London, New York City, October 5, 2012—PEN International and PEN American Center strongly condemn the threats made against Tanya Lokshina, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Moscow office, calling them a revolting and cowardly attempt at intimidation to prevent human rights defenders in Russia from doing their legitimate work.

Tanya Lokshina, whose work largely focuses on rights abuses committed in Chechnya and the North Caucasus, received a number of text messages between September 28 and 30, 2012, threatening her safety and the safety of her unborn child, specifically referring to her pregnancy. As the New York Times reported yesterday, the content of the texts included personal information that suggests that details were gathered through surveillance. There are legitimate fears for her safety and well-being.

This occurs amid an increasing crackdown on civil society advocates in Russia, including new legislation restricting freedom of assembly and requiring non-governmental organizations that engage in “political work” and receive any foreign funding to register as “foreign agents.” This serves to prevent civil society organizations from operating, and as Lokshina has pointed out, prevents the reporting of both positive and negative activity by State authorities.

PEN International and PEN American Center strongly condemn all threats against Tanya Lokshina, and in a letter to President Vladimir Putin, have demanded that authorities investigate and bring to justice those responsible for these threats as a matter of urgency, and to guarantee her protection as well as protection for all human rights defenders working in Russia.

PEN International celebrates literature and promotes freedom of expression. Founded in 1921, our global community of writers now comprises 144 centers spanning more than 100 countries. Our programs, campaigns, events and publications connect writers and readers for global solidarity and cooperation. PEN International is a non-political organization and holds consultative status at the United Nations and UNESCO.

PEN American Center is the largest of the 144 centers of PEN International. 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 contact:
Sahar Halaimzai, PEN International, +44 (0)20 7405 0338
Sarah Hoffman, PEN American Center, (212) 334-1660 ext. 111