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Nordic PEN centres and Estonian PEN gather in Helsinki

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The Nordic-Estonian meeting brings Sjón, the President of Icelandic PEN, to Helsinki. (Photo: Magnus Fröderberg, norden.org (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0))

The Nordic-Estonian meeting brings Sjón, the President of Icelandic PEN, to Helsinki. (Photo: Magnus Fröderberg, norden.org (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0))

Members from Danish, Estonian, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish PEN centres are gathering in Helsinki to a network meeting on September 7–9 2016. The meeting ends to a public seminar on freedom of speech in our countries on September 9. 

Nordic PEN centres and Estonian PEN are gathering in Helsinki to a network meeting on September 7–9 2016. The event brings together over 20 members from different PEN boards.

In connection to the meeting there will be a public seminar on freedom of speech in our countries on September 9. In Priceless Words – The Nordic-Estonian Freedom of Speech Seminar members from Danish, Estonian, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish PEN centres share their views with interesting guests and invite the audience to discuss.

Writer Sirpa Kähkönen, the President of Finnish PEN, is one of the moderators at the Nordic-Estonian Freedom of Speech Seminar. (Photo: Otava, Tommi Tuomi)

Writer Sirpa Kähkönen, the President of Finnish PEN, is one of the moderators at the Nordic-Estonian Freedom of Speech Seminar. (Photo: Otava, Tommi Tuomi)

Discussing on the topic are the following guests: editor and literature researcher Kerstin Almegård (Sweden), author and media researcher, Professor Elisabeth Eide (Norway), journalist Niels-Ivar Larsen (Denmark), author and researcher of Japanese language and culture Rein Raud (Estonia), author Hassan Blasim (Iraq/Finland), author, critic and translator Kätlin Kaldmaa (Estonia), author and poet Sjón (Iceland) and novelist and poet Kári Tulinius (Iceland). The panels are moderated by media researcher and Professor Anu Koivunen (Finland) and author Sirpa Kähkönen (Finland).

Priceless Words – The Nordic-Estonian Freedom of Speech Seminar takes place on September 9 at 13–17 in the Nordic Culture Point in Helsinki. The language of the seminar is English. The registration to the event has ended, but you can follow the live streaming of the seminar at https://connect.ilonait.fi/pricelesswords.

Read more about Priceless Words – The Nordic-Estonian Freedom of Speech Seminar at The Nordic Culture Point’s website.

Priceless Words – The Nordic-Estonian Freedom of Speech Seminar includes author and researcher of Japanese language and culture Rein Raud (Estonia). (Photo: Flickr, Gert Gutmann (CC BY 2.0))

Priceless Words – The Nordic-Estonian Freedom of Speech Seminar includes author and researcher of Japanese language and culture Rein Raud (Estonia). (Photo: Flickr, Gert Gutmann (CC BY 2.0))

Writer Hassan Blasim (Iraq/Finland) is one of the guests in the public seminar on September 9. (Photo: Flickr, Dunkers kulturhus (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

Writer Hassan Blasim (Iraq/Finland) is one of the guests in the public seminar on September 9. (Photo: Flickr, Dunkers kulturhus (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

Author Kätlin Kaldmaa, the President of Estonian PEN, is one of the panelists in the public Priceless Words seminar. (Photo: Arno Mikkor)

Author Kätlin Kaldmaa, the President of Estonian PEN, is one of the panelists in the public Priceless Words seminar. (Photo: Arno Mikkor)

The seminar is organized in cooperation with Finnish PEN, The Nordic Culture Point and Hanaholmen – the Swedish-Finnish Cultural Centre. The seminar is funded also by The Icelandic-Finnish Cultural FoundationThe Finnish-Danish Cultural Foundation and The Finnish-Norwegian Cultural Foundation. Finnish PEN would like to thank Ministry of Foreign Affairs of FinlandSecretariat for Nordic Co-Operation / Nordic Council of Ministers and cultural center Caisa for cooperation.

Remember to register for Priceless Words seminar

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Kuva: Jukka Laajarinne

Kuva: Jukka Laajarinne

Priceless Words – The Nordic-Estonian Freedom of Speech Seminar takes place on 9.9. in Helsinki. The registration is available still today 31.8.

In Priceless Words – The Nordic-Estonian Freedom of Speech Seminar members from Danish, Estonian, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish PEN centres share their views with interesting guests and invite the audience to discuss. The seminar is free of charge and open for everyone interested in literature and freedom of expression.

Priceless Words – The Nordic-Estonian Freedom of Speech, time and place:

Friday 9.9.2016, 13–17
TING hall, The Nordic Culture Point, Kaisaniemenkatu 9, Helsinki

The language of the seminar is English.

Because of the limited seating it is necessary to register for the seminar. The registration is available until 31.8 or as long as there are seats left. Make sure to book your place in time. Please register on The Nordic Culture Point’s website.

The seminar is organized in cooperation with Finnish PEN, The Nordic Culture Point and Hanaholmen – the Swedish-Finnish Cultural Centre. The seminar is funded also by The Icelandic-Finnish Cultural Foundation, The Finnish-Danish Cultural Foundation and The Finnish-Norwegian Cultural Foundation. Finnish PEN would like to thank Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, Secretariat for Nordic Co-Operation / Nordic Council of Ministers and cultural center Caisa for cooperation.

The registration to the seminar Priceless Words begins

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Priceless Words – The Nordic-Estonian Freedom of Speech Seminar

Estonian PEN and the Nordic PEN centres are gathering in Helsinki to a network meeting in September 7–9 2016. In connection to the meeting there will be a public seminar on freedom of speech in our countries on 9th September. The registration to the seminar Priceless Words will begin today. You are welcome to join us!

