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Keillor, Erdrich, Gaiman join others in PEN condemnation of murders at Paris magazine

Many international writers signed the letter from the PEN American Center that condemned the terrorist shootings of 12 people at Charlie Hebdo.

Candles and a placard which reads "I am Charlie" are pictured as tributes to victims at the French embassy at Pariser Platz in Berlin.
REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

The PEN American Center, an international literary and human rights organization, has issued a condemnation of Wednesday’s terrorist killing of 12 people at Charlie Hebdo, the Paris-based satirical publication.

Three gunmen remained at large after the shootings, which are believed related to the magazine’s caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

The PEN condemnation was signed by area writers Garrison Keillor, Louise Erdrich and Neil Gaiman. Also signing were Woody Allen, Carl Bernstein, E.L. Doctorow, Richard Ford, Malcolm Gladwell, Jane Smiley, Anne Tyler, Tobias Wolff and others.

Said the missive:

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As writers, editors, and artists we stand together today in solidarity and outrage at the murder of our colleagues at Charlie Hebdo in Paris. This attack on cartoonists, writers, and editors is an attack on free expression worldwide. It is an attempt to terrorize and intimidate all of us in order to inhibit the free flow of ideas. 

Peaceful coexistence within diverse communities requires a climate of tolerance and an open exchange of views that includes criticism, humor, and hyperbole. The right to satirize, to question, to expose, to mock, even when offensive to some, is a bulwark of a free society. Today’s bloody retribution for the drawing and publishing of cartoons represents a terrifying challenge to these values of tolerance.

We call upon all governments, religious leaders, and civil society institutions to join us in condemnation of this vicious attack. We ask them to insist that however offensive speech may be to some, it is never a justification for violence.  

We call upon responsible authorities and institutions to redouble their efforts to protect those working on the front lines of free expression worldwide who put themselves at personal risk to voice controversial viewpoints.  Today’s effort to silence criticism by murdering the artists and writers who voice it must be met with a far wider movement to defend the right to dissent, which forms the spine of free expression.