Charlie Hebdo Causes Controversy: Writers Back Out of PEN America Event

By Dianna Dilworth 

PENPEN American Center is holding its Freedom of Expression Courage Award ceremony in New York next week their decision to honor the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo is causing a stir.

A number of writers have backed out of the event questioning if Charlie Hebdo is truly a shining example of pushing freedom of expression suggesting that the publication was less focused on free speech an more on picking on a minority group. The New York Times has the scoop:

The novelists Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi have withdrawn from the gala, at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. Gerard Biard, Charlie Hebdo’s editor in chief, and Jean-Baptiste Thoret, a Charlie Hebdo staff member who arrived late for work on Jan. 7 and missed the attack by Islamic extremists that killed 12 people, are scheduled to accept the award.

PEN America has stood by its decision, saying that you don’t have to agree with the publication in order to stand by its principles. Salman Rushdie, a former president of PEN, stood by the nomination. “If PEN as a free speech organization can’t defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organization is not worth the name,” he told The Times.