Irish PEN implores the Saudi Arabian authorities and all international bodies with influence in Saudi Arabia to act immediately to prevent the whipping of blogger Raif Badawi, scheduled to take place again on Friday January 16th at Alislahia Jail, Jeddah. The imminent and potentially lethal flogging violates the absolute prohibition in international law against torture and maltreatment.

In November 2014, Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam” and “founding a liberal website.” According to sources close to the case, he will receive 50 lashes each Friday following morning prayers for 20 weeks; this unimaginably cruel and harsh punishment began on January 9th.  The extended punishment is likely to push Badawi’s body to its outermost limits, causing severe long-term damage and possibly death.


Irish PEN calls on the Saudi Arabian authorities to release Raif Badawi and his lawyer Walid Abu al-Khair immediately and unconditionally as they are being held solely for their peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression.  In the meantime, we call for both men to be granted all necessary medical treatment, as well as access to their families and lawyers of their choice.

Irish PEN urges the Irish Government to make respect for human rights and international law a requisite for the kind of close relationship it shares with Saudi Arabia and its leader, King Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz bin Saud. We call on our Representatives to publicly condemn this action, and call for the flogging to be halted immediately and for this profoundly unjust sentence to be rescinded, allowing Badawi to return to his family.

Irish PEN member and best selling author, journalist Martina Devlin highlighted the case in the Irish Independent:

Just days ago, Enda Kenny stood shoulder to shoulder with other leaders in Paris to champion freedom of expression. Among world representatives at the pro-democracy march was the Saudi ambassador to France, Muhammed Ismail Al-Sheikh.

Two days earlier, Saudia Arabia had flogged a blogger. Fifty blows in public. The first salvo in a barbaric sentence which condemns him to 1,000 lashes. His crime? Expressing ideas through free speech. He set up a website – now closed down – encouraging social debate about religious and political issues.

Even as the Saudi government condemned Islamic fundamentalist violence elsewhere, it was silencing a voice of peaceful dissent at home. And in the most inhumane fashion.

Tomorrow, blogger Raif Badawi is due to receive another 50 blows with a cane outside a mosque in Jeddah. The 31-year-old father-of-three will undergo this ritualised exercise in pain and humiliation for 20 consecutive Fridays. Corporal punishment is defined as torture according to international human rights law. Yet his only crime is to stimulate social debate. 

After each flogging he is returned to prison, where he has been held since June 2012. His sentence also includes a 10-year jail term and a fine of €225,000. For good measure, his lawyer was given a lengthy jail term.

Read the full article here:

Irish PEN

Irish PEN was formed in 1935. It is an association of Irish writers, associate members and friends concerned in the written word, in freedom of expression and in the love of literature.

Irish PEN is affiliated to PEN International, who also condemn this action outright.

Irish PEN logo


Emer Liston, Writers in Prison Committee Secretary, Irish PEN  c/o The United Arts Club, 3 Upper Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin 2

Irish PEN are fully in support of the statement by PEN International about the horrific attack 7th January on French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo:

PEN International and 42 PEN Centres around the world condemn the unprecedented attack on the office of the French publication Charlie Hebdo in Paris today in which 12 people died and seven were injured.

This is not the first time that journalists, editors, writers, cartoonists  and translators have been targeted for expressing opinions that may offend, outrage or shock sections of society. But there has never been an assault on such a scale in Europe. There can be no justification for using violence to silence or intimidate those who speak out, no matter how offensive their views.

In the face of such violence, it is incumbent on all governments and religious leaders to strengthen their commitment to press freedom and to safeguard freedom of expression as a fundamental human right. This attack must be investigated promptly and impartially in accordance with international standards and the perpetrators brought to justice.

John Ralston Saul, President of PEN International said: “PEN is appalled by today’s savage attack on Charlie Hebdo. Today the entire PEN family stands in solidarity with journalists in France, and all over the world, who are increasingly subjected to violence for exercising their right to freedom of expression.”

Condemning the cowardly attack on the office of the magazine, Jean-Luc Despax, President of French PEN said: “Despite this atrocious act, freedom of expression remains intact, whether expressed through art, satire or analysis.”

- See more at:

Journalists and writers from Brazil, Austria, Germany, Argentina, Turkey, India, Bulgaria, Iran, Norway, Pakistan, Ireland, China, Estonia, Mexico and Vietnam, among others, participate in “Time to say No!”, An anthology  by Helmuth Niederle and Philo Ikonya, writers and editors.

Malala Yousafzai

Philo Ikonya and Helmuth Niederle have produced a book of over two hundred multilingual poems and protests themed in our ability as writers to refuse violence against girls like Malala who have sought with passion to be educated. The book will be launched on the 7th and 8th of March 2013 to coincide with international Women’s Day 2013.

Our sincere thanks to the Irish writers who participated and to Philo and Helmuth who have made the text available in pdf via a public drop-box link.

