2016 Peru: Rafael León Rodríguez

9 May, 2016: Peruvian journalist Rafael León Rodríguez convicted of Criminal Defamation

I – we journalists – need the support of everyone with democratic principles: make your opinion known on social media. I can’t explain how I feel except I have the sensation that I’m living through a Kafkaesque situation. If I’m convicted it would set a disastrous precedent for freedom of opinion and press in Peru. I leave it in your hands. (Facebook post from Rafo Leon, dated 12 April 2016)

Though May 3 was UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day, it was arguably just the opposite for Peruvian journalist and author Rafael León Rodríguez, (known as Rafo León). On this day, León was summoned for sentencing in response to a criminal defamation case brought against him in 2014 by Martha Meier Miró Quesada, then general editor and columnist for El Comercio, one of Peru’s leading newspapers.

León was found guilty of defamation, given a one year suspended sentence, and ordered to pay $1,800 in damages to Meier. The suspended sentence is subject to Rodríguez’s completion of one year of ‘good behavior,’ requiring him to report regularly to the authorities and to request permission before leaving the country. This conviction and sentencing have arrived more than nine months after the trial ended in July 2015; León’s defence, supported by the Peruvian free expression organisation Instituto de Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS), called for the sentence to be annulled and a new trial to be held, alleging unjustified delays and irregularities in due process. This request was denied by the court.

León is known for his columns for the Lima-based weekly newsmagazine Caretas, as well as his travel accounts and short stories. Though his circumstances may be unique, his position as a targeted journalist is unfortunately not. León’s case forms just one piece of the larger picture, in which criminal defamation restricts freedom of expression for journalists around the globe.

The Special Rapporteurs for freedom of expression of the United Nations, the Organization of American States and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have stated: Criminal defamation is not a justifiable restriction on freedom of expression; all criminal defamation laws should be abolished and replaced, where necessary, with appropriate civil defamation laws.”

The right to freedom of expression and opinion is protected under the Peruvian Constitution (Article 2.4) and international law including the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (Article 19), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 19) and the American Convention on Human Rights (Article 13).

Although the Peruvian state has publicly committed to decriminalizing defamation, and reducing it to a civil offense, new policies and protections have yet to be implemented through legislation. Similar struggles face writers in Europe, where 23 of 28 EU Member States continue to have criminalized defamation laws. As Joe Glanville reports, “An alarming number of states impose excessive criminal penalties for insulting royalty—it can get you six years in jail in Sweden—and there are similarly worrying consequences for insulting a head of state”.

Norwegian PEN and the Norwegian WiPC support the stance of PEN International, wherein, “convicting León of criminal defamation for an opinion piece on a matter of public interest would be a violation of his right to freedom of expression and opinion protected under national and international law”. We therefore urge the Peruvian authorities to urgently overturn León’s conviction and to remove defamation from the State’s criminal code. To read our letter to the Peruvian authorities, click here: Link

Additional Information:

To send messages of solidarity to Rafo León via Tamsin Mitchell: tamsin.mitchell@pen-international.org

For more information about current criminal defamation practices in the EU, see Glanville’s articles at: https://europe.newsweek.com/why-we-urgently-need-reform-criminal-defamation-law-452587?rm=eu

For news on English PEN and ILI’s endeavours to decriminalize defamation in Europe, see: https://www.englishpen.org/press/criminal-defamation-in-the-eu/

Article written by: Iva Gavanski, Advisor for Norwegian WiPC and Norwegian PEN. 9 May, 2016.




Open debate: Open the space for media




Organised by International Media Support and Norsk PEN

As global tension continues to evolve between those who are committed to international rules and arrangements and those who reject them, so does the space for independent, critical voices and the exercise of fundamental rights. In many countries peaceful protests are being suppressed, and censorship and political control of the media are widespread. In the backward drift of freedom of expression in these environments, independent media and the ability of media to act as a fourth estate has been amongst the very first casualties. But there are also pockets of encouraging development; areas where democratic progress and societies based on the rule of law are gradually evolving; countries where the transition out of tumultuous, violent periods moves towards stability, citizen participation and an increasingly open space for the media and freedom of expression.



