Alle innlegg av Larissa Avelar

A message from Narges Mohammadi

Iranian journalist and human rights activist Narges Mohammadi is currently serving a 16-year sentence. She sent a letter which was read during the event The Word is Free, at the Norwegian Festival of Literature in Lillehammer. The letter was read by Narges’ brother, Hamidreza Mohammadi, during the event. You can watch it on our YouTube channel or you can read the letter below.

Greetings,

It’s an honor to be your guest at this important conference in Norway, and I’m sorry for not being able to be among you because of my imprisonment, although these words convey my message to you.  And this  is important, because the words are exactly the reason why I’m in prison right now, and the words and the respect for the freedom of speech are the reason why you have gathered. So, I consider myself there with you, in a city  of which beauty I’ve heard. I greet you in the beautiful city of Lillehammer.

Dear friends,

I’m writing you after I’ve finished serving my 6-year sentence in prison, and the 16-year sentence just started on 14 March 2017, all of which due to my work at the Defenders of Human Rights Center, to  my feminist activities and to opposing the death penalty.

You may wonder what I’ve done or said or written to deserve such a punishment.

Let me tell you a story so that you can judge for yourself what you would do if you were here instead of me or any other Iranian human rights activist. When I was serving my sentence in Zanjan prison, I met a beautiful young woman who had spent most of her life in prison. She was sentenced to death when she was a minor and she spent all her childhood and teenage years waiting for the gallows to be hanged once she reached adulthood. Because, according to the rules, children must stay in the prison until the age of 18 before they are executed.  I watched her suffering every day. Outside the prison, because of the nature of my activities at the Defenders of Human Rights Center, I was often in contact with the families of the death row prisoners, and I’ve witnessed the horrible pain and suffering the death penalty imposes on society.

My dear friends, if you were me wouldn’t you use your pen to try to reform such laws?

If I’m not with you in the beautiful city of Lillehammer today it’s because I’m also paying the price for writing and speaking against solitary confinement and torture. Solitary confinement is a clear example of torture. It’s a place to brainwash and break the will of those opposing the system. One of my goals has been to try to abolish solitary confinement, which are unfortunately controlled and used by different Iranian institutions such as the Revolutionary Guards, the Ministry of Intelligence and even the Judiciary.

My dear colleagues and friends,

If you live in countries where you enjoy the blessing of equality and freedom of speech, it is because there have been people who had fought for and paid the price for it in the past. There have been, without any doubt, women who have fought against gender discrimination and inequality between men and women. Did you know that one of the reasons I’m in prison is my feminist activities? It’s obvious that, as long as there are discriminatory laws against women, there will also be people fighting against the discrimination.

My dear friends, my long prison sentence is because of my struggle side by side with my fellow countrymen and women to achieve democracy, and rest assured that I will continue my efforts the moment I get out of the prison.

Dear friends,

Our ideals are: peace, security, freedom and equality for all.

What remains of human beings without their ideals? Narges Mohammadi can be imprisoned, like any other activist imprisoned on the way to achieve freedom and justice. But can they imprison our ideals? No! Never! And it is our joint responsibility to protect human ideals and aspirations, and to take actual steps in order to fulfill them.

My friends and colleagues who live in the free world, you who hold conferences and try to protect freedom of expression as one of the human ideals, I am addressing you. I believe that peace, security and human rights are achievable only if we unite and support each other.

I sincerely thank you all for listening to me. I also thank the hosts and organizers of the Lillehammer Literature Festival, PEN International that has never hesitated to support me, ICORN organization, and especially Norwegian PEN that has campaigned for my freedom of speech, and all the organizations and individuals supporting freedom of speech and human rights who have shown their support for me and my imprisoned colleagues all around the world.

2017: Vietnam: Me Nam

Human rights activist and blogger Me Nam was arrested in October 2016 and was sentenced to 10 years in prson on charges of “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” We believe that Me Nam is being targeted for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression.

July 10th 2017

His Excellency Tran Dai Quang, President of the Social Republic of Vietnam
Mr Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister
Mr Pham Binh Minh, Minister of Foreign Affairs

To whom it may concern,

PEN International and The Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee hereby urge you to quash the conviction and 10-year sentence of blogger and human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, also known as Me Nam.

Me Nam was arrested in October 2016 and has since been convicted of “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 88 of the Penal Code. We believe that Me Nam is being targeted for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression.