This link will lead readers to the words of contributors aged 11-80 who desire to support the education of girls and to protest the shooting of a child.

  • The right to education is a universal human right. It is a basic right which fosters and guarantees democracy founded on constitutional legality. This is independent of and not based on or limited by gender
  • Time to say No ! Poems for Malala Yousafzai 

PEN recognizes the promise of digital media as a means of fulfilling the fundamental right of free expression. At the same time, poets, playwrights, essayists, novelists, writers, bloggers, and journalists are suffering violations of their right to freedom of expression for using digital media. Citizens in many countries have faced severe restrictions in their access to and use of digital media, while governments have exploited digital technologies to suppress freedom of expression and to surveil individuals. The private sector and technology companies in particular have at times facilitated government censorship and surveillance. PEN therefore declares the following:

1. All persons have the right to express themselves freely through digital media without fear of reprisal or persecution.

a. Individuals who use digital media enjoy full freedom of expression protections under international laws and standards.

b. Governments must not prosecute individuals or exact reprisals upon individuals who convey information, opinions, or ideas through digital media.

c. Governments must actively protect freedom of expression on digital media by enacting and enforcing effective laws and standards.

2. All persons have the right to seek and receive information through digital media.

a. Governments should not censor, restrict, or control the content of digital media, including content from domestic and international sources.

b. In exceptional circumstances, any limitations on the content of digital media must adhere to international laws and standards that govern the limits of freedom of expression, such as incitement to violence.

c. Governments should not block access to or restrict the use of digital media, even during periods of unrest or crisis. Controlling access to digital media, especially on a broad scale, inherently violates the right to freedom of expression.

d. Governments should foster and promote full access to digital media for all persons.

3. All persons have the right to be free from government surveillance of digital media.

a. Surveillance, whether or not known by the specific intended target, chills speech by establishing the potential for persecution and the fear of reprisals. When known, surveillance fosters a climate of self-censorship that further harms free expression.

b. As a general rule, governments should not seek to access digital communications between or among private individuals, nor should they monitor individual use of digital media, track the movements of individuals through digital media, alter the expression of individuals, or generally surveil individuals.

c. When governments do conduct surveillance—in exceptional circumstances and in connection with legitimate law enforcement or national security investigations—any surveillance of individuals and monitoring of communications via digital media must meet international due process laws and standards that apply to lawful searches, such as obtaining a warrant by a court order.

d. Full freedom of expression entails a right to privacy; all existing international laws and standards of privacy apply to digital media, and new laws and standards and protections may be required.

e. Government gathering and retention of data and other information generated by digital media, including data mining, should meet international laws and standards of privacy, such as requirements that the data retention be time-limited, proportionate, and provide effective notice to persons affected.

4. The private sector, and technology companies in particular, are bound by the right to freedom of expression and human rights.

a. The principles stated in this declaration equally apply to the private sector.


b. Companies must respect human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, and must uphold these rights even when national laws and regulations do not protect them.

c. Technology companies have a duty to determine how their products, services, and policies impact human rights in the countries in which they intend to operate. If violations are likely, or violations may be inextricably linked to the use of products or services, the companies should modify or withdraw their proposed plans in order to respect human rights.

d. Technology companies should incorporate freedom of expression principles into core operations, such as product designs with built-in privacy protections.

e. If their operations are found to have violated the right to freedom of expression, technology companies should provide restitution to those whose rights were violated, even when governments do not provide remedies.

President Vladimir Putin

President of the Russian Federation

Re. Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova

Your Excellency,

The Women Writers Committee of PEN International, the largest worldwide association of writers with centers in over 100 countries, continues to be extremely concerned about our jailed Russian colleagues, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, members of the Pussy Riot band who are still incarcerated. We welcome the release of Ekaterina Samusevich.

Artists, governmental and religious leaders have all spoken out against the harsh treatment these women received after a protest in the Moscow Cathedral which did no damage. They were convicted of hooliganism and sentenced to two years imprisonment, after being held in jail for many months without trial. What has happened to them is completely inconsistent with a healthy society that permits freedom of expression.

We continue to call for the immediate release of Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.


Ekbal Baraka

Chair, PEN International Women Writers Committee




You can send messages to President Putin on the Kremlin website


Or by mail:


President Vladimir Putin

President of the Russian Federation

23, Ilyinka Street,
Moscow, 103132



You may find that the Russian ambassador in your own country is more likely to respond to your appeals, so we recommend that you either write to him or her directly or send a copy of your appeal. You can find the Russian embassy in your country here.


Messages of solidarity to the prisoners can be sent via the FreePussyRiot


For further information please contact Sara Whyatt at PEN International Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International, Brownlow House, 50-51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER Tel: +44 (02) 20 7405 0338 Fax: +44 (0) 20 74050339 Email:



Sara Whyatt | Deputy Director | Sous-Directeur | Sub-Directora | PEN International

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