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Dissenting voices under attack in India: PEN International


Press Trust of India Pune
Remembering slain journalist Gauri Lankesh, global writers' body PEN International said Saturday the Indian government should protect its writers, journalists and those exercising freedom of expression.
"The climate for free expression has severely deteriorated in India in the last few years," it said at the end of its 84th Congress held here from September 25 to 29.
Every year, PEN International prepares a "Freedom of Expression Report" on the country where the Congress is held. A report on India was released Saturday.
"The report outlines how dissenting voices, be they journalists, writers, academics or students, face intimidation, harassment, prosecution, online abuse and physical violence," said a release issued by the organisation.
"PEN International calls on the Indian authorities to protect its writers, journalists and all others exercising their right to free expression and to bring its legislation in line with its obligations under the international law," it added.
The release quoted PEN International president and American-Mexican writer Jennifer Clement as saying that the organisation "honours (journalist) Gauri Lankesh, who was shot to death outside her home a year ago".
"Even though we welcome the progress that has been made in the investigation, we are still waiting for justice," Clement said.
"Unless the cycle of impunity is broken, those who want to use violence to silence will be emboldened," she added.
Lankesh was shot dead outside her house in Bengaluru on September 5, 2017. The Karnataka police has arrested some members of a right-wing group for allegedly conspiring to kill her.
The release also quoted journalist Salil Tripathi, the Chair of PEN International's Writers in Prison Committee, as saying that laws stifling speech, "an environment hostile to dissenting views" and "emboldened critics online and in the real world" had cast a chill over free expression in India.
"Journalists and writers have been sued, intimidated, threatened and sometimes murdered. There is little political will to amend the laws that prevent free expression or to enforce laws that protect the writer," Tripathi said.
Scholar-writer Ganesh Devy, the director of the Congress, said this was the first such gathering in India since PEN was established 98 years ago and was attended by writers from 87 countries.
"The Congress has also presented a project of translating 100 Indian books into the languages of the world and vice versa," he added.

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First Published: Sep 29 2018 | 7:25 PM IST

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