The Copenhagen Shootings

This weekend’s attacks in Copenhagen have been condemned by English PEN as an assault on freedom of expression.


On Saturday, 14th February, an attack took place at a café in Copenhagen during an event on free speech. One man was killed during this attack. That night, it is believed that the same suspect opened fire outside a synagogue, also in Copenhagen, killing another man. In the early hours of Sunday a further attack took place, killing a police officer on guard in the Norrebo District. The suspect was then shot dead.

“The shocking attack in Copenhagen seeks to shut down freedom of expression and intimidate anyone who wishes to discuss current challenges to free speech publicly.

English PEN deplores this violent assault on a peaceful gathering – an unacceptable attempt to silence debate. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims.”

Freedom of expression has received a lot of attention this year, internationally. After the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris earlier this year, countries and their leaders have come together in solidarity to protect this fundamental freedom. Many of these same leaders  have been restricting freedom of expression in their own countries (Follow our current article series on Hypocrisy after Hebdo – Shining a Light).

If anything, this year has shown the utter importance for us to stand by freedom of expression and how precarious this right is, for example: the Paris attacks and the many events that have followed – including the UK, with the government recording details of people buying the Charlie Hebdo magazine – this weekend’s attacks in Copenhagen, the further obstructing of press freedom in Turkey, the arrests and trials of Raif Baddawi and Nabeel Rajab, the spying by GCHQ and the NSA, to name a few.

Not only is it important to protect and support freedom of expression, it is also important that we keep the floor open for debate and discussion. Just as it is crucial that we discuss the limits of freedom of expression and when it may have gone to far, we also need to discuss when freedom of expression should be protected. We need to keep this space open for discussion, we need to keep changing the boundaries and protect this freedom, this right.


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