‘My wish is for every imprisoned writer to have at least one colleague in the world who regards his or her destiny to be as important as their own.’
Tomas Vegesack, former chair of International PEN WIPC
WRITERS IN PRISON COMMITTEE
Scottish PEN's Writers in Prison Committee is active in supporting persecuted and imprisoned writers and in campaigning for freedom of expression issues.
Our next events are part of a worldwide series of readings for 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner, the poet and activist Liu Xiaobo, who has been given an 11 year prison sentence in China, simply for signing a human rights declaration.
The first event takes place at 7pm on Saturday 17th March as part of the StAnza Poetry Festival in St Andrew's. It is chaired by the poet A.C.Clarke.
The second is on Tuesday 20th March at Wordpower bookshop in Nicolson Street, Edinburgh. It is chaired by poet and academic Bashabi Fraser and features contributions by Edinburgh Makar Ron Butlin, novelist Regi Claire, the poet AC Clarke, and journalist Jean Rafferty.
The second event is at the Meffan Museum in Angus on 20th March. Further details to be announced.
International Pen Writers in Prison Committee monitors human rights abuses against writers journalists and editors, and has over 1000 names on its official case list. Scottish PEN's WIPC campaigns for five writers: Liu Xioabo, Ragip Zarakolu, the late Hrant Dink, Shi Tao and Lydia Cacho.
Our most urgent case at the moment is that of Turkish publisher Ragip Zarakolu, who was detained in November under anti-terrorism laws. He is being held in a high security prison where his fellow inmates are criminals and terrorists. His crime? To attend a peaceful meeting about Turkey's ethnic minority, the Kurds.
For over thirty years Ragip Zarakolu's publishing house Belge has been judicially harassed by the Turkish government under Article 301 of the country's penal code. He has continued to produce controversial books, despite imprisonment, his premises being firebombed, and constantly being dragged into court. The relentless pressure has seriously affected his health - he has had several heart attacks.
Please sign our petition calling for his release: http://chn.ge/vu4AxI
To read two blogs on his situation click here for the Scottish PEN blogspot: http://scottish-pen.blogspot.com
RAPID ACTION NETWORK
As part of PEN’s Rapid Action Network we can respond at once when a writer is unjustly arrested. Campaigns are also run on broader issues relating to freedom of expression, such as the impact of anti-terrorism legislation.
Click here for the Writers in Prison Facebook Group:
One of our current cases is Lydia Cacho, a prominent Mexican journalist, one among many Mexican journalists who have suffered severe harrassment because of their investigative activities. Many have been murdered. As part of International PEN's Americas Campaign and to link with the featured writer in the PENning the Warming World issue of the New Writing magazine, we are grateful to Lucy Popescu of English PEN for permission to reproduce the article below which first appeared in the Literary Review.
Lucy has recently drawn our attention also to the plight of journalists in Sri Lanka which she says 'is now rated the fourth most dangerous place in the world for journalists, higher even than Afghanistan'. To read her full article in Tribune go to http://www.tribunemagazine.co.uk/2010/05/23/the-deadly-cost-of-peace-in-sri-lanka
Mexico: José Alberto Velázquez López
Those holidaying in the popular Mexican resort of Cancún over Christmas will have been unaware of the brutal murder of a local newspaper editor on 22 December 2009.
José Alberto Velázquez López was the owner and editor of Diario Express de Tulum, based in Quintana Roo state. He was also a lawyer and a regular contributor to Canal 30, a local television station. He had written several articles accusing the Tulum mayor, Marciano Dzul Caamal, of corruption, bad administration and disdain for the public. After receiving death threats, including an alleged threatening phone call from the mayor, he stopped reporting on local politics. His newspaper continued to receive death threats and its printing press was fire-bombed last November.
Following his newspaper's Christmas party, Velasquez was driving home when two men on a motorcycle drove alongside him and shot him in the chest. He lost control of his car and hit another vehicle. Velasquez was attended to by Red Cross doctors but died the same night en route to a nearby hospital. He leaves a heavily pregnant wife and five-year-old son.
Colleagues of the editor believe that the murder may been carried out by supporters of mayor, who is also a leading local member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The enmity between the two men was well known.
Just six months ago, I wrote in these pages about a prominent political cartoonist, Mario Robles, who was violently assaulted and subjected to death threats allegedly by members of Oaxaca's PRI; I also wrote about the death threats issued against another newspaper editor Miguel Ãngel Casillas Bãez in Jalisco State. To date, no one has been brought to justice for these crimes.
RSF have recorded the deaths of 55 Mexican journalists since 2000 and the disappearance of eight journalists. In most cases, at ttacks on journalists are linked to their reporting of organised crime or government corruption. The Special Federal Attorney's Office for Combating Violence against the Media was founded in February 2006 but, so far, has proved ineffectual in combating impunity.
PEN recorded the murder of seven journalists in 2009 alone and is calling on the government of President Felipe Calderõn to amend the constitution and make crimes against journalists a federal offence, so that it is not left to the state authorities, who could, as in this case, be implicated, to investigate and prosecute such crimes.
Readers may like to send appeals calling for a thorough and impartial investigation into the murder of newspaper editor and lawyer José Alberto Velazquez Lõpez in Quintana Roo on 22 December 2009; urging President Felipe Calderõn to fulfil promises to make crimes against journalists a federal offence; and calling on the federal authorities to set up protection programmes for journalist to ensure their safety.
Appeals should be addressed to:
President Felipe De Jesus Calderõn Hinojosa
Fax: (+ 52 55) 5093 4901/ 5277 2376
Attorney General Lic. Arturo Chavez Chavez
Procurador General de la Republica
Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora Icaza
Mexican Embassy to the United Kingdom
16 St George Street
London W1S 1FD
Fax: (+44) 20 7495 4035 Â
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