Writers in Prison Committee

The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN was set up in 1960 as a result of mounting concern about attempts to silence critical voices around the world and an office of volunteers was set up at the PEN head office in London to gather information and to alert the PEN membership to take action. WiPC is the committee of PEN International which everyone agrees we would rather do without. However, not only authors continue to be imprisoned, persecuted and harassed, but also an increasing number of translators, journalists, cartoonists and publishers.

 The WiPC team alerts the PEN membership of urgent cases keeps it abreast of developments on individual cases of attacks as well as global trends affecting free expression and gives advice on actions and campaigns. These include protest letters, lobbying governments, and public awareness raising. Through writing to families, and, where possible, directly to prisoners, PEN members provide encouragement and hope.
Today there are Writers in Prison Committees in 64 PEN Centres worldwide. A RAN (Rapid Action Network) is a notification from the WiPC’s investigators in London about harassment, attack, imprisonment or murder. Such notifications are sent to all PEN centers which have their own “Writers in Prison Committee”. Brit Bildøen is the president of the Norwegian committee, making sure that the WiPC’s activities are executed. Such activities include protest letters and events to raise awareness about the situation of professionals who are persecuted worldwide. You can read all the letters here.
Norwegian PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee consists of one representative of Norwegian PEN, who is also the head of the committee, and one representative of each writers’ orgaizations (Non-Fiction Writers and Translators Organisation, The Norwegian Authors’ Union, Norwegian Writers for Children and The Norwegian Association of Literary Translators). The head of the committee and its members are chosen every annual meeting after suggestions from the board.

Brit Bildøen – Committee’s Leader and board member of Norwegian PEN
Jørgen Lorentzen (Non-Fiction Writers and Translators Organisation)
Øivind Hånes (The Norwegian Authors’ Union)
Mari Moen Holsve (Norwegian Writers for Children)
Johanne Fronth-Nygren (The Norwegian Association of Literary Translators)

Day of the Imprisoned Writer

Freedom of expression, as stated in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, is a right everyone has, but that is not as obvious in every country. PEN International has established the Day of the Imprisoned Writer as an annual celebration to focus on the dangers that authors, publishers, editors, journalists and translators are exposed to for using their freedom of expression. The Day of the Imprisoned Writer is usually celebrated on 15 November each year.
The day focuses on a number of imprisoned and/or persecuted writers picked by the Writers in Prison Committee at PEN International’s headquarters in London. Norwegian PEN and PEN members on the whole world focus on the chosen writers and countries.
Norwegian PEN celebrates the day with an event in Oslo and awards, at the same time, the Ossietzky Prize for outstanding contribution to freedom of expression.