Day of the Imprisoned Writer
November 15th is the Day of Imprisoned Writer.
Not a fan of “XYZ days” or awareness days? We understand that, but this particular recognition day is worth diving into. It’s more than a hobby or self-indulgence that many of these so-called “holidays” represent. This specific international awareness day aims to highlight not only writers and journalists who have been imprisoned or murdered for expressing their views and the truth, but also the importance of having the right to freedom of self-expression and freedom of the press through writing in this world.
This awareness day was started by Pen International in 1981. On this day, annually, the organization highlights the danger to society from the written word being persecuted, while also highlighting select individuals who have been punished or oppressed for their writing. They encourage the public to write to their government and leaders to help free these writers.
Unfortunately, freedom of self-expression and freedom of the press is not allowed in all countries today, and oppression, censorship, and sometimes death is often a factor in journalism and a written report.
A census conducted in December 2021 totaled 293 imprisoned individuals for trying to report events around the world. This was a record high.
280 were totaled in 2020.
24 people (and possibly more who were unaccounted for) were murdered for journalism.
China, Turkey, and Egypt have consistently had the highest numbers of imprisoned writers since the 2010’s.
Last year, 24 were imprisoned in the UK alone.
A record number of 57 journalists were arrested in 2021 and the United States saw all-time highs in journalism silence during the Trump administration. Even if the journalists were not detained, they were forcefully removed from the scenes, and most of these instances occurred during the protests.
Belarus has a growing number of journalists and writers imprisoned, and is said to have the most females in prison for this particular subject. Turkey has clamped down on the independent and free press, making it obsolete in the country. Myanmar has also arrested a high number of journalists trying to report the conditions of the country after the coup in February 2021.
There is also the topic of Ukraine. Journalists have risked their lives to be able to report to the world what is happening with the war Russia has started, and some have even died while trying to report. Russian journalists have had to flee their native country for safety and some have been exiled after trying to report the truth. Foreign journalists have had to leave Russia after new laws were put in place after the war started that forbid “unofficial” press, off-record reporting, and background reporting from being published. Anyone in Russia who continues to try and spread the truth is doing so with a high risk. Several journalists have been detained for trying to report the protests against the war in Russia.
Egypt and COP27
Alaa Abdel Fattah, who is on hunger strike
emerged as a leading pro-democracy activist and blogger during Egypt’s 2011 popular uprising, which forced former President Hosni Mubarak from office after three decades in power. But the 40-year-old has spent most of the past decade behind bars. In 2015, he was sentenced to five years in prison after being found guilty of violating protest laws. Abd el-Fattah remained imprisoned until March 2019, when he was released on probation. But within six months he was rearrested and in December 2021 was sentenced to another five-year term on charges of spreading false news. Human rights advocates have said that the case against Abd el-Fattah and his continued imprisonment is unjust, and a “reprisal” against him for being a leader of the 2011 uprising.
In April, days after obtaining British citizenship while behind bars on account of his mother having been born in the UK, Abd el-Fattah launched a hunger strike to protest against his continued detention and treatment in jail. Volker Turk, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, on Tuesday, warned Abd el-Fattah was in great danger and called for Egypt to immediately release him. “His dry hunger strike puts his life at acute risk,” Turk’s spokesperson, Ravina Shamdasani, told a news briefing in Geneva.
Like PEN International, we urge you to speak up and protect writers, like Alaa Abdel Fattah. If you know a journalist in jail or who has been murdered, speak their name. Let people know who they are so they are not forgotten. We must remember them so that their work is not overlooked.
Inspiration, Notes, and Resources
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