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18 / 05 / 2004
PEN reports on the increasing persecution of writers and journalists following the september 11th terrorist attacks

“At present there are over 700 serious cases, whereas in 2000 this figure was under one hundred”, said Eugene Shoulgin, coordinator of International PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee According to Joan Smith, journalist and chair of English PEN’s Prison Committee, “there is no respect for human rights even in many democratic countries”

At present over 700 journalist and writers are facing extreme situations of persecution or imprisonment, a figure which is considerably higher than that recorded in 2000. Data as revealing as this was revealed this morning during the media presentation of the Forum Dialogue “The Value of the Word”, which officially opens at 7:00 pm with a conference led by the British writer Salman Rushdie.

The terrorist attacks perpetrated in New York on September 11th 2001, marked a reactivation of persecution, according to the explanation given by Eugene Shoulgin, coordinator for International PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee. Shoulgin also added, “if in 2000 we had information on the existence of less than a hundred serious cases of persecution, at present this figure has risen to over 700”. Five investigators from PEN’s general headquarters in London, focus their work on searching out situations where human rights are being violated. For Shoulgin, not only in countries such as Iran, China, Zimbabwe, Vietnam or Cuba are human rights violated in this sense, but this also occurs in democratic states. “Many democracies turn their backs on us”, he added.

In this respect, Joan Smith, journalist and chair of the Prison Committee of English PEN, has given several examples: in the United States, where he has underscored as “horrendous” the existence of “the Patriotic Law against terrorism, which forces citizens to inform the FBI on people who buy certain types of literature”, the case of China, where “33,000 people are employed specifically to shut down websites on the Internet”; or the case of Spain, where the newspaper Egunkaria was shut down and “one person is still in prison in relation with that case”. Smith warned, “human rights violations against this group are on the rise, even in countries which supposedly respect fundamental human rights”.

PEN has been working in the defense of writers imprisoned on ideological grounds since 1960. Eugene Shoulgin commented that those who most need their help are the professionals who are least known, going on to say, “it seems impossible that anybody could survive being imprisoned in Turkish, Yemen, South Korea or Peru”. He also mentioned that visits are often made to prisoners with the purpose of bringing them new hope and letting them know that somebody is concerned about them.

Also taking part in the press conference held in the Barcelona Convention Center, were the director of the Dialogue “The Value of the Word”, Carles Torner and the Forum spokesperson, Oleguer Sarsanedas.