De Dødes Dag er også en protestdag

PRESSEMEDDELELSE

De Dødes Dag er også en protestdag

Seks danske organisationer er gået sammen om at protestere mod de stadig flere mord på journalister og forfattere i Mexico. Siden præsident Felipe Calderón tiltrådte i december 2006 er 35 journalister og forfattere myrdet og otte blevet forsvundet uden at den mexicanske regering har taget effektive skridt til at opklare mordene og forsvindingerne, og retsforfølge de skyldige. Regeringen har lovet at sikre journalister beskyttelse mod overgreb fra såvel kriminelle bander som militær, politi og politikere, men foreløbig er det blevet ved ordene.
Det har fået International PEN til at iværksætte en verdensomspændende protest på en af Mexicos store, folkelige helligdage, De Dødes Dag den 2. november. På denne dag mindes mexicanerne deres døde på kirkegårdene og i hjemmene. Gravene pyntes med blomster og vokslys og de efterladte deler mad, drikke og tid med deres afdøde. I hjemmene opfører man særlige altre, der pyntes med blomster, vokslys, genstande med tilknytning til de afdøde og billeder af de afdøde, og man serverer de afdødes livretter, får lidt at drikke, snakker og er samlet i et fællesskab i mindet om de afdøde.

I Danmark afholder seks organisationer en minde- og protestaften på De Dødes Dag den 2. november i overensstemmelse med mexicansk tradition med et alter med billeder og tekster om de myrdede. Den mexicanske sangerinde Edith Tamayo synger mexicanske sange. Skuespillerne Lene Vasegaard og Paul Hüttel læser mexicanske digte – nogle af dem skrevet specielt til lejligheden af Mexicos bedste digtere..Repræsentanter for de arrangerende organisationer taler og giver tilsammen et billede af forholdene i Mexico og sætter dem i et større, internationalt perspektiv.
De Dødes Dag, onsdag 2. november kl. 18-21
Verdenskulturcentret, Nørre Allé 7, 2200 København N

Dansk PEN, Dansk Journalistforbund, Dansk Forfatterforening, Danske Skønlitterære Forfattere, International Media Support, Amnesty International
For yderligere oplysninger kontakt venligst Jens Lohmann, Dansk PEN. 33 13 77 31 & 26 79 77 33 – jl.lohmann@gmail.com

NÅR ORDENE BLIVER FARLIGE

Seedy Bojang
Mød de tre danske fribyforfattere på turné rundt i Danmark
I den sidste uge af oktober tager Danmarks tre fribyforfattere ”on the road” og besøger fem forskellige byer rundt i landet. Sidste stop er Frederiksberg Hovedbibliotek den 27. oktober, hvor en af forfatterne, Seedy Bojang, er på hjemmebane. Han har allerede boet på Frederiksberg det ene af de to år, som hans friby-eksil varer. (se i øvrigt tourplanen nederst)

Det er tre forfattere med hver sin stærke, personlige historie, man kan møde sammen med tourmanager Karsten Pharao tidligere kulturredaktør på DR P1. Ud over Seedy Bojang fra Gambia, der måtte se sin avisredaktions kontor smadret og brændt ned, er det Tendai Tagarira fra Mugabes korrupte og voldelige Zimbabwe samt Noufel Bouzeboudja, som tilhører det undertrykte folkeslag kabylerne i Algeriet. De tre forfattere har måttet flygte fra deres hjemlande på grund af deres kritiske skriverier og kamp for retten til at ytre sig mod magthaverne.
Nu bor de i Danmark under fribyforfatter-ordningen, som i Danmark blev vedtaget ved lov i 2008. Fribyordningen hører under Kulturministeriet og den internationale organisation ICORN, som formidler husly til forfulgte forfattere i fribyer over hele verden.

Tendai Frank Tagarira

I løbet af turen rundt i landet optræder forfatterne på gymnasier, biblioteker og andre litterære scener. Her præsenterer de en spritny antologi med deres tekster og meget originale billeder af fotografen Anders Bøggild. I bogen giver journalisten Knud Vilby også en helt aktuel beskrivelse af forfatternes hjemlande med en skarp analyse af de politiske forhold. Hør om de store omkostninger, som de forfulgte forfatteres kritiske skriverier har haft for dem personligt. De tre forfattere er parate til at fortælle og gå i dialog med publikum.
Der er fri entré til alle arrangementerne.

Om friby-ordningen

En friby er en kommune, der er med i det internationale netværk, ICORN (International Cities of Refuge Network). Formålet med friby-ordningen er at støtte skribenter, forlæggere, illustratorer m.v., hvis ytringsfrihed krænkes i deres hjemland. En fribyforfatter får finansieret og tilrettelagt et toårigt ophold med ro til at fordybe sig som forfatter og arbejde for ytringsfriheden.

De danske fribyer

Den ene friby er faktisk en ø, nemlig Fanø. De øvrige er foreløbig Århus og Frederiksberg. Odense har haft startproblemer, idet den udvalgte forfatter faldt fra af forskellige grunde. Der er naturligvis en del formaliteter og meget, der skal falde på plads, også før forfatteren kan forlade sit hjemland og forpligtelserne der. København er stadig i forhandlinger om at få fribystatus.

Finansiering af friby-ordningen

Ordningen får økonomisk støtte fra Kulturministeriet via Kunststyrelsen. På Frederiksberg er finansieringen af Seedy Bojangs ophold fordelt ligeligt mellem FrederiksbergFonden, Kulturministeriet og Frederiksberg Kommune. Støtten fra Kulturministeriet er dog ikke en permanent pulje, men en opstartsstøtte til ordningen. Fribyforfatternes Danmarksturne er finansieret af Statens Kunstråd.
Med venlig hilsen
Lisbeth Steensborg, friby-koordinator og arrangementschef på Frederiksberg Bibliotek, tlf. 38 21 18 50

Noufel Bouzeboudja

Tourplan
Århus
Mandag 24/10 gymnasiebesøg
Viborg
Mandag 24/10 offentligt arrangement på Skovgård Museet i Viborg klokken 19:30
Fanø
Tirsdag 25/10 offentligt arrangement på Nordby Bibliotek på Fanø klokken 19:00
Der vil også være et musikalsk indslag ved Peter Uhrbrand
Odense
Onsdag 26/10 gymnasiebesøg på Odense Katedralskole 12:30 – 14:00
Onsdag 26/10 offentligt arrangement i Mimeteatret, Vestergade 95B. kl. 19:00
Frederiksberg
Torsdag 27/10 gymnasiebesøg
Torsdag 27/10 offentligt arrangement på Frederiksberg Hovedbibliotek kl. 20:00
Turnéen er støttet af Statens Kunstråd. Fri entré til alle arrangementer

Om de tre fribyforfattere
Tendai Frank Tagarira ankom til Århus i juni 2010 som den første forfatter under fribyordningen. Han er i stærk opposition til Mugabe og styret i Zimbabwe
Seedy Bojang bor og arbejder som fribyforfatter på Frederiksberg. Han kommer fra Gambia og har boet i Danmark i et år.
Noufel Bouzeboudja kommer fra Algeriet og er nu bosat på Fanø.

Læse mere om friby-ordningen på facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/CitiesOfRefugeNetworkInDenmark
Se også
www.icorn.org
Ny i Danmark.dk
www.danskpen.dk
www.shahrazadeu.org

PEN-kongressen i Beograd: Her er præsidentens åbningstale – og de vedtagne resolutioner

Den 12.-18. september var der international PEN-kongres i Beograd, hvor en række resolutioner blev vedtaget. Disse foreligger nu alle i færdig udgave, og offentliggøres hermed på danskpen.dk. Men først nogle ord fra præsident for Internationalt PEN, John Ralston Saul:

John Ralston Saul Delivers The Opening Speech At The 77th PEN International Congress In Belgrade

SEPTEMBER 13, 2011

Thank you Serbian PEN! Thank you Vida and thank you to all of your members. You have organized a wonderful Congress. People who attend have no idea how much work is involved and how many hours are taken up that could have been used for writing. So, a very personal thank you from all of us who have come from other countries.

Quand nous disons  – nous les membres du PEN International – que nous sommes l’évocation de la littérature et de la liberté de l’expression, et que les deux ne se séparent pas  –  c’est une simple déclaration des faits.

C’est notre 90ème année. Nous sommes – nous avons toujours été – la seul organisation véritablement internationale de la littérature. Nous avons inventé l’idée et la réalité des campagnes pour la liberté d’expression.

Quelquefois il faut répéter l’évident. Il y en a des gouvernements, des pouvoirs – ceux que George Konrad, un de nos anciens présidents, appelle ‘’les professionnels du pouvoir’’, qui disent : Ah, ce ne sont que des écrivains, que des mots. Et c’est vrai, nous n’avons pas de chars ou de banques ou le pouvoir de porter un déficit gigantesque ou un grand bureaucracy. Mais si nous sommes que des écrivains, pourquoi est-ce que quelques 850 de nos collègues sont en prison autour du monde ? Pourquoi est-ce que on tue des écrivains avec une régularité terrifiante ? Nous avons ce grand pouvoir qui est celui de la langue et de l’imagination – à travers les poèmes, le théâtre, les romans, les essais – qui libère l’esprit des lecteurs. C’est avec des mots de l’imagination que l’individu travaille.

Yesterday, I was asked – quite rightly – what difference does it make that writers from 89 PEN centres are gathered in Belgrade. It is the right question.

The first answer is that this Congress is a public expression of reconciliation. Of course, writers in the Balkans have never stopped talking to each other. But, this Congress is a formal evocation of the imagination of the Balkans.

Today, the leaders of 10 Balkan PEN centres sat together on a stage and created the Balkans PEN International Network. The founding members are Bosnian PEN, Bulgarian, Croatian, Kosovar, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Romanian, Serbian, Slovenian and Turkish. This is an historic event. It is a message to the world.

Second, the gathering of hundreds of writers from around the world matters because it is a force for imagination and transparency. Our charter is clear. We believe in unlimited freedom of expression. But we also believe that no matter how controversial or difficult our words are, the ultimate purpose is to bring people together. The great Serbian Canadian writer, David Albahari, has rightly written that “knowledge can never catch up with the power of ignorance”. This is true. But the imagination can catch up. Imagination can leap over ignorance. Let me give you an example: When a virtually unknown radio journalist is killed in Mexico – the most dangerous place in the world today to be a writer – they leave, in Ivo Andrić’s words, “a memory clearer and more lasting than that of so many other more important victims”.

This year our former President, Mario Vargas Llosa, won the Nobel Prize for literature. And the founding president of our Independent Chinese PEN Centre, Liu Xiaobo, won the Nobel Peace Prize. Two men of courage. Two masters of the imagination. One of whom remains unjustly in prison. And several of our centres were central to what is called the Arab Spring. In some cases they are now a key part of the rebuilding civil society in their country.

The core of what we do is this: imagination and the transparency that imagination creates, and the acceptance of complexity – all of this is above politics and below politics. It’s everything except politics. In a society without this democracy of the mind it becomes possible for lies to install themselves, as if they were language. And as Danilo Kiš put it, “when everyone lies, no one lies”.

We are in the business of open memories, memories that do not oppose people, one against the other. We represent an open idea of how people can live together.

This is the 77th Congress. The Congress in 1933 in Dubrovnik was organized by this Centre. It was a complex, but historic moment for PEN. We were faced by the rising forces of authoritarianism, even within our own centres. The divisions of European society had become the divisions of PEN. Our President, a great writer, H. G. Wells, but also an anti-Semite with confused public views, found himself caught in an atmosphere of impossible divisions. But, complex though it was, Wells and the delegates found their way through in order to stand with the imagination and transparency and therefore against authoritarianism.

In 1933 we found an ethical shape – long before governments took a stand. And at every PEN Congress since 1933, those ethical standards stand before us as the measure of what we do. I like to think that in leading with wisdom in Dubrovnik, Wells found his own way to a personal understanding of PEN’s ethics. It was a noble moment for him and for PEN.

