Thursday, March 31, 2011

English PEN awarded three-fold increase in Arts Council funding

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Arts Council England today announced its National Portfolio funding decisions. We are delighted to confirm that English PEN has been awarded a threefold increase in funding and will receive £230,000 in 2012-13. This will allow the organisation to develop its support for world writing in translation whilst expanding its education and events programmes. The Arts Council said that English PEN was “highly recommended”, with a “dynamic, effective and involved” board of Trustees led by the President, Gillian Slovo, and “outstanding” leadership from the Director, Jonathan Heawood.

Gillian Slovo said: “Jonathan's brilliant leadership and the work of all English PEN’s staff, members and trustees has created the conditions for this successful application.”

Jonathan Heawood said: “This increased funding puts English PEN on firm foundations for the future but it is not the whole story. We will need the continuing support of writers, publishers and all our partners to turn this new vision into reality.”


· There is no better time to join English PEN! If you have not yet joined us, you can sign-up by direct debit for only £4 per month. And if you are already a member, why not invite a friend to join us too? We welcome anyone who values literature and the freedom to write.

· Arts Council England have published all their National Portfolio funding decisions on their website. English PEN has been award a grant for the London region.

· English PEN is the founding centre of PEN International, the worldwide association of writers. Established in 1921, PEN will celebrate its 90th anniversary in 2011.

· For more information please contact Robert Sharp, Campaigns Manager, on 020 7324 2538 or

Robert Sharp | Campaigns Manager | English PEN

t. 020 7324 2535 | d. 020 7324 2538 |

Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3GA

Monday, March 28, 2011

China activist Liu Xianbin jailed for 10 years

China activist Liu Xianbin jailed for 10 years

A human rights group protest outside the China Liaison office in Hong Kong in August 2010 asking for the release of Chinese dissident Liu Xianbin (pictured on placard) Liu Xianbin was previously jailed for taking part in the nationwide protests of 1989

A Chinese democracy activist has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for inciting subversion of state power.

Liu Xianbin was charged after writing a series of articles calling for democratic reforms.

He was convicted after a trial lasting only a few hours; the third time he has been sent to jail for his activism.

Dozens of lawyers and activists have been arrested or detained in China recently following calls for Middle East-style protests.

'Not guilty'

Liu Xianbin's trial, in Suining in Sichuan Province, lasted just a few hours, according to his wife, who attended the hearing.

Chen Mingxian told the BBC that her husband shouted, "I'm not guilty" in the courtroom.

Speaking after the verdict, she said the charges against her husband were trumped up.

"Today I saw how legal tools were used to convict someone who is not guilty," she said.

Liu Xianbin was previously sent to prison for two-and-a-half years for taking part in the nationwide protests of 1989.

When he was released, he continued his campaigning.

In 1998 he helped found the Sichuan branch of the China Democracy Party, an underground group that the authorities never allowed to develop.

The following year he was sent to prison for 13 years for the subversion of state power.

The activist was released in 2008 and again threw himself into campaign work, supporting Charter 08, the political manifesto partly drafted by last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

He also wrote articles critical of China's one-party political system.

Essays, such as one entitled Constitutional Democracy for China: Escaping Eastern Autocracy, will not have endeared him to the Chinese authorities.

The government in Beijing has appeared nervous since the wave of protests began in the Middle East and North Africa.

Many activists and lawyers here have been detained, held under house arrest or harassed by the security forces.

Human rights organisations say this contravenes not just international treaties, but also China's own constitution.

Source : BBC

China Update: Liu Xianbin tried and sentenced to 10 years imprisoment

Mr. Liu Xianbin, ICPC honorary member and a recipient of its 2010 Liu Xiaobo Courage to Write Award, has been tried and sentenced this morning by Suining Intermediate People's Court, Sichun Province, to 10 years imprisonment with further 2 years and 4 months deprivation of political rights for inciting subversion of the state power. The. Trial last for about 2 hours, including 1 hour and half for the court hearing and half hour for adjournment before the verdict announcement.

