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Day of the Imprisoned Writer Focus on China & Iran

PEN Canada marks Day of the Imprisoned Writer with focus on China and Iran

Toronto - The continued detention of writers and journalists in China and Iran is the focus of PEN Canada's efforts to mark the 24th International PEN Day of the Imprisoned Writer on November 15.

Of the over twenty Honorary Members of PEN Canada, nearly half come from those two countries. Human rights groups have regularly cited China and Iran as having two of the worst records on freedom of expression.

"Around the world today, over 200 writers and journalists are in prison," PEN Canada executive director Isobel Harry said. "We therefore wanted to highlight our organization's concerns by publicizing the cases of our Honorary Members in China and Iran serving sentences of between 3 and 18 years in prison for the 'crime' of expressing their opinions."

Some of these writers have serious health problems that are of grave concern to PEN Canada, Harry added.

In China, PEN Canada regularly advocates on behalf of historian Tohti Tunyaz, journalists and Internet writers Liu Weifang, Jiang Weiping, Yu Dongyue and Gao Qingrong, and the Drepung Monastery Printing Group in the Tibet Autonomous Region. PEN Canada's Honorary Members in Iran include journalists Akbar Ganji, Khalil Rostamkhani and Siamak Pourzand, author and lawyer Nasser Zarafshan, and writer and cleric Hojjatoleslam Hassan Eshkevari.

In addition, PEN Canada maintains a watch on the case of Zahra Kazemi, the murdered Iranian-Canadian photojournalist.

"In the case of Zahra Kazemi, she faced the ultimate form of censorship - murder," Harry said.

Violations of freedom of expression remain widespread in the world. From January to June 2004 alone, the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN monitored over 740 attacks on writers and journalists in 99 countries, ranging from long-term imprisonment, persistent harassment, threats, attacks and, most shockingly, at least 11 murders.

About International PEN's Day of the Imprisoned Writer

International PEN in London sought to consolidate and reinforce the worldwide efforts of the PEN community of writers to advocate on behalf of their colleagues who are persecuted for expressing their thoughts. In 1980, November 15 was chosen as a day when writers around the world would commemorate writers under attack. Each year since then, International PEN has selected cases that illustrate the type of attacks that writers suffer.

About PEN Canada

PEN Canada is a centre of International PEN that campaigns on behalf of writers around the world persecuted for the expression of their thoughts. In Canada, it supports the right to free expression as enshrined in Section 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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