There are always those who believe that writers can be dragged away from their independence in the public place. And I believe that the next few years will be difficult. There are many strong and negative forces at work. But the meaning of PEN is simple. Our central ethical force is the independence of our imagination and our creativity. And we know what this means because for 90 years we have defended that independence.
Hvala! (Tak på serbisk)

 

HER FØLGER NU DE VEDTAGNE RESOLUTIONER:

 

 

 

Resolutions passed by the Assembly of Delegates of International PEN Meeting at its 77th Congress in Belgrade, Serbia,

 12 September to 18 September 2011

 

 

 

  1. Bahrain
  2. Basque Issues
  1. Belarus
  2. China
  3. China: Uyghur Issues
  4. Cuba
  5. Eritrea
  6. Iran
  7. Iraq
  8. Mexico
  9. South Africa
  10. Syria
  11. Syria: Kurdish Issues
  12. Turkey
  13. Turkey: Kurdish Peace Issues
  14. Turkey: Kurdish Language Issues
  15. Viet Nam
  16. European Union
  17. European Union: Roma Issues
  18. Recommendation for a Review of the Constitution of the Board of PEN International
  19. Recommendations for Events Surrounding the 90th Anniversary of PEN International

 

 

 

 

  1. Resolution on Bahrain

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 77th International Congress in Belgrade, Serbia September 12-18, 2011

 

Shocked by the life sentence handed down to academic and human rights activist Dr Abdul-Jalil Alsingace on 22 June 2011 for his peaceful opposition activities. He is among twenty-one activists convicted of ‘plotting to overthrow the government’ after a violent crackdown on peaceful opposition protestors in the capital, Manama.

Alarmed at the apparent use of excessive force to suppress peaceful dissent.

Calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Dr Alsingace and all those currently detained in Bahrain for the peaceful exercise of their opinions.

Reminds the Bahraini authorities of their obligations to protect the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a signatory.

 

 

 

 

2. Resolution on Basque Issues

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 77th World  Congress in Belgrade, Serbia, 12 September to 18 September 2011

 

Noticing the important steps taken these last months to end more than four decades of violence in the Basque Country;

Considering the declarations of the armed separatist group ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, Basque Homeland and Freedom) calling for a ceasefire on the 5 September 2010, and for a permanent truce on the 10 January 2011;

Acknowledging the victims of this tragedy, with more than 1,000 deaths and tens of thousands of injured;

Aware of the International Crisis Group, with its mandate to expedite and facilitate political normalisation in the Basque Country, and the Brussels Declaration (“this commitment can be a major step in ending the last remaining conflict in Europe (…) the coming months may present a situation where the commitment to peaceful, democratic and noviolent means becomes an irreversible reality”) with the endorsement of Nobel Prize Laureates FW De Klerk, John Hume,  Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Betty Williams and the Nelson Mandela Foundation;

 

The General Assembly of PEN International:

  • Shows its sympathy and solidarity with all those suffering from more than four decades of violence;
  • Calls upon all the parties involved in the conflict not to waste this opportunity to achieve a lasting peace for the Basque Country;
  • Calls upon ETA to, adhere to its permanent ceasefire, acknowledge the suffering caused by its activities, to disarm and to disband;
  • Calls upon the Spanish Government, to also take all necessary steps towards a lasting peace, apply the recommendations on change the anti-terror law, specifically on removing the practice of torture against terrorism suspects, as raised by Theo van Boven, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture; put an end to the banning of political parties and newspapers, and adapt the penitentiary policy to the newly transformed political situation. Those imprisoned for political, social or professional activities should be freed, among them the journalists Teresa Toda (PEN Member) and Xabier Salutregi, and Egin newspaper staff;
  • Urges the international community to endorse the peace process and support a final democratic solution to this conflict.

 

 

3. Resolution on Belarus

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 77th World  Congress in Belgrade, Serbia, 12 September to 18 September 2011

 

 

On the day of the Belarusian Presidential election, 19 December 2010, the Belarusian KGB maltreated and later kidnapped from hospital one of the presidential candidates, writer Uladzimir Niaklajeu (Vladimir Nekliajev). He was held in KGB secret custody for several weeks without proper medical attention and his relatives were not informed of his whereabouts. After several months under house arrest, Niaklajeu was, in May 2011, convicted and sentenced to three years in prison. However under a new law especially designed for silencing opposition voices he will not be required to enter prison, but will live under surveillance and other restrictions under the terms of a two year suspension of the sentence. He now lives under constant threat of imprisonment and is denied the right to leave the country.

 

Belarusian PEN has elected its former president Niaklajeu as honorary president, and has also nominated him as a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature. In Belarus Niklajeu is one of the most important role models in the struggle against President Lukashenko’s ever more brutal and violent regime.

 

PEN considers the treatment of Uladzimir Niaklajeu a crime against human rights and a disgrace unworthy of any state. PEN calls on the immediate rehabilitation of Uladzimir Niaklajeu, the lifting of all restrictions against him, and that the Belarusian state gives him fitting compensation for the time spent in jail, under appalling conditions.

 

 

 

4. Resolution on the People’s Republic of China

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 77th World  Congress in Belgrade, Serbia, 12 September to 18 September 2011

 

Congratulates Dr. LIU Xiaobo, the former and honorary president of Independent Chinese PEN Centre, on his honour as the laureate of Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.

 

Welcomes the releases of GUO Xianliang, LI Hai, LIU Zhengqing, LUO Yongquan, AI Weiwei, Ran Yunfei and XU Zerong, either on bail or due to sentence reduction, since the last Congress of PEN International in September 2010.

 

Considers the increasing suppression of the right to freedom of expression throughout China, from its capital city of Beijing to the inland province of Sichuan and Guizhou, to the costal province of Guangdong and Zhejiang, to the Autonomous Regions of Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia, particularly since the announcement of awarding Dr. LIU Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2010.

 

Shocked by the relentless harassment and widespread attacks against Chinese intellectuals and human rights activists, which has intensified since mid-February 2011 in response to anonymous calls for ‘Jasmine Revolution’ protests.

 

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 the social/national security”, “(inciting) subversion of state power”, “illegally holding/leaking state secrets” and “illegal business practices”, or alleged “economic crimes”, including the sentencing of HUANG Xiaomin (2.5 years), Kalsang Jinpa (3 years), Jangtse Donkho (4 years), Buddha (4 years), Tashi Rabten (4 years), Dokru Tsultrim (4.5 years), WEN Yan (6 years), QI Chonghuai (additional 8 years), LIU Xianbin (10 years), Memetjan Abdulla (life) and Gulmira Imin (life) as well as the prosecutions and trials of,  ZUO Xiaohuan, TANG Cailong, LI Tie, CHEN Wei and WANG Lihong (f).

 

Worried about the growing censorship of the Internet throughout the country, in which more than 40% of websites were blocked and closed in 2010, and online writers and journalists harassed and imprisoned for their publication of critical reports and commentaries on overseas websites.

 

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 who has been detained since last March after having twice served imprisonments of 9 years in total; the interrogation, harassment, threats, attacks, brief detentions, meeting and travel restrictions of more than 60 members, including WU Yangwei, Coordinator of ICPC Network Committee, and Dr. TENG Biao, Legal Consultant of ICPC-WiPC, who were respectively detained for 2 and 3 months since last February and who are still under tight residential surveillance.

 

Particularly alarmed by the situation of the imprisoned writers whose health has been in decline without proper treatment. Most of their applications for medial parole have been repeatedly rejected, or only approved at a terminal stage of illness. A typical case is Zhang Jianhong, a prominent writer and a member of ICPC, who was arrested when completely healthy in September 2006,l but who was diagnosed n May 2007 with muscular atrophy and amyotrophic latgeral sclerosis, a progressive degenerative disease of the central nervous system. In October 2007 he was transferred to a prison hospital because his condition had rapidly deteriorated in prison. His applications for medical parole were rejected until he was finally released in June 2010, requiring intensive care and dependency on a life support system with a ventilator. He died six months later, on New Year’s Eve.

 

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 prisoners in the autonomous regions of Tibet, Xinjiang Uyghur and Inner Mongolia who have been detained in violation of their right to freedom of expression, including Tibetan writers and journalists Dawa Gyaltsen, Dolma Kyab, Kunchok Tsephel, Paljor Norbu, Tashi Rabten, Kunga Tseyang, Kalsang Jinpa, Jangtse Donkho, Buddha and Dokru Tsultrim; Uighur writers Abdulghani Memetemin, Nurmuhemmet Yasin, Nureli Eli, Dilshat Perhat, Nijat Azat, Gheyret Niyaz, Memetjan Abdulla and Gulmira Imin, and Mongolian writer Hada;
  • Release all imprisoned writers and journalists in China, including

LIU Xiaobo, SHI Tao, YANG Tongyan, ZHU Yufu, HUANG Jinqiu, ZHENG Yichun, KONG Youping, LU Jianhua, WANG Xiaoning, YANG Maodong, QI Chonghai, YUAN Xianchen, ZHANG Qi, HUANG Xiaomin, ZUO Xiaohuan, TANG Cailong, LIU Xianbin, WEN Yan, LI Tie, RAN Yunfei, CHEN Wei and WANG Lihong.

  • 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.  Resolution on China – Uyghur Issues

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 77th World  Congress in Belgrade, Serbia, 12 September to 18 September 2011

 

 

Alarmed by the continued persecution of Uyghur writers, journalists and webmasters/web editors who are particularly targeted by the Chinese authorities solely for practising their right to free expression. The authorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China subject Uyghur journalists and writers to harassment, arbitrary detention and flawed trials for publishing anything related to current political concerns in the region, including Uyghur ethnic identity, beliefs, history, etc. Overall, the crackdown on Uyghur intellectuals has intensified after the 2009 protests; the number of sentences handed down to Uyghur intellectuals convicted of so-called “separatism” is alarming.

 

Appalled over China’s extrajudicial punishment of Uyghur journalists and web editors.  We estimate that at least 300 Uyghur Web moderators may have been detained and jailed in the Uyghur region over the “5th July” 2009 protest. We are unable to confirm this estimate because of the Chinese government’s lack of transparency and accountability.

 

Calls on the Chinese authorities:

 

  • To stop the ill treatment and torture of Uyghur writers, journalists and all other political prisoners in China’s jails.
  • To stop targeting Uyghur intellectuals including writers, journalists and web editors. Urges China to ratify the First Optional Protocol of the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) providing for the abolition of the death penalty in line with the growing trend in international law.
  • Fulfill its obligations to Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a member state, and implement the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in China’s prisons for peacefully exercising their right to free expression.
  • Respect the right to freedom of expression, as required by international law including Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

 

6. Resolution on Cuba

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 77th World  Congress in Belgrade, Serbia, 12 September to 18 September 2011

 

Welcomes the release from jail not only the journalists, librarians and dissidents of the Group of the 75, but all political prisoners.