Liu’s wife, Ms. Chen Mingxian, was among 21 individuals allowed to attend the trial. Liu’s two lawyers, one of whom is appointed by juridical authorities, attended the trial and pleaded innocence. According to his wife, Liu was just allowed to speak his arguments in a few minutes and was frequently interrupted by the judge to shorten his statements. He was not allowed to read his written “last statement” at all and so he gave just two short sentences: “I am innocent! I protest against this trial!” None of the arguments from the defense has been accepted by the Court in its verdict. Among the evidences used against Liu, a forced testimony of his daughter of 13 years old is also included despite of the argument and protest from the defense.

According to the court verdict, Liu’s conviction is just based on a number of quotations from his publication of several articles at some overseas Chinese e-journals during a period from August 2009 to June 2010, mainly "Two Decades of My Pro-democracy Experience (1): Arrest of Chen Wei”, "Street Campaign: An Important Form of Pro-democracy Movement", including "100 days since Release from Prison", and "Choice of A Civil Road after the Severe Sentence on Liu Xiaobo", respectively published on the e-journals "Humanity and Human Rights", "Democratic China", etc. He has been condemned as a recidivist for severe punishment, including 4 months deprivation of political rights that is transferred from the remaining part of his previous sentence. 10 years imprisonment is the second severe sentence after Liu Xiaobo’s record of 11 years sentence on the same offence of “inciting subversion”.

For more information, contact
Dr. Yu Zhang,
Executive Secretary and WiPC Coordinator
Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC)
Tel: +46-8-50022792
Websites: and

courtesy: Yu Zhang fron Facebook

International Women’s Day: Celebrating Women’s Voice & Courage

8 March 2011

International Women’s Day: Celebrating Women’s Voice & Courage

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, ARTICLE 19 celebrates the achievements of women - past, present and future - who strive for equality and empowerment through their work as journalists, human rights defenders and political activists.

Often at the forefront of the recent wave of protests that have gripped the Middle East and North Africa and captured the imagination of the international community, women are an inspiration to us all on International Women’s Day and for generations to come. Originating from diverse backgrounds, the women who continue to take to the streets are unified by their call for change, for a better life, for equality, and for human rights - for themselves and their communities.

The vast majority of these women are not renowned political activists, human rights defenders or cyber activists, but ordinary women, young and not so young, educated and non-educated, literate and illiterate, who have come together to march: chanting, raging, and relentlessly demanding and speaking out against oppression, censorship and inequality.

ARTICLE 19 dedicates 2011 International Women’s Day to courageous women from across the regions – Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East and the Americas – who have spoken out against oppression and inequality, and called for human dignity and human rights.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of international women’s day, ARTICLE 19 calls on governments around the world to take measurable and time-bound steps to ensure women have equal access to information, media, and communication technologies.

ARTICLE 19 also calls on the media and the media regulatory and self-regulatory bodies around the world to take active measures towards establishing equal opportunities for female media professionals, addressing existing discrimination against female representation in the media professions and ensuring that effective ethical and self-regulatory codes of conduct are put in place. The measures should include fostering a gender-sensitive approach to media work and a gender-sensitive understanding of what content is in the public interest.

We call on women’s and press freedom organisations to continue to raise awareness about sexism and gender-based censorship in the media and to work to combat it. We call for stronger dialogue and debate between women’s and feminist organisations and broadcasters, and encourage the development of women’s and feminist press globally, including in online publishing.

In Bangladesh

"The opportunity has encouraged us to believe in ourselves and to think, write and speak independently." (ARTICLE 19 Fellow Ismet Marjida)

The twelve women who received the 2010 ARTICLE 19 Grassroots Women Journalists’ Fellowships in Bangladesh investigated and unearthed stories of human rights violations, discrimination, deprivation and marginalisation caused by extreme poverty. They reported on the lack of access to information, education and public services. Many of their articles caught the attention of policy makers, local authorities, government representatives and community leaders, resulting in some cases to active interventions to resolve the issue and improve poor people’s lives, particularly in the fields of health and education.

Selina Sheuli, who, while investigating the negative effects of brick fields in the district of Bogura for a news story, found that carbon emissions from creating bricks had a devastating effect on nearby communities. Selina’s article highlighted amongst other things that the brick fields were operating in violation of the Environment Act. As a result, local communities organised themselves to bring the owners to the negotiating table to agree concrete steps. The Directorate of Environment also become involved to ensure factory owners complied with the regulations.

