International PEN – Writers in Prison Committee

Resolutions passed at the Assembly of Delegates of International PEN meeting at its 73rd Congress in Dakar, Senegal, 4-11 July 2007



        I.      Afghanistan: Killings of Journalists and Media Restrictions


The Assembly of Delegates of International PEN, meeting at its 73rd International Congress in Dakar, Senegal, 4-11 July 2007
Gravely concerned that in recent months in Afghanistan, three journalists, Ajmal Naqsbandi, Zakia Zaki and Shakiba Sanga Amaj, have been murdered and others, including Farida Nekzad, have suffered severe harassment;
Further concerned that media freedom in Afghanistan is under increasing pressure. While freedom of the press is granted in the Afghan Constitution, the new initiatives to change the Media Law reveal a tendency to curb journalistic expression. The law, if approved, would increase government control over media outlets and make the reporting of ‘’humiliating and offensive’’ news a criminal offence. The law is supported by political elements who have every interest in seeing that their past deeds are forgotten, and would like to avoid any criticism in the future;
Alarmed that the harassment of journalists in Afghanistan has increased, and that several journalists have been arrested and even killed. Journalists in Afghanistan face severe threats from the Taliban, and increasing interference from government officials in their right to a free professional life;
Whereas, in the Afghanistan Compact (February 2006), ‘’the Afghan Government and the international community [committed to] the protection and promotion of rights provided for in the Afghan Constitution and under applicable international law, including the international human rights and other instruments to which Afghanistan is a party’’;
And whereas freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of the people of Afghanistan to read, write and have unfettered access to a free media are fundament5al human rights, upon which all other human rights depend;
The Assembly of Delegates of International PEN:
Strongly supports the efforts of Afghanistan PEN and Afghan journalists’ associations to stop these new attempts through changes to the Media Law to limit freedom of expression in general and press freedom in particular;
Urges President Hamid Karzai and the Government of Afghanistan to ensure that the independent commission overseeing the state broadcaster (Radio Television Afghanistan), and the council fro formulating media policy, truly be independent with strong representation from journalists’ organizations;
Further urges President Karzai to call on the NATO Senior Civilian Representative and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan to guarantee good governance and human rights protection for all under the rule of law, especially as regards the universal right to freedom of expression.
      II.      China – Continued detentions and repression of freedom of expression, including internet censorship
The Assembly of Delegates of International PEN, meeting at its 73rd International Congress in Dakar, Senegal, 4 – 11 July 2007
Welcomes the releases of Luo Yongzhong, Gao Qinrong, and Li Minying with the respective reduction of their sentences, as well as the early release of YANG Xiaoqing, learned of since the last Congress of International PEN in May 2006.
Considering the continuous suppression of the right to freedom of expression throughout the entirety of the People’s Republic of China, from its capital city of Beijing to the coastal provinces of Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong, the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong and Macao, as well as the autonomous regions of Tibet, Xinjiang Uyghur and Inner Mongolia.
Alarmed by the relentless harassment and attacks of Chinese intellectuals, particularly the arbitrary arrests of Internet writers (cyber-dissidents) and journalists of whom over 40 are currently imprisoned, thus making China one of the largest jailers of writers and journalists in the world.
Noting that China’s police have continuously used the infamous  “Re-education Through Labour” (RTL) system to detain dissident writers for up to 3 years without the due process guaranteed under its own laws.
Further noting that China’s police, prosecution and judiciary have increasingly abused its Criminal Law by arbitrarily charging dissident writers with “subverting (or inciting subversion of) state power” to suppress freedom of expression as well as charging outspoken journalists with “leaking state secrets” to suppress press freedom.
Opposing the escalation of state-ordered assaults on independent-minded media in China, in which editors are dismissed and even arrested, publications closed, books banned and news blackouts imposed on politically sensitive events; particularly illustrated by the case of LI Changqing, a journalist in Fujian Province, who was sentenced to 3-years’ imprisonment on a charge of  “deliberately fabricating and spreading false and alarmist information” solely for publishing on an overseas Chinese news network an anonymous report on an outbreak of dengue fever in his home city of Fuzhou.
Concerned by evidence of growing threats to press freedom in Hong Kong and Macao, including the sentence of journalist Ching Cheong to 5-years’ imprisonment on the charge of espionage.
