Writers in Myanmar

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Since Myanmar’s military seized power on 1 February 2021, journalists have been routinely targeted as part of a crackdown on freedom of expression in the country. At the end of July, writer Kyaw Min Yu (also known as Ko Jimmy) was among four pro-democracy activists executed, following a show trial at which they were denied […]

Xu Zhiyong & Thupten Lodoe

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Given the recent clamour for Boris Johnson to step down as Britain’s prime minister, it’s worth considering the fate of those who are silenced for daring to voice a similar sentiment in authoritarian countries. ‘Dear Chairman Xi, It’s time for you to go,’ wrote Chinese writer and academic Xu Zhiyong in an open letter published […]

Alaa Abdel Fattah

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Today, thousands of Egyptians are behind bars, in contravention of their right to freedom of expression. Addressing the human rights situation in Egypt, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi recently called for political dialogue and reactivating the Presidential Amnesty Committee. This was formed a few years ago to consider the cases of political prisoners and those imprisoned […]

Uladzimir Mackieviç

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

On 14 May prominent Belarusian philosopher, essayist and broadcaster Uladzimir Mackieviç turned sixty-six while being held in pretrial detention. Mackieviç has been detained since 4 August 2021 and faces up to three years in prison for public order offences. On that day, the Belarusian KGB raided his house. He was transferred to a detention centre […]

Ahmed Douma

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

‘Nothing is more precious than the opening of a new window onto the world… or onto freedom. This is true everywhere, but it is especially true here,’ writes Ahmed Douma in Tajdīf (‘Blasphemy’), translated by Ahmed Hassan and Elliott Colla. Our world is measured by the freedom we possess. We might spend our whole life […]

Gulgeş Deryaspî & Meral Simşek

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Last month, PEN marked International Women’s Day by highlighting the cases of two Kurdish writers persecuted for exercising their right to peaceful freedom of expression: Gulgeç Akdeniz – who uses the pen name Gulgeş Deryaspî – and Meral Simşek (LR, October 2021). Both face lengthy prison sentences in Turkey for their writings. Born in 1978, […]

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Paola Ugaz

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

In July last year, Pedro Castillo was inaugurated as the 130th president of Peru. So far, he has done little to dispel fears about threats to freedom of expression in the country. Human Rights Watch and other lobby groups remain concerned about the number of journalists facing prosecution for their work under criminal defamation laws. […]

Kakwenza Rukirabashaija

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

On 12 May 2021, the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, started his sixth term in office. He has held power for thirty-five years. The run-up to the elections, held the previous January, was marred by killings, arrests, beatings and disappearances carried out by security forces, as well as the harassment and intimidation of journalists and a […]

Dr Mohammed Al-Roken

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

On 15 November, PEN centres the world over marked the fortieth Day of the Imprisoned Writer by highlighting the cases of several writers and journalists who are imprisoned or facing prosecution. These include Dr Mohammed Al-Roken, an author, academic and human rights lawyer from the United Arab Emirates. According to a recent report by Human […]

Maykel Osorbo

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

On 18 May, Maykel Castillo Pérez (known as Maykel Osorbo), an independent musician, was arrested by the police in Cuba. Over the past three years, the Cuban authorities have repeatedly tried to silence Osorbo and his demands for fundamental freedoms and rights. He has reportedly endured more than 120 repressive acts of different kinds in […]

Meral Simşek & Yavuz Ekinci

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The state of freedom of expression in Turkey continues to deteriorate, with the government tightening the noose around social media platforms. Kurdish culture and language are already suppressed and many journalists from Kurdish or pro-Kurdish outlets are in prison, having been tried on trumped-up charges of terrorism. These include news editor and poet Nedim Türfent […]

Belarusian Democracy Movement

Posted on by David Gelber

Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian president known as ‘Europe’s last dictator’, is once again making headlines for the extraordinary lengths he is going to in order to silence dissent. On 23 May, exiled blogger Roman Protasevich, an outspoken critic of Lukashenko and former editor of the popular opposition Telegram channel NEXTA, and his partner, Sofia Sapega, […]

Lobsang Lhundup

Posted on by David Gelber

In June 2019, Lobsang Lhundup, a Tibetan intellectual and former monk who writes under the pen name Dhi Lhaden, was detained by the Chinese authorities. His whereabouts remain unknown and there are concerns for his welfare. Lhundup, the author of two books circulated underground in Tibet, had been teaching at a private cultural education centre […]

Nedim Türfent & Osman Kavala

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

To mark PEN International’s centenary this year, PEN’s English Centre has launched PENWrites (englishpen.org/pen-writes), an international letter-writing campaign to offer solidarity to writers in prison and at risk around the world. Many writers have told the organisation how much letters and messages mean to them, serving as a crucial reminder that they have not been […]

Peter Pomerantsev’s illuminating study of disinformation, This is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality (2019), first alerted me to the ‘new breed of digital-era manipulation’ in the Philippines – in particular, the problems faced by Maria Ressa, an award-winning journalist, and Rappler, the independent online news outlet she founded. Pomerantsev believes that the […]

Zargana

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In the general election held on 8 November 2020, Myanmar’s ruling party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won a landslide majority, winning more seats than in the 2015 election. The military disputed the result, claiming election fraud, and on 1 February, the day parliament was due to sit […]

Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The Iranian regime’s treatment of the Anglo-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who last month completed a five-year sentence after being convicted on trumped-up charges of conspiracy but now faces new charges, has once again shone the spotlight on the country, its judicial system and the appalling conditions endured by female prisoners in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison. […]

Tsitsi Dangarembga

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

To mark International Women’s Day on 8 March, PEN is highlighting the judicial harassment of Tsitsi Dangarembga, an award-winning Zimbabwean novelist, poet, filmmaker and playwright who was arrested last July while attending peaceful protests in Harare. Dangarembga’s most recent novel, This Mournable Body, was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. She wrote her debut novel, […]

Zhang Zhan

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Human rights groups worldwide have expressed outrage at the four-year prison sentence handed down to citizen journalist Zhang Zhan for reporting on the coronavirus outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan. A former lawyer, 37-year-old Zhang was arrested on 14 May and formally charged in early November. The indictment alleges that she sent ‘false information […]

Belarusian Democracy Movement

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In September, one month after Belarus’s disputed presidential election, the Belarusian Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich commented: First they seized our country, and now they are seizing the best of us. But hundreds of others will come and fill the places of those who have been taken from our ranks. It is the whole country which […]

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