Writers-in-Prison / Writers-at-Risk

The Writers-in-Prison-Committee of International PEN was set up in 1960 as a result of mounting concern about attempts in an increasing number of countries around the world to silence critical voices through the harassment and imprisonment of writers. The Committee works on behalf of all writers, publishers, editors, and journalists who are detained or otherwise persecuted for their opinions expressed in writing and on behalf of those under attack for their peaceful political activities or for the practice of their profession, provided that they did not use violence or advocate violence or racial hatred, or in any other way violate the Charter of International PEN.

In the meantime, over 50 of a total of 140 member Centers of International PEN have founded their own national Writers-in-Prison-Committees. Coordinated by the International WiPC in London, these are actively campaigning for an improvement in the conditions of their persecuted colleagues. They send protest letters and appeals to the governments concerned and lobby their own governments to intervene on behalf of detained writers and investigate cases of torture and killings. Through establishing contact with the families, and where possible, directly writing to the prisoners themselves, they provide encouragement and hope. Particularly endangered colleagues may be nominated as honorary members by individual Centers.

The International Writers-in-Prison-Committee at the London head office of International PEN gathers information about individual cases from a wide variety of sources, seeking to attain confirmation through two independent sources. Sources include press reports, reports from individuals in the region in question, reports from other human rights groups, from PEN members themselves, prisoners’ families, lawyers, and friends, exile groups, etc.

Every six months, the International PEN Writers-in-Prison-Committee in London publishes a country by country list of all cases PEN has been involved in during that period. The list is updated daily. A monthly bulletin informs member Centers of the latest developments. Rapid action campaigns are organized on behalf of colleagues whose life and health are in danger.

International PEN has consultative status at the United Nations and with UNESCO. Two full-time assistants work in support of the elected Chair of the International Writers-in-Prison-Committee.

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(German) Hermann Kesten-Preis an Günter Wallraff – Cem Özdemir hält Laudatio. Hermann Kesten-Förderpreis an Lina Attalah/„Mada Masr“

Günter Wallraff Foto: Privat

(German) Pressemitteilung, Darmstadt / Wiesbaden, 29. Juli 2020. Furchtlos für die Meinungsfreiheit gegen alle Widerstände: Der Hermann Kesten-Preis des deutschen PEN-Zentrums geht 2020 an den Autor Günter Wallraff. Die Auszeichnung ist mit 10.000 Euro dotiert. Der Grünen-Politiker Cem Özdemir übernimmt die Laudatio. Die unabhängige ägyptische Online-Zeitung „Mada Masr“ und ihre Chefredakteurin Lina Attalah erhalten den Hermann Kesten-Förderpreis. Continue reading

Iran: COVID-19 fears for detained human rights defender and writer Narges Mohammadi

Narges Mohammadi @ PEN International

21 July 2020 – PEN International is alarmed by reports that writer, journalist and human rights defender, Narges Mohammadi may have contracted COVID-19 in Zanjan prison where she is serving sentences totaling 16 years for her rights activism. She suffers from underlying health conditions for which she has been denied adequate treatment, further increasing concerns for her welfare. Continue reading


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