Smockey: “We would like to trust the justice of our country”


Burkinabe rapper and activist with Le Balai Citoyen, Smockey, became the inaugural Music in Exile Fellow at the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards in April 2016. In July his recording studio, the lionised Studio Abazon, was destroyed in a fire.

“All my music files since 2001, including my master tapes and those of my productions and clients, were lost,” Smockey told Index on Censorship. “I was working on the album of a young rapper named Balla, volume three of my compilation called La Part des Ténèbres and original music for a mobile phone service product – all gone.”

Two months on, it still isn’t clear what caused the blaze. “I don’t have any news about ongoing investigations, so all I know is that anyone could have caused it apart from me,” he said.

Studio Abazon was impossible to insure due to a September 2015 firebomb attack by forces loyal to Burkina Faso’s ousted president, which destroyed the studio. Having recently finished rebuilding in the months before the fire, Smockey said he is obliged to do so again. “But this time I will build it underground to make it more secure.”

Some of Smockey’s friends have launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the studio and the rapper said he would welcome all the help he can get.

When he last spoke with Index, Smockey was writing tracks for his new album. Plans to record have now been put on hold.

Still, the setback hasn’t put the rapper off performing. He recently played to packed gigs in Switzerland, Germany and Belgium, where he took part in the Esperanzah! music festival. In October he will take the stage in his home country at the Waga Hip Hop Festival. In November he will return to Germany — for appearances in Berlin and Munich — and Switzerland. In December, he will perform in Spain.

Le Balai Citoyen, which Smockey co-founded, is a grassroots political movement which helped bring to an end the three-decade rule of former president Blaise Compaoré. It is currently involved in a new project to build a memorial for the late revolutionary Burkinabe leader, and hero of Smockey’s, Thomas Sankara. To raise funds and awareness for the memorial, Smockey will soon perform at Revolution Square, where up to a million people had gathered to demand Compaore’s resignation in 2014.

“We are just nine months past the insurrection, so now is a good time for the memorial,” Smockey told Index. “Seeing it every day in the city would help put pressure on those in power — those who think they can manipulate us but are mistaken — to do their job.”

Rehabilitating the memory of Sankara – who was overthrown and assassinated in a coup d’état led by Compaoré in 1987 – is, therefore, an important part of bringing about of justice for all affected by the crimes of the former regime, Smockey said.

The former prime minister of Burkina Faso, Luc-Adolphe Tiao, who was appointed by Compaoré, was this month charged and jailed for murder. Smockey welcomes this as a step forward for the country.

“We encourage everyone who is implicated in these crimes to stand before justice in this country, at least because we have a certain sense of honour,” he said. “Burkina Faso literally means the land of men with integrity, so we would like to trust the justice of our country.”

Le Balai Citoyen is now working with a coalition of seven other organisations, collectively called Ditanyè, to tackle the challenges facing the country and to preserve “the positive gains from the revolution,” Smockey added.

Looking forward, he understands the country must have priorities and the courage to define them. “After justice, which is necessary for reconciliation, we have to work on the economic recovery and jobs for young people,” he said. “We want to work now.”

Nominations are now open for 2017 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards. You can make yours here

Winners of the 2016 Freedom of Expression Awards: from left, Farieha Aziz of Bolo Bhi (campaigning), Serge Bambara -- aka "Smockey" (Music in Exile), Murad Subay (arts), Zaina Erhaim (journalism). GreatFire (digital activism), not pictured, is an anonymous collective. Photo: Sean Gallagher for Index on Censorship

Winners of the 2016 Freedom of Expression Awards: from left, Farieha Aziz of Bolo Bhi (campaigning), Serge Bambara — aka “Smockey” (Music in Exile), Murad Subay (arts), Zaina Erhaim (journalism). GreatFire (digital activism), not pictured, is an anonymous collective. Photo: Sean Gallagher for Index on Censorship

Also read:

Zaina Erhaim: Balancing work and family in times of war

Artist Murad Subay worries about the future for Yemen’s children

#IndexAwards2016 Fellowship update: “We want change now”

Winners of the 2016 Freedom of Expression Awards: from left, Farieha Aziz of Bolo Bhi (campaigning), Serge Bambara -- aka "Smockey" (Music in Exile), Murad Subay (arts), Zaina Erhaim (journalism). GreatFire (digital activism), not pictured, is an anonymous collective. Photo: Sean Gallagher for Index on Censorship

Winners of the 2016 Freedom of Expression Awards: from left, Farieha Aziz of Bolo Bhi (campaigning), Serge Bambara — aka “Smockey” (Music in Exile), Murad Subay (arts), Zaina Erhaim (journalism). GreatFire (digital activism), not pictured, is an anonymous collective. Photo: Sean Gallagher for Index on Censorship

In the short three months since the Index on Censorship Awards, the 2016 fellows have been busy doing important work in their respective fields to further their cause and for stronger freedom of expression around the world.

