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Interview With Husband And Daughter Murdered By Hamas And Former Hostage Held By Hamas Chen Almog-Goldstein; Interview With PEN American Center CEO Suzanne Nossel. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired March 07, 2024 - 13:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.


CHEN ALMOG-GOLDSTEIN, HUSBAND AND DAUGHTER MURDERED BY HAMAS (through translator): I saw the boys were OK. So, I went back to the bathroom to

see what was going on with Yam and I saw that she had been shot in the face.


AMANPOUR: Exactly five months since the October 7th attacks, Chen Almog- Goldstein tells us about Hamas murdering her husband and daughter, and then spending 51 harrowing days as their captive in Gaza.

And Putin's propaganda machine. With Russia's elections on the horizon, we take a look inside Moscow's mission to misinform the public.

Then, gangs running riot in Port-au-Prince. A special report on the escalating violence in Haiti.

Also, ahead, "The Real Culture Wars." PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel tells Walter Isaacson how art shapes the contest between democracy and autocracy.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

On this day, five months ago, October 7th, Hamas stormed out of Gaza across Israel's border. And Israel says they murdered 1,200 people, mostly

civilians, and took another 240 hostage. Now, Palestinian authorities say more than 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza in Israel's ensuing war on


But the Hamas delegation left ceasefire talks in Cairo today as negotiations stalled. And this leaves in doubt the fate of more than 100

Israelis still held hostage. And across Israel, families are taking to the streets, demanding their government prioritize their release.

One of the most fervent campaigners was a hostage herself. Chen Almog- Goldstein witnessed her husband and her eldest daughter murdered in their home by Hamas that day. She and her three youngest children were then

kidnapped and held for 51 hellish days in Gaza.

She told me in detail about that experience and the moral duty to do everything possible to bring home those still being held.

Chen Almog-Goldstein, welcome to our program. You have gone through the most appalling experience. You've lost your husband, you've lost your

eldest daughter, and you've been held captive for many, many weeks. You said you were trying to get used to life now without your husband and

daughter. Are you managing?


new feeling for me, such a tragic and deep loss. It's so final.

Occasionally, I touch the loss and go back to life, which is very strong. It's hard for me to be in this loss all the time. And in this great pain,

losing my eldest daughter, Yam, and my husband, Nadav, we're trying to build something new from this pain. We're trying to build something new

because we are alive and we are saved. We're trying to create a new life.

AMANPOUR: Can you tell me -- you're obviously a very strong woman, but can you remind us how they were killed, your husband and daughter, on October


ALMOG-GOLDSTEIN (through translator): Nadav was murdered in the safe room as soon as they were breaking into the safe room. He took a wooden plank to

welcome the terrorists who shouting to us, al yahud, al yahud.


They were waiting outside the door. There was a short pause. They didn't break in straight away. We're in great fear. We understand that this is it.

They're going to come in and slaughter us. I took Yam's large teddy bear, the size of a human, and put it on top of us to protect us from the

shooting. Within a few seconds, five of them came into the safe room screaming. As I turned around, Nadav was shot in the chest, point blank. I

saw two or three wound shots on his left side.

Nadav is lying quietly with his hands up. His legs are folded. Agam remember that he said, no, no, no, I can hear his last gasps. I remember

him lying quietly. They started to scream. The terrorists opened the closet, getting our clothes to get dressed because we were all still in our

pajamas, and started to take us out of the house in a line. And we stepped over Nadav.

The boys were first, and then Agam, Yam, and myself, at the end in a line towards the toilets and the children's bathroom, which is next to the safe

room. There was a stage where one of the terrorists identified a uniform shirt of Yam's. My daughter looked at it, and I remember his big green eyes

while shouting at me in Arabic and asking me something. Yam told me that she thought he was asking whether there was a weapon in the house. I said


And then we were going out, and Yam was stuck next to the door frame. She didn't move. We understood that she must have fainted. Agam must have laid

her down, as I don't remember that I did, on the floor of the bathroom. The feet were under the cabinet, and she had fainted.

I wanted to spray her with water, as I couldn't approach her. There was some broken glass on the floor from the shower cubicle. I was barefoot and

took some water from the tap, trying to wet her face so that she would wake up. She responded a little bit, and I went out running to see what happened

with the boys and Agam, where they were taken, because they had already gone out.

