2. mars 2019: Politiske oversettelser

Politiske oversettelser

Dato: 02.03.2019
Tid: 15.00 – 15.45
Sted: Kverneland, Litteraturhuset i Oslo, 2. etasje
Pris: Gratis

Dessale Berekhet har sammen med andre eritreere i eksil startet organisasjonen «Admas for Translation and Linguistic Rights», som prøver å endre hjemlandet ved å introdusere utenlandske tekster på tigrinja. Haile Bizen Abrha har oversatt Torbjørn Egners Karius og Baktus, som har blitt delt ut til eritreiske barn i flyktningleirer i Sudan. Hør de to fortelle om oversettelse som politisk prosjekt og hvordan man får folk til å lese oversatt litteratur i et land hvor de færreste leser bøker.

Medvirkende:
Haile Bizen Abrha, poet, journalist og oversetter, tidligere fribyforfatter i Kristiansand
Dessale Berekhet, journalist og forfatter, tidligere fribyforfatter i Bø i Telemark

Samtaleleder: Johanne Fronth-Nygren, oversetter, skribent og medlem av Norsk PENs komité for fengslede forfattere

Samtalen vil foregå på engelsk / The session will be held in English

Arrangementet finner sted i Kverneland, 2. etasje, og er i regi av Norsk PENs komité for fengslede forfattere, i samarbeid med Oversatte dager

Følg arrangementet på Facebook for mer informasjon og eventuelle oppdateringer.

2018 Eritrea: Amanuel Asrat

WORLD POETRY DAY 2018: Amanuel Asrat, an award-winning Eritrean poet, critic, songwriter, and editor-in-chief of the leading newspaper Zemen, meaning The Times, has been detained incommunicado since he was arrested at his home on the morning of 23 September 2001 amid a crackdown on state and private media. Other independent journalists, opposition politicians and students were also arrested during the crackdown. It is believed that Asrat and the other journalists have neither been charged nor tried. PEN International believes that Asrat’s ongoing detention is an attempt by the Eritrean government to stifle critical voices, including calls for establishing constitutional government.  Norwegian PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee calls for his immediate release and the end to violations of freedom of expression in Eritrea.

Oslo, 21st of March 2018

Your Excellency
President Isaias Afewerki
Office of the President
P.O. Box 257
Asmara, Eritrea

Your Excellency
Minister of Information
Hon. Yemane Gebremeskel
P.O. Box 242
Asmara, Eritrea

Today, on World Poetry Day, our thoughts are with poet Amanuel Asrat, who has been incommunicado for over 16 years. Asrat was arrested at his home on the morning of September 23rd 2001 amid a crackdown on state and private media. Other independent journalists, opposition politicians and students were also arrested during the crackdown. It is believed that Asrat and the other journalists have neither been charged nor tried.

Asrat is thought to be among the few surviving journalists from the 2001 crackdown, alive but in deteriorating health. Unconfirmed reports allege that some of the journalists have died, having been subjected to torture or other ill treatment, including lack of access to medical care.

Together with our PEN colleagues worldwide we call for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Asrat. We call for his immediate release and the end to violations of freedom of expression in Eritrea. We also ask for immediate clarification of the fate of all detained journalists and immediate release of those still alive.

Yours sincerely,
Mr. Øivind Hånes
Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

Copy:
Embassy of the State of Eritrea, Stockholm
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

I dag skal vi støtte forfulgte journalister

I anledning Pressefrihetens Dag 3. mai skrev styremedlem i Norsk PEN Rune Ottosen kronikk om den eritreisk-svenske journalisten Dawit Isaak.

