Quote of the day:
'An innocent person in prison suffers feelings of isolation, loneliness, and loss. The knowledge that you defended me against unjust accusations against me brought me joy and strengthened my will to come to terms with the harsh conditions of my imprisonment.'
Czech writer, Eva Kanturkova 1982
Today I am pleased to feature PEN Melbourne, an organisation affiliated with PEN International. PEN Melbourne is one of 145 PEN centres in 104 countries worldwide. PEN International campaigns on behalf of writers around the world who are persecuted, imprisoned, harassed and attacked for what they have written or simply for being a writer. It has committees representing writers in prison, women writers, translation and linguistic rights and a peace committee. PEN Melbourne is active locally, regionally and internationally. The organisation holds literary events and provides opportunities to be involved in freedom of expression campaigns.
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.
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.
Writers in prison:
The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN was set up in 1960 as a result of mounting concern about attempts to silence critical voices around the world. An office was set up at the PEN head office in London to gather information and to alert the PEN membership to take action. The WiPC is now staffed by a team of experts who monitor around 1,000 attacks on writers, journalists, editors, poets, publishers and others in any given year. These include long prison terms, harassment, threats, and murder. The WiPC team alerts the international PEN membership of urgent cases, keeps it abreast of developments on individual cases of attacks as well as global trends affecting free expression, and gives advice on actions and campaigns. These actions include protest letters, lobbying governments, and public awareness raising. Through writing to families and, where possible, directly to prisoners, PEN members provide encouragement and hope. For more information on International PEN’s WiP programme, please click here.
Melbourne PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee:
For those of us who consider reading and writing an essential part of life, the idea that a writer, editor or publisher could be pressured, imprisoned or blacklisted because of his/her work is a horrifying one. Melbourne PEN has an active programme of letter writing, events and publicity designed to increase international pressure on governments that persecute writers for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression. The keystone of our programme is our response to Rapid Action Network alerts issued by London PEN.
How to get involved
Volunteers are always needed to send letters in protest to governments that imprison writers for their work. If you are interested in writing or sending letters in support of writers in prison, please contact us.
Email the Melbourne PEN Writers in Prison Committee
Asia and Pacific Writers Network
This was initiated by the Melbourne PEN Centre, in partnership with Asialink. The APWN is an alliance of writers, individuals and organizations who work with language and stories, in all their forms. APWN includes novelists, journalists, playwrights, poets, publishers, editors, academics, documentary-makers, storytellers. As a PEN initiative we aim to promote friendship and intellectual cooperation among writers everywhere; to fight for freedom of speech; to work for good understanding and respect between nations; and to champion the ideal of one humanity living in peace in one world.
Translation & Linguistic Rights Committee
The International PEN Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee was established in Stockholm in 1978 at International PEN’s 43rd Congress. Orginally called the Programme and Translation Committee, it aimed to encourage and promote the translation of literature from smaller languages into major world languages (including the three official languages of International PEN – English, French and Spanish) and as a consequence, into many other languages, both widely-spoken and small languages, besides.
Today, the Committee has multiple objectives and functions. Primarily, it focuses on issues of translation and linguistic rights and the effects these issues have on readers and writers across the globe, including at a most basic level, access to literature. Concurrently it places great emphasis on the role that literary translation can play in enabling inter-culture dialogue and exchange.This takes place through a number of year-round activites, including; promoting literature in translation on the multilingual Diversity website, edited by an international Advisory Board of translators and writers from Macedonia, China, Colombia and Malawi among others; developing an e-collection of mutlilingual works of literature; the translation of works from widely spoken into smaller languages; working with other interested groups in campaigning and the creation of publishing partnerships; supporting PEN Centres worldwide in establishing and growing their own Translation and Linguistic Rights Committees.
Membership of PEN:
Membership of PEN is open to all qualified writers, editors, and translators who subscribe to the aims of the International PEN charter, without regard to nationality, language, race, colour or religion. Non-writers may join as associate members. Associates are non-writer members who have all member privileges but are not able to vote.
Why join PEN
International PEN is the leading voice of literature worldwide. Members are united in a common concern for the craft of writing and a commitment to freedom of expression. It is a voice that speaks out for writers silenced in their own countries. Members receive a quarterly newsletter and invitations to a program of events with renowned Australian and international writers and activists.
Please complete the form below to pay online by credit card. You will be directed to a secure site where you can use your credit card or a Paypal account.
If you would prefer to pay by cheque, please download the PEN membership form, complete it and post it with your cheque to the address on the form.
PEN Melbourne Contact points:
Click here to email us
Melbourne PEN Centre
PO Box 373
Fairfield VIC Australia 3078
Phone: 0402 049 487
Clancy's comment: This a great organisation dedicated to those involved in the written word, no matter where they live. I take my hat off to them for the work they do. So, wherever you live, join this organisation and support their work. Love ya work, PEN Melbourne- CT!
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