PANAF Statement

3rd March, 2022

Music Freedom Day

The Pan African Network for Artistic Freedom (PANAF) initiative joins the rest on the continent to celebrate Music Freedom Day this 3rd of March. This day was created in 2007 by the Europe-based organisation Freemuse as a means to celebrate freedom of expression while also standing up to repressive regimes that seek to silence artists and musicians all around the globe.

PANAF recognises the efforts of African civil society and other human rights organisations to advocate for free and diverse ecosystems for the creation, dissemination, and access to cultural life, as stipulated in the UNESCO 2005 Convention: respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms such as freedom of expression, information, and communication is such an absolute requirement for the protection and promotion of cultural diversity.

Still, we are profoundly concerned by the number of African musicians that are always being watched, intimidated, or detained. The inadequate or non-existent legislation protecting artists’ rights, represents a threat to artistic freedom. This is a prevalent problem that is constantly evolving, requiring constant monitoring in order to engage governments and other institutions, paving the way for fair compromise in the fight for artistic freedom on the continent.

PANAF believes that freedom of expression must be actively fostered at the core of artistic practice and purpose, or it would be undermined and weakened by conflicting interests. Through its Activity Plan (2021-2023), PANAF intends to reinforce the connection between artistic rights, economic growth, and the rule of law through its programmatic research, training with artists, and policy advocacy activities. PANAF will also lobby through dialogue with governments to review existing laws, allowing more freedom of creative expression and innovation.

This new initiative envisions an ecosystem for the protection of artistic freedom that links the regional and national levels, achieving enhanced responsiveness and increased capacities for monitoring as well as the development of good practices in legislation and judiciary.

On this Music Freedom Day 2022, we remember all the musicians on the continent who’ve been murdered, mysteriously disappeared, and are languishing in prison. We also applaud artists that do not allow censorship and persecution to keep them from stating their views.

We call on everyone to continuously advocate for artistic rights across the continent because where the arts and cultural activities have been suppressed, the development of entire societies suffers.

Teshome Wondimu

Selam Founder and Executive Director
Stockholm, Sweden

Lucy Ilado

Selam Regional Programme Director
Nairobi, Kenya


The Pan African Network for Artistic Freedom (PANAF) is a new network-building initiative initiated by Selam, a cultural organisation that has worked for over 20 years in cultural development and development with offices in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Sweden. Funded by the Swedish Arts Council, this initiative seeks to create a Pan-African inclusive voice for organisations connecting African artists and culture producers defending artistic freedom.
It is being developed in collaboration with partners in Nigeria, Gambia, Mozambique, Zambia, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia, with plans to involve several other countries in the future.

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