Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mexico: Two journalists killed

Mexico: Two journalists killed

Published: July 23, 2009


English PEN protests in the strongest possible terms the murder of two more Mexican print journalists within two days of each other, bringing the death toll this year alone to four. Reporter Martín Javier Miranda Aviles died of stab wounds in Zitacuaro, Michoacán state, on 12 July 2009, while editor Ernesto Montañez Valdivia was shot dead in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua state, on 14 July 2009. The motives for the killings are not yet known.

Martín Javier Miranda Avilés, reporter for the daily newspaper Panorama and correspondent for the news agency Quadratin, was found dead with two knife wounds in his back at his home in Zitacuaro, Michoacán state, southeast Mexico, on 12 July 2009. The motive for the killing is not clear. Miranda Avilés only covered crime very occasionally. His colleagues reportedly stated that he had recently received threats, but also thought it likely that the killing was a 'crime of passion'. However, according to the management of Panorama, the murder could have been intended as a reprisal against the newspaper. Two weeks earlier, some news vendors were reportedly attacked while selling an edition of Panorama that contained a report on the arrest of a police officer in possession of weapons and drugs.

Two days later, on 14 July, Ernesto Montañez Valdivia, editor for local newspaper Enfoque del Sol de Chihuahua, was shot dead while driving his car in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua state, in the north of the country. His 17-year-old son, who was him at the time, was badly wounded and was taken to hospital. The car bore a sticker saying "Press 2007" as well as his newspaper's name. However, there were reportedly 325 such killings in Chihuahua state in June alone.

Chihuahua and Michoacán are said to be the two regions of Mexico most affected by warring drug cartels and the federal government's drive against drug trafficking. Miranda Avilés' death reportedly occurred the same day as the arrest of Arnoldo Rueda Medina, a key member of the Michoacán-based cartel known as "The Family", which was followed by a marked increase in violence, including an attack on a police station in Zitacuaro.


Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. The deaths of Miranda Avilés and Montañez Valdivia bring to four the number of print journalists killed in the country this year alone.

The two previous murders both took place in Durango state, which is also said to be an important centre for the drugs trafficking trade. El Tiempo de Durango reporter Carlos Ortega Samper was shot dead on 3 May - World Press Freedom Day - after being threatened by local officials (for more information on Ortega's murder, click here). Crime reporter Eliseo Barrón Hernández was abducted and murdered on 25-26 May following his coverage of a police corruption scandal (for more information on Barrón's killing, click here).

From 2004 to 2009, a total 24 writers - 23 print journalists and one author - have been murdered in Mexico, while four more print journalists have disappeared. Few if any of these crimes have been properly investigated or punished. English PEN believes that it is likely that these journalists were targeted in retaliation for their critical reporting, particularly on drug trafficking. While organised crime groups are responsible for many attacks, state agents, especially government officials and the police, are reportedly the main perpetrators of violence against journalists, and complicit in its continuance. For more information, click here.

Useful links:

• Report on murders by Reporters Without Borders (16 July 2009) (Spanish)
• Report on journalist murders and impunity in Mexico by La Fundación para la Libertad de Expresión (Fundalex) (20 July 2009) (Spanish only)
• Special report on 'Reporting, and surviving, in Ciudad Juárez by the Committee to Protect Journalists (24 June 2009) (English) (Spanish)

Please send appeals:

• Protesting the murders of reporter Martín Javier Miranda Aviles in Zitacuaro, Michoacán state, on 12 July 2009, and editor Ernesto Montañez Valdivia in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua state, on 14 July 2009;
• Calling for a full, prompt and impartial investigation into their killings and all other unsolved murders of journalists in Mexico;
• Calling on the government of President Felipe Calderón to fulfil promises to make crimes against journalists a federal offence, specifically by amending the Constitution so that federal authorities have the power to investigate, prosecute and punish such crimes.

Appeals to:

Lic. Felipe De Jesús Calderón Hinojosa
Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos
Residencia Oficial de los Pinos Casa Miguel Alemán
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, C.P. 11850, DISTRITO FEDERAL, México
Fax: ( 52 55) 5093 4901/ 5277 2376
Email: felipe.calderon@presidencia.gob.mx
Salutation: Señor Presidente/ Dear Mr President

Attorney General
Lic. Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza
Procurador General de la República
Av. Paseo de Reforma No. 211-213, Piso 16
Col. Cuauhtémoc, Defegacion Cuauhtémoc
México D.F. C.P. 06500
Teléfono 52 55 5346 0108
Fax: 52 55 53 46 0908 (if a voice answers, ask "tono de fax, por favor")
E-mail: ofproc@pgr.gob.mx
Salutation: Señor Procurador General/Dear Attorney General

Please also send copies of your appeals to the Mexican Embassy in your country:

Juan José Bremer de Martino
Ambassador of Mexico to the United Kingdom
Mexican Embassy to the United Kingdom
16 St George Street
Hanover Square
London W1S 1FD
United Kingdom
Fax: ( 44) 20 7495 4035
To email the Embassy, please click here.


Mexican Embassy to the United Kingdom 16 St George Street Hanover Square London W1S 1FD United Kingdom Telephone: (+44) 20 7499 8586 Fax: (+44) 20 7495 4035

Criminal memoirs law open to abuse

Criminal memoirs law open to abuse

Today parliament has its first chance to scrutinise the proposed "criminal memoirs" law. Part 7 of the coroners and justice bill empowers the courts to seize assets of offenders who have received payments for writing or speaking about their crimes. The law would apply to all means of expression, including visual art, poetry and fiction created by former prisoners about their crimes. It would also apply to offences committed overseas. Additionally, the considerations that allow for a seizure application to be made are far too broad. One criterion is the extent to which the public is "offended" by the payments. Such subjective criteria make for bad law that is open to abuse. Genuine attempts at rehabilitation become vulnerable to populist campaigns.

