Category Archives: Members’ News

PEN International Declaration on Digital Freedom

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.

Day of the Imprisoned Writer Event on November 15th 2012

Images: Brian Keenan , Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, and Justine McCarthy reading at The Day of the Imprisoned Writer Event in collaboration between Irish PEN and Front Line Defenders. The New Theatre , in Dublin’s Temple Bar.

Day of the Imprisoned Writer
15 November 2012
The New Theatre
43 East Essex St., Temple Bar @ 5.30pm



The Day of the Imprisoned Writer celebrates and supports writers who resist repression of the basic human right to freedom of expression and who stand up to attacks made against their right to impart information and insight.


On 15 November former Beirut hostage and writer Brian Keenan, poet Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill and journalist Justine McCarthy will read from the work of writers based around the world who have been targeted because they had the courage to speak their minds. These writers challenge injustice and confront the governments and oppressive regimes who see every criticism as a threat to their power. The human voice is one of the most powerful weapons in defence of human rights and against tyranny, and the writers whose work will be profiled on November 15 have paid a very high price for their courage including:


Chinese poet Zhu Yufu was imprisoned for seven years last December, charged with ‘inciting subversion of state power’. The charges reportedly relate to a poem he wrote, as well as other online writings, interviews he gave to foreign media and donations he collected on behalf of families of people jailed for their pro-democracy and human rights activities.


Turkish human rights lawyer and writer Muharrem Erbey has been held in prison since 2009 charged with having links with the illegal PKK. Muharrem Erbey is a writer and columnist and member of the Kurdish Writers’ Association.


On 02 September Iranian journalist and women’s rights activist Jila Baniyaghoob began a one year prison term because of her work as a journalist and human rights campaigner, documenting the post-election demonstrations in Iran, and state violence.  Her husband, and fellow journalist, Bahman Ahmadi Amou’i is also in prison because of his work as editor of a leading business magazine.


Writers, journalists and poets often force us to confront the reality of the world we live in. They challenge the myths and the self-aggrandising propaganda to expose the truth – the violence and the repression that is inflicted on a daily basis on those who refuse to remain silent in the face of injustice.

 The Imprisoned Writer; readings with Brian Keenan and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, takes place at 5.15pm in Temple Bar’s New Theatre, with light refreshments served in Connolly Books afterwards. This is a co-event with Front Line Defenders, a Dublin-based international organisation dedicated to protecting human rights defenders at risk, people who work, non-violently, for any or all of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

Eventbrite Link for this event is at :

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PEN International Women Writer's Committee ; a Letter to President Putin.

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

t.             +44 (0)20 7405 0338       | m.             +44 (0)7824640527       | e. Twitter | Facebook |


International PEN Congress 2012

PEN Members from over 80 countries around the world gather for prominent literary gathering– The 78th PEN International Congress

 The following report on the 78th PEN International Congress is by J. Anthony Gaughan:

The 78th Pen International Congress was held in Gyeongju, South Korea, from 9 to 15 September 2012.  Eighty centres from around the world were represented at the Congress.  The 300 delegates were formally welcomed by Gil-Won Lee, president of Korean Pen.

In his key-note address John Ralston Saul emphasised the crucial role of Pen in defending and safe-guarding freedom of expression, the well-spring of democracy and the foremost bulwark of human rights.  The theme of theCongress was ‘Literature, media and human rights’.  In the light of the remarkable development of digital media Congress approved for distribution a ‘Declaration of Free Expression and Digital Technologies’ which deals with clear and urgent questions about the relationship between digital technologies and freedom of expression.  The Pen principles outlined in the declaration apply to the Internet, blogs, micro-blogs, social networks, email, voice-over, Internet Protocol calling and texting and electronic devices such as computers, cellular phones, smart phones, mini-computers, and tablets.