I saw the boys were OK. So, I went back to the bathroom to see what was going on with Yam, and I saw that she had been shot in the face. It was

dreadful. I was completely shocked, as if what I saw actually happened. It was only a few seconds. I didn't try to take care of her and I didn't say

goodbye. I was running out to the kids. I can remember the difficult sight, her face with a bullet hole and convulsions.

I remember in Gaza, every evening I promised myself not to forget this dreadful sight. That sight is getting blurrier over time, but it was such a

shock. And that's it, I'm out, I'm going out. I don't say goodbye, none of us did.

AMANPOUR: Chen, I want to say that it's really hard just to hear this from you. It's really hard to listen to you. So, I cannot imagine for you what

it must be to have lived through this and to talk about it now. Can you tell me what happened next?

ALMOG-GOLDSTEIN (through translator): So, the kids were outside and they put us in Nadav's car. They looked for the keys and they tried to start

Nadav's car, trying to start it up. They brought my car keys. And we're going out of the parking area and we are all on our way to Gaza.

They turned left in the gravel parking outside and we took a left turn. Two terrorists were sitting in the car with us. One is driving and the other

one is next to him and they're all happy and taking selfies. The fence is wide open and we're going to Gaza in my car. We're shocked. I'm both trying

to digest what had happened. Nadav and Yam's murders.


I understand that they are no longer with us, although I have some hope that maybe we will miss the army, our forces, and maybe they will come and

manage to help them. On our way to Gaza, near our fence, they were loading bodies into the boot, which is not separated from the back seat of the car.

I'm saying to the boys not to look. I am not sure if the bodies were from our side or theirs. That's it. We are in Gaza.

I can remember an ambulance of the Red Cross parked on the side. And I remember looking at them and pleading to them with my hands, with

helplessness and they were looking at us with an expression of we can't help you.

Then they were stopping my car, moving us to a different vehicle. I can remember Gaza was a deserted place. There were not many people. And many

papers, pamphlets around. And in a few minutes, we're in private house. A gate opens, the car is going in, and the gate is locked. We can see outside

a sitting area, sofas and a tunnel shaft entry as well.

In a couple of minutes, they're taking us into the tunnel. I can remember the looks of my sons in the car, looks I will never forget, asking me, Mom,

what happened to your lips? My lips must have been so white and dry. And I understand that the reflection of my anxiety has reached them and that I

need to be strong and to function as long as I'm alive. And that's what I was trying to do, to be strong, and to take care of myself and save them.

And we survived. This is what we've tried to do in this hell in Gaza for 51 days. We were at a tunnel at the beginning, in flats, and at the end, in a

tunnel again.

AMANPOUR: Chen, it is just hellacious to listen to you. And I want to know how you survived those 51 days of hell, as you say. How were you treated by

your captors and were you and your children held in the same place or were you separated?

ALMOG-GOLDSTEIN (through translator): Very difficult 51 days. The control of our life is taken away from us. And I try to look after myself and to be

OK in this hellish reality. But it's all in the control of our captors, when we're going to eat, if we are going to go eat.

They tried to provide us with food. There was more at the beginning, but less later. Drinking water was limited, sometimes 330 milliliters in 24

hours. It was very stressful for me. The lack of water is difficult to live with, while shortage of food you can live with, but water limitation is

very stressful.

Difficult conditions when you're shot in a flat, trying to open the windows a little bit. But there were heavy curtains so not much ventilation. I'm

trying push my body towards some balcony door each morning to get some fresh air. And then, towards 4:30 or 5:00, it becomes dark. You use a

flashlight and then candles, and you're worried that the candles will cause fire.

There's incredible bombardment of the Israeli air force and artillery. Serious fear. We understand that there are mere cogs in the system, the

captors, and we are hoping that they are not going to have instructions to kill us and that they would do it. We would ask them, they told us that

were guarding us, that we were going to be OK and that we were not going to die, that they were going to die ahead of us, or we were going to die

together. This was supposed to calm us down.


We were not allowed to cry. They wanted us happy and told us to be OK. If we cried, we had to snap out of it or hide it. It's a kind of emotional

abuse that they didn't let us cry. Agam used to sit down and stare, and they would say, what are you staring at? What are you thinking? There was

no personal space. They said to us, we are not thinking.

AMANPOUR: Chen, were you abused or your children, or were you abused physically by them?

