Message to the members of PEN International, from Executive Director, Laura McVeigh




Dear Friends,

I am writing to share the latest news from the International Secretariat. November is a very busy month for many PEN members. A day of major action is planned for November 15, Day of the Imprisoned Writer, with members across the world taking action to support writers threatened, imprisoned and at risk. Here are links to some of the initiatives underway by PEN Centres worldwide: http://www.pen-international.org/day-of-the-imprisoned-writer-2012/

Alongside this activity the international office has been working on a new Write Against Impunity anthology and campaign as part of the 2012 Impunity focus. Extracts from writers including Homero Aridjis, Victor Sahuatoba and Lydia Cacho already feature on the website and you will soon be able to download the e-Anthology on November 23, International Day to End Impunity. It features writers including Sergio Ramirez, Gioconda Belli and Ariel Dorfman and will be promoted widely to continue to raise awareness of the issue of impunity.

This month also sees the launch of the PEN Declaration on Digital Freedom. This declaration is the starting point of PEN International’s focus on these issues. The committee, chaired by International Secretary Hori Takeaki, now will widen its brief and begin research on additional key digital issues affecting PEN members including copyright and intellectual property rights as discussed at Congress. Please share your thoughts, views and ideas with the committee as they take forward this work. There has been much interest already in the Declaration and we hope it will be a useful resource to centres in campaigning on this key issue which will be a major PEN International campaign focus throughout 2013.

Recent months have been fruitful for the PEN International Publishers Circle and we welcome leading publishing house Dar El Sharouk as the latest member of the Circle. I would like to personally extend my thanks on behalf of PEN International to Herbert Wiesner of German PEN for all the support and help extended to John Ralston Saul and I during this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair where we continue to strengthen and build PEN’s role with the Fair; this year connecting the Publishers Circle directly to emerging publishers from many countries including Ethiopia, Burma, Syria, Pakistan and many more.

We are delighted to welcome two additional staff members to the International Secretariat – Sarah Clarke (sarah.clarke@pen-international.org) joins as Policy Officer responsible for developing and coordinating PEN International’s public policy work and Emese Kovacs (emese.kovacs@pen-international.org), our new Programmes Officer who will be working with many centres to deliver international programmes. There is now a strong team working with Frank Geary to directly support PEN centres and we look forward to seeing this area of PEN’s work and support for centres grow further over the year ahead.

We also welcome back Tamsin Mitchell, our Africa and Americas Researcher and Campaigner, returned from maternity leave. And we welcome three new volunteers to the team – Anthea Gordon, Jack Jeffries and Karis Lacroix. For the latest staff list and information see: http://www.pen-international.org/who-we-are/staff/

Since the appointment of Paul Finegan as Centres & Committees Support Officer (paul.finegan@pen-international.org) it is wonderful to see more active support in place for the Standing Committees and now for all centres. In particular following Congress the PEN International Women Writers Committee has been very dynamic in its campaigning and we are delighted to be working in close partnership with Ekbal Baraka, the new committee chair in raising the concerns of the committee for writers worldwide and highlighting key issues including access to education. See recent appeals here: www.pen-international.org We hope to see this aspect of PEN’s work continue to build over coming months.

November also sees the second major mission by PEN International – this time a high level delegation including the Executive, the Chair of the WiPC and Board, centre and expert representation – has travelled to Turkey to raise awareness of the challenges faced by writers to their freedom of expression within the country. Our thanks in particular to Norwegian PEN for their key support enabling this delegation to take place. There will be a full report on the activity of the delegation from International President John Ralston Saul later this month.

So many wonderful initiatives are underway in PEN centres worldwide and our Communications and Campaigns Manager (Sahar.Halaimzai@pen-international.org) will be showcasing the work of each centre over the coming months – here is some of the latest news from PEN centres: http://www.pen-international.org/pen-world/centres-news/

And I want to thank all those PEN centres who have paid their membership dues for the year – thank you. Your support is vital to enabling PEN’s international work. If your centre is experiencing payment difficulties please contact Paul Finegan (paul.finegan@pen-international.org) to discuss and for assistance.

With all best wishes,

Laura McVeigh
Executive Director