China: Letter to Li Zhanshu Chairman of the National People´s Congress of the People´s Republic of China

His Excellency Mr. Li Zhanshu
Chairman of the National People´s Congress of the People´s Republic of China

Oslo, 13 May, 2019

Statement from Norwegian PEN in connection with official visit to Norway

Norwegian PEN welcomes your visit to Norway. Your visit reflects the fact that relations between China and Norway have entered a new and promising phase. We hope that your visit will contribute to further cooperation that will benefit both countries.

Norwegian PEN hopes that you will be able to enjoy the hospitality of the people of Norway and to experience our National Holiday on 17 May, in particular the Children’s Parade, which is the core symbolic event of that day. This even reflects our conviction that the broad participation of the young generation – from all parts of the society – is of crucial importance in order to safeguard the independence, cohesion and prosperity of our country.

However, while welcoming you to Norway, Norwegian PEN would like to express serious concern about the situation for certain peoples and individuals in your country. Norwegian PEN would, in particular, raise the current plight of the Uighur people in Xinjiang and the treatment of the Tsinghua scholar Xu Zhangrun.

Since 2008, the conditions for various peoples, social groups and individuals in China have deteriorated as a result of stricter government control and oppression. The situation for the Uighur people in Xinjiang and the treatment of Xu Zhangrun are prominent examples of this trend.

The government of the People´s Republic of China has implemented a number of measures in the Autonomous Region of Xinjiang, resulting in the internment of the Uighur population and of other minority nationalities who have traditionally inhabited the region. The inhuman measures taken are contrary to the idea of regional autonomy, and are unprecedented in the recent history of the People´s Republic of China.

As a result, it has been verified by various credible sources that at least 1 million Uighurs and others have been placed in detention camps without a fair trial, among them 386 prominent Uighur intellectuals. Some of them have died after their release as a result of the treatment they have been exposed to. As you are aware, the prominent Uighur intellectual Ilham Tohti is serving a life sentence as a result of his outspoken defense of vital Uighur interests.

Current policies, in our opinion, amount to forced assimilation of the peoples of Xinjiang. We urge you to reverse the present policies and establish genuine autonomy for the peoples of Xinjiang, to which they are entitled according to Chinese laws governing regional autonomy.

Professor of Law at Tsinghua University, Xu Zhangrun, has written a number of essays, some of which have offered constructive criticism, while others have provided honest but harsh criticism of the present policies of the Chinese Communist Party. This has resulted in a number of measures recently taken against professor Xu. He has been stripped of his academic duties, banned from teaching and tutoring, and has been put under investigation. The case of Professor Xu is a good example of a responsible intellectual raising his voice against abuse of power, a right that was granted to intellectuals throughout Chinese history.

The case of Professor Xu unfortunately illustrates a distinct trend over the last ten years, namely that legitimate scholarly and political criticism by outspoken intellectuals is silenced and their publications are banned. They experience being fired from their jobs, forced into exile or put under detention. Such punitive measures of silencing, humiliating, banning, or incarcerating legitimate voicing of opinion will in the long run damage China’s intellectual and creative development.

Unfortunately, the ongoing tightening of control over academic life also reflects a widespread repression of Chinese civil society today.

Excellency, while not intending to interfere in your internal affairs, Norwegian PEN urges you and the Chinese government to reverse these trends, to respect the rights of the Uighur population and to ensure that freedom of expression is protected.

We hope your visit to Norway and the celebration of 17th May will inspire you in this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Kjersti Løken Stavrum                                                           Harald Bøckman
President Norwegian PEN                                                 Norwegian PEN                                                                                                                      China Committee

2018 China: Liu Xia

WORLD POETRY DAY 2018: Liu Xia is a poet, artist, and founding member of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre. Xia has been held under unofficial house arrest in her Beijing apartment since her late husband, the poet Liu Xiaobo, was named the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2010. PEN International believes that the ongoing, extra-judicial house arrest of Liu Xia is a form of punishment for the human rights work carried out by her husband, Liu Xiaobo, and is extremely concerned for her physical and psychological integrity. Norwegian PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee calls for the immediate and unconditional release from extra-judicial house arrest of the poet and artist Liu Xia, and for all restrictions on her freedom of movement and expression to be lifted.

His Excellency Xi Jinping
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council Beijing 100032
P.R. China

Oslo, 21.03.18

Your Excellency,

Today, on World Poetry Day, our thoughts are with poet Liu Xia who has been held in unofficial house arrest during her husbands long imprisonment, and after his death still lives under strong surveillance. There are reports that Liu Xia’s mental and physical health continue to suffer due to her detention. PEN International believes that the ongoing, extra-judicial house arrest of Liu Xia is a form of punishment for the human rights work carried out by her husband, Liu Xiaobo, and is extremely concerned for her physical and psychological integrity.

Together with our PEN colleagues worldwide we call for the immediate and unconditional release from extra-judicial house arrest of the poet and artist Liu Xia, and call for all restrictions on her freedom of movement and expression to be lifted. Liu Xia should be granted access to all necessary medical care.

We urge Chinese authorities to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which provides for freedom of legitimate expression, and freedom of movement and reminding them that as a signatory to the ICCPR China is obliged to ‘refrain from acts that would defeat or undermine the treaty’s objective and purpose.

Yours sincerely,

Ms Brit Bildøen
Chair of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Chinese Embassy of Norway

2017: China: Liu Xia

In deep concern for the health and well-being of poet and artist Liu Xia, Norwegian PEN calls for all restrictions upon her to be lifted immediately and unconditionally if, as it is feared, she remains under unofficial house arrest.

His Excellency Xi Jinping
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032
P.R. China

Oslo, 08.08.2017

Your Excellency,

We in Norwegian PEN are, together with PEN members all over the world, lamenting the death of writer and Nobel Laureate Liu Xiabo. Following his death, we hoped to see that the restrictions placed on his wife Liu Xia would be lifted. As far as we know, this has not happened. We have reports saying that attempts to contact her have been prevented by the Chinese authorities, despite assertions that she is free.

In deep concern for the health and well-being of poet and artist Liu Xia, Norwegian PEN calls for all restrictions upon her to be lifted immediately and unconditionally if, as it is feared, she remains under unofficial house arrest.

Since Liu Xia was placed under unofficial house arrest without charge or legal due process, we allow ourselves to point out that as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Chinese authorities are obliged to “refrain from acts that would defeat or undermine the treaty’s objective and purpose”. The treaty provides for freedom of legitimate expression, the right not to be arbitrarily detained and the right to a fair trial.

