PEN Melbourne @ The Mildura Writers Festival

At PEN Melbourne we’re excited about our partnership with The Mildura Writers Festival and have recently had the pleasure of offering the second Mildura Indigenous Writers Award, in association with the Mallee District Aboriginal Services. The winner for the 2016 prize is Sianlee Harris with her story, ‘Memories’. To read Harris’s story as well as more about PEN’s celebrations at Mildura, download the latest PEN Quarterly.

The award is open to local Indigenous writers aged 16 years and over, for a short piece of fiction up to 2,000 words, or a poem (open theme). The winner is awarded a prize money of $1,200.
The 2017 entries will open in May 2017 and close on 1 July 2017

Journalist Peter Greste freed from
 Egyptian prison

As jailed journalist Peter Greste describes it, 2014 was his annus horribilus.

But in a New Year message the Al Jazeera correspondent wrote to NSW MP Shaoquette Moselmane, he said although it had been a tough year, he and his colleagues had found “extraordinary support from unexpected quarters” and wanted to thank the NSW Parliament for passing a motion expressing support for the freedom of the press, human rights and the rule of law.

Egyptian officials say Australian Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste will be deported to Australia today.
Egyptian officials say Australian Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste will be deported to Australia today.CREDIT:AFP

“This experience has, of course, been extraordinarily difficult for the three of us Al Jazeera journalists and our families, but we also understand that our case has come to stand for so much more than our freedom alone,” he wrote from his cell in Mazraa Prison.

Greste was jailed for seven years in June when an Egyptian court found he and his Al Jazeera colleagues guilty of spreading false news to support the Muslim Brotherhood.

Greste was writing to Mr Moselmane after learning that Egypt’s Court of Cassation (equivalent to the Australian High Court) had ordered a retrial.

“This is a significant step towards the vindication that we seek, and that we know must come if a credible judicial system is involved,” Greste said in the letter.

“Although we will probably never be able to draw a direct line between the actions of our supporters and the authorities’ handling of our case here, I’m convinced that steps like your motion send a very clear message that the world is paying attention.”

News: ‘Guess what, Mr Dutton: each asylum seeker has a face and a story’

PEN Melbourne’s Arnold Zable examines recent events concerning refugees detained on Christmas Island, the notion of the ‘worthy’ and ‘unworthy’ asylum seekers and how we might better respond to those who escape untenable conditions in their own countries.


Via The Age:


2015 PEN Melbourne AGM: Seeking endorsement of a revised working of Statement of Purposes

2015 PEN Melbourne AGM:
Endorsement of a revised working of Statement of Purposes

At the forthcoming PEN Melbourne Annual General Meeting (AGM) the Committee will be seeking endorsement of a revised wording of the Statement of Purposes in the Rules governing our Association. The change seeks to provide a clearer articulation of or purposes and is being sought as a precursor to our applying for charitable status so that we can receive grants and tax deductible donations.

The current purpose states that the purposes of the association are:

To adhere to, strengthen and act in accordance with the PEN International Charter which states:

1. Literature knows no frontiers and must remain common currency among people in spite of political or international upheavals.

2. In all circumstances, and particularly in time of war, works of art, the patrimony of humanity at large, should be left untouched by national or political passion.

3. Members of PEN should at all times use what influence they have in favour of good understanding and mutual respect between nations; they pledge themselves to do their utmost to dispel race, class and national hatreds, and to champion the ideal of one humanity living in peace in one world.

4. PEN stands for the principle of unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations, and members pledge themselves to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression in the country and community to which they belong, as well as throughout the world wherever this is possible.

PEN declares for a free press and opposes arbitrary censorship in time of peace. It believes that the necessary advance of the world towards a more highly organised political and economic order renders a free criticism of governments, administrations and institutions imperative. And since freedom implies voluntary restraint, members pledge themselves to oppose such evils of a free press as mendacious publication, deliberate falsehood and distortion of facts for political and personal ends.

