Authors Slam Russia for Anti-Gay Laws as Sochi Olympics Start

Authors sign a letter criticizing Russia for targeting writers' freedoms of expression and belief.

Protesters hold up their red-painted hands to symbolize violence against the gay community during a protest against Russian anti-gay laws on Aug. 23, 2013, in Madrid, Spain.

Russia's anti-gay laws have come to the the forefront during the run up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

By SHARE

As the world turns its gaze to the Sochi Olympics, more than 200 internationally-renowned authors, including Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Franzen and Salman Rushdie chastised Russia for its anti-gay and blasphemy laws in an open letter published Thursday. Russia passed the controversial laws in June 2013 and a tide of censure followed.

“As writers and artists, we cannot stand quietly by as we watch our fellow writers and journalists pressed into silence or risking prosecution and often drastic punishment for the mere act of communicating their thoughts,” the authors wrote in the letter published in The Guardian.

The 217 authors who signed the letter said such Russia’s new laws “strange free speech,” and infringe on other freedoms of expression and belief.

“A healthy democracy must hear the independent voices of all its citizens; the global community needs to hear, and be enriched by, the diversity of Russian opinion,” they said.

The new laws specifically target authors by banning alleged gay “propaganda” and “blasphemy,” and by re-instituting defamation laws.
The authors called on Russian authorities to abolish these new laws and respect “freedom of opinion, expression and belief—including the right not to believe.”

The letter is part of a PEN International worldwide campaign and its release comes just one day before the Olympics’ opening ceremony Friday night. Russian President Vladimir Putin views the games as a symbol of Russia’s greatness and a chance to distinguish itself as a leader on a global stage, according to The Guardian.