Salman Rushdie, almost 25 years after the Ayatollah’s fatwa, discusses global censorship:
I’d say that, in general, [it’s] gotten worse. But one of the things our report highlights is that people have more tools to resist censorship using new media. For instance, in China, while there’s increased repression in the form of arbitrary arrests, artists held incommunicado and put under house arrest, and increasing hostility towards literature and free expression, there is at the same time a growing willingness of Chinese citizens to find ways to express themselves. In spite of all the repression, there’s been a growth of independent, non-state publishers to print things that wouldn’t be approved by state houses, and people have shown the willingness to post things online even if they’re not to the liking of the state.
He also worries about a “very disturbing trend” of increased censorship in his democratic home country, India. In another recent interview, Rushdie proposed one way to protect writers in oppressive countries: keep them in the public eye:
One of the strange things about violent and authoritarian regimes is they don’t like the glare of negative publicity. If you can make them sufficiently uncomfortable, they frequently respond by doing what you need them to do in the spirit of setting people free or ceasing arrests, which has worked time and time again with PEN. The PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award is a way of spotlighting individual cases. If you look at the history of the award, the freedom rate is very high: a very high percentage of people who receive those awards are freed in the next six months to a year. The only weapon there is attention, but interestingly it works.