In July 1960, International PEN established a committee to monitor countries “where writers had been imprisoned because they spoke or wrote their minds.” Initially, the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) focused on writers in Albania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, France and Romania. Later, its scope was expanded to include other groups. Today the committee monitors hundreds of bloggers, editors, journalists, playwrights, poets, publishers, screenwriters and translators who have been threatened, attacked, detained, tortured or killed for expressing the truth as they see it.
For more than 25 years, PEN Canada’s WiPC has defended the right to freedom of expression for such iconic figures as Salman Rushdie, Anna Politkovskaya, Aung San Suu Kyi and Ken Saro-Wiwa. It has also taken on the cases of scores of lesser-known writers. The committee circulates petitions, organizes letter-writing campaigns and undertakes advocacy on behalf of more than a dozen Honorary Members, urging governments to respect the universal right to freedom of expression set out in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.