Mexico: Six months on and still no justice


Today marks six months since 43 Mexican students were kidnapped in Iguala, Guerrero. The search for the missing teacher trainees – all students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa – has led to the discovery of mass graves and in December the first of the students,19-year-old Alexander Mora Venancio, was confirmed dead by forensic specialists. However, the whereabouts of the 42 other students remains unknown.

Today we remember the 43 and continue to call for justice. Please join us


Photo action

Take part in this photo action, organised by yosoy132londres – email your photos to and share them on social media with the following hashtags 

‪#‎MXUK2015‬ ‪#‎WritersWithAyotzinapa‬ ‪#‎StudentPENforAyotzinapa‬

Send a message of support

If you would like to send a message of support to the families of the 43, please send it to and we will pass it on.

Read more

  • Read esteemed writer Elena Poniatowska’s powerful tribute to the missing students on Words Without Borders (translated by Juana Adcock).
  • Read Juan Villoro’s PEN Atlas dispatch ‘I can read: Life  (translated by Sophie Hughes)
  • Read Amanda Hopkinson’s PEN Atlas dispatch ‘They were taken alive, alive we want them returned’ (19 January 2015)

Elena Poniatowka, Juan Villoro and Amanda Hopkinson are among the writers who will be appearing at the English PEN Literary Salon at the London Book Fair in April 2015 as part of our ongoing Mexico focus.

Lords Committee agrees with English PEN concern over ‘ambiguous’ press regulation law

Today, the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications published Press Regulation: where are we now?, a report into the system of press regulation currently operating, following the publication of the Leveson Report.

During the evidence gathering phase of the Committee’s investigation, English PEN submitted a copy of its report Who Joins The Regulator? A report on the impact of the Crime and Courts Act on publishers.  Our report argues that:

  • Publishers expected to be exempt from regulation appear to fall into the category of ‘relevant publisher’, including campaigning organisations, political parties and think tanks
  • Terms in the legislation are poorly defined, leading to uncertainty for publishers and the risk of a chill on free speech
  • Lack of clarity in the legislation will result in anomalies within categories of publication expected to be excluded from regulation, including blogs and specialist publications
  • English PEN’s analysis of a range of publications, according to the terms in the legislation, reveals widespread inconsistency across the media landscape regarding which publications are exempt and which qualify for regulation

In a section on ‘Key issues requiring clarification‘ the Select Committee cited English PEN’s findings and agreed that the term ‘relevant publisher’ in the legislation was ‘ambiguous’.

English PEN repeats its call for a review of the legislation governing press regulation.  In addition to clarification of the term ‘relevant publisher’, we are concerned by the measures in the Crime & Courts Act which allow a court to award punitive costs against a publisher who is not a member of a regulator.  This appears to be a coercive measure that would in effect force publishers to join a regulator.

Read the House of Lords Select Committee report

Mexico: Susana Chávez Castillo – a tribute


Prominent poet and women’s rights advocate Susana Chávez Castillo was found murdered in the border town of Ciudad Juárez on 6 January 2011. She had been strangled and had had one of her hands cut off; her body was only identified five days later. Chávez had been highly vocal in calling for justice for the hundreds of women killed in the Juárez area since the early 1990s, both as an activist and through her writings; she took part in numerous poetry readings which she dedicated to the murdered women.

Sangre Nuestra – by Susana Chávez Castillo
Our Blood (translation)
Blood of my own,
blood of sunrise,
blood of a broken moon,
blood of silence,
of dead rock,
of a woman in bed
jumping into nothingness,
Open to the madness.
Blood clear and definite,
fertile seed,
Blood the unbelievable journey,
Blood as its own liberation,
Blood, river of my songs,
Sea of my abyss.
Blood, painful moment of my birth,
Nourished by my last appearance.


