On February 12th, 2013, the city of Harstad (Norway), signed the first agreement with SafeMUSE, proclaiming itself the first ever Safe Music Haven. Freemuse – the World Forum on Music and Censorship – is currently identifying eligible persecuted artists for the first residence period.
“A milestone in our work for freedom of artistic expression and human rights” said Renée Rasmussen, President of the Norwegian Musicians’ Union.
Freedom of expression can’t be taken for granted – even in the field of music. Too many musicians, artists and composers around the world are faced with huge problems just for being musicians, artists and composers. The Pussy Riot case has been an eye-opener for many, as is the current situation in Mali: persecution, imprisonment, torture and murder are a reality for far too many musicians. The Freemuse Annual Statistics documented more than 100 violations in 2011, including harassments, threats, stopped concerts, arrests, torture and even murder, due to artistic activities. (http://www.freemuse.org/sw47235.asp).
A milestone in our work for freedom of artistic expression and human rights
Since the 1990s, safe havens or cities of refuge for persecuted writers has become a worldwide scheme: as of today, the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) counts 40 member cities. There had been no parallel scheme for music so far. In 2011 the Norwegian Musicians’ Union (MFO), in cooperation with Freemuse, the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) and professional music organizations in the Nordic countries, took the first steps towards the creation of a safe music havens scheme. The SafeMUSE project aims to increase awareness of these issues, protect freedom of artistic expression and democracy as well as to support persecuted musicians worldwide.
Harstad, the first safe city for musicians, commits to host guest musicians for standard, 2-year periods. In co-operation with the Troms County Council, it will facilitate the securing of adequate working conditions for the artists concerned. More generally, it will provide access to an environment where music creation and performance can be made free and safe, in line with the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“This feels really good. I am happy that Harstad was the first. We have many professional musicians and a vibrant and diverse music environment in the city. We look forward to welcoming the first artist” said Marianne Bremnes, Mayor of Harstad and a musician herself.
FIM fully supports the SafeMUSE project (resolution 32 of the 20th FIM Congress – Buenos Aires, October. 3-5, 2012).