PEN International promotes literature and freedom of expression and is governed by the PEN Charter and the principles it embodies: unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations.
PEN International is the worlds leading association of writers, working to promote literature and defend freedom of expression around the world. PEN was founded by the British poet, playwright and peace activist C.A. Dawson-Scott, as an international club providing space for writers to share ideas and as a forum, uniting writers irrespective of their culture, language or political opinion. Today PEN International connects an international community of writers from its Secretariat in London, spanning over 100 countries, with 149 PEN Centres worldwide.
In the 90 years since its inception PEN’s members have included writers such as Chinua Achebe, Maragret Atwood, Aung San Suu Kyi, J.M Coetzee, Joseph Conrad, Nadine Gordimer, Neil Gaiman, Vaclav Havel, Liu Xiaobo, Mario Vargas Llosa, Amin Malouf, Arthur Miller, Toni Morrison, Harold Pinter, Salman Rushdie, Orhan Pamuk and many more.
Our campaigns, events and programmes connect writers and readers, strengthen freedom of expression, defend linguistic rights and promote quality education at the national, regional and international level across the globe. The strength of PEN is its membership, consisting of over 25,000 writers around the world committed to the power of the written word and protecting the right to freedom of expression.
PEN has been documenting and campaigning against human rights violations of writers since the 1960s when its Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) was established. The vast majority of our global network of Centres have their own Writers in Prison Committees, formed of members committed to supporting persecuted writers in their own countries and elsewhere in the world.
In 2014 PEN International’s WiPC team documented over 900 cases of attacks, killings, arrests and imprisonment of writers across the globe, running targeted international campaigns for persecuted writers and promoting the right to free expression.
PEN International is a non-political organisation which holds Special Consultative Status at the UN and Associate Status at UNESCO. International PEN is a registered charity in England and Wales with registration number 1117088.
‘When political people have finished with repression and violence PEN can indeed be forgotten. Until then, with its floundering and failings and mistaken acts, it is still… a fellowship moved by the hope that one day the work it tries and often manages to do will no longer be necessary’ – Arthur Miller, former PEN International President.
‘ My respect for this organisation has no borders and among the organisations that help writers, PEN has been so fierce, so consistent and ferocious in its efforts that it is difficult to ignore their worldwide fame and their impact.’ Toni Morrison, PEN International Vice President.
‘In a word where independent voices are increasingly stifled, PEN is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.’ Margaret Atwood, PEN International Vice President.
‘Arthur Miller and I landed at Istanbul on March 17, 1985. We were visiting Turkey on behalf of International PEN, to investigate allegations of the torture and persecution of Turkish writers. The trip got off to a bad start. I had two suitcases. One hadn’t made it. Apart from other things, this left me with no socks. So Arthur lent me his. Bloody good ones they were to. Made to last.’ Harold Pinter, former Vice President of English PEN and Nobel Laureate.