PEN International is

Disappointed because despite the fact that the government of Cuba, under pressure from international public opinion, arrived at an agreement with the government of Spain and the Catholic Church  there are still many more who are suffering the inhumane conditions of Cuban jails;

Concerned because the European Union, in order to regularize its relations with the government of Cuba, demanded not only these releases, but and end to all repression against dissidents, however other forms of repression of dissidents, independent journalists and human rights activists persist and may actually have increased;

Worried because dissidents who publicly advocate for freedom of expression and respect for human rights are still frequently arrested by the police, taken to the Department of State Security, sometimes for several days, and then released under a “judicial warning” document, containing the threat of starting a criminal court case against them if they continue with their dissident activities;

Alarmed by other repressive acts against dissidents, such as the well-known “acts of repudiation” by paramilitary groups and mobs organized by the Department of State Security, harassing and physically attacking dissidents in front of their homes and as they perform peaceful acts in public;

Shocked because police repression has increased in such a way that they carry out frequent beatings of dissidents; the political dissident Juan Wilfredo Soto García died in May 2011 allegedly as the result of a police beating;

Dismayed because the Cuban government continues to deny exit visas to writers and journalists who have won international awards for their civic and intellectual work and who as a result cannot go abroad to receive those awards,  for example the blogger Yoani Sánchez, who won an international award for her journalistic work, Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, who won the Barbara Goldsmith award, granted by the American PEN Center, and the dissident Guillermo Fariñas, who won the Sajarov Award given by the European Union;

Dissatisfied with the treatment that the government of Spain has given to the Cuban political prisoners who, with the collaboration of the Cuban government, were released from prison on the condition that they accept their deportation to Spain, where they have not received the status of political refugees and therefore are in an uncertain legal situation and difficult circumstances;

 

Alarmed because the government of Cuba keeps in force Law 88 of 1999 that sets sentences of up to 20 years’ imprisonment for independent journalists and opposition members trying to exercise their right to freedom of expression, and also keeps in force the so-called Law of Security of Information, restricting Cubans’ access to internet, which it is largely available for government officers;

 

PEN International URGES the Cuban government:

  • To free the remaining political prisoners from  prison and allow them to remain in the country or to travel abroad, in compliance with Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
  • To cease all acts of repression outlined in this resolution against independent journalists and peaceful dissidents who exercise their right to freedom of expression and other human rights;
  • To allow the Cuban citizens Yoani Sánchez (blogger) and Bernardo Arévalo Padrón (independent journalist) to leave the country and travel abroad to receive the awards they have won for their work in favour of freedom of expression. The same should be made a precedent for those who in the future are granted similar awards;
  • To abolish Law 88 of 1999 and the Law of Security of Information which restricts Cuban individuals’ access to the internet.

 

7. Resolution on Eritrea

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 77th World  Congress in Belgrade, Serbia, 12 September to 18 September 2011

 

September 23, 2011 will mark the 10th anniversary of the arrest in Eritrea of the journalist, playwright and writer Dawit Isaak. Despite many efforts to raise his case at the international level, Dawit remains the only Swedish citizen who is a prisoner of conscience anywhere in the world.

Ten 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 2010, only 20 out of the original 35 political prisoners held at Eira Eiro prison camp, where Isaak is allegedly detained, remain alive.

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.

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, Swedish PEN wishes to submit a further resolution on Eritrea.

 

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 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.

 

8. Resolution on the Islamic Republic of Iran

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 77th World  Congress in Belgrade, Serbia, 12 September to 18 September 2011

 

Two years after the mass demonstrations in protest against the results of the 10th presidential election 2009, the Iranian government is continuing a comprehensive crackdown on independent voices inside Iran. Imprisonment, the threat of prosecution, and harassment have become part of the daily life of independent writers, journalists, filmmakers, labour activists, human rights and ethnic rights activists. At least 29 Iranian journalists have fled into exile since the June 2009 crackdown.

 

Censorship of books in Iran is more widespread and severe than ever. The government has proclaimed that books should include Islamic values and threatens to force the publishers to withdraw “inappropriate books” from the market.  It requires renewed publishing permits to print new editions of already published books. In addition, some independent publishers have received warnings, and many of them risk bankruptcy.

 

PEN International is

 

Alarmed about the increasing and widespread violations of the right to freedom of expression in Iran.

 

Troubled by the arrest and 11-year prison sentence handed down to the lawyer, writer, and human rights advocate Nasrin Sotudeh, who is accused of “spreading lies against the regime”. Nasrin Sotoudeh, the award winner of 2011 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write, has been imprisoned solely for exercising her right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory.

 

Also Troubled by the verdict against the film directors Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof, who have been sentenced to six years in prison in Iran. Jafar Panahi is also prohibited from directing, writing and producing films for 20 years and may not give interviews or travel overseas after the sentence is served. The reason is said to be their criticism of the government of Iran.

 

Also troubled by the verdict against the economist, writer and active member of the banned Iranian Writers Association Fariborz Raeis- Dana. He has been sentenced to one year imprisonment by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran after he criticized the economic policy of the Iranian president Ahmadinejad.

 

Concerned about book censorship at the 24th International Book fair in Tehran from 4-14 May 2011. The Committee for Control and Evaluating confiscated books by several Iranian writers including 15 books by prominent Kurdish writer Ali Ashraf Darvishian, who is also a board member of the banned Iranian Writers association.

 

Alarmed by the continued persecution through harassment, arbitrary detention and flawed trials carried out against Kurdish and other minority writers, journalists and political prisoners. They are particularly targeted by the Iranian regime for practicing their rights to free expression, to publish in their own languages, and activism on minority rights.

 

Deeply concerned about the detention and 10-year jail term handed down by the court in the Kurdish city of Sanandaj to Kurdish journalists Adnan Hassanpour and Abdolvahed “Hiva” Botimar.

 

 

PEN International

 

Calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all journalists and all human rights and women’s rights activists 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.

 

 

9. Resolution on Iraq

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 77th International Congress in Belgrade, Serbia September 12-18, 2011

 

Appalled by the murder of prominent journalist, playwright, filmmaker and member of Iraqi PEN Hadi al-Mahdi, who was found dead at his home in Baghdad on 8 September 2011. He had been shot in the head.

Calls for a full and transparent investigation into his murder, so that those responsible can be brought to justice.

 

Background

Hadi al-Mahdi, aged forty-four, hosted a popular radio talk-show To Whoever Listens which was aired three times a week on the independent radio station Radio Demozy, and on which he was known for his outspoken criticism of the government. He had been receiving threats since 25 February 2011, when he was arrested after calling for peaceful anti-government protests. In the days leading up to his murder the threats escalated, and he wrote the following message on his Facebook page just hours before his killing

 

I have lived the last three days in a state of terror. There are some who call me and warn me of raids and arrests of protesters. There is someone who is saying that the government will do this and that. There is someone with a fake name coming on to Facebook to threaten me. 

 

Hadi al-Mahdi spent six months in prison in the late 1980s for his play Farewell, Strange Old World, which was a re-telling of Machiavellis The Prince. He lived in exile in Europe throughout the 1990s, returning to Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. He leaves behind a wife and three children.

 

 

10. Resolution on Mexico

 

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 77th World  Congress in Belgrade, Serbia, 12 September to 18 September 2011

 

PEN International is saddened, deeply worried and angry over the continued violence against journalists and writers, and particularly over the impunity which prevails despite numerous assurances of investigation and respect for freedom of expression.

 

PEN International’s Congress in Belgrade condemns the lack of action from the Mexican government to stop killings of journalists and writers.

 

Mexico has not only become one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, it has also become a champion in impunity. Since January 2004, 42 print journalists and two writers have been murdered, while 10 print journalists have gone missing in the same period. Seventeen of the killings and four of the disappearances have occurred since January 2010, and an increasing number of journalists have been threatened, harassed and attacked amidst an atmosphere of growing violence. Furthermore few if any of these crimes have been properly investigated or punished, leaving the authors of the crimes free to strike again.

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International is saddened and outraged by the continued murders and disappearances of journalists and writers, by the continued threats and harassment against them and by the Mexican authorities’ notorious passivity in investigating these crimes. The state seems to lack the will to protect journalists and writers in danger, even after they have received explicit threats.

 

This stands in a grotesque contrast to official Mexican discourse which presents Mexico as a human rights champion. Mexico has signed and ratified more than 20 human rights treaties and considered more than 1,000 recommendations from various national and international human rights organizations. That is the humane façade the Mexican government presents to the world.

 

An increasing number of delegations from international organizations and institutions have visited Mexico in recent years to investigate and protest the continued and increasing violations of human rights and freedom of expression. The government has responded with toothless reforms and a rhetoric of high-sounding recommendations, a strategy which according to the report Corruption, Impunity, Silence: The War on Mexico’s Journalists, published in a joint effort by the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto and the Canadian Centre of PEN International, has led to more deaths, human rights violations and limitations on freedom of expression (the report is available in both English and in Spanish.

 

A few recent examples:

 

In 2006 a special prosecutor’s office for attention to crimes committed against freedom of expression, FEADL (Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos Contra la Libertad de Expresión), was created, and in July 2010 further strengthened as a response to  increasing pressure and criticism. However, this apparently encouraging initiative has proven to be hollow and all but worthless. The special prosecutor has no formal powers to investigate crimes or to lay charges and since its creation the office has averaged only one prosecution a year. Thus crimes against freedom of expression remain unpunished. The special prosecutor’s office is an insult to the victims.

 

When journalist and writer Lydia Cacho Ribeiro published her 2005 book on child pornography in Mexico (Los Demonios del Edén: el poder detrás de la pornografía – The Demons of Eden: the power behind pornography), she was illegally arrested, detained, abducted and ill treated before being subjected to a year-long criminal defamation lawsuit. She was cleared of all charges in 2007, but her attempts to gain legal redress for her treatment have been thwarted and she continues to be the target of harassment and threats. On 14 June 2011 Cacho again received anonymous death threats. Mexican authorities have failed to take adequate measures to protect Cacho, who believes that the threats, which made direct reference to her journalism, stem from her naming alleged sex traffickers in her writings.

 

In 2009 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), hearing of her harassment and monitoring by armed men outside her apartment, granted Cacho precautionary protective measures and asked the Mexican government to take action to protect her. However, to date reportedly only half of the measures have been implemented. With the new threats, she clearly remains at risk. The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International strongly demands that the Mexican government fully and immediately implement the mechanisms for journalists that it promised in November 2010.

 

Lydia Cacho’s case is far from an isolated one. The fact that two Mexican journalists were murdered and another was abducted the same month that she received the latest threats is clear evidence that these must be taken seriously and not only met with more hot air declarations from politicians and authorities.

 

On 7 June 2011 news editor for the daily paper Novedades Acapulco, Marco Antonio López Ortiz (42) was reportedly kidnapped in Acapulco, Guerrero state. That night he left work and was later assaulted on the street by unidentified men who took him away. Among other duties, López Ortiz was responsible for overseeing the paper’s coverage of crime. According to local journalists, they are constantly threatened by organized crime groups to keep coverage to a minimum. Novedades Acapulco’s reports on crime are accordingly kept brief and do not probe the facts reported, in order to avoid angering and being targeted by the groups.

 

On 13 June 2011 Pablo Ruelas Barraza, journalist for the regional daily newspapers Diario del Yaqui in Huatabampo and El Regional de Sonora in Hermosillo, both in Sonora state, was found dead on a street in Huatabampo. He had apparently been shot by two gunmen who had first attempted to abduct him. Ruelas (38) had received death threats from both politicians from both Sonora and criminal groups, according to local media reports.

 

In the early hours of 20 June 2011 unidentified gunmen broke into the house of Notiver columnist and editor Miguel Ángel López Velasco in Veracruz, Veracruz state, killing López Velasco (55), his wife Agustina Solano de López, and their son Misael (21). López Velasco was a well known journalist whose column for the daily, “Va de Nuez”, written under the pseudonym Milo Vela, dealt with politics, police and security issues. Local journalists have suggested that the killings could be retaliation for a recent column about drug trafficking in the region. López was the second journalist to be found dead in Veracruz state in June, following the appearance on 1 June of the body of La Verdad de Jáltipan columnist Noel López Olguin, who went missing on 8 March.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International calls on the Mexican authorities to

 

  • take efficient steps to end impunity, to investigate the murders, disappearances, threats and harassment of journalists and writers, to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice and to procure an apology and a just indemnity for the families of the victims.
  • take the necessary steps to protect those journalists and writers who need protection. As a signatory to the IACHR Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, under Principle 9 the Mexican government is obliged to prevent and investigate murders and acts of aggression against journalists, punish their perpetrators, and ensure that victims receive just compensation.

 

 

PEN International demands more action, fewer words.

