Leading authors protest Russia’s anti-free speech laws

6 February 2014

Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood and Günter Grass are among the 200 high-profile authors who have written an open letter to Russia condemning the “gay propaganda” and blasphemy laws as well as the recriminalisation of defamation just a day before the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics.

The letter, published in the Guardian on Thursday, stated that together, the three laws “put writers at risk”. It added: “[We cannot] stand quietly by as we watch our fellow writers and journalists pressed into silence or risking prosecution and often drastic punishment for the mere act of communicating their thoughts.”

The letter comes a day before the Winter Olympics, a pet project of President Vladimir Putin who is determined to showcase the face of modern Russia to the world. Despite this, the lead-up to the Games has been ruined by widespread allegations of corruption and human rights abuses.

Russia’s leading contemporary writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya is also a signatory along with writers from more than 30 countries including Nobel laureates Wole Soyinka, Elfriede Jelinek and Orhan Pamuk. In an interview with The Guardian, Ultskaya said that the Russian state was looking to impose “a cultural ideology that, in many respects, mimics the style of Soviet-era propaganda”. She added: “Like many Russian citizens, I am deeply concerned about the increasing restrictions on freedom of speech in my country, about the ever-expanding legislation and arbitrary bureaucracy that affect all aspects of Russian life.”

Rushdie told The Guardian: “The chokehold that the Russian Federation has placed on freedom of expression is deeply worrying and needs to be addressed in order to bring about a healthy democracy in Russia.”

Source: The Guardian