The Salman Rushdie Attack: IPA Calls for ‘Redoubling Our Commitment’

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As Salman Rushdie struggles with his injuries, the world publishing industry demands protection for the freedom to publish.

Salman Rushdie. Image: Penguin Random House, Rachel Eliza Griffiths

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

See also: Salman Rushdie Stabbed: Andrew Wylie Says He’s Now Off Ventilator

IPA’s Borghino: ‘This Barbaric Act’
From the International Publishers Association‘s (IPA) offices in Geneva this morning (August 15), statements have been issued, condemning Friday’s (August 12) stabbing attack on author Salman Rushdie at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York.

IPA secretary-general José Borghino, says: ‘First of all, we send our unwavering support to Salman Rushdie as he recovers from this barbaric act.

“We wish him a quick recovery, and we assure him that we will never shift from our pledge to uphold the freedom to publish everywhere.

José Borghino

“We also send our best wishes to Mr. Rushdie’s family and loved ones as they comfort him at this terrible time.”

And Kristenn Einarsson, chair of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish committee and the chief of the newly launched World Expression Forum in Norway (WEXFO), says, “The assault on Salman Rushdie was not just a repulsive personal attack, it was also a strike against the very concept of the freedom of expression and the freedom to publish.

Kristenn Einarsson

“These ideas are central to the IPA’s work because without these freedoms, publishers and writers are effectively muzzled.

“The attack on Salman Rushdie is tragic but it will serve to redouble our commitment to fighting for the right of authors to speak out and of publishers to disseminate their words.'”

Separately, PEN Zentrum Deutschland has issued a condemnation of the attack, making Rushdie an honorary member of the organization and saying, in the words of vice-president Cornelia Zetzsche, that Rushdie has always represented “freedom of expression, including that of his opponents.

Cornelia Zetzsche

“He lived in different hiding places for nine years, 20 years as a writer in New York who no longer wanted to disappear behind the political” situation.

“[He] moved freely and without bodyguards and was amazingly relaxed with the constant, years-long threat.”

While Rushdie remains in critical condition in the Erie, Pennsylvania, hospital to which he was airlifted from the attack site, he has been taken off a ventilator and sustained hours of surgery on Friday.

Many are heartened to see the weekend’s messaging from Rushdie’s son Zafar.

Reese on City of Asylum

Henry Reese, co-founder of City of Asylum, speaks with CNN’s Brian Stelter about the attack on Salman Rushdie. Image: CNN, Reliable Sources

On Sunday, the nature of the appearance Rushdie was making at Chautauqua became clearer when CNN’s Brian Stelter conducted a Reliable Sources interview with Henry Reese, who was onstage to interview Rushdie on Friday. A recording of Stelter’s interview with Reese is here.

Reese is a co-founder of City of Asylum, a program in Europe and the United States created to promote freedom of expression and to protect the physical safety of writers, not unlike the Norway-based ICORN International Cities of Refuge Network.

Reese, who also was injured in the attack, told Stelter that when the assailant rushed onto the stage, it first “looked like a sort of bad prank, and it didn’t have any sense of reality. And then when there was blood behind him, it became real.”

The irony of the setting for the attack was clear to Reese. “Here we were,” he told Stelter, “to talk about the movement, City of Asylum,” which originated with an idea put forward by Rushdie. “It was the original threat against him during the fatwa period that led a group of writers in Europe to start City of Asylum.

“And his talk in Pittsburgh in 1997 that inspired my wife and myself to begin the organization, which we’ve run as volunteers and which thousands of our neighbors now support and participate in to defend the values he represents, to provide sanctuary and safety to writers who have fewer resources than Rushdie” has had.

While Reese didn’t want to discuss details of the assault, he suggested that those concerned about Rushdie buy one of his books and read it.

Blinken: ‘This is Despicable’

Following the United States’ secretary of state Antony Blinken’s comments Sunday (August 14), the Wall Street Journal’s Aresu Eqbali and David S. Cloud are reporting that Iran has today (August 15) made its first statement on Friday’s stabbing attack on author Salman Rushdie.

Salman Rushdie’s ‘Victory City’ is scheduled to be published on February 7 by Penguin Random House

Eqbali and Cloud quote Nasser Kanaani, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson, saying, “We, in the incident of the attack on Salman Rushdie in the US, do not consider that anyone deserves blame and accusations except him and his supporters.”

The denial appears to have been prompted by Blinken’s Sunday comment, as quoted by Herb Scribner for Axios: “Iranian state institutions have incited violence against Rushdie for generations, and state-affiliated media recently gloated about the attempt on his life. This is despicable.”

While the 24-year-old suspect Hadi Matar was arraigned over the weekend on charges of second-degree assault and second-degree attempted murder—his attorneys entered a not-guilty plea—there is as yet no clear sense of a motive for the attack.


More from Publishing Perspectives on Salman Rushdie is here, more on the freedom of expression and freedom to publish is here, and more on the International Publishers Association is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s global media partner.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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