Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Multi award-winning film director Jafar Panahi was detained along with his wife, daughter and 15 guests by Iranian security on 1 March. His wife, daughter and guests have since been released, but AFP reports that no visitors have since been allowed to meet with Panahi, who is inside the infamous Evin prison.
The detention is part of an ongoing crackdown on supporters of the opposition Green Movement and follows a travel ban placed on Panahi after he wore green clothes to the Montreal film festival. His arrest is apparently due to Panahi making a film, inside his home, on the Green Movement demonstrations that followed the contested re-election of President Ahmadinejad in 2009.
Iranian news sources state that groups of Iranian and international filmmakers and artists have written to the Iranian government in protest.
An exhibition of photographs by Shahidul Alam about extrajudicial executions in Bangladesh was prevented from opening on 22 March at Drik Picture Library. Police surrounded and blocked entry to the exhibition entitled ‘Crossfire’ shortly before it was due to open. The photos document the alleged extrajudicial executions by the Rapid Action Battalion, part of Bangladesh’s national army, who have killed more than 500 people since being established in 2004, according to Human Rights Watch. The police defended their actions by arguing that the exhibit would: “create anarchy”.
The government of Bangladesh withdrew the police on 31 March shortly after the High Court convened to hear Alam’s request for help. Alam told Reporters Without Borders: “|This is a victory on several fronts, for the Bangladeshi people's right to know, for the right of the media and artists to speak out, and for the rights of citizens to protest against injustice.” Alam however has since received anonymous death threats.
The artist Owen Maseko and the National Gallery in Bulawayo’s Acting Director Voti Thebe were arrested on 26 March following the unveiling of an exhibition of paintings depicting the Matebeleland massacres of the early 1980s. Whilst Thebe was released later that day, according to Zimbo Jam, Maseko has remained in prison and has been charged for incitement under the Public Order and Security Act.
The subject of Maseko’s art was the post-independence killing of thousands of villagers in Matabeleland by the Zimbabwean military working under President Robert Mugabe. The Public Order and Security Act is widely used in Zimbabwe to silence dissent, and was also used recently to confiscate and close down an exhibition at Gallery Delta in Harare on 24 March.
Bahrain resident Sarah Malanie Perera was arrested in Colombo on 20 March for ‘anti-state activities’ after writing two books on Islam which were judged to be offensive to Buddhism. Born in Sri Lanka, Perera converted to Islam 10 years ago and wrote the books, titled From Darkness to Light and Questions and Answers, in Sinhala. According to the Hindustan Times, Perera was detained prior to her return to Bahrain following a three-month holiday in Sri Lanka and after she had printed the books and tried to get them freighted back to Bahrain.
International pop star Bob Dylan will no longer play his first concerts in China after the Chinese government refused to allow him to play gigs in Beijing and Shanghai. According to the Guardian, the Ministry of Culture, which scrutinises all concerts by foreigners, was: “wary of Dylan's past as an icon of the counterculture movement”. The refusal repeats the 2009 ban of an Oasis gig, and follows the embarrassment caused to the Chinese government in 2008 when Björk shouted “Tibet! Tibet!” after performing a song titled ‘Declare Independence’ in Shanghai.
The editor of a student newspaper Ir-Realtà and the author of a short story titled Li Tkisser Sewwi have been charged with ‘distributing obscene or pornographic material and for injuring public morals or decency’. According to the Times of Malta, Li Tkisser Sewwi was published in October 2009 and is a first-person narrative examining and ridiculing the mindset of a sexist and aroused man. The University of Malta did not however agree that the story was a parody, banned the newspaper and reported their concerns to the police.
Under the Criminal Code and the Press Act, editor Mark Camilleri and author Alex Vella Gera face fines and prison sentences of up to six months. Vella Gera, who lives outside Malta, was charged whilst visiting Malta to testify in Camilleri’s defence. A collective of leading Maltese artists and authors, ‘Grupp 29’ have written to the government, stating: “It is our contention, both as authors and as Maltese and European citizens, that this constitutes a direct assault on the part of the institutions of the State on our artistic freedom and our freedom of expression.”
According to Mizzima News, the Burmese military regime issued a new directive around 26 March creating tighter controls over the organisation of literary and academic discussion forums. All future meetings and conferences must now seek permission from the authorities in order to book a hall. The new directive also requires the organiser to submit an application detailing participants. Famous author of self-help books, Pe Myint outlined the chilling effect that the new directive will have on literature: “writers will lose their freedom under tighter controls. I wish the writers can overcome the current crisis.”
