For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
Sri Lanka is a beautiful but extremely complex country. Its people are recovering from a 25 year long civil war which has divided society along ethnic and religious
lines. Following the war, the Government has become steadily more authoritarian, with more power consolidated in the office of the President, and the old emergency
laws remaining in place to suppress activism and free expression.
As Sri Lanka slides into an ever more draconian pattern of government, it is no surprise that the Galle Literary Festivalcomes under close scrutiny. Last year,
several prominent writers, including Noam Chomsky and Arundhati Roy, along with Reporters Sans Frontiers, called for a boycott of the festival, arguing it gave “legitimacy to the Sri Lankan government’s suppression of free speech”. Each year, there are writers who find themselves in agreement with this view, and withdraw from the festival or decline the invitation.
In the light of these calls, some authors attending the 2011 festival have contacted PEN, asking for information on the state of free expression in Sri Lanka. In response to these requests, we have compiled this short briefing, giving information on the recent history, politics and literature of the country.
We do not take a view on whether or not an individual author should attend the festival – individuals should balance the benefits of cultural exchange with concerns about the state of free expression in Sri Lanka. Following the festival, we would be very keen to hear about the experiences of any authors who choose to attend.
Read the full briefing as a PDF Galle-Literary-Festival-Briefing-2012