Per Edgar Kokkvold taler under tittelen «pressefrihet under angrep» ved minnesmerket for den illegale presse. Foto: Rune Ottosen

I dag, på pressefrihetens dag, mottar den eritreisk-svenske journalisten

den internasjonale prisen for pressefrihet på UNESCOs hovedmarkering i Indonesias hovedstad Jakarta. Da Eritrea ble selvstendig i 1993 flyttet Isaak tilbake til Eritrea fra sitt eksil i Sverige for å bruke journalistikken i det han trodde skulle bli en demokratisk utvikling. Han og mange andre demokrater ble skuffet da myndighetene i 2001 slo hardt ned på uavhengige medier og fri journalistikk. Siste livstegn fra ham var i 2005. I dag vet vi ikke hvor han befinner seg, men det antas ta han har sittet i et fengsel i 16 år uten lov og dom. I 1993 erklærte FNs generalforsamling, etter en anbefaling fra UNESCO, 3. mai for Verdens pressefrihetsdag (World Press Freedom Day).  UNESCOs generalkonferanse påpekte  at en fri, mangfoldig og uavhengig presse er en avgjørende del av et hvert demokrati. Pressefrihetens dag markerer de grunnleggende prinsippene for pressefrihet, gjør opp status for pressefriheten i verden og skal minne myndigheter verden over på deres ansvar for å verne om ytringsfriheten i henhold til artikkel 19 i FNs menneskerettighetserklæring. I dag markeres dagen over hele verden. Behovet er dessverre større enn noen gang. Tyrkia er bare ett av mange land der pressefrihetens kår er blitt verre de siste årene. Ytringsfrihtsorganisasjoner som Norsk PEN og Reporters Without Borders dokumenterer daglig nye overgrep mot journalister og frie medier i Tyrkia. Ifølge en rapport fra Norsk PEN har president Erdoğan  svart på kritikken om arrestasjoner av journalister  uten tiltale med å fremme svært alvorlige påstander om de som blir rammet. Han har blant annet uttalt: “Jeg har nylig mottatt en liste med 149 navn. 144 av disse er fengslet på grunn av terrorisme, fire på grunn av vanlige forbrytelser … Alle er tyver, barnemishandlere eller terrorister”. Det er altså offisielt ingen fengslede journalister i Tyrkia, kun barnemishandlere, tyver og terrorister. Lignende retorikk ser vi fra alle autoritære og totalitære regimer som slår ned på uavhengige journalister og medier. Derfor uttaler ikke eritreiske myndigheter seg om Dawit Isaak. Han er en ikke-person som aldri omtales.  Han har ikke fått en rettferdig rettsprosess med eventuelle anklager rettet mot seg som han kan forsvare seg mot. Den internasjonale betegnelsen på at de ansvarlig for overgrep mot journalister som går fri er ”impunity”, eller straffefrihet på norsk. En av grunnene til at drap, fengsling og overgrep mot journalister kan fortsette er nettopp at kun et lite mindretall av de ansvarlige noen gang blir straffet. Ifølge den internasjonale journalistføderasjonen (IFJ) har ca 2500 journalisters blitt drept på jobb siden 1989. Mindre enn 10 prosent av drap og andre overgrep mot journalister blir etterforsket og 90 prosent ender med straffefrihet.

Min kollega Marte Høiby og jeg gjennomførte i 2015 en undersøkelse ved Høgskolen i Oslo og Akershus blant mer enn hundre journalister og redaktører i åtte land. Her spurte vi både om hvilken voldelige hendelser og trusler de hadde vært utsatt for og hvilke konsekvenser dette fikk for deres arbeide. Godt over halvparten av journalistene vi har intervjuet sier at de selv har blitt mer restriktive med å dekke konflikt de siste fem årene. Tre fjerdedeler av redaksjonslederne sier de har blitt mer restriktive med å sende journalister til konfliktsoner. Når vi intervjuer journalister og redaktører forteller de om et arbeid preget av frykt, trusler, og seneffekter som går utover familie og venner. Over halvparten av journalistene vi har intervjuet rapporterer at de sliter med søvnløshet, engstelse og andre psykiske og fysiske plager. Størst usikkerhet opplever lokale journalister som oppholder seg over tid i området de dekker. Disse har ofte familien sin i området, og de får aldri fri fra farene. De beskytter seg ved stadig å endre arbeidsrutiner.