Further concerned by the Chinese government’s continued imposition of repressive measures against the Tibetan, Uyghur and Mongol peoples to crack down on any expressions of their self-determination and to suppress the religious and cultural manifestation of their ethnic identities;
Worried about the growing Internet censorship throughout the country, in which thousands of worldwide websites are blocked, popular Internet Chinese forums discussing sensitive issues closed, internet writers harassed and imprisoned, including the 2-6 year sentences of LI Yuanlong, LI Jianping, GUO Qizhen, ZHANG Jianhong and YAN Zhengxue on the charge of “inciting subversion” solely for their publication of dissident articles on overseas websites.
Shocked by the increasing persecution of Independent Chinese PEN Centre (ICPC) members, including the sentencing of SHI Tao (10 years), ZHANG Lin (5 years), YANG Tianshui (12 years), ZHANG Jianhong (6 years) and YAN Zhengxue (3 years), the harassment, short detention and exit restriction of more than 30 members, including its President LIU Xiaobo, Board Member ZHAO Shiying, LIAO Yiwu, ZAN Aizong, LU Xuesong, LI Jianhong, ZHAO Xin, OUYANG Xiaorong, XIONG Zhongjun, LIU Shui, QIN Geng and SUN Wenguang, and the denying of its Seceretary-general ZHANG Yu, a Chinese citizen residing in Sweden, to re-enter China mainland for his family visit.

Urges the government to:
·         Stop the harassments and persecution of ICPC members, and lift the restriction on their freedom of exit and re-entry of mainland China, particularly to attend PEN conferences overseas;
·         Release all arrested and imprisoned writers and journalists in China who have been detained in violation of their right freedom of expression.
·         Release all prisoners in the Tibet, Xinjiang Uyghur and Inner Mongolia autonomous regions who have been detained in violation of their right to freedom of expression;
·         Cease its efforts to censor cyberspace and to release immediately all writers jailed for peacefully expressing their opinions over the Internet;
·         Ratify its signature of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights signed in October 1998;
·         Engage in a complete and meaningful reform of the Chinese legal system in accordance with international standards and its own Constitution to guarantee fair trials, the full rights of defence and appeal, the legal practices of attorneys, and a prison system that ensures the health and safety of inmates; particularly to cease the abusive use of the charges of “subversion” against writers and of “leaking state secret” against journalists; and to abandon the infamous Re-education Through Labour (RTL) system.
                III.      China – Tibet: Crackdown on and Arrests of Writers
The Assembly of Delegates of International PEN, 73rd International PEN Congress 2007, Senegal, 4-11 July 2007
Protesting the apparent crackdown on writers throughout the Tibetan Plateau (TAR, Qinghai Province, and other Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures in Sichuan, Yunnan and Gansu) as in the case of Woeser, a Tibetan-born Chinese-language writer, whose hugely successful book, Notes on Tibet, was banned by the Chinese authorities in 2004. After a period of house arrest, she was stripped of her job, and forced to leave her apartment. Today, she runs a blog that is also subjected to extreme censorship, monitoring and intimidation from the government authorities.
Deeply concerned at the detention of at least six writers in various Tibetan prisons, including Dolma Kyab and Ven Richen Sangpo;
Opposes the unreasonable restrictions on independent-minded and free media in the Tibetan regions, in which editors are arrested, publications closed, and broadcasts hampered, for example the case of the Oslo-based Voice of Tibet radio, whose broadcasts are obstructed by the Chinese authorities;
Calls for:
·         Tibetan writers to be entitled to full freedom of expression;
·         Information and knowledge embargo on the Tibetan people to be lifted;
    Improved access and availability of education for all Tibetans;
    Websites, chat sites, newspapers and blogs to be allowed to operate freely;
    Greater tolerance for writers and dissidents in the Tibetan regions and throughout China;
Demands the release of all Tibetan writers in prison detained solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression, including:
Tashi GYALTSEN and Jampel GYATSO:
Dolma KYAB
Ven NGAWANG Phulchung
Ven Richen Sangpo
               IV.      Cuba – Arrests and Detentions of Writers, Internet Censorship and Other Free Press Restrictions
The Assembly of Delegates gathered at the 73rd Congress of the International PEN in Dakar, Senegal, 4th - 11th July 2007
Alarmed by the increased arrests of writers, independent journalists and librarians, in spite of international public opinion that calls for democratic human rights and specifically, of freedom of expression;
Worried for the 32 writers, independent journalists and librarians who are at this moment in prison, given heavy sentences simply for attempting to practice independent journalism and their right for freedom of expression;
Deeply worried that many of these journalists, writers and librarians, are kept in prisons lacking human conditions, obliged to live among dangerous common prisoners who threaten and assault them under instruction from the prison authorities;
Dismayed that many of these prisoners are in very bad health and lacking proper medical care, endangering their lives, as well as the fact that in many cases, these prisoners had been placed in prisons far away form their family homes;
Of special concern is RICARDO GONZALEZ ALFONSO, short story writer, poet and journalist, editor of the literary magazine “De Cuba”, founder of the Independent Journalism School “Manuel Márquez Sterling” which were both prohibited by he government, and author of the book “Men Without Faces”; he was sentenced to 20 years in prison in March 2003;
