No dimension of PEN Canada’s mandate is nearer to its very core than freedom of expression and censorship. Not out in the wider world, either but right here, here, at home, in Canada.
I’ve placed an empty chair for the imprisoned Uighur writer Nurmuhemmet Yasin – sentenced to ten years in a Chinese prison in 2004 for writing a short story. I tell them The Stamp Collector grew out of advocacy work I was doing on his behalf for PEN Canada.
“Its penalties are draconian and disproportionate…The reported mass arrests in Quebec suggest that the authorities have been given too much latitude to interpret and enforce this new law. Legislatively, it’s the equivalent of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”
PEN Canada considers Bill 78 to be overreaching, containing provisions that go beyond what is necessary to ensure that assemblies and demonstrations by students and others are peaceful. As such, PEN believes the Bill indirectly limits freedom of expression and asks the Government of Québec to reconsider this legislation.
This year, PEN International is celebrating the rights of all citizens on Press Freedom Day. As always, we champion the rights of media organizations and journalists to safe, uncensored reporting and publication and pay tribute to those who have been killed and disappeared. But we celebrate especially the rights of all citizens to untrammelled access to information and truth…
Who is defined as a writer today? How do we advocate most effectively in an online world? How can we create a national conversation about freedom of expression? The internet has meant that though ideas can spread further and more quickly than ever before, there are also more opportunities than ever for free speech to be curtailed.
Bo Xilai, the former boss of the Chongqing Communist Party, was recently sacked after a corruption scandal involving his family. Jiang Weiping, an Honorary Member of PEN Canada, is a Chinese journalist who served a six year prison sentence for “inciting subversion of state power” after he published an exposé of Bo’s corruption more than a decade ago.
“We cannot expect Canadian scientists to work productively for the greater good at home, or exert Canadian influence abroad, if their work is routinely subordinated to the demands of political messaging. If this is not the case, the government should offer a plausible explanation for its actions.”
This amendment was the focus of our recent delegation to Mexico City, and in particular of our conversation with the President of the Senate and other Senators. Its passage is a very important step in the reforming of Mexican law to make it serve the freedom of expression of Mexican writers and Mexican citizens as a whole.
“As a dentist I could only open one mouth at a time,” quipped Zarganar. “But when I tell jokes I open many mouths.”