Via her blog and social media, Me Nam has shared her opinions on social, economical, political, environmental and human rights issues. As a result of this Me Nam has dealt with consistent harassment from Vietnamese authorities, concluding now in this 10-year prison sentence, which violates Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), of which Vietnam is a state party. In Article 19 it is clearly stated that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression (…) in writing or in print (…) though any other media of his choice”.

We therefore strongly urge you to quash Me Nam’s conviction and release her immediately and unconditionally. We also urge you to repeal Article 88, as well as other national security provisions that criminalise dissent in breach of international human rights law.

In addition we urge you to immediately and unconditionally release all other writers and activists imprisoned or detained for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, in accordance with Article 19 of the ICCPR.

 

Yours sincerely,

Mari Moen Holsve

Member of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

 

COPY: The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Vietnam Embassy in Norway

Turkey's judicial madness

 

The case against Ahmed Altan and his brother Mehmed Altan is the beginning of a long day’s journey into a dark night in Turkish legal history.

«What does the indictment say? We are said to know the men who are alleged to know the men who are alleged to have directed the coup.»

Judicial pornography

This is the beginning of the well-known Turkish author, Ahmed Altan’s defense against the accusations directed at him, implying that he has a connection to the coup attempt in Turkey on July 15 last year. He even calls his defense speech for «A portrait of an indictment as judicial porn». We cannot be sure that the judges in Turkey understand the allusion to James Joyce.

The trial started Monday, June 19, with chaos outside the courtroom, where many international observers, family, friends, acquaintances and supporters wanted to observe the proceedings.

After waiting for a long time, the case was moved to another courtroom in this Kafkaesque palace, Caglayan in Istanbul (the world’s largest) before it was postponed for several hours due to the sound system. That’s how they work to get rid of bothersome listeners. In the end, we started in a small room in order to exclude half of the attendants.

Madness

And, dear reader, I ask you to continue reading, in order to be involved in the legal madness that is about to start in Turkey. For the case against Ahmed Altan and brother Mehmed Altan, also author and journalist, is the beginning of a long day’s journey into a dark night in the Turkish legal history.

Following the coup attempt last summer, not one single sentence has yet been passed, and the cases are only now starting. There are over 100,000 cases related to the event queued up for the constitutional!

In the case of the brothers Altan, 17 people are grouped together in one case to make it more effective. Several of these 17 have nothing in common and do not know each other, they are randomly merged. Only some of them are present in the courtroom, many of them have fled and already live in exile.

Twitter is the new power medium

The Altan brothers were arrested on 10. September last year and have been in custody since, in the famous prison Silivri, one hour’s drive west of Istanbul.

If you happen to be there, you will be presented to guards who can proudly showcase the world’s biggest prison! Not only that, but it is also the prison in the world which, as per today, has the most journalists and writers imprisoned, currently more than 170 people.

The Altan brothers were informed about the arrest through a twitter message containing a list of «journalists to be arrested.» The following day, this was repeated in the pro-Erdogan newspapers, and subsequently the police arrived and arrested the Altan brothers.

The indictment was announced in newspapers

Just as bad with the indictment. They were told that it was secret until it was published, some time ago, in all pro government newspapers – once more. Only then did Ahmed Altan know what he was charged with. And with what?  To know someone!

«First, let me ask this,» Ahmed Altan opened in court, «how can knowing someone be accepted as the evidence of a crime?»

The main foundation for the brothers’ participation in the coup on July 15 is that they both participated in a live TV show the day before. The program is ironically called Özgür Düsünce (Free Thought). The program can still be viewed in its entirety on youtube.

Talked about the coup

During the program they were talking about President Erdogan, that he cannot stay in power much longer, that there will be a new election in two years, and then Erdogan’s days may be numbered. Likewise, they also talked about the possibilities of a coup, and that coups are a part of Turkish history.

This talk about a coup means that the prosecutor believes they must have known about the coup the following day and that they must have been participating. The free thought and speech has become the paranoid state’s confirmation of a coup. It’s tempting to add that we, who have seen James Bond, know that if you’re a coup maker, you do not talk about it on a talk show the day before.

Consequently, Ahmed and his brother are accused of wanting to “overthrow the Turkish government, prevent the government from performing its duties, be a member of an armed terrorist organization and spread propaganda for a terrorist organization.» For this, they may risk a penalty of three times the life sentence + 5 years. The fact that the state adds five years demonstrates how it plays on the irrational and at random.

