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PEN appalled by savage attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo

Wednesday 7 January 2015 - 12:00am

(7th January 2015) PEN International and 59 PEN Centres around the world condemn the unprecedented attack on the office of the French publication Charlie Hebdo in Paris today in which 12 people died and seven were injured.

This is not the first time that journalists, editors, writers, cartoonists  and translators have been targeted for expressing opinions that may offend, outrage or shock sections of society. But there has never been an assault on such a scale in Europe. There can be no justification for using violence to silence or intimidate those who speak out, no matter how offensive their views.

In the face of such violence, it is incumbent on all governments and religious leaders to strengthen their commitment to press freedom and to safeguard freedom of expression as a fundamental human right. This attack must be investigated promptly and impartially in accordance with international standards and the perpetrators brought to justice.

John Ralston Saul, President of PEN International said: “PEN is appalled by today’s savage attack on Charlie Hebdo. Today the entire PEN family stands in solidarity with journalists in France, and all over the world, who are increasingly subjected to violence for exercising their right to freedom of expression.”

Condemning the cowardly attack on the office of the magazine, Jean-Luc Despax, President of French PEN said: “Despite this atrocious act, freedom of expression remains intact, whether expressed through art, satire or analysis.”

Further comments from PEN Centres and members:

Sofi Oksanen, Finnish PEN member: ‘Too often those of us living in democratic states take freedom of expression for granted. We should not. It’s something we need to defend and protect every day and it means zero-tolerance to every action trying to diminish it.

Now it’s our duty to make sure those responsible are brought to justice. It is also our duty to make sure that discussion about the importance of freedom of expression will be at the forefront of public debate in countries where we take it for granted. It’s also our duty to make sure that terrorist attacks such as these, do not lead to self-censorship or censorship by art-sponsors and institutions. That would undermine the basic elements of democracy.’

Salman Rushdie, English PEN member: ‘Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. “Respect for religion” has become a code phrase meaning “fear of religion.” Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.’

Hanan al-Shaykh: ‘When we were young, a religious scholar in our neighbourhood in Beirut used to advise us whenever he saw us playing in the street, to ‘Go and study!’. When we yelled back with a united voice, ‘but we have finished studying!’, he’d reply that we should open a book and read. And if he had known what the future had in store for us, he might have added, ‘And write, write anything you feel like writing…’

So, I say, ‘Yes, write whatever the tyrants of the mind would have you erase, and what fundamentalists warn will guarantee you a place in hell. Write to make the enemies of freedom gasp for breath…’

Per Wästberg, President of the Swedish Academy’s Nobel Committee for Literature; President Emeritus & former President of PEN International:A bloody epoque in the history of humankind continues: New York 2001, Afghanistan, Bali, Bagdad, Madrid, Falluja, London, Pakistan, Gaza, Stockholm, Utöya…Now Paris. Near the Bastille, near the symbolic and actual centre of the enlightenment – the birthplace of the values that puritans and extremists hate: the open society making life worth living, open to tolerance, to dialogue and debate, to the ability to look around and look through. The fanatics´ lack of humour is significant; they do not understand that a human being may be insulted, never a religion.’ Read full statement here.

Maureen Freely, President, English PEN: ‘Today we are all horrified, devastated and appalled.  But tomorrow we must look for new ways to stand together with writers and artists of all backgrounds and faiths and take courage from our shared commitment to free speech.

Peter Godwin, President of PEN American Center: ‘We are sickened and shocked by this atrocious attack. The right to criticize – even in a manner some may find offensive – is vital to all free and democratic societies, and writers and artists around the world must unite to protect freedom of expression against this cowardly and deplorable act.’

PEN Turkey condemned the ‘Violent attack which killed not only our friends – journalists and caricaturists, but also threatens our freedom of thought and expression. Today, we are all Charlie Hebdo.’

PEN Quebec, in the name of its members and all writers from Quebec, ‘condemns the slaughter of our colleague’s from the magazine Charlie Hebdo. We join the global literary community, and all those who reject violence and wish to live in freedom and to express their views and thoughts freely.’

Hyam Yared, President of PEN Lebanon‘Nous, écrivains libanais, issus d’un pays où le pluri-confessionnalisme a permis, malgré tous les aléas politiques, la libre expression des identités de chacun sans pour autant abuser de notre droit à l’altérité, sommes consternés par cette vague de violence et de radicalité qui s’exprimentpartout au Moyen-Orient, au Liban, en Syrie, en Egypte, en Occident, et dont nos confrères, journalistes et employés de Charlie Hebdo ont payé le prix, assassinés après avoir reçu à plusieurs reprises par le passé menaces et intimidations’ En savoir plus ici.

Teresa Salema Cadete, President of the Portuguese PEN Centre: ‘PEN is always a part of the daily struggle for democracy and therefore a part of the target of its enemies. Cartoons are one of the most necessary arts of the 21st Century because of their power of biting synthesis. Those cowardly acts of violence show how we all must leave our comfort zones to defend our principles and practices in the community of solidary freedom of expression.

Drew Campbell President, Scottish PEN: ‘The murders in Paris were so shocking, so horrific we are almost at a loss for words – exactly what the perpetrators crave. But today we speak up. Freedom of expression – what the workers at Charlie Hebdo risked their lives for – must never be buried beneath fear and silence.’ Read the statement in full here.

