On 28 July 2020, human rights defender Hany Babu was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in Mumbai. He is now the twelfth accused arrested for his alleged involvement in the violence that broke-out at Bhima Koregan on 1 January 2018.
PEN Sydney and PEN Melbourne have called for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to stand up for the rights of Australian citizen Julian Assange. Read their full letter here.
On 14 September, representatives from over 60 PEN Centres convened for its annual Writers in Prison Committee (WIPC) meeting. The meeting drew attention to the critical situation in Afghanistan, where the Taliban’s recent takeover means that Afghan writers, activists, and cultural practitioners—especially women—face imminent danger.
As in previous years, PEN International held pre-conference discussions for its main committees, including the Writers for Peace Committee and the Linguistic Rights Committee, which I was able to attend via Zoom, albeit at an unusual hour as the conference ran on London time.
The Centenary World Congress of PEN was held via Zoom from 20-24 September, with the four Committee meetings held in the previous week. The Congress held some fascinating panel discussions on issues related to freedom of expression with participants such as Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie, as well as talks by John Ralston Saul, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Ma Thida and others.
The third Annual General Meeting of PEN Perth was held on 26 August at the Centre for Stories. A new committee was elected, with Rania Ghandour and Rita Saggar joining and Robert Wood standing down.
It might surprise many of out readers to learn that an Australian writer, blogger and academic, has been held in China since January 2019, charged with espionage, and pronounced guilty after a brief and perfunctory trial in a closed courtroom.
As you all know, PEN Perth exists to support and strengthen the responsible freedom of expression. In the current historical moment, that matters more than ever.