Saturday, May 21, 2011

Syria: Writer detained; fears for safety

Syria: Writer detained; fears for safety

English PEN is seriously concerned about the detention on 12 May 2011 of Najati Tayara, a writer and editor who was covering the protests which are currently taking place in Syria. He is held incommunicado at an unknown location, and is considered to be at risk of torture and ill-treatment. PEN fears that Najati Tayara is targeted solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a signatory, and if so calls for his immediate and unconditional release. We are urgently seeking information about his whereabouts, any charges against him and guarantees of his safety in detention.

According to our information, leading activist and writer Najati Tayara was arrested on 12 May 2011 in the city of Homs after he gave a telephone interview for Aljazeera TV on the crackdown by Syrian forces on peaceful protesters in Homs. His whereabouts are unknown and he has no contact with his family or lawyers. Tayara is editor-in-chief of the online Almarsad publication, published by the Syrian Human Rights Observatory, and contributes to the Tayyarat magazine and other periodicals and newspapers in Syria. He has also published several books including Human Rights and Democracy in Syria, published in Paris in 2001.

For information on other cases of concern in Syria, please click here.

Anti-government protests were sparked in mid-March 2011 and have since spread across the country. Mass arrests are continuing and security officers have responded to the continuing protests with excessive force, using tear gas and live bullets to disperse demonstrators. Scores of civilians have reportedly been killed and many more wounded.


Please send appeals:

- Expressing grave concern for the well-being and whereabouts of writer Najati Tayara;
- Expressing concerns for Tayara's safety, and seeking assurances that he is not being tortured or ill-treated in detention which violates Article 5 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
- Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Tayara and of all those currently detained in violation of Article 19 the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Syria is a state party;

Appeals to:

His Excellency President Bashar al-Assad
President of the Republic
Presidential Palace
Abu Rummaneh, Al-Rashid Street
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: 963 11 332 3410

His Excellency Brigadier Mohamed Shaar
Minister of Interior, Ministry of Interior
Merjeh Circle
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: 963 11 222 3428

Please also send copies of your appeal letters to the diplomatic representative for Syria in the UK:

His Excellency Dr. Sami Khiyami
Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic
8 Belgrave Square,
Fax: 020 7235 4621

source: Englishpen

Peru: Journalists receive pre-election death threats

Source : English PEN

Peru: Journalists receive pre-election death threats

English PEN was disturbed to learn of the death threats received by César Levano and Arturo Belaúnde, respectively editor and president of the board of the daily newspaper La Primera. The paper has been openly supportive of one of the leading candidates in the second round of Peru's presidential elections due to take place on 5 June. Both Levano and Belaúnde were sent funeral wreaths on 11 May, supposedly by the press freedom organization Press and Society Institute (IPYS), which has been active in pressing the two leading presidential candidates on their commitment to press freedom issues. Levano was threatened again on 12 May. The threats coincide with a spate of assaults on and dismissals of broadcast journalists in Peru, also for reasons connected to the elections. English PEN calls on the Peruvian authorities to investigate the death threats against Levano and Belaúnde and to provide them and all other threatened journalists with adequate protection, and recommends that all our members and friends write to the Peruvian authorities to this effect.

The following is a press release issued by Reporters Without Borders on 13 May 2011 (Spanish and French versions also available). For the original version, please click here:

Amid witch-hunt before second round, candidates urged to keep press freedom promises

There is no clear front-runner in the presidential election run-off between Ollanta Humala and Keiko Fujimori that is due to take place on 5 June but, with three weeks still to go, the campaign is already having a devastating impact on Peru's media.

The most serious case concerns César Levano, the editor of the daily La Primera, and Arturo Belaúnde, the president of its board. Wreaths for both were delivered to the newspaper's Lima headquarters on 11 May. One bore the words "Rest In Peace" and identified the sender as the Lima-based Press and Society Institute (IPYS), Peru's leading press freedom organization.

Levano told Reporters Without Borders he received another death threat yesterday morning. An anonymous caller told his secretary: "Tell César Levano we are not joking about [the wreaths] and that next time we will kill him."

"La Primera's editorial support for Humala is well known, as are IPYS's activities, including its debate on free speech with the two second-round candidates on 29 April, at which firm pledges were given," Reporters Without Borders said. "Attacking La Primera and smearing IPYS's reputation is to insult the principle of editorial diversity and media freedom and pour scorn on those who embody and defend freedom of expression."