GreatFire / Digital activism

GreatFire, the anonymous group of individuals who work towards circumventing China’s Great Firewall, has just launched a groundbreaking new site to test virtual private networks within the country.

“Stable circumvention is a difficult thing to find in China so this new site a way for people to see what’s working and what’s not working,” said co-founder Charlie Smith.  

But why are VPNs needed in China in the first place? “The list is very long: the firewall harms innovation while scholars in China have criticised the government for their internet controls, saying it’s harming their scholarly work, which is absolutely true,” said Smith. “Foreign companies are also complaining that internet censorship is hurting their day-to-day business, which means less investment in China, which means less jobs for Chinese people.”

Even recent Chinese history is skewed by the firewall. The anniversary of Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 last month went mostly unnoticed. “There was nothing to be seen about it on the internet in China,” Smith said. “This is a major event in Chinese history that’s basically been erased.”

Going forward, Smith is optimistic for growth within GreatFire, and has hopes the new VPN service will reach 100 million Chinese people. “However, we always feel that foreign businesses and governments could do more,” he said. “We don’t see this as a long game or diplomacy; we want change now and so I feel positive about what we are doing but we have less optimism when it comes to efforts outside of our organisation.”

Winning the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award for Digital Activism has certainly helped morale. “With the way we operate in anonymity, sometimes we feel a little lonely, so it’s nice to know that there are people out there paying attention,” Smith said.

Murad Subay / Arts

During his time in London for the Index awards, Yemeni artist Murad Subay painted a mural in Hoxton, which was the first time he had worked outside of his home country. “It was a great opportunity to tell people what’s going on in Yemen, because the world isn’t paying attention,” he explained to Index.

Since going home, Subay has continued to work with Ruins, his campaign with other artists to paint the walls of Yemen. “We launched in 2011, and have continued to paint ever since.”

Last month, artists from Ruins, including Subay, painted a number of murals in front of the Central Bank of Yemen to represent the country’s economic collapse.

In his acceptance speech at the Index Awards, Subay dedicated his award to the “unknown” people of Yemen, “who struggle to survive”. There has been little change in the situation since in the subsequent months as Yemenis continue to suffer war, oppression, destruction, thirst and — with increasing food prices — hunger.

“The war will continue for a long time and I believe it may even be a decade for the turmoil in Yemen to subside,” Subay says. “Yemen has always been poor, but the situation has gotten significantly worse in the last few years.”

Subay considers himself to be one of the lucky ones as he has access to water and electricity. “But there are many millions of people without these things and they need humanitarian assistance,” he says. “They are sick of what is going on in Yemen, but I do have hope — you have to have hope here.”

The Index award has also helped Subay maintain this hope. As has the inclusion of his work in university courses around the world, from John Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA, and King Juan Carlos University in Madrid, Spain.

Subay’s wife has this month travelled to America to study at Stanford University. He hopes to join her and study fine art. “Since 2001 I have not had any education, and this is not enough,” he explains. “I have ideas in my head that I can’t put into practice because i don’t have the knowledge but a course would help with this.”

Zaina Erhaim / Journalism

Syrian journalist and documentary filmmaker Zaina Erhaim has been based in Turkey since leaving London after the Index Awards in April as travelling back to Syria isn’t currently possible. “We don’t have permission to cross back and forth from the Turkish authorities,” she told Index. “The border is completely closed.”

Erhaim is with her daughter in Turkey, while her husband Mahmoud remains in Aleppo.

“The situation in Aleppo is very bad,” she said. “A recent Channel 4 report by a friend of mine shows that the bombing has intensified, and the number of killings is in the tens per day, which hasn’t been the case for some weeks; it’s terrible.”

The main hospital in Aleppo was bombed twice in June. “Sadly this is becoming such a common thing that we don’t talk about it anymore,” Erhaim added.

