IARA launches the virtual gallery of art censored on Social Media with international coalition

White Dont Delete Art logo on the black background

On 19 May 2020, an international coalition of arts and free expression organizations, including IARA, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), IBEX Collection, Article19, PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) and Freemuse, launched Don’t Delete Art, a virtual gallery showcasing work which is banned or restricted on social media. The gallery was created in response to artists’ increased reliance on social media platforms as the coronavirus pandemic forced global closings of physical art spaces. With social media as the world’s primary art space, artists are more vulnerable than ever to the chaotic manner in which platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube, remove and restrict art vaguely defined as “objectionable.” The gallery is part of a campaign calling on social media companies to adopt a clear set of notice and appeals principles guiding the regulation of art online and allowing art to circulate freely in the online environment.

The Don’t Delete Art gallery is curated by a collective including artists Spencer Tunick and Savannah Spirit, as well as representatives from the arts organizations involved among them Svetlana Mintcheva and Julia Farrington.

Don’t Delete Art is viewable at dontdelete.art. The website includes a submission form for censored artists, as well as more information about the curatorial collective.

New publication on artistic freedom

In celebration of World Press Freedom Day 2020, UNESCO issued the report Freedom & Creativity shedding light on the current advances and challenges in the legal protection of artistic freedom, the protection of the social and economic rights of artists and cultural professionals, and the monitoring of artistic freedom.


The report has been researched and written by Laurence Cuny and edited by Sara Whyatt.


All IARA consultants contribute to the analysis of contemporary pressures on artistic freedom of expression.

Here are some recent examples of their media work, opinion pieces, and commentary.

Publication of two studies for the Arts Rights Justice Library at Hildesheim University (May 2019)

IARA responded to the call for proposals launched by the UNESCO Chair at Hildesheim University for three studies on ARTS RIGHTS JUSTICE.

Sara Whyatt in collaboration with Ole Reitov authored the report ARTS. Protecting and Promoting Artistic Freedom. Laurence Cuny authored the report RIGHTS. Legal frameworks for Artistic Freedom.

The reports are part of the ARJ Library and can be accessed here


Their contents was used for the event FREEDOM TRANSMISSIONS Interventions on the Protection and Promotion of Artistic Freedom that took place in Berlin on June 6th 2019.

Survey Online Harassement  (2018)

At IARA, we are concerned that there is a chill on artistic expression as a result of artists being intimidated, trolled, harassed and bullied online in reaction to their artistic and expressive activities.  We are conducting this survey to help us understand the nature and scale of these threats, how they impact on artistic activity in the online space and what steps we can take in response.

Please help us to fill and share the survey: Online Harassment Survey


Online harassment is serious matter and it affects several artists. Yumna Al-Arashi talks about her experience of online harassment and being an artist in the digital age. Interview with Julia Farrington. 

Read the full Interview Yumna.

Short report on work with Open Society Institute in Tajikistan : Mary Ann DeVlieg

The Open Society Institute in Tajikistan initiated a process in 2017 aiming to raise awareness amongst artists and NGOs on the fundamentals of freedom of artistic expression and the ways that contemporary, engaged art and artists – can benefit a range of publics.  The benefits are highlighted when publics participate in the artistic process itself, not merely by consuming artistic products. It is hoped that OSI will work with Tajik artists and arts organisations to map out a strategy for developing the work.

Full article here: Short Report on Open Society Tajikistan and artistic freedom

Evade, Elude or Evolve? Challenges to displaced (Syrian) artists : Mary Ann DeVlieg

Ettijahat- Independent Culture’s Programme, the Cultural Priorities in Syria, is currently compiling a series of articles addressing the challenges facing Syrian cultural work. Articles have been written by Syrian and non-Syrian experts alike, as well as various cultural actors.  Mary Ann DeVlieg was invited to respond to the first article (by Palestinian researcher and cultural policy-maker, Fatin Farhat) and to reflect on artists displaced by conflict in Syria.   Full article here: from Ettijahat- Independent Culture 

Freedom of Expression is not a Luxury: Sarah Whyatt and Julia Farrington

Free expression is not a luxury

IARA members, Sara Whyatt and Julia Farrington were interviewed in this short and informative video – Freedom of Expression is not a Luxury –  produced by UNESCO explaining what freedom of artistic expression is and why it is important.