Disappointed by the continued existence of the Law of Security of Information which prohibits Cubans to have internet services unless they are members of official organizations;
Notes the “extra penal furlough” status used to keep some dissidents who are not detained under surveillance, under restrictions that are so harsh that they are tantamount to imprisonment, and the application of which are arbitrary and that also carry the threat of return to prison with no formal process;
Therefore urges the Cuban government to free unconditionally all the writers, journalists and librarians sanctioned solely for exercising their professional and cultural rights independently from official mechanisms;
Demands that the Cuban government to allow journalists the right to leave Cuba if they have visas to travel elsewhere, as guaranteed under Article 13 of the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights;
Further urges that the Cuban government to repeal all laws that restrict freedom of expression and information, and to and to ratify as well the International Agreement on Civil and Political Rights that warrant the freedom of expression and information.
                 V.      Eritrea – Deaths in Custody and Imprisonment of Journalists
The Assembly of Delegates of International PEN, meeting at its 73rd International Congress in Dakar, Senegal from 4th to 11th July 2007
Deeply disturbed by the reported death of four incarcerated independent journalists – Medhane Haile, Said Abdelkader, Yusuf Mohamed Ali and Fessehaye "Joshua" Yohannes – as a result of apparently appalling prison conditions and of torture;
Troubled by the continued imprisonment of other independent journalists in Eritrea since September 2001, held without charge and incommunicado;
Alarmed by the climate of impunity and the on-going culture of secrecy as to the fate of all imprisoned writers and journalists in Eritrea;
Shocked by the wave of repression of state journalists in late 2006 in response to the escape to safety outside of Eritrea of several of their colleagues, resulting in the imprisonment of several of them;
Therefore urges the government of Eritrea to:
Release immediately and unconditionally all writers and journalists behind bars in violation of their right to freedom of expression;
Confirm or deny the fate of the four journalists who are said to have died in prison over the past year;
Ensure that all imprisoned writers and journalists are treated humanely, have regular access to food and to any needed medical care and receive visits from family, lawyers and the International Committee of the Red Cross; and,
Allow for independent media to resume work in Eritrea and take the necessary steps to ensure that that your government fully respects all fundamental human rights as outlined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of the United Nations, which Eritrea signed and ratified in 2002.
               VI IV.  Iran – Detentions of Writers, Call for Justice for those who Died in Custody, and Restrictions on Free Expression
The Assembly of Delegates of International PEN, meeting at its 73rd International Congress in Dakar, Senegal, 4 – 11 July 2007
Extremely concerned about the lack of progress in identifying and prosecuting those responsible for the torture and subsequent murder of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi; and the failure to bring to justice those who ordered the serial murders in the late 1990s of Iranian writers and intellectuals;
Shocked by the conviction for spying of freelance business journalist Ali Farahbakhsh on 26 March 2007, who was sentenced to three years in prison; and  the two year prison sentence handed down to Iranian Kurdish journalist Kaveh Javanmard on 17 May 2007, as well as the continued detention of the Iranian Kurdish journalists and cultural activists Adnan Hassanpour and Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand and  Iranian Azerbaijani journalists and cultural activists Said Matinpour and Abbas Lissani; as well as the prison sentences of three years and two years and a half years handed down by the court of first instance to Kurdish journalists Ejlal Qavami and Said Sa’edi respectively on 9 June 2007;
Concerned that the security organisations have prevented the Iranian Writers Association from holding its General Assembly to elect its board of directors for the past five years;
Deeply concerned that the authorities have banned the publishing of hundreds of books including those that have already appeared once or several times in print, and have used this policy to pressure independent publishers; prohibited some films and shut down several cultural and artistic organisations;
Further concerned that writers, journalists and others detained in violation of their right to freedom of expression have been tortured in the presence of judges, held for weeks in solitary confinement and denied basic due process rights;
Noting that Iran imprisons the highest number of journalists in the Middle East, violating their rights to freedom of expression and to a fair trial, and often with long periods of incommunicado detention and lack of access to adequate medical care;
Dismayed that the judicial authorities have banned an increasing number of writers and journalists from visiting other countries; and have harassed and persecuted a sizable number of journalists on returning to Iran from training courses abroad;
Troubled by the state crackdown on women’s activists and women writers and journalists, which has resulted in dozens being arbitrarily detained, at least eight of whom are facing charges, including prominent women writers and journalists Shadi Sadr, Mahbubeh Abbasgholizadeh, Jila Baniyaghoub and Nahid Keshavarz; and the prison sentences handed down to journalists Nusheen Ahmadi Khorasani, Parvin Ardalan, Sussan Tahmassebi  and Fariba Davoodi Mohajer.