The press freedom organization added: "We hope that an investigation will quickly establish the sources of these threats. We also think it is important that the two candidates should publicly reiterate their promises to guarantee press freedom and respect for the editorial choices made by every news media, regardless of its political tendencies."

Hate and violence

In another case, around 100 presumed Humala supporters attacked Jaime De Althaus, the producer of a programme on the TV station Canal N, in Lima on 6 May. Reporters Without Borders welcomes the immediate condemnation that was issued by David Abugatás, the spokesman of Humala's party, Gana Perú. De Althaus nonetheless reports getting more telephone death threats on the night of 11 May.

José Luis Lizárraga, who works for radio Súper Éxito, and José Mandujano, who works for radio Studio 99, were roughed up by Fujimori bodyguards in Satipo, in the central region of Junín, on 5 May, IPYS reports.

The media have unfortunately helped to exacerbate the pre-election climate, with a spate of dismissals (or resignations) of journalists between the two rounds. Most of the dismissed journalists have reportedly been Humala supporters. They include Patricia Montero and José Jara, who were fired from Canal N after resisting pressure to support Fujimori. Canal N is owned by two newspapers, the pro-Fujimori El Comercio and the pro-Humala La República, but El Comercio has the controlling interest.

In the southern city of Arequipa, Federico Rosado Zavala, Jorge Alvarez and Jesús Coa resigned from Radio Líder after the station's management asked them not to criticize Fujimori because the station has signed an advertising contract with her party, Fuerza 2011. Two other journalists reportedly resigned from Perú 21, a daily owned by the El Comercio group. And the owners of América TV are reportedly planning to fire news director Laura Puertas and other journalists for the same reason after the election.

"These forced or voluntary departures raise many doubts about the principle of fairness that is supposed to prevail during election campaigns," Reporters Without Borders added. "Editorial preference for one or other candidate does not in any way prevent pluralist coverage of the campaign and certainly does not justify a witch-hunt.

"By yielding to this temptation some media are encouraging the impression that the candidates themselves are pressuring the media although this has not been demonstrated. This situation is affecting the democratic debate. This is all the more reason for the candidates to keep the promises they made during the campaign."

Media freedom has been suffering serious setbacks of late in Peru. Radio Ollantay programme producer Julio Castillo Narváez was shot dead in the northwestern city of Virú on 3 May, World Press Freedom Day. In addition to this murder and many cases journalists being physically attacked or harassed, two journalists are currently in prison on criminal defamation charges. We call for their release.

Useful links:

- 'Peru candidates pledge to respect press freedom--will they?' (6 May 2011) (English only)
- 'Amenaza macabra, al estilo fujimontesinista' (12 May 2011) (Spanish only)
- 'Perú: Dos importantes periodistas son amenazados de muerte' (13 May 2011) (Spanish only)


Please send appeals:

- Condemning the death threats received by César Levano and Arturo Belaúnde, respectively editor and president of the board of the daily newspaper La Primera;
- Protesting the attempt to smear the respected organisation Press and Society Institute (IPYS), which has been active in pressing the two leading presidential candidates on their commitment to press freedom issues;
- Calling on the Peruvian authorities to investigate the death threats against Levano and Belaúnde in order to establish the source, and to provide them and all other threatened journalists with adequate protection.

Appeals to:

Dr. Alan García Pérez
Presidente de la República del Perú
Jr. de la Unión S/N 1ra. Cuadra, Cercado de Lima, Lima, Peru
Fax: 51 1 311 3940
Email: Messages can be sent to the President via this link.

Salutation: Su Excelencia/ Your Excellency

Please also send copies of your appeals to the Peruvian Embassy in the UK:

His Excellency Mr Hernán Couturier
Embassy of Peru
52 Sloane Street,

Fax: 0207 235 4463

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

English PEN Events May 2011

PEN logo - small 1 colour.jpg

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

Writing Freedom: The English PEN Roadshow

Various Dates

Venues: Brighton Festival; How The Light Gets In

For ninety years, English PEN has been fighting for the freedom to write and the freedom to read at home and abroad. In this special birthday performance, devised in partnership with Jonathan Holmes, today's authors draw on the words of those who have led PEN's fight over the last century, from HG Wells to Monica Ali. How do the free speech battles of the past affect writers and readers today? Join us as we take English PEN on the road to literary festivals around the country.

Brighton Festival

Sunday 22 May, 6pm

Readers at this performance will be Bidisha, Deborah Moggach, Jake Arnott, William Fiennes and Lemn Sissay.

How The Light Gets In, Hay

Monday 30 May, 2.30pm

Readers at this performance will include Anita Sethi and Zaiba Malik.