 

 

For more information about the situation of journalists in Mexico see:

PEN Canada & International Human Rights Program, University of Toronto: Corruption, Impunity, Silence: the War on Mexico’s Journalists (June 2011) (English: http://www.internationalpen.org.uk/files/dmfile/CorruptionImpunitySilencereportEnglish.pdf; Spanish: http://www.internationalpen.org.uk/files/dmfile/CorruptionImpunitySilencereportSpanish.pdf)

 

Article 19 & Cencos: Violence and Press Freedom in Mexico: Still in the Line of Fire (May 2011) (http://www.article19.org/pdfs/press/violence-and-press-freedom-in-mexico-still-in-the-line-of-fire.pdf%3C/p%3E)

 

Committee to Protect Journalists: Silence or Death in Mexico’s Press. Crime, Violence, and Corruption Are Destroying the Country’s Journalism (September 2010) (http://www.cpj.org/reports/2010/09/silence-or-death-in-mexicos-press.php)

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Resolution on South Africa

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 77th World  Congress in Belgrade, Serbia, 12 September to 18 September 2011

 

PEN International is deeply concerned that South Africa’s Information Protection Bill still embraces too much “secrecy’’ despite changes.

 

Delegates at the annual congress of PEN International in Belgrade from 12-18 September 2011 expressed deep concern that while recent amendments to the draconian Protection of Information Bill now passing through the South African Parliament have accommodated some of the opposition to the Bill by journalists, lawyers and non-governmental institutions, it continues to contain provisions that threaten the freedom of writers and journalists.

 

The amendments have reduced the scope of the legislation and have thus limited the classification of material as secret. Two changes last November resulted in the removal of commercial information and information impacting on the national interest as subject to classification which had the effect of encompassing almost all categories of information.

 

Another change in June, this year, limited the more than 1,000 organs of state that may classify information to only departments dealing with intelligence and national security. These amendments and the removal of mandatory prison sentences of up to 25 years as well as the appointment of a retired judge to adjudicate on appeals against classification have been welcomed as important reforms. However, a close watch will be maintained over the definitions to be applied to intelligence and national security matters and material classified by those departments.

 

However, despite these revisions journalists and writers are continuing to voice strong protest at many of the remaining features of, or omissions from, the Bill.

 

Among these are:

 

  • The retention of harsh prison sentences;
  • No indication whether a judge may impose a fine as an alternative to a prison term;
  • Excessive powers of the Minister of State Security to classify or de-classify material, duties that should be performed by civil servants according to regulations with the minister maintaining oversight; indeed, his extensive powers to classify information nullify to a large extent the positive effects the removal of “national interest” has on the range of classifiable material;
  • Judicial officers required to exclude public from courts when classified information is involved in cases;
  • The omission of a requirement that written reasons be provided by persons classifying information so that these may be reviewed by a senior official;
  • Omission of a review committee headed by a retired judge; and
  • Omission of a public interest defence for publishing classified information.

 

The inclusion of a public interest defence has been a persistent demand by critics, especially those concerned at the vulnerability to prosecution and imprisonment that the withholding of such a defence holds for whistle-blowers and investigative journalists.

 

PEN International is concerned that the reason advanced by the government for not including this defence in the Bill is that similar legislation in other parts of the world do not have a public interest defence provision. PEN International notes that some countries such as the United States do not have such a defence in their legislation because the law does not have content that calls for one. The Minister believes such a defence would nullify much of the legislation.

 

A feature of the Bill that is seldom alluded to but which can have fearsome consequences for journalists and the public is clause 30 (6), sometimes referred to by lawyers as the “double jeopardy clause”. It is retained and reads: “In response to a request for the review of the classified status of information in terms of this Act the head of an organ of state may refuse to confirm or deny the existence or nonexistence of information whenever the fact of its existence or nonexistence is itself classified as top secret.”

 

That means that a person may find himself or herself in the frightful position of being in possession of a classified document without knowing that it is classified and, more importantly, with no means of finding out what the status of the document is.

 

PEN International calls for the Bill to be withdrawn and drafted afresh taking into account the fact that criticisms are still being levelled at the Bill. The changes that have been made – and the others that are being called for – suggest that the remaining Bill is being dealt with in a piecemeal fashion and requires proper appreciation of its purposes to be reflected in the content.

 

PEN International emphasizes that though it accepts that governments have the right to classify security information, this should be defined in the narrowest possible way and ensure that the media’s and writers’ freedom of expression and independence should be upheld to the fullest extent to enable democracy to flourish.

 

 

 

12. Resolution on Syria

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 77th World  Congress in Belgrade, Serbia, 12 September to 18 September 2011

 

 

Welcomes the release of writers journalists and bloggers Raghdah Sa’id Hassan, Mahmoud Issa, Khaled Sid Mohand, Zaid Mastu, Khaled Sid Mohand, Mohamed Dibo and Dorothy Parvaz.

 

Protests the continued detention of all those currently held solely for the peaceful expression of their opinions, including writer and editor Najati Tayara and blogger and poet Tal- Al-Mallouhi.

 

Condemns the widespread arrest of journalists and bloggers for their reporting on the recent protests, in violation of their right to freedom of expression.

 

Calls on the Syrian authorities to investigate allegations of torture of detainees, and to release all those currently detained in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Syria is a signatory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13. Resolution on Syria – Kurdish Issues

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 77th World  Congress in Belgrade, Serbia, 12 September to 18 September 2011

 

Noticed the peaceful and democratic uprising of the mass population in Arab countries against their regimes, demanding freedom, democracy and justice;

Alarmed by the latest extensive actions launched by Syrian Security and armed forces against the civilian participating in protest against the Government;

Acknowledging the particular target to the Kurdish community, which started long before the recent uprising in Syria, resulting in clashes, arbitrary arrests, displacement, and torture;

Concerned about the living conditions for thousands of refugees, who left the country as a result of latest unrests and the real danger of cross border operations between the neighboring countries and Syria which will have a sever impact on the life of people on border lines and beyond;

Knowing that in 1965, the Syrian government decided to establish an Arab belt (al-Hizam al-Arabi) in the Jazeera along the Turkish border. The belt was 300 km long and 10-15 km wide and stretching from the Iraqi border in the east to Serê Kaniyê (Ra’s al-‘Ayn) west.

The General Assembly of PEN International

– While welcoming the recent call of the government to grant the hundreds of thousands of Syrian Kurds the citizenship they were denied, it calls upon the Syrian regime for the grant of full and guaranteed political, cultural and economical rights of the country’s citizen with Kurdish origin;

– Welcomes the decision to lift the emergency law by the Syrian government and calls to expedite the real and genuine reforms, including basic changes in the Constitution;

–  Calls upon the Syrian regime to stop all forms of aggression against the civilians in all parts of the country, and guarantee a safe and unconditional return of those been displaced;

–  Urges the Syrian regime to take the necessary steps to abandon the Arabization measures in the Kurdish regions including the lifting of the Arab Belt to normalize the situation in these regions and extend the reforms to these regions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

14. Resolution on Turkey

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 77th World  Congress in Belgrade, Serbia, 12 September to 18 September 2011

 

Troubled by the existence of numerous of laws and practices that allow the prosecution of writers solely for their writings,

Noting the unacceptably high number of writers and journalists in prison in Turkey today – around 70 are detained and many more are on trial;

Referring specifically to the case in Christmas 2009 where the Turkish government arrested around 80 persons, ranging from local politicians and mayors to lawyers and writers, associated with different organizations supporting the Kurdish speaking population in Turkey.

Among the people arrested were the writer and lawyer Muharrem Erbey. Erbey has for the last few years been the president of the Diyarbakir branch of the  Human Rights Association (IHD), whose main purpose is to provide legal advice to Kurdish citizens. One of the tasks this organization has performed is to find unmarked graves of abducted and murdered Kurds, so that their relatives can give them a proper burial – a task that they have been quite successful in performing.

 

Muharrem Erbey, the author of several short story collections and a well-known lawyer, was arrested on Christmas Eve 2009 and charged with belonging to an organization affiliated with the illegal Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). As far as PEN has been able to determine, there is no evidence of Erbey’s association with PKK.  However, among the accusations brought against him is the charge that he has been “slandering the Turkish state”.  One of the examples of this is a lecture he gave to the Swedish parliament in 2009, where he, as an invited guest, talked about the harassment of civilians with Kurdish background in today’s Turkey. This seems to be enough to keep an renowned writer and lawyer in prison for one and a half years without trial. Muharrem Erbey has been elected as honorary member of Swedish PEN.

 

Also concerned about the imprisonment of writers Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener who have been arrested and formally charged and are awaiting trial for writing books and articles disclosing police and other high level links to others arrested in the ‘Ergenekon’ case under which over 200 people are accused of being involved in coup plots. Paradoxically they themselves are now accused of links to this organization, leading to widespread condemnation in Turkey that they are being penalized for disclosing aspects of the ‘Ergenekon’ case that do not concur with the official views.

 

The Assembly of delegates of PEN International calls upon the government of Turkey:

  • Similarly to release PEN Turkey members Muharrem Erbey, Ahmet Sik, Nedim Sener and Mustafa Balbay and all other writers and journalists detained or on trial in violation of their right to freedom of expression;
  • During the work for a new Constitution, which is promised by the Prime Minister Receb Tayib Erdogan, review all relevant articles of the law with a view of bringing them into accord with international human rights standards, in particular the ICCPR and European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory.

 

 

15. Resolution on Turkey – Kurdish Peace Issues

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 77th World  Congress in Belgrade, Serbia, 12 September to 18 September 2011

 

Concerned about the consequences of ongoing armed conflict between the Turkish authorities and the Kurdish movement on human rights conditions, civil society and political and economical development of the region,

Alarmed by the continual clashes between parties involved in the conflict, the air strikes by Turkish aircraft against targets in Iraqi Kurdistan, cross border clashes, and extensive Turkish military operations,

Knowing that the human loses as a result of this conflict has exceeded 40 000 lives on both sides of the conflict,

Noticed the restriction measures against the elected representatives of the Turkish Parliament, thus resulted in a crises in the Turkish Parliament, hence directing a blow to democracy and transparent election process,

Assured that the solution to the Kurdish question in Turkey can only be through dialogue and peaceful means,

 

We recommend through the PEN International to call upon the Government of Turkey: 

– To start real attempts of ending the status of war in the Kurdish regions,

– To stop the cross border military operations, including military actions against Iraqi Kurdistan,

– Start a process of reconciliation and dialog, and take genuine attempts towards removing barriers on the way of finding a political solution to the Kurdish question in the country,

– Pave the way and provide incentives for the displaced Kurdish villagers to return back to their villages, and help them to reconstruct their homes and regions,

– Take advantage of the opportunity available with Kurdish people genuinely wanting to engage in a democratic political process.

 

 

 

 

 

16. Turkey – Turkey Language Issues

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 77th World  Congress in Belgrade, Serbia, 12 September to 18 September 2011

 

Knowing that the Kurdish language is one of the very ancient languages, rooted to the Indo – European (Indo – Iranian section), which is spoken by millions of people in Kurdish regions and the Middle East, with its historical contribution to the common culture, history and civilization in these regions.

Assured about the long term persecution against the Kurdish language in Turkey since 1924, depriving the countries’ around 20 millions Kurdish citizens from studying and developing their language,

Concerned about the long term policy of ignoring the Kurdish identity, banning the Kurdish language officially and as a language of education, as well as changing the names of all what is Kurdish into Turkish names;

PEN International

Welcomes the reforms by the Turkish Government that allowed broadcasting in Kurdish on the state TV, but criticizing the fact that Kurdish children are not allowed to learn their language in kindergartens and at schools.

 

The Assembly of delegates of PEN International calls upon Turkey:

  • To publicly and officially recognize the status of the Kurdish Language,
  • To start real attempts towards assuring the Kurdish language as a language of education in the regions populated by the Kurds in Turkey,
  • To allow using the Kurdish language officially in the public sphere,
  • To correct the historical persecution measures initiated by consecutive Turkish governments against the Kurdish identity envisaged in the forms of banning the language, banning the use of Kurdish names, and denying the Kurdish identity and culture, by recognizing the Kurdish Identity and language and renaming all the places and names by their original names.

