World Press Freedom Day

PEN and authors from across Americas condemn violence against journalists in Latin America and call for end to impunity around murders and disappearances in Mexico.

To mark World Press Freedom Day 2009, the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN has released the ‘Declaration in Defense of the Freedom to Write in the Americas’, endorsed by over 50 authors throughout the region. The Declaration condemns the persistent attacks on against writers and print journalists in Latin America – particularly Mexico, where in the last five years alone 20 journalists have died and four others disappeared – and calls for an end to the impunity surrounding these cases. English PEN urges its members and others to publicize the Declaration and to send as many appeals as possible to the Mexican President now and throughout the year.

More than 50 writers from across the Americas have signed the following Declaration, including Paul Auster, Ernesto Cardenal, Lydia Cacho, Noam Chomsky, Junot Diaz, Ariel Dorfman, Franciso Goldman, Raúl Rivero and Derek Walcott:


Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights, every citizen possesses the right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to speak and write freely and the right to seek and receive information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.

Every great achievement in literature, from fiction, poetry and drama, to essays, memoirs and journalism, is the result of the full exercise of this right.

On the 40th anniversary of the American Convention of Human Rights (also known as the Pact of San José, Costa Rica), we celebrate the impact that these rights have had on our lives and our societies, above all in the fields of literature and journalism.

However, we are deeply troubled by persistent attacks on writers and journalists in the region that violate these protections, undermine freedom of expression and imperil the right to access information and ideas circulating freely around the world.

In 2008, the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN recorded 191 attacks against writers and print journalists, the majority of which occurred in Latin America. From January 2004 to December 2008, 37 writers and print journalists were assassinated in Latin America, 20 in Mexico alone, the others in Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Haiti and Peru. Four journalists have disappeared in Mexico, while in other countries countless others have been threatened with death. (Please click here to view an interactive map, detailing attacks against writers and journalists in the Americas, particularly Mexico. The map shows murders and disappearances in the five years from 2004 to 2008 as well as writers who are currently imprisoned.)

It is clear that many of these writers were attacked for their work. Writers, particularly journalists, who criticize the authorities or expose the activities of criminal gangs are frequently targeted, harassed, threatened, kidnapped and murdered for what they publish. Often those responsible for these crimes escape justice, official investigations stall or lapse into silence, and the crimes remain unpunished.

Although the culprits frequently remain unknown, it is widely accepted that non-state actors are responsible for many of these violent attacks against journalists, particularly drug traffickers, paramilitaries and other criminal groups, and even state agents operating outside of the legitimate authority of their offices.

Regardless of the source of this violence, every government has an obligation to protect its citizens’ right to freedom of expression and to investigate and prosecute anyone who infringes the laws that protect them. When those who murder and threaten writers and journalists can do so without fear of prosecution, the resulting climate of impunity undermines an entire society’s right to access information.

In spite of this obligation, some governments in the Americas themselves routinely threaten writers and curtail freedom of expression. At least 26 of our colleagues are currently imprisoned in the region in violation of the laws protecting the freedom to write, 25 in Cuba and one in Ecuador.

Journalists are often charged by the authorities, sometimes under criminal libel and defamation laws, as in Colombia, where dissenting against official positions can also expose journalists to death threats. There are cases in Peru and Venezuela where false charges have been brought against journalists with the aim of silencing them. In countries including Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, authorities exert control over the publication and editing of books and the media. All of this is in violation of their citizens’ right to seek and receive information of their own choosing.

By signing this “Declaration in Defense of the Freedom to Write in the Americas”, we join in condemning these crimes and support International PEN’s campaign to protect the rights of writers in the region. (For full details of International PEN’s campaign Freedom to write in the Americas, please click here.)

