Freedom of expression is the bedrock of any society. When people are free to express themselves, new opinions and ideas can grow and spread. We can criticise leaders and dismantle oppressive structures.
When freedom of expression is overtly threatened, there are serious knock-on effects which are not as visible. When a person decides that they should not express an opinion for fear of negative consequence, this is known as self-censorship. When this happens at a general societal level, or among a particular community or profession, it is known as a chilling effect.
For example, if a journalist reporting on corruption is taken to court on charges of defamation, this sends a message to other journalists who may decide to stop reporting on corruption. Another example is when a piece of art is deemed to be political by the State, and it has to be painted over. Other artists may refrain from making art on this particular topic.
ICCL defends freedom of expression whenever it is challenged, except where the content of what is said impinges on the rights of others.
Freedom of Artistic Expression
During the referendum to repeal the 8th amendment, Project Arts Centre was ordered by the Charities Regulator to remove Maser’s REPEAL mural from its wall. Project were told that they would lose their charitable status if they did not do so, because the presentation of this artwork did not fit within Project’s charitable purpose. Project’s charitable purpose is the presentation and development of contemporary art.
In response to this act of censorship by the State, ICCL produced a policy paper arguing that both artistic expression and political expression are forms of expression which deserve special protection. We argued that both forms of expression should be protected even more during referendum and election periods.
ICCL also commissioned our own mural in response to the censorship of Maser’s mural.
We continue to work to guarantee freedom of artistic expression in Irish society.