We hope that Liu Xia will be granted her rights and will get a fair chance to take up a normal life after all she has been going through.

Yours sincerely,

Ms Brit Bildøen                                                         William Nygaard
Chair of Writers in Prison Committee         President

COPY: The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

China: Free Liu Xiaobo and grant him all necessary medical care

In a letter to the Chinese President Xi Jinping, Norwegian PEN urges the Chinese authorities to release Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia, and provide Xiaobo with all necessary medical care.

President Xi Jinping
c/o Embassy of the Peoples Republic of China, Oslo, Norway

Oslo, 28 June 2017

Dear President Xi Jinping,

Chinese poet and human rights defender Liu Xiaobo was arrested on 8 December 2008 and sentenced to 11 years in prison for his dissident writings and peaceful activism. His imprisonment for “inciting subversion of state power” related to his part as the leading author behind “Charter ‘08”, a manifesto calling for protection of universal human rights and democratic reform in China.

In October 2010, Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his continued and non-violent struggle for human rights in China. In prison and unable to attend the award ceremony in Oslo, he was represented by an empty chair.

Norwegian PEN is grateful for Liu Xiao´s temporary release from prison, but saddened by the fact that he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  In spite of his “temporary release” he is still being guarded by the authorities and his wife is still in house arrest.

We hereby urge the Chinese authorities to allow Liu Xiaobo to travel and seek medical treatment outside China if he so wishes.

We also urge the Chinese authorities to release his wife, Liu Xia, from her house arrest in order for her to be with her husband at this critical time in their lives.

Sincerely yours,

William Nygaard
Norwegian PEN

Brev til statsminister Erna Solberg: Innspill om menneskerettighetssituasjonen i Kina i sammenheng med statsministerens besøk til landet

I anledning statsminister Erna Solbergs reise til Kina i disse dager, har Amnesty International i Norge, Norsk PEN, Den norske Tibet-komité, Den norske Helsingforskomité og Den norske advokatforeningens menneskerettighetsutvalg skrevet et felles brev til statsministeren, der vi oppfordrer henne til å uttrykke en klar forventning overfor kinesiske myndigheter om at Kina respekterer menneskerettighetene i tråd med internasjonal rett.

Statsminister Erna Solberg
Statsministerens kontor
Postboks 8001 Dep
0030 Oslo

Innspill om menneskerettighetssituasjonen i Kina i sammenheng med statsministerens besøk til landet

Innledningsvis vil vi, de fem undertegnende organisasjonene, gjerne fastslå at vi synes det er positivt at Norge og Kina gjenoppretter normale politiske relasjoner. Den moderne menneskerettighetstanken bygger på at disse rettighetene er grunnverdiene for det internasjonale samfunnet og skal beskyttes og fremmes gjennom at landene holder hverandre ansvarlige. En god dialog mellom statene er forutsetning for at dette skal fungere.

Kinesiske myndigheter har imidlertid lagt seg på en linje der de prøver å bruke sin økonomiske og politiske makt til å tvinge andre land til å ti stille om kritikkverdige menneskerettighetsforhold i Kina. Hvis de lykkes med det, blir det ikke bare livsfarlig for alle de modige menneskerettighetsforkjemperne i landet som er helt avhengig av at det internasjonale samfunnet ikke svikter dem, det sender også svært farlige signaler til kinesiske og andre lands myndigheter om at internasjonale avtaler om menneskerettighetene lett kan forhandles bort.

Kina har store menneskerettslige utfordringer som på en del områder er resultat av en bevisst og systematisk politikk. Både sentrale og lokale styresmakter står ansvarlig for omfattende brudd på sivile rettigheter, fra ytrings- og trosfrihet til retten til rettferdig rettergang, men også systematisk diskriminering og marginalisering av enkelte etniske grupper.

Ytringsfrihet og forfølgelse av advokater
I de siste årene har vi sett en alarmerende opptrapping av forfølgelse, trakassering og fengsling av personer som stiller kritiske spørsmål til måten Kina styres på. De som rammes hardest er personer som avslører maktmisbruk og ulovligheter fra myndighetenes side eller prøver å oppmuntre til en fredelig offentlig debatt blant kinesere om hva slags stat de vil leve i. I tillegg blir stadig flere advokater arrestert eller på andre måter hindret i å utøve sitt yrke hvis de prøver å ta opp saker som er ubekvemme for styresmaktene.

9. juli 2015 satte kinesiske myndigheter i gang en klappjakt på menneskerettighetsforkjempere og advokater. I løpet av en måned ble minst 248 personer arrestert eller avhørt. Advokaten Zhou Shifeng og menneskerettsforkjemperne Gou Hongguo og Hu Shigen ble senere dømt til flere års fengsel for å ha prøvd å «undergrave staten». Seks andre av de som ble arrestert i juli 2015 er fortsatt i varetekt, siktet for «å søke krangel», «forsøk på å undergrave staten» og lignende anklager, og minst 20 har bitt løslatt på prøve og er delvis fortsatt under streng politikontroll.

Myndighetenes og Kommunistpartiets kontroll over det kinesiske rettsvesenet og forfølgelsen av advokater som ikke gjør noe annet enn jobben sin, undergraver kinesernes rett til rettferdig rettergang og et samfunn basert på lov og rett og gjør det vanskelig og svært risikabelt for landets borgere å prøve å forsvare seg mot maktmisbruk, korrupsjon og andre overgrep fra myndighetspersoner.

Sensur og overvåking av internett
Kinesiske myndigheters omfattende inngrep i menneskenes rett til å søke, motta og dele informasjon rammer ikke bare menneskerettighetsforkjempere. Kinesiske myndigheter har brukt enorme ressurser på å bygge det som muligens er verdens mest avanserte system for overvåking og sensur av internett. I november i fjor vedtok Folkekongressen en ny lov om internettsikkerhet, som gir myndighetene store fullmakter til å bryte ytringsfrihet og retten til privatliv. Loven forbyr blant annet bruken av internett til å «skade nasjonale interesser» eller «undergrave den sosiale ordenen» – formuleringer som ofte blir brukt som grunnlag for å fengsle personer som avslører menneskerettighetsbrudd eller på andre måter kritiserer myndighetene.

Lover og regler som definerer hvilke meningsytringer som er tillatt både på internett og i tradisjonelle medier er generelt svært utydelige og vide, og de åpner for alle slags tolkninger fra myndighetenes side. Dette fører til omfattende selvsensur blant journalister, bloggere, forfattere og andre som uttrykker seg offentlig og kveler nødvendig samfunnsdebatt.

