Culture and artistic expression has been recognized by the UN as an “essential component of human development and an important factor in the fight against poverty.” By artistically addressing issues in public space artists have proven their ability to bring counterweights to existing power centers in many developing countries. However artistic expressions come under particular attack because they can convey specific messages and articulate symbolic values in a powerful way, or may be considered as doing so. The effects of censorship or abusive restrictions of the right to artistic freedom of expression are devastating. They generate huge cultural, social, and economic losses in societies, deprive artists of their means of expression and livelihood, and create an unsafe environment for all engaged in the arts and their audiences; they sterilize debates on human, social, and political issues.
In June 2013 the UN special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Ms Farida Shaheed, presented a report to the UN Human Rights Council. In the report, “The Right to Artistic Freedom and Creativity,” the special rapporteur concluded that “the effects of art censorship or unjustified restrictions of the right to freedom of artistic expression and creativity are devastating.”