When Imrana Ahmed’s article revealed that there was no information desk at the capital’s largest hospital, Dhaka Medical College, it created a furore amongst doctors and the hospital’s administration. In the article, Imrana highlighted the sufferings and exploitation of patients seeking treatment in hospitals, in particular poor patients who unwittingly became the victims of professional dalals, middlemen or agents, who exploit patients’ lack of accurate information relating to the services offered by the hospital, the costs involved and the availability of doctors. Since the publication of Imrana’s article, the authorities are discussing putting out a comprehensive citizen’s charter at the main entrance of the hospital, and in other appropriate parts of the hospital, to inform people of their rights.

Ismet Marzina’s article on labour practices in the Chittagong’s ship-breaking industries revealed that children working there were put at huge health and safety risks because of the long working hours – with no breaks – and their exposure to lethal levels of asbestos poisoning. Ismet’s article forced industry owners to engage with workers and their unions to come up with solutions for ensuring child workers’ safety.

Shamsunnahar Nure Elahi exposed the reasons behind the collapse of the Sirajganj embankment, which was built to protect the town and its people from floods but collapsed within a few years of construction. The article investigated allegations of corruption and bad management in the construction and maintenance of the embankment. The findings of the article led to demands from the local communities and civil society for a formal investigation into the collapse of the construction.

Smriti Chakraborty took a bold step when she wrote a story exposing the many forms of discrimination faced by Hindu women due to the lack of civil registration of Hindu marriages. Smriti’s article caused a huge stir in the Hindu community, with both positive and negative responses. But it also led to the recognition that efforts must be made to raise awareness of the benefits of government registering or recognising Hindu marriages and that the results of her study should be widely shared.

In India

Harinder Baweja, editor of investigation at the highly regarded Tehelka weekly magazine, was charged in 2011 with defamation for an article, 'In the words of a zealot’. The article featured the confession of a member of the religious nationalist group, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and his involvement in anti-Muslim plots, including the 2007 bombing of the India-Pakistan Samjhauta Express train, that killed 68 people.

Harinder has a history of risking her life to tell a story. In 2003, she reported from Iraq during the US invasion and she is the only foreign female journalist to have reported from the headquarters of Pakistan's Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, an organisation classified as terrorist by many states. She has also investigated and written books on the Mumbai bombings in 2008 and the Gujarat mass killings in 2002.

Madhu Kishwar, editor of the top women’s magazine Manushi, is a symbol of women’s empowerment in India. In its 30 years history, the magazine has exposed atrocities and discrimination against women, discussed the impacts of Indian traditions on women, and reported on the plight of the landless poor. The magazine played a significant role in bringing national attention to the chronic problems of domestic violence and the practice of dowry abuse that has made women's lives vulnerable. Manushi also provides legal aid, runs human rights campaigns and publishes books. “I believe your politics has to be pro people, pro women — and you have to demonstrate this concretely,” she once said in an interview.

In Iran

Since September 2010, Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent human rights lawyer accused of defending opposition activists, politicians and juvenile prisoners, has been imprisoned in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. On 4 September 2010, Nasrin was arrested on charges of spreading propaganda against the regime and jeopardising state security. Initially, she went on a one-month hunger strike while she was in prison because she had been denied the right to have visits and phone calls from her family. Nasrin then went on a second hunger strike to protest against her detention and ill treatment.

On 9 January 2011, Nasrin was sentenced to 11 years in prison in addition to being banned from practicing law and leaving the country for 20 years. Some of her renowned cases before the ban included Isa Saharkhiz, Heshmat Tabarzadi, Parvin Ardalan, Omid Memarian and Roya Tolouie. She is closely associated with Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi who has openly condemned the treatment and sentencing of Nasrin Sotoudeh several times.

A number of women’s freedom rallies will be taking place on the 8 March 2011 across Iran to support brave women in prison, including Nasrin Sotoudeh, defend women’s freedom and women’s rights in Iran and to show solidarity with mothers whose children have been killed in the post-election protests.