A judicial parody

The accusations against Ahmed Altan is over 200 pages, but that is easy when several of the witness statements and charges have been copied in several times. The court obviously did not care about proofreading.

Similarly, Ahmed Altan’s defense speech is 60 pages, and fortunately for us foreigners, translated into English. Altan´s text is in itself a literary piece of work about a judicial parody that could easily be a historical document from this era in Turkish history. Because ultimately, it is the literature that survives!

Writing about women, men and God

If anyone has asked the question who is this Ahmed Altan really? I can add that several of his books have been translated into English, and recently, while the author himself was in jail, his last book, “Endgame” was published.

It is difficult not to read the book as an allegory of today’s Turkey, while it is unmistakably Altan in the descriptions of the sexually released woman and the difficult interaction between man and woman. The passages of the conversation with God about who is really the best writer, God or the author himself, are cleverly done in a country where you should write intelligently about religion if you want to survive.

High spirits

Whoever wins the endgame is not yet settled. In a conversation I had outside the courtroom with the son and daughter of Ahmed Altan, they say that their father is in a good mood and in good condition.

Still they are only allowed to meet him one hour every Friday, and all they say is recorded and can be used against their father. But, as also his son and daughter say, his books are free, they are still translated into a variety of languages and travel freely around the world.

Judgment of the judges

In his defense speech, Altan ends with citing the English writer John Fowles – that all judges in the world will ultimately be judged for their decisions!

The judges of Turkey have a lot to answer for. Every day, between 300 and 500 cases from Turkey arrive at the Strasbourg Human Rights Court. And here, in the palace of Istanbul, we have only just begun.

On June 21st, there was a case against nine people associated with the Kurdish-friendly newspaper Özgür Gündem, and then on June 22nd the case against the writer Asli Erdogan and Necmiye Alpay, and then, in the coming days and weeks and months, cases against over 100,000 others – journalists, writers, teachers, nurses, attorneys and judges.

The judges will have a busy time and ultimately they will not judge, because the judges, as Altan finish his defence, “are the one who will be judged.”

Jørgen Lorentzen
Norwegian PEN

Tyrkias rettslige galskap

Den internasjonale delegasjonen som følger saken mot brødrene Altan utenfor rettspalasset Caglayan i Istanbul. På plakatene står det (f.v.): Frigi Altan-brødrene. Vi krever at de slippes fri. Altanbrødrene må slippes fri. Foto: Jørgen Lorentzen

«Hva er vi tiltalt for? Vi er tiltalt for å kjenne noen menn som visstnok skal kjenne noen menn som kjenner til dem som visstnok skal stå bak kuppet. Er jeg skyldig hvis jeg kjenner naboen, som har en bror som skal ha drept sin kone?»

Juridisk pornografi

Slik lyder begynnelsen på den kjente, tyrkiske forfatteren Ahmed Altans forsvarstale mot anklagene som er rettet mot ham om at han skal ha noe med kuppforsøket i Tyrkia 15. juli i fjor å gjøre. Selv kaller han forsvarstalen sin for «Et portrett av en tiltale som juridisk pornografi». Vi kan ikke være sikre på at dommerne her nede forstår allusjonen til James Joyce.

Rettssaken begynte mandag 19. juni med kaos utenfor rettslokalet, med en rekke internasjonale observatører, familie, venner, bekjente og støttespillere som vil inn og høre på.
Etter å ha ventet lenge, ble saken flyttet til et annet rettslokale i dette kafkaske rettspalasset Caglayan i Istanbul (verdens største) før det ble utsatt i flere timer på grunn av lydanlegget. Slik jobber de for å bli kvitt brysomme tilhørere. Til slutt kom vi i gang i et lite lokale for å utestenge halvparten av de fremmøtte.

Galskap

Og, kjære leser, jeg ber deg fortsette å lese, for her skal dere bli involvert i en rettslig galskap som er i ferd med å starte i Tyrkia. For saken mot Ahmed Altan og broren Mehmed Altan, også forfatter og journalist, er begynnelsen på en lang dags ferd mot en mørk natt i tyrkisk juridisk historie.

Etter kuppforsøket i fjor sommer er ennå ikke én dom felt, og sakene er først nå i ferd med å begynne. I kø står over 100.000 saker relatert til hendelsen!

I saken mot brødrene Altan er 17 personer gruppert sammen i én sak for å gjøre det mer effektivt. Flere av disse 17 har ingen ting til felles og kjenner hverandre ikke, de er tilfeldig slått sammen. Bare noen av dem er til stede i rettssalen, mange av dem er flyktet og allerede i eksil.

