War, Censorship and Persecution: PEN International Case List 2023/2024

“The role that writers can play in times of uncertainty, diligently curating narratives to nourish empathy, encompassing glimpses of joy and ultimately offering the gift of hope, lacks formal recognition, and this lack of acknowledgement or coherent protections can ultimately decimate expression and propel rampant self-censorship.”

– Ma Thida, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee

21 March 2024: On World Poetry Day, PEN International releases War, Censorship, and Persecution: PEN International Case List 2023/2024, highlighting challenges for writers in global conflicts and emphasizing the need to safeguard freedom of expression, especially in war-torn regions.

War, Censorship, and Persecution documents 122 cases of writers facing harassment, arrest, violence and even death worldwide. These include 26 people imprisoned, 23 detained, 22 harassed, 14 on trial, 8 killed, and 6 facing judicial harassment and death threats, among others. The breakdown by region shows Africa with 14 cases, the Americas with 36, Asia/Pacific with 24, Europe and Central Asia with 32, and the Middle East and North Africa with 16.

PEN International makes the following recommendations to the international community:

  • To foster peace
  • To protect writers
  • To enhance the cultural role of minoritized communities
  • To promote and protect women writers
In honour of its publication, PEN International is calling on its supporters to take action on behalf of five persecuted writers in dire need of your help: Maksim Znak (Belarus), Gui Minhai (China), Galal El-Behairy (Egypt)the Collective case of Eritrean writers and journalists detained without trial, and Freddy Antonio Quezada (Nicaragua).

TAKE ACTION with us today.

Download the report:

Julian Assange Extradition Decision Delayed

26 March 2024: We – PEN International and the undersigned PEN Centres – renew our call to immediately free Julian Assange following today’s UK High Court’s decision to adjourn his permission to appeal his extradition order, on the grounds that his extradition would breach his right to freedom of expression, that he might be prejudiced on account on his nationality, and that he might potentially face the death penalty. The Court has given the UK and the US permission to file any assurances by 16 April and, if no assurances are filed, leave to appeal will be granted.

Journalists and publishers sometimes risk their lives to uncover truths that powerful entities seek to conceal. By recognising that the UK and the US have not provided sufficient assurances, the High Court has proven that the concerns and fears expressed by Assange, his family and his legal team are well-founded.

Yet the court rejected some of Assange’s arguments, including that his extradition was political. We remain deeply concerned by the fact that the US was granted more time to make diplomatic assurances – despite Assange facing the risk of serious human rights violations if extradited to the US – and of the dangerous prospect of Assange’s extradition going ahead.

Once again, we urge the US authorities to drop all charges against Assange and withdraw their extradition request. We further call on the UK authorities to refrain from extraditing Assange, to release him from Belmarsh prison immediately, and to ensure he is reunited with his family.

We stand unwaveringly alongside Assange and fellow publishers and journalists around the world who courageously defend truth and justice in the face of adversity.

Signed by

PEN International

English PEN

PEN Melbourne

PEN Sydney

PEN Norway

PEN Slovenia

Scottish PEN

Swedish PEN



Wikileaks founder and publisher Julian Assange was arrested in April 2019 at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he had been given asylum for almost seven years. He was arrested for breaching his bail conditions in 2012 and further arrested on behalf of the US authorities under an extradition warrant for his role in obtaining and publishing classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010. In the US, Assange would face trial on 17 counts under the Espionage Act and one count under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which combined could see him imprisoned for up to 175 years.

In March 2022, the UK Supreme Court denied Assange’s request to appeal an earlier decision by the UK High Court that permitted his extradition to the US – which in turn had overturned a previous ruling by the District Court that found extradition would endanger his life. On 17 June 2022, the UK Home Secretary approved his extradition. His legal team lodged an appeal at the UK High Court. In a three-page judgment issued on 6 June 2023, the UK High Court rejected all eight grounds of Assange’s appeal against his extradition order. Assange made a renewed application for appeal to the High Court on 13 June 2023. A panel of two judges reviewed the decision on 20 and 21 February 2024. Representatives of

PEN International, English PEN and PEN Norway attended the public hearing, reiterating their call to stop the extradition of Assange.

