Kronikk i Aftenposten: Det nytter å kjempe for fengslede forfattere

Våre tanker og ord skal være frie. Overraskende mange forsøker likevel å sette dem i fengsel.

Denne uken markerer vi i PEN Fengslede Forfatteres Dag. I den anledning har styreleder i Norsk PEN, Kjersti Løken Stavrum, en kronikk på trykk i Aftenposten i dag, onsdag 12. november.

Innlegget kan leses åpent hos Aftenposten her, eller under:

Det nytter å kjempe for fengslede forfattere

«Poesien kan aldri fengsles», skrev Dr. Stella Nyanzi, akademiker og poet i Uganda. I år har hun sittet fengslet for et dikt hun skrev på Facebook. Nyanzi brukte poesien for å kritisere president Yoweri Museveni som har sittet med makten i Uganda siden 1986. Nyanzi ble dømt for trakassering på internett og støtende kommunikasjon.

Nyanzis historie er ikke unik. Hvert år forfølges altfor mange forfattere, journalister og andre samfunnsengasjerte mennesker fordi de har ytret seg negativt mot myndigheter eller øvrige maktpersoner i samfunnet.

Mange av disse maktpersonene er dessverre også lettkrenkede.

Fengslet til taushet

Denne uken markerer vi Fengslede forfatteres dag. Vi i Norsk PEN bruker hvert år denne muligheten til å minne om alle dem som er fengslet til taushet. Slik legger vi ytterligere press på dem som vil straffe det frie ord – og vi motiverer dem som er fengslet, ofte under svært vanskelige forhold.

Og det nytter. Tre av de fem fangene vi rettet oppmerksomheten mot i fjor, er nå sluppet fri.

Den ukrainske filmregissøren Oleg Sentsov er kanskje den mest kjente blant disse. Vi fryktet at han ville sulte seg ihjel.

Den tyrkiske forfatteren Ahmet Altan er et annet eksempel. Boken hans Eg får aldri sjå verda igjen kom på norsk tidligere i år. Denne måneden ble han likevel sluppet fri etter et betydelig internasjonalt press for ham og hans sak.

Blant PENs tidligere fokusfanger finnes den tyrkiske forfatteren og nobelprisvinneren i litteratur Orhan Pamuk (2005) og den kinesiske forfatteren og menneskerettighetsforkjemperen Liu Xiaobo (2009). Året etter at PEN rettet søkelyset mot Xiaobo, ble han tildelt Nobels fredspris. Pamuk er fortsatt en viktig forfatter. Xiaobo døde som fange for to år siden.

Innstramninger i ytringsfriheten

De siste årene har vi sett innstramminger i ytringsfriheten i en rekke land. Det gjelder ikke bare for tradisjonelle medier som aviser, TV og radio, men også for sosiale medier.

Og lovverket tilpasses gjerne gradvis slik at man kan ramme prinsippet om ytringsfrihet på tilsynelatende legalt vis.

Den amerikanske stiftelsen Freedom House, som forsker på og kjemper for demokrati og menneskerettigheter, ga nylig ut rapporten «The Crisis of Social Media». Der påpeker de at et alarmerende antall mennesker verden over nå fengsles for legitim aktivitet i sosiale medier.

Skaper farlige ringvirkninger

I år benytter PEN Fengslede forfatteres dag til å ta opp sakene til nevnte Stella Nyanzi fra Uganda, Galal El-Behairy fra Egypt, Shakthika Sathkumara fra Sri Lanka, Lydia Cacho fra Mexico og Nedim Türfent i Tyrkia. Én rømte til eksil etter gjentatte trusler, én er løslatt til husarrest mens han venter på neste rettslige høring, og tre sitter i fengsel fordi de har ytret seg kritisk mot myndighetene. Ingen av sakene er unike.

Norge scorer best på World Press Freedom Index om pressefrihet. Det forplikter. Vi i Norsk PEN engasjerer oss fordi vi tror at alle disse sakene er en tragedie for dem det gjelder, men at de også skaper farlige ringvirkninger til andre land og inspirerer andre maktpersoner til å fengsle den frie tanke. Vi som har ytringsfrihet, må bruke den til å gjøre slike maktovergrep så vanskelige og ubehagelige som mulig.

Årets fokusfanger: Uganda, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Mexico og Tyrkia

Stella Nyanzi, Shakthika Sathkumara, Galal El-Behairy, Lydia Cacho og Nedim Türfent er årets fokusfanger i 2019.
Årets fokusfanger: Lydia Cacho Ribeiro, Galal El-Behairy, Stella Nyanzi, Nedim Türfent og Shakthika Sathkumara. Foto: PEN International

“Teach the nation poetry.

Handcuffs cannot contain the potency of poems.

Arrest warrants cannot disappear memorized verses

Poetry can never be detained in gaol.”

– Dr. Stella Nyanzi

Årlig markerer Norsk PEN sammen med PEN-sentre verden over sin støtte til skribenter, journalister og forfattere som trues av myndigheter eller andre på grunn av sine ytringer.

Årets fokusfanger er akademikeren Stella Nyanzi, Uganda, forfatter og poet Shakthika Sathkumara, Sri Lanka, poet og lyriker Galal El-Behairy, Egypt, journalist og forfatter Lydia Cacho, Mexico og journalist og poet Nedim Türfent, Tyrkia. Fokusfangene velges ut av PEN International og representerer et mangfold i bakgrunn, sak og verdensdeler.