Twitter er det nye makt-mediet

Brødrene Altan ble arrestert 10. september i fjor og har sittet i varetekt siden, i det berømte fengslet Silivri, en times kjøretur vest for Istanbul.

Stikker du tilfeldigvis innom der, vil du bli presentert for vakter som stolt kan vise frem verdens største fengsel! Ikke bare det, men det er også det fengslet i verden som pr. i dag har flest journalister og forfattere fengslet, nå over 170 personer.

Selve arrestasjonen ble Altan-brødrene informert om gjennom en twittermelding som inneholdt en liste over «journalister som skal bli arrestert». Dagen etter ble dette gjentatt i pro-Erdogan aviser, og først deretter kom politiet og arresterte Altan-brødrene.

Tiltalen bekjentgjort i aviser

Like ille var det med tiltalen. De fikk beskjed om at den var hemmeligstemplet inntil den for en tid tilbake ble publisert i samtlige pro-regjeringsaviser – nok en gang. Først da fikk Ahmed Altan vite hva han var tiltalt for. Og hva er det? For å kjenne noen!

«La meg begynne med å spørre», åpnet Ahmed Altan i retten, «når ble det å kjenne noen akseptert som et bevis for en kriminell handling

Hovedbegrunnelsen for brødrenes deltagelse i kuppforsøket 15. juli er at de begge deltok i et direktesendt TV-show dagen før. Programmet heter ironisk nok Özgür Düsünce, på norsk Fri Tanke. Programmet kan fremdeles i sin helhet sees
på YouTube
.

Snakket om kupp

Her snakker de om at president Erdogan ikke kan sitte ved makten svært mye lenger, at det vil komme et valg om to år og da er kanskje Erdogans dager talte. Likeledes snakker de også om mulighetene for et kupp, og at kupp er en del av den tyrkiske historien.

Dette snakket om kupp gjør at statsadvokaten mener de må ha visst om kuppet dagen etter, og at de dermed må ha vært deltagende. Den frie tanke og tale er blitt til den paranoide statens bekreftelse på kuppmakeri. Det er fristende å legge til at vi som har sett James Bond, vet at er man kuppmaker, så sitter man ikke og snakker om det på et talkshow dagen før.

Av dette er Ahmed og broren anklaget for å ville «styrte den tyrkiske regjeringen, hindre regjeringen fra å gjøre sine oppgaver, være medlem av en bevæpnet terroristorganisasjon og spre propaganda for en terroristorganisasjon». For dette kan de risikere en straff på tre ganger livsvarig fengsel + 5 år. At staten legger til fem år, viser hvordan den spiller på det irrasjonelle og tilfeldige.

En rettsparodi

Tiltalen mot Ahmed Altan er på over 200 sider, men det kan den fort bli når flere av vitnemålene og anklagene er kopiert inn flere ganger. Domstolen har tydeligvis ikke brydd seg om korrekturlesning.

Likeledes er Ahmed Altans forsvarstale på 119 sider, og heldigvis for oss fremmøtte utlendinger, oversatt til engelsk. Altans tekst er i seg selv et litterært verk over en rettsparodi som lett kan bli stående som et historisk dokument over denne epoken i tyrkisk historie. For til slutt er det litteraturen som overlever!

Skriver om kvinner, menn og Gud

Hvis noen har stilt seg spørsmålet hvem er egentlig denne Ahmed Altan? så kan jeg legge til at fire av hans bøker er oversatt til norsk, og nå, for en måned siden, mens forfatteren selv satt i fengsel, kom hans siste bok på norsk.

Oversatt av Ingrid Austveg Evans er Den siste leken en fryd å lese, om en forfatter som kommer til en landsby som i sin helhet styres av én mann, Mustafa.

Det er vanskelig ikke å lese boken som en allegori over dagens Tyrkia, samtidig som den er umiskjennelig altansk i beskrivelsene av den seksuelt frigjorte kvinnen og det vanskelige samspillet mellom mann og kvinne. Passasjene med samtalen med Gud om hvem som egentlig er den beste forfatter, Gud eller forfatteren selv, er smart gjort i et land hvor man skal skrive intelligent om religion hvis man vil overleve.

Ved godt mot

Hvem som vinner den siste leken er ennå ikke avgjort. I en samtale jeg hadde utenfor rettslokalet med sønnen og datteren til Ahmed Altan, kan de fortelle at faren er ved godt mot og har det etter forholdene bra.