Throughout the course of their investigation, the authorities denied that the murder of Chávez was related in any way to her activism and poetry, or to organised crime, despite the recent murder and harassment of numerous other local rights defenders. The Chihuahua state attorney general’s office alleged that she was killed by three teenage boys she had met while out drinking and, on 3 April 2013, a court in Ciudad Juárez sentenced three juveniles to 15 years in prison for her murder. According to reports, one of her alleged killers was released on 22 July 2013 after a court found that there was insufficient evidence to support the claim that he was directly involved in the murder.

Despite a conviction for Chávez’ killing, in the vast majority of murders of writers and journalists, impunity reigns. Mexico remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world in which to exercise one’s right to freedom of expression. At least 67 print and internet journalists, bloggers and writers have been murdered in the country since 2004. Very few – if any – of these murders have been satisfactorily resolved. At least 10 other print journalists have disappeared since in Mexico in the last decade; their fate remains unknown.

Join PEN in demanding that the Mexican authorities carry out prompt and rigorous investigations into all killings of journalists and writers and bring those responsible for these crimes to justice. Sign our petition today 

Vacancy: Paid Internship

This paid internship has been created as part of the Creative Employment Programme. The Creative Employment Programme is an Arts Council England fund to support the creation of traineeships, formal apprenticeship and paid internship opportunities in England for unemployed young people wishing to pursue a career in the arts and cultural sector. You can find out more on the Creative Employment Website.

There are certain criteria you must meet in order to be eligible to apply for this Creative Employment Programme funded internship. At the time of applying you must be aged 18 to 24 years old and you must be registered as unemployed with Jobcentre Plus. These eligibility criteria have been approved by the Department of Work and Pensions.

English PEN is the founding centre of an international writers’ association, working to promote the freedom to write and the freedom to read in the UK and around the world. We have an exciting opportunity for someone who would like to gain experience in the fields of literature and human rights.

English PEN promotes literature and free speech through four main programme areas:

  • Campaigns – International and in the UK
    PEN provides support and encouragement to persecuted writers around the world. In the UK we work to ensure free speech is protected, most recently lobbying to reform the libel laws in the UK.
  • Readers and Writers
    Our education work involves programming creative writing workshops in prisons, refugee centres and schools in the UK.
  • Writers in Translation
    We deliver a series of grants to publishers to promote the readership of world literature in translation in the UK.
  • Writers in Public
    Through a programme of public events and prizes we celebrate excellence in writing and showcase new voices.

This is a 30 hours per week role, joining English PEN’s staff team of 11, based at the Free Word Centre in Clerkenwell, London.

English PEN is an equal opportunities employer, which is actively seeking to employ people currently underrepresented in the creative and cultural sector. This includes young people, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities.

Job summary

The role of intern is to support English PEN’s work across its four main programme areas. This will involve:

  • General office support – providing administrative support to the English PEN team. Your week could involve helping set up a literary event, writing minutes for committee meetings, updating information to the database, assisting with membership mail outs.
  • Programme support – providing specific administrative support to programme teams. You might be writing copy for the PEN website, updating social media, researching writers for a workshop series, proof-reading articles or reports.
  • Event support – assisting in the planning and delivery of key public events including the annual PEN Quiz in November.

Personal specification

We would welcome applications from people who are:

  • Great communicators, both written and verbal
  • Enthusiastic and motivated with a ‘can-do’ attitude
  • Calm and professional under pressure
  • Experienced with using digital platforms
  • Resourceful with an ability to use initiative
  • Interested in other cultures
  • Eager to promote free speech and new writing from unheard voices
  • Interested in English PEN’s work in literature and free speech

To apply

Please send a CV, and a covering letter explaining why you would be suitable for the role, to by 5pm on Tuesday 7 April 2015. Please write ‘Intern Application’ in the subject line of the email. 

Your covering letter should include confirmation that you are registered unemployed.

There are certain criteria you must meet in order to be eligible to apply for this Creative Employment Programme funded internship. At the time of applying you must be aged 18 to 24 years old and you must be registered as unemployed with Jobcentre Plus.  Candidates must have a legal right to work in the UK.

Interviews will be held during the week beginning Monday 20 April.

Apply now