PEN International is a non-political organization that promotes literature and freedom of expression, and is governed by the PEN charter and its principles that thoughts should be able to be spread freely in all countries.
PEN International is the world’s leading organization for writers and freedom of expression, the organization works to promote literature and defend freedom of speech around the world. PEN was founded by the British poet, dramatist and peace activist Catherine Amy Dawson-Scott in 1921, as an international club that would allow writers to share ideas and thoughts, and as a forum that would unite authors regardless of culture, language or political opinion. PEN’s first leader was the author John Galsworthy. Today, PEN International brings together an international community of writers from its London secretariat. The PEN movement spans over 100 countries, with 149 PEN centers around the world.
PEN’s campaigns, events and programs connect authors and readers, strengthen freedom of expression, defend language rights and promote quality education at national, regional and international levels worldwide. PEN’s strength lies on the personal membership, over 25 000 writers from all corners of the world support the power of the written word and protect the right to freedom of expression.
PEN has documented and acted against human rights violations since the 1960s when the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) was established. Most national PEN centers have set up a separate committee that works to support persecuted authors in their own country and elsewhere in the world. Read more about the Norwegian PEN Writers in Prison Committee here.
PEN International’s WiPC team documented in 2016 over 900 cases of attacks, killings, arrests and imprisonments all over the globe, and conducted targeted international actions for persecuted authors and campaigns fighting for the right to stand freely.
Every year on the 15th November PEN International, PEN centers and PEN members celebrate the Day of the Imprisoned Writer. The day is celebrated with campaigns and extra focus on writers and journalists who are in prison, subjected to attacks, harassment, threats and violence only for having exercised their right to freedom of expression. The date also promotes literature, used to celebrate the freedom of writing, as well as actions that require justice and freedom for imprisoned and killed colleagues.