What can we learn from how media and information is used by both Russia and Ukraine in the ongoing conflict? How may we put this knowledge to use as we seek to reverse the negative trends and support those who attempt to keep the space open?

Moderator: Biljana Tatomir, Deputy Director, International Media Support (IMS)


· Maxim Tucker, Ukraine correspondent, The Times, Newsweek

· Galina Timchenko, Editor-in-Chief, Meduza

· Per Anders Johansen, Aftenposten

· Antonina Cherevko, Ukraine Programme Manager, International Media Support


What can we learn from countries transitioning out of violent conflict and periods of tumultuous political instability on how reforms of media and conditions for freedom of expression and access to information take place?

Moderator: Jesper Højberg, Executive Director, International Media Support (IMS)


· Ranga Kalansooriya, Asia Regional Advisor, International Media Support

· Esben Harboe, Myanmar Programme Manager, International Media Support

· Roy Krövel, Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences

· Andrew Puddephat, Executive Director, Global Partners Digital


RSVP: Monday 18 May to hege@norskpen.no

Norsk PEN får ny administrasjon

Fra mandag 4. mai har ytringsfrihetsorganisasjonen Norsk PEN ny administrasjon.  Generalsekretær Carl Morten Iversen har valgt å gå av for aldersgrensen. Hege Newth Nouri tiltrer som generalsekretær, hun kommer fra stillingen som fribykoordinator i Norsk PEN. Ingeborg Kværne er ansatt som ny fribykoordinator, hun kommer til Norsk PEN fra Norsk kulturråd.  Iversen fortsetter i administrasjonen som frilans seniorrådgiver.

Carl Morten Iversen (1948) er utdannet siviløkonom i USA og på BI og har arbeidet med ytringsfrihetsspørsmål i 17 år, først for det nå nedlagte Norsk Forum for Ytringsfrihet, så for Norsk PEN.  Før det hadde han lang erfaring fra organisasjonsarbeid, bl. a. i diverse jazzorganisasjoner og som leder i Norges Kunstnerråd.  Han kan vise til en lang karriere som musiker og har også vært redaktør og skribent i Jazznytt.  For Norsk PEN har Iversen hatt omfattende internasjonale oppgaver og vært aktivt med på observasjonsreiser og påvirkningsarbeid overfor en rekke land, bl.a. Tyrkia, Hviterussland og Tunisia.

Hege Newth Nouri (1966) har utdannelse innenfor litteratur og skrivekunst og har en variert og omfattende bakgrunn som skribent, redaktør og prosjektleder for diverse litterære- og ytringsfrihetsrelaterte prosjekter.  Hun har blant annet arbeidet for Norsk Forum for Ytringsfrihet med sensurdatabasen «Beacon for Free Expression» og vært festivalsjef for Bjørnsonfestivalen i Molde, der hun også fungerte som lokal fribykoordinator.  Før hun tiltrådte som nasjonal fribykoordinator  kom hun fra stillingen som generalsekretær i Norsk Bibliotekforening.

Ingeborg Kværne (1977) er cand. philol fra UiO med hovedfag musikkvitenskap.  Hun kommer fra stillingen som seniorrådgiver i Norsk kulturråd, en arbeidsplass hun har hatt siden 2004.  Kværne har bred kjennskap til det litterære landskapet i Norge og til embetsverk og byråkrati, støtteordninger og overordnede spørsmål i samfunnet relatert til ytringsfrihet.  Gjennom arbeid med nyankomne flyktninger og asylsøkere har hun erfaring med mennesker som har vært gjennom store lidelser og traumer. Fra et aktivt engasjement for Amnesty har hun inngående kjenneskap til menneskerettighetsbrudd verden over.

