PEN America Speaks: How We Defended and Celebrated Free Expression This Week
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 July 10:
- PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), PEN International, and Cubalex published “Método Cuba: Independent Artists’ Testimonies of Forced Exile,” a report that details the Cuban government’s tactics to silence and force dissident artists out of the country.
- CEO Suzanne Nossel wrote for the Los Angeles Times that banning government officials from talking to Big Tech is no win for free speech.
- PEN America, Independent Chinese PEN Center, and Human Rights in China celebrated the life and work of Liu Xiaobo with a vigil on the sixth anniversary of his death in custody. After his 2008 sentencing, PEN America honored Liu with the 2009 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award and he was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize—in absentia.
- PEN America’s Jeremy C. Young and historian Jeffrey Sachs detailed attacks on free expression and examined an aspect of higher education governance that has increasingly been targeted in legislative censorship efforts and seems likely to figure centrally in next year’s legislative sessions: college and university accreditation.
- PEN America said the one-year prison sentence imposed on Lebanese journalist Dima Sadek as the result of a former government minister’s defamation lawsuit against her underscores the escalating effort to intimidate journalists and other critics who dare to speak against them.
- PEN America called for the immediate release of Iranian dissident and rapper Toomaj Salehi and condemned the “brutal” six-year prison sentence he received on Monday solely for his protest music and encouraging dissent.
- Kasey Meehan, director of the Freedom to Read project, spoke about book bans at the Reimagine Education Summer Institute at Columbia University’s Teachers College.
- PEN America joined more than 60 other organizations, bar associations, scholars, and human rights defenders in calling for an end to a renewed crackdown on human rights lawyers in China in a statement released on China Human Rights Lawyers Day, in remembrance of the Chinese government’s roundup of more than 300 human rights lawyers and legal assistants in the days following July 9, 2015, in what is known as the “709 crackdown.”
- ARC released a statement expressing horror over the reported untimely death of artist Ales Pushkin, who died in intensive care under unclear circumstances in the Belarusian prison where he had been held on a bogus political charge since 2021.
- Julie Trebault, director of ARC, presented the keynote speech at the conference, Creative Block: Reflections on Freedom of Artistic Expression, hosted by the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the OECD and UNESCO at the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris.
- PEN America and ChineFile hosted a discussion between internationally acclaimed reporter, novelist, poet, and musician Liao Yiwu and Ian Johnson of the Council of Foreign Relations. Liao discussed the role of political dissent in exile, the use of fiction as a means for grappling with history, as well as his recent novels and documentary film.
- PEN America Detroit partnered with the Hotter Than July Book Festival to celebrate literature that goes beyond storytelling by delving into important societal issues. This year’s festival honored the legacy of Essex Hemphill, a trailblazing poet and LGBTQ+ activist.