The government assures us that the new exploitation proceeds orders will be used sparingly, but the broad criteria outlined in the bill lead us to fear otherwise. We are conscious of how terrorism laws have been misused and we are deeply concerned that the new seizure orders will enable similar overreach. The government did not consult widely enough on this issue. The proposals as they stand place countless rehabilitation charities in an uncertain position. We urge ministers and parliamentarians to revisit part 7 of the bill in dialogue with those groups that share the government's overriding commitment to prisoner rehabilitation and integration.

Lisa Appignanesi

President, English Pen

Frances Crook

Director, Howard League for Penal Reform

Pat Jones

Director, Prisoners Education Trust

Rachel Billington

Inside Time Magazine



Julia Blackburn wins PEN/Ackerley Prize for Autobiography

julia with her father

April 27, 2008

Julia Blackburn's wild youth as a Sixties Lolita

The violent, sex-filled, bohemian home that Julia Blackburn grew up in seems like another world now


On a bright December day in 1999, a discreet wedding took place at Lowes-toft register office. To the untutored eye it was a conventional affair: the middle-aged couple surrounded by children, the reception held in a primary school with a wedding cake baked by the headmistress.

Who could have guessed the extraordinary circumstances in which Julia Blackburn and her Dutch husband, Herman, first met? In the 1960s, Blackburn was living with her mother, the painter Rosalie de Meric, in a shabby house in London where her mother took in a series of lodgers on the understanding that they would become her lovers. Herman was the sole exception.

“Oh, she propositioned him too,” says Blackburn cheerfully, “but he was the only one who wouldn’t have it. He wouldn’t even kiss her.”

Needy, rapacious and wildly jealous of her daughter’s youthful looks and sexuality, de Meric rates pretty high on the scale of nightmare mothers. Not that Blackburn’s father Thomas – a poet and alcoholic addicted to barbiturates strong enough to “tran-quillise a rhinoceros” was a model of paternal reassurance either. She still remembers the “tick tock” sound of his cough that would signal an outburst of violence.

Blackburn’s just-published memoir of growing up amid the wild excesses of the postwar avant-garde, The Three of Us, is by turns hilarious, saddening and shocking.

Her parents and their friends – who included the painter Francis Bacon, with whom her father had a brief homosexual fling – lived in a haze of vodka, cigarette smoke, love affairs and vicious rows.

“Years later, I met the poet Michael Hamburger, who’d been a friend of my father’s, and he said to me in his wonderful, lugubrious voice, ‘Oh, hello, I didn’t think you’d ever survive,’” says Blackburn.

“It absolutely couldn’t happen today – you’d have an army of social workers knocking on the door. You couldn’t have a 12-year-old walk into a room and someone say, ‘God, look at those tits,’ but this was the height of the bohemian sexual revolution and Lolita had just been published. Then there was the pill: the pill came along and if you didn’t want to go to bed with someone, you were frigid.”

Blackburn’s childhood was punctuated by dramatic clashes between her parents. She says she was used as a shield, sometimes literally so: her father once slapped her by mistake and apologised, saying, “Sorry, I meant to hit your mother.”

She remembers him chasing her mother around the table with a carving knife, shouting, “You are the angel of death and I must kill you!”

Her mother, when not screaming at him, could be sociable and fun, even if she did insist on showing her daughter photographs of herself in the nude and telling her she enjoyed hearing other people having sex.

“To a degree the drama that characterised their lives was a bit of a show, a bit of grand guignol,” says Blackburn, “but always with a sense of danger, the real possibility of blood on the floor.”

Their complex family relationships stretched far into the past. Blackburn’s father had hated his own father and her mother had been forced to vie for her parents’ attention with her sister, which Blackburn believes programmed her to see another female as a rival, even her own daughter.

A diary that her mother kept around the time of Blackburn’s birth records that when the baby arrived, she was engulfed not in a wave of maternal love but “a wave of ambiva-lence” and was overcome with resentment at the demands that were being made of her. “She must have had postnatal depression, but there was no one there to reassure her and say, ‘it’s all right’. She was spinning, completely,” says Blackburn.

As an artist, de Meric was tortured by the “exasperating boredom” of motherhood. As a woman, she felt rejected as her husband was out all day and frequently much of the night. “The more she wept and protested and said she felt betrayed, the more indignant and unfaithful my father became,” Blackburn says.

De Meric got her own back with a number of casual affairs – when Blackburn became involved with Francis Bacon, for instance, she took up with a Sikh called Kuldeep – but it was after her marriage finally broke down that she embarked on her sexual adventures in earnest.

Bob, their first lodger, moved in when Blackburn was 13, a year older than the fictional Lolita. Her mother was instantly in love with him, but furious when he gave Blackburn a bottle of Je Reviens perfume for Christmas. Bob left a few weeks later.

Blackburn’s mother was terrified that her men friends would fall in love with her daughter and frequently accused her of leading them on.

In 1964, Geoffrey, a lecturer in interior design with a failed marriage and two young children of his own, moved in. Blackburn’s mother was in a state of wild excitement after they first made love. She told her daughter he’d said he’d “never stroked such smooth thighs in his life”. Their affair was to last several years, but in the end the inevitable happened – Blackburn became his lover too.

“It’s simple human nature, if you’re accused of a crime that you haven’t committed, it’s a great sense of relief when you commit the crime. Then at least you’ve got the playing field set out, you’ve both got your weapons,” she says. “There was an element of wanting to ally myself with him against her and I was just terribly angry with her. In the end I thought, screw you.”

In the midst of all the drama, Herman moved in. He was an aspiring young novelist from Holland “with dark, curly hair, twinkling eyes and a walrus moustache”. After a particularly bitter quarrel with her mother, Blackburn was in an emotional state one night when her mother led her to Herman’s bedroom, pushed her inside and shut the door.

He comforted her and they ended up making love. “Well?” her mother asked next morning. “You don’t need to worry, I haven’t slept with him. He’s not really my type and anyway, darling, I got him for you!”

