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ARTICLE 19 Artist Alert - October 2010

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 16 November 2010 - Art, in any form, constitutes a key medium through which information and ideas are imparted and received. Artist Alert, launched by ARTICLE 19 in 2008, highlights cases of artists around the world whose right to freedom of expression has been curtailed and abused, and seeks to more effectively promote and defend freedom to create.

China: leading artist's studio to be demolished

One of China's leading artists, Ai Weiwei, has been informed by the authorities that his new $1.1 million studio in Shanghai must be demolished. The BBC reports that Ai, who was involved in the design of the Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing, was initially invited to build the studio in an emerging arts district, but the building has now been ruled illegal for not following proper planning procedures. The artist, a vocal critic of human rights abuses in China, was held under house arrest for two days in Beijing, while supporters held a protest party at the studio on 7 November to mark the demolition. The Tate Modern gallery in London is currently displaying Ai's latest work of art: a giant installation made up of hundreds of thousands of tiny, hand-painted replica sunflower seeds.

Turkey: Ferhat Tunç acquitted - and immediately charged again

The Kurdish singer Ferhat Tunç has been informed by the Turkish authorities that he must answer new charges only a day after being acquitted by a court in Diyabarkir of crimes brought under anti-terrorism legislation. The Freemuse award winner had been accused of "spreading propaganda for the (Kurdistan Workers' Party) organization" by the prosecution, and "committing a crime on behalf of an illegal organization without being a member of the organization." Judges in Diyabarkir had ruled that there was no evidence of any crime committed in a case that gained international support for the singer. After his latest run-in with the government, Tunç wrote to Freemuse saying: "Such is my life! Tomorrow I will have to present myself once again to the police."

Singapore: Shadrake found guilty over death penalty book

British author Alan Shadrake has been found guilty of insulting the Singapore judiciary after alleging that judges were insufficiently impartial in their use of the death penalty, and has been sentenced to six weeks imprisonment. As reported in the previous Artist Alert, Shadrake's book tour to promote Once a Jolly Hangman - Singapore Justice in the Dock was severely curtailed by the authorities. After landing in Singapore on 19 July, Shadrake was taken into police custody and detained for a series of interrogations, and will now be sentenced for contempt. The crime is punishable by imprisonment or a fine or both, with no maximum limit set on either, although the Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) has called for a jail term of at least 12 weeks. ARTICLE 19 partnered with 27 other free speech organisations in calling on Prime Minister Lee to intercede with the authorities and withdraw the charges. Shadrake, who is also facing separate charges of defamation, is expected to be sentenced on 16 November.

Denmark: Artists' exhibition cancelled over royal orgy cartoon

A retrospective exhibition of the satirical Danish duo Surrend (a.k.a. Jan Egesborg and Pia Bertelsen) was cancelled when the pair told organisers they would be using a pornographic depiction of the Danish royal family. According to The Art Newspaper, the show had been due to open at the Danish Poster Museum, in Aarhus on 13 October. Thomas Bloch Ravn, the director of Den Gamble By, the open-air village museum where the Danish Poster Museum is located, accused the artists of attention-seeking and said that he will no longer work with Surrend. Ravn denies censorship, saying that the artists are free to publish their works elsewhere. Egesborg, for his part, has accused the people of Denmark of hypocrisy, arguing that while it was happy to allow Kurt Westergaard's controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed to be published, it has different rules regarding the royal family.

Malaysia: Cartoonist Zunar challenges cartoon book ban in court

Political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anawar Ulhaque, better known by the pen name of Zunar, has brought a legal action challenging a government ban on two of his cartoon books, 'Funny Malaysia' and 'Perak Darul Kartun'. In a separate case, the cartoonist is facing charges of sedition for a collection of satirical works, 'Cartoon-o-phobia'. Zunar was arrested and bailed in September, and faces a possible three-year jail sentence if found guilty of the charges. Speaking about his work, Zunar said: "I have always liked political books, which is very different from practising politics. I don't belong to any party. In my view, a political cartoonist must be well informed, he must know about legal matters, human rights and so on. I hope that, through my cartoons, people understand what is going on. I would like to be a pioneer and for other young cartoonists to take this road. I have already worked with several of them."

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