Peter Gabriel, Tom Morello, Johnny Depp & More Team Up for The Voice Project’s Fight for Freedom of Expression

By James Pleasant

In order to draw attention to artists who have been imprisoned for using their voices to speak out, Peter Gabriel, Tom Morello, Johnny Depp and other renowned artists have teamed up for The Voice Project’s “Imprisoned for Art” campaign.

These artists as well as Nadya from punk band Pussy Riot, Ana Tijoux, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros lead singer Alex Ebert, have been photographed in mugshots representing artists from around the world who have been imprisoned for creating art pieces that spoke out against their respective governments. In the photographs, each celebrity holds a mugshot sign that displays the inmate’s city of imprisonment and the length of their sentence.

The Voice Project is selling t-shirts and hoodies featuring these striking images in order to raise awareness for these dissidents who have been robbed because they stood up for their rights. The shirt featuring Morello is a tribute to Tom Dundee, a Thai country and blues singer who was arrested in 2014 for speaking out against the monarchy during a pro-democracy protest. Dundee is not set to be released until April 2027.

“You can’t buy free speech, but you can give it away,” said Tom Morello. “You can also fight like hell for it.”

“Freedom of expression is the foundational right for a free society, and it’s where one has to draw the battle lines when it’s threatened, because when it’s gone, then it’s just a matter of time for all the other human rights – you see this all over the world,” said Hunter Heaney, co-founder and executive director of The Voice Project.

Gabriel’s shirt design is a tribute to Swedish-Eritrean author and journalist Dawit Isaak, who has been imprisoned since September 2001. In 1997, Isaak founded Setit, an independent newspaper in Eritrea, and was arrested after the publication reported a story about a group of opposing politicians urging President Isaias Afwerki to hold free elections in the country. Afwerki, who has held office since the country’s independence from Sweden in 1993, was accused of human rights abuses by the United Nations. Human rights organization Amnesty International reported that Afwerki has at least 10,000 political prisoners.

“When I first started travelling around the world [for the Human Rights Now tour in 1988], I was shocked to discover in how many countries there were artists who were in jail, or who had been tortured or killed for doing exactly the same thing that I do—writing and singing songs,” said Gabriel. “We have to defend and protect those with the courage to speak out.”

Dundee and Isaak are just two of several artists who have been imprisoned for speaking out against political injustice and oppression in a world where freedom of expression should be a foundational human right.

All of the proceeds from sales of the shirts will go towards efforts to advocate for the individuals represented in the photographs. To buy a shirt and learn more about their purpose, click here. To learn more about The Voice Project initiative, click here.

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