Reports were presented and discussed at the various committees: Writers for Peace Committee, Writers in Prison Committee, Women Writers’ Committee and Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee.  The reports to the Writers for Peace Committee covered the well-known areas of conflict around the world.  Some were quite enlightening and provided a much more complex picture of these areas than that presented by the Western media outlets. 

The Writers in Prison Committee had to hand on updated list of writers who during the past year had been killed, imprisoned or otherwise victimised for campaigning for and exercising freedom of expression and for their attempts to expose corruption in autocratic regimes of the left and the right.  The steps Pen had taken to assist them was discussed and how efforts to this end could be made more effective.  Resolutions and recommendations advocating the lifting of laws banning freedom of expression and requesting the release of journalists and writers in prison for defending human rights and the exercise of free speech were passed and forwarded to the authorities in Belarus, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Honduras, Iran, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Syria and Vietnam. 

Reports to the Women Writers’ Committee highlighted the continuing appalling plight of women in Islamic countries.  An unusual issue – the proposed international standardisation of the Portuguese language – was brought before the Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee.  This concerned a project by the Portuguese government to fundamentally reform the Portuguese language.  Their stated aim is to make the language more amenable to use in the electronic media and to make it more user-friendly to those speaking it in countries beyond Portugal, such as Brazil, East Timor, Mozambique etc.  Portuguese academics, scholars and writers strongly oppose the project arguing that it will lead to an unacceptable redaction of the language.  After a number of informative presentations the Pen Committee guaranteed its support for their stand.

John Ralston Saul was elected to serve as president for another three years.  The financial statement which indicated a significant credit balance was passed.  It was announced that the next Congress would be held next September at Reykjavik, in Iceland.

PEN International press Release on the 78th PEN International Congress

Gyeongju, Korea– Over 300 delegates have gathered in Korea’s historical city Gyeongju for the 78th PEN International Congress. The Congress was launched by host centre President Gil-Won Lee, which this year explores themes around Literature, Media and Human Rights.

PEN’s diverse and unique community of writers and members gather each year to share ideas, discuss new campaigns and initiatives,highlight emerging issues and challenges to freedom of expression around the world.

The Congress will see keynote speeches by Nobel Laureates , Wole Soyinka and Jean Marie Gustave Le Clezio as well as training sessions and workshops, lectures, literary events and networking sessions. The annual congress is an opportunity for members from all centers to share their diverse expertise and experience.

In his opening speech, PEN International President John Ralston Saul echoed the core purpose of PEN around the world:

 “Through all of [our] work we must constantly remindourselves that our cause is literature.  Literature and freedom of expression are neither a nicety nor a legal technicality.  They are a way of imagining  the relationship between peoples.  Between people.  People who may disagree or dislike each other or, in fact, know nothing about each other.”

 At the opening Ceremony, PEN International announced its Declaration on Free Expression and Digital Technologies, which will address concerns around digital technology, particularly freedom of expression through digital media.

 PEN plays a global role in promoting literature and protecting freedom of expression.

Notes to editors:

PEN International 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 globalsolidarity and cooperation. PEN International is a non-political organizationand holds consultative status at the United Nations and UNESCO.

For press and other enquiries please contact:
PEN International Campaigns & Communications Manager Sahar Halaimzai.
Tel: +44 (0)20 7405 0338
Mob: +44 (0)7596 767912

The imprisonment and conviction of Pussy Riot

PEN International statement :

“PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee is deeply concerned at the two year prison sentence handed down today to the three members of the Russian punk band, Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samusevich under Article 213 of the Russian Criminal Code. The sentence was read today at the Khamovnichesky Court in Moscow.

The three women had been held in custody since early March with their trial not beginning until July.

During the trial the women were locked in a bulletproof cage and according to their lawyers were not giving food or water for long periods of time. The prosecution and its witnesses argued that the bands act had betrayed a deep hatred of all Orthodox Christians and was not motivated by their outrage at the Putin regime, as the women had stated. ”

Read More :

Update on the review of the Copyright legislation by the Copyright Review Committee

“An independent Copyright Review Committee was established on 9 May, 2011 to examine the existing Irish copyright and legislative framework to identify any areas that might be deemed to create barriers to innovation and to make recommendations to resolve any problems identified.

