Free Expression Programs Internship

PEN America seeks several motivated interns or volunteers to work with our Free Expression Programs department. Interns will support our work defending and promoting free expression and supporting writers at risk in the United States and around the world. This work includes research and advocacy on free expression issues, with a particular focus on: free speech and education; press freedom and other U.S. free expression issues; digital safety and free expression; and support for writers at risk and the freedom to write globally, including regional advocacy and programming focused on Eurasia, Myanmar, and China.

Interns will have the opportunity to conduct research on free expression issues in the United States and other focus countries; draft advocacy materials, including press releases, memos, and briefing papers; conduct research for and provide input to thematic reports; and prepare for major advocacy campaigns and events.

A limited number of paid internships are available through our Centenary Internship program and would require a commitment of 15-20 hours/week over 26 weeks, and would pay $15/hour for hours worked. All internships are also eligible for college credit.


Interns will be given responsibilities that involve the following:

U.S. Free Expression

  • Provide support for ongoing U.S. advocacy and monitor threats to free expression, especially related to mis/disinformation
  • Provide support on issues related to press freedom, media literacy and disinformation, protest rights, local news advocacy, and other domestic issues
  • Research and analyze state and federal policies that implicate free speech, the First Amendment, and free expression. A special interest in and knowledge of constitutional law and the First Amendment would be preferred here
  • Provide support for the launch and promotion of new free expression tools and resources, including digital and research support for our ongoing campaigns
  • Work closely with staff across the Free Expression Programs team to track and respond to current events related to free expression in the United States
  • Conduct research, develop press and advocacy materials, and draft social media and web content
  • Event planning support

Free Expression and Education

  • Work closely and collaboratively with the Free Expression and Education team on research, developing advocacy strategies and website/social media content, and event/activity planning
  • Support PEN America’s work to counter educational gag orders and book bans. 
  • Work on youth programming related to free expression advocacy 
  • Monitor and develop responses to current events related to free expression in educational institutions
  • Contribute to strategy for advancing inclusive approaches to protecting free expression on campuses

Digital Safety & Online Abuse

  • Work closely and collaboratively with the Digital Safety program team on research, developing advocacy strategies, and drafting website/social media content
  • Provide support for the development of new free expression resources, such as expert reports and digital tools
  • Provide support for updating of and continued outreach to promote PEN America’s Online Harassment Field Manual
  • Event planning support

Support for Writers at Risk

  • Work closely and collaboratively with the Freedom to Write Center on research, developing advocacy strategies and website/social media content, and casework
  • Conduct regular research on writers facing severe threats globally and monitor the legal cases or harassment against them
  • Help to track individual cases, update information in PEN America’s Writers at Risk Database and on the website, and develop materials on individual cases for advocacy purposes
  • Conduct regular qualitative data entry and verification of information about threats to writers at risk
  • Draft social media content, press statements, and blog posts related to key cases and free expression developments
  • Assist with providing concrete help to individual writers at risk, including verifying cases and providing referrals and letters of support
  • Update individual case pages of writers and artists at risk on


  • Work closely and collaboratively with the Eurasia program director on the implementation of various regional projects
  • Research and monitor the free expression situation in the region
  • Coordinate logistics for delegations’ visits to Eurasia and the United States and virtual events and meetings
  • Draft social media copy related to the region, occasionally translating written/multimedia material to English

Desired Attributes:

  • Interns must be able to provide proof of authorization to intern in the United States
  • Strong research, writing, and analytical skills
  • Keen logistical eye for details and excellent organizational skills
  • Superb writing skills, including the ability to craft clear, user-friendly language
  • Strong familiarity with social media platforms
  • Knowledge of U.S. or global human rights and free expression issues
  • Interest or experience in law, journalism, or tech industry valuable
  • Fluency in Google Drive document management and suite of applications; familiarity with Google Sheets is valuable
  • Regional/country expertise in Eurasia (especially Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Central Asia), Southeast Asia (especially Myanmar), or China valuable for regional work
  • Language skills, especially Russian, Mandarin, Arabic, and Farsi are valuable
  • High energy and efficiency
  • Strong work ethic
  • Meticulous attention to detail and deadlines
  • Strong interpersonal skills and an aptitude for collaboration, creativity, and initiative
  • Commitment to the principles of free expression
  • Video, audio, and/or web production experience is a plus
  • Knowledge of contemporary debates over free speech on college campuses is a plus for free expression and education work

Application Periods:

Be sure to include the dates of your availability with your application.

  • Fall Internship: Please submit your application between July and September
  • Winter/Spring Internship: Please submit your application between November and January
  • Summer Internship: Please submit your application between March and May

To Apply:

Please email a resume and cover letter to Anh-Thu Vo, Free Expression Programs Coordinator, at [email protected] with the subject line “Free Expression Programs NY Internship.” Please include the cycle you’re applying for, and your name as the subject of your email (for example, “Fall Free Expression Programs NY Internship – Jane Doe”). Please specify in your cover letter which category or categories of work you are most interested in (e.g., free expression and education, Eurasia, etc.). Only complete applications will be reviewed and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

PEN America does not discriminate in its selection practices, and in order to build the strongest possible team, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool.

No phone calls, please.

About PEN America:

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.