1. Héctor Abad Faciolince (Colombia)
2. Claribel Alegría (Nicaragua)
3. Odette Alonso (Cuba-Mexico)
4. Nuria Amat (Spain)
5. Luis Alberto Ambroggio (Argentina-USA)
6. Jon Lee Anderson (USA)
7. Homero Aridjis (Mexico)
8. Edda Armas (Venezuela)
9. Paul Auster (USA)
10. Cecilia Balcazar de Bucher (Colombia)
11. Alberto Barrera Tyszka (Venezuela)
12. Azriel  Bibliowicz (Colombia)
13. Piedad Bonnett (Colombia)
14. Roberto Brodsky (Chile)
15. Lydia Cacho (Mexico)
16. Rafael Cadenas (Venezuela)
17. Ernesto Cardenal (Nicaragua)
18. Blanca Castellón (Nicaragua)
19. Plinio Chahín (Dominican Republic)
20. Carlos F. Chamorro (Nicaragua)
21. Noam Chomsky (USA)
22. André Cruchaga (El Salvador)
23. Maria Elena Cruz Varela (Cuba)
24. Edwidge Danticat (Haiti-USA)
25. Marina De La Cueva (El Salvador)
26. Junot Díaz (USA-Dominican Republic)
27. Ariel Dorfman (Chile-USA)
28. Rubén Darío Flórez Arcila (Colombia)
29. Cristina Garcia (USA-Cuba)
30. Francisco Goldman (USA-Guatemala)
31. Luis González Ruisánchez (Cuba- Dominican Republic)
32. Gloria Guardia (Panama-Nicaragua)
33. Alma Guillermoprieto (Mexico-USA)
34. Ricardo J. Iribarren (Colombia)
35. Noé Jitrik (Argentina)
36. Lucina Kathmann (USA-Mexico)
37. Joanne Leedom-Ackerman (USA)
38. Tatiana Lobo Wiehoff (Chile-Costa Rica) 
39. Antonio López Ortega (Venezuela)
40. Tununa Mercado (Argentina)
41. Guillermo Milán Reyes (Cuba-Sweden)
42. Hugo Mujica (Argentina)
43. José Emilio Pacheco (Mexico)
44. Elena Poniatowska (Mexico)
45. Sergio Ramirez (Nicaragua)
46. Raúl Rivero (Cuba)
47. Fernando Savater (Spain)
48. Saúl Sosnowski (Argentina-USA)
49. Ana Teresa Torres (Venezuela)
50. Ana Luisa Valdés (Uruguay-Sweden)
51. Luisa Valenzuela (Argentina)
52. Amir Valle (Cuba)
53. Alejandro Varderi (Venezuela-USA)
54. Camilo Venegas (Cuba)
55. Derek Walcott (St. Lucia)
56. Eliot Weinberger (USA)

April 2009



1. Publicity

PEN members and other interested parties are also asked to use World Press Freedom Day on 3 May as an opportunity to publicize the following in their national and local press:


•  ‘Declaration in Defense of the Freedom to Write in the Americas’

Highlight PEN’s ‘Declaration in Defense of the Freedom to Write in the Americas’ and its endorsement by more than 50 authors from across the Americas, some of whom have themselves been persecuted for their writing such as Lydia Cacho, Maria Elena Cruz Varela and Raúl Rivero. (For profiles of Cacho and Cruz Varela, click here.)

• Violence against journalists in Mexico

Highlight unsolved journalist murders and disappearances in Mexico; for more information on the situation for writers in Mexico, including case summaries and photos, click here.

Please send appeals:


Please send appeals by fax or email to Lic. Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, President of Mexico, via the diplomatic representative of Mexico in the UK:

Juan José Bremer de Martino

16 St. George Street

You may wish to use the following text as a guide:

Your Excellency, Señor Felipe Calderón Hinojosa,


I am writing to express my deep concern at the situation for writers in Mexico, one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. From 2004 to 2008, 20 writers – 19 print journalists and one author – were murdered, while four more journalists disappeared. Few if any of these crimes have been punished.

International PEN believes that these journalists were likely targeted in retaliation for their critical reporting, particularly on drug trafficking. While organised crime groups are responsible for many attacks, state agents, especially government officials and the police, are reportedly the main perpetrators of violence against journalists, and complicit in its continuance.


According to the UN, unsolved killings of and attacks against journalists in Mexico are contributing to a climate of impunity that restricts freedom of expression. I therefore ask you to ensure that a full, prompt and impartial investigation is carried out into all unsolved murders and disappearances of writers and journalists, and that the culprits are brought to justice.


Yours respectfully,



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