Julian Assange, born on 3 July 1971, is the first publisher to be charged under the US Espionage Act. On 15 November 2023, PEN Norway awarded him the 2023 Ossietzky Prize for outstanding contributions to freedom of expression. He is an honorary member of several PEN Centres.

For more information about PEN International’s campaign for Julian Assange, please see please see War, Censorship and Persecution, PEN International’s Case List 2023/2024, which documents 122 cases of persecuted writers worldwide, including Assange.

For further details contact Aurélia Dondo, Head of Europe and Central Asia Region at PEN International: Aurelia.dondo@pen-international.org

Protect, Not Punish: Whistleblower prosecutions and Australian journalism

Protect, Not Punish: Whistleblower prosecutions and Australian journalism

Join Sami Shah, Kieran Pender, Rick Morton, and Karen Percy for an urgent discussion on whistleblower prosecutions and journalism

Date and time

Wednesday, April 17 · 6:30 – 7:30pm AEST


Forum Theatre, Arts West Building, University of Melbourne

Royal Parade Parkville, VIC 3052

Refund Policy

Contact the organizer to request a refund.
Eventbrite’s fee is nonrefundable.

About this event

  • 1 hour

Together with the Centre for Advancing Journalism, PEN Melbourne invites you to join Kieran Pender, Karen Percy, Rick Morton and host Sami Shah for a conversation about the critical role of whistleblowers in our media landscape, the urgent need for whistleblower protection and the potential consequences for Australian democracy if whistleblowers are silenced.

Currently in Australia, two whistleblowers, David McBride and Richard Boyle, are facing prosecution, and if convicted could face lengthy sentences for speaking out about alleged government wrongdoing in the Australian Defence Force and the Australian Tax Office respectively.

McBride and Boyle followed the 2013 Public Interest Disclosure Act (the PID Act) that was meant to protect them. Only when blowing the whistle internally to the ADF and the ATO, then taking their cases to oversight agencies didn’t work, did they speak to the ABC.

Now, both McBride and Boyle are looking at lengthy prison sentences if convicted of speaking out in opposition to wrongdoing that has since been verified by independent inquiries.

Without the courage of whistleblowers who speakout, public interest journalism is diminished. The prosecution and punishment of whistleblowers leads to self-censorship of critical voices and is seen to protect and cover-up alleged corrupt or illegal activities of governments and organisations.

The protection of whistleblowers and their anonymous sources is crucial for press freedom and the public’s right to know in Australia. Kieran Pender, Rick Morton, and Karen Percy come together for this special event, with host Sami Shah, to discuss the impacts of whistleblower prosecutions on Australian journalism.

This event is supported by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund.


Sami Shah

Sami Shah is a multi-award winning writer, comedian, and broadcaster. He’s been profiled in the New York Times, ABC’s The Australian Story, BBC Radio 4, NPR, and appeared on QI with Stephen Fry, and The Project. His autobiography, “I, MIGRANT” (Allen & Unwin) has been nominated for the NSW Premier’s Literary Award, WA Premier’s Literary Award, and the Russell Prize for Humour Writing. His first novel “FIRE BOY”(Fantastica) was released in 2016, with its sequel “EARTH BOY” in 2017. It is now available in South Asia as “BOY OF FIRE AND EARTH” (Picador). His latest non-fiction book is “THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF AUSTRALIA”. He has also published multiple short stories, essays, and columns for national and international newspapers and magazines, short stories for anthologies, documentaries for radio, and was co-presenter of ABC Radio Melbourne Breakfast. Sami is currently based in Melbourne, Australia and is Ambassador – at – large of PEN International Melbourne Centre.

Kieran Pender

Kieran Pender is a senior lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre and an internationally-recognised authority on whistleblower protections. Since joining the Centre in 2020, Kieran has led the establishment of the Whistleblower Project, an Australia-first specialist legal service for whistleblowers. He is also an honorary lecturer at the ANU College of Law, and an award-winning writer.