En undersøkelse blant 940 journalister i Europarådets medlemsland i 2016, viser at over halvparten klager over hets og trakassering.

Alt dette kan knyttes til problemet med straffefrihet. Journalister kan i stor grad trakasseres fysisk og psykisk uten at det får konsekvenser. Det store spørsmålet er hvordan det kan innarbeides mekanismer som gir journalister større grad av rettslig beskyttelse. FNs sikkerhetsråd vedtok i 2008 en egen resolusjon som presiserer medlemstatene i FN sitt ansvar for å trygge journalisters arbeidsforhold. Vi har også fått egne dager for å markere henholdsvis pressefrihet og journalisters sikkerhet. Pressefrihetens dag markerer vi dag og 3. november er blitt en egen dag for å markere problemet med ”impunity”. En kan spørre om  det hjelper med nye resolusjoner, konferanser og markeringsdager for å markere pressefrihet. Det hjelper uansett ikke å sitte rolig og se på at overgrep mot journalister får fortsette ustraffet.

Rune Ottosen er styremedlem i Norsk PEN, professor i journalistikk  ved Høgskolen i Oslo og Akershus og medlem av den norske UNESCO-kommisjonen.

Kronikken sto på trykk i Klassekampen 4. mai 2017

December 2016: Haile Bizen

Poet Haile Bizen Abraha (b. 4 December, 1966) hails from the Eritrean capital, Asmara.  Although formally educated in Educational Psychology at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, Bizen showed early promise as a young poet, gaining momentum and recognition for his unique style by winning competitions across Eritrean high schools, contests at the national level in Ethiopia, and at Addis Ababa University.  After Eritrean independence, Bizen also won the first Eritrean Festival in the categories for poetry and short stories.  In 1995, he began work as a journalist for the Political Affairs department of the PFDJ (People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, Eritrea’s ruling party), and as an editor for Hidri Publishers (also owned by the party).  Bizen also served as a board member for Hiwyet, a private magazine, and the National Literary Prize Committee.

After thirty seemingly interminable years of civil war, Eritrea finally achieved independence from Ethiopia in May of 1991.  Bizen describes these first years of liberation as “years of inspiration and euphoria”, brightly colored by “family reunions, homecomings, stories of heroism, and future ambitions and dreams”.  This peace was disastrously short-lived, and conflict started anew with the border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia escalating into war from 1998-2000.  During this time of dramatic change, Bizen began to feel the constricting grip of despotism, and he gravely remembers, “all artists became under one command”.  In 2000, he published a collection of short stories; because he, like the rest of the nation, was preoccupied by war for three years, his stories themes’ echoed thoughts of conflict and its effects.

Bizen, along with a multitude of others, marks 2001 as the “official death of our new Eritrea”: on 18 September, the government ordered the closure of all privately-owned media outlets, officials were detained if they dared to question the lack of implementation of the newly-ratified 1997 constitution, and twelve prominent journalists were disappeared – presumably imprisoned and held incommunicado to this day.

At first, Haile Bizen envisioned himself as a “young artist in a young nation”, though eventually, he says, “that hope started to melt, that dream started to evaporate, and every citizen was reduced to government property”.  He describes these as “years of limbo”, permeated by military round-ups, arbitrary detentions, and security surveillance.  Bizen completed his National Service under PFDJ for three years without receiving remuneration, while fighting to keep his personal and artistic integrity intact.  He became obsessed with the word ‘silence’, and the concept of graveyards, which was reflected in his self-published collection of poetry, Bidhri Ma’exo’ (Behind the Doors).

Ironically, the ‘silence’ that occupied so much of Bizen’s thoughts, was the very thing that propaganda chiefs and national security agents sought to impose upon him – somewhere along his journey for poetry and self-expression, he had become a dissident, subject to repeated interrogations and intimidation.  Forced to flee in a matter of weeks, his departure obscured in a cloud of secrecy, Bizen left Eritrea in September of 2009 without explanations or farewells to his closest friends, or even his family – his children (only two and four years old) and his wife, six months pregnant at the time.