ALMOG-GOLDSTEIN (through translator): They didn't hate us, but I did describe abuse. If you didn't understand, I will repeat, not to let a

person cry or give them privacy or take control of our life. This is abuse, mental abuse.

They put us in traditional clothes in order to move us from apartment to another, which is supposedly an external act. But Agam and I looked at each

other the first time we did it, and we cried. You need to understand, they took our identity away. It was extremely difficult for us. This is also


They didn't hate us. There wasn't any sexual abuse. They humiliated us though, sometimes mocking us. They talked to us about Gilad Shalit and

laughed. They told us that we had been forgotten, that the only important thing for Israel was fighting. This is also a type of abuse.

AMANPOUR: I know it's all abuse and I -- it's very hard to listen to this. And I wonder, you said there was no sexual abuse. You may have heard

stories that have subsequently been reported about sexual abuse against some of the women hostages. And I wonder whether you were afraid for

yourself or for your daughter that there might have been sexual abuse. And did you hear stories from other women about sexual abuse committed against

any one of them?

ALMOG-GOLDSTEIN (through translator): We heard stories about cruel sexual attacks. I'm not going to get into it again, following the family's

requests. They are concerned about their return back to Israel and their rehabilitation, and asked us not to speak about it anymore. We already

talked about it in interviews in order to get international support, but we will now respect the family's requests not to discuss the horrendous sexual

abuse cases that took place.

Agam and I were worried. She was worried that she would be assaulted. And every time she went to the kitchen to help cooking, for example, I went to

the kitchen with her to guard her. I couldn't let go. I would go to the kitchen to make sure she was OK.

AMANPOUR: Chen, it must have been so awful as a mother as well. And I want to know whether you had any conversations with the Hamas captors, whether

there was anything beyond the survival needs, beyond the need to stay alive, whether you had any, I don't know, political conversations or any

other conversations.

You're a social worker, I believe. So, I wonder whether you thought that potentially saving your life meant trying to engage them, trying to talk to


ALMOG-GOLDSTEIN (through translator): Yes, there were many important conversations that were quite deep and even touched upon the depth of the

conflict. From their point of view, from the point of view of our captors, we were the ones who deported them and murdered them in 1948.


At this stage of the conversations, Agam and I would stop. We didn't want to have difficult discussions with them. We wanted to keep the relationship

reasonable. After all, they supposedly took care of us.

Also, we're not familiar with all the details of the conflict, and they told us to read books and gain knowledge. Agam asked them some challenging

questions. She asked if, according to the Quran, you are allowed to kidnap people from their homes with their pajamas. They discussed it among

themselves. They debated the Agam's question among themself. And it wasn't easy for them.

Sometimes we saw them crying, worried about their wives and writing letters to their wife. We were worried about it. We worried about the timing, if

Agam and I should worry whether they are writing farewell letters to their wives.

We were with them 24/7, seven days a week, for five weeks, with some for longer. They were with us the whole time. Sometimes there was laughter and

at other times there was crying and anger. We confronted them about Nadav's and Yam's murders and they apologized saying that in case they had been

murdered by mistake, they actually said a mistake, whether it's difficult to live with or for no good reason, then the murderer would be judged on

the day of his death.

Allah would ask him, why did you murder them? And if he murdered them for no good reason, the same murderer would go to hell and not to heaven. The

same murder, if he murdered for no reason, he would to go hell, that's what they would tell us.

There were conversations, and it was our way to survive and have a relationship that we naturally needed in order to survive and get what we

needed. Food, sometimes a game for the kids or pen and paper.

They told us to be quiet. We couldn't bury it anymore sometimes. Silencing kids is also a type of abuse. You asked about it earlier, to shut a child

from the outside world in a room, not letting him space and take his freedom away, this is a type of abuse regarding. Your question earlier, it

is abuse. The kid's witness the murders of their father and their sister, this is shocking assault on them.

AMANPOUR: Were you as scared or were you at all scared of the Israeli bombardment as you were being held hostage by these people who were

extremely scary?

ALMOG-GOLDSTEIN (through translator): It was very scary. The artillery and the air force. Yes. We were also afraid of the Gazans as our gods were

protecting us against the Gazan crowds. We we're afraid our own soldiers too and the attacks by our own soldiers, which is absurd.