Selv får de kun lov til å møte ham én time hver fredag, og alt de sier blir tatt opp og kan brukes mot faren. Men, som også sønn og datter sier, hans bøker er frie, de blir fortsatt oversatt til en rekke språk og reiser fritt rundt i verden.

Dommen over dommerne

I sin forsvarstale avslutter Altan med å sitere den engelske forfatteren John Fowles – om at alle dommere i verden til syvende og sist vil bli dømt for sine beslutninger!

Dommerne i Tyrkia vil ha mye å stå til rette for. Hver dag kommer det inn mellom 300 og 500 saker fra Tyrkia til menneskerettighetsdomstolen i Strasbourg. Og her, i rettspalasset i Istanbul, har vi så vidt begynt.

Onsdag (21. juni) var det saken mot ni personer knyttet til den kurdiskvennlige avisen Özgür Gündem, torsdag fortsetter saken mot forfatteren Asli Erdogan, og deretter, på rekke og rad, saker mot over 100.000 andre – journalister, forfattere, lærere, sykepleiere, advokater og dommere.

Dommerne vil få en travel tid, og til syvende og sist er det ikke de som vil dømme, men som vil bli dømt.

Kronikken sto på trykk i Aftenposten 21. juni 2017.

Fake news and censorship

Salil Tripathi (chair WiPC), Ma Thida (Myanmar PEN), William Nygaard (Norwegian PEN) and Halya Coynash (Ukraine PEN).

What happens when falsehood and distortions are expressed in the name of free speech? Should there be restraints? How can lies be countered in the post-truth world? And is it possible to define ‘truth’ and ‘falsehood’ in a world where alternative facts are as accessible as official histories?

William Nygaard, President of Norwegian PEN, speaks about the situation in Norway at the ICORN Network Meeting & PEN International Writers in Prison conference on 1 June 2017.

Fake news have existed since the very first newspaper saw the light of day in Germany in the fifteenth century. What characterizes our era, however, is that this phenomenon has become a widely used political tool, used on the one hand to denounce journalistic content one disagrees with, and on the other to attack the free and independent media. Fake news and trolling are evils that should always be attacked, wherever they pop up. Working against the attitudes underlying this particular kind of abuse is a prerequisite for the survival of a free democratic society.  In Norway the existence of fake news is on the increase – as is the case in other countries – and as I will illustrate further in a little while, the debate on how to deal with it is already well under way.

When considering basic principles concerning this phenomenon, one paradox arises: Attempts to define, regulate and penalize what is seen as «fake news» could lead to violations of the right to freedom of expression. It could well be that tolerating false news stories, rumors and even outright lies are the price we pay for the fundamental right to free communication in an open society. To solve this dilemma requires a demanding, but necessary, balancing act. This point was recently discussed in a joint declaration by prominent international organizations monitoring freedom of the press, among them David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, and his colleagues.

In my view, the essential condition for a defense of freedom of expression is a human rights based approach, fighting propaganda, disinformation and fake news. This also implies that we should refrain from introducing provisions on fake news which violate human rights standards.

The situation in Norway
The situation in Norway may seem idyllic compared to the intense political polarization of countries like the United States. But the Norwegian media are subject to the same forces promoting fake news, half-truths and other forms of trolling.

According to a 2017 survey on freedom of the press from Journalists without Borders Norway takes the lead. But as we know, freedom of the press and freedom of expression are not synonymous entities. Who is responsible for securing these fundamental rights in an open society like ours? Another survey on fake news, provided by the Ministry of Culture, reveals a characteristic feature in our solidly social-democrat society: Responsibility for the fight against trolling and fake news should not reside with the individual citizen, but rather with relevant institutions in our society. 68 % of the respondents felt that responsibility lay with the media, while only 27 % considered that the population has a substantial responsibility for preventing the spreading of fake news.

To me it seems clear that media responsibility alone is not sufficient.  In the pluralist media universe of the future, traditional media organizations are gradually losing their dominant position and are being replaced by an infinite variety of other platforms. In this situation it is our individual sense of responsibility and critical sense, together with an increased focus on education that is needed as a bulwark against the tsunami of fake news and other forms of trolling.

