NEW YORK—PEN American Center today launched The Rise of Digital Repression, a new interactive report detailing digital repression’s increasing affect on writers around the globe. The report for the first time examines the rise of digital media’s role in PEN’s work to defend writers worldwide over the past 12 years and documents the alarming number of writers, bloggers, and journalists who are tried, jailed, harassed, and otherwise persecuted for what they write. The report also peeks behind the curtain to spotlight five courageous writers imprisoned in Liberia, Vietnam, Turkey, China, and Qatar.

The study shows that digital freedom cases now comprise 49% of PEN’s caseload.  As of June 2013, 92 writers were in prison for their use of digital media, and another 51 on trial.  The biggest state culprits are in the Middle East and East Asia, where in Vietnam alone 28 writers are imprisoned for their use of digital media.

“These writers show us the terrifying effect of coupling technology with state power in repressive regimes,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN American Center. “Digital media enables American writers to reach global audiences, so it’s vital that we address the cost to our colleagues around the world who dare to do the same.”

Driven  by statistics, the report spotlights the cases of five writers in prison to commemorate the U.N. International Day of the Imprisoned Writer on November 15. Each case invites viewers to take action against digital repression by submitting a letter of protest to the respective government on the writer’s behalf.

“Behind every data point is a real human being,” explained PEN Freedom to Write Fellow Deji Olukotun. “Rodney Sieh is a courageous Liberian journalist who has set new standards of quality in print and online publishing. In a gross miscarriage of justice, he was sentenced to prison for publishing an article about a government corruption scandal.” Sieh was detained after being unable to pay damages for criminal defamation of $1.5 million—30 times his newspaper’s annual budget—and is currently under house arrest on a 30-day “compassionate leave” for poor health. His return to Monrovia Central Prison is undetermined.

PEN will also spotlight the cases of Vietnamese blogger Ta Phong Tan, Turkish composer and pianist Fazil Say, Qatari poet Mohamed Al-Ajami, and Tibetan blogger Kunchok Tsephel.

Download The Rise of Digital Repression: A PEN Interactive Report at


CONTACT: Deji Olukotun, PEN American Center, 212.334.1660 x106,

Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is a nationwide alliance of 3,800 writers working to bring down barriers to free expression.