Priceless Words – The Nordic-Estonian Freedom of Speech Seminar

Kuva: Jukka Laajarinne

Photo: Jukka Laajarinne

Friday 9.9.2016

13:00–17:00

TING hall, The Nordic Culture Point

Kaisaniemenkatu 9, Helsinki

250 years of press freedom – the Nordic Principle of Publicity – is being celebrated this year. Press freedom and freedom of expression are deeply rooted in and valued high among the northern democratic societies.

Writers’ international freedom of expression organization PEN follows the worldwide status of free speech. In Priceless Words – The Nordic-Estonian Freedom of Speech Seminar members from Danish, Estonian, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish PEN centres share their views with interesting guests and invite the audience to discuss.

1. THE RIGHT TO SPEAK

Freedom of speech is debated vigorously in the Nordic countries and Estonia at the moment. In Poland and Hungary, new sets of laws challenge free press, even democracy. What does the future hold for free speech in Scandinavia and around the Gulf of Finland? Is democracy threatened in our countries? And, can free speech hurt a democracy?

Discussing the topic is: editor, literature researcher Kerstin Almegård (Sweden), author, media researcher, Professor Elisabeth Eide (Norway), journalist Niels-Ivar Larsen (Denmark) and author, researcher of Japanese language and culture Rein Raud (Estonia). The panel is moderated by media researcher, Professor Anu Koivunen (Finland).

– Coffee break –

2. IS THERE DANGEROUS LITERATURE?

Words are powerful and fragile at the same time. Sometimes they come with a cost – the world sees writers to pay the price. Looking from the past to the present: what makes a book dangerous? Is dangerous literature still being created?

Discussing the topic is: author Hassan Blasim (Iraq/Finland), author, critic, translator Kätlin Kaldmaa (Estonia), author, poet Sjón (Iceland) and novelist, poet Kári Tulinius (Iceland). The panel is moderated by author Sirpa Kähkönen (Finland).

LANGUAGE
The language of the seminar is English.

STREAMING
It is possible to follow the seminar in real time: the stream is provided by Ilona IT. The stream link will be updated to The Norcid Culture Point’s website closer to the event.

REGISTRATION
The seminar is free of charge and open for everyone interested in literature and freedom of expression. Because of the limited seating it is necessary to register for the seminar. The registration is available 17.6–31.8 or as long as there are seats left.

Make sure to book your place in time, please register on The Nordic Culture Point’s website (the registration opens on 17.6.).

ACCESSIBILITY
The TING Hall at the Nordic Culture Point is accessible. Assistant dogs are welcome.

The seminar is organized in cooperation with Finnish PEN, The Nordic Culture Point and Hanaholmen – the Swedish-Finnish Cultural Centre. The seminar is funded also by The Icelandic-Finnish Cultural Foundation, The Finnish-Danish Cultural Foundation and The Finnish-Norwegian Cultural Foundation. Finnish PEN would like to thank Ministry of Foreign Affairs of FinlandSecretariat for Nordic Co-Operation / Nordic Council of Ministers and cultural center Caisa for cooperation.

For more information:

Contact person until 13.7.2016:

Johanna Sillanpää, Executive Director, Finnish PEN, pentiedotus(at)gmail.com, +358 40 2171 280

Contact person from 14.7.2016:

Marianne Bargum, Vice President, Finnish PEN, marianne.bargum(at)gmail.com

The Nordic Culture Point:

Emilia Koivunen, Senior Communications Advisor, ek(at)kulturkontaktnord.org, +358 10 583 1032

On World Press Freedom day 2016

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Finnish PEN joins Finnish Newspapers Association and 19 other organizations to demand responsible use of words on the International Press Freedom Day 2016

World_Press_Freedom_Day_social_media

Aikakauslehtien liitto
Aikakauslehtien Päätoimittajat ry
International Press Institute, Suomen-ryhmä
Julkisen sanan neuvosto
Kulttuuri-, mielipide- ja tiedelehtien liitto Kultti ry
MTV
Paikallislehtien Päätoimittajayhdistys ry
Palkansaajalehdet Pale ry
Päätoimittajien Yhdistys
RadioMedia ry
Sanomalehtien Liitto
Suomen Journalistiliitto
Suomen Kaupunkilehtien Päätoimittajat ry
Suomen Kirjailijaliitto
Suomen Kustannusyhdistys
Suomen PEN – Finnish PEN
Suomen tietokirjailijat ry
Toimittajat ilman rajoja, Suomen-osasto
Viestinnän Keskusliitto
Yle

A statement on Bangladesh by the Nordic and Estonian PEN centres

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In support of secular bloggers and freethinkers in Bangladesh – The Nordic and Estonian PEN centres condemn the acts of violence and demand protection for those in danger

 

27.4.2016

Freedom of expression is under a serious threat once again in Bangladesh, where four freethinkers have been brutally murdered within a month:

  • On April 25th Xulhaz Mannan, a gay rights activist and an editor at LGBT magazine, Roopbaan, and a fellow activist and USAID employee Tanay Mojumdar were killed in Mannan’s apartment in Dhaka.
  • On April 23rd Professor Rezaul Karim Siddique, an academic and cultural activist, was hacked to death by machete men in Rajshahi.
  • Nazimuddin Samad, a law student, wrote critically on Islam on his Facebook page and was brutally murdered in Dhaka on April 7th.

In 2015, five secular bloggers, online activists, writers and publishers were killed in attacks. Among them was Avjit Roy, a founder of Bangladesh’s leading secular blog, Mukto-Mona.

These savage acts send a loud message of intimidation. There is a climate of silence, fear and extreme danger prevailing for secular people of Bangladesh. The recent trend of spiralling terror of radical Islamists against secular freethinkers and religious and sexual minority groups is highly alarming. It’s also unexpected from a secular country, which has a composite national identity and a long history of tolerance.

