PEN America works tirelessly to defend free expression, support persecuted writers, and promote literary culture. Here are some of the latest ways PEN America is speaking out.

Week of November 21:

  • Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education programs at PEN America, spoke to Vice about the removal of 3,000 graphic novels from school libraries in Owasso, Oklahoma, after one parent complained. Friedman called the restriction a potential infringement on students’ constitutional rights.
  • PEN America called lawmakers’ efforts to pressure South Dakota State University leaders to cancel a kid-friendly drag show “alarming,” especially amid a growing movement to censor LGBTQ+ identities. “It is not the place of elected officials to pick and choose what events and whose expression is allowable on campus, meddling in students’ First Amendment rights,” said Friedman.
  • A new report by PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection and the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SouthernDefenders) documented a troubling rise in restrictions on artistic freedom throughout Africa that has been exacerbated by recent military coups, political crises, flawed elections, and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report, titled We Have Always Had to Fight: African Artists on Human Rights and Artistic Freedom, captures the growing erosion of spaces for artistic expression across the continent. Read more in Hyperallergic.
  • Nadine Farid Johnson, managing director of PEN America’s Washington Office, called the State Department’s recognition of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as head of government, and therefore subject to sovereign immunity in a civil case regarding the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, “deeply disappointing.” The move “sets a dangerous precedent, putting journalists and dissidents around the world at greater risk.” 
  • PEN America called on Algerian authorities to explain the arrest on Sunday of writer Lazhari Labter, or release him immediately. “The arrest of Lazhari Labter signals a growing threat against all writers in Algeria,” said Veronica Tien, Writers at Risk manager in the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Center at PEN America.
  • PEN America’s Banned in the USA report was cited in a Texas Monthly feature, “The Year We Banned Books.”

Week of November 14:

PEN America Flashpoints - Censored: Free Speech & Hollywood

PEN America Flashpoints program Censored: Free Speech and Hollywood featured Gillian Horvat, Jeremy Geltzer, Dr. Gerald Horne, and Maya Montañez Smukler.

  • On November 16, PEN America and the Los Angeles Public Library presented the Flashpoints program Censored: Free Speech & Hollywood, featuring Gillian Horvat, Jeremy Geltzer, Dr. Gerald Horne, and Maya Montañez Smukler for a panel conversation on the history of free speech in Hollywood.
  • In partnership with the international democracy building organization National Democratic Institute, PEN America launched the first Field Manual against Online Harassment in Arabic ( دليل ميداني للحماية من الإساءة و المضايقات الإلكترونية,) to support Arabic-speaking writers, journalists, and human rights activists who are trying to make their voices heard while facing online abuse and harassment
  • The U.S. House of Representatives Tom Lantos Human Rights Commissoin and the Senate Human Rights Caucus co-hosted a briefing  Nov. 14, in commemoration of the Day of the Imprisoned Writer. Managing Director of PEN America Washington, Nadine Farid Johnson, moderated the panel, which focused on the risks to and plights of writers in India, Zimbabwe, and Russian-occupied Ukraine. 
  • New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman discussed Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America at an intimate Pen America Author’s Evening.
  • PEN America announced its 2023 Literary Grant winners for literary works-in-progress. Juried by panels of esteemed, award-winning writers, editors, translators, and critics who are committed to recognizing their contemporaries, these winning works-in-progress show the potential for lasting literary impact.
  • Nossel and Jeremy C. Young, senior manager of free expression and education at PEN America, were quoted for the feature Star-Spangled Bans: How Trump’s Call to Preserve U.S. History Energized a Movement to Erase It.
  • PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) and PEN International, in partnership with Civil Rights Defenders (CRD), launched a new campaign “Voces Presas” (Imprisoned Voices) to shine a light on the stories of imprisoned Cuban artists: poet María Cristina Garrido and rappers Richard Zamora Brito and Randy Arteaga-Rivera.
Day of the Imprisoned Writer panel

Stanislav Aseyev, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Congressman Jim McGovern, Aatish Tasser and Nadine Farid Johnson at a briefing for the Day of the Imprisoned Writer.

See the latest PEN America press releases.