Norsk P.E.N.s administrasjon
fra  4. mai 2015
Wergelandsveien 29, 0167 Oslo, tlf.: 2260 7450
Generalsekretær Hege Newth Nouri, tlf.: 2260 7450, mobil: 930 02 262, hege@norskpen.no
Fribykoordinator: Ingeborg Kværne, tlf.: 2260 7451, mobil: 991 64 860,  ingeborg@norskpen.no
Seniorrådgiver: Carl Morten Iversen,  tlf.: 926 88 023, carlmorten@norskpen.no
Generelle henvendelser: pen@norskpen.no

William Nygaard gjenvalgt som styreleder i Norsk PEN

William Nygaard ble i går gjenvalgt som styreleder i Norsk PEN for en ny toårsperiode av årsmøtet.  Nygaard har vært styreleder siden 2013.  På møtet orienterte Nygaard om organisasjonens nye norske prosjekt, «Norsk Ytringsfrihet og Ytringsansvar», som vil ha fokus på å følge med på en rekke nasjonale, ytringsfrihetsrelaterte saker, blant annet varslere, elektronisk og annen overvåking, mediepolitikk og det flerkulturelle området.   Parallelt med dette viderefører Norsk PEN sitt internasjonale engasjement i og med samarbeidsland som Afghanistan, Etiopia, Eritrea, Hviterussland, Tyrkia, Iran og Russland.

På årsmøtet benyttet Nygaard også anledningen til å rette en stor takk til alle organisasjoner og institusjoner som har bidratt til å muliggjøre Norsk PENs arbeid, både praktisk og økonomisk – Den Norske Forleggerforening, de norske skjønnlitterære skribentorganisasjonene, Norsk Journalistlag og Kritikerlager, samt Fritt Ord, Eckbos Legat og Utenriksdepartementet.

Norsk PEN vil i 2015 også fortsette sitt arbeid med norske fribyer for forfulgte forfattere i samarbeid med fribynettverket ICORN og de norske fribyene.  I tillegg videreføres organisasjonens møteserie, en blanding av seminar og debattmøter på Litteraturhuset i Oslo i tillegg til et samarbeid om tilsvarende møter med Norsk Litteraturfestival (Lillehammer), Bjørnsonfestivalen (Molde), Ord i Grenseland (Fredrikstad) og Kapittel 2015 (Stavanger).

I tillegg til Nygaard består Norsk PENs styre fram til årsmøtet 2016 av Elisabeth Eide (nestleder), Ann-Magrit Austenå, Anders Heger, Asbjørn Øverås, Soudabeh Alishahi, Brit Bildøen, Rune Ottosen  og Peter Normann Waage (styremedlemmer), Åshild Eidem, Arne Svingen og Dag Larsen (vararepresentanter) og Kjell Olaf Jensen (styrets spesialrådgiver)

Hege Newth Nouri new Secretary General in Norwegian PEN

Press Release

Norwegian PEN hires new Secretary General

The Norwegian PEN board has engagedHege Newth Nouri as new Secretary General. She comes from the position as national coordinator for the Norwegian Cities of Refuge for Persecuted Writers and has worked for Norwegian PEN since November 2013. She succeeds Carl Morten Iversen who reaches the official Norwegian retirement age on 1. May 2015. Iversen will continue to work for Norwegian PEN in a reduced position.

Newth Nouri is educated in literature and creative writing and has a varied and extensive background as a writer, editor and project manager for various literary- and free expression related projects. She has worked for the Norwegian Forum for Freedom of Expression, with the censorship database «Beacon for Free Expression»,  as well as festival director for the literary festival Bjørnsonfestivalen in Molde, Norway, where she also served as coordinator for the visiting writers. Prior to working for Norwegian PEN she was engaged as secretary general of the Norwegian Library Association.

