PEN Offence campaign

English PEN and The OFFENCE Campaign

It is perhaps not coincidental that this violent protest by a religious group somes at the moment that the government is proposing to insert an ‘incitement of religious hatred’ clause into its Serious Organized Crime and Police Bill. English PEN was just gearing up to launch its campaign against the proposed legislation when the Birmigham religious riots erupted.

By adding religion to race, in their bill, the government seems to be giving a signal to the advocates of religion that they can not only go to court, but also protest, perhaps violently, whenever they feel ‘offence’ is given. English PEN fears that the result will be a climate of censorship, fostered by an ability to have recourse to the law, by protest, or by the threat of both. Managements, broadcasting authorities, publishers, and writers themselves will be constricted. Expression will be constrained, to the ultimate detriment of our democracy.

English PEN has set up a ‘rapid response unit’ which will provide a response to news stories in the UK which cover PEN’s remit to fight for writers’ freedoms. This consists of:

Lisa Appignanesi (writer, Deputy President of English PEN and Chair of the OFFENCE Committee)

Gillian Slovo (novelist, English PEN Executive Committee member and co-author of Guantanamo)

Julian Evans (writer, broadcaster, translator and Deputy Chair of English PEN’s Writers in Translation Committee)

They will also be joined by writers Howard Jacobson and Deborah Moggach.

For more information on the OFFENCE campaign, please click here: OFFENCE

What do PEN members think? Please contact us with your thoughts, indicating whether you would like them to be posted on our Comments and Discussions page.

For more information on the Behzti case, please click here: Behzti at the Birmingham Rep: English PEN’s Response.

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