To our readers,
Threats and attacks against freedom of expression are, unfortunately, nothing new, but two major international events in recent months have brought the issue of free speech to worldwide attention. In November, hackers (believed to be from North Korea) broke into Sony’s servers ahead of the planned holiday release of The Interview, prompting the studio to withdraw the film from most theaters. Then on January 7, two Islamic militants forced their way into the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and killed 12, including staff cartoonists, journalists, and a police officer. The Charlie Hebdo attack has sparked a huge outpouring of support for the right to free expression, as evidenced by the rally attended by more than one million people just days after the shootings and the five million copies sold of the first edition of Charlie Hebdo published after the attack.
Though neither the hacking of Sony nor the attack against Charlie Hebdo occurred on American soil, it would be wrong to assume that freedom of speech is a given here.
Attacks against free expression in the U.S. are seldom violent, but they occur almost every day. The ALA’s list of the most-banned titles each year, released during Banned Book Week, often surpasses 100 and reflects the continued prevalence of censorship. The level of protection Americans enjoy in terms of free speech has been hard-earned through numerous court cases, and by men and women who are willing to stand up of for their belief that free speech is vital to the success of democracy. But the right of free expression cannot be taken for granted, as the events of the past few months have shown.
Since PW began in 1872, we have stood firmly against censorship of all kinds; freedom of expression has always been central to our values and is a bedrock principle on which publishing has been built. In light of the events in Paris, we have begun raising funds to support organizations that promote these values. We want to thank members of the publishing community that have already supported our Je Suis Charlie efforts, agreeing to make contributions to the five organizations that we are directing donations to: American Booksellers for Free Expression, the International Federation of Library Associations, International PEN, the National Coalition Against Censorship, and the International Publishers Association. We would also like to thank National Geographic for offering to rearrange its advertising in this issue, allowing us to run a marvelous Je Suis Charlie illustration by French artist Benjamin Chaud on our cover; Chaud himself for the inspirational work; and Chronicle Books for making it happen.
It is heartening to see so many companies willing to step up at a moment’s notice to protect free expression, as any community that isn’t willing to defend its core values could one day see them slip away.
—The PW Staff
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