2014 Oxfam Novib/PEN Awards for Freedom of Expression

(London, 16 January, 2014) – PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, the PEN Emergency Fund and Oxfam Novib have awarded the 2014 Oxfam Novib/PEN International Free Expression Award to freelance journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, journalist and activist Oksana Chelysheva and journalist and human rights defender Dina Meza for their continued work for freedom of expression in the face of persecution. Alongside the presentation of the award, PEN International also launched its Bled Manifesto of the Writers for Peace Committee - calling for the recognition of a universal right to peace.

In recognition of writers’ significant contribution to freedom of expression around the world, PEN International and Oxfam Novib present this prestigious literary award as a distinction to writers and journalists committed to free speech despite the danger to their own lives.

‘PEN International campaigns on behalf of courageous writers at risk and this award, in partnership with Oxfam Novib and the PEN Emergency Fund, is an important way of highlighting the challenges to freedom of expression and the bravery of individuals who speak up, particularly at a time when so much of freedom of expression is under threat worldwide.’ said Laura McVeigh, Executive Director, PEN International.

This year’s recipients of the award are strong advocates for freedom of expression in the face of great personal risk. Somalian freelance journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim has continued to speak out against Somalia’s crackdown on the media despite being detained in January 2013 and later charged and convicted with insulting the government for interviewing a woman who alleged that soldiers had raped her. He spent 66 days in prison before being freed by the Supreme Court.

Honduran journalist Dina Meza has worked as a human rights defender for over two decades and has been a victim of harassment and threats since 2006. She currently works for a human rights’ NGO and as a volunteer for Visitación Padilla Women’s Movement for Peace and continues to defend human rights despite being subjected to a continued campaign of death threats and physical harassment.

Russian journalist and activist Oksana Chelysheva has been openly critical of Russia’s handling of the conflict in Chechnya and has worked for the Chechen Information Agency -which specialises in reporting on Chechnya - despite receiving death threats. She was a member of the Russian Chechen Friendship Society, an NGO based in Finland which monitors human rights violations in Chechnya. A colleague and friend of murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya, Chelysheva continues to highlight the regressive approach to freedom of expression in Putin’s Russia. Oksana Chelysheva was at the Hague to receive the award.

'In Russia, the space for human rights activists to speak out about violations of human rights is increasingly shrinking' said Farah Karimi, Executive Director, Oxfam Novib. 'Oksana is a very brave woman who is committed to finding a just and peaceful solution for Chechnya, despite the pressure, and as a consequence she is living in exile. People like Oksana are an inspiration for all of us to remain committed to achieving a just world, in which all people enjoy equal rights.'

The Oxfam Novib/PEN International Free Expression Award is presented every year at the Hague, city of Peace. On the same day PEN International will also launched its Bled Manifesto of the Writers for Peace Committee – a ten-point manifesto calling for the recognition of a universal right to peace. The Manifesto, which was adopted at the 79th PEN International Congress in Iceland in September 2013, recognises the key role of writers in creating the conditions necessary for building and maintaining peace through dialogue and intellectual exchange.

The Bled Manifesto of the Writers for Peace Committee will inform the work of PEN on the issue of peace in the coming years and builds upon the extensive work of the Writers for Peace Committee on conflict, freedom of expression and peace since 1984.

_______________________________________________________________________For more information/press/interviews at PEN International contact: Sahar Halaimzai - sahar.halaimzai@pen-international.org |+44 (0)20 7405 0338 | or Sarah Clarke - sarah.clarke@pen-international.org | +44 (0)7575 030028. Twitter: @pen_int | Facebook: www.facebook.com/peninternational
At Writers Unlimited contact: Gerda Roest - gerda@writersunlimited.nl |+31 70 3650222

To view The Bled Manifesto of the Writers for Peace Committee click here.