Margaret Atwood, Paul Auster and Elif Shafak have joined a number of other authors in criticising Russia’s treatment of Ukraine and calling for freedom of expression to be preserved.
The statement comes from PEN International's 83rd congress in Lviv, Western Ukraine, which has brought together more 200 writers to discuss censorship and propaganda “at a time when Russian aggression against the country has been relentless and accompanied by the Kremlin’s crippling information warfare”.
The statement issued from PEN on behalf of the writers said: “Courageous individuals who dare to report facts that are critical of Russian policy have suffered the consequences, and too often these have been grave. We are also concerned that the Ukrainian authorities’ response to Russia’s aggression in some cases unduly infringes upon freedom of expression.”
In 2014 April forces backed by Russia seized towns and cities in the east of Ukraine, which began a long conflict sparking a drawn-out conflict. The battle near the city of Avdiivka, earlier this year, was one of the most violent episodes in the last few years with "indiscriminate shelling by Russian-backed separatists" according to the BBC.
The writers, gathered in Lviv, from across 100 countries, said that “peace must be sought through exchange and dialogue, and through freedom of information and expression”.
They said these rights are the “cornerstones of any society that seeks to be just, equal and free and serve to enrich and empower our global community”.
Yann Martel, Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievitch and Memoirs of a Geisha author Yann Martel are amongst some of the other 12 signatories.
Earlier this month, PEN revealed 80% of writers they surveyed were concerned about censorship and ‘fake news’. Furthermore, of the 228 international writers surveyed by organisation, around 87% believe that combating racism and xenophobia, born out of these factors, is central to their roles as writers.
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