Honorary Members

Tal al Mallouhi

Syrian state security agents detained high-school student Tal Al-Mallouhi on December 27, 2009 and interrogated her about posts on her personal blog. Her family home was raided and her computer, notebook, and other personal documents confiscated. She was held incommunicado at an undisclosed location, without charge, and denied access to her family, for nine months. She was granted a single family visit at Doma Prison in September 2010. After her mother published an open letter requesting more information about the case and calling for Tal’s release, it was reported that Al-Mallouhi had been charged with spying. She appeared at a closed session of the Damascus State Security Court on February 14, 2011, where she was convicted of “divulging information to a foreign state” and sentenced to five years in prison. Al-Mallouhi has no known political affiliations, and sources close to the family are baffled by the charges. It is feared that she could be targeted for comments and poems published in her blog.

Azimjon Askarov

Azimjon Askarov, a member of Kyrgyzstan’s Uzbek minority, is a journalist and human rights defender best known for exposing corruption. In June 2010 Askarov was convicted of trumped-up charges of organizing mass disorder and of complicity in the murder of a police officer in the wake of inter-ethnic violence. Three months later he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Askarov complained of being beaten and threatened while in custody, claims that were later verified by independent witnesses. In March 2016 the UN Human Rights Committee stated that Askarov had been arbitrarily detained, tortured, mistreated, and prevented from adequately preparing his defence as well as being denied treatment for serious medical conditions. In July 2016, after several unsuccessful appeals, the Supreme Court overturned his life sentence. On January 24, 2017 Kyrgyzstan’s Chui Regional Court reinstated the life sentence, a decision that PEN International denounced as “an appalling miscarriage of justice” and “another attempt by Kyrgyz authorities to suppress free speech.” In 2016, Askarov was awarded PEN Canada’s One Humanity prize.

Raef Badawi
Raif Badawi

Raif Badawi was arrested in Jeddah on June 17, 2012 after organizing conference to mark a “day of liberalism” in Saudi Arabia. The event was banned and Badawi’s online forum – which aired debates on social and political questions –closed by court order. On May 7, 2014, Jeddah’s Criminal Court sentenced Badawi to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals for “founding a liberal website,” “adopting liberal thought,” and “insulting Islam.” When Badawi appeared in court on May 28, 2014, two additional penalties were inserted into the written verdict: a 10-year travel ban and 10-year ban from participating in visual, electronic and print media, after his release. In January 2015 Badawi received 50 lashes in a public flogging; further punishment was reportedly deferred due to his ill health. Badawi received PEN Canada’s One Humanity prize in 2014.

José Armando Rodríguez Carreón

José Armando Rodríguez Carreón was a veteran crime reporter for El Diario who made his name covering Juárez’s feminicidios. He was shot dead in his car on the morning of November 13, 2008 as he waited for his eight-year-old daughter whom he was taking to preschool. Rodríguez covered drug-related violence and organized crime in Ciudad Juárez; he briefly left Mexico after receiving a series of death threats. Shortly before his killing Rodríguez reported on links between the drug trade and relatives of the state attorney general. Rodríguez’s murder became the focus of international campaigns against impunity which intensified after two federal investigators in charge of his case were murdered. In the 2010 President Felipe Calderón told a delegation from the Committee to Protect Journalists that the case had been resolved by a jailhouse confession. Further investigation revealed that the confession had been extracted under duress; the alleged killer was never charged with Rodríguez’s murder. There has been no progress in the case since then.

Dawit Isaak
Dawit Isaak

In September 2001, 13 newspaper journalists were arrested after President Issaias Afeworki closed Eritrea’s independent newspapers, leaving only the state-run Hadas Eritrea. PEN Canada adopted the following as Honorary Members: Yusuf Mohamed Ali (editor-in-chief of Tsigenay), Mattewos Habteab (editor-in-chief of Meqaleh), Dawit Habtemichael (reporter for Meqaleh), Medhanie Haile (editor-inchief of Keste Debena), Emanuel Asrat (editor of Zemen), Temesken Ghebreyesus (reporter for Keste Debena), Dawit Isaak (writer and co-owner of Setit), Fesshaye Yohannes “Joshua” (playwright, poet and publisher of Setit) and Said Abdelkader(writer, editor of Admas and owner of the press that printed most of the independent newspapers). In September 2009, Reporters Without Borders reported that many of the imprisoned journalists were being held in metal containers or underground cells in Adi Abeito Military Prison, in Eiraeiro Prison and in the Dahlak archipelago.In 2007, reports indicated that at least four of the journalists had died in custody between 2005 and early 2007: Abdelkader, Haile, Ali and Yohannes. Their deaths were attributed to harsh conditions and lack of medical attention. Other reports indicated that Yohannes had been tortured prior to his death. In May 2007, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACPHR) of the African Union ruled that the detention of the journalists was arbitrary and unlawful and called on the Eritrean government to release and compensate the detainees. Isaak, who spent a number of years in Sweden during the Eritrean war of independence and the border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia, holds Swedish citizenship. In November 2001, the Swedish local consul held a brief meeting with Isaak in jail. In April 2002, it was reported that Isaak had been hospitalized suffering from injuries caused by his torture. In November 2005, Isaak was briefly released for a medical check-up and was allowed to call his family and friends in Sweden. As of January 2010, Isaak was reportedly being kept in solitary confinement in a tiny cell with no windows, and was in very poor physical and mental health. He and the other inmates are reportedly not allowed any contact with each other or the outside world, are routinely shackled and receive almost no medical care.On February 18, 2010, Reporters Without Borders reported that Asrat and Habtemichael were being held at Eiraeiro Prison. However, an April 2010 article by the Committee to Protect Journalists cited reports from a former prison guard at Eiraeiro that Habtemichael had died in custody; this death is unconfirmed. The former guard reportedly also said that Ali had died in June 2003 as a result of extreme heat, Haile had died due to lack of medical treatment, while Yohannes and Abdelkader had committed suicide. These reports are likewise unconfirmed. In 2017, Isaak received the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize on World Press Freedom Day. The prize recognizes a person, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defence and/or promotion of media freedom.