 

 

 

17. Resolution on Viet Nam

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 77th World  Congress in Belgrade, Serbia, 12 September to 18 September 2011

 

 

Deeply disturbed that violations of the right to freedom of expression and opinion continue to occur in Viet Nam. Print and audiovisual media, Internet and publishing houses are under strict State control and subject to severe censorship. There is arbitrary restriction on freedom to seek, receive and impart information, in particular relating to accountability for human rights violations, corruption and social injustice.

 

Seriously concerned by the persecution of writers, journalists, bloggers dissidents and human rights defenders, who have been sanctioned notably by article 88 of the Penal Code (Propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam) carrying penalties of 3 to 20 years in prison, in violation of Article 19 of the ICCPR.

 

Troubled by the fact that most detainees spend several months in pre-trial detention during which, they have no right to be presumed innocent and are denied access to their independent lawyers who are subject to threats and harassment. They are defamed by official media. Their right to a fair and public trial by independent judges is not guaranteed.

 

Shocked and indignant by the fact that many writers, journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders serve heavy prison sentences in forced labour camps, where they are not protected from attacks by common law prisoners and are denied their right to receive adequate medical treatment and family visits. Some are held incommunicado or in solitary confinement. Several former writers in prison, authors and bloggers have been attacked or subjected to brief detention, among others: Le Thi Cong Nhan (f), Pham Hong Son, Le Quoc Quan, Bui Chat (2011 IPA Freedom to Publish Prize), Bui Thanh Hieu, blogger Nguoi Buon Gio, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh , blogger Me Nam, Ta Phong Tan , blogger Cong Ly Su That.

 

Deplores that writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy’s release in June 2011 was conditional on her forced exile, after serving 18 months of her 42-month prison sentence.

 

Alarmed by the state of health and the detention conditions of the following prisoners, among others : Nguyen Van Ly, priest and editor of the underground review Freedom of Opinion (8 years in prison and 5 years in probationary detention); Nguyen Xuan Nghia, poet and novelist, member of the Hai Phong Association of writers and the banned human rights defenders network (Bloc 8406), co-editor of the underground journal To Quoc (6 years in prison and 3 years in probationary detention); Truong Minh Duc, journalist and cyberdissident (5 years in prison and 3 years in probationary detention).

 

Further concerned with the following cases: Nguyen Phong, Nguyen Binh Thanh, Tran Quoc Hien, Truong Quoc Huy, Pham Ba Hai, Pham Thanh Nghien , Vu Van Hung, Pham Van Troi, Tran Duc Thach, Nguyen Van Tinh, Nguyen Manh Son, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc (16 years in prison), Le Thang Long, Le Cong Dinh, Nguyen Tien Trung, Tran Anh Kim, Vi Duc Hoi, Pham Minh Hoang, Lu Van Bay and Cu Huy Ha Vu currently serving their unjust prison sentence; still yet, Dang Phuc Tue (Ven. Thich Quang Do, 83-year-old, Buddhist monk and poet, in house arrest since 2003, Nguyen Van Hai (blogger Dieu Cay), journalist, maintained in prison instead of being released since October 2010 after serving a prison term of 2 and half years, Phan Thanh Hai (blogger AnhBa SaiGon), lawyer and journalist, arrested in October 2010, Pham Minh Hoang (blogger Phan Kien Quoc), internet writer, arrested in August 2010, Nguyen Kim Nhan, former writer in prison, re-arrested in June 2011.

 

Strongly urges the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam to:

 

  • Release, immediately and unconditionally, the above-mentioned writers, journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders, and all other persons currently in prison or in probationary detention for having exercised their right to freedom of expression and opinion.
  • Cease all attacks, harassment, threat of arbitrary arrest or preventive detention against all persons who hold dissenting views or who call for freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief.
  • Lift all arbitrary restrictions imposed on former writers in prison, including those who have not yet served their entire probationary detention terms.
  • Improve conditions in prisons and in forced labour camps, stop acts of aggression perpetrated by common law detainees, ban and punish all forms of torture and ill-treatments, allow sick prisoners of opinion to be hospitalized and receive adequate medical care as well as facilitate their family visits.
  • Abolish all censorship and lift all restrictions on freedom of expression and opinion, freedom of the press, freedom to create and to publish, the right to be informed by all means including the Internet, and freedom of association, in compliance with the Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

 

Annex: State of health and the detention conditions of the writers in prison, among others  

 

Nguyen Van Ly, priest and editor of the underground review Freedom of Opinion. He was sentenced in 2007 to 8 years in prison and 5 years in probationary detention. He previously served 15 years in prison between 1977 and 2005. In November 2009, a stroke paralyzed the right side of his body. Fearing that he would die of other strokes, the Public Security transferred him to Huê city in March 2010. He was placed under police surveillance for 12 months in order to seek medical treatment before his return to the camp. On 25 July 2011, a police ambulance brought him back of the camp to serve the rest of his prison sentence until 2015.He still suffers from partial paralysis and an inflamed prostate that may be cancerous ;

 

Nguyen Xuan Nghia, poet and novelist, member of the Hai Phong Association of writers and the banned human rights defenders network (Bloc 8406), co-editor of the underground journal To Quoc, author of several poems, short stories, notes, memoirs and articles. He was sentenced in 2009 to 6 years in prison and 3 years in probationary detention. He is suffering from haemorrhoids, stomach ulcers, renal calculus and rheumatic inflammations;

 

Truong Minh Duc, journalist and cyberdissident. He was sentenced in 2008 to 5 years in prison and 3 years in probationary detention for his numerous articles about corruption and abuse of power. He broke his left arm in prison. He is confined together with 60 high recidivist criminals in a camp deep in the jungle. Already limited, access to his family’s visits and supply of food and medicines (a 7 kg pack per monthly visit) became more difficult and costly. He is suffering from high blood pressure and gastrointestinal diseases.

 

Nguyen Van Hai (blogs as Die Cay), independent journalist and blogger, who should have been released on 20 October 2010 on completion of a two-and-a-half year sentence. However, on 18 October 2010 he was reportedly transferred to a Public Security detention camp in Ho Chi Minh City, apparently on charges under the Criminal Code. The charges are said to be based on his online writings for the Free Journalist Network in Viet Nam, published prior to his arrest in 2008. He has been held incommunicado, without access to family visits, letters or medical and food supplies since 18 October 2010. A recent unconfirmed report claims he lost an arm in prison. Concerns for his welfare are acute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18. Resolution for the European Union

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 77th World  Congress in Belgrade, Serbia, 12 September to 18 September 2011

 

Worried by increasing attempts by European governments to constrain the right of artists and writers from outside Europe to travel freely to and within the European Union to participate in cultural events, to carry out research and undertake other activities essential for the practice of their profession;

Alarmed by the rise of antidemocratic and racist sentiments expressed in the media in many member states of the European Union;

Deeply concerned about the insufficient protection of freedom of expression prevalent in a growing number of member states;

Shocked by the fact that, in some member states, legislation has lately been passed or is in preparation which could curtail the freedom of the press and the right to information;

The Assembly of Delegates at the 77th PEN International Congress in Belgrade calls upon the European authorities, namely the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council:

  • To strengthen the commitment to fundamental democratic values in the European Union;
  • To urge member states to adhere to the standards of the acquis communautaire;

And, in case of severe violation of fundamental democratic principles, to impose effective sanctions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

19. Resolution for the European Union – Roma Issues

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 77th International Congress in Belgrade, Serbia, 12-18 September 2011

 

  • Alarmed by the growing mistreatment of gypsies, or Roma people in many countries of the European Union;

 

  • Observe and denounce the growing ostracism of gypsies in many countries of the European Union;

 

  • Point out that the human person has inalienable rights to

–       Freedom of expression

–       Freedom of movement

–       Education in their own language and to have their culture respected

–       To healthcare and to housing

 

  • Point out that every individual member of this ethnic group is a European citizen, like any other, and should be treated as such, which also means that they have a right to live in every country of the European Union, while respecting their laws;

 

  • Urge that the institutions of the European Union – the Commission, the Parliament and the Court of Justice – ensure that the rights of gypsies, cigany, Roma, who are European citizens like all others, be respected, and that any state that does not respect these rights be firmly sanctioned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20. Recommendation for a Review of the Constitution of the Board of PEN International

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 77th International Congress in Belgrade, Serbia September 12-18, 2011 makes the following recommendation

 

We call for a review of the constitution of the Board of PEN International, to examine the effectiveness of the present set-up with reference to the Board’s size, composition and representation.  Specifically we call for a small working group to be established for this purpose, that it include a board member, a chair of a sub-committee and other key parties wanting to contribute.

 

This working group should report back to Congress at Seoul 2012.

 

 

21. Recommendations for events surrounding the 90th Anniversary of PEN International

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 77th International Congress in Belgrade, Serbia, 12-18 September 2011

 We call on the new Director, the President and the Board to use the opportunity of PEN International’s 90th anniversary year in 2012 to focus on building its profile as a human rights and literary organisation, exemplified by the 2010 Nobel Prizes to Liu Xiaobo and Mario Vargas Llosa.  In particular we ask for plans be put in place for major fundraising activities, including an exhibition of ’empty chairs’ commissioned by leading artists around the world to feature in a public exhibition and sale of the works with the majority of the proceeds to go to PEN International as unrestricted funds for future activities.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fem år efter: Stadig ingen retfærdighed for Politkovskaja

Den 7. oktober er femårsdagen for det brutale drab på den russiske journalist og menneskeretsforkæmper, Anna Politkovskaja. I den anledning udsender Internationalt PEN følgende pressemeddelelse, som Dansk PEN hermed videreformidler, idet vi stiller os fuldt og helt bag dens opfordring til de russiske myndigheder om en fuldstændig og uhildet efterforskning af dette mord med henblik på at identificere gerningsmændene og disses bagmænd.

On the fifth Anniversary of her assassination, PEN International calls for justice for murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

Today will mark the fifth anniversary of the murder of acclaimed journalist, author and human rights advocate Anna Politkovskaya – shot dead in the elevator of her Moscow apartment on Saturday 7 October 2006. To mark the occasion PEN International is renewing its calls on the Russian authorities to end the impunity of those responsible for the killing.
Although there have been recent indications that some progress is finally being made in the investigation into the murder, much more is required to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice. PEN International calls on the Russian authorities to ensure a full and impartial investigation in order to identify those responsible.
“We honour Anna Politkovskaya’s memory with vigilance and we insist upon justice for her,” said Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of Writers in Prison Committee of Pen International, “She was a fearless defender of the truth, and so we must continue to demand the truth behind her murder”.

Trial and recent developments:
“I am just one human being among many, a face in the crowd… I live in the present noting down what I see”.
Anna Politkovskaya, Introduction to Putin’s Russia (2004)

On 7 October 2006, the body of Anna Politkovskaya, special correspondent for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was found in the lift of her Moscow apartment. She had been shot in the head; executed in what was clearly a contract killing.

The trial of three men accused of carrying out the killing, Rustam Makhmudov, Dzhabrail Makhmudov and Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, began on 17 November 2008. All three were acquitted due to a lack of evidence on 19 February 2009 after a trial which has been described as seriously flawed.

However, in May this year, one of them, Rustam Makhmudov, was rearrested and three months later, in August, the former head of surveillance at Moscow’s Main Internal Affairs Directorate Lt. Col. Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov was also detained. Furthermore an already convicted criminal, Lom Ali Gaitukayev was also named as having been involved.
Gaitukayev is said to have been approached by an as yet unidentified person in 2006 and contracted to carry out the murder, and reportedly then set up a gang to commit the killing, which included the three people who had been previously been acquitted of the crime, and Lt Col. Pavluyuchenkov. Pavluychenkov is said to have ordered his subordinates to follow Politkovskaya and identify her schedule and commuting routes and then shared this information with the other members of the gang. It was further claimed that he passed the murder weapon from Gaitukayev to the suspected gunman Rustam Makhmudov.