Noting that Iran’s judiciary has shut down a number of independent newspapers, more than 30 weeklies and other periodicals, mostly in the provinces, and tens of student newsletters in the course of the past year; dozens of journalists and intellectuals have been summoned by authorities and many of them have been prosecuted under the restrictive provisions of the Press Law and Penal Code;
Worried by resolutions that the government adopted in November 2006 to facilitate control of the Internet in Iran, which have been used since that time to ban access to countless Web sites; as a result of which thousands of Web sites are censored, on-line journalists harassed and privately-owned Internet service providers (ISPs) ordered to shut down or put themselves under government control; and including the crackdown on several Iranian “bloggers” who write and post information on the Internet, amongst them prominent Internet writer Arash Sigarchi who was sentenced to 14 years in prison, reduced to three years on appeal, in February 2005; 
Deploring the climate of self-censorship induced by the systematic repression of those expressing critical or opposing views against the authorized political and religious doctrines;
Noting with distress that the International Bookfair (TIBF) held in Tehran 1 – 12 March 2007 only gave access to publishers approved by the Iranian government, and that international publishers were separated from domestic publishers, thus diminishing the possibility of a real cultural dialogue between Iranian and foreign writers and publishers;
Alarmed that the Iranian ethnic groups, including Kurds, Azerbaijanis, Arabs and Baluchis, are prohibited from teaching and studying in their own languages;
Further alarmed by the systematic suppression of public and intellectual dissent in Iran;
Urges the government of Iran to:
Release and drop all charges against all political prisoners targeted for the legal exercise of their right to free expression, association and assembly, including Siamak Pourzand and Ali Farahbakhsh; as well as all prisoners detained in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory;
Review the Press Law, Penal Code and censorship of book publishing with the aim of the repeal all criminal provisions hindering the peaceful expression of opinion;
Require and maintain the full cooperation of judicial bodies and security forces in ensuring that trials are conducted in accordance with international standards of fairness and that torture is abolished; and to bring to justice those who ordered the murder of Zahra Kazemi and the victims of serial murders of the late 1990s;
Lift the ban on newspapers and periodicals, and to retract resolutions that allow for censorship of the Internet in its many forms and ensure the free flow of information on the Web;
Conduct a thorough investigation of its secret prisons, granting full access to international observers;
Take measures to allow writers and journalists to freely practice their right to freedom of assembly and association;
Take concrete steps to ensure the full and unhindered access to the right to freedom of expression in Iran.
             VII.      Mexico – Murders of Journalists, Impunity and Judicial Reform
The Assembly of Delegates of International PEN, meeting at its 73rd International Congress in Dakar, Senegal, from 4th to 11th July 2007
Congratulates the Chamber of Deputies and Senators of the Mexican Federation for having decriminalised defamation, libel and slander via legislative changes passed on 18 April 2006 and 6 March 2007 respectively;
Urges the Chamber of Deputies of the majority of the States of the Mexican Federation to repeal defamation, libel and slander from their Criminal Codes, and the Federation, Baja California, Jalisco and the Federal District to consider these faults within their respective Civil Codes;
Condemns the following acts of violence perpetuated against journalists in Mexico:
7 murders:
    Enrique Perea Quintanilla, director of Dos Caras, Una Verdad magazine and former crime reporter for local newspapers El Heraldo and El Diario de Chihuahua – killed near Chihuahua, Chihuahua, on 8 or 9 August 2006.
