Iran: arrest followed by an enforced disappearance of poet

PEN International condemns the enforced disappearance of poet Mohammad Bamm who was arrested by members of the Iranian security forces on 31 December 2017 while on his way home in the city of Abadan, Iran. Bamm was arrested along with his friend who was released after a short time. To date, Bamm is still being detained incommunicado with no access to his lawyer or his family. Bamm was previously detained in 2017 on politically-motivated charges which are “propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran” and “blasphemy”. 

PEN is deeply concerned about Bamm’s safety and physical integrity, and believes that his detention and the charges against him are solely related to the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression. PEN calls for the full respect of Bamm’s rights as a detainee and to unconditionally release him. PEN also calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all other writers currently detained in Iran in connection with the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and assembly, in accordance with Articles 9, 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party.

To take action on social media read more here.

PEN International concerned about reprisals against Sahib Teymurov’s family members

Sahib Teymurov, a human rights defender from Azerbaijan who is currently a refugee in Canada, posted a message critical of the Aliyev regime on Facebook on 3 December 2017. On 7 December, several of Teymurov’s relatives living in Azerbaijan were detained by the police and forced to call him and ask that he delete the impugned message, or else they would face the consequences. Teymurov refused to delete the message and the following day, his step-brother Tahir Teymurov disappeared. His whereabouts remained unknown until 21 December, when it was confirmed by the authorities that he is under detention and faces narcotics-related charges for which he faces 5 to 12 years’ imprisonment if found guilty. Tahir Teymurov’s relatives allege that he has been tortured during the period of his disappearance.

Read more on PEN International's website.

Iran: freedom of expression during protests should be respected

PEN International is alarmed by the continued escalating repression surrounding a series of protests across Iran, which started on 28 December. According to reports, protestors have been highlighting issues such as poor economic conditions and corruption. There has also been overt criticism of the Iranian regime and its foreign policy. According to recent reports, over 500 people have been arrested, and at least 22 people have been killed. 

The organisation is also concerned at reports of restrictions on social media use and blocking of social media apps, in response to public protests. The Iranian authorities should respect the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and refrain from using lethal force.

The whole world has been watching the recent protests in Iran. We are worried by the large numbers of arrests, the deaths of protestors and reports of excessive use of force. We urge the government to uphold the fundamental rights to peaceful protest and free speech.” - said Ebony Riddell- Bamber, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at PEN International

PEN condemns the Egyptian authorities’ crackdown on freedom of expression

Read the full letter and call for action His Excellency Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on PEN International's website

Iraq: Fears for safety of prominent Iraqi writer and his colleagues at Masarat Foundation


PEN International is deeply concerned about the safety of Saad Salloum, a prominent Iraqi writer and activist, as well as his colleagues at Masarat Foundation for Cultural and Media Development. They have been recentlysubjected to death threats by an unknown Islamic group through phone calls and letters asking the Foundation staff to halt their activities. 

The Masarat Foundation is an Iraqi based non-governmental organisation working to support the rights of minority groups, collective memory studies and inter-faith dialogue. Since the liberation of most Iraqi territory from Daesh, Masarat has been playing a central role in reinforcing interfaith and intercultural dialogue, and reconciliation among different groups. Subsequently, Masarat’s General Coordinator Salloum reports being subjected to continuing threats and harassment from unknown Islamic armed groups. Other writers and civil society activists within the organisation also report having repeatedly received death threats this year from unidentified armed groups.

Please find the full statement here.

Mexico: PEN welcomes a historic decision regarding government advertising

PEN International, PEN Mexico and PEN San Miguel de Allende welcome the Mexican Supreme Court’s (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación – SCJN) ruling in favor of the regulation of government advertising expenditure. This is a historic step for Mexican justice, in favor of freedom of expression.

The ruling, which was announced on 15 November, obliges Mexico’s Congress to establish a law to regulate government spending of public funds on advertising in the media by 30 April 2018.

Read more here.

PEN International concerned about deteriorating climate for freedom of expression in Catalonia

PEN International is extremely concerned about increasing restrictions on the right to freedom of expression and opinion in Catalonia during and following the referendum on independence of 1 October 2017. As the upcoming regional election on 21 December draws near, the organisation is particularly alarmed by reports of unprecedented levels of harassment and violence against journalists.

Read the full statement on PEN International's website.