Despite this apparent progress in the case it remains unclear whether the investigative committee plans to charge Gaitukayev in connection with the killing and the identity of those who approached him in order to carry out the murder still remains unknown.

Background:

Anna Politkovskaya had been receiving threats since 1999 when she began chronicling the alleged human rights abuses by the Russian armed forces in Chechnya. However, she continued to cover the conflict, publishing A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya in 2001 and A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya, 2003. She has also been a highly vocal critic of Vladimir Putin, describing the then President as a ‘power-hungry product of his own history in the armed forces’, in her powerful 2004 book Putin’s Russia[ #_ftn1 ][1].
Politkovskaya’s work led to severe harassment at the hands of the Russian authorities. For example, in 2001, while reporting in Chechnya, Politkovskaya was detained by military officials in the village of Ishettuni, who threatened to torture and rape her and subjected her to a ‘mock execution’. In 2002 she one of the few outsiders allowed into a Moscow theatre in an attempt to negotiate with Chechen rebels the release of hundreds of hostages held there.

Note to editors:

PEN International is a leading cultural and advocacy organisation which celebrates literature and promotes freedom of expression. Founded in 1921, our global community of writers now comprises 144 Centres spanning more than 100 countries. Our programmes, campaigns, events and publications connect writers and readers for global solidarity and cooperation. PEN International is a non-political organization and holds consultative status at the United Nations and UNESCO.

For further information please contact Sara Whyatt at PEN  International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: [ mailto:sara.whyatt@pen-internationalpen.org ]sara.whyatt@pen-internationalpen.org

Sara Whyatt
Programme Director
PEN International
Brownlow House
50/51 High Holborn
London WC1V 6ER
UK

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339

skype: sara.whyatt

[ http://www.pen-international.org/ ]www.pen-international.org   [ http://www.facebook.com/pages/Because-Writers-Speak-their-Minds/108856945799087 ]Facebook   [ http://twitter.com/#!/pen_int ]Twitter

International PEN is trading as PEN International. International PEN is a company registered in England and Wales with registration number 05683997. International PEN is a registered charity in England and Wales with registration number 1117088. International PEN’s registered office is Brownlow House, 50-51 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6ER, UK.

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[ #_ftnref1 ][1] A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya (2001). London: Harvill Press. ISBN: 1860468977.

A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya (2003). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN: 0-226-67432-0.

Putin’s Russia (2004). London: The Harvill Press. ISBN 1-84343-050-9.

 

Skarp PEN-kritik af Mexico

Dansk PEN konstaterer med voksende bekymring og frustration, at situationen for journalister og forfattere i Mexico fortsat forværres, trods gentagne løfter fra Mexicos præsident om at gøre noget ved de mange mord på journalister i det voldsplagede land. Mexico er blevet et af de farligste lande at arbejde i som journalist.

 

Det var det budskab to repræsentanter for Dansk PEN afleverede til Mexicos ambassadør i Danmark, Martha Bárcena, da de torsdag mødtes med hende, for at aflevere en af de skarpeste protester fra PEN de senere år.

 

På mødet afleverede Niels Ivar Larsen og Jens Lohmann fra Dansk PENs bestyrelse en resolution vedtaget på International PENs netop afholdte kongres i Beograd.

Under det timelange møde gjorde ambassadøren opmærksom på, at Mexicos regering har taget flere skridt for at standse mordene. Der er bl.a. oprettet et særligt kontor under Justitsministeriet til efterforskning af forbrydelser mod ytringsfriheden.  PENs repræsentanter anerkendte dette, men påpegede, at kontoret ikke har myndighed til at rejse tiltaler. I de fem år kontoret har eksisteret, har dets efterforskning kun ført til én tiltale om året i gennemsnit og endnu ingen domfældelser. Heroverfor står, at mindst 42 journalister ved trykte medier og to forfattere er blevet myrdet og 11 forsvundet siden 2004.

Mexicos regering lægger ansvaret for de fleste mord og forsvindinger af journalister og forfattere på de mægtige narkokarteller. Ambassadør Bárcena anerkendte, at det ikke fratager regeringen ansvaret for at beskytte landets borgere. PENs repræsentanter påpegede, at det er alt for nemt at lægge skylden på kartellerne. Flere steder i Mexico er karteller og myndigheder dybt filtret ind i hinanden, hvilket gør situationen vanskeligere, og regeringens ansvar større.

Ambassadør Bárcena lovede at overbringe PENs protester til sin regering, samt bede om svar på de spørgsmål, som blev rejst på mødet.

 

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For yderligere spørgsmål kontakt venligst:

Jens Lohmann, 33 13 77 31 & 26 79 77 33 – jl.lohmann@gmail.com

 

Her følger resolutionen fra PEN-centrenes verdenskongres i Beograd:

 

10. Resolution on Mexico

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 77th World  Congress in Belgrade, Serbia, 12 September to 18 September 2011

 

PEN International is saddened, deeply worried and angry over the continued violence against journalists and writers, and particularly over the impunity which prevails despite numerous assurances of investigation and respect for freedom of expression.

 

PEN International’s Congress in Belgrade condemns the lack of action from the Mexican government to stop killings of journalists and writers.

 

Mexico has not only become one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, it has also become a champion in impunity. Since January 2004, 42 print journalists and two writers have been murdered, while 10 print journalists have gone missing in the same period. Seventeen of the killings and four of the disappearances have occurred since January 2010, and an increasing number of journalists have been threatened, harassed and attacked amidst an atmosphere of growing violence. Furthermore few if any of these crimes have been properly investigated or punished, leaving the authors of the crimes free to strike again.

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International is saddened and outraged by the continued murders and disappearances of journalists and writers, by the continued threats and harassment against them and by the Mexican authorities’ notorious passivity in investigating these crimes. The state seems to lack the will to protect journalists and writers in danger, even after they have received explicit threats.

 

This stands in a grotesque contrast to official Mexican discourse which presents Mexico as a human rights champion. Mexico has signed and ratified more than 20 human rights treaties and considered more than 1,000 recommendations from various national and international human rights organizations. That is the humane façade the Mexican government presents to the world.

 

An increasing number of delegations from international organizations and institutions have visited Mexico in recent years to investigate and protest the continued and increasing violations of human rights and freedom of expression. The government has responded with toothless reforms and a rhetoric of high-sounding recommendations, a strategy which according to the report Corruption, Impunity, Silence: The War on Mexico’s Journalists, published in a joint effort by the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto and the Canadian Centre of PEN International, has led to more deaths, human rights violations and limitations on freedom of expression (the report is available in both English and in Spanish.

 

A few recent examples:

 

In 2006 a special prosecutor’s office for attention to crimes committed against freedom of expression, FEADL (Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos Contra la Libertad de Expresión), was created, and in July 2010 further strengthened as a response to  increasing pressure and criticism. However, this apparently encouraging initiative has proven to be hollow and all but worthless. The special prosecutor has no formal powers to investigate crimes or to lay charges and since its creation the office has averaged only one prosecution a year. Thus crimes against freedom of expression remain unpunished. The special prosecutor’s office is an insult to the victims.

 

When journalist and writer Lydia Cacho Ribeiro published her 2005 book on child pornography in Mexico (Los Demonios del Edén: el poder detrás de la pornografía – The Demons of Eden: the power behind pornography), she was illegally arrested, detained, abducted and ill treated before being subjected to a year-long criminal defamation lawsuit. She was cleared of all charges in 2007, but her attempts to gain legal redress for her treatment have been thwarted and she continues to be the target of harassment and threats. On 14 June 2011 Cacho again received anonymous death threats. Mexican authorities have failed to take adequate measures to protect Cacho, who believes that the threats, which made direct reference to her journalism, stem from her naming alleged sex traffickers in her writings.

 

In 2009 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), hearing of her harassment and monitoring by armed men outside her apartment, granted Cacho precautionary protective measures and asked the Mexican government to take action to protect her. However, to date reportedly only half of the measures have been implemented. With the new threats, she clearly remains at risk. The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International strongly demands that the Mexican government fully and immediately implement the mechanisms for journalists that it promised in November 2010.

 

Lydia Cacho’s case is far from an isolated one. The fact that two Mexican journalists were murdered and another was abducted the same month that she received the latest threats is clear evidence that these must be taken seriously and not only met with more hot air declarations from politicians and authorities.

 

On 7 June 2011 news editor for the daily paper Novedades Acapulco, Marco Antonio López Ortiz (42) was reportedly kidnapped in Acapulco, Guerrero state. That night he left work and was later assaulted on the street by unidentified men who took him away. Among other duties, López Ortiz was responsible for overseeing the paper’s coverage of crime. According to local journalists, they are constantly threatened by organized crime groups to keep coverage to a minimum. Novedades Acapulco’s reports on crime are accordingly kept brief and do not probe the facts reported, in order to avoid angering and being targeted by the groups.

 

On 13 June 2011 Pablo Ruelas Barraza, journalist for the regional daily newspapers Diario del Yaqui in Huatabampo and El Regional de Sonora in Hermosillo, both in Sonora state, was found dead on a street in Huatabampo. He had apparently been shot by two gunmen who had first attempted to abduct him. Ruelas (38) had received death threats from both politicians from both Sonora and criminal groups, according to local media reports.

 

In the early hours of 20 June 2011 unidentified gunmen broke into the house of Notiver columnist and editor Miguel Ángel López Velasco in Veracruz, Veracruz state, killing López Velasco (55), his wife Agustina Solano de López, and their son Misael (21). López Velasco was a well known journalist whose column for the daily, “Va de Nuez”, written under the pseudonym Milo Vela, dealt with politics, police and security issues. Local journalists have suggested that the killings could be retaliation for a recent column about drug trafficking in the region. López was the second journalist to be found dead in Veracruz state in June, following the appearance on 1 June of the body of La Verdad de Jáltipan columnist Noel López Olguin, who went missing on 8 March.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International calls on the Mexican authorities to

 

take efficient steps to end impunity, to investigate the murders, disappearances, threats and harassment of journalists and writers, to bring those responsible for

Månedsbrev fra John Ralston Saul, præsident for Internationalt PEN

September 07, 2011

 

Dear friends,

 

I write this monthly letter from Tunis, where PEN Tunisia is rebuilding itself after the fall of the dictatorship. Naziha Rjiba, President of the Centre and Sihem Bensedrine, Secretary General, took terrible risks during Ben Ali’s time and suffered a great deal. The situation remains complex and fragile, but they are working hard to build and solidify the role of literature and freedom of expression. They used my visit to call a public meeting of writers in order to get them involved in PEN. It was fascinating and successful.

 

This weekend and next week several hundred of us will gather in Belgrade for the 77th International Congress. You could call it the Congress of reconciliation, with all the Balkan Centres taking an active part. And, of course, Serbian PEN has been caught up in the enormous effort these Congresses require.

 

For the second year our work to find support for Centres to attend has been maintained with La Francophonie and the Commonwealth Foundation taking part. Thanks to Frank Geary, UNESCO has now joined the group, as well as some individual Centres supporting other Centres with whom they have close relations. We should really try to do more of this.

 

Two weeks ago I was at the annual meeting of Italian PEN and its annual PEN Prize. With its President, Sebastiano Grasso, PEN Italia is now in a new period of growth and creativity.

 

After Belgrade, I will go to the Göteborg Book Fair with Swedish PEN to draw attention to the situation of Dawit Isaac and other Eritrean writers. The conditions for the writers in their prison camp are terrible and many of them have already died.  We need to keep pushing for the release of the survivors as hard as we can. The longer they are there the more likely it is that they will die.

 

We have also organized a number of meetings at the book fair with Nordic publishers to talk with them about joining our PEN International Publishers Circle.

Laura McVeigh is settling in as Executive Director and is already in the midst of several initiatives. She will tell you about them in Belgrade.

 Finally, please do think about the opening session of our Congress when we will discuss the future direction of PEN.