AMANPOUR: What do you think now that you are out again about the hostages that are still there? Do you believe -- because I think you're taking part

in the demands of your government to put the hostages first. What do you think should happen now as this war continues?

ALMOG-GOLDSTEIN (through translator): We need to do everything to release them. They are dying there they should be a priority. Each news broadcast

should start saying that everything should be done for their release. Each public figure, the IDF spokesperson, should be concerned about them.

There shouldn't be any statements about, this is a heavy prize, or this deal is unreasonable. Is it reasonable that the hostages, men, women,

children, and the elderly are there? It is not reasonable that they are here. So, I have great difficulty accepting these statements. We should do

everything in our hands and compromise and give up the ego in order to release them. It's hell there. And I can testify that it is really

difficult and dangerous to be there every day, every hour.


AMANPOUR: And I'm struck by how when you were released, some of the other women hostages who remained, they said to you, don't forget us.

ALMOG-GOLDSTEIN (through translator): Their voice is in our hearts and in our thoughts. The voices that we should fight for them and not forget them,

and that we should do everything, like going to rallies, speaking on their behalf, do everything to release them.

They thought that they were going to be next in line. The female civilians and the wounded and the soldiers and the elderly, they were anticipating

their release. And since then, three months passed. It's unbelievable this long time has passed, and we don't even know their fate. The people in the

Gaza Strip don't know what happened to their loved ones.

As uncertainty regarding the hostages and their uncertainty regarding what is happening here, we need to release them. Some of them are injured with

complicated injuries, some with mental injuries. We should do everything to release them. We have no right to exist, nor our society, if we don't bring

them back. This is a moral duty.

AMANPOUR: Well, all I'm going to say is that, Chen, thank you for talking to us about such difficult things. And you seem to be an incredible, strong

woman with a huge amount of faith and hope for your fellow hostages that are left behind, and you have to keep your family together in such tragedy.

So, we really wish you the best and we thank you very much for taking the time to tell us about it.

ALMOG-GOLDSTEIN: Thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: Is there anything that I have forgotten that you wanted to tell me? Is there anything that's important to you now that I haven't asked you?

ALMOG-GOLDSTEIN (through translator): It's important for me to say that from the last week that I was with the girls in the tunnel, they do

everything to survive and live. Injured girls with missing limbs. One of them with an injury on her right arm and could not even move her hand is

learning to do everything with her left hand. Do we as a society and the world do everything for them? I can testify that it is hell there.

And I must say that I'm sorry that I was harsh, aggressive when you described abuse. There was abuse there throughout. And even if it wasn't

rape, it was still abuse to take our freedom away, to eliminate control of our life, or force the children to be quiet, not having your personal space

and hunger and terrible hygienic conditions. This is abuse. Taking our identity, forcing us to wear different clothes. Yes, this is abuse.

AMANPOUR: Chen, listen, I understand, and you have every right to be aggressive with me.


AMANPOUR: OK. Thank you so much.

And of course, with the collapse of any ceasefire talks, it means Chen and her fellow former hostages and the families in Israel will not get any

relief anytime soon, and that nor will the civilians in Gaza get any humanitarian relief anytime soon, and this just continues.

And a note about Chen saying that she saw a Red Cross ambulance in Gaza on October 7th, we did ask the International Committee of the Red Cross. They

told us in a statement that it would not have been one of theirs, as the ICRC does not operate ambulances in Gaza.

Now, President Joe Biden addresses a divided nation in tonight's State of the Union. His speech comes before a gridlock Congress over massive issues

like the border and supporting Ukraine's defense against Vladimir Putin. Donald Trump, Republicans, are still holding up a $60 billion military and

financial aid package to Ukraine. And severe pain is being felt on the battlefield.


Meantime, President Putin's propaganda mission is ramping up ahead of his election next week, uncontested, for all intents and purposes, as Clare

Sebastian reports.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Flying into a fifth term, the war of Putin is nuclear capable strategic bomber, almost as loud as the

propaganda machine propelling him forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Vladimir Putin on board the most powerful, the biggest, the fastest strategic bomber.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): This is Putin's desired pre-election image, strong, vigorous, calling the shots in his so-called special military

operation, and letting his chief propagandists campaign on his behalf on state TV.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): He works until late, late at night, starts again in the morning. I just want to say thank you to him, to

our president.

SEBASTIAN: As we get closer to elections in Russia in March, we're seeing more and more of this more obvious propaganda.

