PEN hosts forum on censorship at Dubai literary festival

    TORONTO, Feb. 27 /CNW/ - Canadian writers Margaret Atwood and Nelofer
Pazira will join by video link a panel of international writers at the
inaugural Emirates Airlines International Festival of Literature (EAIFL) in
Dubai, to discuss "Cultural diversity and censorship." The forum will be
chaired by Eugene Schoulgin, International Secretary of International PEN, and
will consider the ways in which cultural assumptions inform decisions about
the acceptable limits of freedom of expression.
    Earlier this month, Atwood, a vice-president of International PEN,
cancelled her appearance at the festival after she was told that its
organizers had banned a book and disinvited the author. When neither claim
turned out to be strictly true - the book has not been officially banned, nor
was its author invited to the festival - Atwood reconsidered her withdrawal
and agreed to attend the festival "virtually," via a video link from Toronto,
as part of International PEN's commitment to discussing the problem of
censorship wherever it may occur.
    Commenting on her decision to take part in the forum on censorship,
Atwood (who in 1984-85 was the first president of PEN Canada) said, "This is a
very important event at a very important festival. It will allow us to discuss
the freedoms and responsibilities of human speech - the challenges and the
limitations, and the consequences of these. Having recently devoted five days
to the pursuit of the meaning of the word "ban," I am greatly looking forward
to being present."
    Nelofer Pazira, the current president of PEN Canada, said she hoped the
discussion would remind visitors to the festival "of the centrality of the
right to free expression in cultural and political misunderstandings and
conflicts that have shaped the modern Middle East. I hope our discussion will
help to reaffirm the need for tolerance and dialogue between cultures."
    The panel will also include Rachel Billington (Vice President English
PEN), Mohammed al-Murr (Vice-Chairman of the Dubai Cultural Council), the
Saudi novelist Rajaa al-Sanea, the Ukranian author Andrea Kurkov, and Ibrahim
Nasrallah, a Palestinian-Jordanian author shortlisted for the Arab Booker
Prize. The event will start at 9 a.m. February 28, at Al Khayma Ballroom 3,
the Interncontinental Hotel in Dubai Festival City.

For further information:

For further information: Brendan de Caires,, tel.
(416) 703-8448 ext 21

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