The Review Committee conducted an initial consultation during the summer of 2011 and received in the region of 100 submissions from a broad spectrum of interested parties.  The Review Committee published a comprehensive discussion document on 29 February, 2012 which examined the current copyright legislative framework and sets out the issues and concerns which were expressed in the aforementioned submissions.  A public meeting was held on 24th March 2012.

In its discussion document the Committee identified various options to address these concerns in the light of its Terms of Reference and raised a number of key questions for consideration.

Further submissions were invited from all those affected or concerned by the issues raised including information providers and ISPs, innovators, rights-holders, consumers and end-users. The deadline for the receipt of submissions in response to this consultation was 29 June, 2012 (this deadline was extended on two separate occasions i.e. from 13April and 31 May as a result of a large number of requests for extensions). The Review Committee has received in the region of 180 submissions in response to the consultation.  The Department are currently in the process of publishing these submissions on the Copyright Review website and they can be viewed at the following link:

These submissions are being evaluated by the Review Committee and a final Report will be prepared setting out any recommendations for legislative change, including change at EU level, if required.” Published Department of  Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation , 30/07/2012.

EDIT , Irish TImes 31/07/2012

“CHANGES TO the Irish copyright regime could facilitate innovation and still ensure rights holders are rewarded for their ideas, Facebook has said in its submission to a body examining copyright issues for the Government.

The social networking company told the Copyright Review Committee that its operations in Ireland had not been “materially inhibited” by Irish copyright law.

However, it said there were lessons to be learned from the US regime in relation to issues such as protecting service providers from liability for content posted by their users and that exceptions provided for in the Irish copyright regime should be more flexible.”


For a list of submissions and information regarding the submissions process, the headings of the review, and issues pertinent to rights-holders,  please visit the following link ,

For further information please contact:

Press Office, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, 01 6312200,



Copyright and Intellectual property round-up

There is a lot going on at the moment with regard to how artistic works are treated.  This is a brief round-up of Copyright and Intellectual property links which should interest writers. The issue of approach to Copyright Reform and how leaders seek to deal with issues of copyright is evidently of great importance. The artistic community should involve itself at every level of discussion as Intellectual property and the right to Freedom of Speech are a part of the issue. These areas have always interested the PEN International Community of Writers.

The Copyright Review Committee 2012 has closed to submissions. The terms of reference for the review have been published and linked on the Irish PEN site for some time, and we’d like to thank members and associates who have followed the issue . This  link will bring readers to the .pdf of the published terms of reference for the Copyright Review Committee 2012. The Cearta website continously updated on the issue of Copyright Reform throughout the DJEI Submission Process . submitted a paper based in consultation and comment using an Opensource WordPress Website and encouraged people to think about the issues and headings that were proposed by DJEI. The entire submission by is available here.

Ireland’s business and artistic communities submitted to the CRC12 using a variety of means including surveys, website discussions and media. Those involved in highlighting the issue of what is believed to be an extensive reform process include Silicon Republic ,  Internet service Providers of Ireland , Cearta , , Irish Internet Association . The full list of submissions to the CRC12 will be published and should reflect a diversity of interests in what is an extremely complex area from the artistic standpoint.

ACTA. 4th July 2012: EU Parliament rejects ACTA. (ISPAI)

“This morning the EU Parliament voted to reject ACTA. The result was 478 MEPs  voted against ACTA, 39 were in favour of adopting it and there were 165  abstentions. Despite 22 EU member states including Ireland having signed the  Agreement, this vote means it cannot now be ratified by any EU country. ISPAI  recognises the need for international agreements to protect business from  counterfeit goods and to deter piracy of copyrighted works but ACTA had a poorly  thought out one size fits all approach (due to online copyright piracy being  shoe-horned in at a later stage) which was simply not practical for the Internet  environment. Key issues for MEPs were lack of clarity defining scale for online  piracy and protection of users fundamental rights. While ISPs would agree with  such principles, industry had practical concerns that ACTA appeared to require  ISPs to provide customer data to rights-holders and to impose sanctions against  alleged infringing customers without court involvement.”

