Last Sunday I was at an event at Swedish PEN on the Day of the Imprisoned Writer. Swedish writers read text by Raif Badawi that was translated to Swedish. Texts about liberalism and secularism that has put Badawi in prison in Saudi Arabia. There was a conversation with a blogger from Bangladesh, a friend of mine, that describe the immediate threat free thinkers and those how promote science and rationality, before religion, face from Jihadists. I spoke to another friend, journalist and activist also from Bangladesh, about how these threats silence those who defend an open democracy and use free speech to fight islamist extremists and terrorists. What more can they do, when speak doesn’t result in change? And their speech is meet with death. This year five bloggers, writers, publisher have been killed in their country.
Swedish PEN gave a freedom of speech award to the Russian journalists Arkadij Babtjenko. A journalist that is unemployed in Russia as there is no paper that can print his critical writings on the Putin-regime. There is a solid layer of concrete over Russian media, he said, today there is no free press. Putin has a propaganda apparatus that Goebbles would be envy of.
My general feeling is gratefulness at organisations like Swedish PEN that promote and defend freedom of thought and give writers as mentioned above a voice. Also extremely grateful at these writers that continue to express them self even though they face prison or worse. But also, I’m thankful to live in a country were events that this can take place, without police protection. (By the way, the Swedish Minster of Culture participated.) This appreciation I share with these writers - that there are countries where they can speak freely and where their writings are published. Everybody keep up the good work.
- Buy and read Raif Badawi’s book 1000 Lashes, it has been translated into Swedish, English and German. It contains writings that this blogg had been proud of.
- Read 'Who can I turn to, my friend' by Arkadij Babtjenko on The Swedish PEN:s the Dissident Blog in Swedish or English.
- Read 'The Virus of Faith' by Avijit Roy, a writer from Bangladesh that was murdered this year.