Free Expression Under Threat – PEN’s 2018 Case List

By | June 6, 2019 at 11:04 am | No comments | News

May 30, 2019 – The PEN International Case List published today documents increasing threats to writers and journalists around the world in the course of their work.

The most reported type of attack in the Case List is lengthy prison terms. A total of 68 writers were imprisoned specifically for the practice of their profession or their peaceful activism, representing a third of the total. Almost half of these, 32, have been charged under anti-terror or national security laws. PEN is investigating the cases of 18 more where clarification is needed about the reasons for their detention.

In Africa and the Middle East, long prison sentences represent almost half of those regions’ caseloads, specifically long-term detentions in Eritrea, Egypt, and Iran. Thirty-two writers are held in Asia, mostly in prisons in China. In Europe, two thirds of those detained are in Turkey with a similar number there also on trial.

While in recent years imprisonment has not been used widely against writers in the Americas, harassment and threat is a constant source of pressure from state and non-state sources, reported in half the cases listed. The shadow of impunity lies heavy in the region with murders over the past years remaining unresolved. Lack of justice for writers killed is a factor in all regions, notably in Asia where religious extremists remain unpunished for murders carried out in recent years.

2018 saw the doubling of journalists murdered in retaliation for their reporting. From the brutal murders of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to murders of the Slovak reporter Ján Kuciak and his fiancée at their home, journalists around the world are at great risk when carrying out their work. At least eight journalists were killed in Mexico and nine broadcast journalists were killed in bomb attacks in Afghanistan.

There is good news too. The Palestinian citizen of Israel Dareen Tatour was freed last September and cited how letters from members “strengthened” her while in detention. Kurdish-Turkish artist Zehra Doğan, released after over 500 days in prison, described how with PEN’s support she “never felt helpless.” Ethiopian blogger Eskinder Nega, freed last February, wrote “Each word from PEN was a morale booster not only to me and my family but also to the whole democratic movement in Ethiopia.” Your hard work makes a difference to writers across the globe. As the Italian journalist Roberto Saviano said to PEN earlier this year, “Solidarity is light.” Each year PEN International monitors and campaigns on behalf of hundreds of writers and journalists across the globe who are attacked for their free expression work.

You can read and download the Case List here.

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