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Day of the Imprisoned Writer

12 Nov 2018 - 10:45

15 November 2018

Hiddingh Hall

University of Cape Town, Hiddingh Campus

Doors open at 17:30, and the event begins at 18:00.
Please RSVP to 
ica@uct.ac.za.

PEN South Africa and the Institute for Creative Arts (ICA) present the 2018 Day of the Imprisoned Writer, on which writers will give readings and presentations in solidarity with jailed artists around the world. This year’s event will be hosted on Thursday 15 November 2018 by ICA and PEN South Africa at Hiddingh Hall, Hiddingh Campus, University of Cape Town.
 
One of the most important dates on PEN’s international calendar, the event promises to be an engaging and meaningful evening, featuring some of South Africa’s most prominent writers. Confirmed already are Yewande Omotoso and Rustum Kozain. The remainder of the line-up will be announced shortly.

In 2018, we will be featuring the cases of the following five artists:

Wael Abbas, a prominent Egyptian writer and political activist, is widely known for documenting abuses by the Egyptian security forces. In May 2018, his house was raided by armed police and he was blindfolded and arrested. He is facing charges of “joining a terrorist group in realizing its objectives”, “spreading false news” and “using the internet to propagate a terrorist group’s ideology”.  Since his arrest on 24 May 2018, Abbas’s pre-trial detention has been regularly extended by the Egyptian judiciary. More recently on 16 October 2018, the Cairo Criminal Court has renewed his detention for a further 45 days for investigation. PEN International believes that the charges against Abbas are related to his peaceful activism and writings critical of the Egyptian government.
 
Dawit Isaak, an award-winning Swedish-Eritrean journalist and writer, has been held incommunicado in Eritrea for over 17 years. Isaak was one of several journalists arrested during the government’s September 2001 crackdown on independent voices in the press and politics. Very little is known about his current circumstances. Although Eritrea’s Foreign Minister claimed in a 2016 interview that all of the journalists and politicians arrested in 2001 were still alive – including Isaak – no proof has yet been provided. Similarly, there is little information available concerning the charges against these prisoners; the Foreign Minister has said that those arrested would be tried “when the government decides.” Isaak was awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize in 2017.
 
Miroslava Breach Velducea, a veteran Mexican journalist, was repeatedly shot in the head outside her home in Chihuahua on 23 March 2017. Breach Velducea, aged 54, was a well-known journalist whose twenty-year career focused on reporting on political and social issues, often covering corruption. Her most recent work exposed connections between local politicians and drug cartels. Mexico continues to be the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist, with at least 96 writers and print journalists killed since 2004, while another 11 have disappeared. To date in 2018, at least six print journalists have been killed in various states across the Republic. Few of these crimes have ever been satisfactorily resolved.
 
Award-winning photographer, writer and activist, Shahidul Alam was taken from his home in Dhaka, Bangladesh, by plainclothes police officers on the night of 5 August 2018. Shortly before his arrest, Alam had given an interview to the news agency Al Jazeera in which he was critical of the government’s handling of student-led protests, to which the government responded by firing teargas and rubber bullets into the crowds of protestors, injuring hundreds. On 6 August, Alam was brought before a lower court in Dhaka and accused of “making provocative comments”, and “giving false information” to the media under Section 57 of Bangladesh’s draconian Information Communications Technology Act (ICT Act). If convicted, 63-year old Alam faces a minimum of 7 years and a maximum of 14 years in prison. Friends and family who have visited him have raised concerns for his deteriorating health. PEN International believes that Alam is being held solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression.
 
Ukrainian writer and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, is serving a 20-year prison sentence on spurious terrorism charges after a grossly unfair trial by a Russian military court, marred by allegations of torture. He is currently being held in the ‘Polar Bear’ penal colony of Labytnangi, in Siberia, thousands of kilometres away from his home and family in Crimea. He recently spent 145 days on hunger strike, calling for the release of all Ukrainian prisoners imprisoned in Russia on politically motivated grounds. He ended his strike on 6 October 2018 as he feared being forced-fed. PEN International believes that Oleg Sentsov was imprisoned for his opposition to Russia’s occupation and illegal ‘annexation’ of Crimea and calls on the Russian authorities to release him immediately.