In Mexico

Rosa Isela Perez, a reporter based in Ciudad Juarez, was forced to flee the country along with her family after reporting on gender-based violence in the city for a local newspaper and becoming a key witness in the procedures in the Inter American Court of Human Rights.
Ever since Rosa started writing about violence against women, she has uncovered irregularities in police investigations and denounced the climate of impunity associated with the cases. Rosa has also exposed the links between gender-based crimes and the authorities, including the involvement of high-profile businessmen and organised crime. Her articles, which featured more information than official reports on the incidents, attract national and international attention and have caused the international community to raise their concerns over these crimes. As a result of her activities, Rosa received death threats and was harassed by authorities and unknown assailants. In addition, as part of the Mexican government’s attempts to cover and minimize the information on gender-based crimes or so called “feminicidio” in Ciudad Juárez, the authorities publicly accused Rosa of being an unprofessional journalist. Due to the authorities’ pressure, Rosa’s work was subjected to censorship and in 2005 she was dismissed from the newspaper. ARTICLE 19 Central America assisted Rosa and her family to flee the country and seek asylum in Spain. Their requests for asylum were granted a few months ago.
In Gambia

Ndey Tapha Sosseh is a Gambian Journalist, the President of the Gambian Press Union and coordinator of the West African Journalists Association-Capacity Building Project. As the first woman to lead the Union of Gambian Journalists, Ndey has consistently challenged the countries’ culture of impunity, called for an independent investigation into the murder of journalist Deyda Hydara and the disappearance of journalist Ebrima Manneh. Ndey has repeatedly spoken out against violations of the right to freedom of expression in the country and has become a major target of the government. Ndey now lives in Mali and cannot safely return to Gambia because of her journalistic activities. Ndey’s courage and determination to fight injustices and defend press freedom in the Gambia is in inspiration for women across Africa.

In Tunisia

“The fear is gone, the people have put away their fear, and I’ve been waiting 20 years for that day,” said Sana Ben Achour, a celebrated Tunisian socio-political activist and president of the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (l''Association tunisienne des femmes démocrates - ATFD) who contributed to rallying trade union representatives and women’s rights activists in the lead up to the ousting of former President Ben Ali, on 14 January 2011. Following Ben Ali’s departure, Sana led a thousand-strong protest in Tunis to highlight the need to respect women’s rights during these transition.

Over many years, and along with renowned Tunisian human right activists, Sihem Bensedrine, Neziha Rejiba and Radhia Nasraoui, Sana was the subject of threats and harassment, as well as a defamation campaign in the press because of her active engagement in the promotion of equality and citizenship.

Recognised for her struggle to achieve gender equality in Tunisia and confront religious extremism and authoritarian policies that threaten women’s rights, Sana has campaigned for many years against different types of discrimination, including inheritance laws. Amongst numerous other issues, Sana has tirelessly campaigned to address the economic insecurity faced by women in Tunisia and in the region, highlighting attacks on the economic and social rights of women as a causal factor behind violence perpetrated against them.


• For more information please contact: Mona Samari, +44 20 7324 2500
• In the above image, Tahseena Sadeque is receiving the certificate of ARTICLE 19 women journalist fellowship from human rights activist, Dr. Hameeda Hossain and Tahmina Rahman, country director of ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

PEN Events- Free the Word! and London Book Fair

PEN Events- Free the Word! and London Book Fair

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Just a quick reminder of some of the events English PEN has coming up in the next few weeks. Full details of our Writers in Public programme can also be found on the English PEN website.

Free the Word! Translating Power

This year's Free the Word! Festival will bring together some of today's most exciting and finest names in international writing alongside top British writers for five days of discussions, performances and readings. Free the Word 2011 is not just a literary festival: it is an ideas workshop, where writers and readers talk, reflect, and enjoy literature in its many guises. You can view the full programme and book tickets online here.

The English PEN Literary Café and Literary Translation Centre

On 11 - 13 April, the English PEN Literary Café and Literary Translation Centre will be at the London Book Fair. As usual, the Literary Café will be at the heart of the fair, hosting a range of events with leading British and international authors. View details on the English PEN website. Following on from the success of 2010, the LBF Literary Translation Centre will have a more visible presence on the show floor in one of the busiest areas in Earls Court Two. The seminar programme covers a rich range of subjects- discover international literary landscapes such as the Middle East, China and Japan; learn about children’s literature in translation; get ideas about funding both in the UK and Europe and find out how digital publishing may affect literary translation. Read more about the new improved Literary Translation Centre on LBF’s website.

