In the first six months of 2013, PEN monitored over 630 cases of attacks on writers, journalists and bloggers. Of these, around 187 are in prison, some serving sentences of over 15 years. Others are suffering unfair trials, harassment and threats.Every year PEN focuses on five writers from around the world that represent the type of threats and attacks faced by our colleagues. This year PEN looks at cases of writers that are suffering violations of their right to freedom of expression for using digital media.
“Digital surveillance has become the partner in crime for states in their war on freedom of expression. We have seen an alarming rise in the number of cases that have a digital component over the last decade. Almost half of our most serious cases are now related to digital media,” said Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of the Writers in Prison Committee

In response to threats to freedom expression presented by digital media, PEN launched the Declaration on Digital Freedom in 2012, a set of principles on censorship, surveillance, targeting of individuals, and business and human rights in a digital age. PEN has been campaigning for greater awareness of the scale of the problem throughout 2013.

PEN International’s focus cases for this year are:

Dina Meza (Honduras) – Human rights defender and journalist, the victim of harassment and threats since 2006 which have not been properly investigated, while national protection mechanisms for journalists are ineffective. PEN International believe that she is targeted for exercising her right to free expression and that her physical security is at risk. For more information click here.

Digital surveillance has become the partner in crime for states in their war on freedom of expression

Fazil Say (Turkey) – Writer, composer and musician. His 10-month suspended sentence for “religious defamation” was upheld on 20 September 2013. His conviction relates to a series of tweets and retweets made in April 2012, including a verse attributed to the 12th Century Persian poet Omar Khayyam. For more information click here.

Zahra Rahnavard (Iran) – Author and Political Activist. She has been held under unofficial house arrest in Tehran since February 2011 for her and her husband’s political activism. For more information click here.

Kunchok Tsephel Gopey Tsang (China / Tibet) – Internet writer and editor of the Tibetan language website Chomei (The Lamp). He was convicted of “disclosing state secrets” on 12 November 2009, currently serving a 15-year prison sentence. For more information click here.

Rodney Sieh (Liberia) – Founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of award-winning daily newspaper FrontPageAfrica . On 8 November Sieh was released following the expiration of a 30-day compassionate leave granted by the Liberian authorities. Sieh was jailed on 2 August 2013 for failing to pay 1.5 million US-Dollars to a former minister in libel damages. PEN International will continue to support Sieh and monitor his case.

PEN’s alert to the threat posed by governments punishing the use of digital media comes with the “Day of the Imprisoned Writer” which is held on 15 November since 1981. It was launched by PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee and used to campaign on behalf of persecuted writers.

For more information contact:

Ann Harrison, Programme Director, Writers in Prison Committee
Sahar Halaimzai, Communications and Campaigns Manager
Phone: + 44 (0) 20 7405 0338

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