Writers demand Royal Society of Literature explain Gaza ‘censorship’

Writers demand Royal Society of Literature explain Gaza ‘censorship’
Writers, including Margaret Atwood, are expressing concern at the alleged censorship of a literature magazine that was ‘sympathetic to Palestinians'.
2 min read
06 March, 2024
Writers including Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Philip Pullman are expressing concern at the Royal Society of Literature magazine's alleged censorship [Getty]]

Britain's Royal Society of Literature (RSL) has come under fire from some of its most prominent members over alleged censorship related to Israel's war on Gaza.

Writers Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Philip Pullman are among 70 RSL fellows who have signed an open letter expressing concern over the alleged censorship.

The society's annual magazine was allegedly suspended in December because of one article containing a passage mentioning the "Israeli war machine". The society denies this was the reason.

The magazine's editor, Maggie Fergusson, was dismissed when the edition was halted.

In a letter to The Times, signatories said action was needed to "help to heal the fissures that have opened" in the society.

The fellows also expressed their horror at the organisation's "serious reputational damage" and were "deeply concerned" about management's role in the alleged censorship.

Dozens of fellows have also been demanding an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) in the "hope the serious issue of attempted censorship can be resolved".

They also questioned who would be overseeing the internal governance review and asked whether the society had requested that the Charity Commission investigate the "censorship".

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They wrote: "The evidence seems strong that there was managerial interference in an article that contained a passage sympathetic to Palestinians."

The article in question was a conversation between two fellows of the society. One recounted a first visit to the Palestine Festival of Literature last year and was shocked at what they saw.

The writer said the current bloodshed in Gaza meant she was "thinking about the people there every day".

Emails seen by The Times suggest that Fergusson and the designer believed the magazine was pulled to remove "offending comments".

However, the editor said in an email that she is certain the article in question was the reason.

She said the magazine's designer, Derek Westwood, would confirm that he was asked "to rejig the article so that the offending comments were removed".