Bizen was unprepared for the realities of the next three years as an asylum-seeker, moving between Uganda, South Sudan, and Kenya, until finally an opportunity was presented by ICORN in 2011 for him to be resettled in Norway as a guest writer.  Bizen describes these interim years as characterized by long unproductive periods of writer’s bloc.  Despite the mountain of new experiences and potential material, Bizen felt a lack of concentration, plagued by the desperation of his new voice: “the voice of nothingness, the voice of agony, the voice of despondency”.  Though he remained optimistic for a reunion, Bizen’s communications with his family were scarce, fearing that his contact would imperil those back home, still living under state surveillance.  Eventually, his family managed to leave Eritrea and join Bizen in Norway, but only after paying thousands of dollars in ransom for their release from human traffickers; he confides that, “still, as a family, we are struggling to cope with the psychological and physical trauma of the torture and harassment”.

After prolonged silence, Bizen began to open up in 2014, knowing that he and his family were safe and settled in Kristiansand.  After commencing Norwegian classes, he began to translate children’s stories from Norwegian to Tigrinya, and “Karius og Baktus” was published by Cappelen Dam.  Bizen has also published an Ebook in celebration of Norway’s 200-year Jubilee, with one poem for each article of the Constitution.  He credits this publication with the reigniting of his poetic consciousness which in turn led to a productive period of original poetry and translations between 2015 and 2016.

Inevitably, his first poems from Norway were colored by deep anger and nostalgia for the things he was forced to leave behind; themes revolving around home, displacement, and his ‘new space’ led to the online poetry series “Ode to Exile”, as well as contributions to the Norwegian PEN guest writers’ Anthology, A Manual for Writing a Whore Poem (Instruks i å skrive horedikt).

Apart from the obvious benefits of better material resources and an increased sense of security, Bizen enjoys the connections his new home has allowed him to foster with writers from various countries who have shared similar experiences.    He comments, “I have been invited to different literary festivals and readings which continue to inspire me to produce new works.  It similarly opened up for me [the opportunity] to explore many talented writers from other countries.  Yet, I still remain eternally tied to my home country, and can’t [seem] to budge psychologically”.  Of course, in living an entire lifetime under conflict, war becomes an integral part of one’s identity; Bizen’s sense of self has been forged as much by fear, politics, and sadness, as it has by poetry, family, and beauty.

Recently, however, an opportunity to engage positively with his lasting connections to Eritrea presented itself– at the annual PEN International Congress, held in September 2016 in Ourense, Spain, Haile Bizen was officially announced as the new President of PEN Eritrea.  The organization currently operates in exile, since the restrictions on freedom of expression are so severe in Eritrea, with the country consistently ranked last in the world in the World Press Freedom Index (RSF) for the past eight years.  Alongside the continuation of his writing, Bizen has been working tirelessly in cooperation with Board Members, as well as partners in Norwegian PEN to propel PEN Eritrea forward as an initiator of political and cultural change.

Haile Bizen

Poet Haile Bizen Abraha (b. 4 December, 1966) hails from the Eritrean capital, Asmara.  Although formally educated in Educational Psychology at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, Bizen showed early promise as a young poet, gaining momentum and recognition for his unique style by winning competitions across Eritrean high schools, contests at the national level in Ethiopia, and at Addis Ababa University.  After Eritrean independence, Bizen also won the first Eritrean Festival in the categories for poetry and short stories.  In 1995, he began work as a journalist for the Political Affairs department of the PFDJ (People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, Eritrea’s ruling party), and as an editor for Hidri Publishers (also owned by the party).  Bizen also served as a board member for Hiwyet, a private magazine, and the National Literary Prize Committee.