In her new position, the Secretary General will strengthen the efforts for freedom of speech in Norway at a time of major changes – from global and national commercialization, new political tensions and changed communication technology – to a new cultural diversity.

Hege Newth Nouri will officially assume the position on 4. May 2015.

Oslo, 15th December 2014

Norwegian PEN meets Dalai Lama

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

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

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

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

9th May 2014

William Nygaard elected new president of Norwegian PEN

Publisher and former director of the Aschehoug publishing house, William Nygaard,  was last night elected new president of Norwegian PEN. Nygaard has been a board member for many years and is now replacing Anders Heger who steps down after chairing Norwegian PEN since 2007.

William Nygaard was publisher and CEO at Aschehoug  from 1974 to 2010 and chairman of the Norwegian Publishers Association from 1987 to 1990.  He was elected Chairman of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation in 2010.

Nygaard has always been an outspoken advocate for freedom of speech. He was awarded the Freedom of Expression award from «Fritt Ord» in 1994 and the Torgny Segerstedt award in 1998. He has been appointed «Knight of premier class of the St. Olav order» and – along with Salman Rushdie – an honorary doctorate at the University of Tromsø.

«Norwegian PEN’s current goal is to engage an increasing number of younger people in the Norwegian, and not least, international free expression work and stimulate interest in universal human rights,» said Nygaard after he was elected.

Oslo, April 24, 2013

Death Threats and Attacks on Freedom of Expression Intensify in Tunisia

Norwegian PEN, WAN-IFRA, International Pen & Index on Censorship

Tunis, 28 February 2013: Death threats, physical attacks, an emergence of hate speech and accusations of official censorship of critical media have escalated the perilous situation for freedom of expression in Tunisia.

As the political crisis deepens following the assassination of outspoken left-wing political leader Chokri Belaiid, and the resignation on Tuesday of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, attacks against journalists and writers have intensified.

The undersigned members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) call on the Tunisian government to condemn such attacks, guarantee the safety of journalists, writers and media workers reporting on the on-going crisis, and implement legislation available to them that better protects freedom of expression.

Death Threats
Tunisia has witnessed an unprecedented campaign of death threats against journalists, writers and media workers critical of the ruling Ennahda Party and its handling of recent events.

Most disturbingly, a ‘death list’ of names of prominent writers and journalists who supposedly “antagonise Islam” is said to be in circulation, with writer and journalist Naziha Rjiba one of those to have received anonymous telephone death threats. It is widely believed the League for Protecting the Revolution – said to have close ties with the Ennahda Party – issued the list. Rjiba received a call shortly after the assassination of Mr. Belaiid in which she was warned to be silent or else “she would be next.”

On 11 February, journalists Nawfel El Wartani and Haythem El Maaki from Radio Mosaique FM had their lives threatened for their coverage of Mr. Belaiid’s funeral. The station had already been the recipient of threats and had applied to the Ministry of Interior for protection.

Veteran journalist and former head of the National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT), Naji Bghouri, has received a number of death threats via email and mobile phone. The latest incident occurred on 14 February when a member of the League for Protecting the Revolution reportedly shouted, “soon, you’ll be killed.” Najiba Hamrouni, current head of the SNJ, has also reported receiving death threats from unknown callers who accuse him of defaming the Ennahda Party and “insulting Islam”.

IFEX members are seriously alarmed by these developments and call on the Tunisian authorities to urgently provide those targeted with a safe environment in which to carry out their work. They also call on authorities to fully investigate those responsible for issuing such threats so as to deter a climate of impunity in the country.

Attacks on Freedom of Expression Escalate
IFEX members consider the 22 January decision by deputy leader of the National Constitutional Assembly, Mehrezia Labidi, to ban journalists from working inside the Assembly as a deliberate attempt to deny access to information, and call on the authorities to recall the decision.

Harassment and physical attacks are also on the rise. On 24 January police interrogated Al-Shrouk journalist, Mona Bou Azizi, following a complaint by a local official over her coverage of events in the city of Qarjani. Bou Azizi has been repeatedly harassed and prevented from carrying out her work.

