With horror and disbelief, GAU has learned of the death threats that Pim Lammers has received. The fact that he is withdrawing as the author of the poem for the Children’s Book Week is a terrible consequence of this. Literary freedom is under unacceptable pressure here. The GAU strongly condemns the death threats and false accusations against Pim Lammers. 

We fully support the statements made earlier by the CPNB and PEN Netherlands. “A peaceful society is impossible without literary freedom” are the words of PEN Nederland, which we wholeheartedly endorse.

Lammers is a member of the LGBTIQ+ community and in his work themes like sexuality and gender are addressed. He was the youngest prize winner of the Zilveren Griffel (“Silver Pencil”) award for Young Adult literature in 2018 with a transgender-themed illustrated work. His 2015 adult  story ‘The Trainer’, which describes an erotic relation between a football trainer and a teenage boy triggered controversy once Lammer’s nomination was announced for the Kids Book Week poem. While ‘The Trainer’ is a fictional story, the author himself was accused of pedophilia.

Individuals supporting Lammers on social media have also been subject to attacks. Michiel Kolman, IPA Past President and current Chair of the IPA’s Inclusive Publishing and Literacy Committee shared his own experience:  As a supporter of Freedom to Publish and Diversity in our industry I posted on LinkedIn on the developments around Lammers and it only took minutes for images to appear of a hanged man with the text “the cure for pedophilia” – I reported the man who posted this to the police as well as to LinkedIn – the professional platform bizarrely determined that the posting was not in violation of its guidelines. 

There are clear links between the freedom to publish and the diversity of written expression – whether based on gender, demographic background or sexuality. As the IPA’s 2020 Freedom to Publish report noted, intimidation through social media is an increasingly common tool to scare authors and publishers into silence.

The Netherlands does not suffer State sponsored censorship. Indeed, prime minister Rutte and culture state secretary Uslu condemned the threats against Lammers. However, that does not mean that the freedom to publish is not under threat.

Kristenn Einarsson, chair of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish Committee: It is so sad to learn of another author scared into silence, another poem that will go unpublished. We must keep working to ensure that freedom of expression is not just a right ‘in theory’ but a right in practice, for all voices in our societies.