Karen Percy

Karen Percy is a veteran news reporter, with more than 35 years experience, including a stint as a foreign correspondent. She is passionate about gender equity and diversity, and a strong advocate for ethical journalism and press freedom. Karen is the elected Federal President of the Media section of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance – the union for journalists – and Deputy Chair of the Walkley Foundation.

Rick Morton

Rick Morton is an award-winning journalist and the author of three non-fiction books. He is the Senior Reporter for The Saturday Paper. Originally from Queensland, Rick worked in Sydney, Hobart, Melbourne and Canberra as the social affairs writer for The Australian with a particular focus on social policy including the National Disability Insurance Scheme, aged care, the welfare system, religion and employment services.

Montenegro: Harassment and smears against PEN member Andrej Nikolaidis must end

Writers in Prison PEN Melbourne

Mar 21, 2024, 2:35 PM (1 day ago)

Montenegro: Harassment and smears against PEN member Andrej Nikolaidis must end

To: Aurelia, Dondo <Aurelia.Dondo@pen-international.org>

Dear friends,

Please find below PEN International’s latest joint statement with the Montenegrin PEN Centre and PEN Bosnia and Herzegovina, in support of PEN member Andrej Nikolaidis.The statement is also available online at the following link: https://www.pen-international.org/news/montenegro-harassment-and-smears-against-pen-member-must-endIn solidarity,Aurélia

Montenegro: Harassment and smears against PEN member Andrej Nikolaidis must end

‘PEN International stands in solidarity with PEN member Andrej Nikolaidis, who finds himself yet again harassed and smeared by pro-government supporters. Writers, journalists, and other creatives in Montenegro operate in an increasingly toxic and suffocating atmosphere, which seriously impacts their expression. Pressure, intimidation, and threats aimed at stifling independent voices – including those of PEN members – must end once and for all.’

Ma Thida, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.  20 March 2024 –

The targeting of prominent writer, journalist and PEN member Andrej Nikolaidis must end at once, PEN International, the Montenegrin PEN Centre and PEN Bosnia and Herzegovina said today, after his effigy was burnt at a carnival in Herceg Novi, Southwestern Montenegro. The incident is the latest in a series of harassment and smears against Nikolaidis, on account of his views critical of the Montenegrin authorities.  On 3 March, organisers of the Herceg Novi carnival burned an effigy of Andrej Nikolaidis, amidst chants denigrating his mixed ethnicity and association with Montenegrin literature.

The incident generated wide coverage in Montenegro and the broader region, with civil society and academics fearing his targeting is reminiscent of historical acts of book burningsand meant to intimidate critical thinkers. Nikolaidis is a member of the Montenegrin PEN Centre and PEN Bosnia and Herzegovina, which both condemned the incident. Nikolaidis himself expressed concerns he was being targeted for his dissenting views.

Known for his political activism, anti-nationalism, anti-war stance, and support for human rights, Andrej Nikolaidis has received many threats throughout the years, including a death threat during a live radio appearance. In August 2022, the Ministry of Culture and Media of Montenegro notably announced it would consider revoking the status of ‘Prominent Cultural Creator of Montenegro’ from Nikolaidis, due to aesthetic statements he made about writers Ivo Andrić and Petar II Petrović Njegoš. Nikolaidis subsequently faced online smears and backlash in pro-government media. At the time, PEN International and the Montenegrin PEN Centre raised concerns that Nikolaidis was being targeted for his vocal opposition to the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine, and of Russian and Serbian attempts to interfere in Montenegrin internal affairs.

Additional information  Andrej Nikolaidis, born in 1974, is an acclaimed and influential Montenegrin-Bosnian writer and journalist. His novel Sin (The Son) won the European Union Prize for Literature in 2011. He won Montenegro’s prestigious Thirteenth of July Award in 2020. His novel Anomaly was notably awarded English PEN’s PEN Translates award in 2024.

Nikolaidis is amongst several members of the Montenegrin PEN Centre who have found themselves targeted by the Montenegrin authorities and pro-government supporters in recent years. On 19 August 2022, Montenegro’s then Prime Minister Dritan Abazović publicly attacked the Montenegrin PEN Centre in Parliament, accusing it of spreading ‘extremism and nationalism’. Abazović showed a picture of the award-winning Montenegrin writer and member of the Montenegrin PEN Centre, Milorad Popović, labelling him an agent of nationalist politics who ‘serves the interests of crime.’