Sirpa Kähkönen, chair of Finnish PEN: ‘Finnish PEN is mourning for the dead and wounded in the Charlie Hebdo attack. The lines of free expression should be drawn in words, discussion and debate – not by guns and atrocities.’

Norwegian PEN President William Nygaard:This is a gross attack on freedom of expression which is the core of our democracies. It is also an attack on the free press and free journalism and it is important that the terrorist attack does not lead to self-censorship.” Read more here.

Dina Meza, Presidente y Eduardo Bähr, Secretario General de PEN Honduras: ‘Nuestra solidaridad absoluta con las víctimas y sus familiares y repudio total a todo crimen de odio con sevicia.’

Dr.Hanan Awwad, President Palestine PEN: ‘This is a truly shocking act. In the name of all Palestine PEN members, friends and supporters, I condemn this act. As Palestinians who experience Occupation, we devote time and efforts to defend freedom of expression and human dignity, we view with deep sadness this attack on freedom of expression. Diversity of opinion should create dialogue and understanding, not bloodshed. The question is how the free writers can act and react in such situation? How  can our pens  survive in times of violence? Our pens can change the world.’

PEN Club de Puerto Rico: ‘Los miembros del PEN Club de Puerto Rico se sienten indignados con el abominable ataque al personal de las publicaciones Charlie Hebdo y a la libertad de expresión de lo periodistas y lo en general.’

Menna Elfyn, President of  Cymru PEN Wales‘We condemn the senseless killings of colleagues from the magazine  Charlie Hebdo.  In times like these, we wish to unite with others in defending freedom of thought and expression and bear witness to those values which are so essential to humanity.’

Cláudio Aguiar, Presidente del PEN Club de Brasil: ‘Como presidente del PEN Club de Brasil y en nombre de sus miembros, expresamos la protesta más enérgica contra el cobarde ataque llevado a cabo el día 7 de este contra periodistas y caricaturistas franceses, ya que este acto viola directamente el derecho a la libertad de expresión de todos los que en cualquier lugar del mundo emplean la palabra y otros medios gráficos como expresión libre de sus ideas.’

PEN Argentina‘Todo ataque contra la libertad de expresión, provenga del estado, de grupos económicos, o de quienes actúan en nombre de sus convicciones políticas o religiosas, es un ataque directo a cada uno de nosotros, a nuestro derecho a decir nuestra verdad, a disentir, incluso a reírnos o burlarnos de toda verdad que se diga intocable y que quiera imponérsenos. Si el derecho a la libertad de expresión no incluye el derecho al humor y a la risa, se convierte en una fórmula hueca. Cuando tales ataques toman la forma de la violencia física y al asesinato en masa, merecen una condena absoluta que no admite relatividades de ninguna clase, y es en ese sentido que PEN Argentina condena el ataque al semanario satírico parisino Charlie Hebdo y se solidariza con las familias de las víctimas y todos los afectados directamente por éste.’

The following presidents, honorary presidents, secretaries and members of ten Iberian American PEN Foundation centers have subscribed the following declaration:

"The Iberian American PEN Foundation, on behalf of its center members, energetically  condemns the savage attack of the French satirical publication "Charlie Hebdo" and joins forces with PEN's multicultural family of writers, journalists, cartoonists, translators, and publishers in demanding that this attack be investigated in accordance with international impartial standards and the perpetrators be brought to justice."
Gloria Guardia
President, Iberian American PEN Foundation
Vice President, PEN International

Subscribed by:

Gioconda Belli, President, PEN Nicaragua
Álvaro Casal, President PEN Uruguay
Emi Kasamatsu, Honorary President PEN Paraguay
Carlos René García Escobar, President PEN Guatemala
Edda Armas, President, PEN Venezuela
Gaby Vallejo, member PEN Bolivia
Angel Cuadra, President PEN, Cuban Writers in Exile
María Eugenia Azocar, Secretary, PEN Chile
María Gabriela Mizraje, Secretary, PEN Argentina
Carlos Vásquez, President, PEN Colombia
Cecilia Balcázar, Honorary President, PEN Colombia

Afghan PEN
PEN Afrikaans
American PEN
PEN Argentina
Armenian PEN
PEN Austria
Basque PEN
PEN Belarus
Belgium PEN
PEN Bolivia
PEN Bosnia & Herzegovina
PEN Brazil
PEN Català
PEN Chile
PEN Colombia
Croatian PEN
PEN, Cuban Writers in Exile
Czech PEN
Danish PEN
English PEN
PEN Esperanto
Estonia Pen
PEN Ethiopia
Finnish PEN
French PEN
PEN Guatemala
PEN Haiti
PEN Honduras
Icelandic PEN
Irish PEN
Japan PEN
Kurdish PEN
Macedonian PEN
PEN Mexico
Moroccan PEN
PEN Myanmar
PEN Netherlands
PEN Nicaragua
PEN Nigeria
Norwegian PEN
Palestinian PEN
PEN Paraguay
PEN Puerto Rico
Portuguese PEN
Quebec PEN
PEN Romania
Russian PEN
San Miguel PEN
Scottish PEN
Serbian PEN
Slovak PEN
Swiss German PEN
PEN Suisse Romand 
PEN Trieste
PEN Uruguay
PEN Venezuela
Vietnamese Abroad PEN
PEN Vlaanderen
Wales PEN Cymru
Zambian PEN

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