 Best wishes to all of you and to those of you who are coming, I look forward to seeing you in Belgrade.

 

John Ralston Saul

Utilbørligt politisk pres mod forskers ytringsfrihed

 

I forbindelse med sagen om Marlene Winds udtalelser i spørgsmålet om dansk grænsekontrol, tager Dansk PEN tager afstand fra det direkte og indirekte pres, der er blevet lagt på forskerens ytringsfrihed. Toneangivende politikere kræver indgreb fra Københavns Universitets side over for professor Marlene Wind på grund af udtalelser, der har kritiseret disse politikere. Kritikken forsøger at miskreditere Marlene Winds faglige ekspertise på grund af hendes holdninger og ikke på grundlag af hendes forskning.

Vi finder det betænkeligt og bekymrende, at Morten Messerschmidt stiller krav til Københavns Universitets rektor om at “foretage de fornødne indskærpninger over for Marlene Wind” (se http://jp.dk/indland/indland_politik/article2462213.ece) i en offentliggjort klage, og at Pia Kjærsgaard kræver, at Københavns Universitet skal “ransage sig selv”, når de kan “have tillid til sådan en person” (se http://universitetsavisen.dk/politik/politikere-taesker-loes-paa-marlene-wind). Sådanne krav fra magtfulde politikere er egnede til at stække universitetsforskeres ytringsfrihed, kan føre til selvcensur og i værste fald til censur. At Marlene Winds “selvpålagte” periode med medietavshed skyldes pres fra universitetets ledelse forstærker kun indtrykket af utilbørligt pres (se http://www.information.dk/271272)

Vi understreger, at både forskere og politikere skal have ret til og mulighed for at udtrykke sig i skarpe og polemiske vendinger og vender os alene imod de krav om repressalier over for professor Marlene Wind, som udtrykkes fra politisk hold.

 

 

Censur på Venedig biennalen

af Merete Pryds Helle

VENEDIG – Mens vi i Danmark diskuterer, om den danske pavillons kuraterede budskab om ytringsfrihed er det rette valg at udstille på Venedigbiennalen, går det anderledes kontant for sig på en anden af biennalens pavilloner, nemlig Azerbaijans. Jeg besøgte Azerbaijans pavillon på åbningens tredjedag, efter at have fået at vide, at nogle af værkerne var blevet censureret af de azerbaijanske myndigheder.

Det drejer sig om en række skulpturer i sort granit og hvid marmor af den kvindelige kunstner  Azerbaijans pavillon er en gruppeudstilling og Salakhova har to skulpturer i indgangen til det venetianske palads nær Campo San Angelo, hvor deres pavillon befinder sig, samt en række skulpturer i det bageste rum. Skulpturerne forestiller næsten alle en sort tildækket figur, som en kvinde der er helt tilsløret, og ud af det sorte skinnende granitklæde kommer så nogle følsomme hvide hænder, der gør forskellige ting. Måske er de bare foldede, måske holder de en bog eller en kugleformet amorf masse eller en minaretlignende genstand. Den sorte profil er en hel enkel form, men det generelle udtryk har ofte stærkt seksuelle associationer.

På bagvæggen løber en gruppe hvide marmordråber, der kan være tårer, men også kan være sæd, og måske er en slags sædtårer. Men de seksuelle former er især tydelige i de to skulpturer i indgangen, som ved åbningen blev censureret og dækket med et hvidt stykke klæde. Den ene er igen den sorte tilslørede form (jeg ved det fordi den er gengivet som foto i kataloget) men igennem sløret er en lang åbning, som en kvindelig revne. Skulpturen på gulvet adskiller sig fra de andre ved at være en flad hvid marmorskulptur med et sort halvflydende “øje”. Også det ligner en stilistisk gengivelse af de kvindelige kønsdele, med den sorte flydende masse som indgangen til det, der meget konkret er menneskets skabelse, der vi alle kommer fra. Salakhova beskriver det selv som en reference til Mekka, men der kan ikke være tvivl om, at det er sammenhængen mellem den religiøse reference og det seksuelle og feminine udtryk, der har stødt de azerbaijanske myndigheder.

Jeg spurgte vagten på udstillingen, hvorfor de to skulpturer var tildækkede. Det var fordi de var beskadigede, påstod hun. På væggen var titlen på skulpturen tydeligvis ændret, og henover den originale titel var sat et label hvor der stod “Waiting bride” som om skulpturen fra begyndelse var tænkt med et hvidt stof over. Men nu har kuratoren af den azerbaijanske pavillon Beral Madra udsendt en pressemeddelse, hvor hun skriver at værkerne er censurerede af regeringen.

Så ytringsfrihed er et vigtigt emne, også på Venedigbiennalen. Men det kræver selvfølgelig, at kunstneren tør gå til grænsen hvor det virkelig rammer, og måske bare laver sin kunst uden at være blevet bedt om at forholde sig til et bestemt tema.

Margaret Atwood: Litteratur og miljø

Margaret Atwoods åbningstale ved PEN’s internationale kongres i Tokyo i september 2010. Den canadiske forfatter er vicepræsident i International PEN.

LITERATURE AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Margaret Atwood

PEN Congress, Tokyo

I am truly honoured to have been invited to speak to you today. PEN has a long and respected history, and this very inclusive Congress here in Tokyo — so well planned by our hosts, the Japan PEN Centre — adds to that history and greatly enhances it.

When it was first founded, back in 1921, International PEN was a small group, confined to a limited part of the world. Now, although it does not have a chapter in every country, it is a global organization. In addition to helping to put writers in touch with one another, it works hard – often against discouraging odds and in daunting and even lethal conditions — on behalf of freedom of expression everywhere.

There is nothing that repressive governments desire more than imposed silence.  The inability to speak encourages the unspeakable, and secrecy is an important tool, not only of power, but of atrocity. That is why writers of all kinds, including many journalists, have been shot, imprisoned, exiled, and – to use a fairly new word – “disappeared,” and why so many newspapers and publishing houses have been closed down. New media are also being targeted: last year, for the first time, PEN America honoured an internet writer – Nay Phone Latt, a blogger imprisoned in Burma for reporting too accurately on conditions there.

We like to think that all evil deeds will eventually come to light and that all stories about them will sooner or later be told, but in many cases this is simply not true. There are countless unknown victims. As the torturer O’Brien tells the hapless Winston Smith in George Orwell’s novel of the future, 1984, posterity will not vindicate him, because posterity will never even hear about him.  PEN supports those writers everywhere who have come under fire – often literally — because they have sought to give a human voice – fictional or not — to those whose voices have been silenced. I am proud to be a member of PEN, as I am sure all of you are, as well.

But I was asked to speak to you about literature and the environment, so that is what I shall now attempt to do.

 

First, a few words about me. As a young child I grew up largely in the Canadian north. My father was a biologist, and my parents were early environmentalists, so I have been familiar with these themes all my life. I am at present associated with BirdLife International –  a global conservation organization – whose Honourary President is Princess Takamado of Japan.

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Possibly you are expecting that I will now deliver a sermon about your duties as writers. It’s an odd thing, but people are always lining up to preach to writers about their duties — what they ought to be writing, or what they should not have written; and they are very ready to tell the writer what a bad person he or she is because he or she has not produced the sort of book or essay that the preacher feels he or she ought to have produced. In fact, there’s a strong tendency to speak to and about writers as if they are the government; as if they actually possess that kind of physical-world power, and therefore ought to use it for the betterment of society, as they surely would do if they were not filled to the brim with laziness, cowardice, or immorality. If by some chance the preacher realizes that the writer does not in fact possess that kind of power, he or she is likely to be dismissed as a frill, an irrelevance, a self-indulgent narcissist, a mere entertainer, a parasite, and so forth.

Doesn’t the writer have a responsibility, these preachers ask? And shouldn’t the writer exercise that responsibility by doing the good and worthy thing that the preacher will now proceed to spell out? Kurt Vonnegut used to have a rubber stamp he’d use on students’ question-filled letters to him; it said, “Write your own essay.”  I do feel I might have quite a lot of success with a T-shirt – to be worn only by writers – that would say, “Write your own book.”  Or, even better, “Write your own worthy book.”

The list of good and worthy things has recently expended to include something often called “the environment.”  We have recently been made very conscious of the many threats to “the environment”  — threats that may range from melting glaciers and sea ice, to rising global temperatures and the more extreme weather that results from these temperatures, to pollution of the air and water, to the chemicals we are unwittingly putting into our children’s mouths through industrial food, to the extinction of many plant and animal species, to the failing harvests on land and the dwindling fish stocks in the ocean – and even to the higher risk of plagues and illnesses that such environmental changes will almost certainly precipitate. All of these subjects can be placed into the basket called “the environment,” and I suppose that anything written about them might be termed “literature.” In that sense, a great many writers are concentrating on these problems already. You can hardly open a newspaper without hearing of some new oil spill or food contamination or forest fire or threatened extinction or mutated microbe or heat wave or flood.

But I take it that by “literature” you might have expected me to talk about fiction – about storytelling. And yes, every human communication involves storytelling of a sort: we live in time, and time, is one event after another, and unless we have lost both our short-term and our long-term memories, we describe ourselves and others in narrative form. But today I would like to confine myself to the kinds of stories or narratives told by fiction writers. How do such stories interact with that nebulous something we call “the environment”?  How ought they to interact with it? What is the connection between them?

The short answer is that if we didn’t have “the environment” – the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat – there wouldn’t be any literature at all, because we ourselves would not exist. Three days without water and a human being is usually dead. The oxygen we breathe was not always such a large part of the earth’s atmosphere as it is now: it was created by green plants, which continue to create it, so if we do away with all plants, we’d be gone. If the earth’s temperature rises much higher, our planet will become uninhabitable – not by all life, perhaps – a few deep ocean forms will surely survive, unless the ocean boils away — but certainly by us.

In that sense, the preservation of an environment similar to the one we have is a precondition of literature. Unless we can preserve such an environment, your writing and my writing and everyone else’s writing will become simply irrelevant, as there will be nobody left to read it.

One of the recurring themes in Science Fiction is the discovery of planets that have been inhabited once, but have changed so much that the intelligent life that once lived on them has become extinct. Typically, the space explorers in such stories find a time capsule or record that tells the tale of the vanished civilization, and that the space travelers – how convenient! – can invariably translate. This form of tale –in the Western tradition at any rate – may ultimately descend from Plato’s fable of the lost civilization of Atlantis – a civilization that was very advanced, but doomed by an act of the gods, or of nature. The ancient “lost civilization” story was then fuelled by the discovery, in the 19th century, of many real lost civilizations – from the vine-covered Mayan ruins in central America to the once-mythical city of Troy, to the mysterious Easter Island in the Pacific, with its huge enigmatic stone statues.

Will we ourselves soon be a Lost Civilization? Will our own books and stories ultimately become time capsules for some future archeologist or space explorer?  Looking down the pathways that lie before us – and I say pathways rather than path, because the future is not the future but an infinite number of possible futures – it’s hard not to indulge in fantasies of this kind. Should we all put our novels into lead-lined boxes and bury them in a hole in the backyard?  It would be considerate of us – then the future explorers from outer space would have something to dig up. It would also be considerate of us to request in our wills that some of our favourite daily objects be placed in our coffins. I myself hope to be buried with a few twenty-first-century artifacts – my toaster, perhaps, or my laptop computer – to give those future space explorers something to write academic papers about. Perhaps they will think that these products of our industrial and technological era are the cult objects of a strange religion. As indeed, in some sense, they are.

But let us leave these somber reflections about the possible demise of our own civilization, and look in the other direction—at the past. Why do we have such a thing as “literature” at all? Where did it come from, what purposes did it once serve, and does it still serve the same purposes today? And what do such questions have to do with “the environment”? Isn’t literature part of that division we call “art,” whereas “the environment” is that other part we call “nature”? Are not these two divisions polar opposites – art over here, man-made and symbolic, and nature over there, a blob of raw material useful to us only insofar as we can make things out of it – whether bricks and trucks and houses, or paintings, books, and films?

