On Day of the Imprisoned Writer, PEN calls on governments around the world to stop silencing writers


Kamila Shamsie, Madeleine Thien, Homero Arijdis, Jennifer Clement, Neil Gaiman and Ai Weiwei stand in solidarity with writers around the world, persecuted and imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression

15 November 2017 - Writers are increasingly targeted and silenced by their governments as the climate for freedom of expression continues to deteriorate globally, PEN International said today, marking its annual Day of the Imprisoned Writer.

’15 November is a day of solidarity and action. It’s a day in which PEN’s global community stands with those writers who are paying a heavy price for their commitment and belief that we all have a right to express ourselves freely and peacefully. It is a day on which we say, in one voice, that they are not alone. It is also a day on which we tell those governments who seek to silence writers that we will continue to stand with them and against any authority, system, or power that views the right to free expression as a threat.’ said Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.

Each year, PEN highlights the cases of five persecuted writers– be they imprisoned, facing prosecution or otherwise at risk - that are emblematic of the type of threats and attacks faced by writers and journalists around the world. On this day, our Centres and members worldwide stand in solidarity with their colleagues and call on those responsible to end their persecution.

This year, PEN is highlighting the cases of:

  • PEN member and activist Cesario Alejandro Félix Padilla Figueroa facing ongoing prosecution in Honduras; take action here.
  • Blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh serving a 10-year prison sentence in Viet Nam; take action here
  • Award-winning cartoonist and activist Ramón Esono Ebalé currently detained in Equatorial Guinea; take action here.
  • Human rights defender, blogger, and lawyer Razan Zaitouneh disappeared in Syria, and; take action here.
  • Poet and artist Zehra Doğan currently imprisoned in Turkey; take action here.

The campaign will also highlight the case of the poet Dareen Tatour – a Palestinian citizen of Israel – who has been under house arrest for over two years and who was focus case for the campaign in 2016.

As part of this year’s campaign, renowned writers and activists Homero Arijdis, Jennifer Clement, Neil Gaiman, Kamila Shamsie, Madeleine Thien and Ai Weiwei, have written letters of solidarity to the writers.

'I cherish the white linen cloth you gave me where, in dark red thread, you embroidered your message to the world: Poetry is not a crime' -  PEN International president and American-Mexican author Jennifer Clement writes to Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour.

I hope the moon is shining strong on your face. And I know that one day, in part because of the work and example of you and your colleagues, the darkness will lift entirely. You see, you’ve made me an optimist. Look how powerful you are, changing people’s minds about the world after reading just a few words by and about you.’ – an extract from a letter to disappeared writer and activist Razan Zaitouneh from the writer Kamil Shamise.


Homero Aridjis writes to Cesario Alejandro Félix Padilla Figueroa
Jennifer Clement writes to Dareen Tatour
Neil Gaiman writes to Ramón Esono Ebalé
Kamila Shamsie writes to Razan Zaitouneh
Madeleine Thien writes to Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh
Ai Weiwei writes to Zehra Doğan

For more information on the cases you can please contact Sahar Halaimzai at PEN International: Sahar.halaimzai@pen-international.org | +44 20 7405 0338