PEN Català set up the “Free Voice” Prize in 2010. The prize is awarded on occasion of the events for the International Day of the Imprisoned Writer, November 15, to a writer who has distinguished himself / herself as a champion of Freedom of Expression. The Prize is on its 7th edition on 2016. Until now, all the prizes have been awarded in the Balearic Islands, in Mallorca on the previous editions and in Menorca this year.
Through the awarding of this prize, PEN Català seeks to aid in publicizing the many violations of human rights and freedom of expression around the world. Giving the prize to a writer who has distinguished himsetlf for his defence of freedom of expression means to highlight the situation of his country and know it from a direct witness.
The international jury of ”Free Voice” has decided to award Turkish writer and cultural activist Zeynep Oral. She has been chosen for her extraordinary work as a writer and journalist and also for her commitment in many fields such as human rights, women’s freedoms and minorities’ rights. This award also wants to recognize the struggle of many other Turkish writers, translators and journalists for freedom of expression. These people have been fighting for years but after last summer’s “coup” their situation is becoming more and more worrying.
The recipients of the award, on the previous editions, have been:
2015 Ahmad Jalali Farahani
Iranian journalist, screenwriter and director.
Ahmad Jalali Farahani stood out for his courage in denouncing censorship and persecution suffered by journalists in Iran with the documentary “We are journalists.”
2014 Dessale Berekhet
He is Guest Writer in the Norwegian city of Bo in the frame of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN). Dessale Berekhet received the V “Free Voice” Prize for his tireless defense of freedom and human rights and for the fight against injustice and lack of democracy prevailing in the country.
2013 Ex aequo: Easterine Kire and the Balearic Islands Teachers’ Collective.
Easterine Kire, poet and novelist from Nagaland, had to leave her country because of the harassment and violence she suffered there due to her writings. In 2005 she got asylum in Tromso, Norway, in the frame of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN).
The Balearic Islands Teachers’ Collective.
Exceptionally, this year PEN Català also wanted to recognize the struggle of the Balearic Islands Teachers’ Collective and their perseverance against the impositions of the Balearic Government and the lack of dialogue and of freedom they suffered.
2012 Koulsy Lamko
Poet and writer from Chad.
Lamko had to seek exile in Burkina Faso in 1979, due to the civil war that plagued his country, Chad. In 2003 he became the guest writer of the Shelter House Citlaltépetl in Mexico City. Since 2009, Lamko runs a shelter house in the same city for African writers and artists, in co-operation with the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN).
2011 Salem Zenia
Tamazight poet, novelist and journalist from Algeria.
Salem Zenia had to leave his country due to the death threats he received because of his militancy in favour of the Tamazight culture and of secularism. In 2007 he was hosted in Barcelona by PEN Català as the Guest Writer of the Program the entity was coordinating in the frame of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN).
2010 Normando Hernández González
He was the director of the Independent Journalists Union of Camagüey. Normando Hernández González was one of the journalists, writers and librarians that the Cuban regime detained during mass arrests in 2003. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison accused of compromising the independence of the state and territorial integrity as a result of his writings. Despite his poor health due to physical and mental torture, he was kept in solitary confinement. After seven years of imprisonment, in 2010, the Cuban authorities agreed to hand him to the Spanish authorities.