New York, December 22, 2014—The decision to pull The Interview indefinitely could embolden would-be censors the world over, PEN American Center said today in a letter to Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO and Chairman Michael Lynton, signed by Salman Rushdie, Stephen Sondheim, Tony Kushner, Richard Serra, Neil Gaiman, members of the PEN Board of Trustees, and other prominent writers and artists.

In the letter urging Sony to fulfill its pledge to distribute The Interview, PEN offers to host a public screening of the film with appropriate security measures. 

“Watching one of the world’s most powerful media companies being muzzled here in the United States by an anonymous threat from criminals doing the bidding of one of the world’s most repressive regimes is frightening,” said PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel.  “We understand that Sony cannot do this alone, but if they buck up and commit to get this movie out in the open quickly, that will strengthen the spines of those around them.”

The letter states that “violence is never justified as a reaction to speech, no matter how offensive that speech may be to some,” calling the possibility of a permanent moratorium on the film “a lasting blow for free expression” that “would send a message to writers, artists, publishers, and studios that controversial topics are to be avoided—that our right to free speech at home depends on the whims of violent extremists abroad.”

Written on behalf of PEN’s 3,700 Members, the letter links the struggle to release The Interview to PEN’s work in response to death threats against Rushdie after The Satanic Verses prompted Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa ordering his execution.

“PEN works with courageous dissidents the world over who take great risks to disseminate their ideas,” said PEN America President Peter Godwin. “Working in what we proudly consider one of the freest countries in the world, it is essential that the creative community unite in defense of our core values as they come under this high-stakes challenge.  We also hope that Sony’s distribution partners—current and potential—step up to stand with the producers of The Interview to ensure that free expression wins.”

The full text of the letter is available at: https://pen.org/blog/letter-pen-michael-lynton-sony-pictures-entertainment-chairman-and-ceo-re-interview

 

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Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is an association of 3,700 American writers working to bring down barriers to free expression worldwide.

CONTACT:  Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director: snossel@pen.org, +1 212-334-1660 x 104