September 11, 2013 – On the second day of 79th PEN International Congress meeting in Reykjavik some 200 writers from over 70 Centres around the world unanimously voted to pass a resolution on Russia’s continued attempts to smother freedom of expression.
The group marched together to the Russian embassy to present the Russian Ambassador with the resolution outlining the organisations concerns on the country’s increasingly regressive approach to freedom of expression and opinion.
The group was led by PEN International president John Ralston Saul, Icelandic PEN president Sjón and English poet James Fenton protesting the Russian Federations continued stifling of free expression.
In 2013, Russia passed two new pieces of legislation that directly threaten freedom of expression; the ‘gay propaganda’ law bans any activity that promotes non-heterosexual relationships and the ‘blasphemy law’ which criminalises ‘religious insult’, carrying sentences of over three year’s imprisonment. This was in addition to the re-criminalisation of defamation and insult in 2011.
‘The cumulative effect of these three laws can only lead to a crisis of freedom of expression in Russia. This is the first time I can think of in 79 congresses that the assembly has suspended its work in order to deliver such a message. Russia is at a crossroads and PEN International believes that its writers and citizens want to stay on the road of free speech’ said PEN International president, John Ralston Saul.
The group were met outside the embassy by a senior official who was presented with the resolution and a letter addressed to the Russian Ambassador to Iceland Mr. Andrey V. Tsyganov calling on the Russian Federation to repeal the new laws.
To read the letter to the Russian Ambassador click here.
To read the PEN resolution on Russia click here.