Since 1975, Bangladesh has gone through a religious transformation under two military rulers. After the student-led mass uprising in December 1990, Bangladesh entered into a new era of parliamentary democracy in 1991. But the democratic leaders made dangerous liaison with Islamist parties keeping in mind the electoral politics. As a result, Islamist narrative has gained leeway in democratic policy. The current government of Awami League came to power through a flawed election in 2014 that did not bear international standards. The election was conducted amidst the boycott of the main opposition party demanding installation of a credible election commission. The opposition was emboldened by tacit support of the Islamist groups. In the absence of a credible democratic environment and divisive politics, Islamists are flexing their muscles now. So far the country’s government has shown an utter failure in protecting secular voices who exercise their lawful right of free expression.

“The [Bangladeshi] government response has been shocking – at a speech to mark the Bangla New Year, while calling for tolerance, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed chose to criticise the vulnerable bloggers, saying it was not acceptable to write against religion, instead of warning the emboldened killers, who continue to act with impunity”, said Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.

A secular government in a democratic state can’t dictate its citizens what to write – it’s against the main principle of free speech, the fundamental cornerstone of a democratic society. What makes it particularly appalling is that the government is turning its back and showing clear unwillingness in protecting its own citizens, who represent the country’s brightest thinkers – those, who stand for education, equality, human rights and worry about the future of their country. This is unacceptable.

The current crisis in Bangladesh reflects the fight for the soul of the country. To be able to retain its secular identity and save its representative democratic institutions from falling in the hand of political Islamists the top Bangladeshi politicians must make a choice.  It can only be possible through honest and open dialogue among major political parties of the country. Questions remain; can political leaders rise over their partisan and parochial interests? This requires courage and vision.

What the Nordic and Estonian PEN centres see is a crisis of a democracy and a country falling into a chaos. What we receive is desperate cries for help from the bloggers and freethinkers dreading for their lives. It is a heart aching, critical situation in which the Nordic and Estonian democracies and the international community must act together with Bangladesh’s government.

Unesco’s World Press Freedom Day is being celebrated in Helsinki, Finland, on May 3–4 2016. This is the time and place for the international community to reaffirm their commitment in defence of the right to freedom of expression, show support for the Bangladeshi freethinkers and discuss the ways of cooperation.

We, the Nordic and Estonian PEN centres, stand with secular freethinkers of Bangladesh in their right to freedom of expression as enshrined in our own charter and various global conventions including that of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

We urge Bangladesh government to:

  1. Protect secular bloggers, writers, publishers, academics and human rights activists from violent campaign of radical Islamist groups.
  2. Bring perpetrators of violence to justice and put end to the culture of impunity.
  3. Protect the space for freedom of expression in the country.
  4. Protect minority groups including religious and sexual minority groups and others.
  5. Take steps to arrange a credible national election in cooperation with all major political parties because in the absence of a proper democracy, undemocratic forces flourish.

We urge our own governments in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden to:

  1. Find ways to protect freethinkers in Bangladesh.
  2. Offer more safe havens in our countries to those who are in a critical state.
  3. Support and ensure the democratic development in Bangladesh, and to build stronger diplomatic ties with the country.

 

Kätlin Kaldmaa, Eesti PEN – Estonian PEN

Sirpa Kähkönen, Suomen PEN – Finnish PEN

Ola Larsmo, Svenska P.E.N. – Swedish PEN

William Nygaard, Norsk P.E.N. – Norwegian PEN

Sjón, PEN á Íslandi – Icelandic PEN

Per Øhrgaard, Dansk PEN – Danish PEN

PEN, the worldwide association of writers, defends freedom of expression according to its charter everywhere in the world.

Thai authorities ban a journalist’s trip to Helsinki

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Thai journalist’s ban from joining UNESCOs Press Freedom Day conference in Helsinki violates freedom of expression

Finnish organizations promoting freedom of expression are disappointed in Thailand’s government’s decision to ban journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk from travelling to Finland. Rojanaphruk was invited to participate in UNESCOs Press Freedom Day conference in Helsinki during May 2–4 2016. Finnish PEN, Reporters Without Borders in Finland, Finnish Foundation for Media and Development Vikes and Union of Journalists in Finland are demanding Pravit Rojanaphruk to be allowed to participate in the conference. Kirsti Westphalen, Finland’s ambassador to Thailand, has also expressed her regret in Thai authorities’ decision.

“A journalist participating in International Press Freedom Day can’t possess any kind of real threat to his home country. This ban is a punishment targeted to a single professional. Also, it is a blow on freedom of expression. According to the PEN International charter, free expression requires free movability and exchange of thoughts and the right to criticize governments and institutions”, says author Sirpa Kähkönen, president of Finnish PEN.

Pravit Rojanaphruk, who contributes to Khaosod English media outlet, is known as a keen defender of freedom of expression, who hasn’t shied away from criticizing Thailand’s military junta: The National Council of Peace and Order’s (NCPO) coup d’état took place in May 2014. He’s been particularly critical towards Thailand’s lèse-majesté law and has been arrested twice. Pravit Rojanaphruk worked over two decades for the newspaper The National but lost his job due to the pressure received by the paper after his detention. The lèse-majesté law is against the main principles of freedom of expression and an efficient way to silence media.

Background information:

NCPO has sustained ”peace and order” in Thailand by martial law that was revoked in March 2015. Media is still being strictly controlled and censorship reaches Internet. Journalists, dissidents, researchers, human rights activists and artists are being silenced. If not committing to self-censorship, the climate of fear is being created by handing fines and through arbitrary detention. Writers are arrested, imprisoned and they disappear solely for practicing their legal right to peacefully express their opinions.