This individual responsibility becomes even more important when we look at the development of Facebook. Today Facebook is the platform (together with other social media) that is lining up for a takeover of the greater part of news distribution in the future. We really hate it, all kinds of monopolies tendencies we dislike. The survey from the Ministry of Culture shows that Facebook, as a medium without an overall editorial policy, also is the medium spreading the largest quantity of fake news and trolling. We know that Facebook takes this challenge seriously and is working hard on establishing further active measures to improve their control over this phenomenon. This is a positive development, but we still have a long road ahead of us.

Media competitors to join forces in the war against fake news
In July four important Norwegian media institutions: VG, Dagbladet, TV2 and NRK (the National Broadcasting Corporation) together with two independent foundations, Tinius-stiftelsen and Fritt Ord, will launch a new initiative in order to limit the amount of fake news and trolling in our media universe. The initiative is called Faktisk (Factual). It is a shareholding company, where the owners contribute 10 million kroner the first year and follow up with a guaranty (2 mill) the year after.

This is the first time competitors in the media are trying direct editorial collaboration apart from the editorial rationalizations that followed the important media mergers of the last decade. This is sensitive territory. This new initiative needs to be discussed from an analytical, critical angle, weighing the pros and cons,  based on the absolute premise of freedom of expression.

What kind of truth is a common editorial set-up supposed to legitimize, on what premise will it collect and sort the information, and judge between true and false info? Will the project secure mechanisms strong enough to avoid abuse, misleading information or various forms of conflict, for instance of editorial character?  Considering PEN’s role as a guardian of freedom of expression I feel obliged to point out the danger of establishing a kind of «truth police». At the end of the day, who is the guardian of truth? What will be made public, and how can we assure that it meets the real need in the public, and provide the responses they look for?

To be honest, it seems that this project – with all its merits and good intentions – needs to further clarify a definite goal and structure. The most important is to avoid reinforcing stereotypes and a relaxation among media professionals who mistakenly believe that this project will diminish their own ethical responsibility for the stories they present.

It is difficult to evaluate the quality of the Norwegian media on an international scale. But there can be no doubt that the generous economic framework of government media policy has been important, the way a long term cultural policy has contributed to the international success of Norwegian literature. And to a person with my professional background it seems that the Norwegian media in general maintains a respectable international level in their criticism of sources and continuous internal debate – at least until new economic realities will force changes in yet more editorial offices. In my active years in the media and in publishing I have witnessed how the motivation and the will to verify facts have improved considerably. Increased ethical awareness and the examples of people committed to good journalism have been important.

On the other hand, we must warn against a type of surveillance of fake news – and other news – that engenders new authoritarian ways of thinking and acting. Norwegian PEN visited Edward Snowden in Moscow recently, and his unreal universe is a powerful reminder. So far he has become a victim of his own idealist search for truth. Snowden’s warning of illegal surveillance of us all is being punished, while the guilty party walks free. That is the truth, and no «alternative fact» can change that.

The Role of PEN and Norwegian PEN
The response of Norwegian PEN in the critical situation for freedom of expression we are faced with has been to strengthen our focus on our own country. This does not mean that we have abandoned our efforts internationally – very far from it! But the same principle holds good in our work as in the struggle for climate change: If you are not willing to do something about your own situation, you can hardly expect an improvement in the overall community. Three years ago Norwegian PEN started The Norwegian Project for Freedom of Expression and Responsibility, supported financially by three separate foundations. Our organization is small, with two employees, but with a hard-working board, executive committee and highly committed members. Over the last few years membership has doubled and now counts close to 900, a solid contingent among the more than 100 member countries of PEN International.

Our project focuses on eight separate challenges to freedom of expression in this country, among them of course the media development, whistle-blowers, surveillance, challenges in a multicultural society, and not least: an active approach to young people on the meaning and impact of freedom of expression. On each project we make use of the most qualified experts, always in close cooperation with our strongly motivated board. This approach generates new energy, and we believe that Norwegian PEN signals a credible commitment to making an effort also in a larger format, internationally.

In other words: we try to handle both fake facts and the trolls that create them, and hopefully they will burst at sunrise, as they do in the fairy tales.

PEN og NJ reagerer på at Tyrkia vil stenge TV-stasjon i Oslo

Norsk Journalistlag og Norsk PEN ber utenriksminister Brende reagere skarpt på tyrkiske myndigheters forsøk på å stenge kurdisk TV-stasjon basert i Oslo.

