December Featured Cases: Writers at the Forefront of Exposing Corruption
December 9 is International Anti-Corruption Day. The UN defines corruption as “a complex social, political and economic phenomenon that affects all countries,” and which “undermines democratic institutions, slows economic development and contributes to governmental instability.” In order to fight poverty and promote democratic practices, it is essential to break the chain of corruption. This year, International Anti-Corruption Day’s #breakthechain campaign highlights how corruption is crosscutting and impacts many arenas of society.
In honor of the integral role writers have played throughout history in laying bare corruption and exposing the wrongdoings of government, PEN American Center is highlighting the cases of three writers this month who have courageously used their right to free expression to break the chain of repression in their respective countries.
Khadija Ismayilova is an investigative journalist and 2015 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award winner who uncovered corruption within the highest echelons of Azeri government, including reports of alleged embezzlement, secret mining interests, and illegal business ownership by President Ilham Aliyev and his family. In order to hide their corrupt practices, the Azeri government set out to discredit Ismayilova through a sustained smear campaign and sham trail, resulting in the 7.5-year jail sentence based on trumped-up charges that was confirmed on November 25.
Liu Xiaobo, also a PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award winner, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for 7 sentences. The Chinese authorities sought to punish Liu Xiaobo for his role in exposing and criticizing the anti-democratic and repressive policies of the Chinese government when he helped draft Charter 08, which calls for an increase in democratic principles in China. Liu Xiaobo is the only winner of the Nobel Peace Prize who remains in jail. His sentence is set to expire in 2020 and two years deprivation of his political rights will follow for his role in openly addressing the wrongdoings of the Chinese government.
Htin Lin Oo, a former information officer for the National League for Democracy, is serving a two-year prison sentence with hard labor in Myanmar. In June 2015, Htin Lin Oo was found guilty of “insulting religion” for a speech he gave promoting religious tolerance and criticizing the misuse of religion to incite religious hatred and discrimination in Myanmar. Oo dared expose the ills in society around him, in which he saw religion used as fodder to stoke hatred and division.
Today on International Anti-Corruption Day, join us in celebrating the vital role writers play in breaking the chain of corruption and exposing the wrongdoings of government.