On International Peace Day, the Assembly of Delegates gathered in Lviv, Ukraine for the 83rd annual Congress, call on governments to seek peace through dialogue and exchange of ideas. Over 60 Centres have gathered in Ukraine at this historic moment to call for an end to propaganda, censorship and curtailment of free expression.
The statement reads:
Over the course of the last century there are have been moments in history when free expression has been threatened through increased censorship and propagandist agendas. We, PEN’s global community of writers, readers, publishers and activists have witnessed and stood against these repeated and blatant attempts to erode this fundamental human right for close to a hundred years. Today, we are at such a moment once more.
Over 200 of us have gathered here in Ukraine for PEN’s 83rd Congress, from over 60 Centres, where we will discuss such issues as censorship and propaganda, at a time when Russian aggression against the country has been relentless and accompanied by the Kremlin’s crippling information warfare. Their proliferation of propagandist half-truths and implicit lies has demonstrated that, once again, truth is the first casualty of war. Courageous individuals who dare to report facts that are critical of Russian policy have suffered the consequences, and too often these have been grave.
We are also concerned that the Ukrainian authorities’ response to Russia’s aggression in some cases unduly infringes upon freedom of expression. We believe that denying access to opposite opinions, however upsetting it may be, infringes upon freedom of expression and sets a dangerous precedent. The ability to freely seek, receive and impart information serves security, liberty and leads, ultimately, to a fairer and freer society.
We are a community of writers from over 100 countries across the globe, and we are increasingly seeing this widening assault of censorship, propaganda and ‘fake news’ spread to all corners of the world.
We have come together to say in one voice that the path to peace must be sought through exchange and dialogue, and through freedom of information and expression. Preserving these rights is paramount as they are the cornerstones of any society that seeks to be just, equal and free and serve to enrich and empower our global community.
Jennifer Clement, President, PEN International
Mykola Riabchuk, President, PEN Ukrain
John Ralston Saul, President Emeritus, PEN International
Yann Martel, Writers Circle Member, PEN International
Svetlana Alexievitch, Nobel Laureate
Elif Shafak, Writers Circles Member, PEN International
Geert Mak, Writers Circle Member, PEN International
Hanan Al Shykh, Writers Circle Member, PEN International
Arthur Golden, Writers Circle, PEN International
Margaret Atwood, Writers Circle, PEN International
Andrei Kurkov, PEN Ukraine
PEN Suisse Romonde
PEN South Africa
PEN USA West
Wales PEN Cymru