BookMachine | Not at Home for the Holidays: The writers behind bars for freedom of expression

BookMachine_logoA bit of a serious note, but a very important issue for this fortnight’s BookMachine article. As ever, read the rest of the article over on the BookMachine blog:

On Saturday, Egyptian lawyer and human rights activist, Nasser Amin challenged the law stating the Egyptian authorities are allowed to imprison writers who publish works that are in ‘violation of the public morals’. The statement was made during the court trial of Ahmed Naji, who had an excerpt of his novel The Use of Life, published in Akhbar al-Adab magazine in August 2014. The piece contained explicit sex acts and made reference to the hashish that was used by the main characters. Under the current law, this is enough for the authorities to jail him.

Yet, Nasser Amin isn’t the only writer struggling to exercise his right to freedom of expression. Every year, huge numbers of writers, bloggers and journalists around the world are imprisoned, detained, or even killed, for what they have written. Even now, at a time of year when many of us are thinking about hunkering down with family for the winter, persecuted writers are facing sentences and threats that leave them alone, fearful and in danger.

Basic human rights and PEN International

Each year on the 15th November, international literature and human rights community PEN International runs the Day of the Imprisoned Writer. First launched in 1981, the day aims to focus global attention on the plight of persecuted writers. While it brings much-needed attention to the issue, the troubles for these writers continue all year long. Many of these cases are long-standing and ongoing, requiring tireless work from PEN and organisations like it, campaigning and reporting on cases of imprisoned, murdered or missing writers around the world.

For instance, Kurdish-Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani has now been held in Australia’s offshore Immigration Detention Centre on Manus Island for two years. He has been seeking asylum in Australia since July 2013, when he was forced to flee Iran after 11 of his colleagues were arrested and imprisoned. The arrests were made in connection to reports on Iran’s human rights situation and most of those taken into custody were denied family visits and kept in solitary confinement. One of those taken has even had a heart attack in his cell but was denied medical parole, despite his condition being critical.

Similarly, Chinese poet Liu Xiaobo has been in jail for seven years. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize whilst in prison in 2010, whereupon his wife was put under house arrest by Chinese authorities in response. She continues to be held without trial today… [READ MORE]

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