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 announced a new emergency grant program to help early-career screenwriters during the Writers Guild strike. As it has done during COVID-19, natural disasters, and other emergencies, the new Screenwriters Emergency Assistance Fund will offer short-term grants ranging from $500 to $1,000 to eligible screenwriters on a first come-first served basis.
  • PEN America sharply criticized the “unjust” court verdict in Constantine, Algeria, sentencing scholar and writer Raouf Farrah to two years in prison on Tuesday, and his father Sebti Farrah to a suspended one-year sentence. The free expression organization said the sentence shows the Algerian government is not only silencing its critics but going after their family members as well. 
  • PEN America expert on the MENA region, Justin Shilad wrote about the chilling assault on LGBTQ+ rights and expression through incidents like the video circulating on social media, showing a mob of men surrounding a bar hosting a drag show in Lebanon’s capital Beirut. The men, who were members of the right-wing Christian group “Soldiers of God,” assaulted patrons outside the bar and besieged it for nearly an hour on August 23, forcing the organizers to cancel the show.

  • Sam LaFrance, a Free Expression expert wrote about the harm that the “Don’t Say Gay” law has caused in 2023 yet. Teachers in North Carolina, Arkansas, Iowa, and Indiana are beginning their school years newly stripped of their right to say “gay.” Iowa and Indiana passed similar bills into law in May, and Arkansas passed their copycat law in March. 

  • PEN America condemned the potential closure of a public library in Virginia due to a campaign of baseless claims and conspiracy theories and said that it is “deeply alarming” after a monthslong campaign to remove what an activist group calls “pornographic books.” 
  • PEN America welcomed a judge’s preliminary injunction halting the implementation of HB 900 in Texas, a controversial new law. Kasey Meehan, Freedom to Read program director at PEN America, said: “ This decision is a win for booksellers, publishers, educators, and students in Texas and a signal that the legislature has gone too far in promoting government-mandated censorship.”
  • A new bill in Congress focused on school materials “harmful to minors” instead amounts to an “intimidation tactic” to chill education when no such problem exists, PEN America said today. Laura Schroeder, senior manager of legislative affairs at PEN America, said: “There is no pornography in our public school system, and threatening funding would create a profound chilling effect on material selection across the country.”
  • PEN America condemned the arrest of Iranian musician Mehdi Yarrahi following the release on Friday of his song “Your Head Scarf” which protests the long-standing mandatory hijab rule imposed in the country. PEN America calls for Yarrahi’s immediate release and for all charges to be dropped against him. 
  • PEN America questions The threat by the Blount County, Tennessee, prosecutor to enforce a ban on drag performances at Saturday’s LGBTQ+ pride festival is a “grave threat” to free expression, PEN America said today. A federal judge has ruled the law likely violates the First Amendment “Tennessee’s Adult Entertainment Act poses a grave threat to the free expression of drag artists and LGBTQ+ Tennesseans more broadly. Even further, it is likely unconstitutional—as stated by a federal judge who ruled on the legislation during Pride Month this year,” said Kate Ruane, Sy Syms director of the U.S. Free Expression programs.

  •  The sentencing of retired teacher Mohammed al-Ghamdi to death over his posts on social media in Saudi Arabia is a “horrifying escalation” of an already brutal crackdown on free expression in the kingdom, PEN America said today. Justin Shilad,  at PEN America, said in response: “Saudi Arabia’s sentencing Mohammed al-Ghamdi to death for posting and sharing on social media is a horrifying escalation of an already brutal crackdown on free expression.” 
  • PEN America signed a letter with the Committee to Protect Journalists, calling on Bangladesh to immediately end the harassment and intimidation of journalist Adhora Yeasmean, who faces an investigation under the Digital Security Act (DSA) for her April 29 video report for RTV on the alleged crimes of the religious organization Rajarbagh Darbar Sharif

See previous PEN America updates