PEN International appalled by Cumhuriyet Daily web editor Oğuz Güven guilty verdict


PEN International is appalled by today’s judgment of Istanbul’s 28th Criminal Court against Cumhuriyet daily web editor Oğuz Güven, who received a three year and one month prison sentence on two separate terrorism charges. Güven was found guilty of ‘engaging with the FETÖ/PYD armed terror organisation’ and of ‘publishing statements that legitimize the PKK/KCK terror organisation’s violent methods or encourage applying those methods’, in relation to a tweet he published on Cumhuriyet’s account regarding the death of Denizli Chief Public Prosecutor Mustafa Alper.

Read the full article on PEN International's website.

BAHRAIN: Support Nabeel Rajab Ahead of the Appeal Judgement Against 2-Year Sentence For Speaking to Press

Fifteen rights groups have today written to 11 states and the European Union calling for action ahead of the conclusion of Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab’s appeal against his two-year sentence for stating that Bahrain bars reporters and human rights workers from entry into the country.

Read the full statement on PEN International's website.

South Africa: Criminal charges and death threats against author Jacques Pauw

 Reports that criminal charges have been laid against journalist Jacques Pauw following the publication of his book, The President’s Keepers, are deeply concerning, said PEN South Africa, PEN Afrikaans and PEN International. The President’s Keepers, released on 29 October, exposes allegations of wide-scale corruption, fraud and financial mismanagement under the rule of South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma.

To read more, visit PEN International

China: writer and PEN member dies while on medical parole


8 November 2017 - PEN international mourns the death of dissident writer and PEN member Yang Tongyan, who succumbed to a brain tumour on 7 November 2017, just three months after he was released on medical parole in August 2017.

“We mourn Yang Tongyan. We find ourselves in despair faced with another life destroyed by injustice in China. A dear writer, a committed citizen, a man of vision and hope has been crushed by a system where repression is the rule. For the second time this year, after the death of Liu Xiaobo, we see a prisoner liberated on parole just for him to face death out of prison. Such a cruel practice reveals to what extend injustice commands the whole judicial system. The Chinese Communist Party must know that we will never forget these dear PEN colleagues and will never stop our peaceful struggle to restore freedom of expression in China one day.” Said Carles Torner, Executive Director of PEN International

At the time of his death, Yang was receiving treatment in a Shanghai hospital. He had undergone an operation to remove a tumour on 23 August 2017. His family had only learnt of his diagnosis on 12 August.

Read more on PEN International's website

Iran: PEN welcomes release of poet Mahvash Sabet after more than a decade in prison


PEN International welcomes the release of teacher and poet Mahvash Sabet, one of a group of seven Baha’i leaders known as the ‘Yaran-i-Iran’ – ‘Friends of Iran’ – detained in 2008 for their faith and activities related to running the affairs of the Bahá’í community in Iran. On 18 September 2017, Sabet was the first of the group to be released from prison, having served almost a decade in detention. Following her release, she has issued a public call for the release of her six fellow detainees.

More about the release on PEN International's website.

Syria: Take Action for Khalil Ma’touq, writer and human rights lawyer

On 2nd October, 2012 human rights lawyer and writer Khalil Ma’touq was arrested with his assistant Mohamed Thatha in Syria. Nearly five years later they remain missing. For more information, a video about about enforced disappearances in Syria and how to take action, read PEN International's full report.

Libya: Fears for safety of writers and editors over new literary collection


PEN International is deeply concerned about the safety of the writers and editors of a new literary collection entitled Sun on Closed Windows. The book, which includes short stories by 25 writers as well as two essays by prominent Libyan literary critics, was published in Arabic in May 2017. Read the full statement on PEN International's website.

Spain: Release Turkish-Swedish journalist Hamza Yalçın

The arrest by Spanish authorities of Turkish-Swedish journalist Hamza Yalçın pursuant to an Interpol Notice issued by Turkey is deeply concerning, said PEN International today, as it called on the Spanish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Yalçın and to allow him to return to Sweden.

The charges against Yalçın relate to an article he wrote for Odak magazine. IFEX reports that on 18 March, Turkish prosecutors launched an investigation into Yalçın, Odak’s chief columnist and the coordinator for its Training and Solidarity Movement, and Doğan Baran, the magazine’s managing editor, for the article ‘The Latest Developments in the Military and the Revolutionary Struggle’. Both men face charges of ‘insulting the President’ and ‘denigrating the military’.

Read the full media release on PEN International's website.

Turkey: Release journalist and painter Zehra Doğan


PEN International calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Zehra Doğan. Pending her release, the Turkish authorities should allow her access to painting materials, in line with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules, in particular Rule No. 105).

‘PEN International is dismayed by Zehra Doğan’s conviction and imprisonment, which we consider a violation of her right to freedom of expression, as an artist and as a journalist’, said Carles Torner, Executive Director of PEN International.