It goes without saying that it all ended in disaster. Blackburn’s relationship with Herman – which was to continue intermittently for six years and much later result in marriage – was overshadowed by her need to be with Geoffrey, who eventually committed suicide. Mother and daughter were estranged for years afterwards.

Yet Blackburn was barely out of her teens when all this happened and it was only when her own daughter, Natasha, reached the age of 18 that she realised how horrifying the impact of it all must have been. “I looked at her and thought, damn I was so young –I was shocked when I saw the parallel.”

She seems remarkably well balanced now, frequently laughing when she recalls the madness of her youth, but “if I’d stopped to think too much, it would have been too much . . . andI believed in walking out of one room and into another”.

Though she is now married to Herman, she first married Hein, another Dutchman, and had two children, Natasha, now 29, and Martin, 24. While her marriage to Hein was relatively brief, the experience of her own childhood made her want as stable an environment for her own children as possible. “I probably went too far the other way,” she says. “I am sure I left it far too late to talk to my daughter about the facts of life.”

When the children were born she moved to Suffolk, eight miles away from her mother, and they resumeda relationship of sorts. De Meric, always an exuberant character, proved to be an enthusiastic grandmother, “like a third child, really”, says Blackburn.

The past was largely buried, other than for an occasional discussion about Geoffrey “in which we’d be like a pair of cockerels with our feathers fluffed out. I’d say to her, ‘Can’t you see it took two to tango – or three in this case?’.”

It was only in the last months of de Meric’s life, after she was diagnosed with leukaemia in the spring of 1999, that they began to forgive one another. Her daughter’s diary is interspersed with an account of those few months when, as de Meric weakened, her bitterness began to subside.

“We began to talk, properly,” says Blackburn, “and I could look her in the eye and not be frightened. I wanted resolution and we didn’t have the clarity to do it till the end, but five minutes before midnight is just as good as an hour before. It means that you break the spell.”

By coincidence, Herman had come back into her life just before de Meric got the fatal diagnosis – they got married a few months later. Her mother, almost a decade on, she remembers with a smile: flirty, outrageous, incorrigible, right to the end. Well into her seventies, de Meric signed up for an arts course which involved filling in a form that asked for her name, address, age and sex. “Sex!” she cried loudly, much to the amusement of her fellow students. “Haven’t had any for years!”

Julia Blackburn wins PEN/Ackerley Prize for Autobiography

July 19, 2009The PEN/Ackerley Prize was last night awarded to Julia Blackburn for The Three of Us, her frank account of growing up in a fractured bohemian household. Dan Franklin, Blackburn's editor at Cape, accepted the prize cheque on Blackburn's behalf, expressing her delight at winning, and her sorrow that she she was unable to attend, as her house in Italy had recently been struck by lightning.

The PEN/Ackerley Prize is Britain's only literary prize dedicated to memoir and autobiography. It was established in memory of JR Ackerley, the author and literary editor.

Blackburn fought off competition from a strong shortlist that was composed of the following books:

Julian Barnes - Nothing to be Frightened of (Cape)
Julia Blackburn - The Three of Us (Cape)
Susie Boyt - My Judy Garland Life (Virago)
Ferdinand Mount - Cold Cream (Bloomsbury)
Sathnam Sanghera - The Boy with the Topknot [originally published as If You Don't Know Me By Now] (Penguin)

The PEN/Ackerley Prize was presented in the Gallery at Foyles, Charing Cross Road. The presentation was preceded by a discussion by previous winners of the prize, Dan Jacobson and Miranda Seymour, on the pleasures and pitfalls of memoir and autobiography. English PEN would like to thank Foyles, and HW Fisher and Waitrose Wines Direct for their generous support of this event.

The PEN/Ackerley Prize was judged by Georgina Hammick, Francis King, Peter Parker (chair) and Colin Spencer. The award is given each year to a literary autobiography of outstanding merit, written by an author of British nationality and published in the United Kingdom in the previous year. The winner receives a cheque for £2,000. Past winners include Diana Athill, Alan Bennett, Jenny Diski, Barry Humphries, Blake Morrison and Lorna Sage.

Joe Randolph Ackerley (1896-1967), was an author and long-time literary editor of The Listener magazine. When Ackerley died, his sister Nancy endowed the JR Ackerley Prize in his memory.


Julia with her mother



PEN on Surveillance
This week, PEN will be in court challenging the U.S. government’s massive warrantless surveillance program. Join PEN in writing to your members of Congress and urging them to investigate claims that the National Security Agency may be illegally intercepting private communications of American citizens.

For more information contact:
Larry Siems, PEN American Center, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105
Marian Botsford Fraser, PEN Canada, (416) 938-4204

New York City, Toronto, July 16, 2009—
PEN American Center and PEN Canada today sent an open letter signed by over 100 of the world’s most prominent writers calling for the release of Canadian-Iranian journalist and playwright Maziar Bahari, who has been held incommunicado in Tehran since June 21, 2009.

Maziar Bahari, who reports regularly from Tehran for Newsweek and has won acclaim for his plays and documentary films, was detained while covering events surrounding the disputed presidential elections in Iran on June 12, 2009. He has not been granted access to a lawyer in the three and a half weeks of his incarceration, and no charges against him have been made known. He is believed to be held in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison.

Citing concern that Bahari’s detention reflects a wider crackdown on freedom of expression in Iran, writers such as Wole Soyinka, Margaret Atwood, Orhan Pamuk, Don DeLillo, Ma Jian, Umberto Eco, and Nadine Gordimer said, “His continued detention casts serious doubt on Iran’s commitment to a free exchange of information and ideas and to international guarantees of freedom of the press. We urge you to release Mr. Bahari, and all others detained in connection with their post-election reporting in Iran, immediately and without condition.”

PEN American Center and PEN Canada are among the 145 worldwide centers of International PEN, an organization that works to promote friendship and intellectual cooperation among writers everywhere, to fight for freedom of expression, and represent the conscience of world literature. For more information, please visit www.pen.org and www.pencanada.ca.