Det er ikke bare uklare lover og fraværet av et uavhengig rettssystem som undergraver rettssikkerheten til kineserne, men også hemmelighold rundt rettslige temaer som myndighetene oppfatter som sensitive. Dette blir spesielt tydelig i sammenheng med bruken av dødsstraff i Kina. Etter alt å dømme, er det fortsatt flere tusen mennesker som blir henrettet i Kina hvert år. Kinesiske myndigheter påstår riktignok at bruken av dødsstraff blir stadig mer begrenset, og at den bare blir brukt «mot et lite antall ytterst alvorlige forbrytere», men samtidig behandles informasjon om dødsstraff fortsatt som statshemmelighet. Mangelen på konkret statistikk om bruken av dødsstraff i Kina gjør det ikke bare umulig å bedømme om den påståtte positive utviklingen er reell, men hindrer også enhver meningsfull debatt om dette temaet innad i landet.

Diskriminering av tibetanere og uigurere
Etniske tibetanere er utsatt for omfattende diskriminering og brudd på retten til ytrings-, religions- og forsamlingsfrihet, både i den autonome regionen Tibet og i andre deler av Kina. I januar 2016 ble den tibetanske butikkeieren Tashi Wangchuk arrestert og siktet for «forsøk om å hisse opp til separatisme» fordi han hadde uttrykt et ønske om tibetansk som undervisningsfag på skolene i Tibet i et intervju med en journalist av The New York Times. Han er fortsatt i varetekt i påvente av en rettssak.

Mens kinesere flest nyter en større grad av frihet og i økende grad reiser utenlands, opplever tibetanere i og utenfor den autonome regionen regelmessig å bli nektet pass og reisedokumenter. Deres bevegelsesfrihet er sterkt hemmet.

Systematisk etnisk og religiøs diskriminering rammer også etniske uigurere i den autonome regionen Xinjiang Uigur. I september 2014 ble den uigurske økonomiprofessoren Ilham Tohti dømt til livstid i fengsel for «separatisme» fordi han hadde laget en internettside som la opp til dialog mellom uigurere og han-kinesere og informerte om uigurernes situasjon.

Brudd på religionsfrihet rammer også andre trossamfunn i Kina. September i fjor ble det lagt frem et forslag om å gi forskjellige kinesiske myndigheter økt adgang til å begrense religionsutøvelsen for å «stoppe infiltrering og ekstremisme». Kinesiske advokater som forsvarer kinesere som blir forfulgt på grunn av sin tro risikerer å miste sin tillatelse eller å havne selv i fengsel. Spesielt brutalt og omfattende er forfølgelsen av Falun Gong-utøvere: Besittelse av Falun Gong-litteratur kan være nok for å bli arrestert, torturert og dømt til lange fengselsstraffer.

I juli 2016 satte lokale myndigheter i gang med å rive en stor del av Larung Gar i provinsen Sichuan, muligens verdens største buddhistiske samfunn med over 10.000 innbyggere. Mange ser på dette som et forsøk på å svekke den tibetanske buddhismens innflytelse i Tibet.

Faglige rettigheter
Kina har i de siste årene fått flere lover og bestemmelser for å beskytte arbeidstakernes rettigheter. Implementeringen av disse bestemmelsene har imidlertid vært ytterst svakt. Uavhengige fagforeninger er fortsatt forbudt, og de lokale forgreningene av den statlige kinesiske fagforeningen er ofte under kontroll av bedriftsledelsen, slik at de har lite rom for å ivareta de ansattes rettigheter.

Den langsommere veksten i den kinesiske økonomien over de siste årene har ført til en sterk opptrapping av forfølgelse og trakassering av organisasjoner eller enkeltpersoner som engasjerer seg for arbeidstakernes rettigheter. Dette har vi spesielt observert i provinsen Guangdong som gjerne omtales som «verdens fabrikk» på grunn av de mange bedrifter i regionen som produserer varer som underleverandører for den globale industrien.

Det må stilles krav til kinesiske myndigheter
Menneskerettighetsbruddene i Kina er mange og alvorlige, og på en rekke områder går utviklingen fra vondt til verre. Det er helt avgjørende at kinesiske myndigheter får klar beskjed fra sine internasjonale partnere om at kravet om respekt for menneskerettighetene er grunnlag for internasjonal samhandling og ikke kan forhandles bort. Det er mange mennesker i Kina som våger å stå opp for sine og andres rettigheter uansett hvor risikabelt det er, for å bygge en bedre og tryggere fremtid, og for dem er vår støtte og solidaritet helt avgjørende.

Derfor oppfordrer vi statsministeren til å uttrykke en klar forventing overfor kinesiske myndigheter om at Kina respekterer menneskerettighetene i tråd med internasjonal rett. Vi ber statsministeren spesielt om å

  • uttrykke bekymring over forfølgelsen av menneskerettighetsforkjempere og advokater i Kina og kreve at kinesiske advokater må ha mulighet til å gi juridisk bistand uten trakassering, også i saker som myndighetene oppfatter som sensitive
  • understreke at ytringsfrihet er en menneskerett og en grunnleggende forutsetning for et velfungerende samfunn, og at ingen må straffes for å sette frem kritikk av myndighetene eller oppmuntre til eller delta i debatt om samfunnsrelevante temaer på en fredelig måte
  • uttrykke bekymring over den omfattende sensuren av internett i Kina
  • oppfordre kinesiske myndigheter til å gjøre detaljert informasjon om landets bruk av dødsstraff offentlig tilgjengelig, inkludert antall henrettelser og dødsdommer per år og høyesterettens jurisdiksjon i dødsstraffsaker
  • uttrykke bekymring over forfølgelsen av mennesker i Kina på grunn av sitt livssyn eller sin tro og spesielt de omfattende overgrepene Falun Gong-utøvere er utsatt for
  • minne kinesiske myndigheter om sin forpliktelse til å respektere menneskerettighetene til etniske tibetanere og uigurere, inkludert deres rett til ytrings-, religions- og forsamlingsfrihet og deres rett til å bruke og lære sitt eget språk og å utøve sin kultur
  • understreke at det forventes at kinesiske myndigheter gjør alt de kan for å realisere og beskytte faglige rettigheter som nedfelt i menneskerettighetene og ILO-konvensjonene og sørger for at arbeidstakere har adgang til reell beskyttelse av rettighetene sine og mulighet til å klage mot overtramp uten frykt for sanksjoner.

