New York, NY, November 15, 2007—In any given year, International PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) monitors around 1,000 attacks against writers, journalists, poets, publishers and editors worldwide. These range from persistent harassment and threats to long prison sentences and even killings. The past year has been no different, with hundreds of writers and journalists detained, and over 40 killed in the practice of their professions. Eighty-six years after PEN was founded in 1921, and 47 since it formed its WiPC to tackle the suppression of the right to write in 1960, the need for monitoring, protest and action is as great as ever.

Each year, on November 15, International PEN stages its Day of the Imprisoned Writer, where its membership of writers raise public awareness of the plight of their colleagues worldwide, write protest appeals, stage events and use their combined force as writers towards change. Five cases are selected to represent the global spread of the problems as well as to illustrate the types of attacks.

This day is also a moment to commemorate writers and journalists killed since the previous Day of the Imprisoned Writer. Between November 2006 and today, PEN has reported on 51 such murders in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Colombia, Iraq, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Russia, Turkey and Venezuela. Among them was Hrant Dink, a Turkish Armenian editor who was himself featured in the Day of the Imprisoned Writer November 15, 2006 when he was on trial on charges of insult to “Turkishness.” He was assassinated two months later. His killer and a number of others implicated in his murder are now on trial.  

This year’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer will focus on five priority cases:

Burma (Myanmar): Zargana

Well-known comedian and poet among the many arrested in recent crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators

Cuba: Normando Hernández González

Journalist imprisoned under crackdown on dissidents in 2003 and since held under dire conditions

Gambia: Fatou Jaw Manneh

Journalist on trial and facing a heavy sentence on charges of sedition for her articles criticizing the Gambian president

Iran: Yaghoub Yadali

Novelist given a one-year sentence for his fictional characterization of the ethnic minority of which he is himself a member

Uzbekistan: Dzamshid Karimov

Journalist who has covered human rights abuses and written critical articles, and who has been held in psychiatric detention for over a year

>> Click here to download a list of journalists killed since last year’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer

Send a Letter of Appeal
PEN urges you to take action on behalf of the many writers imprisoned around the world. Please visit the above case pages for sample letters of appeal, as well as the names and contact information of domestic and international authorities.

Freedom to Write Card-Writing Blitz

Help make a difference. Each year PEN Members send greetings and letters of support to imprisoned writers and their families. Join us as we aim to increase that number this year. PEN will provide the cards, envelopes, address labels, and postage. All you need is a message of goodwill for your fellow writers and journalists imprisoned around the world.

When: Tuesday, December 4
Where: PEN American Center: 588 Broadway, Suite 303
What time: 6:00 p.m.

Anna Kushner, (212) 334-1660, ext. 106