Today, the 15th November is the Day of the Imprisoned Writer.
It is an international day that is recognised, annually, as a time when we shine a light on and support writers who have been imprisoned for standing up for rights and freedoms of expression, who resist, who fight back with words, against those who would repress basic human rights.
This day was first marked as the Day of the Imprisoned Writer in 1981, (the year of my birth), by PEN International Writers in Prison Committees.
With the birth of the internet, things that once were easily hidden within countries are able to be broadcasted far and wide.
Information about oppression, attacks, corruption, human rights violations and more were and are often leaked out to the rest of the world and shared online. Even when countries attempt to heavily censor their people and even place restrictions on the internet.
However, with so much information now swarming before us as everyone connects and the internet expands, we need to keep raising public awareness about important issues.
As a writer in the UK, I appreciate the privilege I have where I can write almost anything without being censored, never mind attacked and imprisoned for it.
If I feel a subject needs to be addressed, I can write a post or send a letter or contact a newspaper without fearing for my life or my family.
I am also extremely aware that this is not the case for many people around the world. Writers, bloggers, journalists are persecuted, harassed, attacked, imprisoned, tortured and even killed if they dare to speak out about atrocities that are happening, about corruption or human rights violations.
Even something as simple as disagreeing with a government’s position can lead to a writer being targetted.
Authoritarian governments are becoming increasingly emboldened and are targeting writers and journalists in ever greater numbers. Some are paying a heavy price for merely carrying out their work. PEN’s annual Day of the Imprisoned Writer invites supporters of free expression across the world to stand in solidarity with our courageous colleagues and to send a message: they will not be silenced, their readers will not be silenced, we will not be silenced, this bond of writers and readers won’t be silenced.”
– said Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.
The Day of the Imprisoned Writer is used to encourage people to take action, whether it’s with donations, sharing the message or via Letters of Appeal for imprisoned writers.
There is power in letters, there is power in petitions and in spreading awareness.
So, if only for today, let us remember our fellow writers who are not as lucky as us, who are not able to freely write and express themselves, but who choose to do so, to risk so much so that the world hears of what is happening.
Author Isla Dewar said:
“Why do I do it? Well, I always feel privileged to be asked. I believe in voices, and believe that voices have a right to be heard whatever they say.
“I do not think they should be silenced or censored. I do not think anyone, anywhere should be imprisoned and tortured because of their opinions, because of the poetry or prose they write. So I add my small voice to many other voices in the hope that the noise will become loud enough to be heard and prison doors thrown open, and silenced voices sing out loud.”