The Swan in the Evening: Rosamond Lehmann

Tuesday 7 June, 6.30pm

Venue: The Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3GA

Beautiful, intelligent, scandalous, Rosamond Lehmann occupied a central position in the London literary scene of the thirties, penning a series of successful novels that interrogated relations between the sexes and analysed the conflict between the individual and society. She was also a tireless campaigner against fascism and President of English PEN from 1962-1966. Join Jonathan Coe, passionate Lehmann fan and author of novels including What a Carve Up! and The Rotters' Club, Lehmann's biographer, Selena Hastings, and publisher Carmen Callil, founder of Virago Press, as they discuss Lehmann's lasting appeal in an evening chaired by Lennie Goodings, publisher of Virago.

Tickets for this event cost £5 for English PEN members and £8 for non-members. To book, please call the Free Word Centre on 020 7324 2570.

HW Fisher Logo.JPGWe are very grateful to HW Fisher for their sponsorship of our Writers in Public programme. The Authors and Journalists team have many years’ experience in helping clients minimise their tax liability. If you have a tax query then do call our free tax help line for English PEN members on +44 (0) 20 7874 7876 and quote ‘PEN’ alternatively, email your query (please quote ‘PEN’ in the subject line) to Andrew Subramaniam ( or Barry Kernon ( Visit the HW Fisher website for more information.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

International PEN Communications Officer Vacancy

source : International PEN

International PEN Communications Officer Vacancy

PEN International

Communications Officer

Job Title: Communications Officer

Responsible to: Executive Director

Status: 1 year contract, with possibility of renewal

3 days week

PEN International celebrates literature and promotes freedom of expression. Founded in 1921, our global community of writers now spans more than 100 countries. Our programmes, campaigns, events and publications connect writers and readers wherever they are in the world.

For further information please visit

Purpose of Job:

This position provides an exciting opportunity to work with the world’s leading freedom of expression and literature organisation at a time of exciting change in our communications strategy. The Communications Officer will have lead responsibility for PEN International’s communications activity and will focus on raising awareness of PEN’s activity. Principal elements of this role will include launching a new website and coordinating PR and press relations for the organisation. The successful candidate will share PEN’s commitment to freedom of expression and literature worldwide, and the aims of the organisation as reflected in the PEN Charter. The Communications Officer will work with PEN International staff and Board to promote our work in freedom of expression research and campaigning, international programmes and literary events and activities. Applicants must be able to demonstrate a strong interest in literature and freedom of expression and possess sound communications, copywriting and organisational skills. Experience of websites and PR is essential.

Key activities.

  • Coordinating the final phase of development of PEN International’s new website.
  • Launching PEN International’s new website – currently in development
  • Developing a content strategy for ensuring web content is current, responsive, and reflects the full scope of the organisation’s activity.
  • Implementing content strategy in collaboration with Magazine Editor and key staff.
  • Development of new functions for PEN International’s website and online presence including social media.
Public Relations and Press
  • Coordinating Public Relations and Press relations for the organisation, reflecting all areas of our work and increasing awareness of PEN International among key audiences
  • Develop key media contacts and PR mechanisms for the organisation
  • Coordinating consultants working on this area
  • Management of PEN brand: overseeing and monitoring its use; developing the verbal identity strategy and its implementation.
  • Ongoing provision of information and advice to PEN Centres and those using the new brand.
Communications Department
  • Coordinating staff within the communications team, including employees, consultants and volunteers
  • Ensuring the department budget and any project budgets are effectively managed.
  • Fundraising as required to ensure adequate resources are in place to carry out the Communications plans

Person Spec

  • Website development and management experience
  • Public Relations and press relations experience and knowledge
  • Ability to manage consultants in these fields.
  • A sound understanding of freedom of expression issues and literature.
  • Demonstrable creative marketing and press experience is essential, preferably within a human rights, NGO, arts or charitable sector environment.
  • Strong copywriting skills.
  • Good working knowledge of the design and print process.
  • Experience of managing, updating and editing a website.
  • Experience of managing brands or at least knowledge of how a brand supports an organisation’s work
  • Ability to work with a team but also to work on own initiative.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Ability to work under pressure and to meet deadlines.
  • Flexible and enthusiastic approach.
  • Knowledge of French and Spanish is highly desirable.
  • International experience would be extremely valuable.
  • Experience managing teams including staff, consultants and volunteers is desirable
  • Excellent people skills and the ability to communicate clearly with a wide variety of people
  • Fundraising experience is desirable
  • Experience in managing budgets and ensuring projects are delivered within budget.