I kjølvannet av militærkuppet i Tyrkia i fjor sommer stengte tyrkiske myndigheter over 156 medier og medieorganisasjoner og fengslet over 150 journalister.  Nå forsøker det tyrkiske medietilsynet RTÜK å få stengt tyrkiske medier som er basert i andre land.  Sterk TV, basert i Oslo, er en slik aktør.

Sterk TV sender fra en satellitt med eierskap i Frankrike (Eutelsat) via en samarbeidspartner i Slovenia, STN. Sterk TV sender sine programmer til STN som sender disse videre til distribusjon via Eutelsats satellitter.  TV-stasjonen dekker kurdiske områder i Iran, Irak og Syria i tillegg til Tyrkia.

Det er ikke første gang RTÜK forsøker seg.  I oktober 2016 ble den franske satellitt-leverandøren bedt om å “umiddelbart fjerne to kurdiske tv-kanaler fordi innholdet ikke var i tråd med “direktiver for offentlig orden”, samt “med lover som regulerer tv-distribusjon i Europa og omkringliggende land».  Anmodningen ble avvist av Handelsretten i Paris.  RTÜK har også henvendt seg til det norske Medietilsynet og anmodet om stenging.  Medietilsynet avviste dette og svarte at de ikke “utførte overvåking av innhold fra satellitt- kringkastere” selv om disse har registrert sin virksomhet i Norge.

RTÜK har nå henvendt seg direkte til Eutelsat som så har bedt STN stanse videredistribusjon av Sterk TVs programmer.  I et omfattende svar sier STN blant annet at en kringkaster anses å være etablert i den medlemsstat der det har sitt hovedkontor og hvor planleggingsvedtak tas.» I tilfellet «Sterk TV» er hovedkontorene lokalisert i Oslo, Norge der programmet stammer fra og planleggingsbeslutninger blir tatt. Sterk TV» faller under Det norske Kongedømmets jurisdiksjon.  STN konkluderer med at “RTÜKs anmodning om suspensjon av sendingene til Sterk TV ikke bare er uberettiget, men faktisk er i strid med flere EU-direktiver og er dermed ulovlig.”

Norsk Journalistlag og Norsk PEN rettet 16. juni en henvedelse til utenriksminister Børge Brende, der vi ber om at han, med henvisning til gjeldende regelverk

  • krever at administrerende direktør i Eutelsat, Rodolphe Belmer, ikke gjennomfører sin trussel om å stenge Sterk TV
  • oppfordrer den nye franske regjeringen – Frankrike har et flertall i Eutelsat – til å stoppe denne prosessen, som gjelder friheten til å informere, en av de grunnleggende verdiene i Europa
  • henstille til RTÜK at de forholder seg til europeiske og norske regler når det gjelder satellitt- kringkastere, uansett hvilket politisk ståsted disse kringkasterne måtte ha.
  • Brevet til utenriksministeren kan leses her: Sterk TV UD-brev.

Oslo, 19.06.17

Nærmere informasjon:

William Nygaard: 908 92 601

2017: Uganda: Stella Nyanzi

Prominent feminist academic and activist Dr. Stella Nyanzi was released on bail on 10 May in Uganda, however she is still being charge with cyber harrassment and offensive communication. The Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee call for her charges to be dropped immediately and unconditionally

 

Major General (rtd) Kahinda Otafiire
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs
Bauman House, Plot 5
Parliament Avenue P. O. Box 7183
Kampala
Uganda

Oslo, May 24th 2017

 

Dear Sir,

I am writing you on behalf of the Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee. We welcome the news that prominent feminist academic and activist Dr. Stella Nyanzi was released on bail on 10 May, but continue to call for the charges against her to be dropped immediately and unconditionally, as she should never have been arrested in the first place. Dr. Nyanzi was arrested on 7 April 2017 and charged three days later with cyber harassment and offensive communication, for her Facebook posts criticizing Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni. She was detained for 33 days before she was granted bail. We believe Dr. Nyanzi has been charged for peacefully expressing her views and call on the Ugandan authorities to uphold freedom of expression and allow Dr. Nyanzi to continue her activism unabated by dropping the charges against her.

The right of free speech is enshrined in Uganda’s constitution and as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Uganda has the obligation to protect freedom of expression. Freedom of expression includes the right to offend, particularly within the context of thoughts and opinions relating to public officials.The United Nations Human Rights Committee which oversees the implementation of the ICCPR, has made clear that the ‘mere fact that forms of expression are considered to be insulting to a public figure is not sufficient to justify the imposition of penalties’. Human rights bodies have also pointed out that heads of state and public figures should tolerate a higher degree of criticism than ordinary citizens.