She has largely given up on following coverage of the war in Syria through US or UK-based media outlets. “It is such a wasted effort and it’s so disappointing,” she explained. “I follow a couple of journalists based in the region who are actually trying to report human-side stories, but since I was in London for the awards, I haven’t followed the mainstream western media.”

Erhaim has put her own documentary making on hold for now while she launches a new project with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting this month to teach activists filmmaking skills. “We are going to be helping five citizen journalists to do their own short films, which we will then help them publicise,” she said.

Documentary filmmaking is something she would like to return to in future, “but at the moment it is not feasible with the situation in Syria and the projects we are now working on”.

Bolo Bhi / Campaigning

The last time Index spoke to Farieha Aziz, director of Bolo Bhi, the Pakistani non-profit, all-female NGO fighting for internet access, digital security and privacy, the country’s lower legislative chamber had just passed the cyber crimes bill.

The danger of the bill is that it would permit the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to manage, remove or block content on the internet. “It’s part of a regressive trend we are seeing the world over: there is shrinking space for openness, a lot of privacy intrusion and limits to free speech,” Aziz told Index.

Thankfully, when the bill went to the Pakistani senate — which is the upper house — it was rejected as it stood. “Before this, we had approached senators to again get an affirmation as they’d given earlier saying that they were not going to pass it in its current form,” Aziz added.

Bolo Bhi’s advice to Pakistani politicians largely pointed back to analysis the group had published online, which went through various sections of the bill and highlighting what was problematic and what needed to be done.

This further encouraged those senators who were against the bill to get the word out to their parties to attend the session to ensure it didn’t pass. “It’s a good thing to see they’ve felt a sense of urgency, which we’ve desperately needed,” Aziz said.

“The strength of the campaign throughout has actually been that we’ve been able to band together, whether as civil society organisations, human rights organisations, industry organisations, but also those in the legislature,” Aziz added.We’ve been together at different forums, we’ve been constantly engaging, sharing ideas and essentially that’s how we want policy making in general, not just on one bill, to take place.”

The campaign to defeat the bill goes on. A recent public petition (18 July) set up by Bolo Bhi to the senate’s Standing Committee on IT and Telecom requested the body to “hold more consultations until all sections of the bill have been thoroughly discussed and reviewed, and also hold a public hearing where technical and legal experts, as well as other concerned citizens, can present their point of view, so that the final version of the bill is one that is effective in curbing crime and also protects existing rights as guaranteed under the Constitution of Pakistan”.

A vote on an amended version of the bill is due to take place this week in the senate.

Smockey / Music in Exile Fellow

Burkinabe rapper and activist Smockey became the inaugural Music in Exile Fellow at the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards, and last month his campaigning group Le Balai Citoyen (The Citizen’s Broom) won an Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award.

“This was was given to us for our efforts in the promotion of human rights and democracy in our country,” said Smockey. The award was also given to Y en a marre (Senegal) and Et Lucha (Democratic Republic of the Congo).

“We are trying to create a kind of synergy between all social-movements in Africa because we are living in the same continent and so anything that affects the others will affect us also,” Smockey added.  

Le Balai Citoyen has recently been working on programmes for young people and women. “We will also meet the new mayor of the capital to understand all the problems of urbanism,” Smockey added.

While his activism has been getting international recognition, he remains focused on making music with upcoming concerts in Belgium, Switzerland and Germany, and he is currently writing the music for an upcoming album. A major setback has seen Smockey’s acclaimed Studio Abazon destroyed by a fire early in the morning of 19 July. According to press reports the studio is a complete loss. The cause is under investigation. 

Despite this, Smockey is still planning to organise a new music festival in Burkina Faso. “We want to create a festival of free expression in arts,” Smockey said. “And we are confident that it will change a lot of things here.”

He is thankful for the exposure the Index Awards have given him over the last number of months. “It was a great honour to receive this award, especially because it came from an English country,” he said. “My people are proud of this award.”

#IndexAwards2017: Here’s what you need to know

Freedom of Expression Awards

Each year, the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards gala honours courageous champions who fight for free speech around the world.

Drawn from more than 400 crowdsourced nominations, this year’s nominees include artists, journalists, campaigners and digital activists tackling censorship and fighting for freedom of expression. Many of the 16 shortlisted are regularly targeted by authorities or by criminal and extremist groups for their work: some face regular death threats, others criminal prosecution.