Related Articles

Free Maziar Bahari: An Open Letter to Iranian Authorities

Free Maziar Bahari: An Open Letter to Iranian Authorities (PDF)

Appeals Court Reverses Decision on Exclusion of Foreign Scholar Tariq Ramadan


2009 PEN Prison Writing Awards

Every year, the PEN Prison Writing Program recognizes the work of writers imprisoned throughout the country. Visit PEN.org for uncensored writings from this year's Prison Writing Contest winners. >> More

Iran: A Conversation About the Elections, Protest, and the Future
Audio and video from the event are now available on PEN.org. Hear real stories from the streets and a discussion with experts on the future of this complex country. >> More

Translation Slam: Poetry and Protests
The poem chosen for the current installment of PEN's online Translation Slam is a political slogan devised by Iranian protesters who took to the streets this June after the official results of the presidential elections were announced. >> More

New Audio and Video from PEN World Voices Festival
PEN continues to add new audio and video content from this year's PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature. Visit the web site for the latest photos and writing, as well as audio and video recordings, including:

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio in Conversation with Adam Gopnik
DEFIANCE: The Spirit of ’89
Faith & Fiction

More Advocacy News:
PEN American Center Condemns Murder of Natalia Estemirova
100 International Writers Call for Release of Journalist Maziar Bahari in Iran

July 16, 2009:
100 International Writers Call for Release of Journalist Maziar Bahari in Iran

Journalist Maziar Bahari is shown in this undated photo. Bahari, a Canadian citizen, had been detained without charge according to Newsweek. Iranian authorities have clamped down on

journalists and have tightened their squeeze on the Web, blocking Web sites such Facebook, Twitter and many sites linked to opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi or his backers. Text messaging has been blacked out since last week, and cell phone service in Tehran is frequently down.

Friday, July 24, 2009

International PEN newsletter July 2009

International PEN newsletter July 2009

Dear friends,

I write this month with news of many exciting activities that have been happening at International PEN. First I would like to tell you about the Writers in Prison Committee Conference that I attended in Oslo at the beginning of June. It was as always, an important gathering of PEN friends from across the world, sharing their stories and successes of the incredible work that we all carry out defending freedom of expression. It was wonderful to have Lydia Cacho and Jiang Weiping with us; the very fact that we were all together on the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square on June 4th was a powerful reminder that our work is as relevant today as it was in 1989. PEN continues to support many of the writers involved in the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests including the poet and writer Liu Xiaobo.

I visited Flemish PEN on June 13th and spent some time discussing ‘The Writer's Role in a World of Conflict'. It felt good to be able to visit our friends at this Centre and their hospitality warmed my heart.

I also want to share with you the news that the first issue of PEN International magazine for 2009, Heaven and Earth, has been published. You can download the online issue from the International PEN website and read a selection of great poetry, stories and essays. Every PEN Centre receives two copies of the printed issue so do remember to ask your President or Secretary if you can borrow it to read - or subscribe to it yourself through the International PEN website!

Lastly, please do forward this newsletter to your PEN friends in your Centre and to other friends interested in the work of PEN. It is very important that we share our news so that we are always informed of the different activities taking place in every corner of the globe.

Until the next time.

Best wishes,
Eugene, International Secretary


Dear Friends,

We are now looking forward to being together at the 75th annual Congress, which will take place in Linz from 19th to 25th October. Austrian PEN sent the letters of invitation to all Centres recently so please do let us know if you haven't received one as yet.

As I know you are aware, we are working to keep the business of the Assembly which is the Annual General Meeting of International PEN to a minimum and to ensure that literature plays a key role in our gathering. The 19th -22nd of October will be devoted to the Congress and from the 23rd to the 25th we will enjoy Free the Word! Linz - International PEN's festival of world literature. Thanks to grants from the European Union and the Prince Claus Foundation, Free the Word!, which is now a single festival taking place in different cities, will launch its new annual cycle in Linz and take place in nine countries over the course of the year.

Free the Word! celebrates the best in world literature and in particular promotes literature in translation, and presents eminent and emerging voices. We recently launched the Free the Word! World Book Club featuring authors from the festival on the International PEN website.

I look forward to seeing you in Linz!

Caroline McCormick


International Programmes
While the Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean Programmes are developing and expanding, this year, the new focus of the Regional Programmes is Asia Pacific. To launch this new collaboration with the region, a meeting between International PEN and the PEN Centres of the Asia Pacific region will take place between 13th - 17th July. Current projects that are underway include initiatives in Nicaragua and Bolivia. Bolivian PEN is concerned with questions of translation and accessibility of literature. The Centre is locating texts in Quechua and in Spanish that will be used as a focal point for a series of workshops in five schools. The workshops will introduce the texts and use these to start a conversation about human rights and multiculturalism.

Nicaraguan PEN members are visiting 32 schools and universities across the country to initiate conversations about reading and writing, national literature, and the freedom to write. They plan to develop a project on a wider scale in the coming years.

PEN International: Heaven and Earth,

The spring 2009 issue of PEN International magazine, ‘Heaven and Earth' is now available. Taking its inspiration from the theme of the Free the Word! London 2009 festival of world literature, contributors to this issue include Lydia Cacho, Petina Gappah, Azar Nafisi and Florian Zeller.

We are currently accepting submissions for the Autumn/Winter 2009 edition, ‘Context: Asia Pacific', celebrating contemporary writing from the furthest reaches of Australasia to the Indian Subcontinent and into Afghanistan, plus all of East and Southeast Asia. Submissions are welcome from writers from these regions or residing there, as well as non-inhabitants who have written on or travelled through these parts of the world. Submission deadline is 25 July 2009. To contribute your work please contact mitchell.albert@internationalpen.org.uk


International PEN's Free the Word! festival of world literature is going global, beginning on 23 October 2009 in Linz, Austria, immediately after the 75th International PEN Congress. Free the Word! Linz will be followed by Free the Word! Guadalajara in November, Free the Word! Dakar in December and from January 2010, events continue in Cartagena, Barcelona and the third Free the Word! London in April.