Blant fjorårets fem fokusfanger ble tre løslatt etter PENs aksjoner.  Ukrainske Oleg Sentsov, egyptiske Wael Abbas og bangladeshiske Shahidul Alam har alle sluppet ut av fengsel i året som har gått. Engasjement nytter!

Vil du gjøre noe? Skriv protestbrev til myndighetene i landet og krev fangene løslatt, del informasjon om fokusfangene i dine kanaler. Norsk PEN har også et krisefond for forfattere i akutt nød som du kan støtte.

Les om hver av fokusfangene:

Dr. Stella Nyanzi er en ugandisk akademiker, skribent og aktivist. Hun soner for tiden en 18 måneder lang fengselsdom for et dikt hun skrev på Facebook. I diktet leverer hun ramsalt kritikk av Ugandas president. Nyanzi ble dømt for internettrakassering og støtende kommunikasjon for diktet. Lovene om internettrakassering i Uganda er blitt kritisert fra mange hold. Nyanzi har fortsatt syv måneder igjen i fengsel.

Gjøre noe for Stella Nyanzi? Se hvordan her

Nedim Türfent, Tyrkia, er journalist og poet. Han ble pågrepet og anklaget for terrorisme, etter å dekket et militærangrep i kurdiskdominerte områder sørøst i Tyrkia. Türfent ble plassert i isolasjon i to år. Rettssaken var ikke rettferdig. 19 vitner har i ettertid fortalt at de ble torturert til å vitne mot ham. Türfent ble dømt til åtte år og ni måneder i fengsel i to rettsinstanser. Den tyrkiske grunnlovsdomstolen og Den europeiske menneskerettighetsdomstolen har ikke tatt stilling til saken ennå.

Gjøre noe for Nedim Türfent? Se hvordan her.

Shakthika Sathkumara er en prisbelønnet forfatter og poet fra Sri Lanka. Han ble anholdt 1. april i år for en novelle kalt Ardha («Halv»), som ifølge påtalemyndigheten «oppfordrer til religiøst hat». PEN International har lest novellen, og mener ikke denne oppfordrer til vold. PEN mener Sathkumaras anholdelse skjer utelukkende på grunn av hans benyttelse av ytringsfriheten.

Sathkumara satt varetektfengslet i over 120 dager, og ble løslatt mot kausjon i august. Neste høring i saken er 10. desember.

Gjøre noe for Shakthika Sathkumara? Se hvordan her

Galal El-Behairy er poet, lyriker og aktivist fra Egypt. Kritiske tekster mot regjeringen, skrevet av El-Behairy, ble brukt av en artist i en låt i 2018. Sangen gikk viralt, og en uke senere ble El-Behairy satt i varetekt. Den første tiden fikk ingen kontakt med ham. El-Behairy ble siden dømt for å ha fornærmet militæret og å spre falske nyheter. Han soner nå dommen på tre år i det beryktede høysikkerhetsfengselet Tora. Ifølge advokaten har El-Behairy tydelige tegn etter alvorlig tortur.

Gjøre noe for Galal El-Behairy? Se hvordan her

Lydia Cacho er skribent, journalist og aktivist fra Mexico. Hun har mottatt en rekke priser for sitt arbeid med å avdekke korrupsjon, narkosmugling, kjønnsbasert vold og organisert kriminalitet i over 30 år. For det samme arbeidet har hun også blitt truet på livet, ulovlig arrestert og angrepet en rekke ganger. Etter et innbrudd i hjemmet hennes, der to menn tok seg inn, stjal kildemateriale og drepte hundene i huset, flyktet Cacho inn i en eksiltilværelse.

Gjøre noe for Lydia Cacho? Se hvordan her.

Onsdag 13. november markerer Norsk PEN Fengslede Forfatteres Dag og deler ut årets Ossietzkypris. Arrangementet er åpent og gratis for alle. Les mer.

Den 7. desember arrangerer Norsk PENs Komité for fengslede forfattere postkortaksjon. Her vil det være mulig å skrive direkte til flere av årets fokusfanger og andre forfattere, journalister og bloggere for å gi en oppmuntring. Hjertelig velkommen!

Lydia Cacho receives death threats

RAPID ACTION NETWORK

1 July 2011

Update #4 to RAN 54/05

MEXICO: Lydia Cacho threatened with death; fears for safety

The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International (WiPC) is deeply alarmed by anonymous death threats received by author and journalist Lydia Cacho on 14 June 2011 and by the Mexican authorities’ apparent lack of response. Cacho believes that the threats, which made direct reference to her journalism, stem from her naming of alleged sex traffickers in her writings. The threats come in the same month as the murder of two Mexican columnists and the abduction of one other journalist. In all, a total of 40 of print journalists and writers have been killed in Mexico since 2004, while 10 more have gone missing. The WiPC calls on the federal and state authorities to investigate the threats against Cacho and to provide her with protection as a matter of the utmost urgency. It also calls on the authorities to implement the journalist protection mechanisms it promised in November 2010 immediately.

