PEN America Speaks: How We Defended and Celebrated Free Expression The Week of August 14
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.
- PEN America condemned the raid and seizure of materials from The Marion County Record in Kansas, stating that the law enforcement actions likely violate federal law and jeopardize the newspaper’s ability to publish. Shannon Jankowski wrote in an op-ed published by MSNBC that these events exemplify an alarming pattern of governmental censorship. The later withdrawal of the search warrant was “a first step toward accountability in this unconscionable breach of press freedom.
- PEN America condemned Iranian authorities’ blatant attempt to punish jailed Iranian writer, human rights defender, and 2023 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award honoree Narges Mohammadi for her speech and activism from behind bars. Her recent one-year extension of imprisonment prompted PEN America to again demand her immediate and unconditional release.
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- PEN America condemned what the College Board called an effective ban of AP Psychology in Florida, prompted by a law prohibiting conversations about gender identity and sexual orientation in public K-12 schools. The state subsequently reversed itself, but schools in have been left in a state of confusion about whether they can offer the course.
- PEN America sharply criticized the Arkansas Department of Education’s decision to withdraw a new advanced placement African American Studies course as “reckless and ideologically-motivated.”
- PEN America said a school district in Iowa added a new and “deeply misguided” move to book banning by relying on ChatGPT artificial intelligence to decide which books can stay and which have to go.
- PEN America’s Prison and Justice Writing Program introduced a Freewrite Zine, with writings done as part of a series of pilot writers’ workshops.
- This month’s Works of Justice blog includes writing from Robert Lee Williams on discovering PEN America’s “The Sentences That Create Us: Crafting a Writer’s Life in Prison” led him to become a published writer while in prison, and from Jeff Elmore on making paper collage quilts in prison.
- PEN America’s Jeremy Young and Jeffery Sachs voiced concerns over recent assaults on university accreditation, highlighting the threat to academic freedom and the quality of American higher education, and urging defenders of free expression and education to protect the pivotal role of accreditation in upholding intellectual liberty on campuses.
- In an op-ed published in the Sun Sentinel, PEN America’s Sam LaFrance and Jonathan Friedman highlighted the critical issue of censorship and ideological influence within Florida’s education system, with the governor and state officials evading accountability for policies that suppress open discourse and distort classroom discussions.
- PEN America’s Liz Woolery wrote that Twitter’s legal action against the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) and Elon Musk’s efforts to silence critics highlight a concerning pattern that contradicts Musk’s proclaimed commitment to free speech and transparency.
- PEN America expressed concern over the detention of journalist Jameel al-Samat by Yemeni authorities, highlighting the broader threats faced by writers and commentators in Yemen due to ongoing conflict and lack of international focus on human rights.
- PEN America criticized the limited access to books for students in Escambia County, Florida, resulting from a system-wide review of school libraries for “sexual conduct” content, likening the situation to an “authoritarian dystopia” and expressing concerns about government overreach and censorship.
- PEN America called for the immediate release of Iranian filmmaker Saeed Roustayi after he was sentenced to six months in prison for screening his award-winning film Leila’s Brothers at the Cannes Film Festival.
- In response to the published account by Russian journalist Elena Kostyuchenko that she was poisoned in Germany, after fleeing Russia for her safety, PEN America called on all countries to protect Russian journalists against “a threat against anyone writing and speaking truthfully—from anywhere—about the Russian government.”
- PEN America said he postponement of an exhibition in Mesa, AZ at the direction of city officials who objected to a piece by Shepherd Fairey showing a skeletal police officer in riot gear, set up a “chilling precedent” and should be rescinded. Local officials later reversed their decision following mounting backlash.