Med vennlig hilsen

Frode Elgesem, leder, Den norske advokatforeningens menneskerettighetsutvalg

John Peder Egenæs, generalsekretær, Amnesty International i Norge

Bjørn Engesland, generalsekretær, Den norske Helsingforskomité

Hege Newth Nouri, generalsekretær, Norsk PEN

Tsomo Svenningsen, styreleder, Den norske Tibetkomité

Foto av Erna Solberg: Thomas Haugersveen/
Statsministerens kontor

2017 China: Independent Chinese PEN Center

In China writers, journalists, the Independent Chinese PEN Center and its members, as well as other critical voices have been persecuted, harassed, imprisoned, and sometimes forcibly disappeared. Norwegian PEN and the Writers in Prison Committee call on Chinese authorities to comply with the right of freedom of expression.

Oslo, January 5th 2017

His Excellency Xi Jinping
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032
P.R. China


Your Excellency,

The Norwegian PEN and its Writers in Prison Committee is hereby calling for the release of all writers, journalists and publishers imprisoned in violation of their right to freedom of expression in the People’s Republic of China. We are urging you to cease the harassment and persecution of members of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre, and lift all restrictions on their freedom to exit and enter mainland China, particularly to attend PEN International conferences and to return home.

We are also calling on you to end the practice of enforced disappearance and the use of forced confessions, which contravene an individual’s right to fair trial.

Finally, we are calling on you to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was signed by the People’s Republic of China in October 1998.


On behalf of the Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee,


Øivind Hånes



Copies: Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Kingdom of Norway; The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

2016 China: Gao Yu

Norsk PEN fears for the safety, health, and well-being of dissident journalist Gao Yu.  We plead for the overturning of her wrongful conviction, and appeal to Chinese authorities to aid her in travel to Germany for necessary medical attention.


His Excellency Xi Jinping

President of the People’s Republic of China

Your Excellency,                                                                                                           Oslo, 15 April 2016


On behalf of the Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee and Norwegian PEN, I express grave concern at the ongoing harassment of Beijing- based veteran dissident journalist Gao Yu.

Gao Yu has been consistently, unfairly persecuted for her political opinions, and denied her right to freedom of expression. Gao (formerly the chief editor of Economics Weekly) was not only barred from publishing, but has faced multiple arrests and convictions, dating back to her coverage of student protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Gao has served over six years in prison in her lifetime, and is now serving another five-year sentence for her conviction of ‘leaking state secrets abroad’.

Gao Yu was released on medical parole on 26 November 2015 following an appeal and the deterioration of her health, including several reported heart attacks while in detention. Though she will be allowed to serve the remainder of her sentence outside of prison, PEN and the WIPC express serious concern for Gao Yu’s well-being.

Gao Yu’s application to travel to Germany to seek medical attention was denied by the Chinese authorities in February 2016. According to reports, she has been left without access to her state pension and has no access to medical insurance. We urge the Chinese authorities to ensure that she is provided with adequate medical treatment, and that her access to her medical insurance is restored. We request that Gao be allowed to travel to Germany for medical treatment, for which she has already been granted a visa.

It is reported that Gao Yu was hospitalized after the Beijing Municipal Bureau of City Administration and Law Enforcement identified her garden for destruction on 31 March 2016. Gao Yu remains in hospital, though her condition has now stabilized.

On 31 March 2016, some 20 or more plainclothes police and urban management officials, known as “chengguan,” came to Gao Yu’s Beijing home without warning, destroyed her garden without a court order, and reportedly beat her son, Zhao Meng.

Norwegian PEN and the WIPC demand that the state-sponsored harassment of Gao Yu cease immediately, and we also call for the quashing of her conviction, as she was convicted and sentenced after an unfair trial for her legitimate professional activities.

Furthermore, we would like to remind the Chinese authorities of their legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As a signatory to the ICCPR, China has a duty to provide for freedom of legitimate expression, the right not to be arbitrarily detained, the right to a fair trial, and the right to leave one’s own country. We demand that Gao Yu’s fundamental human rights be protected and fulfilled by China immediately, and for the authorities to refrain from acts that undermine the object and purpose of the ICCPR.

Yours sincerely,

Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

Ms Brit Bildøen                                                                       Ms Iva Gavanski Chair                                                                                             Advisor

Copy: Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Norwegian PEN meets Dalai Lama

A delegation of members from Norwegian PEN and PEN International had a brief meeting with the Dalai Lama this morning during his visit to Oslo. The delegation, Norwegian PEN president William Nygaard, board member Peter Normann Waage and PEN International’s Vice President Eugene Schoulgin, welcomed the Dalai Lama to Norway and regretted that the Norwegian government had declined to meet with him.

“We told the Dalai Lama that the Norwegian people support him,” said Nygaard after the meeting, adding that he, on PENs behalf, was very grateful that the Dalai Lama took the time to meet representatives from the world´s biggest freedom of expression organization, before meeting with Norwegian politicians in the Parliament building. PEN referred to the defense of his case and of imprisoned Tibetans throughout more than thirty years, and said that Tibetan PEN is among the most significant PEN centers.  The Dalai Lama was glad to hear this. PEN also expressed gratitude towards the Dalai Lama for making Tibetan culture a part of the world´s cultural heritage.

The Dalai Lama was happy to be back in Norway and paid no attention to the lack of willingness the Norwegian government now has demonstrated to follow up on earlier statements. The Dalai Lama raised the Chinese people’s need for comprehensive freedom of expression. “Had it not been for the censorship in China, the Chinese people themselves could have made up their minds about what is right and what is wrong,” stressed the Dalai Lama.

At the end of the meeting, the Dalai Lama was invited back to Norway. If nothing else he could go fishing to learn more about the Norwegian culture. He laughed heartily and stressed that he happily would eat the fish, as long as he didn’t have to kill it.

9th May 2014

Do the Chinese control the Norwegian parliament ? Norwegian politicians place business interests ahead of human rights


Norwegian PEN is concerned that the Norwegian Parliament sets narrow business interests ahead of the interests of human rights and human dignity. We deeply regret that many of our leading politicians , who both previously met the Dalai Lama and supported Tibetan struggle for human rights now allows the pragmatic to overshadow the principal .

Norway has long been an important country in international peace and reconciliation work and rendered significant contributions to the promotion of human rights . To show respect to the Dalai Lama as a freedom fighter and for his peaceful efforts should be a question of honor,  it concerns our self- respect and decency as a nation.  It is by our own consistent behavior that respect for human dignity could also result in a long-term dialogue on human rights with China. It is therefore important that Norway, as a small nation, has the necessary courage and integrity to stand up to one of the largest and strongest economies in the world. Who would stand against China if not the country that awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and that,  better  than most other countires, can afford to bear the cost of being principled?

