09.11.2012 - UNESCO Office in Kathmandu

Freedom of artistic expression promoted at PEN symposium

Taking a stand against attempts to curtail freedom of artistic expression was the objective of a symposium organized yesterday by the Nepal Chapter of the global writers’ organization PEN International. The event that was triggered by the death threats towards Nepali artist Manish Harijan in connection with his exhibition at Siddhartha Art Gallery in September 2012, was supported by UNESCO.

Robert Piper, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nepal, pointing out the vital meaning of freedom of artistic expression for ensuring all other Human Rights, enshrined in the UN Charter. “Art has always driven change and must be given the liberty to provoke new thinking. Artists must be guaranteed to enjoy this freedom”,   said Robert Piper.

Axel Plathe, Head of the UNESCO Office in Nepal, highlighted the importance of the liberty of artists to freely create and to express their views and interpretations of the world. But he also said that freedom of expression must be exercised in a spirit of mutual respect and mutual understanding.

Various speakers took the floor including Kiran Manandhar, Chancellor of the Nepal Academy of Fine Arts and Ram Kumar Panday, President of PEN Nepal and papers were presented on freedom of expression in literature, cinema and new media.

Freedom of artistic expression is guaranteed under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.

Freedom of expression and communication is the essential prerequisite for all artistic activities. According to the Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist, adopted by UNESCO in 1980, Member States should see that artists are unequivocally accorded the protection provided for in this respect by international and national legislation concerning human rights.

But freedom of expression must be exercised in a spirit of mutual respect and mutual understanding, as a landmark decision of UNESCO’s Executive Board pointed out in 2006 (174 EX/Decision 46).

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