02 November, 2015
On 15 November PEN International will mark the 34th anniversary of the annual Day of the Imprisoned Writer, an international day that recognises writers who have suffered persecution as a result of exercising their right to freedom of expression. Each year PEN monitors and campaigns on behalf of hundreds of writers around the globe who are harassed, persecuted, attacked, forced into exile and even killed as result of their.
Each year PEN Centres and members worldwide commemorate the Day of the Imprisoned Writer to highlight the unjust imprisonment and other forms of attack against writers worldwide, to remember those who have been killed, and stand in solidarity with imprisoned and threatened colleagues.
This year the focus has been on a number of specific cases from around the world that represent the type of threats and attacks faced by our colleagues:
Juan Carlos Argeñal Medina, a Honduran TV journalist shot and killed on7 December 2013 by unidentified gunmen in his home. Family members believe the journalist was killed for exposing corruption in a local hospital. Before his death, Argeñal reported receiving death threats from people he believed to be linked to the hospital’s administration. Argeñal’s murder remains unsolved and there has been almost no progress in the investigation, despite specialist investigative units having been assigned to the case. For more information and how to take action on this case click here.
Student activists Patiwat Saraiyaem, 23, and Pornthip Munkong (f), 26, were each sentenced to two and a half years in prison for violating Thailand’s “lèse-majesté” law for their involvement in staging a play about a fictional monarch, the “Wolf Bride” (‘Jao Sao Ma Pa’) at Thammasat University in October 2013. The pair has been in detention since their arrest in mid-August 2014, after being repeatedly refused bail, and pleaded guilty in December 2014 in order to reduce their sentence.For more information and how to take action on this case click here.
Investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova has been sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for embezzlement and tax evasion in Azerbaijan. Well known for her exposures of high level corruption and for her criticism of the Azerbaijani government’s crackdown on opposition voices, she has been the target of a relentless campaign of intimidation and judicial harassment over the last two years. Ismayilova was arrested on 5 December 2014, PEN believes Ismayilova’s imprisonment is politically-motivated response to her work exposing corruption at the highest levels of Azerbaijani society. For more information and how to take action on this case click here.
Saudi Arabian editor and blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals (over US$260,000) on charges of ‘insulting Islam’ and ‘founding a liberal website.’ He was also banned from travel and from participating in the media for 10 years after his release. On 9 January 2015, Badawi received the first 50 of the 1,000 lashes. Subsequent rounds of punishment have been postponed on medical grounds. For more information and how to take action on this case click here.
Amanuel Asrat is an award-winning Eritrean poet, critic and editor-in-chief of the leading newspaper ዘመን (Zemen, meaning The Times). Asrat was arrested at his home on the morning of 23 September 2001 amid a crackdown on state and private media. Asrat is believed to be detained without charge or trial in the maximum security prison, Eiraeiro, north of Asmara; other journalists arrested at the same time are believed to have died. For more information and how to take action on this case click here.
People say that (writers) are pretty powerless: we don’t have an army, we don’t have a bureaucracy. But if that were true, then why would writers be arrested?... Because the spoken word is powerful.