Norwegian PEN believes that Norway, as a country who dares to speak out, will have a positive significance in the long run, both for the peace prize, business relations,  international peace efforts and general relations with China – but first and foremost for freedom of expression and other human rights.

On this background, the Board of Norwegian PEN strongly urge the Norwegian government to meet the Dalai Lama during his visit to Norway in May.


28 April 2014

PEN International’s kongress vedtar viktige resolusjoner

Resolutions from PEN International´s 78th world Congress in Gyeongju, Korea, 9th to 15th September 2012.


The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World Congress in Gyeongju, Korea, 9th to 15th September 2012

On 4 September 2012, the High Court of Appeal in Bahrain confirmed the convictions of thirteen human rights defenders, bloggers and activists serving time in prison and seven others tried in absentia. They include human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and academic, blogger and human rights activist Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, who had been sentenced by a special security court on 22 June 2011 to life imprisonment. They are targeted for calling for political reform and for their reporting on human rights abuses in the country.

Despite the Bahraini’s government much publicised commitments to political reform, little meaningful action has been taken to implement reforms and ensure accountability. Violations are ongoing and peaceful opposition activists remain behind bars. Significant structural impediments to freedom of expression remain in place, and the authorities have denied or severely restricted access for international rights groups, including PEN International.

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World  Congress in Geongju, Korea, 9th  to 15th September 2012

Protests the decision by the High Court of Appeal in Bahrain to uphold the harsh sentences against Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and others solely for peacefully exercising their right to free expression;

Calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in Bahrain solely for the peaceful expression their opinions, including Dr Al-Singace, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Nabeel Rajab;

Demands a full independent investigation into allegations that all three men have been tortured and ill-treated in detention, and to end the culture of impunity by bringing the perpetrators of torture and ill-treatment to justice;

Urges the Bahraini authorities to abide by their obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and to renew its commitments to freedom of expression as articulated in the National Action Charter of Bahrain of 2001 by enacting or amending appropriate legislation to eliminate all restrictions upon the freedom of the press, including criminal penalties.


The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World Congress in Gyeongju, Korea, 9th to 15th September 2012

On 4 August 2011, the writer and human rights defender Ales Bialiastki was arrested in Minsk, charged with tax evasion, charges which stemmed from his reported use of personal bank accounts in Lithuania and Poland to receive funding from international donors for Vyasna’s human rights activities in Belarus.  His detention since August 2011 is as a direct result of his legitimate activities in defence of human rights in Belarus.  On 24 November 2011, Ales Bialiatski was sentenced to 4.5 years imprisonment with the confiscation of his property, including the property registered with other persons, on charges of tax evasion.  On January 24, 2012, the cassation appeal against the verdict of the Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk, of Ales Bialiatski, left the sentence in force: 4.5 years imprisonment in a higher security colony and confiscation of properties. The latter disregards the fact that all the taxes and penalties imposed on him had been fully paid by the time of the appeal hearing.

Ales Bialiatski is head of the Human Rights Centre “Viasna” in Belarus, Vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and one of the founders of the Belarusian Human Rights House in exile.  Vyasna has campaigned for scores of opposition activists persecuted by the government of President Alexsander Lukashenko. It was stripped of its official registration in 2003, making it extremely difficult under Belarus’s economic laws to raise funds. The condemnation of Ales Bialiatski illustrates how seriously threatened freedom of association and freedom of expression are in Belarus.

Another member of Belarus PEN  Pavel Seviarynets, also an opposition activist and author of several books, was arrested in December 2010 for his involvement in protests was sentenced to three years in a “correctional institution”, a type of open prison where he will remain until the end of 2013.

These and other cases are emblematic of the type of pressure faced by writers and journalists who speak out.

PEN International calls upon Belarusian authorities to:

• Immediately release and drop all charges against human rights defender Ales Bialiatsky and Pavel Seviarynets; to fully rehabilitate him and to ensure unhampered activities of human rights and other civil society organizations
• Release all political prisoners and allow for free, democratic elections
• Stop censoring the internet and allow for a free, democratic exchange of ideas and opinions



The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World Congress in Geongju, Korea, 9th to 15th September 2012

Cambodia: On July 15, 2012, journalist, human rights activist, and director of the independent Beehive Radio Station Mam Sonado was arrested and is now standing trial on charges of insurrection. Mr. Mam Sonado is accused of inciting villagers in Kratie province in northeastern Cambodia to protest a government order to seize land in the village and transfer it to a private holding company. There are about 100 families in the village. A teenage girl was shot dead by authorities during that protest. Mr. Mom Sonado has never been to Kratie province and does not know any of the villagers, and was abroad in France when the protest took place. He has, however, been a vocal critic of forced evictions and “land grabs” in Cambodia, and has been jailed twice previously for speaking out against the increasingly common practice of appropriating property in Cambodia. PEN believes his current trial is the latest in a series of actions by the Cambodia government aimed at silencing Mr. Mam Sonado for exercising his universally-guaranteed right to freedom of expression.

Mr. Mam Sonado’s trial comes amid rising concerns over the climate for freedom of expression in Cambodia, where government critics are the target of intimidation and harassment and often accused of being members of opposition parties, and where at least 10 writers, journalists, and activists have been killed since the 1990s and many more have been forced into exile. In addition, several writers have been prosecuted under criminal defamation laws aimed at silencing government critics, and a climate of impunity prevails. In this environment, Mr. Mam Sonado has been a brave defender of the right of all Cambodians to freedom of expression. Beehive Radio is one of just two independent media centers that have programs that allow individuals from all walks of life the raise their voices and express their concerns about their lives and their country. Prosecuting Mr. Mam Sonado is likely to have a chilling on independent media in Cambodia and further shrink the space where Cambodia’s citizens can participate in discussions and debates about policies and issues that affect their lives.

Mr. Mam Sonado, who is 70 years old, has reportedly contracted a serious respiratory infection in prison, and there are serious concerns about his health.

PEN International therefore calls on the government of Cambodia to:

– Drop the current charges against Mr. Mam Sonado and facilitate his immediate and unconditional release
– End the intimidation of critical voices in Cambodia and take affirmative steps to protect the right of writers, journalists, and all Cambodian citizens to full freedom of expression.



The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World Congress in Gyeongju, Korea, 9th to 15th September 2012

Welcomes the release of HUANG Jinqiu, TANG Cailong, ZUO Xiaohua,WANG Xiaoming  and GAO Chunlian, either on bail or due to sentence reduction, since the last Congress of PEN International in September 2011.