Academic, writer, and Vice President of the Montenegrin PEN Centre Boban Batrićević faces up to 60 days in prison for an article he wrote on the Serbian Orthodox church in Montenegro. His next hearing has been set for 26 March 2024.

An October 2023 joint report by PEN International, PEN Bosnia and Herzegovina, PEN Kosovo, the Montenegrin PEN Centre, and Serbian PEN, documents the myriad threats and harassment faced by independent writers, journalists and other creatives in the Western Balkans. The report specifically calls on the authorities of Montenegro to publicly, unequivocally, and systematically condemn all acts of violence and targeted attacks against writers, journalists, and activists, and to bring laws, policies, and practices pertaining to freedom of expression and media freedom fully in line with their international obligations and commitments.

For further details contact Aurélia Dondo, Head of Europe and Central Asia Region at PEN International: Aurelia.dondo@pen-international.org  Aurélia Dondo| Head of Europe and Central Asia
aurelia.dondo@pen-international.org | Twitter | Instagram | FacebookWorkdays: Mon-Fri

Launch of the Australian Wrongful and Arbitrary Detention Alliance (AWADA)

AWADA is an alliance formed by Kylie Moore-Gilbert, Cheng Lei and Sean Turnell to provide support and advice to the families of those wrongfully detained, and to policy makers. It is a delicate matter, and legal advice as well as other personal supports are needed.
Current cases are : Dr Yang Hengjun, Julian Assange and Robert Pether.


Online and live

ASPI is delighted to invite you to attend the launch of the Australian Wrongful and Arbitrary Detention Alliance (AWADA) via a special public event exploring the impact of hostage diplomacy on Wednesday 20 March.

The panel discussion, featuring former high-profile detainees Cheng Lei, Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert and Professor Sean Turnell, will be moderated by ASPI’s Executive Director Justin Bassi.

Hostage diplomacy is a threat to global security, human rights and the rules-based order. The arbitrary detention of citizens to punish and coerce another nation is a sinister and increasingly tempting tactic for authoritarian nations in the absence of countermeasures.
The discussion will focus on Australia’s approach to hostage diplomacy, why it is being increasingly used by authoritarian states around the world, and how multilateral coordination is needed to counter the ploy.

It will also explore the legislative reforms Australia can make to improve the way it manages cases of wrongful detention and hostage diplomacy. The panelists will draw on ongoing public cases and their own experiences to advocate for governments to include justice for victims and accountability in negotiations.

Please note this is a hybrid event with the option to attend in-person or online. For those attending in-person, light refreshments will be provided after the event.

Listen to interview:

It’s a situation you would probably have no idea how to handle, watching as someone you know is locked-up overseas with little access to family, lawyers, or the outside world.

Now, a new group called Australian Wrongful and Arbitrary Detention Alliance has been formed to help Australians who find themselves in that situation.


Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert, political scientist detained by Iran.

Professor Sean Turnell, economist detained by Myanmar.

Cheng Lei, journalist detained by China.

Max Chalmers, Oscar Coleman.


Night Falls in the Evening Lands – The Assange Epic Conference

All the speeches are being posted to youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@AssangeCampaign

The speakers were:




We invite you to the UPCOMING CONFERENCE

Saturday 9 March 2024                  Storey Hall, RMIT, Melbourne

The announcement of Julian Assange’s final appeal in the UK High Court on 20 and 21 February 2024 magnifies the critical importance of this conference in defending his case and cause. Those who have been fighting for truth, peace and justice understand the precious nature of freedom of thought and expression.

If extradited to the United States to face espionage charges, Julian faces a sentence of 175 years for exposing war crimes committed by the United States in the Afghan and Iraq wars.

We need solidarity more than ever. Our human rights are intertwined with Julian‘s. By attending this conference, either in person or virtually, you amplify our collective voice.

Furthermore, if you have platforms or channels that can mobilise those within your sphere of influence, please disseminate the attached flyer far and wide.