We therefore ask you to immediately and unconditionally drop the charges against Dr. Stella Nyanzi. The freedom of expression is protected in the Ugandan Constitution and as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

Yours sincerely,

Øivind Hånes
Member of the Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

COPY: Norwegian Ministry of Foreing Affairs, Uganda Consulate in Oslo, Directorate of Public Prosecutions in Uganda

2017: Turkey: Oğuz Güven

Oğuz Güven, web editor of Cumhuriyet in Turkey, was arrested on 12th May 2017. He is charged with “Committing a crime in the name of a terrorist organisation” after publishing an online report on the death of public prosecutor Mustafa Alper.

 

Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ
Ministry of Justice
Milli Müdafa Caddesi
06659 Kızılay-Ankara
Republic of Turkey

Oslo 19th May 2017

Dear Minister,

Norwegian PEN is deeply concerned about the welfare of Oğuz Güven who was arrested on 12th May 2017.

The web editor of Cumhuriyet has been charged under article 220/6 of Turkey’s Penal Code “Committing a crime in the name of a terrorist organisation” after publishing an online report on the death of public prosecutor Mustafa Alper.

Norwegian PEN calls on the Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Oğuz Güven and all of his detained colleagues from Cumhuriyet, as they are being held imprisoned solely in connection with their peaceful exercise of their right to expression.

We furthermore call on Turkish authorities to protect freedom of expression and human rights by ending the prosecution and detention of journalists based on the content of their writings or their alleged affiliations.

Yours sincerely,

Ms Johanne Fronth-Nygren
Member of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

 

COPY:

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım
Minister of Interior Affairs Selim Soylu
The Turkish Embassy in Norway
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

2017: Iran: Mohammad Sadigh Kaboudvand

The Iranian journalist and writer Mohammad Sadigh Kabudvand was finally released, but Norwegian PEN PEN continues to call on the Iranian authorities to unconditionally release all writers, journalists and publishers who are held in violation of their right to freedom of expression and opinion.                                                                                                             

Leader of the Islamic Republic
Grand Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street — End of Shahid Keshvar Doust Street,
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

 

Oslo, 21.05.2017

Dear Excellences,

Almost a year ago I wrote to you on behalf of Norwegian PEN to express our concerns for the health and welfare of the prominent journalist and writer Mohammad Sadigh Kabudvand. We just got the news that he is now released, and we hope that this is good news also for the other writers who are unfairly imprisoned in Iran.

PEN continues to call on the Iranian authorities to unconditionally release all writers, journalists and publishers who are held in violation of their right to freedom of expression and opinion. Sadly, we find many Iranian colleagues on PEN’s case list.

The WiPC and Norwegian PEN urge the Iranian authorities to ensure that the right to freedom of expression in Iran is fully respected in law and practice as provided for under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party.

 

 

Yours sincerely,

Ms Brit Bildøen
Chair of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

 

 

COPY: The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Oslo, Head of the Judiciary in Iran, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran

15. juni: Kvinnelige eksilforfattere - om frykt, flukt, feminisme, frihet

Hvem er de, kvinnene som tør å si ifra? Som taler imot urettferdighet, med fare for eget liv? Hva har de opplevd – og hva kan de lære oss?

Norsk PEN og Komiteen for fengslede forfattere inviterer til et møte med tre sterke kvinner som har kommet til Norge gjennom fribyordningen for forfulgte forfattere. Noen av våre mest spennende, nye stemmer forteller om hva de har sett og opplevd, og deler hvordan de har skapt disse erfaringene om til kunst.

Linn Stalsberg vil intervjue dem om politisk aktivisme, feminisme og kunsten som skapes av sterke historier. I tillegg vil vi få høre dikt og tekster lest på norsk og originalspråket.

Vi møter:
Poet og journalist Gunel Movlud fra Aserbajdsjan
Forfatter og kunstner Elahe Rahroniya fra Iran
Poet og journalist Nada Yousif fra Irak

Arrangementet er gratis og finner sted på Litteraturhuset i Oslo, Nedjma (3. etasje), torsdag 15. juni kl. 19.00.

Velkommen!

Norsk PENs Komité for Fengslede Forfattere består av medlemmer fra Norsk PEN, Den norske Forfatterforening, Norsk Oversetterforening, Norske Barne- og Ungdomsbokforfattere og Norsk faglitterær forfatter- og oversetterforening.