But there are also slightly more subtle tactics at play and the most prominent of those is the constant scapegoating or even outright trolling

of the U S.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): One popular talk show played this split screen on a loop. Putin boarding his bomber, Biden tripping up the steps of Air Force

One. News reports on the war in Ukraine regularly showing off the wreckage of western weapons. There's even a discarded Stalin cantina.

Boris Akunin, one of Russia's most popular modern authors, says the West needs to take note of this.

BORIS AKUNIN, RUSSIAN WRITER: Putin benefits from this picture of the outside world as something hostile so that people would unite around him.

When the war started, a lot of Russians start -- emigrated. Then they met with hostility. A lot had to return. And every single case has been used by

Putin's propaganda to strengthen this idea that we are together. We are a besieged camp.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Alexei Navalny knew how to get around Putin's propaganda machine and its long-standing policy of ignoring him.

From this cramped Moscow headquarters, which I visited in 2017, he and his colleagues beamed their message to millions of Russians via YouTube. And

yet, his death was something state media temporarily found itself unable to ignore. First, discrediting his legacy, then blaming the West.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): For them, this is excellent timing, we have elections coming up. Support for the president is off the


SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Finally turning on his widow, Yulia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We looked at the life of the queen of the opposition, during the time he was in prison.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Two hours after the news of the death of her husband, the wife emerges all made up. Listen, the girls will

understand me, even her mascara didn't run. How do you manage that?

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): For Akunin, Navalny's death is more than just a propaganda challenge. It signals propaganda may now be taking a back seat

to a much blunter instrument of control outright repression.

AKUNIN: By killing Alexei Navalny, they lost the last chance of trying to pretend that they were legal, decent, law abiding. Intimidation is now

going to be the main instrument.


AMANPOUR: That was Clare Sebastian reporting. And a note, the Kremlin says accusations that it was behind Navalny's death are unfounded.

Turning now to Haiti, which is extending a state of emergency for another month, the U.S. is calling for "urgent movement" towards a political

transition as gangs run riot in the capital, and opposition groups demand Prime Minister Ariel Henry's resignation.

The U.N. is urging the International Community to help restore law and order, as Correspondent David Carver reports.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A major escalation of gang violence is taking Haiti hostage. Scenes like this playing out in Port-au-

Prince Wednesday. Banks looted with ATMs smashed open, people scrambling to gather whatever they can. Several police stations bombed out by powerful

gangs who now freely stroll through the streets. The rising anger directed towards Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

One gang leader in the capitol threatening that if only he does not step down, it'll mean genocide for the Haitian people. And it is most often the

people who pay the price.


We were in Haiti just before this recent surge in violence. People venting to us their frustrations, wanting only to go and barricade in their

neighborhoods to stop would be gang kidnappers. Perhaps the biggest indicator of dysfunction comes from the top. All of this happening while a

major mystery looms, where exactly is Prime Minister Henry?

He was last seen last week signing an agreement in Kenya, securing the deployment of Kenyan police officers to Haiti, expected to arrive any day


The Miami Herald says Henry then boarded a flight that went first to the U.S. and then on toward Haiti's island neighbor, the Dominican Republic,

for an indefinite stopover. But officials in the D.R. blocked his arrival.

Instead, Henry's plane went on to Puerto Rico. The Miami Herald reporting that Henry was midflight when the Biden administration asked him to agree

to a new transitional government and resign. The White House pushing back on that.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are definitely not pushing the prime minister to resign. That is not what we're doing. But we

have underscored that now is the time to finalize a political core to help set Haiti on a path to a better future.

CULVER (voice-over): Where Henry is now is not clear, nor is the direction of his country, which is increasingly under the tightening grip of gangs.


AMANPOUR: The eternal suffering of Haiti, that was David Culver reporting.

From Haiti to Gaza to Ukraine, the world, of course, is wracked with conflict and instability. Whilst political leaders wrangle with military

and economic solutions, our next guest argues it is the arts that could make the biggest difference. Suzanne Nossel is CEO of PEN America, an

organization aiming to protect freedom of expression. And she now joins Walter Isaacson to discuss her latest essay that explores the power of

culture to shape the world order.


WALTER ISAACSON, CO-HOST, AMANPOUR AND CO.: Thank you, Christiane. And Suzanne Nossel, welcome to the show.