Thailand is a state party to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects the legal right in expressing one’s opinion. PEN demands Thailand to fulfil its international obligations in protecting freedom of expression, to stop harassing writers and free the imprisoned writers.

1.4.2016 in Helsinki

Sirpa Kähkönen, Finnish PEN

Niklas Kaskeala, Finnish Foundation for Media and Development Vikes

Ilkka Nousiainen, Reporters Without Borders Finland

Juha Rekola, Union of Journalists in Finland

Literature without borders 18.3

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Seminar examines the Nordic literary field from a multilingual perspective

The Nordic countries are becoming more and more multilingual, and many writers living in the Nordic countries are writing in other languages than the Nordic ones. What is the position of the writers writing in other languages than the national ones within the literary field and how does literature travel across language and national borders in the Nordic countries? The seminar aims find new solutions to the problems that these writers are facing in the field of Nordic literature. Literature withour borders is organized by Culture for All Service, The Nordic Culture Point, The International Cultural Centre Caisa, Finnish PEN, The Finnish Critics’ Association, The Finnish Reading Centre and Sivuvalo project.

In the panel ‘New beginnings’, moderated by Iida Simes (Finnish PEN), authors Anisur Rahman (ICORN/ Uppsala), Manal Al Sheikh (ICORN/ Stavanger) & Mazen Maarouf (ICORN/ Reykjavík) and Thomas Wallgren (Helsinki City Council) discuss how to live and work in exile, often still under threat.

Literature without borders 18 March 2016 at 9.00-18.00 in the Nordic Culture Point and International Cultural Centre Caisa (Meeting rooms, Vuorikatu 14, 2nd Floor). The day will continue with multilingual literature club in the International Cultural Centre Caisa (Festivity Hall, Vuorikatu 14, 1st Floor) at 19.00.

See the whole programme and register via Nordic Culture Point not later than 1 March. The languages of the seminar is Scandinavian languages (Swedish, Norwegian & Danish) and English. Panels will be in English and presentations in Scandinavian languages will be interpreted into English. The literature club in the evening is multilingual. No registrantion or entry fees.

You’re warmly welcome to join the seminar!

PEN on the Charlie Hebdo anniversary

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On the anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attack dissenting voices must be protected

 7 January 2016

CH-imageOn the anniversary of the brutal attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo we, the undersigned, reaffirm our commitment to the defence of the right to freedom of expression, even when that right is being used to express views that some may consider offensive.

The Charlie Hebdo attack, which left 11 dead and 12 wounded, was a horrific reminder of the violence to which journalists, artists and other critical voices are subjected in a global atmosphere marked by increasing intolerance of dissent.  The killings inaugurated a year that has proved especially challenging for proponents of freedom of opinion.

Non-state actors perpetrated violence against their critics largely with impunity, including the brutal murders of four secular bloggers in Bangladesh by Islamist extremists, and the killing of an academic, M M Kalburgi, who wrote critically against Hindu fundamentalism in India.

Despite the turnout of world leaders on the streets of Paris in an unprecedented display of solidarity with free expression following the Charlie Hebdo murders, artists and writers faced intense repression from governments throughout the year. In Malaysia, cartoonist Zunar is facing a possible 43-year prison sentence for alleged ‘sedition’; in Iran, cartoonist Atena Fardaghani is serving a 12-year sentence for a political cartoon; and in Saudi Arabia, Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh was sentenced to death for the views he expressed in his poetry.

Perhaps the most far-reaching threats to freedom of expression in 2015 came from governments ostensibly motivated by security concerns. Following the attack on Charlie Hebdo, 11 interior ministers from European Union countries including France, Britain and Germany issued a statement in which they called on Internet service providers to identify and remove online content ‘that aims to incite hatred and terror.’  In July, the French Senate passed a controversial law giving sweeping new powers to the intelligence agencies to spy on citizens, which the UN Human Rights Committee categorised as “excessively broad”.

This kind of governmental response promotes self-censorship. In order to fully exercise the right to freedom of expression, individuals must be able to communicate without fear of intrusion by the State. Under international law, the right to freedom of expression also protects speech that some may find shocking, offensive or disturbing. Importantly, the right to freedom of expression means that those who feel offended also have the right to challenge others through free debate and open discussion, or through peaceful protest.

On the anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, we, the undersigned, call on all Governments to:

  • Uphold their international obligations to protect the rights of freedom of expression and information for all, and especially for journalists, writers, artists and human rights defenders to publish, write and speak freely;
  • Promote a safe and enabling environment for those who exercise their right to freedom of expression, and ensure that journalists, artists and human rights defenders may perform their work without interference;
  • Combat impunity for threats and violations aimed at journalists and others exercising their right to freedom of expression, and ensure impartial, timely and thorough investigations that bring the executors and masterminds behind such crimes to justice. Also ensure victims and their families have expedient access to appropriate remedies;
  • Repeal legislation which restricts the right to legitimate freedom of expression, especially vague and overbroad national security, sedition, obscenity, blasphemy and criminal defamation laws, and other legislation used to imprison, harass and silence critical voices, including on social media and online;
  • Ensure that respect for human rights is at the heart of communication surveillance policy. Laws and legal standards governing communication surveillance must therefore be updated, strengthened and brought under legislative and judicial control. Any interference can only be justified if it is clearly defined by law, pursues a legitimate aim and is strictly necessary to the aim pursued.