After thirty seemingly interminable years of civil war, Eritrea finally achieved independence from Ethiopia in May of 1991.  Bizen describes these first years of liberation as “years of inspiration and euphoria”, brightly colored by “family reunions, homecomings, stories of heroism, and future ambitions and dreams”.  This peace was disastrously short-lived, and conflict started anew with the border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia escalating into war from 1998-2000.  During this time of dramatic change, Bizen began to feel the constricting grip of despotism, and he gravely remembers, “all artists became under one command”.  In 2000, he published a collection of short stories; because he, like the rest of the nation, was preoccupied by war for three years, his stories themes’ echoed thoughts of conflict and its effects.

Bizen, along with a multitude of others, marks 2001 as the “official death of our new Eritrea”: on 18 September, the government ordered the closure of all privately-owned media outlets, officials were detained if they dared to question the lack of implementation of the newly-ratified 1997 constitution, and twelve prominent journalists were disappeared – presumably imprisoned and held incommunicado to this day.

At first, Haile Bizen envisioned himself as a “young artist in a young nation”, though eventually, he says, “that hope started to melt, that dream started to evaporate, and every citizen was reduced to government property”.  He describes these as “years of limbo”, permeated by military round-ups, arbitrary detentions, and security surveillance.  Bizen completed his National Service under PFDJ for three years without receiving remuneration, while fighting to keep his personal and artistic integrity intact.  He became obsessed with the word ‘silence’, and the concept of graveyards, which was reflected in his self-published collection of poetry, Bidhri Ma’exo’ (Behind the Doors).

Ironically, the ‘silence’ that occupied so much of Bizen’s thoughts, was the very thing that propaganda chiefs and national security agents sought to impose upon him – somewhere along his journey for poetry and self-expression, he had become a dissident, subject to repeated interrogations and intimidation.  Forced to flee in a matter of weeks, his departure obscured in a cloud of secrecy, Bizen left Eritrea in September of 2009 without explanations or farewells to his closest friends, or even his family – his children (only two and four years old) and his wife, six months pregnant at the time.

Bizen was unprepared for the realities of the next three years as an asylum-seeker, moving between Uganda, South Sudan, and Kenya, until finally an opportunity was presented by ICORN in 2011 for him to be resettled in Norway as a guest writer.  Bizen describes these interim years as characterized by long unproductive periods of writer’s bloc.  Despite the mountain of new experiences and potential material, Bizen felt a lack of concentration, plagued by the desperation of his new voice: “the voice of nothingness, the voice of agony, the voice of despondency”.  Though he remained optimistic for a reunion, Bizen’s communications with his family were scarce, fearing that his contact would imperil those back home, still living under state surveillance.  Eventually, his family managed to leave Eritrea and join Bizen in Norway, but only after paying thousands of dollars in ransom for their release from human traffickers; he confides that, “still, as a family, we are struggling to cope with the psychological and physical trauma of the torture and harassment”.

After prolonged silence, Bizen began to open up in 2014, knowing that he and his family were safe and settled in Kristiansand.  After commencing Norwegian classes, he began to translate children’s stories from Norwegian to Tigrinya, and “Karius og Baktus” was published by Cappelen Dam.  Bizen has also published an Ebook in celebration of Norway’s 200-year Jubilee, with one poem for each article of the Constitution.  He credits this publication with the reigniting of his poetic consciousness which in turn led to a productive period of original poetry and translations between 2015 and 2016.

Inevitably, his first poems from Norway were colored by deep anger and nostalgia for the things he was forced to leave behind; themes revolving around home, displacement, and his ‘new space’ led to the online poetry series “Ode to Exile”, as well as contributions to the Norwegian PEN guest writers’ Anthology, A Manual for Writing a Whore Poem (Instruks i å skrive horedikt).

