Priority Campaigns

PEN America is engaged in several large-scale initiatives to protect freedom of expression and promote fundamental rights in the United States and around the world. Read below to learn more about these initiatives and how you can be part of these important efforts.

Freedom of Expression in the United States

The United States proudly stands as a haven for free expression at home and a champion of free speech abroad.  PEN America works to ensure that the U.S. lives up to these principles and to promote the values of open expression, creative freedom, and a strong, independent press. Our U.S. work includes opposing efforts to ban books from school classrooms and libraries, defending journalists’ right to do their work and promoting principles for free speech and inclusive dialogue on university campuses. PEN America also takes up digital freedom issues, such as mass surveillance reform and net neutrality. More »

#LouderTogether: Donald Trump and New Threats to Expression

As a candidate, President Donald Trump ran on a platform that was explicitly hostile to a free press, dismissive of the voices of minority populations, and indifferent to fact-based discourse. Today, his Administration is transforming that platform into concrete policies. PEN America is defending not only our First Amendment but the importance of free and open expression and informed debate in response to efforts to undermine these liberties. PEN America is also standing up against hate speech and false claims, using the power of the word to uphold civic discourse and respect for the truth. More »

Freedom of Expression in Post-Soviet States

Nearly three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, free expression in the literary, journalistic, and artistic spheres remains under significant pressure in many of the states of the Eurasia region. The shared history of totalitarian rule has proven hard to shed, as the countries face varied political, social, and economic challenges. From assassinations of reporters to the censoring of writers to the closing of theatrical productions, authoritarian efforts to control historical narratives and foreclose individuals’ expressions of their current identities remain a disturbing trend. More »

Turkey: World’s Worst Jailer of Journalists

Following an attempted coup in July 2016 against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the climate for free expression in Turkey has dramatically deteriorated. More than 180 news outlets have been shut down by presidential decree, and Turkey now jails the most writers in the world, with more than 150 behind bars. PEN America’s advocacy in Turkey since the coup has centered on writers and journalists who are in detention or facing unjust charges and those dealing with extended court cases, travel bans, or other restrictions on movement or expression.  More »

Freedom of Expression in Bangladesh

The climate for free expression in Bangladesh has significantly deteriorated: radical Islamist groups have claimed the killings of six bloggers, free thinkers, and their publishers since February 2015, and recently the attacks have widened to include civil society actors, academics, and religious figures with diverse views. PEN’s advocacy centers on persuading the Bangladeshi government to adequately address the attacks on free speech, and on the U.S. government and other international actors to support writers and others under threat. More »

Liu Xiaobo and Liu XiaFreedom of Expression in China

The dire situation for free expression in China is one of PEN America’s signature campaigns. China’s extensive censorship apparatus limits speech both within and outside its borders, and although new digital platforms have expanded the means of expression, they have also provided more opportunities for repression: currently, at least 50 writers are in jail. PEN actively works to break down barriers to free expression in China through our reports, advocacy, and building solidarity between American writers and their Chinese colleagues. More »

Digital Freedom

Nearly 50 percent of the imprisoned writers on PEN’s case list are persecuted for what they have written or blogged online. In response to this growing threat, PEN worked with leading experts on digital media from four continents to develop the PEN Declaration on Digital Freedom, a concise statement of principles to guide governments and the private sector to protect freedom of expression and privacy online. Click here to learn more about our work on protecting the next generation of writers.

Day of the Dead - PENPress Freedom in Mexico

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, with dozens of reporters murdered in the last 15 years. PEN is committed to ending this “censorship by bullet”; our campaign calls for an end to the impunity for crimes against journalists, so that all Mexicans have access to a free and open exchange of information and ideas. More »


Freedom of Expression in Myanmar

The space for free expression in Myanmar has widened considerably following the historic November 2015 elections and the installation of a civilian government in March 2016. However, a number of hurdles remain to the full realization of this right. Working in partnership with PEN Myanmar, PEN America is campaigning for reform of the legal environment for expression and association. More »

Freedom of Expression in Russia

PEN America works to aid and elevate Russian writers fighting limits on free discourse and open access to information, including by hosting independent novelists, poets, and journalists for public events and high-level briefings in the United States, building ties with U.S. literary, cultural, and human rights communities, and publishing a comprehensive report, Discourse in Danger: Attacks on Free Expression in Putin’s RussiaMore »


Previous Campaigns

Reckoning with TortureReckoning with Torture

Reckoning With Torture is an innovative performance and film project that raises awareness of the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and recognizes the critical role that many American servicewomen and men played in challenging the torture program. The Reckoning script is comprised of the voices of military personnel and public servants who rejected mistreatment of detainees: those who reported abuse, refused to participate in it, or advocated for the repeal of unlawful interrogation directives. Join us in raising your voice against torture. More »