Conditions: 3 days per week

Salary: £28, 000 to £30,000 depending on experience

25 days annual leave per year, pro rata.

1 year contract, with possibility of renewal

Candidates should send a CV and covering letter to Frank Geary, Interim Executive Director, PEN International, by midnight on 18th May, 2011.

Belarus: Trials begin of writers and journalists detained since December

source : English PEN

Belarus: Trials begin of writers and journalists detained since December

Trials have begun against Belarusian writers and journalists who were detained following demonstrations against the results of the flawed presidential election of 19 December 2010. English PEN renews its calls for the dismissal of these politically-motivated criminal cases, the release of all writers in prison and an end to their harassment.

Vladimir Neklyaev is a writer, poet, former president of the Belarus PEN Centre, and the opposition Tell the Truth party's candidate in the 2010 presidential elections. He was arrested on 19 December 2010 and held for a month in a KGB detention centre, during which time he was severely beaten and denied adequate medical services (in Belarus the security services are still called the KGB). Although the charges against him have been downgraded from 'organisation of mass riots' to 'preparation of activities designed to disturb the public order', Neklyaev still faces up to three years in prison if convicted. His trial is due to start on 5 May 2011.

Irina Khalip is a journalist for the Russian Novaya Gazeta and wife of opposition presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov (still in detention). On 19 December 2010 she was arrested and severely beaten by the police. She was held in isolation by the KGB for one month and charged with 'organising and participating in mass disorder.' Like Neklyaev, she was placed under strict house arrest in January 2011. Her house arrest is due to end on 13 May 2011; however, as yet no date has been set for her trial. She has been denied access to the internet, telephone and newspapers. Shortly after her arrest, the authorities attempted to take her son from the family and place him in state custody.

Natalia Radzina is a journalist for the pro-democracy news website Charter 97. She was arrested alongside all the staff and volunteers at the website on 19 December 2010 and charged with 'organising and participating in mass disorder'. On 31 March 2011 she was summoned to the State Security Committee to take part in investigative actions related to her case. Radzina is believed to have fled the country.

Pavel Severinets is an opposition activist, author of several books, and a member of Belarus PEN. He was arrested on 19 December 2010 and charged under Article 293 of the Criminal Code of Belarus ('Organisation of riots'). As of 26 April 2011 he remains under arrest although it is not clear if the charges against him have been changed.

Aleksandr Fiaduta is an author, literary critic and member of Belarus PEN, as well as a member of the Tell the Truth party. He was arrested on 19 December 2010 and was charged with 'organisation of riots'. As with Neklyaev, the charges against him have subsequently been downgraded to 'preparation of activities that break public order'. However, he still faces up to three years in prison if convicted. His trial is due to start on 5 May 2011.

Dimitri Bondarenko, is a journalist at Charter 97. He is charged with 'preparation of activities that break public order' and his trial began on 24 April 2011. Bondarenko has reportedly admitted to participation in the demonstrations in December, but has denied the other charges brought against him.

For previous RAN alerts about Belarus, please click here.

The above writers and journalists have all been declared prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International. For a full list of Belarusian prisoners of conscience please click here.

For a report about attacks on the press in Belarus in 2010, please click here.

Messages of Support

Some of these writers and journalists are not receiving mail, but messages of support for all six of them and their families can be sent to the PEN Centre in Belarus:

Belarus PEN
Post box 218, 220050,
Minsk, Belarus

(messages will be passed on to the families)

Messages to the following detainees can be sent to the same prison address at:
Post box 8, 220050,
Minsk Belarus

Pavel Severinets
Севярынец Павел Канстанцінавіч (name in Russian Cyrillic)

Aleksandr Fiaduta
Фядута Аляксандр Іосіфавіч

Dimitri Bondarenko
Бандарэнка Дзмітры Яўгеньевіч


Appeals should be sent to the Belarusian authorities:

- Calling for the lifting of the severe restrictions placed on the activities of Vladimir Neklyaev, Irina Khalip, Pavel Severinets, Aleksandr Fiaduta and Dimitri Bondarenko;
- Condemning the arrest and ill-treatment of human rights activists and journalists;
- Calling for an end to the persecution of press and media outlets by the Belarusian authorities;
- Urging that all journalists and human rights activists be freed immediately and for the dismissal of politically-motivated criminal cases.