ISAACSON: You wrote this great piece in the "Foreign Affairs" magazine. Will you talk about how culture and art are going to be crucial to how we

see the world, especially at a time of conflict now. Tell me why you wrote the piece now, what were you trying to say?

NOSSEL: Sure. It's something that has occurred to me for a long time, which is that we see authoritarian governments and rulers putting so much

emphasis on controlling narrative and culture. Xi Jinping propounding his principles, publishing a little red book that -- and investing in a big

publishing conference here in the United States to spread those ideas around the world, in Russia, elevating, and trying to rehabilitate Stalin

and retell the story of his rule, digging up graves to try to contradict the prevailing narrative, jailing historians who expose the truth, shutting

down organizations that are focused on historical memory.

And so, witnessing the degree to which authoritarians have zeroed in on culture as a centerpiece of how they're advancing their own agenda, how

they're sustaining control, how they are projecting a global image, I wanted to focus on the role of democracies and what democracies could do to

engage culture. I feel like culture is a tool that has, to some degree, been left on this sideline.

ISAACSON: You've mentioned history as being one of the battlefields of culture, whether it be in China trying to do the history, and, of course,

you just said in the United States, this notion that we're fighting over how to do our history. But why is it right now that recapturing history has

become such a flashpoint, whether it be China or the United States?

NOSSEL: Well, I mean, I think here in the U S. we're at this, you know, inflection point, in some ways, as a pluralistic society where we are on

the cusp of having no one single racial majority in our population, and that is a significant change. And we wrestling with what that means.

We see this in our work on college campuses and the sort of tension between the effort to make the campus a more diverse, equal, and inclusive place,

if you will, and robust protection of free speech and academic freedom. I think the changes in our population and move toward a pluralistic society

are testing some of these core principles, including how we think about our history and how we integrate different perspectives.

I also think there's some hopeful signs in how institutions, you know, a place like Monticello has come Jefferson's home. You know, how they've come

to integrate the history of his role as a slave owner and the slaves on the plantation there, you know, alongside his accomplishments as statesman and

a visionary, they don't erase anything, they add to the story. And I think sort of as a society, we're wrestling with, you know, what that looks like

for us kind of writ large and in our curriculum.


And I think in a place like China, you know, because we're living in a smaller world, there's a recognition that -- and people are better

informed. I mean, suddenly, you have a highly literate population. And so, you know, these battles of ideas, I think, matter not just among elites, as

they always did, you know, but in a much more popular sense. And it's become a central kind of frontier of contestation, both internally within

China to hold up together a narrative that keeps people, you know, more or less by essence and accepting of the way that things are, and

internationally, to burnish and reinforce the image that they're trying to project.

ISAACSON: But you go around the world, everybody's watching American movies, wearing Nike shoes, TV shows, music, the internet. Isn't it better

to let it happen naturally through, you know, the way we do our culture and entertainment around the world?

NOSSEL: I think that's right when it comes to the promotion of American culture, which really is not the centerpiece of my argument. My argument is

about local cultures and the role of local cultural figures, culture makers, cultural icons, and the power and the potency they can have as

counterweights to authoritarians.

I've seen it very vividly in Ukraine. We've done a lot of work with PEN Ukraine over the last sort of seven or eight years building up that

organization of writers. And Ukraine is a place with a very strong literary and scholarly tradition. And witnessing the pride that they are taking in

their own culture now.

I went to Ukraine in December of 2022. So, really a dark moment, you know, six or seven months into the war. And when we got there, we were stunned to

see in a cultural hall in the center of Kyiv, they were mounting a brand- new exhibition devoted to a venerated philosopher.

And it was beautiful. And it had, you know, all kinds of explications of his work and interactive elements, and they had brought there a statue from

a museum dedicated to his life. And the statue had been damaged in the war. They had attacked the statue, it was kind of pockmarked, but still

standing. So, kind of an icon to the resilience of the Ukrainian people.

And just the pride that they had in that exhibition at that moment really spoke to me. I saw to myself that this -- you know, they are deriving

strength and spirit and nurture from their own culture to help them get through this moment. And it was just so powerful. And they've continued

with that, you know, over the ensuing now, you know, 14 months.

