Each year, on 15 November, English PEN and our colleagues around the world mark the Day of the Imprisoned Writer, an international day established in recognition of the many writers who suffer persecution as a result of exercising their right to freedom of expression.
Throughout the year, PEN monitors and campaigns on behalf of hundreds of writers around the globe who are harassed, persecuted, attacked, forced into exile and, in the most extreme cases, killed, for their work. Every November, PEN Centres and members worldwide come together to show our support for writers at risk, to remember those who have paid the ultimate price, and to stand in solidarity with our colleagues in prison.
This year, we are urging all PEN members and supporters to take action for one or more of this year’s featured cases, by spreading the word, sending messages of support and lobbying the authorities. Please let us know of any actions you take via firstname.lastname@example.org or the comments box below.
Cesario Alejandro Félix Padilla Figueroa is journalism graduate, student leader, and board member and founding member of PEN Honduras, who was convicted of ‘usurpation’ (‘usurpación’) at the National Autonomous University of Honduras (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras – UNAH) on 7 June 2017. PEN believes that Padilla Figueroa and other university students are being persecuted for exercising their right to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
On 29 June 2017, blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, popularly known by her pen name Me Nâm (Mother Mushroom), was convicted of ‘conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam’ under Article 88 of the Penal Code and sentenced to 10 years in prison. PEN believes that Me Nâm is being targeted for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression.
Ramón Esono Ebalé, alias Jamón y Queso, is an award-winning cartoonist and activist. On 16 September 2017, he was arrested in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea and initially questioned by security agents in relation to his cartoons that are critical of President Obiang and other government officials. News outlets reported a few days later that Ebalé is being investigated for alleged money laundering and counterfeiting money. He was presented before a judge on 20 September where he was asked about these allegations. He is currently being held in preventive judicial detention while further investigations are conducted.
Razan Zaitouneh is a human rights defender, blogger, lawyer and co-founder of the Violations Documentation Centre in Syria (VDC). On 9 December 2013, Zaitouneh, along with her colleagues Samira al-Khalil, Nazem Hamadi and Wa’el Hamada (her husband) were abducted during a raid on the offices of the VDC in Douma, near Damascus, by a group of armed men. They had been documenting human rights violations after fleeing the Syrian government-controlled area. There has been no news of their whereabouts since their abduction, but they are presumed to be detained by an armed Islamic group in control of Douma.
Zehra Doğan is serving a prison sentence of 2 years, 9 months and 22 days. On 24 March 2017, she was convicted of ‘propagandising for a terrorist organisation’ (Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law) by the Second High Criminal Court of Mardin province, for her work as a painter and journalist. PEN considers her imprisonment a violation of her right to freedom of expression as an artist and a journalist, and calls for her immediate and unconditional release.