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Writers in Prison

Turkish novelist and PEN Main Case, Asli Erdoğan (R) comes of Bakirkoy, a women's prison in Istanbul in December 2016, after spending more than four months in prison. Getty Images.

The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International works on behalf of persecuted writers worldwide. It was established in 1960 in response to increasing attempts to silence voices of dissent by imprisoning writers and journalists.

Working on behalf of persecuted writers worldwide, the WiPC monitors between 700-900 cases across the globe each year. The WiPC mobilises the wider PEN community to take action through its Rapid Action Network alerts, targeted regional campaigns, and by utilising PEN’s consultative status with the UN to submit UPR country reports.

The Committee’s Rapid Action Network Alerts provide details of cases of individuals whose lives and liberty are being threatened and makes specific suggestions for action.

In addition to its work on behalf of individual writers, the Committee creates campaigns on issues affecting freedom of expression, such as Religious Defamation, Impunity and Criminal Defamation, and campaigns focused on specific regions or countries, such as the Americas, Iran, China and Turkey.

The Writers in Prison Committee also works through the UN to bring attention to individual cases and to systemic human rights problems in specific countries.

Salil Tripathi is the Chair of the Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International, elected at the 81st PEN International Congress in Quebec City, Canada. From 2009-2013 he was co-chair of the Writers at Risk Committee at English PEN. Salil is an award-winning journalist and writer. He was born in India and has been a foreign correspondent in Singapore and Hong Kong and now lives in London. He is contributing editor at Mint and Caravan in India. His articles have also appeared in major international newspapers and magazines, including the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, International Herald Tribune, New Statesman, Guardian, Independent, Far Eastern Economic Review, and many others.

His awards include the Citibank Pan Asia Economic Journalism Award in 1994, Bastiat Prize (third prize) in 2011, and Red Ink Award for Human Rights Journalism in 2015. His books include Offence: The Hindu Case (Seagull, 2009), The Colonel Who Would Not Repent: The Bangladesh War and its Unquiet Legacy (Aleph, 2014 and Yale University Press, 2016), and Detours: Songs of the Open Road (Tranquebar, 2015). He is currently working on a book about Gujaratis.

In a parallel life, he is senior adviser, global issues, at the Institute for Human Rights and Business. More information about Salil’s writing can be found here.

I remember very well the wave of solidarity at the turn of the 1980s to protest against my incarceration. There were protests ... from PEN International Writers in Prison Committee...it has always been a source of great encouragement.

Vaclav Havel Extract from Czech playwright and former PEN President's Letter to the PEN Writers in Prisons Committee, September 2009