    Bradley Will, independent documentary maker and reporter for the news website Indymedia – killed in Oaxaca, Oaxaca, on 27 October 2006.
    Misael Tamayo Hernãndez, director of El Despertar de la Costa – body found in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, on 10 November 2006.
    José Manuel Nava Sánchez, former editor and correspondent for the newspaper Excélsior – body found in Mexico City on 16 November 2006.
    Roberto Marcos García, journalist for the newspapers Testimonio and Aralma – body found near La Matoza, Veracruz, on 21 November 2006.
    Adolfo Sànchez Guzmàn, editor of Orizaba website – body found between Ciudad Mendoza and Ri Blanco, Veracruz, on 30 November 2006.
    Raúl Marcial Pérez, editorial columnist for the regional newspaper El Gráfico – killed in Juxtlahuaca, Oaxaca, on 8 December 2006.
    Saúl Noé Martínez Ortega, journalist for the newspapers Diario de Agua Prieta and El Escorpion and Interdiario magazine – body found near the Chihuahua-Sonora state border on 23 April 2007.
4 disappearances:
    Alfredo Jiménez Mota, crime reporter for the newspaper El Imparcial – last seen in Hermosillo, Sonora, on 2 April 2005.
    Rafael Ortiz Martinez, reporter for Zocaló newspaper –last seen in Monclova, Cohuila, on 8 July 2006.
    José Antonia Garcia Apac , editor of the newspaper Ecos de la Costa – last seen between Tepalcatepec and Morelia, Michoacán, on 20 November 2006.
    Rodolfo Rincón Taracena, journalist for the newspaper Tabasco Hoy – last seen in Villahermosa, Tabasco, on 20 January 2007.
Attacks on journalists and media outlets, including:
    Staff at Noticias newspaper: two members of staff shot and wounded in Oaxaca, Oaxaca, on 9 August 2006.
    Jaime Vargas Chablé: journalist for Por Esto! – Molotov cocktail thrown at his car in Mérida, Yucatán, on 22 August 2006.
    Staff at the Por Esto! Newspaper: grenade attack on its office in Cancún on 23 August 2006. Ywo grenades thrown at its headquarters in Mérida, Yucatán, on 1 September 2006, leaving three journalists injured.
    Misael Sánchez Sarmiento: reporter for Tiempo de Oaxaca – shot and wounded in Oaxaca, Oaxaca, on 13 June 2007.
Numerous other violations of press freedom and freedom of expression, including acts of physical aggression, threats, intimidations and theft of materials and work equipment of members of the local, national and international media covering the conflict in Oaxaca, Oaxaca.
Condemns too other forms of censorship imposed on journalists in Mexico.
Reiterates its previous calls on federal, state and municipal authorities to take concrete steps to end impunity and bring to justice those who murder, attack, threaten or intimidate journalists in Mexico, including those responsible for the violations listed above.
Calls on the judiciary to strengthen the capacity of police forces at all levels to investigate abuses of press freedom in Mexico.
And further calls on the executive and legislative powers to include the subject of human rights at all levels of basic education in Mexico with the aim of ensuring that human rights are understood and respected by all.