On 14 June 2011, the award-winning author, journalist and social activist Lydia Cacho Ribeiro reportedly received anonymous death threats by telephone and email, following her return from an event in Chihuahua state in northern Mexico. The threats made direct reference to her journalism and she believes that they were made in retaliation for her revelation of the names of alleged traffickers of women and girls. In 2010, she published a book entitled Esclavas del poder: un viaje al corazón de la trata de mujeres y niñas en el mundo (Servants of power: a journey into the heart of the trafficking of women and girls in the world). She has also written extensively on people trafficking, organized crime, drug trafficking, gender violence and official corruption in her columns and other articles.

Cacho reported the death threats to the authorities but no investigation or other action had been initiated as of 29 June, when she decided to make the threats public. She commented that Notiver columnist Miguel Ángel López Velasco Milo (pen name Milo Vela) received similar threats which the authorities also ignored; he was shot dead along with his wife and son in Veraruz state on 20 June 2011 (see RAN 33-11). However, Cacho said she had no intention of giving up her journalism or human rights work.

In 2009 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights granted Cacho precautionary protective measures and asked the Mexican government to take action to protect her as a result of harassment and monitoring by armed men. However, to date only half of the measures have been implemented, according to Article 19, and she clearly remains at risk.

Background
Following the publication of her first book in 2005, on child pornography in Mexico (Los Demonios del Edén: el poder detrás de la pornografía – The Demons of Eden: the power behind pornography), Cacho was illegally arrested, detained and ill treated before being subjected to a year-long criminal defamation lawsuit. She was cleared of all charges in 2007, but her attempts to gain legal redress for her treatment have been thwarted and she continues to be the target of harassment and threats due to her investigative journalism. Cacho was awarded the 2009 One Humanity Award from Canadian PEN, the 2008 Tucholsky prize from Swedish PEN and the 2007 Oxfam/Novib PEN Award for Free Expression, among numerous others. She was one of the subjects of the WiPC’s International Women’s Day action in March 2009 and International PEN’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer action in November 2006. She is an Honorary Member of Scottish PEN. For more information on Cacho, click here.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. Since January 2004, 38 print journalists and two writers have been murdered, while 10 print journalists have gone missing in the same period. Nine of the killings and three of the disappearances occurred in 2010 alone. Few if any of these crimes have been properly investigated or punished. PEN International believes that it is likely that many of these writers were targeted in retaliation for their critical reporting, particularly on drug trafficking. While organised crime groups are responsible for many attacks, state agents, especially government officials and the police, are reportedly the main perpetrators of violence against journalists, and complicit in its continuance.

On 3 June 2011, PEN Canada, in collaboration with the International Human Rights Program at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, published a timely and provocative report on the situation in Mexico: Corruption, Impunity, Silence: The War on Mexico’s Journalists (also available in Spanish). The same day Canada’s national newspaper The Globe and Mail published an op-ed by John Ralston Saul, President of PEN International, on the report (also available in Spanish and French).

Useful links

Reports on the latest death threats by:

·         Article 19 (30 June 2010):  Lydia Cacho: Threats Continue as Authorities Fail to Protect  (English only)

·         The Committee to Protect Journalists (29 June 2011): Death threats against Lydia Cacho (English only)

·         Vanguardia newspaper (29 June 2011) Lydia Cacho denuncia amenazas de muerte por investigar a mafias   (Spanish only):

Please send appeals:
Protesting the death threats received by author and journalist Lydia Cacho on 14 June 2011, the Mexican authorities’ lack of response to these threats, and its failure to fully implement precautionary protective measures granted to Cacho by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2009;

Calling on the Mexican authorities to investigate these latest death threats against Cacho, focusing on her journalistic work as the likely motive, with the involvement of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression, and to provide her with protection as a matter of the utmost urgency;

Calling on the government of President Felipe Calderón to implement the journalist protection mechanisms it promised in November 2010 immediately, and also to fulfil its promises to make crimes against journalists a federal offence, by amending the Constitution so that federal authorities have the power to investigate, prosecute and punish such crimes.

Appeals to:

President
Lic. Felipe De Jesús Calderón Hinojosa
Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos
Residencia Oficial de los Pinos Casa Miguel Alemán
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, C.P. 11850, DISTRITO FEDERAL, México
Fax: (+ 52 55) 5093 4901/ 5277 2376
Email: felipe.calderon@presidencia.gob.mx

Salutation: Señor Presidente/ Dear Mr President

Attorney General
Lic. Arturo Chávez Chávez
Procurador General de la República
Av. Paseo de Reforma No. 211-213, Piso 16
Col. Cuauhtémoc, Defegacion Cuauhtémoc
México D.F. C.P. 06500
Tel: + 52 55 5346 0108
Fax: + 52 55 53 46 0908 (if a voice answers, ask “tono de fax, por favor”)

E-mail: ofproc@pgr.gob.mx

Salutation: Señor Procurador General/Dear Attorney General

Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression
Dr Gustavo Salas Chávez
Fiscal Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos contra Periodistas (FEADP)
Email: feadp@pgr.gob.mx

Please also send copies of your appeals to the Mexican Embassy in your country.

