Nordic ministers: Protect the free role of art and culture

04.05.22 | News
De nordiska kulturministrarna träffades på Den Norske Opera & Ballett i Oslo för årets första ministermöte.
Photographer
Siri Ø Eriksen/norden.org

The Nordic ministers for culture held their first ministerial meeting at the Norwegian Opera & Ballet in Oslo.

The conditions for the free role of art are crucial for a democratic society. As a pioneering region, the Nordic countries must raise this issue internationally at a time when values such as these are under pressure. That was the message from the Nordic ministers for culture at their first ministerial meeting of the year in Oslo on Wednesday.

In their Nordic co-operation programme for culture, the ministers maintain that the media, art, and culture must be allowed to operate, create, and disseminate freely.

“The free role of art and culture is central to Nordic co-operation on culture. As a pioneering region in the world, we want to leverage every international opportunity to promote artistic freedom. For democracy to function effectively, it’s crucial that art is free to reflect on, provoke, and challenge societal structures. Together, we must demonstrate the Nordic countries’ work to support artistic freedom, which is an important prerequisite for an open and democratic society. Freedom of expression is a fundamental value that we share in the Nordic Region, and the need to safeguard the free role of artists and cultural practitioners is important at a time when we see that these values are under pressure,” says Anette Trettebergstuen, Norway’s Minister of Culture and Equality, and chair of the Nordic Council of Ministers for Culture in 2022. 

Freedom of expression is a fundamental value that we share in the Nordic Region, and the need to safeguard the free role of artists and cultural practitioners is important at a time when we see that these values are under pressure.

Anette Trettebergstuen, Norway’s Minister of Culture and Equality

Artistic freedom, arm’s-length principle, and instrumentalisation

The ministers’ discussion of the prerequisites for artistic freedom was based on the recently published report “Freedom of Art and Culture in the Nordic Region”.  

Three key areas that were highlighted in the overview from Kulturanalys Norden are the arm’s-length principle, artistic freedom, and instrumentalisation.

“Research has shown that art and culture are expected to contribute to achieving goals in a growing number of areas of society in the Nordic countries. This approach characterises both the overall policies and more detailed governance, and risks challenging artistic freedom,” says Pelle Amberntsson, project manager at the Swedish Agency for Cultural Policy Analysis, which prepared the report.   

Another outcome is that there are real problems with hate, threats, and harassment against artists and cultural practitioners in several Nordic countries. In addition, the report demonstrates that the prerequisites for the free and independent role of art and culture depend on several factors such as the market, the public, practitioners, and interest groups,” 

The Nordic countries can lead the way in a time marked by war and unrest

In a geopolitical context characterised by war and pandemics, in which democratic values such as freedom of expression, freedom of the media, and artistic freedom are under pressure, the Nordic Region stands out as a pioneer in many areas. This also applies when compared to other countries and regions in the world.

“Nordic societies are characterised by high levels of social trust which are fundamental to the cohesion of the region and to Nordic co-operation. Art and culture contribute to exactly that, and the Nordic countries can show the way and safeguard a free and open cultural scene in a time marked by war and unrest,” says Paula Lehtomäki, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers. 

Protecting Ukraine’s cultural heritage

During the meeting, the Nordic ministers for culture also discussed the situation in Ukraine. The ministers stressed the importance of protecting Ukrainian cultural heritage. This will be a top priority for the ministers in relation to Nordic co-operation on culture in the future. 

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