Apart from the obvious benefits of better material resources and an increased sense of security, Bizen enjoys the connections his new home has allowed him to foster with writers from various countries who have shared similar experiences.    He comments, “I have been invited to different literary festivals and readings which continue to inspire me to produce new works.  It similarly opened up for me [the opportunity] to explore many talented writers from other countries.  Yet, I still remain eternally tied to my home country, and can’t [seem] to budge psychologically”.  Of course, in living an entire lifetime under conflict, war becomes an integral part of one’s identity; Bizen’s sense of self has been forged as much by fear, politics, and sadness, as it has by poetry, family, and beauty.

Recently, however, an opportunity to engage positively with his lasting connections to Eritrea presented itself– at the annual PEN International Congress, held in September 2016 in Ourense, Spain, Haile Bizen was officially announced as the new President of PEN Eritrea.  The organization currently operates in exile, since the restrictions on freedom of expression are so severe in Eritrea, with the country consistently ranked last in the world in the World Press Freedom Index (RSF) for the past eight years.  Alongside the continuation of his writing, Bizen has been working tirelessly in cooperation with Board Members, as well as partners in Norwegian PEN to propel PEN Eritrea forward as an initiator of political and cultural change.

Amanuel Asrat: Ei fengsla poetisk stemme

Den prislønna poeten Amanuel Asrat sit fengsla på femtande året. Truleg blir han halden fanga utan tiltale eller rettssak.
Av Magnhild Bruheim, medlem av Norsk PENs komité for fengslede forfattere. Artikkelen er skrevet for Agenda Magasin.
amanuel

Amanuel Asrat vart arrestert i heimen sin 23. september 2001 under ein aksjon mot statlege og private media, gjennomført av den eritreiske regjeringa for å slå ned på kritikarar av regimet. Opposisjonspolitikarar, studentar og ei rekkje journalistar vart arresterte, det same vart redaktørane av alle privateigde aviser. Ein av desse var Asrat, som var redaktør i Zemen, ei av dei leiande avisene i landet.

Oppblomstring av eritreisk poesi
Amanuel Asrat har fått mykje av æra for oppblomstringa av eritreisk poesi tidleg på 2000-talet. Saman med to venner stifta han ein litterær klubb i 2001, og dette inspirerte til danninga av liknande litterære klubbar i alle dei store eritreiske byane. Asrat er sjølve ein kjent poet og låtskrivar. I skrivinga tar han opp tema som krig og fred og dagleglivet til dei underpriviligerte.

Sommaren 1999 vart eit av dikta hans tildelt ein pris frå the National Holidays Coordinating Committee, som blir drive av People’s Front for Democracy and Justice. Prisen blir rekna som ein av dei mest prestisjefylte blant litterære og kunstnariske prisar i Eritrea. Priskomiteen la vekt på den tydelege anti-krigslinja i poesien til Asrat.

Det prislønna diktet som på engelsk har tittelen «The Scourge of War», viser til den pågåande grensetvisten med nabolandet Etiopia, og skildrar ein blodig kamp mellom to brør.

I 2001 hadde Zemen, avisa der Asrat arbeidde, vorte den leiande litterære avisa i Eritrea, og vart driven av ei gruppe kritikarar som var med på å forme det kulturelle landskapet i landet. På den tida var Asrat kjent som landets mest populære kunstkritikar.

Ingen pressefridom
Ifølgje Committee to Protect Journalists er Eritrea eit av verdas verste land når det gjeld brot på menneskerettane det siste tiåret, etter Kina og Iran. PEN International har opplysningar som tyder på at minst 25 journalistar, forfattarar og politikarar sit fengsla uten rettstryggleik og utan rett til å ytre seg.

Organisasjonen Reportarar utan grenser rangerte i 2010 landet på 178. plass av 178 land når det gjaldt pressefridom. Og ifølgje BBC er Eritrea i dag det einaste landet i Afrika utan uavhengige privateigde media.

