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 mourned the death of 47-year-old Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died a political prisoner in a Russian penal colony. PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said Navalny “embodied the spirit of a free Russia with a spine of steel, unremitting determination and a spirit of derring-do.”
  • PEN America urged Congress to pass landmark legislation to protect human rights defenders abroad as they face reprisals from their governments. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA-02) introduced the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act that would create a new visa category allowing up to 500 human rights defenders a year facing reprisals at home to enter the United States. 
  • Anh-Thu Vo, research and advocacy coordinator from PEN America, alongside PEN International and the Vietnamese PEN Abroad Centre, delivered an oral statement at the Fourth UPR Cycle pre-session in Geneva on February 13 providing recommendations to protect writers and dissidents at risk in Vietnam. This statement aligned with our joint UPR submission.
  • PEN America CEO, Suzanne Nossel wrote for the Boston Globe about the threats to free speech, academic freedom, and ideological diversity on university campuses. She suggests that they can only be addressed through broad, campus-wide reforms across areas like orientation programs, classroom teaching, extracurricular training, messaging, and policies enforced by leadership to transform campus culture to support open exchange. 
  • PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) was a partner for the PANAF Summit, the first regional gathering on artistic freedom in Africa. ARC’s Africa Regional Representative, Sam Brakarsh, attended the Summit in Zanzibar and presented ARC and the AMANI Network’s work and developing strategy in the region. 
  • ARC convened an Experts Meeting on Cultural Rights and Development. The session commenced with a dialogue surrounding participants’ international advocacy objectives for 2024 about cultural rights. This forthcoming meeting will center on the Special Rapporteur’s involvement and strategic approach in addressing the ongoing crisis in Gaza.
  • In late 2023, PEN America submitted a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry in Ukraine detailing Russia’s extensive attacks on Ukrainian cultural infrastructure. 
  • PEN America and PEN International jointly submitted a contribution to the United Nations Independent Expert’s report on the root causes of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This submission focuses on legislative threats to free expression in United States public educational institutions.
  • PEN America condemned the unjust conviction and sentencing of Chinese labor and women’s rights activist Li Qiaochu. Li, who is the partner of imprisoned activist, essayist, and PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write awardee Xu Zhiyong
  • PEN America hosted our former President, Jennifer Egan, for a talk with the staff, where she discussed her process as a writer and the use of language. Read more here. 
  • PEN America, joined by a coalition of authors – including Khaled Hosseini, Maia Kobabe, and Molly Knox Ostertagsent a letter to Rockingham County, Virginia, Public Schools protesting a recent ban on over 50 books and urging that the district return these books to shelves.
  • In response to the ongoing investigation into Harvard University by the House Education and Workforce Committee, Jeremy Young, director, of the Freedom to Learn program at PEN America said: “This investigation is turning into a fishing expedition. The charges of antisemitism at Harvard are serious and demand urgent action. But when a congressional committee begins probing the internal affairs of a private university, it must act with great restraint, and the utmost respect for academic freedom and institutional autonomy.”
  • Sam LaFrance, Free Expression and Education editorial project manager wrote about the legislators in Nebraska who are trying to undermine higher education in the state in the name of destroying “woke” ideologies. Two bills would threaten tenure, academic freedom, and university autonomy. If passed, the bills would put the future of higher education in Nebraska in serious doubt.
  • PEN America Digital Safety team conducted a training for Scholastic for authors and another with Internews for women journalists in exile.

See previous PEN America updates