London, December 4, 2003—Attacks on writers and journalists around the world was central to the discussions at PEN´s 69th International Congress, held in Mexico City from November 22 to 27.

Commenting on the situation in Mexico, Eugene Schoulgin, Chair of PEN´s Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC), stated, “The Committee welcomes the fact that no writers or journalists have been murdered in Mexico this year, but is still very concerned that particularly investigative journalists find themselves subject to death threats or pernicious criminal defamation charges brought with the intent of silencing them.”

However, journalists in other countries in the region have fared less well. In the past twelve months, three Colombians and two Brazilians have been amongst the 23 writers and journalists around the world to have been murdered for their writing.

In the last decade, PEN has recorded more than 400 killings of writers and journalists internationally, most of whose killers still enjoy complete impunity for their crimes. In its report on such impunity, delivered at this Congress, PEN called upon the United Nations, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organisation of American States, and national governments to give the highest priority to bringing to justice those who use murder as the ultimate tool of censorship.

PEN has also been proud to present to this Congress a unique study of the worldwide impact on free expression of the post-9/11 “anti-terror” climate. As well as the chilling effect of the US PATRIOT Act, PEN also noted that the terminology of terrorism has been used as a pretext to suppress dissenting voices in all four corners of the globe. Among the countries under scrutiny in the report are Colombia, China, Turkey, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Ever since the foundation of PEN in 1921, the organisation has stood up in defence of writers under attack. In the first six months of this year alone, PEN monitored 775 attacks on writers and journalists. Of these, 228 are in prison, whilst more than 250 are facing court action. Other abuses include death threats, harassments, kidnappings and deportations.

At this Mexico City Congress, the Writers in Prison Committee passed resolutions condemning attacks on writers in Algeria, Armenia, Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Ethiopia, Iran, Italy, Russia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, USA, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. Two resolutions were also passed on Killings of Writers in the Americas, and Impunity Worldwide.

Schoulgin added, “The optimism of the 1990s, when there was a decline in attacks on writers, has been in short supply since the events of 2001. Writers around the world continue to play an essential role in representing the opinions of a complete spectrum of society, even at times of acute danger to themselves. It is the duty of other writers like ourselves to stand up in their defence.”

PEN’s WiPC is pleased to welcome Jirí Gruša, as new International President of International PEN. Gruša took up the post on the closure of the Congress. A Czech writer, Gruša was at the forefront of dissident literature during the 60s and 70s, working for magazines that were subsequently banned, and spending time in prison in 1969 and 1980. A signatory of Charter 77, Gruša was forced into exile in 1980. He returned to Czechoslovakia after the collapse of the Communist government in 1989, and has since served as his country’s ambassador to Austria and Germany, as well as Minister of Education, Youth and Sports.

CONGRESS-RELATED DOCUMENTS
Click here to download a PDF version of the Impunity Report.

For the texts of resolutions issued by PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee, please go to: www.internationalpen.org.uk , click on ‘programmes,’ then ‘Writers in Prison Committee’ and scroll down to the section labelled “5 Dec 03 – WiPC Report From PEN Congress- More.”

Click here to view more information about PEN’s report “Anti-Terrorism, Writers and Freedom of Expression.”

(Hard copies can be ordered through the London office – International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, 9-10 Charterhouse Buildings, London EC1M 7AT, UK Fax: + 44 20 7253 5711 Tel: + 44 20 7253 3226 e-mail: [email protected])

 

Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660, ext. 105, [email protected]