Twitter CEO Dick Costolo to Receive Inaugural PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Digital Freedom Award
NEW YORK— On Monday, May 5 the literary community will gather in defense of freedom of expression worldwide at the annual PEN American Center Literary Gala at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. PEN will celebrate the fast-evolving landscape for communication, connection, and expression worldwide and honor two esteemed figures: Salman Rushdie and Dick Costolo. The Gala will mark the close of the Tenth Anniversary PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature taking place in New York beginning on April 28.
Past PEN American Center President Salman Rushdie will be presented with the 2014 PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award, PEN’s highest honor. The award recognizes Rushdie’s unparalleled artistry and courage as a novelist and essayist, as well as his role in founding and building the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature. PEN’s World Voices Festival, the United States’ only international literary festival, has brought more than 1500 writers from 78 countries speaking 56 different languages to New York since 2005, serving as a vital platform for cross-cultural dialogue involving authors, journalists, intellectuals, and thought leaders on issues central to individual rights and freedoms. Rushdie will be introduced by 2008 PEN Literary Service Awardee Toni Morrison.
PEN President Peter Godwin said, “Salman is a superb storyteller and the ultimate literary lion, a model of courage and personal fortitude not only for writers, but all artists who have been threatened for expressing the truth as they see it. As a longtime PEN leader who has stood at the forefront of human rights struggles time and again, it is especially gratifying to present him with our highest honor on the 10th anniversary of the Festival he created.” In addition to Morrison, previous Award winners include Philip Roth, Edward Albee, Michael Ondaatje, Margaret Atwood, E.L. Doctorow, and Gore Vidal.
This year’s Gala will inaugurate the PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Digital Freedom Award. This honor will go to Dick Costolo, the Chief Executive Officer of Twitter, for his company’s contribution of a powerful new tool for communication and expression to hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Since assuming his current position at Twitter in October 2010, Costolo has overseen rapid growth of a platform that today has nearly 250 million active users. Twitter has become an essential tool for journalists, writers, dissidents, and human rights activists worldwide, enabling the flow of information and dialogue across geographic and political borders.
PEN Executive Director Suzanne Nossel said, “With writers using websites, mobile devices, and social media platforms to get their ideas out 24/7 from wherever they are, protecting digital freedom has moved to the core of PEN’s work as a free expression organization. Already, nearly half of our caseload of persecuted writers worldwide involves infringements on digital expression. Twitter is both an enabler and a guardian of free speech. The company’s commitment to tip the scales in favor of freedom is an essential safeguard in a world where every new tool for expression seems to be met by new tactics of surveillance and repression.”
PEN American Center will also present its annual PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award at the May 5 Gala to an imprisoned writer who has made significant contributions and endured personal sacrifice in the service of free expression. The Freedom to Write Award winner will be announced in the coming weeks.
The 2014 PEN American Center Literary Gala, the largest in the organization’s history, will raise funds to support PEN’s work in over 100 countries to promote free expression and defend writers under threat.
Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is a community of 3,500 writers working to bring down barriers to free expression worldwide. Its distinguished members carry on the achievements in literature and advancement of human rights of such past members as Langston Hughes, Arthur Miller, and Susan Sontag. To learn more, visit www.pen.org.