74th International PEN Congress Calls for Cultural Rights, Free Expression
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York, October 22, 2008—International PEN closed a historic Congress in Bogotá by strengthening its commitment to supporting writers and literature from all cultures and languages. From September 17 to 22 , over 120 delegates from 70 countries upheld the importance of ideas and the free word in changing and developing civil society.
“Our discussions and debates here in the beautiful city of Bogotá have been a great success,” said Jirí Grušá, International President of International PEN. “We are grateful to Colombian PEN for their wonderful hospitality and for sharing their literary heritage and culture. We are also delighted to welcome three new PEN centers to our worldwide community: Ethiopian PEN, Haiti PEN and Uighur PEN.”
With a special focus on Latin America, and in particular Colombia, the great work of the PEN centers in this region was recognized and celebrated. The autumn 2008 issue of PEN International magazine, Context: Latin America and the Caribbean, will include a wealth of writing from the best novelists, short story writers, poets and essayists from this region.
10 resolutions were passed by the Assembly of Delegates including calling for increased protection of journalists in Colombia and Mexico and the release of all writers in prison in Cuba. A campaign defending freedom of expression and the right to write in the Americas will become a key priority for International PEN in 2009. A resolution was also passed urging the Chinese government to stop the harassment and persecution of all Chinese writers and journalists, continuing the existing International PEN campaign for freedom of expression in China.
Responding to recent efforts in the United Nations to place limits on freedom of expression in the name of combating “defamation of religions,” the Assembly of Delegates passed a resolution opposing the implementation of Resolutions 7/19 (“Combating defamation of religions”) and 7/36 (“Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression”) in the UN Human Rights Council.
Other resolutions raising concern for writers under attack in Iran, Vietnam, Russia, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan were also adopted.
The theme of the Congress, the role of the word, was present throughout the six days. From literary readings and lectures, and a round table on the role of the word in conflict, justice, truth and the construction of peace, to applauding the work of a Colombian creative writing workshop network, PEN delegates discussed how words, both written and oral, are crucial in promoting engagement across cultures and languages.
The theme of the Congress—the role of the word—was present throughout the six days. From literary readings and lectures, and a roundtable on the role of the word in conflict, justice, truth and the construction of peace, to applauding the work of a Colombian creative writing workshop network, PEN delegates discussed how words, both written and oral, are crucial in promoting engagement across cultures and languages.
“The world will be better when we all understand the role of the word, its power to create or hinder dialogue,” commented Cecilia Balcázar, President of the Congress. “Violence will be ousted when we all discover the lies that are hidden under the appearance of truth that language creates, when we all are aware of the intolerance it promotes, when we identify that the dogmatism of hegemonic discourse is imposed on alternative and valid ways to construct the reality where we all live.”
“Eminent writers from across the globe were united in their exploration of ‘the role of the word’,” added Caroline McCormick, Executive Director of International PEN. “Their different cultural perspectives illuminated our understanding of the continued significance of literature today.”
Kata Kulavkova (Macedonian PEN) was elected as Vice President for services to PEN. She joins other distinguished Vice Presidents such as J. M. Coetzee, Margaret Atwood and Nadine Gordimer. Josep Maria Terricabras (Catalan PEN) was elected as the new Chair of the International PEN Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee. Mohamed Magani (Algerian PEN) was re-elected to the International PEN Board, and Yang Lian (Independent Chinese PEN) was elected to the Board for the first time. They join the other eminent writers of the Board, as well as International Secretary Eugene Schoulgin (Norwegian PEN), Treasurer Eric Lax (PEN USA), the Secretariat in London and all the PEN centers, in imagining and realizing the ambitions and the future of the organization.
• WiPC 2008 Resolution: Afghanistan
• WiPC 2008 Resolution: Colombia
• WiPC 2008 Resolution: China
• WiPC 2008 Resolution: Cuba
• WiPC 2008 Resolution: Iran
• WiPC 2008 Resolution: Mexico
• WiPC 2008 Resolution: Russia
• WiPC 2008 Resolution: Viet Nam
• WiPC 2008 Resolution: Zimbabwe
• WiPC 2008 Resolution: Defamation of Religions
Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105