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2017 Lviv: Reclaiming Truths in Times of Propaganda

PEN Congress Lviv

The 83rd PEN International Congress in Lviv in figures and facts:

  • 168 delegates
  • 68 PEN centres
  • 60 countries
  • 50 % women
  • 50 % men
  • 4 working languages – English, French, Spanish and Ukrainian

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Reclaiming Truths in Times of Propaganda

The 2017 Congress, hosted by PEN Ukraine, was attended by over 200 writers and PEN members from 60 Centres across the globe. An extensive programme of public events was held across the city and online, around themes that included history and memory, rights of women and equality, cyber provocations, truth and fake news, and threats to freedom of speech across the world. Prominent guests included Madeleine Thien, Paul Auster, Philippe Sands, Adam Zagajewski, Yaroslav Hrytsak, David Patrikarakos, Andrei Kurkov and many more. Public discussions focused on three superpowers:

American Account – Threats to the Freedom of Speech in Donald Trump America
Chinese Shame – How a Poet Revelled the Spirit of the Party
Putin's Power Games – Decline of the Freedom of Speech in Russia.

As well as other events of the Congress.

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Public discussions

On International Peace Day, PEN members released an open letter, calling on governments to seek peace through dialogue and exchange of ideas, signed by dozens of writers and Centres, including Elif Shafak, Margaret Atwood, Paul Auster, Hanan Al Shykh, Andrei Kurkov, Geert Mak, Arthur Golden, Svetlana Alexievitch, Yann Martel and PEN International president, Jennifer Clement. The letter stated:

Over the course of the last century there 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. 

The keynote was delivered by Philippe Sands:

"Today once more... a poison of xenophobia and nationalism is coursing its way through the veins of Europe. I see it in my cases and on my travels."

PEN released free expression report on Ukraine

PEN's report "Freedom of Expression in Post–Euromaidan Ukraine: External Aggression and Internal Challenges" addresses the situation of freedom of expression in Ukraine, following the Euromaidan revolution of 2014.

Congress resolutions

The Assembly of PEN passed a number of resolutions, including on the situations of freedom of expression and imprisoned writers in Turkey, China, Vietnam, Kazakhstan and Eritrea and those killed in Mexico, Russia, Venezuela, Bangladesh and India. Concerns were raised regarding increased censorship in Hungary, Poland, India, Turkey and Spain as well as limitations of linguistic rights of Kurdish writers in Turkey, Hungarian in Ukraine and Uyghur in China.

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Article 3 of the Charter

PEN expanded Article 3 of the Charter for the first time since it was adopted 90 years ago. The Assembly voted for a wider formulation, namely counteracting hate and not only based on race, class or nationality but also gender, religion and other categories of identity. Article 3 of the Charter reads as follows: "PEN members should at all times use their impact for mutual understanding and respect between nations; they commit to do everything to dispel all types of hate and support the ideal of unified humanity living in peace."

PEN International’s Women’s  Manifesto

PEN members unanimously adopted the PEN International Women’s Manifesto, a set of principles which aim to protect free expression for women by combating and eliminating the silencing of women worldwide, whether through censorship, harassment, or violence.

‘In the manifold varieties of violence – from murder and domestic violence, to stolen girls who are sold and trafficked, to female students at universities who are rated and slut shamed on social media – one common result is to silence the voices of women and hamper the transmission of their words and stories leaving unfilled pages and impoverished literatures. This manifesto is our commitment, as the world’s largest writers’ association, to achieve gender equality.’ - Jennifer Clement, PEN International president.

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Click here to access the PEN International Post Congress Report.