On the evening of Thursday, 8th February 2024, the illustrious House of Lords provided the distinguished setting for a captivating Roundtable Discussion on Language, Literature, and Freedom of Expression in the 21st Century. From 7 pm to 9 pm GMT, attendees were treated to an enlightening dialogue led by two eminent figures in the realm of literature: Burhan Sonmez and Baroness Ruth Anderson.
Baroness Ruth Anderson, CEO of Index on Censorship and a former British Labour Party politician, drew upon her extensive political and activist background to underscore the critical importance of preserving freedom of expression as a democratic value. With insights gained from her tenure in Parliament and her leadership role at the Index on Censorship, Baroness Anderson highlighted the escalating challenges posed by authoritarian regimes, emphasizing the need for new platforms to define and find solutions in combating censorship.
Joining her was Burhan Sonmez, President of PEN International, whose distinguished career as a Kurdish human rights lawyer and novelist from Turkey brought a unique perspective to the discussion. Sonmez eloquently conveyed the urgency of the situation, pointing out the rapid spread of authoritarianism and the necessity for vigilance in defending free expression. He emphasized the power of individuals in shaping societal discourse, urging attendees not to underestimate their influence as citizens.
Throughout the discussion, attendees were treated to profound reflections and poignant anecdotes. Key themes emerged, including the symbiotic relationship between language, literature, and the preservation of freedom of expression, as well as the transformative potential of art in navigating the complexities of censorship.