Read about ACTA here

Orphan Works  (

“Orphan works (or maybe that should be “hostage works“) have become a really hot area in the copyright debate.  That’s because increasing numbers of people have realized how insane the current situation is whereby millions of older works, that are out of print and have no obvious owners, remain locked away because of copyright.  This has led to various proposals around the world to liberate them, while still protecting the copyright holders if they later appear and assert ownership.

Among these is the European Union’s Orphan Works Directive.  Given the size of the EU and the huge number of cultural artifacts that could be freed up by the right kind of legislation, this is potentially a big deal, particularly in terms of allowing works to be digitized and used in new contexts.”


Declaration of Internet Freedom

Read more Here

“We believe that a free and open Internet can bring about a better world. To keep the Internet free and open, we call on communities, industries and countries to recognize these principles. We believe that they will help to bring about more creativity, more innovation and more open societies.

We are joining an international movement to defend our freedoms because we believe that they are worth fighting for.

Let’s discuss these principles — agree or disagree with them, debate them, translate them, make them your own and broaden the discussion with your community — as only the Internet can make possible.”

A list of signatories of the Declaration Of Internet Freedom is available here.

News: MEXICO G20 – Open Letter to Journalists

The G20 Summit will take place in Mexico on the 18 and 19 June 2012. PEN International has written an open letter to journalists covering the event. We ask them, that in the course of their reporting, they raise the issue of the violence suffered by journalists and writers in Mexico, and of the impunity enjoyed by those who commit these crimes.

Please see the text of the letter below. A PDF copy is available here: Mexico G20 eng pdf

G20 Summit, Mexico, 18-19 June 2012:
An Open Letter to Journalists and Writers

Dear Colleagues,

We write to you on behalf of PEN International, the global writers and free expression organisation with over 100 centres worldwide.

We ask you, as fellow journalists and writers, to remember your murdered and disappeared Mexican colleagues when you report on this year’s G20 Summit in Mexico.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world in which to practise journalism. Since 2000, more than 80 writers, journalists and bloggers have been killed in connection to their work, and another 15 have disappeared. Many of these journalists reported on organized crime and corruption; few of their deaths have been investigated properly. There have been only a handful of convictions.

Despite the introduction of two mechanisms aimed at protecting journalists under threat, and the creation, in 2006, of the office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression, the rate at which journalists are being killed has increased rather than diminished.

In the first six months of 2012, seven writers have been murdered.

The almost 100% impunity enjoyed by those who kill or threaten journalists in Mexico owes much of its existence to the corruption and inertia that are so prevalent throughout the Mexican states. Police and employees of local administrations are often implicated in attacks on journalists, and, as the Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression publicly recognised in March 2012, threats to journalists’ right to free expression often come directly from the state authorities themselves.

In January, the International President and the International Secretary of PEN International led a delegation to Mexico comprising writers from our North American, European and Asian PEN centres, to raise international awareness of the violence suffered there by writers and journalists. The delegation met with, among others, the Mayor of Mexico City, the Minister of the Interior, the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression and the President of the Senate.

The PEN delegation called for an end to the climate of impunity, and on the Mexican Senate to approve an amendment to the Constitution that would make all attacks on journalists federal crimes. This amendment was passed in March 2012; it now needs to be approved by a majority of the states for it to become law.

However, Mexico’s commitment to freedom of expression will not be measured by legislation, but by a reduction in the number of attacks on journalists and writers, by the prosecution and conviction of those responsible for these crimes, and by tackling corruption.