Eritrea vart sjølvstendig i 1993 og er ein autoritær eittpartistat med «People’s Front for Democracy and Justice» (PFDJ) som einaste lovlege politiske parti. Isaias Afwerki, som så langt er Eritreas einaste president, var frigjeringsleiar under borgarkrigen med Etiopia. I år 1998 til 2000 var Eritrea i krig med landet dei nokre år tidlegare hadde frigjort seg frå. Den uløyste grensekonflikten mellom Eritrea og Etiopia er framleis med på å hemme den demokratiske og økonomiske utviklinga i landet.

I 1997 vart det vedtatt ei grunnlov som skal garantere for demokrati og menneskerettar, men den har aldri tatt til å gjelde. Nasjonale val har fleire gonger vorte tillyst, men kvar gong avlyst «av omsyn til tryggleiken i landet». Politisk opposisjon er ikkje tillatt, og religionsfridomen er avgrensa. Det er ikkje pressefridom, alle typar media har sidan 2001 vorte kontrollert av myndigheitene og underlagt streng sensur. Ein reknar med at tusenvis av samvitsfangar sit vilkårleg fengsla, utan rettssak. Landet har i tillegg store sosiale utfordringar, som analfabetisme, og arbeidsløysa er stor.

Flyktningar i Noreg
Forholda i Eritrea har ført til store flyktningestraumar. Av dei 200 000 menneska som kom seg over Middelhavet til Europa i 2014, var mange eritrearar, som ikkje såg nokon framtidsutsikter i landet sitt. I 2013 og 2014 utgjorde eritrearar den største gruppa flyktningar som kom hit til landet, skreiv Aftenposten i 2015.

Den norske regjeringa har det siste året vurdert å sende tilbake tusenvis av eritrearane som har søkt om og fått innvilga asyl i Noreg. Bakgrunnen var opplysningar om at den nærmast evigvarande militærtenesta da var redusert til 18 månader. Statssekretær i Justis- og beredskapsdepartementet, Jøran Kallmyr, sa til Aftenposten at dersom det stemte at flyktningane ikkje ville bli straffa med lengre samfunnsteneste, var det grunnlag for å endre den norske praksisen med å gje asyl.

Signala om at regjeringa vurderte å sende eritrearar tilbake, vekte skarpe reaksjonar, mellom anna frå Norsk organisasjon for asylsøkjarar, NOAS. Dei meinte det var grunn til å tvile på lovnadane frå regimet til president Afwerki.

Den norske regjeringa arbeider framleis med returavtale, i tillegg arbeider dei for å etablere omsorgssenter for mindreårige inne i Eritrea. Blant eritrearane som har kome til Noreg, er fleire forfattarar og andre skribentar. Tre av desse er nå fribyforfattarar her. I 2014 vart PEN Eritrea etablert av norske fribyforfattarar.

Uvisst om tilstanden til dei fengsla
Bakgrunnen for arrestasjonane i 2001 var at 15 dissidentmedlemmer i regjeringspartiet PFDJ publiserte eit ope brev der dei fordømte maktmisbruken til presidenten og kalla handlingane hans ulovlege og grunnlovsstridige. Etter dette vart alle dissidentar arresterte, og private aviser vart forbodne. Dette var aviser som hadde publisert intervju og artiklar relaterte til det opne brevet.

Dei eritreiske styresmaktene hevda at arrestasjonane var nødvendige for å ta vare på den nasjonale einskapen. I april 2003 sa president Isaias Afewerki til Radio France Internationale at journalistane som var oppførte som arresterte eller sakna, var betalte for å skapa splitting i landet. Han meinte at ein spion ikkje kunne kallast journalist. I eit anna intervju i 2004 påstod president Afewerki at det ikkje hadde funnest nokon uavhengige media i Eritrea, berre journalistar lønna av CIA. PEN International meiner arrestasjonane vart brukte for å kneble kritikken av den eritreiske regjeringa.

