TAKE ACTION: Add your name to PEN’s statement urging an end to censorship at the Ubud Readers and Writers Festival.

NEW YORK—In response to Indonesian censorship of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival opening today in Bali, over 60 writers and previous attendees of the festival have signed on to a statement urging the authorities to reinstate three sessions related to the 50th anniversary of an attempted communist coup in the island nation that resulted in a year of widespread violence. Signatories include Tariq Ali, Michael Chabon, Teju Cole, Amitav Ghosh, Porochista Khakpour, Lionel Shriver, Colm Tóibín, and more.

“The festival had planned a series of events to remember the past and to begin a process of healing so that such events do not occur again,” the letter reads. ‘We, writers who have attended the Ubud Festival in the past and support its aims, are shocked and disappointed that Indonesian authorities have prevented events connected with 1965 from taking place. Not only is this counter-productive; such enforced silence is wrong.”

Last week, Indonesian authorities threatened to revoke the operating license of the Ubud festival unless it cancelled events exploring what is known as “the year of living dangerously” in Indonesian history. As detailed in Joshua Oppenheimer’s Oscar-nominated documentary The Art of Killing, as least 500,000 people were brutally killed in Indonesia after the attempted coup in 1965. The festival’s organizers were forced to cancel a screening of Oppenheimer’s second documentary, The Look of Silence, and related events this year in order to open their doors today.

“What’s happening at Ubud is part of a campaign by some governments to erase historical events that don’t fit the image they wish to burnish,” said Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of PEN American Center. “One of the most pernicious forms of government censorship involves depriving people of the right to talk about what has happened to them.”


PEN International promotes literature and freedom of expression and is governed by the PEN Charter and the principles it embodies: unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations. Founded in 1921, PEN International connects an international community of writers from its Secretariat in London. Through Centers in over 100 countries, PEN operates on five continents. www.pen-international.org

Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is an association of over 4,200 U.S. writers working to break down barriers to free expression worldwide. www.pen.org

Sarah Edkins, PEN American Center: +1 646 779 4830, sedkins@pen.org
Holly Strauss, PEN International: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338, holly.strauss@pen-international.org