New York City, April 28, 2011—PEN American Center announced today that it has received a grant from the Ford Foundation to fund the position of Freedom to Write Fellow, a full-time, 18-month fellowship in PEN’s flagship Freedom to Write Program. The position significantly expands the organization’s capacity to carry out its international and domestic campaigns to protect writers, defend freedom of expression, and promote fundamental human rights. PEN American Center President Kwame Anthony Appiah hailed the grant, which he said “strengthens PEN’s capacity in its founding purpose” and “recognizes not only a long tradition of effort and accomplishment, but recent work that meets the challenges of our time.”

“We are extremely grateful to the Ford Foundation for recognizing the importance and urgency of PEN’s free expression work and for making it possible for us to build on our recent successes in the U.S. and overseas,” Appiah said. “We will begin a search immediately to fill this crucial new position, a major addition to our Freedom to Write team.”

As threats to freedom of expression have multiplied in recent years, PEN American Center has developed initiatives to support PEN centers in countries with acute free expression challenges; enhance PEN’s impact on the human rights work of the United Nations and other intergovernmental organizations; and defend core human rights values in the United States. Working closely with the Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC), PEN American Center has brought international attention to the situation of former ICPC President and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo and led calls for greater freedom of expression in China. In coordination with the Norwegian PEN Center and PEN’s international headquarters in London, it has increased PEN’s voice at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. And it has partnered with the ACLU, the American Library Association, and other civil rights and book community organizations to shore up free expression protections and promote respect for core human rights values in the United States.

The new Freedom to Write Fellow position will help PEN expand these successful initiatives. The organization is seeking an early-career human rights or free expression professional with a law or graduate degree with an international or human rights focus. A complete job listing for the position is available here.

“This is a big boost for our human rights efforts and it couldn’t come at a better time,” said Steven L. Isenberg, executive director of PEN American Center. “The hunger for freedom of expression and other basic rights around the world is stronger than ever, and so is the determination of repressive regimes and other rights-abusers to preserve power by denying essential freedoms. The Freedom to Write program is the spinal column of PEN’s identity, and to have this new position carrying into our 90th year with the support of the Ford Foundation is a great encouragement to all of us at PEN.”

PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of PEN International, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession. For more information on PEN’s work, please visit

Steven L. Isenberg, (212) 334-1660 ext. 103
Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105