PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel and PEN America President Jennifer Egan sent the following note to friends and supporters on Wednesday, March 11, 2010.

Dear Friends,

As the world faces a global health crisis, we at PEN America are encountering uncharted territory. We’re an organization committed to truth and facts, and right now, we believe nothing could be more important than a commitment to free speech and ensuring that vital information flows freely. These are our guiding principles as we navigate the uncertain.

On a practical level, as an organization that organizes public events large and small, domestic and international, we know we have a special obligation to our friends, supporters, Members, and partners. To that end, we wanted to update you on the path forward:

We are closely following guidance from local, state, and federal public health officials. We are evaluating all our events in consultation with hosts, audiences, and guests, and where possible we’re using digital tools to convert in-person events into virtual ones. We are proceeding with plans for the PEN America World Voices Festival May 4-9 in NYC and May 6-9 in Los Angeles, and the New York PEN America Literary Gala on May 19. We stress all precautions in relation to our events, meetings, and operations..

We are an organization of our 7,500 Members, and we realize that the cancellation of events and uncertainty are hitting writers hard. We are working to find new ways to promote literary voices, support writers whose opportunities have been curtailed, and where possible provide digital fora for literary conversations and free expression discussions that would ordinarily take place in person.

The global response to the virus is illustrative of many of the concerns we have been documenting and addressing for years. Earlier this week, Suzanne published this piece, Truth Has Become a Coronavirus Casualty, tracing how the manipulation of truth has enabled the virus’ spread across the globe. The coronavirus is among the most powerful demonstrations we can imagine of how free expression and open discourse underpin all other rights, including rights to information, health, and treatment. 

We believe that it is vitally important – no less than a matter of life and death – to ensure that through this crisis the public be able to sort fact from falsehood, find trustworthy information, and speak out. To keep abreast of these efforts, we urge you to subscribe to our Daily Alert on Rights and Expression (DARE) to see the breadth of concerns we are tracking daily and watch for updates on new initiatives we’ll undertake as PEN America faces up to this challenge.

We welcome your thoughts, reactions, and support. Please be assured that PEN America is unwavering in our commitment to uphold our mission at what feels like a perilous time.

Very best wishes,

Suzanne Nossel
CEO, PEN America

Jennifer Egan
President, PEN America