PEN International asks you – in an act of solidarity with your murdered and disappeared colleagues – to raise the issue of Mexico’s climate of impunity in your coverage of the G20 summit in June.

Yours Sincerely,

John Ralston Saul
International President

Hori Takeaki
International Secretary

Marian Botsford Fraser
Chair of the Writers in Prison Committee

Press Contacts:
John Ralston Saul, International President, 00 1 416-964-2313
Cathal Sheerin 00 44 (0)20 7405 0338

This post is also available in: French, Spanish

Calling a halt to the killings in Syria, letter to the Irish Times.

The following letter was published in the Irish Times on the 28th of April 2012.

Sir, – Credible reports that Syrian security forces have murdered people who have had contact with UN monitors represent a challenge to all of us. The United Nations acts in our name. If silence represents complicity in the face of crimes against humanity, allowing the UN to be used to select people for summary execution makes us even more culpable, unless we take action to stop the killing.The UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, even before these most recent crimes, had called for the referral of the Assad regime to theInternational Criminal Court.

In the light of the string of recent atrocities, that makes a mockery of efforts to secure peace in Syria, surely the Dáil and Seanad will demand such action in an urgent resolution, and request the Minister for Foreign Affairs to seek to lobby the Security Council to act.

Thousands have died as tanks and artillery have indiscriminately shelled besieged cities and snipers have targeted peaceful protesters. But the most egregious aspect of the Assad regime’s response has been the callous and indiscriminate targeting of children.

Lois Whitman, children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch, has stated: “Syrian security forces have killed, arrested, and tortured children in their homes, their schools, or on the streets. In many cases, security forces have targeted children just as they have targeted adults.. It’s clear from the brutal methods used against children that Syrian security forces show child detainees no mercy . . . We fear that children will continue to face horrendous punishment in detention until Syrian officials understand they will pay a price for such abuse.”

If we fail to act, we may condemn thousands, including who knows how many children, to torture and death. The heart-rending memorial on April 6th in Sarajevo commemorating the outbreak of war, and which highlighted the deaths of more than 1,000 children in the indiscriminate slaughter of the siege, is a compelling reminder of how real that threat is in Syria. – Yours, etc,


(from , The Irish Times , 28/04/2012)

A letter from our membership secretary.

– The Irish PEN AGM takes place at the UAC at 7p.m., Thursday May 10th –
– Members’ news – send us news of this year’s publications, launches and events –
– Writing Memoir event: 8p.m. at the UAC on Thursday, May 10th –

Emer Liston , Irish PEN Membership Secretary


” We have had a very eventful and successful year at Irish PEN. From our first event after the summer, Writing for children and young people, through to our Annual PEN Award Dinner at which Joseph O’Connor’s outstanding achievement in literature was marked by the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, we’ve enjoyed great company and rich discussion about the work of writing in Ireland today.

At our most recent event, we enjoyed the company of Morgan Llewellyn and Orna Ross in an evening of stories and insight into Historical Fiction and a feast of talent is in store on the 10th of this month, when we look at Writing Memoir, with Molly McCloskey, Lia Mills, Sheila Maher and John MacKenna. This event is proving very popular, and you can conveniently book your place online by clicking here.

Our news section in will keep you up to date on our participation in campaigns and letters to publications here in Ireland, including our campaign on blasphemy, and correspondence calling for action in Syria, published in last weekend’s Irish Times.  Meanwhile, please let us know about your news this year – we are compiling our latest newsletter and wish to feature and promote new publications, launches and the successes of all members and associates of PEN. 


Finally, and most importantly, our AGM takes place immediately before our Writing Memoir event, at 7 p.m. on May 10th, at the United Arts Club. All members are most welcome to attend.

We look forward to meeting you next Thursday, and hearing your news.”

Warmest regards,
Emer Liston,  Membership Secretary at Irish PEN.


Details of our Next Event are carried on our homepage and at this link

Irish PEN membership and renewal details are available here