They travel all around the country doing events, bringing books to the front lines. They teach the Ukrainian language to Russian speakers who now

want the Ukrainians to be their lingua franca. And so, it's extraordinary to see sort of what role culture is playing in their effort to fight off --

fight this war and win this war and sustain the morale of the Ukrainian people. And so, you know, that for me was an important spark for this


ISAACSON: Yes, I mean, I can go back in history, especially in the Soviet Union when it was such -- whether it be Solzhenitsyn or Rybakov and others

who were great writers there that expressed an idea of freedom and democracy and helped push the narrative forward.

Do you think, though, that we, either as NGOs like PEN, or the U S. government, should be supporting writers like that?

NOSSEL: I think organizations like PEN, absolutely. And you know, that's the work that we do, standing with dissident writers, people who take a

risk to express themselves, who are targeted for what they publish, standing with them, advocating on their behalf when they're persecuted,

when they're jailed.

And that -- you know, it's important not just for them, but for all other writers who might be sitting in front of their computer thinking about, you

know, whether it's worth taking the risk. Should they say what they really think? What's going to happen to them? Who's going to defend them if that

knock comes on the door and they get hauled away?

And so, we try to send the message, look, there is this international community of writers. There is an organization like PEN that will have your

back. And I think that's extremely important because those voices, I mean, you remember them because they were so salient to the way that that

struggle was waged and won. They had authenticity. They told stories that laid bare, you know, what a news report could never do, what a foreign

politician could never get across.

You know, there is a profound resonance and a kind of depth of connection that people feel to, you know, their own writers, their own filmmakers,

their own artists, their own musicians that are in a tradition that they've engaged with their entire lives. And so, the power of that I think is quite



And, you know, it's not something -- I don't think it's about the West harnessing it per se, but it's about finding appropriate ways to support

and defend those individuals so that they can authentically have their voice and their influence in a manner of their own design. It's not

something -- you know, by its nature, it can't be controlled from the outside.

ISAACSON: Let me read a sentence from your piece and have you unpack it for me. It's, "Democracies and autocracies are waging a global battle,

principally through military, political, economic, and diplomatic means. Yet the outcome of the contest will hinge significantly on culture."

Is that because there's just an innate clash of cultures between totalitarian regimes and democracies?

NOSSEL: I think it's part of it, but I also think that cultural control and who shapes the cultural narrative ends up being, you know, sometimes

dispositive in how these contests unfold. And, you know, the fact that the narrative of the Soviet Union, you know, eventually it was punctured, it

was pop marked, it was called into question, you know, by those legendary writers, by Sami Stott (ph), by -- you know, partially by Western efforts

to cast it in a particular light through films and books.

And, you know, all of that over time made it impossible to sustain the story of this powerful nation. Of course, it coincided with economic

decline that, you know, overtook them. But I think the cultural piece, the fact that authoritarians pay so much attention to shaping this.

And you know, now it's a very different arena. So much of our cultural engagement happens in the digital realm. There are all kinds of efforts

through social media, through propaganda and disinformation, now enabled by A.I., where governments can tell whatever story they choose, and they're

investing very significantly.

You know, the Chinese government in trying to shape the political attitudes of their diaspora communities around the world, through online channels,

through news outlets that are controlled in Beijing, that are read by Chinese communities here in the United States, by trying to rein in what

Chinese people here in the United States publish or say or what dance performances get done.

And so, you know, to me, the amount of effort and attention that the authoritarians are paying to this ought to be a signal to us of how it

matters and how central they see it to the continuity of their regimes.

ISAACSON: Well, let's take China as an example, because it's a country where we felt with cultural influence, it would move them a bit to more

openness, more freedom, and democracy. We felt that way about trading with China, but we also had, as you said, a cultural impact on China. It was

Hollywood movies that went over there. It was the NBA basketball over there.

All of our cultural product, you know, had a great outlet in China. And, yet now, everything's moving in the other direction. Xi Jinping, it's much

more controlled. It didn't happen. Why?

NOSSEL: Well, I think there was a sort of naive notion that with enough engagement, enough ties, that kind of natural appeal of the western order,

of openness, of democracy would kind of automatically take hold. And obviously, we've learned that's not true. The appeal of capitalism in many

respects did take hold.

But the Chinese government was very strict and, let's face it, quite effective in preventing what many in the West anticipated would be this

kind of inexorable, unavoidable political opening that would accompany a transition toward greater capitalism.