What is being proposed at the 2015 Annual General Meeting?

The following is what is being proposed for 2015 AGM:

The purposes of the Association are to promote literature by defending the freedom to write, stimulating interest in and access to the written word and fostering a vital and diverse literary community in Australia that is engaged with, and respected by, the literary community and readers around the world. We undertake that work by, without limitation:

a) Supporting the publication of creative and non-fiction works
b) Supporting campaigns, events, readings and discussions related to the promotion of language and literature and the promotion and protection of freedom of expression
c) Supporting the promotion of language and literature within and between cultural groups and
d) Supporting the professional development of writers.

Click here to access PEN Melbourne’s 2014 AGM minutes, as only a few paper copies will be available at the forthcoming AGM.

PEN marks the 34th anniversary of the annual Day of the Imprisoned Writer

02 November, 2015

On 15 November PEN International will mark the 34th anniversary of the annual Day of the Imprisoned Writer, an international day that recognises writers who have suffered persecution as a result of exercising their right to freedom of expression. Each year PEN monitors and campaigns on behalf of hundreds of writers around the globe who are harassed, persecuted, attacked, forced into exile and even killed as result of their.

Each year PEN Centres and members worldwide commemorate the Day of the Imprisoned Writer to highlight the unjust imprisonment and other forms of attack against writers worldwide, to remember those who have been killed, and stand in solidarity with imprisoned and threatened colleagues.

This year the focus has been on a number of specific cases from around the world that represent the type of threats and attacks faced by our colleagues:

Juan Carlos Argeñal Medinaa Honduran TV journalist shot and killed on7 December 2013 by unidentified gunmen in his home. Family members believe the journalist was killed for exposing corruption in a local hospital. Before his death, Argeñal reported receiving death threats from people he believed to be linked to the hospital’s administration. Argeñal’s murder remains unsolved and there has been almost no progress in the investigation, despite specialist investigative units having been assigned to the case. For more information and how to take action on this case click here.

Student activists Patiwat Saraiyaem, 23, and Pornthip Munkong (f), 26, were each sentenced to two and a half years in prison for violating Thailand’s “lèse-majesté” law for their involvement in staging a play about a fictional monarch, the “Wolf Bride” (‘Jao Sao Ma Pa’) at Thammasat University in October 2013. The pair has been in detention since their arrest in mid-August 2014, after being repeatedly refused bail, and pleaded guilty in December 2014 in order to reduce their sentence.For more information and how to take action on this case click here.

Investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova has been sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for embezzlement and tax evasion in Azerbaijan. Well known for her exposures of high level corruption and for her criticism of the Azerbaijani government’s crackdown on opposition voices, she has been the target of a relentless campaign of intimidation and judicial harassment over the last two years. Ismayilova was arrested on 5 December 2014, PEN believes Ismayilova’s imprisonment is politically-motivated response to her work exposing corruption at the highest levels of Azerbaijani society. For more information and how to take action on this case click here.

Saudi Arabian editor and blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals (over US$260,000) on charges of ‘insulting Islam’ and ‘founding a liberal website.’ He was also banned from travel and from participating in the media for 10 years after his release. On 9 January 2015, Badawi received the first 50 of the 1,000 lashes. Subsequent rounds of punishment have been postponed on medical grounds. For more information and how to take action on this case click here.

Amanuel Asrat is an award-winning Eritrean poet, critic and editor-in-chief of the leading newspaper ዘመን (Zemen, meaning The Times). Asrat was arrested at his home on the morning of 23 September 2001 amid a crackdown on state and private media. Asrat is believed to be detained without charge or trial in the maximum security prison, Eiraeiro, north of Asmara; other journalists arrested at the same time are believed to have died. For more information and how to take action on this case click here.