Government address
President of the Republic of Belarus
Alyaksandr G. Lukashenka
Karl Marx Str. 38
220016 g. Minsk
Fax: 375 172 26 06 10 or 375 172 22 38 72

Please note: there have been reports that the President's email address is not working, so please consider sending your appeals via the Belarusian government website.

Similar appeals should be sent to the Belarusian Embassy in your own country:

His Excellency Dr. Aleksandr Mikhnevich
Embassy of the Republic of Belarus
6 Kensington Court
W8 5DL
Fax: 020 7361 0005
Website: click here to visit.

Vietnam: Tran Khai Thanh Thuy

Vietnam: Tran Khai Thanh Thuy

source : English PEN
Trân Khai Thanh Thuy is an established Vietnamese journalist, novelist, poet and essayist, and a political activist. She is the former editor of underground dissident magazine To Quoc (Fatherland), a member of the Union of Writers and the Club of Women Poets of Hanoi, and winner of the 2008 and 2010 Hellman Hammet Awards in recognition of her commitment to free expression and courage in the face of political persecution. She is an Honorary Member of the English, American and Swiss Italian PEN centres.

Voice from Beyond the Grave

Here lie my mortal remains
In the field of eternal rest
The last stop of a transient life with multiple destinies
The clay covers my icy dead body
The smoke of scented incenses guides the comings and goings.

Beautiful flowers, ultimate farewell gifts, offered by my friends
Begin to fade, stamens and pistils decompose
Into exhalations of the cemetery
The wind blows and blows in all ways on the free trails
Moaning crows caw above the deserted place.

The green grass invades my feet, my hair, my ears
My spirit leaves the lower world and flies over the mountains
My soul wanders in the depths of the forests
Observing from above, the condition of the world of miserable reprobates.

Well then, let me metamorphose myself into greenery
To be in harmony with nature
Illustrious Creator, the Just one, has already shown his smile.

Trân Khai Thanh Thuy (1989)

Trân Khai Thanh Thuy has been under heavy surveillance and harassment since September 2006 for her critical political writing. She was previously detained in April 2007 and held for nine months, charged with violating Article 88 of the Criminal Code for disseminating information considered harmful to the State by the authorities. She was also accused of being a member of Bloc 8406, a leading underground pro-democracy group, of supporting a dissident human rights organisation and of illegally organising a trade union. She was held at Detention Camp B14, Thanh Liet, in district Thanh Tri, Hanoi.

After her release in January 2008 she was under heavy surveillance until her most recent arrest in October 2009. She was detained as she made her way to support fellow activists facing trial, and held incommunicado for several hours before being returned to her home. That evening, an incident took place at her home: two men reportedly attacked Thanh Thuy's husband, and she intervened on his defence. She was subsequently charged with assault, despite being the victim of the attack - a photograph used as evidence against her is widely believed to have been doctored. In February 2010, she was sentenced to three and a half years in prison. The trial itself was also unjust: her lawyer was not given sufficient time to present his argument and the judge did not consider all the evidence. Her husband, Do Ba Tan, was also sentenced to two years under house arrest for 'assault', and is caring for the couple's youngest daughter.

Thanh Thuy is currently in extremely fragile health, suffering from tuberculosis and diabetes as well as malnutrition. In August 2010, she was brutally attacked by another inmate at the prison, despite having reported threats against her to prison guards. Her attacker was said to have been following orders from the prison's surveillance authorities and fellow prisoners were reportedly prevented from coming to her assistance.

Since June 2010, Vietnamese authorities have arrested and detained at least 24 dissidents, house church activists, and bloggers, many of whom have been held incommunicado for many months without access to legal counsel or to their families. The actual number is likely to be even higher: the Vietnamese government does not allow access to its prisons and detention centres by independent monitors, nor does it generally publish the names, locations, or charges against people in detention.

Trân Khai Thanh Thuy is among these writers currently detained in Vietnam for the peaceful expression of their right to free speech. English PEN strongly protests the imprisonment of Thanh Thuy, and urges all members and friends of English PEN to send letters of appeal:

• Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Tran Khai Thanh Thuy and all those currently detained in Vietnam in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a signatory
• Seeking assurances that Thanh Thuy is given full access to all necessary medical care whilst in prison.

Appeals to be sent to:

His Excellency Nguyên Minh Triêt
President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
C/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Nguyên Tân Dung
Prime Minister
1 Hoang Hoa Tham Street
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Lê Doan Hop
Minister of Culture and Information
1 Hoang Hoa Tham Street
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

If you are interested in writing to Trân Khai Thanh Thuy directly, please contact