In June we also launched the Free the Word! World Book Club. The books chosen will be from Free the Word! festival authors. The first book, for June's book club, was Tahmima Anam's A Golden Age, a fictionalised account of the Bangladesh War of Independence combined with Anam's family history. Anam wrote two specially commissioned pieces for the Book Club including a reflection on her inspiration for the novel.

The July book is Kamila Shamsie's Burnt Shadows. Commentaries and readers' guides are available on our website in English, French and Spanish at http://www.internationalpen.org.uk. A blog has also been launched for book club readers to share their thoughts: http://freetheblog.typepad.com/. For more information and to get involved in the book club visit http://www.internationalpen.org.ukhttp://www.internationalpen.org.uk/go/news/free-the-word-around-the-world.


PEN Committee News

Writers for Peace
The Writers for Peace Committee have launched a new blog ‘A Permanent Whisper as a Cry for Peace'. It is featured within the website of Portuguese PEN and has been set up to provide a space for discussion about peace and war ‘as writers, not as sociologists or politicians'. To access the blog visit http://permanentwhisper.penclubeportugues.org/

Women Writers
Judith Buckrich's term as Chair of the Women Writers' Committee will end at the International PEN Congress in Linz this October. Nominations are currently being accepted for her successor. If you are a PEN Centre and would like to nominate a candidate please contact Judith Rodriguez, Chair of the Committee of Searches, rodju@tpg.com.au

Lucina Kathmann and Dorothea Weis (Tsung Su), both members of the Women Writers' Committee, attended the 53rd CSW Session (Commission on The Status of Women of the United Nations) in March this year. The stated priority theme of the 53rd CSW Session was : The equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including care-giving in the context of HIV/AIDS. This primary concern brought a heavy presence of male participants to the multi-angled discussions of HIV/AIDS at the parallel NGO panels during the Session. Lucina and Dorothea's full reports will be in the next IPWWC newsletter that will be published this summer. For more information visit http://www.ipwwc.org

Translation and Linguistic Rights
The Translation & Linguistic Rights Committee met in Barcelona in April for their annual conference. PEN members discussed the work of the Committee and their focus activities for the next three years. For more details about the Conference please contact pen@pencatala.cat


Writers in Prison
In April, Mexican author and activist Lydia Cacho spoke about her experience of persecution during a discussion entitled ‘Hell on Earth' at PEN's second Free the Word! festival in London, and at the London Book Fair in collaboration with English PEN. Also, The WiPC launched an interactive map detailing attacks on writers across the Americas since 2004 (available in English and Spanish).

For World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, the WiPC made public its ‘Declaration in Defence of the Freedom to Write in the Americas', signed by more than 50 well known writers from the region such as Paul Auster, Ernesto Cardenal, Lydia Cacho, Noam Chomsky, Junot Diaz and Derek Walcott. We also released a postcard action calling for an end to the impunity surrounding journalist murders and disappearances in Mexico.

At the beginning of June, the WiPC conference was held in Oslo as a part of the Global Forum on Freedom of Expression. It included a review of the campaign, including testimony from Lydia Cacho and Edda Armas, President of Venezuelan PEN. To read more about the conference, including the future proposals discussed, go to http://expressionforum.org/.

For more information on the campaign and how you can get involved, please see Freedom to write in the Americas (English) or Libertad para escribir en las Americas (Spanish), or contact Tamsin Mitchell, WiPC researcher for the Americas, at tamsin.mitchell@internationalpen.org.uk

---------PEN News-------------

  • Sydney PEN has launched the June 2009 edition of their magazine. Find the magazine on their website at http://www.pen.org.au/. This online magazine will be published twice annually.

  • South African PEN announced the winners of the first PEN/Studzinski Literary Award for original short stories in English by African authors. The award encourages new creative writing in Africa and is open to all citizens of African countries writing in English. From 827 entries ranging from ages 10 to 101, Nobel Laureate J.M.Coetzee gave the first prize to Karen Jayes's short story Where he will leave his shoes. Andrew Saloman's A visit to Dr. Mamba was awarded second place. To view the full list of 2009 PEN/Studzinski finalists, visit: http://www.sapen.co.za/UpdatesStudzinski.aspx.
  • The 4th Regional Conference of the Trieste PEN Centre will take place in the period 1-4 October 2009 in Trieste. The theme, ‘The literary routes of the Mediterranean', takes the conference through European borders and beyond. The Trieste PEN Centre has also recently launched a blog allowing a space for international dialogue and current updates of the Centre's activities. The blog can be found at http://penclubtrieste.blogspot.com/
  • In conjunction with Refugee Week, Scottish PEN has invited poetry and prose from refugees, asylum seekers, and those whose first language is not English to appear alongside the work of professional writers and Scottish PEN members. The writing, inspired by the theme of 'Home', will be posted on both the Scottish Refugee Council and Scottish PEN websites from 15th June 2009. In addition, plans are now underway for a regular Scottish PEN online literary magazine which will appear on a different theme later this year.
  • Due to a lack of literature regarding PEN in the Chinese language, PEN writer Yu Zhang is writing a book about the early history of International PEN. Within the book entitled World of Writers, he plans to have a chapter dedicated to each PEN Centre. He needs help collecting biographies of founding members and photos from each Centre. Please submit information in English or its original language. He plans to publish the book for the 90th anniversary of International PEN in 2011. Send your information as well as any suggestions to yuzhang@comhem.se


News from Elsewhere

On April 16th, Azar Nafisi attended an evening at the Stockholm Cultural Centre dedicated to the writer, journalist and playwright Dawit Isaak from Eritrea. The evening followed a gathering outside the Swedish Parliament on April 28th. Isaak was taken into custody by the Eritrean authorities on 23 September 2001. He has not been charged formally or given a fair trial and has not been allowed visitors. The protest against his treatment is now international with an online petition:
  • A call for nominations for Sheikh Zayed Book Award was issued May 20, 2009. The awards programme recognises writers, translators, novelists and publishers who contribute to promoting the Arabic culture. There are nine separate awards which will be open until September 15, 2009. The prizes range from 750,000 to 1 million Durhams (US$ 205,000 - 270,000). An Arabic and English website has been launched with all of the latest information regarding the programme: www.zayedaward.com. For further information contact Karin.a@zayedaward.com.