Faraj Karimov

Faraj Karimov was arrested in Baku, Azerbaijan on July 23, 2014 and charged with drug offences. After being held incommunicado for 10 days he was granted access to a lawyer. Mr. Karimov claimed he had been beaten in custody and forced to sign a “confession” so the police wouldn’t “cause problems for his parents” by planting weapons at their house. In recent years, several prominent Azeri journalists and activists have been arrested on spurious drugs, firearms, ‘hooliganism’ or tax evasion charges after voicing criticism of the government.

Eskinder Nega
Eskinder Nega

The editor and journalist Eskinder Nega was arrested on September 14, 2011 on terrorism-related charges brought under Ethiopia’s 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. Nega was arrested for publishing a column disputing the government’s claim that detained journalists were suspected terrorists, and for criticizing the arrest of well-known actor and government critic Debebe Eshetu. Nega was charged with having affiliations with Ginbot 7, a banned political party the government considers a terrorist group and receiving weapons and explosives from neighbouring Eritrea in order to carry out acts of terrorism in Ethiopia. Nega was convicted on June 27, 2012 and given an 18-year prison sentence on July 13, 2012. On May 2, 2013 the Ethiopian Supreme Court upheld the conviction charges in a ruling PEN International and other rights groups described as “highly dubious.”

Anna Politkovskaya

Anna Politkovskaya was a special correspondent for the newspaper Novaya Gazeta. She reported on the human rights abuses carried out by Russian forces in Chechnya and openly criticized Vladimir Putin. In 2001, she was detained by Russian officials in Chechnya, threatened with rape and torture, and subjected to a mock execution. On October 7, 2006, Politkovskaya’s body was found in the stairwell of her apartment building. She suffered a gunshot wound to the head. Eleven years later, following several inconclusive trials, PEN International continues to call for an impartial investigation into Politkovskaya’s murder.

Rashad Ramazanov

Rashad Ramazanov (pen-name Rashad Hagigat Agaaddin) was arrested on May 9, 2013 and sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of “illegal possession and sale of drugs”. He is an Azeri blogger well-known for his anti-government postings, and PEN International considers the charges against him to be politically motivated. In 2017 Ramazanov was placed in solitary confinement for 15 days from Monday, January 23, and his family and lawyer were denied visits. Ramazanov has been an outspoken political commentator on social media, and prior to his arrest received warnings and threats from the authorities and death threats from Islamist extremists. He fled to Turkey in 2009 with his wife and one-year-old daughter, returning to Azerbaijan the following year. When the threats resumed, he lived apart from his family for a year in order to protect them. His wife was heavily pregnant with their second child at the time of his 2013 arrest, and his son was born on May 30, 2013, 21 days after his arrest. His wife reports living under heavy surveillance, and the stress is having an impact on her health.

Dilmurod Sayyid Saidov

Dilmurod Saidov – aka Sayyid – is an investigative journalist well known for exposing corruption. He was charged with extortion and forgery after the head of the Agricultural Equipment and Tractor Park in Samarkand alleged that Saidov had tried to extort US$15,000 from him. Uzbek authorities added a second extortion charge in March, and one of forgery in April. Saidov’s case was riddled with procedural violations but when his lawyer appealed the sentence in late 2009, the Samarkand Region court upheld the journalist’s sentence. A further appeal, to the Uzbek Supreme Court, is underway. Saidov suffers from tuberculosis and was admitted to hospital for 27 days in mid-August 2011. His family has requested a provisional release during trial but this was rejected on the basis that he is a “dangerous criminal.” Saidov has reportedly been subjected to harsh prison conditions and psychotropic drugs during his detention. In 2014, his brother Obid told Human Rights Watch that Dilmurod “is no longer living, but merely existing.”

Seyoum Tsehaye
Seyoum Tsehaye

Seyoum Tsehaye, a TV and radio journalist who wrote a weekly column for the newspaper Setit, has been held without charge or trial since September 2001. He is one of ten Eritrean journalists adopted by PEN Canada. In 2007 Reporters Without Borders named him their “journalist of the year.”

Liu Xiaobo

The 2010 Nobel Peace Laureate, Liu Xiaobo, was a prominent dissident writer, and former President and Board member of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre. Liu was arrested for signing Charter 08, a declaration calling for political reforms and human rights. Liu was held under residential surveillance, a form of pre-trial detention, at an undisclosed location in Beijing, until he was formally charged on 23 June 2009 with “spreading rumours and defaming the government, aimed at subversion of the state and overthrowing the socialism system in recent years”. The charge is said to be based on his endorsement of Charter 08 and over twenty articles published between 2001-2008. Liu was sentenced to an 11-year prison sentence on December 25, 2009. In 2012, Liu received PEN Canada’s One Humanity prize. In June 2017, Liu’s diagnosis of late-stage liver cancer became public and he was granted medical parole. He passed away on July 13, 2017.