The gala takes place Wednesday 19 April at the Unicorn Theatre in London and will be hosted by comedian, actor and writer Katy Brand. If you aren’t lucky enough to be attending, you can catch the night’s events by tuning into coverage and a live Periscope stream @IndexCensorship beginning at 7:30PM BST.

We will be live tweeting throughout the evening on @IndexCensorship. Get involved in the conversation using the hashtag #IndexAwards2017.

Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards nominees 2017


Luaty Beirão, Angola

Rapper Luaty Beirão, also known as Ikonoklasta, has been instrumental in showing the world the hidden face of Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos’s rule. For his activism Beirão has been beaten up, had drugs planted on him and, in June 2015, was arrested alongside 14 other people planning to attend a meeting to discuss a book on non-violent resistance. Since being released in 2016, Beirão has been undeterred attempting to stage concerts that the authorities have refused to license and publishing a book about his captivity entitled “I Was Freer Then”, claiming “I would rather be in jail than in a state of fake freedom where I have to self-censor”.

Rebel Pepper, China

Wang Liming, better known under the pseudonym Rebel Pepper, is one of China’s most notorious political cartoonists. For satirising Chinese Premier Xi Jinping and lampooning the ruling Communist Party, Rebel Pepper has been repeatedly persecuted. In 2014, he was forced to remain in Japan, where he was on holiday, after serious threats against him were posted on government-sanctioned forums. The Chinese state has since disconnected him from his fan base by repeatedly deleting his social media accounts, he alleges his conversations with friends and family are under state surveillance, and self-imposed exile has made him isolated, bringing significant financial struggles. Nonetheless, Rebel Pepper keeps drawing, ferociously criticising the Chinese regime.

Fahmi Reza, Malaysia

On 30 January 2016, Malaysian graphic designer Fahmi Reza posted an image online of Prime Minister Najib Razak in evil clown make-up. From T-shirts to protest placards, and graffiti on streets to a sizeable public sticker campaign, the image and its accompanying anti-sedition law slogan #KitaSemuaPenghasut (“we are all seditious”) rapidly evolved into a powerful symbol of resistance against a government seen as increasingly corrupt and authoritarian. Despite the authorities’ attempts to silence Reza, who was banned from travel and has since been detained and charged on two separate counts under Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Act, he has refused to back down.

Two-tailed Dog Party, Hungary

A group of satirists and pranksters who parody political discourse in Hungary with artistic stunts and creative campaigns, the Two-tailed Dog Party have become a vital alternative voice following the rise of the national conservative government led by Viktor Orban. When Orban introduced a national consultation on immigration and terrorism in 2015, and plastered cities with anti-immigrant billboards, the party launched their own mock questionnaires and a popular satirical billboard campaign denouncing the government’s fear-mongering tactics. Relentlessly attempting to reinvigorate public debate and draw attention to under-covered or taboo topics, the party’s efforts include recently painting broken pavement to draw attention to a lack of public funding.


Arcoiris, Honduras

Established in 2003, LGBT organisation Arcoiris, meaning ‘rainbow’, works on all levels of Honduran society to advance LGBT rights. Honduras has seen an explosion in levels of homophobic violence since a military coup in 2009. Working against this tide, Arcoiris provide support to LGBT victims of violence, run awareness initiatives, promote HIV prevention programmes and directly lobby the Honduran government and police force. From public marches to alternative awards ceremonies, their tactics are diverse and often inventive. Between June 2015 and March 2016, six members of Arcoiris were killed for this work. Many others have faced intimidation, harassment and physical attacks. Some have had to leave the country because of threats they were receiving.

Breaking the Silence, Israel

Breaking the Silence, an Israeli organisation consisting of ex-Israeli military conscripts, aims to collect and share testimonies about the realities of military operations in the Occupied Territories. Since 2004, the group has collected over 1,000 (mainly anonymous) statements from Israelis who have served their military duty in the West Bank and Gaza. For publishing these frank accounts the organisation has repeatedly come under fire from the Israeli government. In 2016 the pressure on the organisation became particularly pointed and personal, with state-sponsored legal challenges, denunciations from the Israeli cabinet, physical attacks on staff members and damages to property. Led by Israeli politicians including the prime minister, and defence minister, there have been persistent attempts to force the organisation to identify a soldier whose anonymous testimony was part of a publication raising suspicions of war crimes in Gaza. Losing the case would set a precedent that would make it almost impossible for Breaking the Silence to operate in the future. The government has also recently  enacted a law that would bar the organisation’s widely acclaimed high school education programme.

