JAN 2023 newsletter

Dear Members and Fellow Travellers, 

It was a pleasure to see some of you at the seminar with Peter Greste, on Human Rights Day 10 December 2022.

Peter Greste is an award-winning journalist and author, who, along with his colleagues from Al Jazeera, was imprisoned by Egyptian authorities in 2013-15. 

He started his talk by suggesting that trust in journalism, around the world is currently at an all-time low, as traditional media companies downsize, and populist ideologies spread via the internet. This erosion of journalism, Peter argued, has dire consequences for the quality of our democracy. He suggested several ‘reforms’ to restore an autonomous and trusted media. In particular, he concluded that we ‘need to resolve the contradictions between journalism as public good and news as a product for sale.’

For those of you who were unable to attend, an earlier talk Peter delivered at Macquarie University, covers some of the same ground   https://youtu.be/nS_mXOqucEQ.

In December, we also urged you to send a message of solidarity to some of the writers in prisons around the world. Thank you if you did so.

Hope you have started 2023 with renewed determination to engage with the work of defending the rights to speak, read and write.


Seasons greetings and cards list

We encourage you to continue write cards to the writers listed in the PDF below. Guidelines on writing letters are included.

PEN International Conference

The annual PEN Congress offers an opportunity for the entire PEN community to gather and speak about our work. The Australian PEN centres pooled resources together so Yorn Young of PEN Cambodia could attend. A video of his musical performance and comments on the event are below:

Yorn Young (PEN Cambodia) performing at PEN International conference: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=472055261628745&ref=sharing

See what various committees within PEN discussed below.

PEN updates on writers

Myanmar: Sentencing of Myanmar writers highlights military junta’s ongoing crackdown on free expression: PEN International is happy to confirm that writer Maung Thar Cho is among those released as part of a prisoner amnesty. He should never have been detained, and we continue are call for the immediate and unconditional release who remain imprisoned for their peaceful expression in Myanmar. PEN International is alarmed over reports that Myanmar writers Maung Thar Cho and Htin Lin Oo, who have been detained since the first day of the coup on 1 February 2021, have now been sentenced by the military junta to several years imprisonment with hard labour. Their sentencing highlights the military junta’s determination to use Myanmar’s legal system to suppress any criticism of their violent dictatorship. Full details in link to the article.

Philippines: PEN International and PEN Philippines call for urgent enquiry into killing of poet Ericson Acosta: PEN International and PEN Philippines are outraged at the killing of poet, musician and activist, Ericson Acosta, and call for an urgent and transparent investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death. Full details in link to the article.

Suggested links from PEN Perth committee

For Ukrainians, poetry isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity during war by Charlotte Higgins in The Guardian

The curious case of Dr Hany Babu and India’s political prisoners: Indian academic Dr Hany Babu has been under arrest since 2020 on charges under India’s Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which PEN International says is being used to silence dissent. Catch up with the 18-minute feature in the link.

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