Fjorten år etter aksjonen er situasjonen framleis uklar for Asrat og dei andre fangane. Det er ukjent om det er reist tiltale mot dei, eller om det har vore noko rettssak. Det er grunn til å vera uroa for helsa deira, ettersom dei truleg har vorte utsette for tortur og anna mishandling, mellom anna manglande tilgang på medisinsk behandling. Ifølgje rapportar har minst fire av journalistane døydd i varetekt, mest sannsynleg er talet så høgt som ni. Asrat er truleg ein av dei som har overlevd, internert i fengselet Eiraeiro nord for Asmara.

The Scourge of War

Av Amanuel Asrat.

I samband med International Translation Day i 2015 omsette PEN-medlemmer frå heile verda det prislønna diktet The Scourge of War til sine språk, i alt 15. Diktet er omsett til engelsk ved Tedros Abraham:

Where two brothers pass each other
Where two brothers meet each other
Where two brothers conjoin
In the piazza of life and death
In the gulf of calamity and cultivation
In the valley of fear and peace
Something resounded.

The ugliness of the thing of war
When its spring comes
When its ravaging echoes knock at your door
It is then that the scourge of war brews doom
But…
You serve it willy-nilly
Unwillingly you keep it company
Still, for it to mute how hard you pray!

5. november: Temakveld på Litteraturhuset: Eritrea

eritrea

Velkommen til Eritrea-kveld på Litteraturhuset! Bli kjent med eritreiske folkeeventyr, høyr Karius og Baktus opplest på tigrinja, få innsikt i forholdet mellom Eritrea og Norge, og gled deg til enda fleire hyggelege overraskingar.

Medverkande er mellom andre dei tidlegare fribyforfattarane Dessale Berekhet og Haile Bizen Abrha, forfattar Nathan H. Mogos og historikar og leiar for Senter for fredsstudier ved UiT Christine Smith-Simonsen.

Arrangementet er gratis og finn stad på Litteraturhuset i Oslo, Amalie Skram (2. etasje), torsdag 5. november kl. 19.

Les mer om programmet på Temakveld på Litteraturhuset: Eritrea.

PEN International’s kongress vedtar viktige resolusjoner

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

Bahrain

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.

BELARUS

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

 

Cambodia

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.

 

CHINA

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.

CUBA

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).
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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.

 

ERITREA

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.

Ethiopia

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.

 

Iran

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.

 

MEXICO

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

Preamble
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.

Syria

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

Preamble

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.

THE SITUATION IS UNTENABLE AND REQUIRES IMMEDIATE RESPONSE. THE TURKISH GOVERNMENT MUST:

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.

 

2007: Eritrea: Fessehaye (Joshua) Yohannes

10. April 2007

President
His Excellency Issayas Afewerki
Office of the President
P O Box 257, Asmara, Eritrea
Fax: + 2911 125123

Your Excellency,

As Chair of the Writers in Prison Committee of Norwegian PEN  I am seriously concerned at recent reports of the death of prominent journalist, playwright and poet Fessehaye (Joshua) Yohannes on 11 January 2007, after over five years’ arbitrary detention.

His death, thought to have been caused by severe ill treatment and the denial of medical treatment, follows that of three other imprisoned journalists in November 2006. Norwegian PEN calls for the Eritrean authorities to state publicly what has happened to Yohannes and the other journalists, Yusuf Mohamed Ali, Medhanie Haile and Said Abdulkader, detained since September 2001.

If the reports of their deaths are correct, Norwegian PEN calls on the authorities to carry out a full and impartial investigation and bring those responsible to justice. If they are still alive, Norwegian PEN calls for the journalists to be immediately and unconditionally released.

Norwegian PEN calls on the Eritrean government to free all writers and journalists detained without charge and in violation of Article 19 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Eritrea is a party.

Confident that you, Your Excellency, will take action accordingly, and that you will see to it that  a full investigation is carried out, and that those responsible are brought to justice, I remain,

Yours sincerely,

Elisabet W. Middelthon/sign.
Chair Writers in Prison Committee, Norwegian PEN

Copies to:
Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oslo
Norwegian Embassy in Asmara
Eritrean Embassy in Stockholm