Nobel prize-winning writers speak out about Russian “propaganda”

Nobel prize-winning writers speak out about Russian "propaganda"
Mario Vargas Llosa. Photograph: Arild Vågen under a CC licence

17 June 2014
Text Nadia Beard

A group of some of the world’s most high-profile writers, including several Nobel Prize winners, have spoken out against the “waves of propaganda” engulfing Russia, which they claim has intensified following the recent crisis over Ukraine. Writers such as Mario Vargas Llosa and Tomas Tranströmer, both winners of the Nobel Prize in literature, have condemned the “tsunami” of recent laws in Russia suppressing free expression.

Vargas Llosa and Tranströmer cited the “treatment of international NGOs as foreign agents; anti-gay laws … and laws against discussing Russian history” as examples of the Russian government’s attempts to distort the way in which geopolitical events are perceived.

Lamenting the perilous position of journalists, who according to the statement’s signatories are “on the frontlines of this situation”, the writers called for an open dialogue to promote peace between Russia and Ukraine. They added: “We admire their courage and appeal to those under pressure to remember, in Lev Rubinstein’s words, that ‘propaganda is the collapse of language’.”

In a separate statement made at a conference in Stockholm on 11 June, the Russian branch of writers’ organisation PEN blamed the authorities for manipulating language to incite violence, as “the violence [in Ukraine] was dependent upon the co-opting of language”. Speaking at the conference, Russian novelist Ludmila Ulitskaya commented on the erosion of free speech and rise in propaganda in Russia, in particular, “the lies poisoning minds which have no other sources of information”.

Both statements come on the heels of a number of major shifts in the Russian media landscape, which have seen independent journalists removed from their posts and news organisations shut down or restructured.

Over the past year, members of the international cultural community have continued to speak out against the growing clampdown on free speech in Russia. Last week, some of the world’s most prominent filmmakers including Ken Loach and Pedro Almodóvar signed an open letter to President Vladimir Putin, urging him to ensure the safe release of Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov.

Source: The Guardian