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Each year, on 15 November PEN International, PEN Centres and PEN members from around the world commemorate the Day of the Imprisoned Writer to highlight and campaign on behalf of writers who face unjust imprisonment, attacks, harassment and violence simply for their free expression work.

Started in 1981 by PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, the day is marked by promoting literary culture, celebrating the freedom to write, and taking action to call for justice and freedom for imprisoned and murdered colleagues.

In addition to increasing the public’s awareness of persecuted writers in general, PEN uses the Day of the Imprisoned Writer to direct attention to several specific persecuted or imprisoned writers and their individual circumstances. Each of the selected writers is from a different part of the world, and each case represents circumstances of repression that occur when governments or other entities in power feel threatened by what writers have written. On this day, the general public is encouraged to take action—in the form of donations and letters of appeal—on behalf of the selected writers.

The day also serves to commemorate all of the writers killed since the previous year’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer.

Focus Cases


Ahmed Naji, Novelist & Journalist (Egypt)
Aslı Erdoğan, Novelist & PEN member (Turkey)
Cesario Alejandro Félix Padilla Figueroa, Student leader & PEN member (Honduras)
Dareen Tatour, Poet (Israel)
Gui Minhai, Publisher (China)


Juan Carlos Argeñal Medina (Honduras), TV journalist
Patiwat Saraiyaem & Pornthip Munkong (Thailand), student activists.  Saraiyaem & Munkong were released early in September 2016.
Khadija Ismayilova (Azerbaijan), investigative journalist. Ismayilova was freed in May 2016.
Raif Badawi (Saudi Arabia), blogger & editor. Badawi remains in prison in Saudi Arabia.

You can read more about these cases here.


Dieudonné Enoh Meyomesse (Cameroon), poet. Meyomesse was released from prison in April 2015.
Gao Yu (China), journalist & member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center
Mahvsh Sabet (Iran), teacher & poet
Azimjon Askarov (Kyrgyzstan), journalist
Nelson Aguilera (Paraguay), writer, teacher and member of PEN Paraguay

You can read more about these cases here.


Dina Meza (Honduras), human rights defender & journalist
Fazil Say (Turkey), writer, composer & musician.
Zahra Rahnavard (Iran), writer & political activist
Kunchok Tsephel Gopey Tsang (China-Tibet), writer & editor

You can read more about these cases here.


Shiva Nazar Ahari (Iran), journalist, writer & human rights activist
Ericson Acosta (Philippines), poet, songwriter & activist
Regina Martinez (Mexico), journalist
Muharrem Erbey (Turkey) uman rights lawyer, writer & human rights activist
Eskinder Nega (Ethiopia), journalist & blogger

You can read more about these cases here.


Reeyot Alemu (Ethiopia), political columnist
Susana Chavez (Mexico), poet & human rights activist
Tashi Rabten (Tibet), poet & essayist
Abdul-Jalil Al-Singace (Bahrain), activist & blogger
Nadim Sener & Ahmet Shik (Turkey), journalist

You can read more about these cases here.


Robert Mintya (Cameroon), newspaper editor
Hossein Derakhshan (Iran), blogger
José Bladimir Antuna García (Mexico), journalist
Tal Al-Mallouhi (Syria), blogger & poet
Dilmurod Saidov (Uzbekistan), journalist


Lapiro De Mbanga (Cameroon), singer-songwriter
Liu Xiaobo (China), dissident writer
Maziar Bahari (Iran), journalist, editor, playwright & film-maker
Miguel Ángel Gutiérrez Ávila (Mexico), anthropologist, author & activist
Natalia Estemirova (Russia), journalist & human rights defender

You can read more about these cases here.


Eynulla Fatullayev, (Azerbaijan)
Melissa Rocío Patiño Hinostroza (Peru), poet
Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand (Iran), journalist & Kurdish rights activist
Tsering Woeser (China-Tibet), writer & poet
Writers, Cast & Crew – The Crocodile of Zambezi (Zimbabwe)

You can read more about these cases here.


Zargana (Myanmar), Comedian, poet & activist
Normando Hernández González (Cuba), journalist
Fatou Jaw Manneh (Gambia), journalist
Yaghoub Yadali (Iran), novelist
Jamshid Karimov (Uzbekistan), journalist 

You can read more about these cases here.


Hrant Dink (Turkey), magazine editor
Wesenseged Gebrekidan (Ethiopia), journalist
Lydia Cacho (Mexico), author, poet, novelist & newspaper columnist
Yang Xiaoqing (China), journalist
Ibrahim Issa (Egypt), editor & journalist

You can read more about these cases here.