We also welcome a new speaker to our conference, Dr Ruth Mitchell, the first woman Chair of the Board of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Peace Prize in 1985. Her details will be added to our website and new flyers.


Early Bird tickets for attendance and online participation are available for a limited time.

Bookings at: https://www.nightfalls.info/



We look forward to seeing you. TICKETS ARE LIMITED. BOOK NOW

PEN Video: Stop the Extradition and Release Julian Assange


PEN International’s video in support of Assange, featuring our spokesperson Sabrina Tucci, which is being promoted by the Free Assange campaign and on our social media channels: https://twitter.com/FreeAssangeNews/status/1752746659723800886


12 February 2024: A public hearing in the extradition trial of Wikileaks editor, publisher, and founder Julian Assange, initiated by the US authorities in 2019, will occur on 20-21 February 2024. The two-day hearing will convene before a panel of two judges reviewing a prior High Court decision made by a single judge in June 2023, which denied Assange permission to appeal. This will determine whether Assange will have further chances to present his case in UK courts or will have exhausted all appeals, leading to the commencement of the extradition process. An application before the European Court of Human Rights remains a possibility. If extradited, Assange faces up to 175 years in prison for exposing human rights abuses perpetrated by the US army during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

‘Using espionage laws to target journalists and publishers who disclose information in the public interest infringes fundamental rights of press freedom and freedom of expression, both safeguarded within the legal framework of the UK. Assange’s case is politically motivated and challenges the core of investigative journalism and democratic principles, necessitating the protection of these rights for the broader preservation of a free and responsible press. PEN International and PEN Centres around the world have repeatedly called on the US authorities to drop the charges against Assange and to withdraw their extradition request. With the prospect of his extradition alarmingly close, we call on the UK authorities to urgently refrain from extraditing him and to release him from prison immediately’, said Burhan Sonmez, PEN International President.

Representatives from PEN International, English PEN, and PEN Norway will seek to attend the hearing on 20-21 February to monitor the proceedings and demonstrate solidarity with Assange and fellow publishers, writers and journalists who are increasingly being targeted by authorities around the world, for exposing uncomfortable truths.

PEN International and the undersigned PEN Centres urge the UK authorities to stop the extradition of Assange, as it would set a dangerous precedent for press freedom worldwide.   Assange must be released from prison immediately and reunited with his family.

The US authorities must drop the charges against Assange and withdraw their extradition request. The fact that a government decides that a specific document is secret or confidential does not make it so, and on many occasions – such as evidence of human rights violations or corruption – the public’s right to know overrides the state’s desire to keep matters secret.

The US and UK authorities must uphold their publicly declared commitment to safeguard media freedom on a global scale, resisting the continuation of this politically motivated case that spans more than a decade.


  • PEN International

  • English PEN

  • PEN Melbourne

  • PEN Norway

  • Scottish PEN

  • PEN Slovenia

  • Swedish PEN

  • PEN Sydney

Background information

Wikileaks founder and publisher Julian Assange was arrested in April 2019 at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he had been given asylum for almost seven years. He was arrested for breaching his bail conditions in 2012 and further arrested on behalf of the US authorities under an extradition warrant for his role in obtaining and publishing classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010. In May 2019, the US Department of Justice filed 17 additional charges against Assange, accusing him of violating the Espionage Act. US prosecutors had already charged him with one hacking-related count, including a list of actions that fall under journalistic activities.

In June 2019 the UK Home Secretary at the time, Sajid Javid, signed a request for Assange to be extradited to the US where he could face the risk of serious human rights violations. In January 2021, a UK District Judge decided against extraditing him to the US, citing medical grounds relating to Assange’s poor mental health. Despite widespread international concern that his extradition may lead to serious human rights violations, and have alarming implications for journalism and press freedom, in June 2022 Priti Patel, the then UK Home Secretary, signed the order to extradite Assange.

Assange has been held in the high-security Belmarsh Prison since his arrest in April 2019. In May 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Nils Melzer, visited him in prison, noting ‘all the symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture’. In December 2020, he reiterated his call for UK authorities to promptly release Assange from prison or to subject him to supervised house arrest throughout the US extradition proceedings.