Ildar Dadin, Russia

A Russian opposition and LGBT rights activist, Ildar Dadin was the first, and remains the only, person to be convicted under a notorious 2014 public assembly law. Aimed at punishing anyone who breaks strict rules on protest, the law was enacted to silence dissent after a wave of demonstrations following Putin’s last election victory. Dadin’s crime was to stage a series of one-man pickets, often standing silently with a billboard, attempting to duck the cynical law and push for free expression. For his solo enterprise, Dadin was arrested and sentenced to three years imprisonment in December 2015. In November 2016, website Meduza published a letter smuggled from Dadin to his wife, exposing torture he claimed he was suffering alongside fellow prisoners.  The letter, a brave move for a serving prisoner, was widely reported. A government investigation was prompted, and Dadin was transferred – against his will – to an undisclosed new location. A wave of public protest led to Dadin’s new location in a Siberian prison colony being revealed in January 2017. In February 2017, Russia’s constitutional and Supreme Courts suddenly quashed Dadin’s conviction, ruling he should be released and afforded opportunity for rehabilitation.

Maati Monjib, Morocco

A well-known academic who teaches African studies and political history at the University of Rabat since returning from exile, Maati Monjib co-founded Freedom Now, a coalition of Moroccan human rights defenders who seek to promote the rights of Moroccan activists and journalists in a country ranked 131 out of 180 on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index. His work campaigning for press freedom – including teaching investigative journalism workshops and using of a smartphone app called Story Maker designed to support citizen journalism – has made him a target for the authorities who insist that this work is the exclusive domain of state police. For his persistent efforts, Monjib is currently on trial for “undermining state security” and “receiving foreign funds.”

Digital Activism

Jensiat, Iran

Despite growing public knowledge of global digital surveillance capabilities and practices, it has often proved hard to attract mainstream public interest in the issue. This continues to be the case in Iran where even with widespread VPN usage, there is little real awareness of digital security threats. With public sexual health awareness equally low, the three people behind Jensiat, an online graphic novel, saw an an opportunity to marry these challenges. Dealing with issues linked to sexuality and cyber security in a way that any Iranian can easily relate to, the webcomic also offers direct access to verified digital security resources. Launched in March 2016, Jensiat has had around 1.2 million unique readers and was rapidly censored by the Iranian government.

Bill Marczak, United States

A schoolboy resident of Bahrain and PhD candidate in computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, Bill Marczak co-founded Bahrain Watch in 2013. Seeking to promote effective, accountable and transparent governance, Bahrain Watch works by launching investigations and running campaigns in direct response to social media posts coming from activists on the front line. In this context, Marczak’s personal research has proved highly effective, often identifying new surveillance technologies and targeting new types of information controls that governments are employing to exert control online, both in Bahrain and across the region. In 2016 Marczak investigated several government attempts to track dissidents and journalists, notably identifying a previously unknown weakness in iPhones that had global ramifications.

#ThisFlag and Evan Mawarire, Zimbabwe

In May 2016, Baptist pastor Evan Mawarire unwittingly began the most important protest movement in Zimbabwe’s recent history when he posted a video of himself draped in the Zimbabwean flag, expressing his frustration at the state of the nation. A subsequent series of YouTube videos and the hashtag Mawarire used, #ThisFlag, went viral, sparking protests and a boycott called by Mawarire, which he estimates was attended by over eight million people. A scale of public protest previously inconceivable, the impact was so strong that private possession of Zimbabwe’s national flag has since been banned. The pastor temporarily left the country following death threats and was arrested in early February as he returned to his homeland.

Turkey Blocks, Turkey

In a country marked by increasing authoritarianism, a strident crackdown on press and social media as well as numerous human rights violations, Turkish-British technologist Alp Toker brought together a small team to investigate internet restrictions. Using Raspberry Pi technology they built an open source tool able to reliably monitor and report both internet shut downs and power blackouts in real time. Using their tool, Turkey Blocks have since broken news of 14 mass-censorship incidents during several politically significant events in 2016. The tool has proved so successful that it has begun to be implemented elsewhere globally.