Global Roundtable curated by Lalita Salander for ArtsEverywhere on Artist Safety / Safe haven hosting, contribution by Laurence Cuny

Art residencies may serve as sites of shelter or safe haven for artists in distress, who have fled or been evacuated from another location. Given a notable growth at the intersection between artist residencies and shelter, the purpose of the Roundtable gathered in December 2017 was to answer the following questions : what responsibilities are there for cultural producers, human rights activists, journalists, artists, lawyers, and other actors working in and articulating this “in-between” space? Where do responsibilities and expectations meet and where do they clash? Finally, what practices can be implemented to facilitate a genuine sense of rest and respite for artists that are in flight?

Tackling self-censorship in the arts community: Julia Farrington

In January 2013 Julia organised a conference called Taking the Offensive for Index on Censorship to explore the growth of self-censorship in contemporary culture, the social, political and legal challenges to artistic freedom of expression and the sources of these new challenges. The report from the conference concluded that censorship and self-censorship are significant influences in the arts, producing a complex picture of the different ways society controls expression: institutional self-censorship, which many acknowledged suppresses creativity and ideas, was openly discussed for the first time.  In the three years from the conference many things have changed…Full text here

The Arts, Law and Freedom of Speech: Julia Farrington

The controversy surrounding the closure of Brett Bailey’s Exhibit B and the role of the police in September 215 illustrates the need for greater clarity around the role of the police in managing protest relating to controversial art. That same year’s Index on Censorship’s information packs on the laws that impact on artistic freedom published that year, go some way to addressing the need for greater clarity and understanding of the rights and responsibilities of the police and arts practitioners. Find out more here

First Annual Arts Rights Justice Academy: Mary Ann DeVlieg

From 24 – 30 August 2017, the first annual Arts Rights Justice Academy will take place at the University of Hildesheim, Germany, organised by the UNESCO Chair of Cultural Policy for the Arts in Development. Comprised of lectures, interactive exchange and laboratories, it will bring together participants with a good level of experience and expertise in the arts, artistic freedom and human rights. The summer course aims to convey and professionalize skills, ensure the exchange of knowledge, make the most of multiplier effects and build expertise with an overall vision to strengthen and expand structures for the promotion and protection of artistic freedom.

The programme was developed in cooperation with both arts and human rights and free speech ONGs, institutions and experts. It is supported by the Germany’s Federal Foreign Office and ICORN (International Cities of Refuge Network). IARA members are involved in the initiative on several different levels, from co-conception and planning to lecturing and participating. http://arts-rights-justice.de

Interview with Karima Bennoune: Sarah Whyatt

In June 2017, IARA’s Sara Whyatt interviewed Karima Bennoune, UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights for the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX). Bennoune speaks of the experience of being the daughter of a writer living under threat in 1990s Algeria, and how that led to her writing ‘Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here’, telling the stories of people of Muslim heritage who have challenged fundamentalist extremism. She also talked about the challenges to freedom of artistic expression globally and ways forward.

Analysing the Art of Resistance: Mary Ann DeVlieg:

“Evaluating the impact of art and cultural activity is tough already. Throwing in human rights and free speech complicates the issue. Support for human rights defenders who confront governments, civil or religious groups is justified by international law. But how do we evaluate arts practices that raise awareness of universal rights or individual identities in situations where they are denied?  Egyptian writer Alaa Al-Aswany writes, “My father told me his legacy to me was prison cells. My legacy to my son will be prison cells.”
from ‘Analysing the Art of Resistance’, World Policy Institute, July 2014 http://www.worldpolicy.org/blog/2014/07/09/analyzing-art-resistance 

Structures of Power and the Ethical Limits of Speech: Svetlana Mintcheva

“Cultural institutions play a crucial role in maintaining the openness of social and political debate. That role is threatened if those institutions fail to take on real controversies around difficult and emotionally charged subject matter because some of that subject matter may be offensive or even traumatic. Unless they are prepared to welcome genuine conflict and disagreement, cultural institutions will operate as echo chambers under the pall of a fearful consensus, rather than leaders in a vibrant and agonistic public sphere.”
You can read the full essay, ‘Structures of Power and the Ethical Limits of Speech’