For more information about PEN International’s work in support of Assange, including PEN International’s 2022 resolution on the abuse of the US Espionage act, and the prosecution of Assange as a threat to freedom of expression, click here.

Note to Editors

For further information, please contact Aurélia Dondo, PEN International Head of Europe and Central Asia Region: Aurelia.dondo@pen-international.org

Media Availability

To schedule an interview or for comments before, during and after the hearing, please contact Sabrina Tucci, PEN International Communications and Campaigns Manager: Sabrina.Tucci@pen-international.org,  and + 44 7738 301325


Video link now added: Day of the Imprisoned Writer: Behrouz Boochani and Kylie Moore-Gilbert

Together with PEN Melbourne, we invite you to join Behrouz Boochani, Kylie Moore-Gilbert and host Karen Percy for a conversation about the importance of freedom of speech and press, and the role writers play in challenging oppressive regimes.

The event can now be watched here:

Day of Imprisoned Writer 2023

About the Event

Kurdish-Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani was imprisoned on Manus Island for over six years, and during that time he became acutely aware that oppression takes root when people look away. He was determined to use his sharpest weapon – his words – to survive, and to expose Australia’s inhumane treatment of asylum seekers.

Now, in 2023, not only is Boochani free, he’s also a multi-award-winning author, documentary maker, humanitarian and scholar. His words, and those of other writers and activists, have changed lives, his own included. And they’ve helped keep us accountable.

A scholar of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies, Kylie Moore-Gilbert also spent years unjustly imprisoned in unimaginable conditions. Invited on a study tour of Iran in 2018, Moore-Gilbert was falsely accused of espionage and imprisoned for more than 800 days, including seven months in solitary confinement – before her ultimate release through an Australian-brokered prisoner exchange.

Boochani and Moore-Gilbert come together for this special event, presented by PEN Melbourne and the Wheeler Centre to mark the Day of the Imprisoned Writer. With host Karen Percy, these remarkable survivors will share their powerful stories, and reflect on the role of writing to shine a light in the darkest places.

The event can now be watched here:

Day of Imprisoned Writer 2023

Presented in partnership with PEN Melbourne.

They frame to kill by Mammad Aidani

They frame to kill

by Mammad Aidani

The young children of Iran have been killed in the bud of their youth. The young ones never experienced
freedom, justice, and the joy of growing up in their society.
Iranians’ prisons continue to be full of innocent young adults who seek justice, freedom and democracy.
Thousands have been arrested, including many protesters, as well as journalists, lawyers, social and
environmental activists, and others.
Among the imprisoned is Narges Mohammadi, the Nobel Peace winner for this year, and other fearless artists
such as Tomaj Salehi
The Iranian Islamic killing machine continues to take away freedom and justice-loving Iranian women and men.
The harassment, arrest, introduction, torture, and executions in Iran continue. The recent execution of
Mohammad Ghobadlou, who was handed a death sentence in 2022 for allegedly killing a police officer during
the nationwide “Women, Life, Freedom” protests against the Islamic Regime’s despotic leaders despite calls by
human rights groups to stop the execution after he was diagnosed with a mental health condition.
Mohammad Ghobadlou, 23, was hanged on the morning of 23 January 2024 in Qazlhesar prison without the
right to see his mother or father and the right to an appointment with a lawyer.
Qobadlou was arrested during the massive nationwide protests that broke out after the brutal death of Mahsa
Amini in the custody of morality police in Tehran for an accusation of Islamic regime head scarf violation.
Gobadlou was charged with murder after being accused of running over police officers, killing one and injuring
Before Qobadlou’s execution, his lawyer Amir Raisian said that his execution had “no legal permit” because the
Islamic Supreme Court had annulled his death sentence and the case had been referred to a new jurisdiction
for reconsideration due to a diagnosis from doctors that Qobadloo suffered from bipolar disorder.
Masoumeh Ahmadi, Qobadlou’s mother, stated in a video last year that her son had discontinued his
medication before the protests.
The human rights group insisted that the entire case against Mohammad Qobadlou was based on forced
confessions under torture, which is standard practice within the Islamic regime, after arresting the writers,
journalists, musicians and other activists who criticise or oppose it.