PEN America Speaks: How We Defended and Celebrated Free Expression The Week of July 17
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 17:
- Five additional parents signed on to PEN America’s first-of-its-kind federal lawsuit challenging book bans in Escambia County, Florida. Since we filed suit in May along with Penguin Random House and a group of diverse authors, an additional 21 book titles have been challenged and 17 restricted.
More than 200 people attended PEN Presents – K-Lit: A Conversation with Korean-American authors on the K-Zeitgeist, featuring Min Jin Lee, Nicole Chung, Mary H.K. Choi, Eric Kim and Hannah Bae at Lincoln Center.
- Three of our Champions of Higher Education group of former university presidents wrote this week about the crisis facing higher education. Former New College President Pat Okker wrote about her experience under the board appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in the Chronicle of Higher Education. David Warren, former president of Ohio Wesleyan University, wrote for the Columbus Dispatch about the full-scale assault on colleges and universities. And Philip Glozbatch, former president of Skidmore College, wrote for the Albany Times-Union about what the founding fathers understood about higher education.
- Kate Ruane, Sy Syms director of U.S. Free Expression Programs, wrote for The Hill about the attempt to label anything LGBTQ+ as “obscene.”
- PEN America decried the “callousness” of a decision by a court in Iraq’s Kurdistan region to add four more years to a sentence against journalist Sherwan Sherwani— just two months before his release— and the further arrest of a second journalist, Omed Baroshki, who criticized the court’s decision.
- PEN America expressed relief at the release of Egyptian writer Patrick Zaki after being granted a presidential pardon for his three-year sentencing. Zaki was originally convicted for “spreading false news” by an emergency court. Research and advocacy lead for the Middle East and North Africa Justin Shilad called Zaki’s release “a relief,” but maintained that he never should have been arrested or sentenced to prison in the first place. PEN America continues to call for the release of all those currently imprisoned in Egypt for expressing themselves freely.
- PEN America urged Arizona lawmakers to avoid partisanship during their investigation of free speech in the state’s colleges and universities. In the face of the recent politicization of the discourse around the First Amendment, director of Free Expression and Education Jonathan Friedman fears “this investigation in the name of protecting free speech will have the opposite effect.”
- PEN America condemned the sentencing of Iranian actresses Afsaneh Bayegan and Leila Bolukat for their refusal to wear a headscarf as a “cruel” and “calculated” assault on their artistic freedom and freedom of expression. Tehran’s Second Criminal Court imposed a two-year acting ban and a five-year ban on social media on Bolukat and Bayegan announced her withdrawal from acting after being sentenced to two years in prison—which was suspended—and a two-year travel ban.
- PEN Tulsa and the Tulsa Press Club hosted a “Press Forward: Engaged Communities for Inclusive Reporting” panel discussion. The event aimed to foster a stronger connection between journalists, government representatives, and community members and address the issue of limited diversity in media on a local level.