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PEN America says number of imprisoned writers worldwide hits record high in 2023

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The country continues to be the country with the most jailed writers, with the number of imprisoned writers in China exceeding 100 for the first time, free speech group PEN America released its annual Writing Freedom Index on Wednesday.

PEN America reported that There were 339 writers behind bars in 2023, the most in the five years the index has been compiled.

Over the past five years, the number of imprisoned writers — a list that excludes journalists but includes literary writers, poets, online commentators and critics — has increased, said Karin Karlekar, director of at-risk writers at PEN America. There has been an overall increase. “We are seeing threats against writers getting worse,” she said.

The organization said 107 writers were imprisoned in China, 50 of whom were “‘online commentators’ who write about political and economic issues and express democratic views.”others Facing trial last year Dissent in Hong Kong is suppressed under the 2020 national security law.

Some key numbers for 2023 include:

  • Writers at risk of jail: 923

  • Imprisoned male writers: 288

  • Female writers imprisoned: 51

  • Internet commentators jailed: 180

PEN America singled out Iran last year as a place of “continued repression of writers and the creative community.” Iran arrested 13 writers in 2023, the second-highest number in the index after China, bringing its jail count to 49.

PEN America said: “Women who write or advocate against mandatory headscarves remain at particularly high risk, and Iran has the highest number of female writers in prison in the world.”

Saudi Arabia and Vietnam tied for third place in the index, with 19 writers imprisoned in each country.

Notable increases compared to 2022 include the number of imprisoned female journalists (from 35 to 51) and the number of imprisoned online commentators (from 80 to 180). PEN America defines an online commentator as anyone who writes on social media or other online platforms.

“In many countries, this is the only space for dissent,” Ms. Kaleka said. She added that online expression often worries authoritarian governments due to the direct impact and global reach of the Internet.

Ms Kaleka noted that Russia and Israel were among the top 10 jailers, as countries in conflict or war crack down on dissent.

PEN America said in a statement: “As geopolitics continue to change and authoritarian tendencies spread into countries once thought to be safely grounded in openness, we expect that free speech, and therefore writers, will increasingly come under threat in the wider country. “statement.

Israel’s war with Hamas has also disrupted PEN America itself.organization 2024 literary awards ceremony canceledThe ceremony was scheduled to take place on Monday after months of protests in which nearly half of the award’s nominees withdrew over the organization’s response to the war, which has been criticized as being too sympathetic to Israel.

Journalists around the world also face increased dangers. The Committee to Protect Journalists said 320 journalists were imprisoned as of December 1, 2023, the second-highest year-end total since the organization began tracking journalists in 1992.

among those incarcerated It’s Wall Street Journal reporter Evan GershkovichHe was arrested in March 2023 while reporting in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said the large number of jailed journalists was a “troubling barometer of entrenched authoritarianism and vitriol in a government determined to silence independent voices.”

PEN America’s index focuses primarily on the case of individual writers. “When a person with a dissenting opinion is imprisoned, it has wider consequences for society as a whole,” Ms. Kaleka said, adding that it could lead to less discussion, less speech and self-censorship. .

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