Denmark: heavy metal music censored globally, says report
Heavy metal music has been described as “long-hair music” and banned in Malaysia and China, and musicians and fans have been arrested and accused of “devil worship” in the Middle East region, says a report by Freemuse. The report explores how heavy metal has grown despite a multitude of restrictions placed upon the genre, and how it consistently provokes censorship and repression by governments and religious authorities around the world. The report is available at: freemuse.synkron.com/graphics/Publications/PDF/Freemuse_heavy-metal-report.pdf
• For more information: please contact Oliver Spencer, email@example.com, +44 20 7324 2500
Friday, April 2, 2010
Free the Word!
‘Free the Word! is International PEN in spirit and action - a festival for authors and readers to make sparks across the divide between national literatures' Sir Tom Stoppard
Words, words, nothing but words ... ?
14 - 18 April 2010
Welcome to International PEN's third Free the Word! festival of world literature in London. This year, we've extended our literary celebrations to five days to bring you over 40 writers from 25 countries, many of whom are appearing in the UK for the first time. Presenting the great writers you know and the great writers you don't, we are delighted to welcome Nobel prize-winning poet Derek Walcott, Cuban Noir novelist Leonardo Padura, graphic novelists from Israel, India and Denmark, poetry from Uyghur China, Zapotec Mexico and Somalia, a rare appearance by US author Richard Ford in conversation with Blake Morrison, as well as events featuring outspoken Egyptian novelist Nawal el Saadawi. We also invite you to join us in celebrating the 50th Anniversary of International PEN's Writers in Prison Committee who have campaigned for the freedom to write on behalf of many hundreds of writers, including Vaclav Havel, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Lydia Cacho, Jack Mapanje and Anna Politkovskaya.
We hope that you find much to savour in this global feast of writing; so come spend a long weekend with us indulging in nothing but words ...
Tickets for all events are now on sale! Click on any of the events below for more information and to book. Events take place at Southbank Centre, Southwark Playhouse, Foyle's Bookshop, the Young Vic, Free Word Centre and the London School of Economics.
This one-off exhibition brings together some of Australia’s leading artists to create a celebration of freedom of expression.
Featured artists are Cressida Campbell, Elisabeth Cummings, Ken Done, Michael Fitzjames, Nicholas Harding, Jasper Knight, Matthew Martin, Delma Montesin-McCausland, Reg Mombassa, Bruce Petty, Silke Raetze, Ann Thomson, John Shakespeare, Garry Shead and Gria Shead.
In a twist on Sydney PEN's The Empty Chair campaign on behalf of imprisoned writers, the artists have created original artworks from chairs of their choosing. Accompanying the exhibition is a haunting sound installation by Gregory Ferris featuring words by writers imprisoned in the Asian and Pacific region.
On the evening of June 3rd, the chairs will be auctioned to raise funds for Sydney PEN's advocacy and translation events in the Asian and Pacific region. Come along and dig deep!
Ken Done Gallery, 1 Hickson Road, The Rocks, Sydney Exhibition: May 24-June 3 2010 Auction: June 3, viewing from 5.30pm and bidding beginning 6.30pm
Supported by the Ken Done Gallery and UTS.
76th Annual International PEN Congress, Tokyo - 25 September 2010
A small delegation representing the Sydney PEN Management Committee will be traveling to Tokyo for the Congress, with the aims of presenting reports on our recent work and consolidating important links with Japan PEN Club as well as other centres in our region.
International Day of the Imprisoned Writer - 15 November 2010
This annual event is a day of recognition by the international community, of those writers currently incarcerated and detained, and those who have suffered or died in prison.
This year, the event ties in with International PEN's 50th anniversary of the Writers in Prison Committee. Sydney PEN is one of over 70 PEN centres that contain a WiP committee, and we will be marking the occasion with a mass public letter-writing opportunity, to be held in Sydney.
Books banned; writers and journalists blacklisted
The Omani government confiscated several banned books from a book fair this month and continues to cultivate a blacklist of writers and journalists who are being denied media exposure, reports the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI).
ANHRI obtained a list of books - including poetry, novels and books on Christianity and Islam - that were seized at the Muscat International Book Fair. ANHRI is calling on the Omani government to lift the ban.
The government has also attempted to silence select writers and journalists by denying them media access. This blacklist includes journalists, human rights activists and poets.
Thursday, April 1, 2010