In time of division between countries,International PEN is one of the rare institutions to keep a bridge constantly open
Mario Vargas Llosa
International PEN is the leading voice of literature and represents writers in 101 countries. The Melbourne PEN Centre is one of 145 centres worldwide. Members are united in a common concern for the art of writing and freedom of expression.
PEN was established in England in 1921. Each centre acts independently but maintains strong links with headquarters in London and with other centres. The organisation works locally, regionally and internationally to understand the needs of writers and to protect them.
The Melbourne PEN Centre focuses on writers in prison, reconciliation, women writers and international work, especially in the Asia and Pacific region. It campaigns on behalf of persecuted writers and lets them know they are not alone. Our quarterly newsletter keeps members up to date with PEN events and provides a forum for members to publish relevant works.
Melbourne PEN Committee members
Judith Buckrich, Judith Rodriguez
Writers in Prison Officer
Berni M. Janssen, Christine McKenzie, Tom Shapcott, Cynthia Troup, Elaine Lewis, Lisa Gardner, Josephine Scicluna
Well-known Turkish publisher Ragip Zarakolu has campaigned for free expression for decades. He was arrested on 28 October 2011 and is facing trial under the ATL for “membership of an illegal organisation”, reportedly for a speech he made to the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and for articles he has written.
Respected academic and writer in Turkey, Busra Erslani is an expert on constitutional law and had been working with the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP)’s Constitutional Commission when she was arrested on the same day as Ragip Zarakolu.
Natalia Radzina is an editor for the pro-democracy news website Charter 97. Radzina was arrested by the KGB on 19 December 2010 during the mass detentions that followed protests against the results of Belarus’ flawed presidential elections. Her passport has been confiscated and she must report to local police daily. She is facing charges which could lead to lengthy imprisonment.
Declared a ‘Hero of Europe’ by Time magazine and winner of the 2002 Courage in Journalism prize, forty-three-year-old Irina Khalip is the Minsk-based correspondent for the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. In the fifteen years that she has been working as a journalist, she has been the subject of death threats, intimidation, all-night interrogations and beatings at the hands of the police and the KGB. She is currently under house arrest and facing charges which could lead to 15 years imprisonment.
Anne Bihan has lived in New Caledonia since 1993. She was a guest poet/translator representing New Caledonia at the 2008 Franco-Anglais Poetry Festival and was subsequently invited to work with berni janssen, co-ordinator of the APWN (Asia and Pacific Writers Network). Anne will be an invaluable link with the Pacific region.
Seedy Bojang is a journalist and writer from The Gambia. After the closure of independent newspapers in The Gambia, Seedy was briefly employed by the government-supported Gambia newspaper. His employment was terminated because he would not write articles supporting the government.
Zhang Jianhong (1958-2010)
Prominent poet, playwright, editor and author Zhang Jianhong died 31 December 2010. Independent Chinese Pen (ICPC) considers Zhang Jianhong (Li Hong) as a victim of contemporary literary inquisition in China and one of the worst cases since China started its policy of ‘reform and opening-up’ in the late 1970s.
Lucina is an International Vice President of PEN and has had a long association with the San Miguel de Allende PEN Centre in Mexico. She helped establish PEN’s Women Writers’ Committee, continues to be its strongest supporter and has been involved in the Writers in Prison Committee. She has travelled through Kurdistan, including into Iraq with Kurdish writers who had been in exile from their homeland. Lucina has been a strong supporter of Latin American centres, especially of women writers, and lobbied successfully for Spanish to be PEN’s third official language.
After facing years of repression in Iran, Rosa has made a new life in Melbourne. She is the author and illustrator of eight children’s books, a painter, an organiser of musical gatherings, and is currently completing an Iranian cookbook. In 2009 she published her book Where is the justice? Stories from behind closed doors, which documents the stories of women and girls persecuted in a range of countries.
International PEN Women Writers Committee
The International PEN Women Writers Committee (IPWWC) was created in 1991 to address the special needs of women writers. Women writers throughout the world continue to lack access to resources. There are countries in which a book by a woman author has never been published. Family and other pressures upon women are also integral to the conditions which necessitate PEN trying to find effective ways to protect and support women writers. The IPWWC now enjoys representation in over 70 PEN Centres. There is also a marked increase in the visibility of women writers within International PEN.