See
Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Dødstrusler mot Lydia Cacho

RAPID ACTION NETWORK

1 July 2011

Update #4 to RAN 54/05

MEXICO: Lydia Cacho threatened with death; fears for safety

The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International (WiPC) is deeply alarmed by anonymous death threats received by author and journalist Lydia Cacho on 14 June 2011 and by the Mexican authorities’ apparent lack of response. Cacho believes that the threats, which made direct reference to her journalism, stem from her naming of alleged sex traffickers in her writings. The threats come in the same month as the murder of two Mexican columnists and the abduction of one other journalist. In all, a total of 40 of print journalists and writers have been killed in Mexico since 2004, while 10 more have gone missing. The WiPC calls on the federal and state authorities to investigate the threats against Cacho and to provide her with protection as a matter of the utmost urgency. It also calls on the authorities to implement the journalist protection mechanisms it promised in November 2010 immediately.

On 14 June 2011, the award-winning author, journalist and social activist Lydia Cacho Ribeiro reportedly received anonymous death threats by telephone and email, following her return from an event in Chihuahua state in northern Mexico. The threats made direct reference to her journalism and she believes that they were made in retaliation for her revelation of the names of alleged traffickers of women and girls. In 2010, she published a book entitled Esclavas del poder: un viaje al corazón de la trata de mujeres y niñas en el mundo (Servants of power: a journey into the heart of the trafficking of women and girls in the world). She has also written extensively on people trafficking, organized crime, drug trafficking, gender violence and official corruption in her columns and other articles.

Cacho reported the death threats to the authorities but no investigation or other action had been initiated as of 29 June, when she decided to make the threats public. She commented that Notiver columnist Miguel Ángel López Velasco Milo (pen name Milo Vela) received similar threats which the authorities also ignored; he was shot dead along with his wife and son in Veraruz state on 20 June 2011 (see RAN 33-11). However, Cacho said she had no intention of giving up her journalism or human rights work.

In 2009 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights granted Cacho precautionary protective measures and asked the Mexican government to take action to protect her as a result of harassment and monitoring by armed men. However, to date only half of the measures have been implemented, according to Article 19, and she clearly remains at risk.

Background
Following the publication of her first book in 2005, on child pornography in Mexico (Los Demonios del Edén: el poder detrás de la pornografía – The Demons of Eden: the power behind pornography), Cacho was illegally arrested, detained and ill treated before being subjected to a year-long criminal defamation lawsuit. She was cleared of all charges in 2007, but her attempts to gain legal redress for her treatment have been thwarted and she continues to be the target of harassment and threats due to her investigative journalism. Cacho was awarded the 2009 One Humanity Award from Canadian PEN, the 2008 Tucholsky prize from Swedish PEN and the 2007 Oxfam/Novib PEN Award for Free Expression, among numerous others. She was one of the subjects of the WiPC’s International Women’s Day action in March 2009 and International PEN’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer action in November 2006. She is an Honorary Member of Scottish PEN. For more information on Cacho, click here.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. Since January 2004, 38 print journalists and two writers have been murdered, while 10 print journalists have gone missing in the same period. Nine of the killings and three of the disappearances occurred in 2010 alone. Few if any of these crimes have been properly investigated or punished. PEN International believes that it is likely that many of these writers were targeted in retaliation for their critical reporting, particularly on drug trafficking. While organised crime groups are responsible for many attacks, state agents, especially government officials and the police, are reportedly the main perpetrators of violence against journalists, and complicit in its continuance.

On 3 June 2011, PEN Canada, in collaboration with the International Human Rights Program at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, published a timely and provocative report on the situation in Mexico: Corruption, Impunity, Silence: The War on Mexico’s Journalists (also available in Spanish). The same day Canada’s national newspaper The Globe and Mail published an op-ed by John Ralston Saul, President of PEN International, on the report (also available in Spanish and French).

Useful links

Reports on the latest death threats by:

·         Article 19 (30 June 2010): Lydia Cacho: Threats Continue as Authorities Fail to Protect (English only)

·         The Committee to Protect Journalists (29 June 2011): Death threats against Lydia Cacho (English only)

·         Vanguardia newspaper (29 June 2011): Lydia Cacho denuncia amenazas de muerte por investigar a mafias (Spanish only):

Please send appeals:
Protesting the death threats received by author and journalist Lydia Cacho on 14 June 2011, the Mexican authorities’ lack of response to these threats, and its failure to fully implement precautionary protective measures granted to Cacho by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2009;

Calling on the Mexican authorities to investigate these latest death threats against Cacho, focusing on her journalistic work as the likely motive, with the involvement of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression, and to provide her with protection as a matter of the utmost urgency;

Calling on the government of President Felipe Calderón to implement the journalist protection mechanisms it promised in November 2010 immediately, and also to fulfil its promises to make crimes against journalists a federal offence, by amending the Constitution so that federal authorities have the power to investigate, prosecute and punish such crimes.

Appeals to:

President
Lic. Felipe De Jesús Calderón Hinojosa
Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos
Residencia Oficial de los Pinos Casa Miguel Alemán
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, C.P. 11850, DISTRITO FEDERAL, México
Fax: (+ 52 55) 5093 4901/ 5277 2376
Email: felipe.calderon@presidencia.gob.mx

Salutation: Señor Presidente/ Dear Mr President

Attorney General
Lic. Arturo Chávez Chávez
Procurador General de la República
Av. Paseo de Reforma No. 211-213, Piso 16
Col. Cuauhtémoc, Defegacion Cuauhtémoc
México D.F. C.P. 06500
Tel: + 52 55 5346 0108
Fax: + 52 55 53 46 0908 (if a voice answers, ask “tono de fax, por favor”)

E-mail: ofproc@pgr.gob.mx

Salutation: Señor Procurador General/Dear Attorney General

Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression
Dr Gustavo Salas Chávez
Fiscal Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos contra Periodistas (FEADP)
Email: feadp@pgr.gob.mx

Please also send copies of your appeals to the Mexican Embassy in your country.