Also welcomes the progress in amending the Criminal Procedure Law by the National People’s Congress in March 2012, with the insertions of the constitutional principle of “respect and protect human rights” and a sentence of “authorities shall protect the defense right and other procedural rights legally enjoyed by criminal suspects, defendants, and other litigation participants” into its General Provision, and with the corresponding revisions of a large number of the terms and conditions for the rights protection.

Considers the continuous suppression of the right to freedom of expression throughout China, from its capital city of Beijing to the inland provinces of Sichuan, Guizhou and Huibei, to the coastal province of Zhejiang, to the Autonomous Regions of Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia.

Alarmed by the relentless harassment of and attacks against Chinese intellectuals, particularly the arbitrary arrests of online bloggers and journalists, over 40 of whom are currently imprisoned, including the sentencing of CHEN Wei (9 years), CHEN Xi (10 years), LI Tie (10 years) and ZHU Yufu (7 years), making China one of the largest jailers of writers and journalists in the world.

Worried about the growing censorship of the Internet throughout the country, including the popular social network websites Twitter and Facebook.

Disturbed by the continuous use of administrative detention, including the infamous “Re-education Through Labour” (RTL) system, to jail dissident writers for up to 3 years without the due process guaranteed under its own laws.

Further disturbed by the increasing misuse of China’s Criminal Law to arbitrarily charge dissident writers, outspoken journalists and independent publishers with criminal offences to suppress freedom of expression and the press, in particular “endangering national security”, “(inciting) subversion of state power”, “(inciting) split of country” , “illegally holding/leaking state secrets”, and “illegal business practices” or alleged “economic crimes”;

Even further disturbed by the recent amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law which allow police to hold a suspect without informing a relative of either charge or whereabouts as long as they wish, possibly over a year, until there is an open trial.

Shocked by the increasing persecution of Independent Chinese PEN Centre (ICPC) members, including the ongoing imprisonment of LIU Xiaobo (11 years), SHI Tao (10 years), YANG Tongyan (12 years), and ZHU Yufu (7 years); the interrogation, harassment, threats, attacks, brief detentions, meeting and travel restrictions, passport rejections, and the work and life interruptions of more than 50 members.

PEN International therefore urges the government of the People’s Republic of China to:

• Stop the harassment and persecution of ICPC members, and lift all restrictions on their freedom to exit and enter mainland China, particularly to attend PEN International conferences and to return home;
• Cease its efforts to censor cyberspace and to immediately release all Internet writers jailed for peacefully expressing their opinions;
• Release all those in the autonomous regions of Tibet, Xinjiang Uyghur and Inner Mongolia who have been detained in violation of their right to freedom of expression,
• Release all imprisoned writers and journalists in China
• Ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was signed by the People’s Republic of China in October 1998;
• Engage in a complete and meaningful reform of the Chinese legal system in accordance with international standards and its own Constitution to guarantee fair trials, the full rights of defence and appeal, the legal practices of attorneys, and a prison system that ensures the health and safety of inmates; particularly to cease the practice of using the charge of “subversion” against writers and of “holding/leaking state secrets” against journalists; and to abandon the infamous RTL system.


The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World Congress in Gyeongju, Korea, 9th to 15th September 2012

Despite the recent release from prison of political prisoners, the government of Cuba continues to arrest, harass and physically attack writers, journalists, bloggers and independent librarians, as well as opponents peacefully struggling for human rights, such as the Ladies in White. This new wave of repression includes the kidnapping of activists, keeping them incommunicado in political police buildings, and only setting them free after alleged torture and under threat of a judicial writ indicating that they will be imprisoned if they continue those activities.

Furthermore, the government of Cuba keeps in force Law 88 from 1999, setting prison terms of more than 20 years for dissidents who claim peacefully their right to freedom of expression. Also, it keeps in force the Law of Security of Information, limiting internet information access to independent journalists.

The Cuban government, contravening Article 13 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights denies travel permits to writers and journalists to enable them to receive international awards, as is the case of blogger Yoani Sánchez, who obtained the María Moors Cabot Award in 2009.

These attacks on free expression in Cuba have been condemned by several non-governmental rights and press organisations, including the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, which reported 3,645 short-term detentions in the first half of 2012, the Inter-American Society for the Press, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT).
PEN International therefore urges the government of Cuba to:

• Abstain from the arrest, physical attack and harassment of writers, journalists, bloggers and independent librarians for their practice of their right to freedom of expression;
• Allow the use of means of social communications such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other possible future technological means;
• Free the remaining political prisoners still serving terms in Cuba;
• Abolish Law 88 of 1999 and the Law of Security;
• Comply with Articles 12 and 19 of the International Convention on Political and Civil Rights, signed by Cuba on February 2008.



The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World Congress in Seoul, South Korea, 9 September to 15 September 2012

ERITREA: September 23, 2012 the journalist, playwright and writer Dawit Isaak has been in Eritrean prison for eleven years. Despite many efforts to raise his case at the international level, Dawit remains a long term prisoner of conscience.

Eleven years ago, Mr. Isaak was detained with a large number of other journalists, writers and opposition politicians after his newspaper published a letter which criticized President Isaias Afewerki. Despite serious concerns for their health and well-being, Isaak and his colleagues have reportedly been held without charge or trial in extremely harsh conditions ever since. At least four of the journalists arrested with Isaak are believed to have died during their detention and, according to news reports in 2012, only 15 out of the original 35 political prisoners held at Eira Eiro prison camp, where Isaak is allegedly detained, remain alive. Since 2005 there has been no certain confirmation of Mr. Isaak being alive, and 2011 it was even reported that Mr. Isaak had died. This rumour has neither been denied or confirmed by the authorities, and PEN International refuses to believe it’s true. Three more were confirmed dead last week.

Dawit Isaak was born in Eritrea in 1964. He immigrated to Sweden as a refugee from Eritrea’s War of Independence in 1987 and became a Swedish citizen five years later. When Eritrea gained independence in 1993, Isaak returned to his native country and became a part-owner of Setit, the country’s first independent newspaper.

PEN International is deeply concerned by the reported deaths of Dawit Isaak’s colleagues, and by a longstanding lack of medical treatment at the prisons where he has been held.

PEN International calls on the government of Eritrea:

• To honour its obligations under international law by granting the International Committee of the Red Cross, or some other reputable and independent organization, access to Mr. Isaak and those detained with him;
• To confirm and prove that Mr. Isaak is still alive;
• To provide independent assessments of their health and any medical treatment they require;
• To grant the immediate and unconditional release of Dawit Isaak and the at least 15 other Eritreans who have also been imprisoned for their writings since 2001.


