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 released its annual Freedom to Write Index, revealing that in 2023, a record 339 writers from 33 countries were unjustly imprisoned, an increase of more than 20% over the previous year. The rise is partly attributable to the adverse impacts of war and conflict on freedom of expression, as the crackdown on dissent in both Israel and Russia placed both countries in the top 10 for the first time. China, already the world’s top jailer of writers, registered a significant increase, exceeding 100 writers behind bars for the first time. The crackdown on the creative community continued in Iran, with women who wrote or advocated against the compulsory hijab particularly at risk.
  • PEN America said it is deeply disturbed by recent events at Columbia University, where a building takeover by students was followed by an excessive show of force by the NYPD, only deepening tensions and distrust on campus. Further, the request by President Minouche Shafik for the NYPD to remain on campus until May 17 is alarming. We are further disturbed by reports that press access to campus was limited during the arrests at Hamilton Hall and by allegations that student reporters were threatened with arrest. 

  • PEN America said it was gravely concerned over adoption by the House of Representatives on Wednesday of H.R.6090, the Antisemitism Awareness Act, which it characterized as an overbroad bill that could harm academic freedom, free speech, and legitimate political speech.
  • PEN America said it continues to be deeply alarmed by the decision of campus administrators across the country to deploy the police to detain, arrest, and remove peaceful student protesters. The use of excessive force against students and faculty on multiple occasions is shocking and unacceptable.
  • PEN America mourned the loss of our longtime friend and former PEN America Vice President Paul Auster. “In addition to shaping the worldviews of generations of Americans through his bracing and beloved novels, Paul Auster was a writer’s writer, consistently standing in solidarity with authors in China, Iran, Russia and around the world who were persecuted for what he was able to do freely: exercise his imagination and tell stories,” said CEO Suzanne Nossel.

  • PEN America called the sentencing by Thai authorities of poet and activist Arnon Nampa to two more years in prison, for a total of at least 10 years in prison “highly alarming and completely unjust.”

  • After Russian journalists Konstantin Gabov and Sergey Karelin were detained on charges of participating in an extremist organization, Polina Sadovskaya, PEN America’s Eurasia and Advocacy Director, said “The international community must hold the Russian government accountable for violating freedom of expression and the right of Russian citizens and people around the world to learn about what is happening in Russia.”

  • For our latest PEN Ten, translator Luke Leafgren and publisher Judith Gurewich spoke with Prison and Justice Writing Director Sonya Soni about Nasser Abu Srour’s passionate, haunting autobiography, The Tale of a Wall: Reflections on the Meaning of Hope and Freedom.
  • PEN America released a guide on combating mis- and disinformation during college campus protests.

See previous PEN America updates