See
Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

2009: Mexico: Lydia Cacho and Sanjuana Martínez Montemayor

Oslo, 05 March, 2009

Lic. Felipe De Jesús Calderón Hinojosa
Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos
Residencia Oficial de los Pinos Casa Miguel Alemán
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, C.P. 11850, DISTRITO FEDERAL, México
Fax: (+ 52 55) 5093 4901/ 5277 2376
Email: felipe.calderon@presidencia.gob.mx

Dear Mr President

I, as a member of Writers in Prison Committe of Norwegian PEN, am protesting the ongoing harassment of Lydia Cacho and Sanjuana Martínez Montemayor stemming from their writings on sexual exploitation; reminding the authorities of their obligation to protect them and other writers peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and to investigate any attacks against them.

Confident that You, Your Excellency, will take action accordingly, I remain.

Yours sincerely

Unni Malmø, member of Writers in Prison Committee, Norwegian Pen

Copies to:
The Embassy of Mexico
Strandvejen 64E, Hellerup, DK 2900, København
Tlf: 45 39 61 05 00 – Faks: 45 39 61 05 12
E-post: info@mexican-embassy.dk

Ministry of Norwegian Foreign Affairs, Oslo, Norway

The Norwegian Embassy in Mexico
The ambassador Knut Solem
Avenida Virreyes 1460
Col. Lomas Virreyes
11000 Mexico D.F.
Tlf from Norway:+52 55
(+52 55) 5540 3486 / 87
(+52 55) 5540 5220 / 21
Fax: (+52 55) 5202 3019
e-mail: emb.mexico@mfa.no

DAY OF THE IMPRISONED WRITER 2006

INTERNATIONAL PEN
WRITERS IN PRISON COMMITTEE
DAY OF THE IMPRISONED WRITER
15 NOVEMBER 2006

 

Summary
“Criminal defamation laws and laws proscribing ‘insult’ are providing heavy-duty ammunition to governments wishing to deny citizens their right to freedom of expression.  Today over a quarter of all PEN’s cases of imprisoned and prosecuted writers around the world have been charged under such repressive legislation.  We urgently call for an end to this pernicious form of censorship.”

– Harold Pinter,
Nobel Laureate & Vice-President of English PEN

The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN is marking the 26th Writers in Prison Day 2006 (November 15) with a campaign in defence of nearly a hundred writers and journalists around the world who are in prison or facing custodial sentences for alleged defamation or “insult”.   It calls for the repeal of laws that treat defamation as a criminal, rather than a civil, offence, and argues that the term “insult” is too vague to have any legal standing as a charge and should thus be scrapped from penal codes entirely.

In order to demonstrate how such laws are being employed to curtail freedom of expression, the Writers in Prison Committee highlights five cases of writers currently in prison or being prosecuted in China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Mexico and Turkey and calls for the charges against these five, and all writers similarly threatened, to be quashed.  On 15 November, and the days surrounding, PEN members will be sending letters, raising publicity and staging events in support of these and their other colleagues under attacks in other points of the globe. The five focus cases on 15 November will be:
Turkey – Hrant Dink:  editor of an Armenian language newspaper sentenced to a six month suspended term and two other cases still pending on charges of insult
Ethiopia – Wesenseged Gebrekidan: journalist serving a total of two years in prison on defamation charges, and facing further trials.
Mexico – Lydia Cacho: writer on trial for defamation and under attack for her book on child pornography and prostitution
China – Yang Xiaoqing: internet journalist serving a one year sentence on extortion charges that are believed to be in retaliation for posting ‘defamatory’ articles on local corruption
Egypt – two journalists: each sentenced to one year in prison for articles “insulting” the Egyptian President.

In the six months following, PEN members will continue to focus on the issue of the use of insult and defamation laws in some countries as a means of undermining freedom of expression with a series of monthly actions focusing on different regions and aspects of this problem.

PEN Centres and members wishing to join the action on 15 November as well as the six-month campaign against insult and defamation laws should contact the International PEN headquarters below. Similarly any individual who is not a PEN member but who is interested in knowing more can refer to our web-site for updates and contact details for their local PEN Centre.

Turkey:
Hrant Dink, Magazine Editor
Hrant Dink, editor of the Armenian-Turkish language weekly Agos magazine and a well-known commentator on Armenian affairs, has been convicted to a six-month suspended sentence on charges of ‘insult to the Turkish state’ for an article on the Armenian diaspora published in his newspaper. This is just one of a number of cases brought out against him in recent months in an apparent campaign of harassment against him. Some of the trial hearings have been marred by violent scenes inside and outside the courtrooms, instigated by nationalist activists calling for Dink to be punished.

On 7 October 2005, Hrant Dink was convicted to a six-months suspended sentence by the Sisli Court of Second Instance in Istanbul. He had been charged for an article published in Agos in which he discussed the impact on present day Armenian diaspora of the killings of hundreds of thousands of Armenians by the Ottoman army in 1915-17. Almost a century later, the issue remains a fraught one, with several countries calling on Turkey to recognise the events as a genocide. Turkey rejects this, saying that the deaths occurred during a civil war during which Turks were also killed.