            VIII.      Tunisia – Internet Censorship, Imprisonment of Writers and Journalists, and Other Media Repression
The Assembly of Delegates of International PEN, meeting at its 73rd International Congress in Dakar, Senegal from 4th to 11th July 2007
Welcoming the Internet as a world phenomenon over the last decade with online information transforming societies and their economies, allowing swift access to complex information, instantaneous information-sharing across the world and linking people across the globe in a low-cost manner;
Recognising that Tunisian President Ben Ali has expressed his commitment to the development of the Internet, and that he, during the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) held in Tunisia in November 2005, guaranteed freedom expression and contended that access to the Internet is “free and a fact of life” in Tunisia;
Observing, however, that during the WSIS summit access to email services such as Hotmail was denied to Tunisians, and that more Tunisians have been arrested for expressing themselves on the Internet during the past three years than for views carried by the print media since the country’s independence in 1958;
Concerned that Internet cafés are under tight control by the Ministry of Telecommunications and the Ministry of the Interior, that access to public Cybercafés can be denied, that owners of public phones, faxes, and photocopiers are requested to report on customers, and that Internet websites are being blocked and young people exploring the Web are being harassed, arrested, tortured and sentenced to heavy prison terms following unfair trials;
Also concerned that the dépôt légal system is still used as a hidden form of censorship of books in Tunisia;
Dismayed by the continued detention of the lawyer and Internet writer Mohammed Abbou, as well as the conditions under which he is imprisoned; including the rejection by prison authorities of his request to have his law-books with him in his cell;
Alarmed by the constant harassment and attacks on internet activists and writers Sihem Ben Sedrine and Neziha Rejiba (also known as Om Zied), and journalists Taoufik Ben Brik, Slim Boukhdir and Lotfi Hajji who all struggle to practice their journalism in Tunisia;
Further Dismayed by the case of Abdallah Zouarim who, after having served five years arbitrary house arrest, is currently being detained 500 km from his family home for a further 26 months without any legal basis,
Particularly concerned by the measures taken against Omar Mestiri, the editor of  Kalima, who will be brought to trial in Tunis on August 2 on charges of defamation and faces a sentence of 3 years in prison, as well as the recent smear campaign against Raouf Ayadi; a lawyer who has published several articles in Kalima on the dysfunction of the judicial system: the security services published a fake pornographic photomontage with an image of his wife and the police refused to take any action, not even allowing him to file a complaint.   
Calls upon President Ben Ali and the Tunisian Government to comply with the rules and regulations laid down in the United Nation’s Charter, the Universal Declaraton of Human Rights, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and to their commitments as reported in the WSIS final documents;
Calls upon the Tunisian Government to lift blocking of local and international rights groups, newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters and to facilitate the growth of the new industry represented by the worldwide web.
               IX.      Turkey – Trials and Harassment of Writers Under Insult Legislation
The Assembly of Delegates of International PEN, meeting at its 73rd  International Congress in Dakar, Senegal,  4 – 11 July 2007
Noting that Article 301 states that “public denigration of Turkishness shall be punished by imprisonment of between six months and three years”, and that this is in total contradiction of the right to freedom of expression, hence unacceptable;
Further noting that the abolition of Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) and similar laws all over the world has long been a key demand of International PEN, particularly so after the murder of Armenian Editor Hrant Dink on 19 January 2007, whose death is linked to the charges made against him under this law;
Also noting that Prime Minster Recep Erdogan has accepted that this Article should be amended, that the Turkish Bar Association had gathered together Turkish NGOs to suggest amendments, yet these initiatives have not led to further progress;
Emphasising the need for a new initiative in Turkey focusing on creating a Penal Code that is in accordance with the international human rights standards to which Turkey is committed, notably those to which Turkey has acceded including the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights;
Severely concerned that the continuing large number of cases opened against journalists, publishers, and intellectuals during the last twelve months creates an atmosphere of hostility, aggression and polarisation in the society, which clearly contradicts the expressed goals as, announced by the government;
Urges the government of Turkey to end the pattern of judicial harassment and silencing of writers, journalists and editors of who in a peaceful manner practise their right to provide a diversified view of Turkey’s history and present situation.
                 X.      Uzbekistan – Psychiatric and Long Term Detention of Writers and Journalists
The Assembly of Delegates of International PEN, meeting at the 73rd Congress in Dakar, Senegal, 4 – 11 July 2007
Condemns the continuing attempts of the Uzbek authorities to silence journalists reporting on human rights and other politically sensitive issues, as evidenced by the extended detention of journalist Djamshid Karimov in a psychiatric hospital in Samarkand, and the January arrest of journalist and human rights defender Umida Niyazova, on charges of smuggling subversive literature into the country;
Expresses particular concern about the Uzbek authorities’ flagrant abuse of psychiatric care in the case of Djamshid Karimov;
Further condemns the failure to release, in a 2006 Presidential amnesty: Mamadali Makhmudov, a noted author sentenced in February 1999 to 14 years in prison for his peaceful political opinions and affiliations; Muhammed Bekjanov and Yusif Ruzimuradov, both journalists tried alongside Makhmudov and each serving sentences of 15 years. All are imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and are detained in appalling conditions;
Calls upon the Uzbek authorities to:
·         Release all writers and journalists detained solely for the practice of their professions and the expression of their opinions, in conformity with Uzbekistan’s constitution and obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
·         Immediately cease the harassment, prosecution and intimidation of journalists and their families who attempt to report on human rights issues in Uzbekistan, or who have peaceful political affiliations;
·         Ensure that psychiatric detention is not abused as a form of detention without charge, amounting to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, to silence critics of the Government, and therefore to release Djamshid Karimov immediately.
