PEN Norway defends freedom of expression
We support writers, journalists and publishers in countries where freedom of expression and information is under pressure. We protest against abuse, harassment, imprisonment and, in the worst case, murder, of writers, journalists and other freedom of expression activists around the world.
Based on the organisation’s capacity and the expertise that exists among our active members, we have chosen to pay extra close attention to the situation of freedom of expression in Turkey, Iran, China, Afghanistan and Eritrea.
Committees have been established to work with the situation of freedom of expression in China, Afghanistan and East/Central Europe. We have hired a Turkey Adviser in a full time position.
The Afghanistan Committee
Members: Elisabeth Eide (leader), Eugene Schoulgin, Kai Eide, William Nygaard, Amund Bjorsnes og Hasina Shirzad.
PEN Norway’s Afghanistan Committee is working towards openness and public awareness of the situation of freedom of expression in Afghanistan. The committee will support PEN Afghanistan and the Writers’ House in Kabul as a sanctuary and an important arena for writers and artists with different ethnicities, linguistic backgrounds and political views. Furthermore, the Committee will pay special attention to women rights. The Committee follows the long-lasting peace process and supports initiatives by colleagues who are fighting for peace and human rights.
The China Committee
Members: Trine Angelskår (leader), Inger Bentzrud, Harald Bøckman, Torbjørn Færøvik og Gerd Johnsen.
PEN Norway’s China Committee is working towards transparency and public awareness of the freedom of expression situation in China, as well as seeking to influence Norwegian politics and alliances in Norway.
The Committee arranges and participates in debates, writes articles and press releases, enters into dialogue with key politicians and other relevant actors.
The East-Central Europe Committee
Members: Agnete Haaland, Katarina Goldfain Johnsen, Astrid Sverresdotter Dypvik, Øivind Strømmen, Ingrid Vik and Amund Trellevik.
PEN Norway East/Central Europe Committee contributes to increased awareness of the situation of freedom of expression in Eastern and Central Europe.
The Committee arranges and participates in debates, writes articles and press releases, and enters into dialogue with key politicians and other relevant bodies, and collaborates with national and international organisations on campaigns and initiatives.
Our Turkey-related work
PEN Norway ensures continuous attention to the status of freedom of expression in Turkey, with emphasis on the situation on the rule of law, and imprisoned writers and journalists.
Conditions for freedom of the press and the rule of law in Turkey are deplorable and are only getting worse. Since the coup attempt in July 2016, 170,000 public employees have been laid off and journalists and writers have been imprisoned to an extent that the world has hardly seen before. The government controls most of the media houses and has taken over all the previously independent news channels.
More than 190 media and publishing houses have been closed, of which 53 newspapers only since the coup attempt in July 2016. More than 150 journalists and writers are in prison, more than 1,000 have been charged and are awaiting trial.
PEN Norway’s administration and board have had a focus on Turkey for decades, in collaboration with Turkish and international organisations.
This is done through court observations, seminars and conferences. PEN Norway’s Turkey Adviser follows selected court cases, collaborates with an international Turkey network of freedom of expression organisations, and creates campaigns and measures, in collaboration with the administration and board members of PEN Norway.
The Turkey Indictment Project: A study of 12 indictments against journalists and other freedom of expression activists in Turkey, 2016-2019
PEN Norway is deeply worried about Turkish public prosecutors’ presentation of indictments in the Supreme Criminal Court. International legal observers, human rights lawyers in Turkey and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) criticise the fact that it takes too long to prepare the indictments and that the quality does not meet national and international legal standards.
PEN Norway has initiated a study of 12 indictments against journalists and other freedom of expression activists in Turkey that were promoted after the coup attempt in July 2016: “The Turkey Indictment Project”.
The reports in the indictment project are legal assessments of 12 indictments, the most prominent of which are the Cumhuriyet case, the Amnesty case and the Gezi Park case. The project includes a clear and illustrative infographic of the judicial system in Turkey. All reports and articles are published on our website.
The indictments are reviewed as legal documents by legal experts in 4 countries. The experts submit reports that are then summarised into one large report.
We have prioritised following trials in Turkey for many years, where an excessive number of journalists, writers, judges, academics and other intellectuals who have in one way or another criticised the Turkish authorities have either been arrested or have been wrongfully charged.
For several decades members of the board and administration have participated in court observations in Turkey, both to support incarcerated journalists and writers and to report to the outside world so that these cases receive international attention.
Ilkyaz – a literary site for young writers
PEN Norway is a supporter of the Ilkyaz platform. The Ilkyaz platform is a site where young Turkish writers can have their texts published and thus have a say in an increasingly narrow Turkish public. The initiator and primus motor for Ilkyaz is Ege Dündar.
Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC)
Members: Øivind Hånes (leader), Mari Moen Holsve, Jørgen Lorentzen, Alexander Leborg og Asieh Amini. The members are representing several of the Norwegian writers’ organisations.
The Committee monitors and follows up on cases we receive information about from PEN International’s headquarters in London, including writing letters in support of writers, artists and journalists who are imprisoned, and letters of protest to the authorities in the countries that imprison their writers, artists and journalists.
The Committee has also been responsible for a number of events at the House of Literature in Oslo, where we present and give a stage to exile writers living in Norway.
When PEN Norway appoints persecuted authors and journalists as honorary members, it means that we commit ourselves to following up on these people in particular.
At present, PEN Norway has seven honorary members: İlhan Sami Çomak, Ilham Tohti, Asli Erdogan, Can Dündar, Khadija Ismayilova, Narges Mohammadi and Edward Snowden.
Read more about the honorary members.