The court accused Dink of “insulting Turkish identity” in articles which, Dink explains, were part of a series that focussed on Armenian identity and were “a special call to the Armenians in Diaspora who are poisoned by their anger towards  the Turks”. He says that his aim is to alleviate the tensions between Turkey and Armenia. Dink appealed the conviction but it was upheld upheld on appeal on 12 July 2006. Dink is taking the case to the European Court on Human Rights. The decision led to hundreds of people signing a petition in his defence.

Still underway is another case against Hrant Dink, who is being tried alongside Serkis SEROPYAN co-editor of Agos and journalist and author Aydin ENGIN. They were charged on 23 December 2005 under Article 288 of the Penal Code (attempt to influence the Judiciary) for an article commenting on Hrant Dink’s October 2005 trial. Dink is accused for an article entitled “Is Democracy to be established with this penal code?” and Engin for his article “One should touch the justice system”. A hearing before the Sisli Penal Court on 16 May 2006 was disrupted by lawyers supporting the prosecution who heckled journalists and other observers. Some reportedly spat on the defendants. Spectators inside the courtroom shouted and threw coins at the defendant’s lawyers after the prosecuting lawyers called for the withdrawal of the judge. Journalists and lawyers were prevented from leaving the court room and required police protection on leaving, describing the events as being an attempted lynching. A hearing on 4 July 2006 saw right wing protests again demonstrating outside the court room. Defence lawyer Deniz Ceylan was punched by one of them and the hearing was disrupted by verbal abuse. The hearing was adjourned to 12 December 2006.

Yet another court case was initiated against Hrant Dink in September 2006 on charges of “insulting Turkish identity” in an interview he gave to the Reuters newsagency on 14 July. He is said to have told interviewers Daren Butler and Osman Senkul that he had no doubt that an Armenian genocide had taken place, that he would not remain silent on this issue, and had no plans to leave Turkey.

Dink, 50, is the editor of Agos, an Armenian-Turkish language weekly, established in 1996, with a circulation of around 6,000. Agos means ‘ploughed furrow’, and was chosen by its founders for its association with growth and fertility. In 2001, Agos was suspended. He is a well-known commentator on Turkish-Armenian affairs who is often invited abroad to speak on how relations can be improved.

Appeals to:

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Office of the Prime Minister
Basbakanlik
06573 Ankara
Turkey
Fax: +90 312 417 0476

Foreign Minister and State Minister for Human Rights
Mr Abdullah Gül
Office of the Prime Minister
Basbakanlik
06573 Ankara
Turkey
Fax: +90 312 287 8811

From Hrant Dink’s presentation to the International Publisher’s Association/International PEN panel discussion  on Freedom of Expression in Turkey held at the UN Commission on Human Rights April 2004

“….Turkey is making special efforts within the framework of the “Struggle Against Unfounded Armenian Claims” against the discourse and studies presented by Armenian diaspora about “Armenian Genocide”. An important part of these efforts is devoted to works in schools. For this purpose, a new curriculum has been prepared focusing on the unfoundedness of Armenian claims. Text books prepared about this issue will be distributed in our schools starting at the next school year [2004]. Meanwhile, the Ministry of National Education has sent to all schools, including Armenian ones, a circular letter … demanding that schools organise conferences and composition competitions dealing with the struggle against “unfounded Armenian Genocide claims”. Human rights associations … have brought suits at the Supreme Council stating that this circular letter is contrary to international agreements and that it can lead to feelings of hostility among children, and demanded that it be annulled and not be executed. But the Ministry did not take back the circular letter.

This is the wrong attitude. It leads generations to be raised as enemies to each other by dictating to children one-sided information about a subject about which even adults have not agreed among themselves. In fact, school should be the place where information is questioned, not dictated. “

Ethiopia:
Wesenseged Gebrekidan
Journalist
In Ethiopia, you don’t even have to be the author of allegedly defamatory  comments to find yourself in prison. Wesenseged Gebrekidan was arrested in November 2005 and convicted of “criminal defamation” a month later even though he was merely the editor of the issue of the newspaper that contained an apparently defamatory article.

Gebrekidan’s eight-month sentence stemmed from an opinion piece that appeared in Ethiop in 2002 regarding former diplomat Habtemariam Seyoum. In the column Seyoum was censured for comments he had made in praise of the diplomatic strategy Ethiopia had adopted towards their neighbours Eritrea. Such criticism was deemed sufficiently compelling evidence to find the editor guilty under Ethiopia’s catch-all defamation laws.

Of course, had this been the only charge against Gebrekidan, he would have been freed in July having served his sentence. However, he remains in prison in Addis Ababa because he has since been condemned to sixteen months’ imprisonment after being found guilty of a further charge of “criminal defamation”. The sentence, handed down in April 2006, stemmed from a 2002 Ethiop article in which the editor of Abyotawi Democracy, a publication owned by the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), was deemed to have been defamed.

Gebrekidan’s troubles do not end there. Unlike in many other countries where defamation laws are limited to individuals, in Ethiopia, the presidency, government departments and state institutions can all be defamed. As a result, Gebrekidan faces no fewer than five further “criminal defamation” charges for articles criticising the Ministry of Justice and the Ethiopian armed forces.

