‘Charlie Hebdo’ to Receive PEN Award in May

A person holds a placard reading "Je suis Charlie" during a remembrance rally at Place de la Republique on the one year anniversary of the attacks.
Photo: YOAN VALAT/AFP/Getty Images

The PEN American Center will honor Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine that was the target of a deadly terrorist attack in January at New York’s American Museum of Natural History. The publication will receive with the PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award. Since the attack, the publication has become a global symbol for freedom of expression.

The award will be presented at the annual PEN American Center gala on May 5. Film critic Jean-Baptiste Thoret, who arrived at the Hebdo office just after eight of his colleagues had been killed, will accept the award of behalf of the publication. He will be accompanied by New Yorker cartoonist and cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, who drew a tribute to the Parisian publication in the wake of the attack.

“It is the role of the satirists in any free society to challenge the powerful and the sacred, pushing boundaries in ways that make expression freer and more robust for us all,” said PEN executive director Suzanne Nossel. “In paying the ultimate price for the exercise of their freedom, and then soldiering on amid devastating loss, Charlie Hebdo deserves to be recognized for its dauntlessness in the face of one of the most noxious assaults on expression in recent memory.”

Despite a worldwide outpouring of sorrow for the publication’s 12 murdered staffers, many commentators have spoken out about the provocative content of the cartoons, which were often racially charged and, some assert, anti-Muslim.

Playwright Tom Stoppard will receive the PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award during the gala. The organization will also present the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award to a jailed writer, yet to be announced.


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