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PEN report calls on Ukraine to safeguard freedom of expression as the 83rd PEN Congress opens in Lviv City

Tuesday 19 September 2017 - 1:00am

Ukraine PENSite

18 September 2017, Lviv City – Over the past 25 years since its independence from the Soviet Union, Ukraine has experienced both periods of authoritarianism, marked by the curtailing of civil and political rights, as well as more liberal periods. Although since the Ukrainian Revolution in 2014, Euromaidan, significant steps were made to improve the conditions for free expression and freedom of the press, external threats put these advances in peril

Since 2014, Russian aggression against Ukraine has been relentless and accompanied by the Kremlin’s crippling information warfare. Ukraine’s response has been one that unduly infringes upon freedom of expression, according to PEN International’s report, Freedom of Expression in Post–Euromaidan Ukraine: External Aggression and Internal Challenges.

Ukraine, today, is facing the difficult task of resisting internal threats of censorship and external threats of toxic Kremlin-backed propaganda. There is no questions that we are at a tough moment for free expression in this country, but I believe that Ukrainian civil society and international watchdogs will ensure our safe passage through this difficult time’ - Mykola Riabchuk, the President of the Ukrainian PEN Center.

The report highlights that journalists and media outlets in Crimea and separatist-controlled areas, continue to face death, physical assault, torture, kidnapping, incommunicado detention and harassment in Ukraine. Investigations by law enforcement agencies into attacks on journalists are often ineffective and impunity for the murders of writers committed by the government continues.

Such findings will be a key feature of the 83rd PEN Congress in Lviv, Ukraine, this September. Writers such as Svetlana Alexievich, Paul Auster, Madeleine Thien and Andrei Kurkov will join over 200 PEN members from around the world to debate obstacles to freedom of expression such as fake news, censorship and racism in the region and across the globe.

PEN’s community of writers and advocates calls on Ukraine to restore an environment in which all citizens can exercise their right to freedom of expression without fear of violence, imprisonment or any other negative repercussions. Without the protection of this fundamental human right, a free and democratic society is not possible.

“In times of war, dialogue and freedom of expression are often seen as a threat to national security. In fact, they are aids in bringing communities to a common understanding, in enabling democracy by ensuring that state powers are accountable to their citizens, and in providing an outlet for the most painful of human suffering.” said PEN International’s president, Jennifer Clement.

You can read the briefing in full: PEN International Ukraine Report

For more information contact: Sahar Halaimzai:

sahar.halaimzai@pen | +44 00 7514 139606