PEN International
ActiveWatch – Media Monitoring Agency
Adil Soz – International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Africa Freedom of Information Centre
ARTICLE 19
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Belarusian Association of Journalists
Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism
Bytes for All
Cambodian Center for Human Rights
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Center for Independent Journalism – Romania
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility 
Comité por la Libre Expresión – C-Libre
Committee to Protect Journalists
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Foundation for Press Freedom – FLIP
Freedom Forum
Fundamedios – Andean Foundation for Media Observation and Study
Globe International Center
Independent Journalism Center – Moldova
Index on Censorship
Initiative for Freedom of Expression – Turkey
Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information
Instituto de Prensa y Libertad de Expresión – IPLEX
Instituto Prensa y Sociedad de Venezuela
International Federation of Journalists
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions 
International Press Institute 
International Publishers Association
Journaliste en danger
Maharat Foundation
MARCH
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Media Foundation for West Africa
National Union of Somali Journalists
Observatorio Latinoamericano para la Libertad de Expresión – OLA
Pacific Islands News Association 
Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms – MADA
PEN American Center
PEN Canada
Reporters Without Borders
South East European Network for Professionalization of Media
Vigilance pour la Démocratie et l’État Civique 
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters – AMARC
French PEN
PEN Mali
PEN Kenya
PEN Nigeria
PEN South Africa
PEN Eritrea in Exile
PEN Zambia
PEN Afrikaans
PEN Ethiopia
PEN Lebanon
Palestinian PEN
Turkish PEN
PEN Quebec
PEN Colombia
PEN Peru
PEN Bolivia
PEN San Miguel
PEN USA
English PEN
Icelandic PEN
PEN Norway
Portuguese PEN
PEN Bosnia
PEN Croatia
Danish PEN
PEN Netherlands
German PEN
Finnish PEN
Wales PEN Cymru
Slovenian PEN
Flanders PEN
PEN Trieste
Russian PEN
PEN Japan

Poet Ashraf Fayadh must be released

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Finnish PEN and more than 60 other international organisations have joined a letter in support of poet and artist Ashraf Fayadh who has been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia

His Excellency Shaykh Dr Mohammed bin Abdulkareem Al-Issa
Ministry of Justice,
University Street
Riyadh 11137 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: + 966 1 401 1741 + 966 11 402 0311

Your Excellency,

RE: Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh

We, the undersigned organisations, all dedicated to the value of creative freedom, are writing to express our grave concern that Ashraf Fayadh has been sentenced to death for apostasy.
Ashraf Fayadh, a poet, artist, curator, and member of British-Saudi art organisation Edge of Arabia, was first detained in August 2013 in relation to his collection of poems Instructions Within following the submission of a complaint to the Saudi Committee for the Promotion of Virtue. He was released on bail but rearrested in January 2014.

According to court documents, in May 2014 the General Court of Abha found proof that Fayadh had committed apostasy (ridda) but had repented for it. The charge of apostasy was dropped, but he was nevertheless sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes in relation to numerous charges related to blasphemy.

At Ashraf Fayadh’s retrial in November 2015 the judge reversed the previous ruling, declaring that repentance was not enough to avoid the death penalty. We believe that all charges against him should have been dropped entirely, and are appalled that Fayadh has instead been sentenced to death for apostasy, simply for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and freedom of belief.

As a member of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), the pre-eminent intergovernmental body tasked with protecting and promoting human rights, and the Chair of the HRC’s Consultative Group, Saudi Arabia purports to uphold and respect the highest standards of human rights. However the decision of the court is a clear violation of the internationally recognised rights to freedom of conscience and expression. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that, ‘[e]veryone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief’. Furthermore, under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ‘[e]veryone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’. Saudi Arabia is therefore in absolute contravention of the rights that as a member of the UN HRC it has committed to protect.

There are also widespread concerns over an apparent lack of due process in the trial: Fayadh was denied legal representation, reportedly as a result of his ID having been confiscated following his arrest in January 2014. It is our understanding that Fayadh has 30 days to appeal this latest ruling, and we urge the authorities to allow him access to the lawyer of his choice.
We call on the Saudi authorities to release Ashraf Fayadh and others detained in Saudi Arabia in violation of their right to freedom of expression immediately and unconditionally.

AICA (International Association of Art Critics)
Algerian PEN
All-India PEN
Amnesty International UK
American PEN
a/political
Arterial Network
ARTICLE 19
Artists for Palestine UK
Austrian PEN
Bangladesh PEN
Banipal Trust for Arab Literature
Bolivian PEN
Bread and Roses TV
British Humanist Association
Bulgarian PEN
Cambodian PEN
Canadian PEN
Centre for Secular Space
CIMAM (International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art)
Colombian PEN
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Croatian PEN
Crossway Foundation
Danish PEN
Edge of Arabia
English PEN
Esperanto PEN
Estonian PEN
Eritrean PEN-in-Exile
Ethiopian PEN-in-Exile
FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights)
Finnish PEN
Five Leaves Publications
Freemuse
German PEN
Ghanaian PEN
Haitian PEN
Human Rights Watch
Icelandic PEN
Index on Censorship
International Humanist and Ethical Union
Iranian PEN In-exile
Jimmy Wales Foundation
Kenyan PEN
Lebanese PEN
Ledbury Poetry Festival
Lithuanian PEN
Modern Poetry in Translation
Mexican PEN
Myanmar PEN
National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC)
Norwegian PEN
One Darnley Road
One Law for All
Palestinian PEN
PEN International
Peruvian PEN
Peter Tatchell Foundation
Portuguese PEN
Québec PEN
Russian PEN
San Miguel PEN
Scottish PEN
Slovak PEN
Slovene PEN
Society of Authors
South African PEN
Split This Rock
Suisse Romand PEN
The School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at UEA
The Voice Project
Trieste PEN
Turkish PEN
Wales PEN Cymru

Statement of the Polish PEN club

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Finnish PEN supports the statement by Polish PEN:

Statement of the Polish PEN Club

22 November 2015

Following a series of physical and symbolic Nazi acts of violence in Wrocław and other cities around Poland, the demonstration of extreme nationalist groups performed an act of burning the figure of a Jew in the Wrocław market. This constitutes a neo-Nazi act of executing a death sentence in effigie – of the representation of an imaginary condemned convict. The direct doer of this act was one of the closest till quite recently collaborator of a member of the Committee for Matters Relating to the Special Forces of the Polish Parliament, of a leader of a strong Parliamentary alliance.

Genocide is not part of the tradition of the Polish Wrocław. It is rather a reference to the most Nazi city of the 3rd Reich. If Wrocław is to aspire to become the European Capital of Culture and not of KuKluxKland, it needs to quickly come to terms with its own disgrace.

We express our support for the stand taken by the President of the City of Wrocław who as the first representative of local government approached the law enforcement institutions demanding an immediate initiation of proceedings. We appeal to the highest authorities of the Republic of Poland to promptly bring to a stop the increasingly more and more insolent racist acts that are taking place in Poland.

The Board of the Polish PEN Club

Open letter to President Erdoğan

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7 September 2015

Dear President Erdoğan

As writers, journalists and members of PEN, we are writing to express our extreme concern about the current crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey.

Last week, VICE News’s team was detained in Turkey while reporting in the south-east. Three members of the team were charged with ‘working on behalf of a terrorist organization’ on 31 August.British journalist Jake Hanrahan and cameraman Philip Pendlebury were released after six days in detention but we remain seriously concerned about their fixer, Mohammed Ismael Rasool , who remains in detention.

On 1 September, Turkish police raided the offices of Koza İpek Media group.

We recognise that Turkey is facing a period of heightened tension. However at such a time it is more important than ever that both domestic and international journalists are allowed to do their vital work without intimidation, reporting on matters of global interest and concern.

A member of the Council of Europe, Turkey is a state party to both the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is therefore obliged to respect the right to freedom of expression and ensure that journalists are free to gather information without hindrance or threat.

Turkey’s routine use of counter-terrorism legislation against the media is a longstanding cause of concern for PEN. We urge you to allow the media in Turkey to report fully and freely on events and to release all  journalists held solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

Yours

Dr. Syeda Aireen Jaman Secretary General, PEN Bangladesh
Monica Ali
Gabrielle Alioth, PEN Centre of German-Speaking Writers Abroad
Hanan Al-Shaykh
Apoorvanand, PEN Delhi
Cinta Arasa, PEN Català
Carme Arenas, President, PEN Català
Jiro Asada, President, PEN Japan
Frankie Asare-Donkoh, Ghanaian PEN Centre
Hanan Awwad, President, PEN Palestine
Jutta Birmele, PEN Centre of German-Speaking Writers Abroad
Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of the Writers in Prison Committee
William Boyd
Breyten Breytenbach, PEN Afrikaans
Teresa Cadete, Portuguese PEN
Drew Campbell, President, Scottish PEN
Magda Carneci, President, PEN Romania
Daniel Cil Brecher, PEN Centre of German-Speaking Writers Abroad
Jennifer Clement, President, PEN Mexico
Robert Cottrell
Antonio Della Rocca, President, PEN Trieste
Smagul Elybai, Kazakh PEN
Bigeldy Gabdullin, President, Kazakh PEN
Moris Farhi MBE
Maureen Freely, President, English PEN
Rita Gracián, PEN Guadalajara
Sebastiano Grasso, President, Italian Pen Club
Gloria Guardia, Vice President, PEN International
Solomon Hailemariam, President, PEN Ethiopia
Dr Zaradachet Hajo, Kurdish PEN
Josef Haslinger, German PEN
Anders Heger, Norwegian PEN
Jozef Heriban, President, Slovak PEN Centre
Eva Hoffman
Deborah Horn-Botha, PEN South Africa
Nedžad Ibrahimović, President, PEN Bosnia
Philo Ikonya, PEN Kenya/ PEN Club Austria
Tade Ipadeola, President, Nigerian PEN
Sirpa Kähkönen, President, Finnish PEN
Kätlin Kaldmaa, President, PEN Estonia
Lucina Kathmann, Vice President, PEN International
Nicholas Kawinga, President, Zambian PEN
Freya Klier, PEN Centre of German-Speaking Writers Abroad
Hanif Kureishi
Ola Larsmo, President, Swedish PEN
Joanne Leedom-Ackerman
Leena Lehtolainen, Finnish PEN
Chiara Macconi, PEN Esperanto
Frank Mackay Anim-Appiah, President, Ghanaian PEN
Mohamed Magani
Rishi Majumder, PEN Delhi
Danie Marais, PEN Afrikaans
Yann Martel
Blake Morrison
Hege Newth Nouri, Secretary General, Norwegian PEN
Katharine Norbury
Mohammad Nurul Huda, PEN Bangladesh
William Nygaard, President, Norwegian PEN
Hans-Christian Oeser, PEN Centre of German-Speaking Writers Abroad
Vida Ognjenovic, President, Serbian PEN Centre
Per Øhrgaard, President, Danish PEN
Sofi Oksanen, Finnish PEN
Margie Orford, President, PEN South Africa
Erol Özkoray, writer and publicist
Nasser Pejman, International Secretary, Iranian PEN in Exile
Tone Peršak, President, Writers for Peace Committee
Professor Imran Rahman, PEN Bangladesh
Baharam Rahmani, President, Iranian PEN in Exile.
John Ralston Saul, President, PEN International
Andrea Reiter, PEN Centre of German-Speaking Writers Abroad
Mille Rode, Secretary General, Danish PEN
Raffaella Salierno, PEN Catalan
Şêxmûs Sefer, President, Kurdish PEN
Eugene Schoulgin, Vice President, PEN International
Elif Shafak
Owen Sheers, Wales PEN Cymru
Mohamed Sheriff, President, Sierra Leone PEN
Iida Simes, Finnish PEN
Sjón, President, Icelandic PEN
Ali Smith
Guy Stern, PEN Centre of German-Speaking Writers Abroad
Tasleem Thawar, Executive Director, PEN Canada
Pragya Tiwari, PEN Delhi
Jarkko Tontti, Treasurer, PEN International
Carles Torner, Executive Director, PEN International
Luisa Valenzuela, PEN Argentina
Tung Van Vu, Vietnamese Abroad PEN Centre
Fred Viebahn, PEN Centre of German-Speaking Writers Abroad
Sarah Waters
Abraham Zere, PEN Eritrea, Executive Director

Cross-Border Civil Society Dialogue 4.7.

