend this year’s 2020 Berlin International Film Festival, where his film Sheytan Vojud Nadarad (There is no Evil) won the Golden bear award.

Rasoulof cannot leave Iran, and in 2019 was sentenced to a year in prison for "attacking the security of the state" and banned from making films for life.

"Through those arbitrary and punitive restrictions on the right to freedom of movement, governments attempted to control, intimidate or suppress dissident artistic expressions," Freemuse says in its report.

Artist Travel Limitations.

Based in Copenhagen, Denmark, Freemuse is an independent international organisation advocating for and defending freedom of artistic expression.

"Artists and artistic freedom defenders are facing bans and restrictions to participating in residencies, work, tour internationally, research and study in foreign countries. Yet mobility is crucial to artists and their careers. It enables them to reach a larger audience and network, experience cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue, learn new skills and artistic techniques, stimulate their creativity, among others," Freemuse says.