The next newsletter will be available in September 2009.

PEN Centres: please send your news for inclusion to Emily Bromfield, emily.bromfield@internationalpen.org.uk


Originally founded in 1921 to promote literature, today International PEN has 144 Centres in 102 countries across the globe. Our primary goal is to engage with, and empower, societies and communities across cultures and languages, through reading and writing. We believe that writers can play a crucial role in changing and developing civil society. We do this through the promotion of literature, international campaigning on issues such as translation and freedom of expression and improving access to literature at international, regional and national levels. Our membership is open to all published writers who subscribe to the PEN Charter regardless of nationality, language, race, colour or religion. International PEN is a non-political organisation and has special consultative status at UNESCO and the United Nations.

International PEN, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER
Email: info@internationalpen.org.uk
Website: www.internationalpen.org.uk
International PEN is a registered charity, number 1117088
To find out more visit www.internationalpen.org.uk

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxposted by Albert Ashok

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Is it misunderstanding or misuse of Power?

Is it misunderstanding or misuse of Power?

Please, help me understand my position. I wait for your views.

I have posted my views on Taslima Nasreen in this blog on 8th July 2009 ' The Other side of Taslima' ( you can click the link below and check
http://penwestbengal.blogspot.com/2009/07/other-side-of-taslima.html )
and I told Mr Ranjan Gupta, the present secretary ( of one and half month, from last 4th June 2009) about my recent post a few days later, he saw it and told to withdraw the post, I refused to comply with his order. He threatened me about the cancellation of my membership. I fear he may succeed in doing so.

Now , this afternoon (12:30 pm) I got a registered letter from Mr. Ranjan Gupta see the pictura below, he wanted me to explain why I didnot comply his word, When I started this blog he was not around, I promoted the organisation over a period of two or more, through my mails and this blog. should I answer him?

I started this blog on my own about two years ago, I took this job as a communication media among writers from Kolkata, West Bengal, India, I have another blog for PEN http://penreporter.blogspot.com/ Over hundred articles I have posted in two PEN blogs.
I never claimed these blogs run by PEN West Bengal Chapter. Nor one reader would take things granted for West Bengal Chapter of PEN. Like a reporter I just started to keep people aware about the existence of Indian PEN center and its West Bengal chapter. and what I know as information about PEN I like to share it with other writers and interested persons.

My question is : had Mr. Ranjan Gupta discussed it in the executive committee before sending me this letter? and who are the executives members? who have not even met the least criteria of becoming an ordinary member of PEN, some members even donot know they are members, some member never come. From the time 1992, when Mr. Deb Kr. Basu took the rein of this organisation , Mr Ranjan Gupta was Jt. Secretary,after Mr. Basu his successor was Dr. Jagannath Ghosh, and this organization was like a personal office. According their whims they used to run it. They even did not know the aim and charter of International PEN. Many things they had done were against Freedom of Expression and charter of International PEN.

Mr. Ranjan Gupta had no idea when International PEN started and where, they used to say pen started in sweden in 1905! see the link


from 2007 I had started my mission to spread the word of International PEN and its charter and started blogging on Freedom of Expression, distributed printed papers. I was not a member then. and I became a member and promoted to an executive. Now this is my reward.

Should I leave this organisation? I cant think of, because it is my Love and labour. I need your view. Please write: albertashok at yahoo dot com

click the image for enlarged size and then push back key

Posted by Albert Ashok

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sunil Ganguly Discusses India's Academy of Literature

Sunil Ganguly

Mr. Sunil Ganguly, a top-ranking poet and novelist of India is the current President of India's Sahitya Academy (Academy of Literature).

In the 60 years of the Academy's history, Mr. Ganguly is the second President from West Bengal. In this interview, Mr. Ganguly explained the role of the Academy in creating a bridge between the many different races, languages and literature of India.

Apart from giving the annual prestigious literary award to eminent poets and novelists of different Indian languages, the Academy translates literature from one Indian language to others By publishing these works, it connects literary personalities of different states of India.

Mr. Ganguly acknowledged that due to a dearth of English translations of Indian literature, the richness and wealth of Indian literary treasure is yet to be internationally known. The Academy, he said, is aware of this sad aspect and will try hard to translate Indian literary works in to English and other European languages.

SOURCE: http://www.voanews.com/bangla/2009-07-13-voa6.cfm


Mr Sunil Ganguly is also chairman of West Bengal Chapter of All India PEN Center of International PEN

- Albert Ashok

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Writers Unite for Liu Xiaobo

Free Liu Xiaobo


Online petition - Free Liu Xiaobo


A letter from PEN America, I want to share this with you, because we believe in 'Freedom of Expression' can lead this world to a better position, peace, harmony and understanding.

Dear Friend,

You are receiving this message because you added your name to PEN’s petition calling for the release of writer, intellectual, and past Independent Chinese PEN Center President Liu Xiaobo. Recently we learned that Liu is going to be tried on charges that could result in a 15-year prison term. I am now asking you to add your voice to the chorus of Liu’s supporters around the world by sending a letter to Chinese authorities protesting the charges and urging his immediate release.

On June 23, 2009, Liu Xiaobo was removed from the undisclosed location where he had been held for over six months, formally arrested, and charged with “inciting subversion of state power” for his role in the drafting of Charter 08, a manifesto calling for greater human rights and democracy in China. That groundbreaking document, initially signed by 303 individuals on the eve of Human Rights Day, now boasts over 8,500 signatures of Chinese citizens from all walks of life, despite constant threats from authorities.