The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World Congress in Gyeongju, Korea, 9th to 15th September, 2012

ETHIOPIA: On June 27, 2012, the Ethiopian high court convicted Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega on charges of “conspiracy to commit terrorist acts” for the peaceful and lawful practice of his profession. On July 13, 2012, Eskinder was sentenced to 18 years in prisonLike many of his colleagues in the independent media in Ethiopia, Eskinder Nega has been the target of constant harassment since he began his career in 1993. In 2005 he and his journalist wife Serkalem Fasil were imprisoned for 17 months on treason charges for their critical reporting on the government’s violent crackdown of protests following disputed elections. When he was released he was banned from journalism. He refused to be silenced, publishing reports and essays on online media—most notably, reports critical of the Ethiopian government’s human rights record and its use of an overly-broad anti-terrorism law to prosecute journalists.  Now Eskinder stands as the latest victim of this troubling practice.

At least 5 journalists have been detained and 11 tried and convicted under the vaguely-worded Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of 2009, which includes provisions the government has increasingly used to jail peaceful opponents and critics. Independent newspapers are consistently shut down, and social media is monitored and often banned. As official hostility to a free press and peaceful dissent has grown in Ethiopia, at least 150 of Eskinder Nega’s colleagues in the independent media have been forced into exile.

PEN International therefore calls on the Ethiopian authorities to:

• Reverse Eskinder Nega’s conviction and immediately release all journalists who have been convicted under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of 2009 simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression
• Amend the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of 2009 to ensure that its provision protect the right of Ethiopia’s citizens to exercise their right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and full political participation
• End the intimidation and harassment of the independent media that has forced scores of Ethiopian journalists into exile.



The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World Congress in Gyeongju, Korea, 9th to 15th September 2012

Preamble: For decades there has been a widespread crackdown on peaceful political dissent across many aspects of civil society in Iran. Those targeted include writers and journalists, academics, women’s rights activists and human rights defenders. Separatist struggle places writers and journalists particularly at risk in Iran’s ethnic regions, and PEN International is alarmed at the number of Kurdish, Azeri and Arab journalists targeted for their critical reporting, peaceful activism and writings in support of their cultural and political rights. At least thirty writers are currently detained in Iran, many serving lengthy sentences, including Muhemed Sadigh Kaboudvand, Adnan Hassanpour, Abdolvahed “Hiva” Botimar, Nasrin Soutadeh and Shiva Ahari. Detainees are commonly held in poor conditions, without access to family, medical care and legal representation, and there are widespread reports of the use of torture. Trials commonly fall short of international standards of fairness.

The General Assembly of PEN International is:

Alarmed by the extensive violations of human rights in Iran, and the continued persecution facing writers and journalists who are particularly targeted by the Iranian regime for practicing their rights to free expression.

Concerned about the continuous policy of harassment of the Kurdish and Baluchi identity, language and culture depriving these groups from publishing, studying or developing their language.
PEN International calls upon the Iranian regime to:

• stop ill treatment and torture in Iranian prisons;
• stop the particular targeting of national groups such as the Kurds, Azeris, Arabs, Baluchi and Turkmen, and allowing them full practice of their cultural, linguistic and political rights;
• calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Muhemed Sadigh Kaboudvand, Adnan Hassanpour, Abdolvahed “Hiva” Botimar, Nasrin Soutadeh, Shiva Ahari, and all writers and journalists who have been arrested in Iran in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory.



The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World Congress in Gyeongju, Korea, 9th to 15th September 2012

MEXICO: Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world in which to be a writer. Since 2006, at least 44 print journalists, writers and bloggers have been murdered in connection with their work; at least 9 others have disappeared. Of these attacks, very few have been thoroughly investigated. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, fewer than 10% of attacks against journalists and writers result in convictions. There is a considerable amount of evidence suggesting that state actors are often involved in attacks on journalists. In March 2012 the Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression publicly recognized that many of the threats to journalists’ right to free expression in Mexico came from the state authorities themselves.  PEN is appalled by the continuing litany of killings and threats and calls on the Mexican authorities to do all in their power to bring this to an end.

In January 2012, an international delegation of PEN leaders from the Americas, Europe and Asia went to Mexico in order to raise international awareness of the violence suffered there by writers and journalists. They underlined that Mexico’s commitment to protecting freedom of expression will only be measured by a reduction in attacks on journalists and writers, and on the prosecution and conviction of those who commit these crimes.

On 6 June 2012, Mexico finally approved an amendment to article 73 of the Mexican constitution that makes attacks on journalists a federal offence. This change in law will provide investigators with greater resources with which to pursue their work, and protect cases from the influence of corruption at local state level.

On 22 June 2012, President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, signed into law a further amendment to article 73 that will oblige both federal and state authorities to protect the rights of journalists and human rights defenders.

PEN International calls on the Mexican authorities to:

• Swiftly approve the secondary legislation required for the effective implementation of the recent constitutional amendments, thereby ensuring that the new laws classifying attacks on journalists as federal crimes and affording journalists better protection, are put into practice on the ground.
• Demonstrate their commitment to freedom of expression by pursuing and prosecuting those responsible for attacks on journalists and writers.
• Acknowledge the role of state actors in violence against journalists and take concrete measures to address it;
• Tackle the corruption that is endemic at state level, and thereby remove a key cause of impunity in Mexico.

Further to the above, the Assembly of Delegates of PEN International calls on the United States of America, Canada and the European Union to:

• Place these attacks on Mexican writers and journalists on the foreign policy agenda by insisting that the above recommendations be implemented, and by conditioning future counternarcotics aid on the Mexican authorities taking genuine and effective action to redress serious human rights violations against journalists.
• Address their own countries’ role in drug consumption and in international

In session Resolution on Russia

Recent months have seen a steep decline in the state of freedom of expression and the ability of society to act freely in Russia. The two year sentences served against Maria Alyokhiona, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Ekaterina Samusevich, members of the band, Pussy Riot, supposedly on “hooliganism” charges, are clearly a means through which to intimidate not only critics of President Putin, but also of the Orthodox church. The weight of the sentences for what in other countries, and indeed in earlier similar cases of civil disobedience tried by Russian courts, are seen as minor offences, makes this abundantly clear.

Earlier this year, the city of St Petersburg district a law banning “homosexual propaganda”, a law that could be used to penalise writings, plays, performances and other creative works. This brings the number of cities having such laws to four, and fears that they will spread to other cities in Russia. Commentators have pointed out that these laws have been passed on the initiative of the Orthodox Church, another indication of its growing influence  on the state.