PEN Melbourne welcomes the acquittal of Phuketwan journalists

PEN Melbourne welcomes the acquittal of Australian journalist Alan Morison and his Thai colleague Chutima Sidasathian on charges of criminal defamation after publishing a story on linking the Thai Navy to the trafficking of the  Rohingya boat people. Morison and Chutima Sidasathian faced jail sentences of up to seven years’ jail.

The judges’ ruling declared that Morison and Chutima did not intend to damage Thailand’s reputation when they published the story on their online news site in 2013.  Phuketwan republished a single paragraph from an article originally published by Reuters and this led to the charges being laid. Morison’s news website Phuketwan is known for its reportage on the shocking plight of the Rohingyas from Myanmar.

Morison has described the Navy’s tactics in bringing the charges against himself and Chutima Sidasathian as “A battle fought in court to silence the voices of democracy.”

PEN joins global coalition launching international net neutrality website

More than 35 groups from 19 countries agree on a universal definition of net neutrality 

On the 25 November, a dynamic coalition of civil society organisations launched, which includes a basic, collaborative, and universal definition of net neutrality. The diverse coalition includes more than 35 groups from 19 countries, such as South Korea, Venezuela, Nigeria, Kenya, India, Germany, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, Chile, Bangladesh, Colombia, and the Netherlands.

The coalition agreed upon the following definition, which has been translated into 11 languages, including Mandarin, Spanish, Dutch, Arabic, Korean, and German: “Net neutrality requires that the internet be maintained as an open platform, on which network providers treat all content, applications and services equally, without discrimination.”

This global coalition could not have come together at a more critical moment. In the U.S., net neutrality has finally become a kitchen-table topic, following President Obama’s breakthrough statement in which he called for the Federal Communications Commission to pass bold rules protecting the open internet. Meanwhile, the European Union could soon pass landmark net neutrality legislation, with the Telecoms Single Market proposal currently sitting with the Council of the European Union.

“This dynamic coalition shows the importance of net neutrality to every internet user around the world. The open internet remains a crucial driver of education, expression, innovation, health, and creativity; every internet user everywhere deserves equal access to this revolutionary medium. Advocates and decisionmakers around the world are watching the contentious net neutrality debates in the U.S. and the EU. The decisions made in those regions will set global precedents for how to ensure and protect a neutral, non-discriminatory internet.” –Josh Levy, Advocacy Director at Access

Access defends and extends the digital rights of users at risk around the world. By combining innovative policy, user engagement, and direct technical support, we fight for open and secure communications for all.

Marianne Diaz Hernandez, director of Acceso Libre (Venezuela), said:
“ is a great resource for us to show how important net neutrality is for the preservation of freedom of speech, access to information, and knowledge all over the world. In Venezuela, the protection of net neutrality is essential for the preservation of civil rights and democracy.”

Isik Baris Fidaner of Alternative Informatics (Turkey), said:
“We think that net neutrality matters. We also think that it should not be reduced to technical solutions. The first aspect that we would like to emphasize is accent-neutrality. The letter accents used in our country have constituted a vessel of modernisation since they were invented a hundred years ago. They have also constituted a vessel of exploitation and colonization by denying and forbidding other letter accents. The use of Unicode hence should be seen as a world-historical matter that concerns net-neutrality. The second aspect is content-neutrality. A text’s meaning is determined by the organisation of its elements. But this organization is also a part of the text’s content, it cannot be something separate and above this content. Therefore, net-neutrality cannot simply be regarded as a technical problem, it is a matter immanent to the text-operative content with which one is engaged on the internet. In other words, just as there can be no meta-language, there can be no meta-data. Fields of study like digital humanities and big data hence should also be seen as belonging to the matters that concern net-neutrality.”

Sarah Clarke, Advocacy and Policy Officer at PEN International, said:

“An open internet is essential to ensuring the unhampered transmission of ideas between peoples around the world, the central mission of PEN. Free access to an open internet–now the most important medium for the transmission of ideas–is an integral part of freedom of expression and must be maintained in the face of moves to restrict access to serve narrow interests.”