But I don’t think that art and nature are so widely separated. It is my premise that art was originally intertwined with nature and came out of it in the first place, and that literary art in particular was once an essential aid to our survival as a species. I would like to consider this matter under two headings: Storytelling, on the one hand – whether oral or written — and writing itself as a method for recording and transmitting stories, on the other.

First: storytelling, or the narrative act. Travel with me back in time — before cities, before villages, before agriculture.

Language and symbolic thinking – both of which are required for storytelling — are ancient. We’ve recently been informed that the Neanderthals undoubtedly had languages, just as they had funerals and music and body decoration. We’ve also been told that we ourselves share some of their genetic material — contrary to earlier opinion, which held that the Neanderthals were separate from us – a different species– and that they became extinct once we hit the scene.  But if they and we could interbreed and have fertile offspring that carried genes from both, we were in fact subsets of the same species. Thus our common ancestors must have had language and symbolic thinking, or the patterns enabling them, before the Neanderthals split off as a subset.

Very, very old, then – language and symbolic thinking.  Ontogeny repeats phylogeny, goes the biological mantra – the development of the individual recapitulates the developmental history of the species, which – they say – is why we have gills and tails in the early stages of our embryonic life. Leaving the gills and tails aside – for whatever else embryos may do, they do not make art – consider the behaviour of small children under the age of five. They learn language effortlessly, as long as they are surrounded by people who speak to them; they sing and dance; they make visual images, and they have an astonishingly early capacity to listen to and tell stories. In other words, they do everything that artists do, the only difference being that most of them do not carry on with these activities professionally as adults, though virtually all continue to participate in music, in visual art, and story-telling insome way. Every religion we know anything about contains these elements. The arts are not something separate from us, to be taken up and discarded at will: they seem to be built in. We’re hard-wired for them, you might say.  As others have said, art is not opposed to nature; for human beings, art is our nature. It is woven into our very being.

But why? Lots of other living beings get along perfectly well without it. So far as we know, there are no epics or pop stars or paintings among the horses. Those who speculate about the genetic component of human art consider it to be an evolved adaptation that was selected and developed during the very long period of time we spent in the Pleistocene, in hunting and gathering cultures. It must have been an aid to survival in those times — otherwise it would have been dropped in the course of our evolution. You can see how the ability to create or transmit a narrative – to use language to tell a story – would have given any group that possessed it a great advantage. Older members could tell younger members not only stories of disaster – how the crocodile ate Uncle George – but also stories of success – how Cousin Arnold hunted and killed an antelope – so that each generation of young people did not have to learn these things from scratch. Which plants were edible, which poisonous – this was essential knowledge, and those with no teachers wouldn’t have lived long.

Hearing second-hand how to avoid being eaten by a crocodile would have been very useful in an environment that abounded in crocodiles, and – because someone else told me this – I can now tell you one of the secrets, in case you ever need it: crocodiles can run very fast over a short course, but they can’t turn corners quickly. Therefore, don’t run away in a straight line – choose a zigzag.

And don’t go jogging in cougar country. They might mistake you for prey. What I’ve told you is a fact, and you might well forget it immediately, because you don’t need it right now: there are no cougars in this room. But if I told you a story about a young woman called Ann, who was riding her bicycle in British Columbia one day when a cougar jumped on her from behind, and if I described how it sank its teeth into her shoulder, and how she tried to fight it off, and how her friend Jane – also on a bicycle – turned around and saw the struggle, and came riding back, and hit the cougar on its nose so that it let go – you see, I prefer happy endings – and if I put in the hot breath of the cougar and its green eyes, and Ann’s blood coming out, and Jane’s fear; and, even better, if I dressed up as a cougar and two others dressed up as Ann and Jane and we acted all of this out , with perhaps some musical instruments and singing and dancing – well, you would be much less likely to forget that. And, in fact, the brain scientists tell us that people assimilate things much better through stories than through recitals of mere facts.  Stories quickly create neural pathways – they “inscribe” us. Which may be why so many people consider them important: what kinds of stories – for instance – our children are taught in school, what kinds of stories you can tell about a real person without facing a libel action.

Once, our narrative abilities were necessitated by our environment – everything not-us that surrounded us – which was huge and demanding and intricate and often harsh, but was also the source of our life. In those times, the space between the story and the subject of the story was almost non-existent. There were no books, there were no cosy armchairs in which you could curl up safely to read about wars and murders and monsters that would come in the night to eat you up. The story was told in – let’s say – a small circle of light, safe perhaps for the moment, but only for the moment. The danger that was in the story was also in the world, right next to you: just outside the circle of firelight, just outside the mouth of the cave.

Such stories were potent things. No wonder that they came to include built-in protection – some supernatural beings, let’s say, who if treated right and respected might reward you with a favourable hunt, or at least not eat you. I shouldn’t even say “supernatural,” which would imply that such beings were apart from nature. No: at first they were very much in and of nature. Every being in the environment – even rocks and trees – might be credited with what we would now call a soul, and each of these souls – if mistreated – could turn against you and create a lethal amount of bad luck.  One theory has it that the earliest form of story is the story of a journey between this reality – the here-and-now reality in which the story-teller and listeners both exist – and another realm, which might be the past or the world of the ancestors or the world of the dead. Those who enacted such journeys were once called “Shamans,” and it was their task to enter a trance, and journey in spirit from this world to another one, to commune there with other spirits – of ancestors, of animals, of plants, of numinous beings – and then to bring back some knowledge or power that would be of use to the community. Such journeys were typically undertaken at times of need, we’re told  – when famine threatened, for instance, or when there was a plague. That is one function of stories: to tell us about our choices, about the actions we might take.

We know of many cultures that once contained variations on such themes, and that have also preserved instructions about how to treat natural entities properly so that they will grant prosperity to you. In ancient Greece, there’s a myth about a man who cut down a grove of sacred trees, and was punished with famine: which is not so far from the Indian saying, “Forests precede civilization, deserts follow it.”  In one Greenlandic community that has gone back to hunting in the traditional way, the proper way to treat narwhal is to let the first ones pass, and not to kill too many. If you don’t do this, the narwhal will resent your contemptuous treatment of them, and they won’t come back.

We told such stories for a very long time before we began to write them down, and then to create other stories – new ones, stories we like to think of as “original “ – right on the page. It’s arguable that the more involved we became with the technologies for preserving and generating stories in set form, the further away we moved from the environment that gave rise to stories in the first place.

Even those story-recoding technologies, however, came out of Nature. Before we could write, we had to have alphabets – systems of symbols that might mean sounds that could be strung together into words, or else that might themselves be words, or stand for objects. Many scripts derived from pictures – the ancient Egyptian, the Chinese. Some would say all – even the ABC of English – are based on shapes found in Nature.

Although we seem to pick up spoken languages very easily as children, the same is not true of reading and writing. Both of these require quite a lot of study: like playing the piano, they are affiliated with capabilities we already have, but they are not in themselves “natural”: they must come through practice. Those who study the brain now seem to think that reading is based on the same neural programme as the one used for tracking, in the sense of animal tracking. An experienced tracker can read the marks left by an animal as one reads a story: as a series of events and actions centering around a cast of characters. The tracks and marks tell the history of the fox walking, the fox lying in wait, the death of the rabbit.

There’s an odd but suggestive fact: reading and writing are not located in the same parts of the brain, and you can have a rare kind of stroke that allows you to write but renders you incapable of reading what you yourself have just written. If reading is based on the neural programme used for tracking, what is writing based on?  Many animals use visual signals and signs to communicate with one another. Could it be something like that? I don’t know. But recent discoveries suggest that the foundations of writing go back much farther than was once thought.

However, we were story-telling for a long time before we

developed the tool we call writing, and when we did develop it, in every instance that we know about it was used first, not for poetry and narrative – people were doing that anyway — but to keep track of the proliferation and trading of material objects. In other words, it was used for accountancy. And as agriculture took over as the main method of food production, populations increased, hierarchies developed, and this tool became almost indispensible. It was soon used for the writing down of laws – such the ancient Babylonian Code of Hammurabi. Accounting was not the only use for the new technology. In ancient Chinese “shell bone writing,” for instance, characters were scratched on turtle shells or bones and used for divination, or the magical prediction of the future.

These two functions – record-keeping and magic — still inhere in the act of writing.  Setting something down – as opposed to memorizing it and transmitting it orally – freezes it, in a way; causes it to stand still in time. And you would think that this setting down and freezing would also limit the meaning of what is recorded – which is a good thing to have in a legal system, I suppose. But also, it creates a text subject to ambiguity – to many interpretations, many “readings.”  In times in which hardly anyone could read, the physical writing – on a scroll or tablet – and the ability to read it – to transform it back into a voice, and also to interpret its meaning – were both deeply respected and much feared, and those who had this ability wielded considerable authority, and were sometimes credited with supernatural power – sometimes even with a demonic form of power. Writers are still sometimes credited with those kinds of powers, though in much diminished form. Book-burnings reflect both the respect and the fear: no one would feel impelled to burn an innocuous book.

This is what we’ve inherited from the deep past, dear fellow writers – the innate ability to tell and understand stories, which came from our interactions with a demanding natural environment; and the neural programmes that enable us to read and write, which also came from that environment. The time when we lived embedded in Nature is – generationally speaking — not far away from us at all. Yet here we are –everyone in this room, and most people on the planet — in an increasingly man-made environment, in which we treat animals, not as fellow-beings with souls, but as machines. Almost everything that happens to us, and almost everything we do – including this event, so dependent on electricity – would not exist at all without a great deal of technology which we ourselves have made. But the ability of these technologies to supply power, and thus food and water, is not keeping pace with our rapid modernization and burgeoning populations.

Worse than that, it’s these very same extremely efficient technologies – technologies built for the exploitation of nature – that are now depleting the larger biological world on which we depend.

What shall we do? We can’t go back to a time before our technologies, and live in unmediated nature. A few days without clothing, cutting tools, or fire, and we’d all be dead ducks.

What kind of stories can we writers tell about our increasingly desperate situation? What kind might be of any help to the human community of which we are a part?

I can’t tell you that, because I don’t know. But I do know that as long as we have hope, we will be telling stories, and – if we have the time and the materials – we’ll be setting them down; because the telling of stories, and the wish to listen to them, transmit them, and derive meaning from them, is built into us as human beings. As for “the environment,” and all the threats to it that we’ve mentioned – will we writers set out to deal with that, and if so, how? Through didactic warnings of a too-preachy kind? Through exemplary narratives that act out our choices? Or just as background to a story with a more conventional foreground?

Already there’s a trend: stories about survival in extreme conditions – we’ve always been fond of those, but we’re becoming fonder of them as the extreme conditions loom closer. And there are disaster stories, in which the disasters are not wars or invasions of vampires or Martians, but such things as droughts and floods. On the more positive side, there are stories about people adapting to our changed conditions, or at the least, trying to live less wasteful lives.

Though perhaps we will not tackle such themes directly or deliberately. Perhaps we may think we are telling a story about love, or war, or growing old – about our ancient, constant themes, human desires and human fears. But we will weave “the environment” into our stories whether we intend to or not, because story-tellers have always been attached to their world – both physical and social — and their stories have changed as the world has changed, and our own world is changing very quickly.

So our stories will inevitably reflect those changes; and once in a while we may even be able to slip into a modern version of the shaman’s trance, and journey in spirit to another realm, and bring back something from the otherworld. It won’t be a book of instructions – there isn’t one. Perhaps it will be a talisman, to protect us, even a little. Perhaps it will be a list of dangers. Perhaps it will be a charm, to alter the way in which we see. Perhaps we will once more talk with animals, and be instructed by plants. Who knows what forms our metaphors will take?

Whatever it may be, I wish you much luck, and also much joy in your many future acts of creation.  And I wish you many readers, both now and in the future – for you see, despite the many problems we all face, I do have hope, and so I believe that these readers will in fact exist.