(7 January 2015)
PEN Canada joins PEN International and 50 PEN Centres around the world in condemning 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:
Tasleem Thawar, Executive Director of PEN Canada, said, “We are deeply saddened by this vicious attack on our French colleagues. Violence against artists and writers never succeeds in achieving its goals. Individuals can be intimidated or murdered, but ideas live on.”
Sofi Oksanen, Finnish PEN member said, “Too often we living in democratic states take freedom of expression granted. It’s 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 the terrorists will be brought to justice and it’s also our duty to make sure that discussion about the importance of freedom of expression will be in front line also in countries where we take it for granted. It’s also our duty to make sure that terrorist attacks won’t lead to self-censorship or censorship by art-sponsors and institutions. That would undermine the basic elements of democracy.”
Salman Rushdie, English PEN member noted, “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.”
Maureen Freely, President, English PEN said: “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 said: “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 colleagues 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”.
For further information, please contact Brendan de Caires, email@example.com, 416 703 8448 x 21
PEN Canada is a nonpartisan organization of writers that works with others to defend freedom of expression as a basic human right at home and abroad. PEN Canada promotes literature, fights censorship, helps free persecuted writers from prison, and assists writers living in exile in Canada