We still have a small number of free Book Fair passes to give away- email if you’d like one. When those run out, we can offer passes to PEN members for the reduced price of £10- visit to get yours.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

PEN reacts against banning of book in leading Indian University

PEN reacts against banning of book in leading Indian University

Please find attached a letter written by John Ralston Saul to Rejan Welukar, the Vice-Chancellor of Mumbai University.

The letter is in respect to the abrupt removal, in September 2010, of Rohinton Mistry's novel Such a Long Journey from Mumbai University's reading list. The context of this decision is an important challenge to freedom of expression. A political party bullied one of India's most important universities into removing a book. They also threatened peoples' lives and staged a book burning. In spite of a strong campaign by professors at the university and writers all over India, the university remains unwilling to stand up to these political pressures.


Tuesday, 08 March 2011
Rajan Welukar
Vice Chancellor
University of Mumbai
M.G.Road, Fort,
Mumbai-400 032

Dear Vice-Chancellor Welukar,
I have been following closely the events regarding the abrupt removal in September, 2010, of
Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey from Mumbai University’s reading list. It has become
clear that this was provoked by political pressure. What’s more, the campaigning for its removal included a book burning.

I have held back from writing to you in the expectation that your university would take a strong
and clear stand on this issue, as it can only be seen as one of free expression and respect for
literature. Large parts of India’s remarkable literary community have spoken up. The University of Mumbai Academic Staff Association has taken a stand. The PEN All-India Centre has voiced its great concern.

The situation is perfectly straightforward. No novel is meant to please all readers. There is no
such thing as a good novel that does not contain political and social points of view. As for book
burnings, they are an eternal symbol of intolerance that strike at the heart of culture and
therefore at the core of any university’s duty to society.

Yours is a university with a strong intellectual tradition in a country that has long stood for free
expression. Frankly, these events have cast a shadow over Mumbai University’s international
reputation. I encourage you, as the effective leader of the university, to do everything you can to ensure that this shadow is removed.

Yours faithfully,
John Ralston Saul
International President

Source : PEN

Friday, March 4, 2011

Save the Date: 2011 PEN World Voices Festival, April 25 to May 1‏

Save the Date: 2011 PEN World Voices Festival, April 25 to May 1‏



100 Writers from 40 Nations Gather in New York, April 25 to May 1

This year, more than 100 writers from 40 countries will convene for the seventh annual PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, celebrating the transformative power of the writer's voice--both on the page and as an essential element of public discourse. Chaired by Salman Rushdie, the Festival will take place in New York City, April 25 to May 1 and will include panels, lectures, readings, one-on-one conversations, and storytelling. Nigerian author and 1986 Nobel Prize-winner Wole Soyinka will deliver the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture on closing night. Festival participants will also include Laurie Anderson, Gioconda Belli, Harold Bloom, Deborah Eisenberg, Malcolm Gladwell, Hanif Kureishi, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Amélie Nothomb, Cynthia Ozick, Elif Shafak, Wallace Shawn, Vladimir Sorokin, Edmund White, and Irvine Welsh, among many others.

The World Voices Festival affirms PEN's belief that our national dialogue must be enriched by a diverse and international range of voices, particularly in today's rapidly changing communications environment. Launched in the wake of September 11, 2001 as one means of combating American cultural isolationism, the Festival addresses the pressing need to redefine--and reassert--the vital role of the public intellectual in framing and leading informed public discourse.

This year, the Festival has formed a partnership with The Standard, New York, and Friends of the High Line. The High Line will become both the literal and metaphorical spine of the Festival, with many events taking place on and around this Manhattan landmark and at the hotel. The Standard, New York, which rises above the High Line, will serve as the Festival's hub. Friends of the High Line, the non-profit conservancy that maintains the park and cultivates a vibrant community around the High Line, has transformed this defunct railway into a glorious public park 30 feet above street level. Like the High Line itself, the Festival's writers promise to provide audiences with a fresh, elevated perspective on the world.

Watch an introduction to this year's Festival by Salman Rushdie.

Read more about this year's Festival on the PEN web site.

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