Reports suggest that security forces have deliberately targeted journalists covering the fallout from the assassination of Mr. Belaid. On 7 February, police in Gafsa City attacked Tunisia Africa News Agency journalist, Farida al-Mabrouki as she covered clashes with protesters. In a similar incident, Shraz Al-Khunaisi, a journalist with Internet TV channel Tunis Al-Ikhbariya, was also attacked and dragged to the ground by police.

Another journalist for the same channel, Ahmad Akkouni, was hit by a rubber bullet while covering clashes between police and protesters in Tunis. The following day, police officers physically attacked Tarek Al-Ghorani, a photographer and staff member with the Tunis Centre for the Freedom of Press, as he took pictures at Mr. Belaid’s funeral.
In addition, rapper and playwright Muhammad Amin al- Hamzawi required hospital treatment following a severe assault by up to five police officers that took place as he participated in the funeral. Al-Hamzawi is known for songs criticising police attacks on protesters.

Hate speech
Evidence is emerging that the media are being subjected to a deliberate campaign of hate speech during prayer ceremonies and in political discourses. Prayer leaders in several mosques across Tunisia have blamed journalists and writers for either “insulting Islam” or “hindering the work of the Ennahda Party”, while journalists criticised by politicians have reportedly been the victims of reprisal attacks.

During the 15 February rally held in support of the Ennahda Party in Tunis, widespread anti-media rhetoric was heard from speakers and marchers alike. Shouts of “shameless media” accompanied physical attacks against journalists covering the event. A prevalence of graffiti slogans stating “Journalists are liars” and “Journalists are hypocrites” can also be seen on the streets of the capital.

Broadcast woes
The independence of the broadcast media has been called further into question following the unplanned proliferation of new radio stations and TV channels across the country, many of which are owned by pro-government, Ennahda Party supporters.

The government has also been accused of silencing a number of emerging independent radio stations by withdrawing frequencies under the pretext of unpaid license fees. On 12 February, Oxygen Radio Bizerte was shut down for 24 hours, a move seen by Tunisian human rights groups as political interference aimed at silencing critical voices.

IFEX members repeat calls for the Tunisian authorities to appoint an independent body that has the power to organise the audio-visual licensing system fairly and without political bias.

Legislative stalling
Despite public statements on 10 December 2012 announcing the adoption of long-overdue legislation, and with it the establishment of the Independent High Authority for Audiovisual Communications (HAICA), IFEX members note little change regarding the implementation of the government’s media laws, particularly in respect to decrees 115 and 116 concerning media freedom.

As a crucial step in guaranteeing the safety of journalists, IFEX members again call on the Tunisian authorities to implement these decrees as a matter of urgency. For the independence of the media to be assured, wider consultation should also be sought from civil society and journalist organisations to supply HAICA with a broader, more legitimate mandate for chang

IFEX members, including many of the signatories to this statement, have cooperated since 2005 through the Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) to support Tunisian free expression rights on the national, regional and international stage. IFEX members from the TMG group continue this support, collectively and as individual organisations.

PEN Belarus appologize for the regime’s treatment of PEN-delegation

Secretary General in Norwegian PEN Carl Morten Iversen
Norwegian PEN board member William Nygaard
Publisher Trygve Åslund
Danish PEN board member Niels-Ivar Larsen

Respected  friends

Please accept my appologies for the awful behaviour of the Belarusian regime.  By accepting money for your visas and then denying you entry to the country, hold you at the airport without food or water and then kick you out of the country as if you were criminals, the regime has again, for the whole world, demonstrated its brutality and lack of respect for its own citizens and their guests.  And, basically, a lack of respect for human rights.  At the same time this is a demonstration of the regime´s attitude to culture in the broadest possible sense.