And, you know, when you look at the Chinese government's approach to this, it's really shifted. We did a report at PEN America some years, about five

years ago, called "Made in Hollywood, Censored in Beijing" about how Hollywood filmmaking was being shaped by government censors out of the

Chinese government because China had become -- at the time, it was the second largest global film market. It's now the largest.


And in order to get onto a short list of Western films that were approved for release into China, you had to please the censor. So, if you have a

Chinese villain or you had an American military victory over China, that was not going to pass muster. If you even had a Taiwanese flag, as they did

in "Top Gun," that was considered unacceptable. And Hollywood filmmakers played ball because it was a financial incentive for them to do so.

And I think some of them were uncomfortable with it, but it -- you know, they made the argument to themselves, look, we're getting into this

important market. We're having some influence. Maybe that will lead to openness.

I think what happened over the last few years is the Beijing authorities really sort of turned around on this and decided they were better off

really doubling down on their own domestic film industry. And they have not expanded the number of foreign films that come in.

Increasingly, they're investing in local blockbusters that, you know, they have influence over, that reinforce their narratives. You're not going to

see, you know, anything like the kind of independent filmmaking that we have here, where there are challenges to authority and alternative

storylines that come to the floor. That's not going to happen in China.

ISAACSON: Well, let's take a place that you mentioned where it actually has worked some, which is Poland and the struggle for democracy versus

authoritarianism there. Culture played a big role. Explain that.

NOSSEL: Yes. I mean, I focus on a particular film that was released shortly before the election this fall, which had a kind of surprising and

positive result with the elevation of Donald Tusk and a new government that is much more classically liberal and open.

And the film looked at how Poland was handling the crisis at its border with Belarus and the very harsh approaches of the Duda government and just

the mistreatment of migrants. And it was a very kind of bold-faced unvarnished look by Agnieszka Holland, who's a well-regarded filmmaker.

And the government got very upset by this film. They wanted to suppress it. They delayed it. They tagged kind a warning screen on it, saying that they

disagreed with it. But within a matter of weeks, it became the second most watched film of the year, even though it was released at the end of the


And, you know, having that voice out there, that independent voice, a Pol, telling a Polish story, holding up a mirror against the government to show

Pols what was really going on and help shape how they thought as they went to the Pols, you know, that just has extraordinary power. It's different

than, you know, any exhortation from behind a podium. It's something that speaks to people viscerally and emotionally.

ISAACSON: You know, culture shapes politics. Even here at home, we're seeing everything in the history wars to a popular culture. I think a lot

of conservatives would say that the entertainment industry, the popular cultural industry skews very much to the left and leaves them out. Do you

think that's a problem here?

NOSSEL: Look, I think it's crucial that we hear all voices in our culture. At PEN America, you know, we fight against efforts to cancel books. You

know, people want to cancel the memoirs from members of the Trump administration or the book contract signed by Amy Coney Barrett. I think

those voices need to be out there. I think people of all kinds need to see themselves somewhere in the larger culture.

And I -- you know, I think that exists, whether it's in country music, you know, in the kind of way of just about everything that you can find on

television these days. You know that said, there is a left-leaning skew in Hollywood, and you know, that probably is not wrong, but, you know, you

cannot control that centrally.

I think people can invest. And, you know, we can make sure, as an organization like PEN, where we try to bring together different voices,

we're cognizant that we want people from across the ideological spectrum to feel like they can be part of that conversation.

NOSSEL: Suzanne Nasser, thank you so much for joining us.

NOSSEL: Thanks for having me.


AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, as we look ahead to the upcoming U S. election, we want to commemorate the brave individuals who fought hard for

voting rights, like the late Congressman John Lewis, who took part in weeks of civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, which began in 1965, 59

years ago today.

What started as a peaceful demonstration ended in violent police attacks that left Lewis with a fractured skull, as he told me in 2016.



JOHN LEWIS (D-GA), FORMER CONGRESSMAN: It was 600 of us walking in an orderly, peaceful, nonviolent fashion. I didn't have any idea that we would

be beaten, trampled by horses, tear gas, and I was the first one to become a victim of the violence. I was hit in the head by a state trooper with a

nightstick, and I thought I was going to die.


AMANPOUR: Those marches inspired thousands of others, moving President Lyndon Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

That's it for now. If you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. And remember, you can always

catch us online and our website and all-over social media.

Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.