"The City of Refuge Network is a wonderful municipal initiative. We extend our full support to the cities who have committed themselves to this important project for freedom of expression. It bears witness of a strong commitment for justice, solidarity and a vibrant democracy.." was the message from Norway's minister of Culture, Ms. Anniken Huitfeldt, hosting the annual meeting among the Nordic Ministers of Culture in Oslo last week.
The strong appeal from the Nordic minsters is seen as a result of the concluding statement at the Nordic Culture Forum in the Swedish Academy in Stockholm in December 2011:
"In times of increasing threats to artistic creativity and freedom of expression all over the world," the statement begins, "we wish, jointly, to point out the need for public support (...) for those people who exercise their freedom of expression at risk to their own lives."
The statement, as signed by Chair Kerstin Brunnberg and Director General Kennet Johansson of the Swedish Arts Council, President John Ralston Saul of PEN International and ICORN's Executive Director Helge Lunde, was summed up by an appeal to "increase the number of guest authors given refuge in cities in the Nordic countries, thus also reinforcing cultural exchanges between Nordic countries and the rest of the world."
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