Niels ten Oever, Head of Digital of Article 19, said:

“Protecting the plurality and diversity of information is fundamental to securing the right to freedom of expression for all. Unfortunately, they are under threat by moves to end “net neutrality” – the principle that those controlling the internet infrastructure should not interfere
or discriminate between the types of data that travel along it.”

Floris Kreiken, Human Rights Officer at Bits of Freedom (Netherlands), said:

“Now we have a resource for the world to discover and for policy makers to know that net neutrality matters so that they can make informed decisions about the future of the internet.”

Claudio Ruiz, Executive Director of Derechos Digitales (Chile), said:

“This coalition understands that net neutrality is not just a technical issue but also a fully political one. It’s not just a consumers issue but a substantive one. Chile and Peru have groundbreaking net neutrality law provisions and the Inter-American system of human rights sees net neutrality as a human rights issue. Its presence can guarantee 2fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and privacy for citizens worldwide, and therefore its defense has to be global.”

Mohammad Farooq of Digital Rights Foundation (Pakistan), said:

“The significance of net neutrality in Pakistan cannot be ignored. With a fledgling infrastructure and a booming startup and entrepreneurship culture, net neutrality has a big part to play. Net neutrality can help raise awareness about internet censorship issues and champion the cause of internet freedom and the right to free speech worldwide. Pakistan is still in its infancy in terms of net neutrality, but its application is nevertheless significant and cannot be ignored at any cost. It is a principle that advocates for the equality of internet traffic online and no discrimination, and it encourages innovation and creativity that will only enhance the worthiness of the internet even further. Net neutrality is a principle that advocates for opportunities for any netizen online irrespective of class, creed, or culture.”

Jeremy Malcolm, Senior Global Policy Analyst at Electronic Frontier Foundation, said:

“We love the openness and accessibility of the internet, but we worry about it coming under threat from those who want to surround it with gates and toll booths. In cases where market competition isn’t sufficient to dispel these threats, open internet rules can help.”

Arzak Khan, director of Internet Policy Observatory (Pakistan) said:
“Internet Policy Observatory Pakistan has joined the Global Coalition for Net Neutrality to highlight the importance of net neutrality to users and policy makers in Pakistan. The issue of Net Neutrality is very important for internet uses in Pakistan, as existing telecommunications law in the country, while prohibiting “unjust discrimination” by ISPs, does not effectively enforce net neutrality. The existing laws do not sufficiently prevent the possibility of ISPs offering tiered services to content providers, thereby turning the internet into a two-tiered network on which corporate content is prioritized over other content. Net neutrality means that every site on the internet runs on the same speed. That way, startups in Pakistan
and other countries can compete with big Internet giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Google.”

Carolina Rossini, Vice President of International Policy at Public Knowledge, said:

“Public Knowledge is proud to support the global initiative, Net neutrality is important for all of the world’s internet users, and it is just as essential for countries with robust internet infrastructure as it is for those still building infrastructure. Being able to find common ground on net neutrality with organizations in North America, Europe, South America, Africa, Asia-Pacific, and the Middle East and North Africa helps demonstrate the need for us to continue fighting for strong net neutrality principles at home and help our partners abroad. will be an important resource hub for internet users and policymakers from the United States and around the world to understand net neutrality and make informed decisions on behalf of the open internet.”


PEN recognizes the promise of digital media as a means of fulfilling the fundamental right of free expression. At the same time, poets, playwrights, essayists, novelists, writers, bloggers, and journalists are suffering violations of their right to freedom of expression for using digital media. Citizens in many countries have faced severe restrictions in their access to and use of digital media, while governments have exploited digital technologies to suppress freedom of expression and to surveil individuals. The private sector and technology companies in particular have at times facilitated government censorship and surveillance. READ MORE

PEN Melbourne lends support to #EndImpunity

PEN Melbourne AGM – November 26, 2014

“When someone acts with impunity, it means that their actions have no consequences. Intimidation, threats, attacks and murders go unpunished. In the past 10 years, more than 500 journalists have been killed.

