PEN America Speaks: How We Defended and Celebrated Free Expression The Week of February 5
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 criticized Barnard College for quietly rewriting its policy to prohibit departments from posting “political statements” in an apparent effort to suppress pro-Palestinian speech. “The swift rollout of these new website policies, without faculty consultation, makes plain that they are a response to pro-Palestinian speech that someone wanted to suppress,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education programs at PEN America.
- PEN America issued a statement condemning a Missouri political candidate for torching LGBTQ-themed books, our Freedom to Read Director, Kasey Meehan, called it “appalling” and said it “brings to mind a violent history of suppression and denigration of books, ideas, and LGBTQ people.”
- Sam LaFrance our Free Speech and Education expert, wrote about the six bills in various states that impose restrictions related to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, critical race theory, and other issues in public higher education, likely chilling academic freedom and campus free speech through vague definitions and penalties threatening free expression.
- PEN America expressed anguish about the impact of the conflict between Israel and Hamas on writers, artists, and culture and said they would continue efforts to protect imperiled artists and writers while speaking out on threats to free expression from the conflict.
- PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) strongly condemned the arbitrary detention of Iranian rapper Vafa Ahmadpour and called for his immediate release. Vafa Ahmadpour’s arrest is another terrible example of the unjust persecution faced by rappers and artists like Toomaj Salehi and Saman Yasin, who dare speak out against government policies.
- Katie Blankenship, director of PEN America’s Florida office condemned the two bills introduced in the Florida Legislature, HB 757 and SB 1780, which are blatant attempts to undermine freedom of the press. “These bills seek to instill fear in journalists and their sources, chilling constitutionally protected speech.”
- PEN America strongly condemned the Chinese court’s decision to give Australian novelist, pro-democracy blogger, and political commentator Yang Hengjun a suspended death sentence and called for his immediate and unconditional release.
- PEN America and PEN International jointly submitted a contribution to the Special Rapporteur’s report on academic freedom and free expression in educational institutions. This submission will focus largely on threats to academic freedom in the United States, but it also includes a small section on international scholar-writers and trends in threats against their academic freedom.