On 15th November 2012, PEN International, the worldwide association of writers, marks the 31st Annual Day of the Imprisoned Writer, an international day to recognise and support writers at risk. Each year, for the past 31 years, PEN Centres around the globe have commemorated the Day of the Imprisoned Writer, to raise awareness of the unjust imprisonment and persecution of writers around the world.
This year PEN International is highlighting cases from Iran, Philippines, Mexico, Turkey and Ethiopia. These cases are emblematic of the kinds of persecution faced by many writers and journalists worldwide in carrying out their basic right to free expression:
• Shiva Nazar Ahari (Iran): journalist, writer and human rights activist who was sentenced to four years in prison for her writings and advocacy.
• Ericson Acosta (Philippines): a poet, songwriter and activist who has been held without trial since February 2011 on charges which appear to be linked to his writings on human rights and environmental issues.
• Regina Martinez (Mexico): correspondent for an investigative news magazine who was murdered in Xalapa, Veracruz State, in April 2012, most likely because of her reporting on organised crime and corruption.
• Muharrem Erbey (Turkey): human rights lawyer, writer and Vice-President of the Human Rights Association (IHD), imprisoned under the Anti-Terror Law since December 2009 on charges of “membership of an illegal organization”, charges that appear to be linked to his work as a human rights defender.
• Eskinder Nega (Ethiopia): journalist and blogger convicted to 18 years in prison on dubious terrorism related charges, clearly levied as punishment for his reporting on government human rights abuses.
Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of the WiPC, is in Istanbul this week with a high level delegation of 20 people from nine centres, joining colleagues in PEN Turkey in readings of poetry and prose honouring writers at risk around the world.
“We’re here to signal the great concern of PEN members around the world about the extraordinarily high number of writers, journalists and publishers who are either in prison, in detention awaiting trial, or suffering daily fear of being arrested,” said Botsford Fraser. “Turkey’s progress towards democracy must include true freedom of speech for its citizens.”
Writers in Turkey, as in many countries around the world, notably Iran, China and Bahrain, are facing new violations to their freedom of expression on the Internet, including the illegal interference of governments in the transmission of opinion, news and ideas. On 18th November, PEN International will host two panel discussions at the Istanbul Book Fair addressesing the issue of freedom of expression and digital media and discussing PEN’s new Declaration on Digital Freedom.
“More than two-thirds of the people on the current WiPC case list have been targeted because of things they have said in blogs, tweets, and on websites,” said Botsford Fraser. “PEN’s new Declaration on Digital Freedom will be invaluable in our defence of writers at risk.”
Alongside the events in Turkey, dozens of PEN Centres are hosting events, readings, film screenings and more, remembering colleagues at risk around the world.
PEN International is a leading cultural and advocacy organisation which celebrates literature and promotes freedom of expression. Founded in 1921, our global community of writers now comprises 144 Centres spanning more than 100 countries. Our programmes, campaigns, events and publications connect writers and readers for global solidarity and cooperation. PEN International is a non-political organization and holds consultative status at the United Nations and UNESCO.
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