Murder is the ultimate form of censorship, and media are undoubtedly on the frontlines of free expression. When journalists have been murdered, in 9 out of 10 cases the murderers have gone free. Countless other citizens, writers, artists, bloggers, musicians and journalists have been harassed, threatened, tortured, intimidated, jailed and worse for exercising their basic human right to express themselves. Most crimes against free expression go unpunished.

The Day to End Impunity is a yearly global initiative to demand accountability for those who have been targeted for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and empower organisations, government bodies and individuals to help dismantle systems of impunity around the world.

The campaign date of November 23 each year marks the anniversary of the 2009 Maguindanao, Ampatuan massacre, when 58 people – including 32 journalists and media workers – were murdered in the Philippines. To date, none of the perpetrators have been brought to justice. It is known as arguably the worst case of impunity for crimes against the media on record.

In December 2013, the United Nations passed a resolution on the safety of journalists, and declared 2 November the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.


PEN Melbourne stands with our colleagues as part of a global movement to end impunity. We ask that PEN members add their voices to the campaign by clicking here.

2014 PEN Melbourne AGM – Minutes

Agenda PEN Melbourne Annual General Meeting

Wednesday, November 26, 6.30pm

The Orange Room

North Fitzroy Star Hotel


Welcome to members and statement of acknowledgement and respect to Aboriginal owners and elders: Jackie Mansourian, Secretary

Minutes of 2013 AGM and Financial report presented: Jackie Mansourian  Acceptance of minutes by Rosemary Mangiamele, seconded by Carole Browne.

Statement from Christine McKenzie, President of PEN Melbourne:

  • PEN Annual report to be sent to members, rather than read out at AGM.
  • Chris expresses the importance of card writing to our writers in prison and that this offering of friendship and solidarity is at the heart of the PEN project.
  • Quote Salman Rushdie –“ literature speaks truth to power”
  • Also speaks about ABC cuts to regional stations as affecting freedom of expression.
  • Recalls the wonderful visit of Ragip Zarakolu to the 2014 MWF. His visit was enabled by the work of the Armenian community and our Jackie Mansourian. Ragip lives in Sweden, an ICORN city of refuge. When he was in prison he appreciated cards written to him by PEN Melb.
  • Acknowledges Peter Greste and his Al Jazeera colleagues who have now been in prison for almost a year.Thanks committee members for their work.
  • Reads poem from Rosa’s sister who is serving a 20 year prison sentence in Iran.

Annual Financial Report 2013-2014: Rob Cope, Treasurer

  • Annual Financial Report submitted – for a copy, see here.
  • Call out for new treasurer

New Committee 2014 – 2015: Jackie Mansourian.

  • All current roles retained. Need a new treasurer.
  • Our committee is a welcoming one. Confirmedv by newer members on the committee.

Reflections on 80th PEN International Congress: Cynthia Troup, Pen Melbourne Committee member.

  • Judith Rodriguez and Cynthia Troup attended as delegates from PEN Melb.
  • Cynthia described her experiences in Bishkek.
  • Acknowledges the simple power of a card written to a writer in prison

International Day to End Impunity 

Farewell to PEN Melbourne Treasurer. Chris thanks and presents gift to Rob.

Annual Card Writing: Cece Ojany.

  • An act of friendship and solidarity to writers who are in detention, imprisoned and persecuted for their courage to write.
  • Cece also vouches for the inclusiveness of PEN Melbourne committee and it being unlike any other organization she has worked in. She describes her role as WIP officer and leads us into the card writing part of the evening.
  • Encourages members to take part in the Rapid Action Network (RAN)
  • Janet Howie has donated beautiful cards which she has painted and designed. She is also selling them with all proceeds going to the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre.