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 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 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, 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
Trip to the mountains_Leena Parkkinen
80. PEN International congress was held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, 29.9-2.10.2014
Have a look at the pictures by Finnish PEN delegates.
“Anti-demokratization” and Earth Civilization Project
Thursday, March 13 at 5pm
Arkadia Bookshop (Nervanderinkatu 11, Helsinki)
Poet Tarık Günersel, president of PEN Turkey, visits Helsinki. He will present his initiative “Earth Civilization Project”, share poetry and discuss the latest developments in Turkey with the Finnish PEN.
The discussion will be in English.
This event by Finnish PEN is free but a donation of €3 to support Arkadia would be most welcome.
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.
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!
Dear President Obama,
We are writing to you as free speech and media freedom organisations from around the world to express our strong concern over the response of the US government to the actions of whistleblower Edward Snowden. We urge you to take immediate action to protect whistleblowers and journalists.
Edward Snowden’s recent disclosures have triggered a necessary and long-delayed public debate about the acceptable boundaries of surveillance in a democratic country, a debate that on 5 June you welcomed having. The revelations brought into question the legitimacy of the secretive process of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and closed Congressional intelligence committees as appropriate forums to determine the fundamental human rights of Americans and persons worldwide. The disclosures have clearly served the public interest, including by prompting similar debates in countries around the world.
We are, therefore, dismayed that criminal charges have been filed against Snowden, including those under the vague and overbroad Espionage Act of 1917. Statements by the State Department that Snowden is not a whistleblower simply because of the nature of the charges against him flatly contradict international standards on freedom of expression and information. Attempts to obstruct Snowden’s freedom of movement, his right to seek asylum, including the revocation of his passport, and other forms of retaliation also violate US obligations under international law.
Moreover, we are concerned that the charges against Snowden are not an isolated incident, and that there have been an unprecedented number of prosecutions against whistleblowers during your administration, as well as intrusive investigations to identify the sources of journalists reporting on matters that are in the public interest. This tendency of the US government towards obsessively controlling information flows and an aversion to public discourse is both undemocratic and unsustainable in the digital era.
Taken together, we find that these actions have set a dangerous precedent for the protection of whistleblowers and journalists worldwide. As you are aware, whistleblowers often face criminal charges when they reveal information that causes acute embarrassment to governments, to distract from the wrongdoing revealed. Similarly, journalists are also attacked for publishing the disclosed information. We are seriously concerned that governments will rely on the US example to justify attacks on whistleblowers and journalists who put themselves at significant risk to expose or report government wrongdoing, corruption, or other dangers to society.
The US has a long history of recognising the important role whistleblowers play in democracy, going back to Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Law, the False Claims Act. While the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 built upon these protections, they specifically exclude protections for public interest disclosures of national security or intelligence information. While the recent Presidential Policy Directive/PPD-19 on “Protecting Whistleblowers with Access to Classified Information” and Attorney General Eric Holder’s guidance on protecting reporters’ privilege are both positive, as policy they are not binding law and provide no legal protection or remedy for whistleblowers or journalists seeking to defend information disclosures. Greater legal protections in this area are therefore needed.
We call on your administration to take the following actions:
Drop the charges with prejudice against Edward Snowden
Immediately reinstate Edward Snowden’s passport and cease attempts to obstruct his right to seek asylum in any country of his choice
Initiate an executive public consultation on the activities of the National Security Agency
Instruct the Justice Department to declassify and make public all orders issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, upon their completion
Commit to seeking the adoption through Congress of an extension of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act and the reform of the Espionage Act to ensure there are appropriate and legally binding protections for whistleblowers disclosing national security and intelligence information
Continue to support the adoption by Congress of a strong and robust “media shield law” with narrow exemptions for national security information.
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
Chair of the Finnish PEN Center