Also, with my appologies, I would like to thank you for all you do in order to help the Belarusian culture and literature to resist and survive during these very difficult times for the Belarusian people.  Vi  sense your solidarity and your support, and that gives us the strength to look at the future with more hope.  Even today, when it may seem like the future holds very little hope.  Historically, Belarus is a European country and will remain so, regardless of the efforts the regime is making in order to change the country at its discretion.  I think that, with your help and with support from all Europeans, Belarus will return to Europe.

Again, let me appologize and thank you.

Vladimir Nekljajev
Honorable member of Belarusian PEN, former presidential candidate

PEN-delegation denied entry to Belarus

PEN-delegation denied entry to Belarus

A delegation with members from Norwegian and Danish PEN was denied visa at the Minsk airport and had to return home.

At the Minsk airport in Belarus last Monday morning (December 5th around 2 am local time), a delegation with members from Norwegian PEN (boardmember William Nygaard, publisher Trygve Åslund and secretary general Carl Morten Iversen) and Danish PEN (board member and journalist Niels-Ivar Larsen) was denied visa and, consequently, entry to Belarus. Over the next two days, they were supposed to meet with representatives from PEN Belarus, the Belarusian Writers Union, BAJ – the Belarusian Association of Journalists and local writers and publishers. The trip had been planned for months.

Upon arrival at the Minsk airport early Monday morning (01.00 a.m.) they wanted to obtain visitors visa for a two days stay in Minsk. The group travelled as tourists as this is the only way to get into the country. Invited by a local travel agency, the visa applications, as well as air transport and hotel booking, was handled by a local Norwegian travel agent specializing in Eastern-Europe. All the paperwork was correctly presented to the visa-officer at the airport visa office at the Minsk 2 International Airport.

«The officers initial reaction upon presentation of my application and passport, was that he wanted to talk to the person who was going to pick us up and drive us to Minsk», says Iversen who had organized the trip. «I called him and they talked. Obviously, this was not enough and the officer then wanted to talk to representatives from the travel agency that invited us. I called an emergency number without results. I also called the Norwegian travel agent who tried to help, but with no result. I told the officer that no body picked up as it was the middle of the night – 3 am local time. His response was that we should have arrived with an earlier flight».

The atmosphere at the visa-office counter was building as two ladies arriving from Macedonia got into a heather argument with the officer. After they left, the officer seemingly started processing our visa applications. At one point he asked for the visa fee and received a total of 360 Euros for four visas. After about 20 minutes, a lady in uniform arrived, got our passports from the officer, told us to stay and wait and then disappeared. After a little while we were escorted down to luggage reception to get our luggage as the airport was closing. We were then escorted back to the visa office. An airport or boarder police official then escorted us to a transit area were we were told to wait, guarded by a female officer. Very little information was given, but we understood that we had to wait until the morning flights departed. We would then be sent back to Norway and Denmark. We would get our passports upon boarding of the return flights.

No further explanation was given. At one point, a female customs officers who spoke decent English arrived and explained that this was the decision of the Consul and the decision could not be tried. She also said that it was the rights of the Belarusian authorities to deny entry, while still claiming the visa fee.

We were kept in a place with no access to food or water. At one point, one of the members of the delegation who had a heart condition, said he needed water to take his medicine. The female guard did not understand and thought he wanted a doctor. After a while, a female doctor arrived and wanted to examine him, something he denied – he only wanted water. The incident lead to a heathed discussion between the doctor and our guard. Around 6 in the morning local time, two seats were available on the morning flight to Frankfurt, and two of the delegation members left. They received their passports back at the gate. The two remaining delegation members left on a return flight our of Minsk at 3.30 in the afternoon.

Said delegation member Nygaard to the Norwegian daily Aftenposten´s web-edition: «It is important for us to show the world what kind of regime that rules in Belarus – this is among the issues PEN is focusing on. Belarus is a UN-member and it is important that we react when they behave like this.»

Oslo, December 5th 2011