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

March 28, 2024 IN WIP
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“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.

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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.

— John Ralston Saul on the work of PEN International