Behrouz Boochani, Manus Island, Papua New Guinea/Australia

Iranian Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani fled the city of Ilam in Iran in May 2013 after the police raided the Kurdish cultural heritage magazine he had co-founded, arresting 11 of his colleagues. He travelled to Australia by boat, intending to claim asylum, but less than a month after arriving he was forcibly relocated to a “refugee processing centre” in Papua New Guinea that had been newly opened. Imprisoned alongside nearly 1000 men who have been ordered to claim asylum in Papua New Guinea or return home, Boochani has been passionately documenting their life in detention ever since. Publicly advertised by the Australian Government as a refugee deterrent, life in the detention centre is harsh. For the first 2 years, Boochani wrote under a pseudonym. Until 2016 he circumvented a ban on mobile phones by trading personal items including his shoes with local residents. And while outside journalists are barred, Boochani has refused to be silent, writing numerous stories via Whatsapp and even shooting a feature film with his phone.

Daptar, Dagestan, Russia

In a Russian republic marked by a clash between the rule of law, the weight of traditions, and the growing influence of Islamic fundamentalism, Daptar, a website run by journalists Zakir Magomedov and Svetlana Anokhina, writes about issues affecting women, which are little reported on by other local media.  Meaning “diary”, Daptar seeks to promote debate and in 2016 they ran a landmark story about female genital mutilation in Dagestan, which broke the silence surrounding that practice and began a regional and national conversation about FGM. The small team of journalists, working alongside a volunteer lawyer and psychologist, also tries to provide help to the women they are in touch with.

KRIK, Serbia

Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK) is a new independent investigative website which was founded by a team of young Serbian journalists intent on exposing organised crime and extortion in their country which is ranked as having widespread corruption by Transparency International. In their first year they have published several high-impact investigations, including forcing Serbia’s prime minister to admit that senior officials had been behind nocturnal demolitions in a Belgrade neighbourhood and revealing meetings between drug barons, the ministry of police and the minister of foreign affairs. KRIK have repeatedly come under attack online and offline for their work –threatened and allegedly under surveillance by state officials, defamed in the pages of local tabloids, and suffering abuse including numerous death threats on social media.

Maldives Independent, Maldives

Website Maldives Independent, which provides news in English, is one of the few remaining independent media outlets in a country that ranks 112 out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index. In August 2016 the Maldives passed a law criminalising defamation and empowering the state to impose heavy fines and shut down media outlets for “defamatory” content. In September, Maldives Independent’s office was violently attacked and later raided by the police, after the release of an Al Jazeera documentary exposing government corruption that contained interviews with editor Zaheena Rasheed, who had to flee for her safety. Despite the pressure, the outlet continues to hold the government to account.

Music in Exile: recent cases of censorship

It’s hard for many of us to imagine, but all around the world, people are being intimidated out of playing music. Here is a list of some musicians who have been prevented from expressing themselves freely so far in 2016.

Ahmet Muhsin Tüzer, Turkey

The Turkish musician was denied permission to perform in Portugal by Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, according to several news media, on 1 March 2016. His performance at the Serralves Museum in Porto had been approved by Turkey’s Cultural Ministry before the Diyanet, Turkey’s religious enforcement authority, overruled their decision.

Bangy (Cedric Bangirini), Burundi

Cedric Bangirinama, known as Bangy, was arrested on 27 January 2016 by Burundi’s national intelligence service for statements he made on his Facebook account that were insulting to the head of state. The musician was held for three weeks and eventually released on 16 February 2016.

Elawela Balady, Egypt

A concert scheduled for 24 January 2016, celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution, was to forced to cancel by the country’s Ministry of State of Antiquities. The event was to feature Elawela Balady and had received approval from the Ministry of Culture to hold the show in Cairo’s Prince Taz Palace. The band that was set to play have contributed to political and social awareness through their music.

Art Attack, Kenya

Art Attack, a Kenyan band who campaign for LGBT rights in the country and other African nations, faced censorship after the Kenyan Film and Classification Board banned their video in February for its remix of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s song Same Love. The decision was made because the video “does not adhere to the morals of the country”, Kenyan newspaper The Star reported. The video includes powerful images of LGBT protests and homophobic news headlines from the country.

Salar Aghili, Iran

Salar Aghili was banned from performing at Iran’s Fajr International Music Festival and from appearing on Iranian television because of his appearance on a Persian-language satellite channel based in London. Ali Jannati, minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, said earlier this month that “artists shouldn’t give any interviews to foreign satellite channels”.

Index on Censorship has teamed up with the producers of an award-winning documentary about Mali’s musicians, They Will Have To Kill Us First, to create the Music in Exile Fund to support musicians facing censorship globally. You can donate here, or give £10 by texting “BAND61 £10” to 70070.