What we need now is an outpouring of letters and other communications to let the Chinese government know that the world will not sit idly by while an innocent man, guilty only of peacefully using the power of the written word, goes to prison. Please send a letter to Chinese authorities calling for Liu’s release. A sample letter follows. You can also write an op-ed or letter to the editor of your local paper describing the onslaught against Liu Xiaobo and freedom of expression in China . Check out Liu’s case page, as well as PEN’s China campaign page for more information on the situation.

With your help, we can free Liu Xiaobo.


Larry Siems

Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

PEN American Center


Published by PEN American Center on Feb 04, 2009
Category: Human Rights
Region: GLOBAL
Target: President Hu Jintao
Background (Preamble):
On December 8, 2008, authorities arrested prominent writer and PEN Member Liu Xiaobo after he co-authored Charter 08, a manifesto calling for greater freedoms and democracy in China, which was signed by hundreds citizens from all walks of life.

Liu was formally arrested and charged with "inciting subversion of state power" on June 23, 2009. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison. His case illustrates the lengths the Chinese government will still go to stifle free expression, and the determination of Chinese writers to fight for this most basic right. We stand with them in their struggle.

Take action now to help free Liu Xiaobo and send a message to the Chinese government that words are not a crime.


We, the undersigned, support PEN in its call for the release of Liu Xiaobo, prominent dissident writer, former President and current Board member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, who has been detained since December 8, 2008 for signing Charter 08, a declaration calling for political reforms and human rights. Liu Xiaobo was held at an undisclosed location in Beijing without charge until June 23, 2009, when he formally arrested and charged with “inciting subversion of state power."

Liu Xiaobo is among a large number of dissidents to have been detained or harassed after issuing an open letter calling on the National People’s Congress Standing Committee to ratify the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and launching Charter 08. These activities formed part of campaigns across China to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 10th), and the Charter has now been signed by more than 8,500 scholars, journalists, freelance writers, and activists. PEN reports that nearly all of the original 300 signatories have since been detained or harassed.

PEN considers Liu Xiaobo to be held solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to free expression, and therefore in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory, as well as Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution.

We join PEN in demanding his immediate and unconditional release, and the release of all those currently detained in the People’s Republic of China for the peaceful expression of their opinions.



TAKE ACTION: Send an Appeal for Liu Xiaobo

Please send an appeal to Chinese President Hu Jintao and Procurator General Cao Jianming calling for the release of writer and prominent PEN member Liu Xiaobo. We recommend using two methods of sending your appeal in order to ensure your voice is heard:

Send an email. Click here to personalize and send the below letter to Chinese officials. If a formatted email does not pop up in your email program, copy and paste the below letter and email it to info@china.org.cn and web@spp.gov.cn with a cc to ftw@pen.org.

2. Send a letter. Copy and personalize the following letter to your personal or instituational letterhead and send via post to the addresses provided. Postage to China is $0.98.


His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032
P.R. China

Mr. Cao Jianming
Procurator General
Supreme People's Procuratorate
No. 147, Beiheyan Dajie
Dongcheng District, Beijing 100726
P.R. China

Your Excellencies,

I am writing to protest the detention of prominent writer and former president and current board member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center Liu Xiaobo.

I understand that on December 8, 2008, police arrested Liu Xiaobo and searched his home and confiscated computers and other materials. He was held at an undisclosed location for more than six months under “residential surveillance” before being formally arrested and charged with “inciting subversion of state power” on June 23, 2009. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison. He is among a number of activists to have been targeted after launching Charter 08, a declaration outlining political reforms and calling for greater human rights. The manifesto, signed by more than 300 scholars, journalists and freelance writers, was released on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, commemorated every year on December 10.

I respectfully urge you facilitate Liu Xiaobo’s immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.


[Your name and address]

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs
PEN American Center
588 Broadway, Suite 303
New York, NY 10012


Professional Background
Liu Xiaobo is a renowned literary critic, writer, and political activist based in Beijing. He served as President of the Independent Chinese PEN Center from 2003 to 2007 and currently holds a seat on its board. Liu Xiaobo was a professor at Beijing Normal University and has worked as a visiting scholar at several universities outside of China, including the University of Oslo, the University of Hawaii, and Columbia University in New York City.

Current Status
Liu Xiaobo was formally arrested on June 23, 2009 by the Beijing Public Security Bureau and charged with “inciting subversion of state power” for co-authoring Charter 08, a declaration calling for political reform, greater human rights, and an end to one-party rule in China that has been signed by hundreds of individuals from all walks of life throughout the country. He had been detained on December 8, 2008 and held for six months and two weeks under “residential surveillance” while police gathered evidence on his case. He is still being held at an undisclosed location in Beijing, but will likely be moved to a formal detention center soon. Liu Xia, Liu Xiaobo’s wife, has only been permitted to visit him twice, he has not had access to a lawyer and he has been denied writing materials in detention. If convicted of the subversion charge, he could face up to 15 years in prison.
Case History
In the spring of 1989, Liu Xiaobo left his post at Columbia University and returned to Beijing to play a crucial role in the spreading pro-democracy movement, staging a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square in support of the students and leading calls for a truly broad-based, sustainable democratic movement. He was instrumental in preventing even further bloodshed in the Square by supporting and advancing a call for non-violence on the part of the students. He spent two years in prison for his role, and another three years of “reeducation through labor” in 1996 for publicly questioning the role of the single-party system and calling for dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama of Tibet.

In 2004, Liu’s phone lines and Internet connection were cut after the release of his essay criticizing the use of “subversion” charges used to silence journalists and activists, and he has been the target of regular police surveillance and harassment in the years since.

