As I write, hundreds of journalists and writers are in prison.
More than half of those jailed for their work are behind bars in Turkey, China, and Egypt. The pattern reflects a dismal failure by the international community to address a global crisis in freedom of the press.
Founded in 1921, PEN is a worldwide association of writers with a common concern for the art of writing and freedom of expression. PEN groups campaign all around the world on behalf of writers who have been silenced by persecution or imprisonment.
PEN Perth is one of 147 PEN international centres around the world. As part of its major launch and fundraising effort, PEN Perth will welcome award-winning and internationally recognised foreign correspondent Peter Greste to the city on Thursday 31 May. In 2013, Peter spent 400 days in an Egyptian prison on false charges. PEN International worked alongside thousands of individuals and organisations around the world to campaign for his release.
Joined by Victoria Laurie, Peter will speak to issues of media censorship, freedom of expression in times of war, human rights, the role of writing, and how people can participate as private citizens in safeguarding democracy.
As a former journalist and as a writer, I believe it is essential we speak up for freedom of expression at all times. We must always remember the importance of writing in our society, no matter where we live in the world. Renowned Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk reminds us:
“When another writer in another house is not free, no writer is free”.
I urge you to join up to your local PEN branch to stay informed. PEN Perth is still developing a website, but in the meantime you can follow activities on the Facebook page and subscribe via the Centre for Stories website.