Gebrekidan, who by the time of his imprisonment had moved from the editorship of Ethiop to that of the weekly Addis Zena, also faces a charge of “treason” for allegedly inciting genocide. This is in connection with the reporting of the November 2005 clashes between security forces and demonstrators protesting against supposed irregularities in the parliamentary elections earlier in the year. The spurious grounds for the charge of “genocide” include “allegations of causing fear and harm to an ethnic group, and harming members of the Tigrayan-led ruling party by excluding them from social events and funerals”. The trial opened on 23 February 2006.

The publisher of Addis Zena, Fassil Yenealem – who is also in prison facing a charge of “treason” – stated earlier this year: “We’re not against this government. It is through this government that we began to write. But when the government sees people starting to demand more democracy, freedom of expression, and development, they think it’s the fault of the press.”

Appeal address

H.E. Ato Meles Zenawi
Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Office of the Prime Minister
P.O. Box 1031
Addis Ababa
Ethiopia
E-mail: national.parliament@telecom.net.et

Please also send a copy of your letter to the Ethiopian representative in your country.

Writing (Opinion piece without byline in Addis Zena – cited as one of the reasons why Gebrekidan is facing a charge of “treason”)

Addis Zena, Sept. 19, 2005: “The people of Ethiopia have clearly been robbed of their voices. A party or a government that conspired to rob the voice of its own people should never be given legitimacy. Even if it wants to stay in power, the people would only chant ‘Thief! Thief!’ and would not let it happen. And because the electoral board has been the main organizer and accomplice of such robbery, it should be denounced and should lose its credibility…

“Opposition parties must provide wise leadership in recovering the voice of the people from the party that has stolen it in order to stay in power.”

Mexico:
Lydia Cacho
author, poet, novelist, newspaper columnist
A charge of “defamation” was brought against Lydia Cacho in October 2005 by José Camel Nacif Borge, a textile businessman. Nacif is cited in Cacho’s book Los Demonios del Edén: el poder detrás de la pornografía (The Demons of Eden: the power behind pornography) as having connections with Jean Succar Kuri, then detained in the United States and accused of heading up a child pornography and prostitution network (he has since been extradited to Mexico to stand trial).

Although she lives in the state of Quintana Roo, the legal action against Cacho (43) was taken in the state of Puebla. On 16 December 2005, Cacho was detained by Puebla state judicial officers in Cancún, Quintana Roo. The officers apparently arrested her in her office, bundled her into a vehicle at gunpoint and drove her to Puebla, a journey of approximately twenty hours. She was released from San Miguel State Prison the following day on bail of 106,000 pesos (US$9,900), pending trial. Cacho has questioned the legality of officials from Puebla making an arrest in Quintana Roo before steps had been taken to ensure that she was aware of the charges brought against her.

Nacif does not deny knowing Succar Kuri but claims that his reputation has suffered as a result of Cacho’s book making his relationship with him common knowledge. Succar Kuri has since publicly declared that Nacif has paid US$300,000 towards his legal costs.

Over the few months since the publication of the book, Cacho has received the protection of bodyguards provided by the General Procurator’s Office on account of the repeated death threats she has received. A lawyer she was employing also reportedly received death threats from the governor of Puebla, Mario Marín and dropped the case.

In February 2006, two investigative `journalists revealed the contents of a tape recording of an apparent telephone conversation between José Camel Nacif Borge, Mario Marín, and the governor of Chiapas, Pablo Salazar Mendiguchía, in which the businessman thanks the governors for their role in having Lydia Cacho arrested. Nacif is also apparently heard voicing the desire that Cacho might be sexually abused whilst in detention. On 21 February, the Chamber of Deputies asked the Supreme Court to investigate the matter. The case is apparently only the third in Mexican history in which the Supreme Court has investigated state violence against a member of the general public.

In the meantime, Lydia Cacho is in the invidious position of facing mounting legal costs and a possible four-year sentence if convicted of telling the truth.

Defamation laws in Mexico
Absurdly, under Mexican law, a person can be found guilty of “defamation” even if they can prove that what they have written is true. However, this year, a federal law was passed decriminalising “defamation”. Although this has come into effect in the Federal District of Mexico City, the bill has yet to be approved by congresses in the other 32 states. Indeed, in 2004, the state of Chiapas actually raised penalties for “defamation” and “libel” from between two and five years to between three and nine years.

Appeal addresses
President
Lic. Vicente Fox Quesada
Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos,
Palacio Nacional Patio de Honor
Col. Centro
06067, Distrito Federal
México
Fax : +52 55 5277 2376
E-mail: vicente.fox.quesada@presidencia.gob.mx

Internal Affairs Minister
Carlos María Abascal Carranza
Secretario de Gobernación,
Secretaría de Gobernación,
Bucareli No. 99
Col. Juárez
Delegación Cuahtémoc
06600 Distrito Federal
México

Sample of Writing by Lydia Cacho

Excerpt from:
Los demonios del edén – El poder que protege a la pornografía infantil
(The Demons of Eden – The power that protects the child pornography [industry])
Published by Grijalbo in 2005

The Demons of Eden
Writing or reading a book on the abuse and trade of children is neither easy nor enjoyable. Nevertheless, it is more dangerous for society to remain silent about this phenomenon. Whilst society and the State looks on, thousands of children are victims of dealers who turn them into sexual objects to be traded and enjoyed by millions of men who find in child pornography and the sexual abuse of children a thing of delight which has no ethical repercussions.