Read the latest statement on PEN International's website

India: Delhi court places injunction on the sale and publication of a book


A Delhi court’s injunction on the publisher Juggernaut Books and the author Priyanka Pathak-Narain, which prevents the publication and sale of the book Godman to Tycoon: The Untold Story of Baba Ramdev is deeply concerning, PEN International said today.

On 4 August 2017, the Karkardooma District Court in Delhi approved an order prohibiting the publication and sale of Godman to Tycoon: The Untold Story of Baba Ramdev, without hearing the defence of either the book’s publisher or author.  The court decided not to hear from the defendants in order to avoid ‘the delay which would be caused during the process of serving the notice and hearing the defendants,’ according to Juggernaut. The book, which is the result of rigorous research including over 50 interviews, traces the trajectory of prominent public figure, Ramdev, from proponent of yoga to proprietor of a vast business empire.

Read the full story on PEN International's website

Bahrain: FCO Silence on Nabeel Rajab 'Appalling'

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office's silence on the sentencing of human rights figure Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain has been called "appalling" in a letter to the Foreign Secretary, signed by 17 rights groups & parliamentarians today. 

The President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights faces trial on 7th August for tweeting about the Yemen war and torture in Bahrain. He faces up to 15 years. He was sentenced in absentia following an unfair trial to two years in prison for giving media interviews on 10 July. Rajab has not been allowed to speak to his family since 15 July. Rajab has been held largely in solitary confinement in the first nine months of his detention. This led to his health deteriorating in April, and he is currently recovering in the Ministry of Interior clinic.

Read PEN International's full press release.

Syria: Rights groups condemn extrajudicial execution of human rights defender and software engineer Bassel Khartabil


The family of Bassel Khartabil, a Syrian-Palestinian software engineer and free speech activist, confirmed that he had been subjected to an extrajudicial execution in October 2015. The undersigned human rights organisations condemn the extrajudicial execution of Khartabil and call for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death.


Read the full statement on PEN International's website.

PEN International: measures against Al-Jazeera violate media freedom

PEN International is deeply concerned about the measures taken by some Middle Eastern states against Al-Jazeera, a state-funded broadcaster in Doha, and other online magazines in the context of a diplomatic and economic offensive against Qatar. These measures have led to the closure of Al-Jazeera’s offices in some Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates(UAE). Recently the Israeli government also announced they would close the Al-Jazeera bureau in Jerusalem and revoke media credentials from Al-Jazeera journalists.

Several Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Egypt, have previously demanded that Qatar close Al-Jazeera and online news sites such as The New Arab, as a condition to end to this regional crisis. On 6 August 2017, the Israeli communications minister, Ayoub Kara, also announced his government’s decision to close Al-Jazeera Media Network’s bureau in Jerusalem, without setting a fixed date for when this was like to happen. 

Read the full statement on PEN International's website.

Mexico: PEN condemns recent threats against journalists

PEN International, PEN Mexico and PEN San Miguel de Allende are gravely concerned by the pervasive attacks and threats continuously being made against Mexican journalists. The levels of impunity for crimes against journalists are taking a toll on freedom of expression in the country. In the face of such violence and the failure of the local and federal authorities to ensure their protection, journalists, activists and human rights defenders have had to fight to protect themselves.

For more information read the full article on PEN International's website

Liu Xiaobo: An exceptional life, always remembered

PEN International was gravely concerned for the health of dissident writer, Independent Chinese PEN Centre (ICPC) member and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liu Xiaobo, following news of his diagnosis of late-stage liver cancer. He was released on medical parole in June 2017 and was receiving medical treatment at Shenyang Hospital, Liaoning province. Liu Xiaobo had been serving an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power” related to his part as the leading author behind “Charter ‘08”, a manifesto calling for protection of universal human rights and democratic reform in China. PEN International believes that Liu Xiaobo had been held for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of opinion, expression and association. PEN called on the Chinese authorities to grant Liu Xiaobo adequate medical care allowing his direct involvement in the decision-making process, and to allow him to seek medical assistance wherever he should choose.

More about Xiaobo on PEN International's website.

Attention is now drawn to the freedom of his widow, Liu Xia.

If you'd like to pay tribute to Liu Xiaobo, you can write a message in his memory,

From Xiaobo's writings:


Between the gray wall
And a string of sounds of chopping in kitchen
Dawn is tied and cut
And melted by a sort of limpness of soul

I do not know how the difference
Between light and darkness displays through my pupils
Sitting in the rust I cannot determine
Whether it is the light of prison shackles
Or the god of nature beyond the walls
Betrayal of the day makes the proud sun
Shocked very much

This dawn is broad in vain
While you in a great distance
Collect the nights of love