PEN International © 2017
Terms & Conditions | Privacy Statement

Day of the Imprisoned Writer 2020

Day of the Imprisoned Writer 2020

On 15 November, the Day of the Imprisoned Writer, PEN International calls for urgent international action to protect writers and journalists across the globe, who increasingly find themselves targeted for their peaceful free expression work.

Imprisoned writers rely on PEN to advocate for their freedom and to defy those who want to silence them. From practical support for writers seeking asylum or in exile, to using our platforms to share their words, to putting pressure on the powerful – this work is only possible with your support.


This year, PEN is highlighting the cases of:

Sedigeh Vasmaghi


Osman Kavala


Paola Ugaz


Kakwenza Rukirabashaija


How can I take action for the Day of the Imprisoned Writer?

Please send emails or tweets on behalf of each of the writers listed here and raise awareness of their situation using #ImprisonedWriter.

Read the solidarity letters in support of our imprisoned writers:

  • Yann Martel writes to Kakwenza Rukirabashaija
  • Lisa Appignanesi writes to Sedigeh Vasmaghi
  • Elena Poniatowska writes to Paola Ugaz
  • Andrey Kurkov writes to Osman Kavala

What is the Day of the Imprisoned Writer?

Each year, PEN highlights the cases of five persecuted writers, be they imprisoned, facing prosecution or otherwise at risk. These cases highlight the type of threats and attacks that are faced by writers and journalists around the world every day.

PEN Centres and members worldwide take action to advocate for these cases around this day. Writers send solidarity letters to their colleagues in prison or under threat. This year’s letters come from Yann Martel, Elena Poniatowska, Lisa Appignanesi and Andrey Kurkov.

What difference does the Day of the Imprisoned Writer make?

Last year, at least 29 PEN centres, representing every continent, used the Day of the Imprisoned Writer to highlight the cases of writers at risk and call for protection. Activities ranged from letter-writing to panel discussions, press conferences to publishing the work of imprisoned writers.

Three of the five writers featured in 2018’s campaign were released. 2019 focus case, Ugandan poet, activist and academic, Dr Stella Nyanzi went on to win the 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International award before her eventual release.

For all featured writers, the campaign raises awareness of their situation, boosts advocacy work on their behalf and ensures that they and their families feel supported and not forgotten.

“It is difficult to silence a writer's voice. From the gaps between the bars in cages, from the space left blank intentionally in letters, from words exchanged with visitors, in the books available outside the prisons, in the memories of readers, and the solidarity of supporters, the imprisoned writer's words leak out, spread far and wide, and resonate in bookshops and cafes, on the Internet and in public squares. As we mark the Day of the Imprisoned Writer, we express our solidarity with our sisters and brothers denied their freedom, and call for their release and remember their courage and their words, repeating them, sharing them, and relaying them, making them resound, shattering the silence their jailors seek”. Salil Tripathi, Chair, PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee, Writer and Journalist.

For further information, please contact Sabrina Tucci, Communications and Campaigns Manager,

t. +44 (0)20 7405 0338 |Twitter: @pen_int | Facebook: |


Note to editors: Down arrow

PEN International promotes literature and freedom of expression and is governed by the PEN Charter and the principles it embodies: unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations. Founded in London in 1921, PEN International – PEN’s Secretariat – connects an international community of writers. It is a forum where writers meet freely to discuss their work; it is also a voice speaking out for writers silenced in their own countries. Through Centres in over 100 countries, PEN operates on five continents. PEN International is a non-political organisation which holds Special Consultative Status at the UN and Associate Status at UNESCO. PEN International is a registered charity in England and Wales with registration number 1117088