This is not a story of a dirty old man who discovers he likes to have sex with little girls of five years of age or younger. Although some passages, in which the victims speak, are deeply painful, the courage and the clarity of the witnesses and specialists allow us to see the light at the end of the tunnel and understand better the implications of this complicity of silence with regard to violence and sexual exploitation.

The challenge of journalism is to tell human stories in order to understand better the world around us. In this sense The Demons of Eden fulfils this purpose: to reveal the twilight world that hundreds of mothers, fathers and children – who never dreamt that they could fall victim to a pederast, a pornographist or a rapist – face every day without even knowing it.

 

China:
Yang Xiaoqing
Journalist
Journalist Yang Xiaoqing was sentenced on 15 June 2006 on extortion charges for his reporting on official corruption. He was accused of posting ‘defamatory’ articles on ‘illegal’ websites as part of an alleged attempt to blackmail local officials. Yang is known for his writings in support of minorities and his strong sense of social justice. Hundreds of local residents gathered at the Longhui County Court on the day of the trial to support thirty-seven-old Yang and protest his sentence.

Yang Xiaoqing, a reporter with the Zhongguo Chanjing Xinwenbao (China Industrial Economy News), was arrested by the Public Security Bureau of Longhui County, Hunan Province, on 22 January 2006 after investigating and reporting the alleged corruption of Longhui County officials. According to Yang’s wife Gong Jie, Yang received threats and intimidation by local officials prior to his arrest, and had been in hiding for several months.

Yang was accused of posting defamatory articles on the Internet after failing to extort up to 800,000 Yuan (US$100,000) from Longhui County officials. His detention is thought to be linked to two articles written in May 2005 alleging corruption in the sale of a state-owned company by county officials. According to his lawyer, the authorities have failed to produce any evidence to support the charges against him, which he believes are fabricated.

Yang Xiaoqing is held at the Longhui County Detention Centre, Hunan Province, where his health is said to have deteriorated significantly since his detention. He is said to have been diagnosed with Hepatitis B, and there are also reports that he is denied treatment for an undiagnosed growth that could be malignant.

Yang’s wife, Gong Jie, explained during an interview with The Epoch Times, “…Mr. Yang is an innocent and honest reporter who is being retaliated against for exposing the corruption of Longhui County officials of Hunan Province. We are determined to file an appeal to the higher court. And if that doesn’t work, we will continue on to the Central court.”

The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN protests the one-year prison sentence handed down to journalist Yang Xiaoqing on 15 June 2006 on extortion charges for his reporting on official corruption. International PEN considers journalist Yang Xiaoqing to be detained in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China became a signatory in 1998, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

Appeals to:
His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032
P.R.China

Egypt:
Ibrahim Issa and
Editor and Journalist
Ibrahim Issa and Sahar Zaki, editor and journalist respectively of the opposition weekly Al-Dustur, were each sentenced to one year in prison on 26 June 2006 by a court in the village of Al-Warrack, Sahar Zakinear Cairo, for ‘insulting the President’ and ‘spreading false or tendentious rumours’. They were charged after they reported on a legal case against President Mubarek. The charges were brought by the so-called ‘ordinary people of al-Warrak’, who were reportedly offended by an article published in Al-Dustur on 25 April 2005. The article in question reported on a lawsuit brought by a man from Al-Warrak who accused President Mubarak of unconstitutional conduct and ‘wasting foreign aid’ during the privatisation of state-owned companies. The journalists remain free on bail pending appeal.

Al Dustur is well known for its outspoken criticism of the government, and Ibrahim Issa has been banned from publishing many times. Al Dustur was banned in February 1998 after it published a letter allegedly from the armed Islamist group the Gama’a Islamiyya. Issa tried unsuccessfully to register a new newspaper nine times over the next seven years, until the ban on Al Dustur was finally lifted in 2005 after Issa was approached to edit the newspaper of the opposition party Al-Ghad. Issa is also a novelist, and his novel Maqtal Al-Rajul Al-Kabir (The Assassination of the Big Man) was banned in 1999.

Article 179 of Egypt’s Penal Code criminalises “insulting the president”, and Article 102 (bis) allows for the detention of ‘whoever deliberately diffuses news, information/data, or false or tendatious rumouors, or propogates exciting publicity, if this is liable to disturb public security, spread horror among the people, or cause harm or damage to the public interest’. In February 2004 President Hosni Mubarak pledged to amend the 1996 Press Law and abolish prison sentences for press offenses, but to date no action has been taken to this effect and there are currently at least seven cases known to PEN of journalists facing prison sentences in Egypt for their reporting.

International PEN Writers in Prison Committee protests the prison sentence handed down to to journalists Ibrahim Issa and Sahar Zaki, and reminds President Mubarak of his pledge to end the imprisonment of journalists for press offenses in February 2004. PEN urges that immediate action is taken to repeal the laws that criminalise defamation in Egypt.
Appeals to:
His Excellency Mohammad Hosni Mubarak
President of the Republic of Egypt
Heliopolis
Egypt.
Fax: +202 390 199