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Remarks at Freedom of Expression Reading Evening

State Secretary Marianne Hagen's opening remarks at Norwegian reading evening on freedom of expression at Leipziger Buchmesse.

Meine Damen und Herren,

Ihnen allen einen schönen guten Abend.

Seien Sie herzlich willkommen zu diesem norwegischen Abend mit Gesprächen und Lesungen zum Thema Meinungsfreiheit.

Norway’s slogan as Guest of Honour at the Frankfurter Buchmesse this October is ‘The Dream We Carry’, in German: ‘Der Traum in uns’. It comes from a poem by one of our finest poets, Olav H. Hauge. To me, the poem speaks of the way literature can open hearts and doors, give us new insights, and bring people together to talk about the important questions of our time.

Throughout 2019, a large number of voices from Norway – both well-known authors and new talents – will travel to Germany and take part in hundreds of literary events all over the country. They will share their stories and engage in discussions with their readers at literary festivals, houses of literature, bookshops and book fairs.

Freedom of expression is a universal right and a key priority in Norway’s human rights policy. Protecting those who speak out is an important element in our strategy to strengthen freedom of expression and independent media. Together with our German and international partners, we will use the Frankfurter Buchmesse as a platform to defend, promote and discuss our shared values: human rights, democracy and freedom of expression.  

Writers have always been at the front line in the struggle for these values. This evening we will focus on the dividing line between fact and fiction. On the line that some texts cross, and then are seen as evil, harmful or even dangerous. Where is that line? And why is a text subject to censorship in one country, but not in another?

The authors here this evening – Pil Cappelen Smith, Pål Moddi Knutsen, Marta Breen, Nancy Herz and Sofia Nesrine Srour – all bring different perspectives to the discussion on texts and censorship, freedom of expression, and women’s rights – both in earlier times and today.

At a time when the boundary between fact and fiction and the emergence of ‘fake news’ are debated daily in the media, these authors stress the importance of discussing these issues in a personal and individual context.

Tonight, we they will present contributions from their work and share their perspectives and insights.

I hope you all enjoy an interesting and inspiring evening of reflection together with these fine writers from Norway.

Herzlichen Dank und uns allen viel Vergnügen.

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