Last month criminal libel was re-introduced only a year after it had been decriminalized only a year ago, part of a number of laws forced at great speed through parliament in July with acute negative effect on freedom of expression and association, leading to alarm at the growing authoritarianism.

Among the laws passed in July is the law “Regulating Activities of Non-commercial Organizations, which Carry Out Functions of Foreign Agents” that will demand that any organisation that is funded, or considering getting funding from abroad, to register with the Ministry of Justice as “carrying out functions of a foreign agent”. This only applies if the organisation is involved in political advocacy. This places enormous restraint on organisations in Russia, among them Russian PEN, under legislation using language resonant of the Cold War.

Alongside this, there has been no justice in most of the 53 killings of writers and journalists since 1992 (figs: Committee to Protect Journalists). Less than 10% of these killings have seen justice. Among them are journalist Anna Politkovskaya murdered in 2006, and her friend, human rights defender and reporter, Natalia Estemirova, killed in 2009. This not only grants a mantle of impunity for those who kill to silence, but does not bode well in this current climate where writers, journalists and artists who speak out are being identified by the state as traitors to the state and church, marking them as targets for gunmen.

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World Congress in Geongju, Korea, 9th to 15th September, 2012

PEN International views with deep foreboding the growing authoritarianism in Russia. It calls on the Russian authorities to:
• Put an end to the arrest and sentencing of writers, journalists and artists who use words, performance and imagery to express their views on the society and politics in which they live;
• Review state and federal legislation that criminalises freedom of expression including through literature, the media and creative arts;
• To make it undeniably clear that the Russian government will not tolerate, let alone endorse, any threats of violence or actual attacks against its critics
• Illustrate its commitment to protect all its citizens against violence by speeding up the investigations into killings in recent years, and facilitating trial processes against those who kill writers, including those who orchestrate such murders, thus showing that the Russian state is able to provide justice and is not in thrall to criminals who are behind these atrocities;
Take note of the deep levels of concern of the impact that the  law on “foreign agents” will have on the capacity for Russia to have a well functioning, independent, civil society that is truly able to serve the Russian people, and to order a review of the legislation.


The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World Congress in Gyeongju, Korea, 9th to 15th September 2012..


Repression of human rights, displacement of minorities and ethnic discrimination is not news in Syria, where writers, human rights defenders and political dissidents have been harassed and persecuted for years – throughout its decades of dictatorship freedom of speech has been severely restricted for writers and media people in Syria across ethnic, religious and linguistic barriers.

During the popular calls for democratic change 2011-2012, however, the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad has increased its repression, trying to stop non-violent demonstrations with barbarous force.

Contrary to its international obligations and commitments to UN human rights conventions, the Syrian dictatorship has made a horrendous effort to prevent writers and journalists, local as well international, from covering the crisis. Media people have been arrested without charge, many tortured, several killed.

Although promising the former special representative of the UN, Mr. Kofi Annan, that political prisoners would be released and that media would have free access to all parts of Syria, the Assad dictatorship continuously has prevented media people from entering the country and/or cities or provinces of crisis.

PEN International is well aware that non-governmental armed groups have become part of the Syrian crisis. It is however the responsibility of the Syrian government to ensure the safety of its people as well as human rights, including not the least freedom of speech – rather than answering political dissent with violent repression and meeting calls for freedom of speech with heavy-handed censorship.

PEN centres representing more than 20.000 writers, bloggers, journalists, editors and publishers from all over the world, convening at the 78th PEN International congress in Gyeongju, Korea, call on the government of Syria and all parties of the Syrian conflict to respect the principle of freedom of speech as well as other principles of human rights.

The government of Syria must immediately release and drop all charges against imprisoned writers and human rights defenders and ensure unhampered freedom of speech and unlimited freedom to human rights and other civil society organizations;

The government must ensure and protect free access to all parts of Syria to all representatives of media;

And the Syrian government must stop censoring the internet and allow for a free, democratic exchange of ideas and opinions.

We also call on all parties to the conflict, including the Syrian National Council, to ensure the cultural, political and linguistic rights of all the ethnic groups in Syria.


The Turkey Manifesto

PEN International calls for an overhaul of laws stifling Turkey’s writers and journalists

Turkey has an extraordinarily high number of writers and journalists in prison with many more on release pending trial. Most are held because of their alleged affiliation to or support of organisations that advocate violence. However, PEN is worried that this situation has emerged as a result of the amenability of Turkish courts to broad interpretations of anti-terror laws, empowering overzealous state prosecutors to pursue cases where no material links to terrorism exist.

As of  September 2012, scores of journalists were reported imprisoned in Turkey.  Such figures are difficult to confirm; the complexity and obfuscation surrounding these cases makes them difficult to monitor, while releases being made under the Third Judicial Reform Package passed in July are still ongoing.

The Turkish legal system imposes extremely long periods of pre-trial detention on suspects. We have on our records people who have still not been convicted after four years in prison. These conditions create an atmosphere of intimidation for writers and journalists, who risk lengthy spells in prison when they publish controversial but legitimate comment even if they’re never convicted.

Even in cases without pre-trial detention writers, journalists and publishers in Turkey face lengthy trials that may last for years. More often than not, these less serious cases end with acquittals or minor fines, indicating that the reasons for prosecution are not founded under Turkish law. It is hard not to conclude that those who bring these cases have little regard for the outcome, and in fact do so to harass and intimidate the authors and send warnings to others. The draining, debilitating effect on the defendants in these cases can be immense.

In addition to the Anti-Terror Law, freedom of expression is suppressed under numerous other laws including  obscenity, praising offences or offenders, inciting the population to (usually religious) hatred and insulting Turkishness.  Legitimate political comment regarding public officials is also challenged through defamation cases.


1. Order the review of all cases of imprisoned writers, journalists and publishers held and on trial under the Anti-Terror Law to ensure that none are being penalized for the legitimate practice of their rights  to peaceful freedom of expression and association.

2. Make much needed changes to the country’s draconian Anti-Terror Law, which allows for the imprisonment and pre-trial detention of writers and journalists with no material links to terrorism or the plotting of violent acts.

3. Revise other articles of the Turkish Penal Code that have been used to stifle legitimate political comment or to suppress creative  works.

4. Improve on the positive reforms made as part of the Third Judicial Reform Package by going further to eliminate unnecessary pre-trial detention and onerously lengthy trial times, and introduce a stringent means of vetting cases before trial so that weak indictments can’t be used to imprison, harass or intimidate writers and journalists.