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40 Years since Helsinki Final Act

40 years ago, the CSCE – Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe – and the Helsinki Final Act meant an opening and a step forward in the normalisation of the relations between East and West after the Second World War, in the middle of Cold War Europe.

For NGO’s and civil society activists the inclusion of human rights to the agenda and negotiations signified an important step, leading to the establishment of Helsinki Committees in many European countries, and opening doors for further dialogue and cross-border co-operation between NGOs in East and West. We invite you to come and discuss with us the legacy of the Helsinki Final Act 1975 to NGO’s and social movements in Europe

Today, the shadow of war is looming over Europe, and the relationship between the EU and Russia is not without complications. How can civil society actors foster co-operation in light of the narrowing space for their work, the financial crisis and the tightening legislation in Russia?

Seminar: Cross-Border Civil Society Dialogue
– 40 Years since Helsinki Final Act

Saturday  4.7.2015
13.00-18.00
Venue: Peace Station,
Address Veturitori 3, Helsinki

Speakers :

• ASTRID THORS (OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities)
• RAUNO MERISAARI (MFA Finland)
• YURI DŽIBLADZE (President, Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, Moscow)
• OLGA ZAKHAROVA (Director, Freedom Files, Moscow)
• ANNA SKVORTSOVA (Director, NGO Development Center, St.Petersburg)

Arranged by:

Peace Union of Finland in cooperation with the Finnish Committee for European Security STETE, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Finnish PEN, VIKES the Finnish Foundation for Media Communication and Development and Committee of 100.

Event on Rauhanliitto’s website.

A Statement From The Nordic PEN Centres Regarding The Attacks in Copenhagen

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The attack on the Saturday meeting in Copenhagen, where people came together to discuss freedom of expression in the face of blasphemy, and the subsequent shooting at the city´s synagogue, is a chilling reminder that the open societies of the North European countries are also faced with threats against their core values: Free exchange of ideas in a secular society. These cruel attempts at suppression and the loss of life they brought with them can only be lamented and condemned in the strongest terms.

That the events take place on the 25th anniversary of Iran´s fatwa against the British-Indian author Salman Rushdie underscores that freedom of expression is universal and cross-cultural. Today censorship and violence threatens authors, visual artists and cartoonists, in far, far, too many societies. The Nordic PEN Centres will continue to fight for their rights to express themselves without persecution, both at home and abroad.

The Nordic countries have a long history of respecting freedom of expression and encouraging sharp social criticism in all media. Recently an international survey listed Denmark as one of the most free countries in the world. We will not allow the forces of intolerance to destroy that with their crude tactics.

Dansk PEN – The Danish PEN Centre
Norsk P.E.N. – The Norwegian PEN Centre
PEN á Íslandi – The Icelandic PEN Centre
Suomen PEN – The Finnish PEN Centre
Svenska P.E.N. – The Swedish PEN Centre

Finnish PEN’s Freedom of Expression Award 2015 to Abdirahim Husu Hussein

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Finnish PEN’s Freedom of Expression Award for 2015 has been granted to Abdirahim Husu Hussein (b. 1978) for his activity in the fields of equality and multiculturalism, business, and politics

Abdirahim Husu HusseinAbdirahim Husu Hussein has brought a sorely needed voice to Finnish discussion and culture. Born in Somalia, Husu is an immigrant who has refused to accept the role of victim allotted to immigrants. In the media and in politics he has contributed his own personal voice and emphasised that immigrants, the Finnish mainstream population, Somalis, or Swedish-speaking Finns do not constitute uniform groups. Regardless of age, birthplace, religion, mother tongue, or profession, people should be treated as individuals.

Abdirahim Hussein has worked as an entrepreneur, interpreter, and taxi driver.

I’m a Muslim, a man, a member of the Centre Party, hetero, a meat eater, and whatever else. When I go to the mosque I’m a Muslim. When I meet Africans I’m an African. One identity doesn’t exclude another, he has said.

Husu’s best known role may be that of a radio presenter. Together with Ali Jahangir, Husu has presented the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation’s Ali and Husu programme, in which Finnish society is examined humorously, constructively, and courageously. Ali and Husu have spoken of development aid, child labour, immigrant image problems and relationships with the trade union movement, Russophobia, chatting up Finnish women, and many other sensitive topics. At the same time they have extended the spectrum of participants, which normally ranges from balanced and politically correct Finns to racist hate speech.

Laughter can be dangerous, but in a restrictive media environment – which can even become violent — it can clear the air and be liberating, as the radio programme has shown. But for this there needs to be self-irony, and a realisation that one should sometimes laugh at oneself and even at one’s own values. Black and white thinking is destructive to people and to cultures. Matti Mäkelä has written in Helsingin Sanomat: Ali and Husu have vigorously rejected the place set out for them. They have not adapted to the role of immigrant, aiming above all to be human beings.

Husu Hussein works as a politician and has learned  how relative Finnish free speech can be. The same people who send in positive feedback concerning his blog about the party leader take issue with his free speech when he writes about Israel and Palestine. Husu comments: This has taught me that for some people free speech doesn’t actually mean anything, and that it’s nothing but a dead letter for them. I learned also that religious fundamentalists in Finland are as frenzied as elsewhere. The only difference is that here the law protects the freedom and physical integrity of the individual. I also know that if we are silent in the face of these fundamentalists, this protection will fail and we will swerve onto a bitter path of violence.

