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India censored more films than any other country in 2017, finds a study on artistic freedom

The State of Artistic Freedom report noted the furor over ‘Padmaavat’, ‘S Durga’, ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ and ‘Satyadev IPS’.

India surpassed Turkey, China, Lebanon, France and its neighbour Pakistan to top the list of countries that have censored the most films in 2017, found a study by Freemuse, an independent international organisation advocating for free artistic expression.

According to The State of Artistic Freedom study, 20% of all film censorship cases in 2017 came from India, followed by Turkey, with 9% of cases. India also accounted for one-third of all documented cases of persecution and threats to filmmakers and actors, followed by United Arab Emirates, with 17% cases.

The report noted the furor and censorship of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat, Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s S Durga, Alankrita Srivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha and Gautham Menon’s Satyadev IPS, the Kannada-dubbed version of Ajith Kumar starrer 2015 Tamil hit Yennai Arindhaal. The release of Menon’s film was disrupted by violent protests by pro-Kannada activists who claimed that the release of dubbed films threatened the state’s culture and industry.

The report examined 553 documented cases where artistic freedom was violated across 78 countries.

India was also among the the 10 countries that have exhibited “alarming developments in how they treat artists and their freedom of artistic expression, and are ones to keep a watch on throughout 2018”. The other nations on that list were China, the United States, Cuba, Iran, Israel, Mexico, Poland, Venezuela and Spain.

India was also featured in several other lists, including the top six countries that denied women’s rights to artistic freedom, where it ranked fourth after Iran, Israel and Egypt.

In terms of censorship across art forms, India was eighth in the list of Top 10 countries, sharing space with the United Kingdom. That list was topped by Uzbekistan, followed by France and Algeria.

Fifty-five percent of the documented violations of artistic freedom in India have come from government authorities, according to the study, while non-state actors, including religious and caste groups, accounted for 36%.

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