PEN America Speaks: How We Defended and Celebrated Free Expression The Week of October 30
PEN America works tirelessly to defend free expression, support persecuted writers, and promote literary culture. Here are some of the latest ways PEN America is speaking out.
This week, PEN America released a new report, Taming Culture in Georgia: Georgian Government Clamps Down on Freedom of Speech and Cultural Expression, documenting a concerted effort by the governing Georgian Dream party to suppress free expression and curb cultural independence in the country. Author Polina Sadovskaya, PEN America’s advocacy and Eurasia director, documents a rapidly escalating strategy of government suppression of free speech and culture. “For many years following the Rose Revolution, Georgia stood as a bastion of democracy in an often volatile region,” said Sadovskaya. “Unfortunately, as global attention shifted toward Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Georgian Dream officials began clamping down on free speech and cultural autonomy, not only in Tbilisi but across the country.”
- PEN America’s President, Ayad Akhtar, also supported the report in his essay, suggesting that Georgia is not a lost cause. He said, “The possibility to alter the trajectory is real, to become the truly genuinely independent country based on the rule of law and human rights that most Georgians long for. Our report includes several recommendations for the Georgian government, including proactive implementation of the 12 priorities established by the EU for Georgia’s candidacy and the establishment of independent expert bodies to support cultural freedom and expression principles in the arts.”
PEN America condemned the arrest of 2011 PEN/Freedom To Write Award honoree Nasrin Sotoudeh, a human rights lawyer, and writer, who sustained severe injuries during her re-arrest at Armita Geravand’s funeral in Tehran on October 29. “Nasrin is one of the most prominent and fearless heroines in the struggle for human rights in Iran. She has withstood over a decade of harassment, imprisonment, and hunger strikes without flinching. We demand Nasrin’s immediate and unconditional release,” said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel.
- PEN America is compiling a list of writers, artists, journalists, and thinkers caught in the violence between Israel and Palestine. Some have been killed, some are missing, injured, or otherwise struggling to survive. We are committed to preserving their legacy and amplifying their work, both as a means of honoring them and as a method of fostering connection and communication.
- PEN America’s Prison and Justice Writing Senior Manager of Editorial Projects, Malcolm Tariq along with PLSN coordinators Mia Bruner and Manuela Aronofsky, spoke to the Prison Library Support Network (PLSN) about the plight of librarians who have been resourceful with how they get information to people in prison who have limited means of communicating outside of their facilities and little to no access to a diversity of useful books.
In response to policy changes announced this week by Goodreads to combat ‘review bombing’ on the literary review site, PEN America issued the comment from CEO Suzanne Nossel: “We are gratified that Goodreads has taken steps to implement one of the crucial recommendations in our recent Booklash report, aimed at preventing reviewers who may not even have read a book from waging online campaigns to sink it. As a prominent platform for book discovery, Goodreads has an obligation to defend the freedom to read and prevent practices on its platform that detract from reasoned literary discourse and pave the way for books to disappear before their authors and ideas even get a hearing.”