Just after 9:00 p.m. on December 8, 2008, before the formal release of Charter 08, police arrived at the Beijing homes of Liu and fellow activist Zhang Zuhua. At 11:00 p.m., they took both men away and searched their homes, confiscating computers and other materials. His arrest occurred during a period of several sensitive anniversaries, including the 100-year anniversary of the promulgation of China’s first constitution, the 60-year anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the 30-year anniversary of Beijing’s “Democracy Wall” movement.

While Zhang Zuhua was released the following morning, Liu Xiaobo remains in detention. He was held incommunicado until December 31, when he was finally permitted a visit from his wife.

Since Liu Xiaobo’s arrest, nearly all of the 300 original signatories of Charter 08 have been interrogated in a push to gather evidence against him and crack down on free expression in China.

PEN Press Releases

June 24, 2009:
Writers Condemn Formal Arrest of Chinese Colleague Liu Xiaobo

June 16, 2009:
More than Six Months on, Liu Xiaobo Remains in Detention

April 29, 2009:
Prominent Writer Liu Xiaobo Honored in New York

April 16, 2009:
Liu Xiaobo to Receive Top PEN Honor

March 31, 2009:
Beijing Writer, PEN VP Jiang Qisheng Detained for Charter 08

February 21, 2009:
Writers Decry Detentions During Clinton Visit to China

February 17, 2009:
Writer Tohti Tunyaz Released From Prison in China a Week Before Clinton Visit

January 20, 2009:
World Authors Call on Chinese Authorities to Release Liu Xiaobo

January 19, 2009:
International PEN protests the continued detention of Liu Xiaobo

December 12, 2008:
Liu Xiaobo Is Indivisible From Us: A Statement by Signatories of Charter 08

December 9, 2008:
Leading PEN Member Liu Xiaobo Detained in China on Eve of Human Rights Day

October 17, 2008:
PEN: Signs “Discouraging” for Post-Olympics Human Rights Improvements in China

Liu Xiaobo's Writing

The internet is God's present to China
from Times Online

Additional Online Resources

The Poet in an Unknown Prison
by Liu Xia
from The New York Review of Books

Where is China heading?
by Tania Branigan and Dan Chung
from The Guardian

Manifesto on Freedom Set's China's Persecution Machinery in Motion
by Michael Wines
from the New York Times

Chinese Dissident Liu Xiaobo to Receive Prestigious Award
by Jane Macartney
from Times Online

Honoring Liu Xiaobo: 5 Reasons Why What Happens To Arrested Chinese Writer Liu Matters To Everyone
by Larry Siems
from Huffington Post

Letter from the Consortium for the Release of Liu Xiaobo to China's President Hu Jintao
by Nadine Gordimer, Seamus Heaney, Salman Rushdie, Wole Soyinka, et al
from Human Rights Watch

Petition Urges China to Free Dissident

by Edward Wong
from The New York Times

Beijing Clamps Down After Call for Democracy

by Austin Ramzy
from TIME

Charter 08
Translated by Perry Link
from The New York Review of Books




Writers for Freedom of Expression in China

When China was bidding for the Olympics in 2001, the Chinese government made explicit promises to improve its human rights record. But the Olympics have come and gone, with little or no progress for freedom of expression in China. Chinese writers continue to be censored, harassed, and imprisoned throughout the country. More writers are imprisoned now than ever before.

In December 2008, authorities arrested prominent PEN Member Liu Xiaobo after he co-authored a manifesto calling for greater freedoms and democracy in China, which was signed by hundreds citizens from all walks of life. Liu is being held on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power.” If convicted, he faces at least three years in prison. His case illustrates the lengths the Chinese government will still go to stifle free expression, and the determination of Chinese writers to fight for this most basic right. We stand with them in their struggle.

China: Dissident and literary scholar Liu Xiaobo

Released on June 24, 2009

Amnesty International condemns the formal arrest of prominent scholar and activist Liu Xiaobo on suspicion of "inciting subversion of state power" on 23 June. The People's Daily reported that police accused Liu Xiaobo of activities such as "spreading of rumours and defaming of the government, aimed at subversion of the state and overthrowing the socialism system in recent years".

"These charges against Liu Xiaobo seem to stem from his support for Charter 08, which actually calls for many of the same human rights protections that were reiterated in China's first ever National Human Rights Action Plan," said Roseann Rife, Asia-Pacific Deputy Program Director at Amnesty International. "His arrest follows a series of crackdowns on activists around the 20th Tiananmen anniversary and intensified control of internet use which only demonstrates the authorities' lack of commitment to and total disregard for the goals of the Action Plan."

"This use of state security charges to punish activists for merely expressing their views must stop," said Rife. "This is another act of desperation by a regime that is terrified of public opinion."

Liu Xiaobo was seized from his home in Beijing by the police on December 8, two days before the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the original launch date of Charter 08, a blueprint stemming from civil society's calls for fundamental legal and political reform in China. In violation of the Criminal Procedure Law, the police failed to give his family information about where Liu was detained and to provide a detention notice within 24 hours. The police then placed him under "residential surveillance", a form of house arrest with a maximum six-month limit, without charge, access to a lawyer or any due process for more than six months.

"The authorities must drop the politically-motivated prosecution against Liu Xiaobo who merely peacefully exercised his rights to freedom of expression. He should be released immediately and unconditionally."

The Chinese authorities must also stop the ongoing harassment, detention, prosecution and imprisonment of Chinese human rights defenders and activists who are also peacefully exercising their constitutional rights to freedom of expression and association.


Charter 08, initially signed by approximately 300 Chinese scholars, lawyers and officials, proposes a blueprint for fundamental legal and political reform in China, with the goal of a democratic system that respects human rights. Charter 08 was launched on 9 December 2008. Since then numerous signatories have been questioned and harassed by Chinese authorities.

Liu Xiaobo is a well-known scholar who was arbitrarily detained twice previously for his writings and his support of the democracy movement in 1989 and spent several years in detention.

source : http://www.amnesty.org.hk/html/node/10330


Posted by Albert Ashok