Abdirahim Husu Hussein, palkintoteos

Abdirahim Husu Hussein, artist Jussi Heikkilä

The freedom of expression prize awarded to Abdirahim Husu Hussein is Jussi Heikkiläs’s “Lintu” (“Bird”) [a miner’s bird cage from about 1900, a Russian-English dictionary (1978), stainless steel]

The previous winners of the award have been the cartoonist Ville Ranta (2012), the human rights activist and theatre producer Eva Neklyaeva (2013) and journalist, commentator, and columnist Kimmo Oksanen (2014).

Finnish PEN is an international organisation promoting free expression,  founded in 1928. It is part of PEN International which operates in more than 100 countries. According to its charter, its aim is to defend and promote free expression in literature and the arts all over the world.

For more information:

Sirpa Kähkönen, writer, Chair Finnish PEN: sirpanen(at)gmail.com, pentiedotus(at)gmail.com

Abdirahim Husu Hussein, media personality, politician: +358 (0)45 899 2522, abdirahim.hussein(at)gmail.com

Finnish PEN presents: Four poets, four languages

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You are heartily invited to listen to the poetry of the writers Tua Forsström, Kári Tulinius (IS), Jarkko Tontti and Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen to Arkadia International Bookshop (Nervanderinkatu 11, Helsinki) on Wednesday 15th of January 2014 at 6:30pm. The poetry readings will be held in Swedish, Icelandic, Finnish and English.

The event is organized by Finnish PEN. Entrance is free but a donation of €3 for Arkadia Bookshop will be most welcome.

Café Freden 20 November 2013

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Svenska Fredsvänner i Helsingfors invites you to a common evening with Writers for Peace, Finland at Fredshemmet, Dagmarsgatan 13 B 7 on Wednesday, nov. 20 at 6 p.m.

Faruk Abu-Chakra will speak about the situation in Syria and Elisabeth Nordgren, chairperson of Writers for Peace, Finland, will give an introducton about the committee and its activities.

The languages will be Swedish and English.

You are cordially welcome!

VLADIMIR NEKLYAEV FREE IN BELARUS

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The Belorusian authorities announced today that Vladimir Neklyaev (Ulazimir Njakljajeu) is free. He was arrested and put in jail in December 2010, at the time of the presidential elections. Neklyaev (Njalkjajeu) was a presidential candidate, but more importantly, since 1970’s he has been a well-known poet, writer and journalist in Belarusia and abroad.

When arrested in 2010 Neklyaev (Njalkjajeu) was battered causing serious spinal injuries. Neither under home curfew nor in jail has he been able to get proper medical care.

Neklyaev (Njalkjajeu) is an Honorary Member of Finnish PEN. He lived in Helsinki in 2000–2004 under Writer in Exile program of Finnish PEN.

Both Neklyaev’s daughter Eva Neklyaeva and Finnish PEN are very pleased with the outcome! Ms Neklyaeva lives in Helsinki and works as a theatrical producer organising Baltic Circle Theater Festival. In 2013 she received Freedom of Expression Award of the Finnish PEN.

Finnish PEN is looking forward to meeting it’s ex- Writer in Exile soon!

For more information, please contact

Jarkko Tontti
Chair of the Finnish PEN Center
jarkkotontti@jarkkotontti.net

Eva Neklyaeva
eva@balticcircle.net

 

(Suomi) Vladimir Neklyaev ei pääse Suomeen

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(Suomi) Runo Malala Yousafzaille

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Eva Neklyaeva receives the Finnish PEN Freedom of Expression Award

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Eva Neklyaeva

The recipient of the 2013 Finnish PEN Freedom of Expression Award is Eva Neklyaeva, the festival director of the Baltic Circle theatre festival and human rights activist.

Neklyaeva has for a long time campaigned to improve human rights in Belarus. Her father, poet and former president of Belarusian PEN Uladzimir Nyaklyayew (Vladimir Neklyaev) was assaulted in December 2010 during a peaceful protest and imprisoned. Vladimir Neklyaev is still under house arrest. The harassment of human rights activists is a daily occurrence in Belarus. Activists are arrested, beaten and convicted by summary trials. Organisations and journalists critical of the authoritarian president Aleksandr Lukashenko’s regime are hounded constantly.

Eva Neklyaeva has called for the cancellation of the 2014 World Ice Hockey Championships scheduled to be held in Belarus.

In addition to her work for human rights, Eva Neklyaeva is a highly accomplished in the field of theatre.

She is the festival director of the international Baltic Circle theatre festival, which has garnered awards and wide renown.  Since 2000, the Helsinki-based festival has introduced the latest developments in contemporary theatre to the audience. The Baltic Circle festival is also a meeting ground for professionals and their audience. The festival organises seminars and education and takes an active part in the discussion on art and its role in the society.

Baltic Circle strives to raise issues, engage in discussion with the audience and find new perspectives. As Eva Neklyaeva puts it, ”Politics is black and white, but art can show things as complicated as they really are.”

As the Finnish PEN Freedom of Expression award, Eva Neklyaeva receives the painting Icon of the Flower Forest donated by the author and painter Rosa Liksom.

Finnish PEN is an international association of writers promoting freedom of expression founded in 1928. It is part of PEN International and according to its charter aims to defend and promote literature and freedom of expression everywhere in the world.

Further information:

Jarkko Tontti, President, Finnish PEN

jarkkotontti@jarkkotontti.net

tel. +358400784313

Eva Neklyaeva

eva@balticcircle.fi

tel. +358 41 5242871

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