PEN Argentina condemns attack on weekly comedic publication Charlie Hebdo

Any attack against freedom of expression, whether it comes from the State, from economic groups, or from those who act on behalf of their political or religious beliefs, is a direct attack to each one of us, to our right to speak our truth, to agree, and even to laugh at or mock any truth which may be deemed untouchable and they may wish to be imposed on us. If the right to freedom of expression does not include the right to humor and laughter, it becomes an empty formula. When such attacks take the form of physical violence and mass murder, they deserve an absolute condemnation with no allowances of any kind, and it is in that sense which PEN Argentina condemns the attack on the satirical weekly Paris-based publication Charlie Hebdo, and stands in solidarity with the families of the victims and all those affected directly by this.

The consequences for society as a whole are less painful but no less serious. All professionals in the written word, all artists, at a time like this, are reaffirming our defense of freedom of expression, and we are committed to fight for its full force throughout the whole world. No one doubts that. But the question is how many of us, from now on, will sit down to write a comic, a short story, or a television script that ridicules any character which would put us in the sights of those who consider themselves as the interpreters and enforcers of divine wrath? We are convinced of our right to do so, but we will do it? Unlike mere legal sanctions or other forms of coercion and censorship, terror itself exerts its effects not so much on the right to freedom of expression, but on the effective exercising of this freedom.

The workers of Charlie Hebdo did not want to be martyrs. Even for freedom of expression. Still, their decision to continue doing what they loved to do, despite the threats and risks, which proved to be greater than anyone had imagined, deserves all our admiration, respect and gratitude.

The PEN Center of Argentina, in agreement with PEN International, the oldest organization dedicated to defending freedom of expression in all its forms, and all the PEN centers of the world, condemns the attack on Charlie Hebdo, sympathizes with its victims, their families and friends, and calls for clarification of the facts and the prosecution of perpetrators with the full force of the law, and also that all Governments take action to protect journalists and other professionals in the written word, which at this time are still working under threat of death in many countries of the world.

(Translated by Laura Hargreaves)