Friday, November 13, 2009

WIPC ISSUES A CALL FOR SOLIDARITY FOR PERSECUTED WRITERS

INTERNATIONAL: WIPC ISSUES A CALL FOR SOLIDARITY FOR PERSECUTED WRITERS

To mark the Day of the Imprisoned Writer (DoIW) on 15 November, the Writers
in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC) is highlighting the cases
of imprisoned writers and honouring those who have been slain for defending
free speech. WiPC is calling on all activists and writers to show
solidarity on behalf of persecuted writers by sending appeals to
authorities. This year WiPC is shining a spotlight on five people from
around the world.

WiPC is urgently asking for help for two dissidents facing long prison
sentences.

Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo, former president and current board member of the
Independent Chinese PEN Centre, has been detained since 8 December 2008,
for advocating political reform and the protection of human rights. He was
charged in June 2009 with "incitement to subversion of state power." If
convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison. He has had limited access to
his lawyer and family. He has a long history of human rights activism and
has been harassed, arrested, imprisoned and censored on numerous occasions.
Liu Xiaobo first received support from International PEN in 1989 after he
was arrested for protesting in Tiananmen Square.

The other imprisoned dissident that WiPC is focusing on is
singer/songwriter Lapiro de Mbanga who has been detained since April 2008
and was fined US$640,000 for writing a song critical of Cameroonian
President Paul Biya. He is serving a three-year sentence for alleged
complicity in anti-government riots. In October, it was reported that he
was suffering from typhoid fever.

WiPC also continues to advocate for Maziar Bahari, a journalist, playwright
and filmmaker with dual Iranian and Canadian citizenship who was detained
during this year's media crackdown after the disputed Iranian presidential
elections in June. After four months in Tehran's Evin prison he was
released on bail on 17 October. Although he is now in the U.K., Bahari
still faces charges.

The 15 November campaign is also an effort to remember killed journalists
and bring attention to the dangers their colleagues continue to face.
Russian journalist Natalya Estemirova was abducted from her Grozny
apartment in Chechnya and murdered in July this year. She was found shot to
death in nearby Ingushetia. She uncovered massive, ongoing human rights
violations and was the only reliable source of information on Chechnya for
other journalists and human rights organisations. In Mexico, Miguel Ángel
Gutiérrez Ávila, an anthropologist, author and indigenous rights activist,
was beaten to death in Guerrero state in July 2008.

Please send appeals for these highlighted cases on or around 15 November to
the correct authorities as well as to the embassy concerned in your own
country. Other suggested actions include organising a petition that can be
sent to the embassy of the country on 15 November with a letter requesting
an audience with the ambassador or organising a signature campaign to get
prominent writers, media personalities and others to sign an appeal.
Letters to newspapers, peaceful marches, or an event where works by
imprisoned writers will be read, to which the press is invited, are also
possible actions. Please report back to WiPC if you get a positive
response.

For more information on each of these cases and on where to send specific
appeals, please contact Sara Whyatt or Tamsin Mitchell at tel: + 44 (0) 20
7405 0338, or email: sara.whyatt (@) internationalpen.org.uk or
tamsin.mitchell (@) internationalpen.org.uk

Related stories on IFEX.org:
- Help free imprisoned songwriter:
http://ifex.org/cameroon/2009/10/28/songwriter_imprisoned/
- Journalist freed on bail; repression continues:
http://ifex.org/iran/2009/10/21/journalist_freed/

More on the web:
- WiPC's guide to defending writes under attack:
http://www.internationalpen.org.uk/go/freedom-of-expression/get-involved/guide-to-defending-writers-under-attack
- Prominent reporter abducted, murdered in Chechnya (CPJ):
http://cpj.org/2009/07/prominent-reporter-abducted-murdered-in-chechnya.php
- Liu Xiaobo (PEN American Center):
http://www.pen.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/3029/prmID/172
- Two leading writers and advocates detained and released (CPJ):
http://www.cpj.org/2004/12/two-leading-writers-and-advocates-detained-and-rel.php

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