               XI.      Venezuela – Closure of Television Channel/Repression of Media
The Assembly of Delegates of International PEN, meeting at the 73rd  Congress in Dakar, Senegal, 4 – 11 July 2007
Deeply worried by the fact that the license for the television channel RCTV, founded in 1953, expired on May 27 and the government of Venezuela decided not to renew it, which meant the closure of the first widely available channel established in Venezuela.
Taking into account that the reason for the decision not to renew the license of Radio Caracas Television refers to the editorial line and politics of the channel, in violation of fundamental rights of freedom of expression and communication.
Stressing that: the closure of channel RCTV will force many journalists and writers to suppress their dissident voices, to silence the reflection and critical spirit which are appropriate to the writers and journalists who do creative work, and to protect themselves by self-censorship.
Remembering that the Government of Venezuela was one of the first to sign onto the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Democratic Charter of the Organization of American States and the American Convention on Human Rights, the “Pact of San José, Costa Rica.”
Keeping in mind that Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights, in its article 3 about Freedom of Thought and Expression, says that: “(3) The right to expression cannot be restricted by indirect methods or measures, such as the abuse of official or private controls on paper for newspapers, radio electric frequencies, or equipment or apparatus used in the diffusion of information, nor by any other means directed toward impeding communication and the circulation of ideas and opinions.”
Recalling that the Inter American Commission of Human Rights has manifested its concern about the progressive deterioration of the exercise of freedom of expression in Venezuela and has issued a call to the Venezuelan state to protect, within the parameters of international human rights law, the right to divergent criticism as an expression of pluralism, tolerance and a spirit of openness, without which a democratic society cannot exist.
Strongly recommends that the Government of Venezuela show its full democratic spirit by restoring to RCTV, an important medium of the opposition, the use of the frequency that was conceded to it for fifty-three years.
Urges that the Government of Venezuela promote dialogue and pluralistic reflection, dispense with actions which attempt that work against the freedom of expression, and guarantee the free exercise of thought and speech, as an expression of respect for divergence, personal integrity and the judicial guarantees and the judicial protection of workers, as noted in the Democratic Charter of the Organization of American States, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights (The Pact of San José, Costa Rica) to which Venezuela is a signatory.
             XII.      Vietnam – Imprisonment, Attacks and Censorship of Writers and Journalists
The Assembly of Delegates of International PEN, meeting at its 73rd Congress in Dakar, Senegal, 4-11 July 2007,
Deploring that since the 73rd International PEN Congress in Berlin, Germany, the situation of persecuted writers in Viet Nam has further deteriorated. The writer Pham Hong Son, 38, arrested in March 2002, has been ‘amnestied’ in August 2006, the poet Vo Lam Te, 59, arrested in 1979 has been ‘amnestied’ in April 2007 and the journalist-essayist Nguyen Vu Binh, 39, arrested in September 2002, has been ‘amnestied’ in June 2007, only for serious health’s reasons. Moreover, Nguyen Vu Binh and Pham Hong Son have been placed under 3 years’ probationary detention. Since his liberation, Pham Hong Son has been subjected to several attacks and interrogation sessions by security police.
Alarmed and indignant by the fact that in the worst crackdown campaign for 20 years, at least 19 writers, cyber dissidents and defenders of freedom of expression have been violently attacked and detained arbitrarily. Some have been condemned to heavy prison sentences after unfair trials. They include:
- Nguyen Van Ly, 61, priest, editor of the clandestine review ‘Freedom of Expression’, arrested on 19 February 2007 and sentenced on 30 March 2007 to 8 years’ imprisonment and 5 years’ probationary detention for ‘spreading propaganda against the State’. He previously served 15 years in prison between 1977 and 2005. His co-editors have also been sentenced: Nguyen Phong, 32, and Nguyen Binh Thanh, 51, respectively to 6 and 5 years’ imprisonment; Hoang Thi Anh Dao (f), 21, and Le Thi Le Hang (f), 44, to 2 years and 18 months’ suspended imprisonment.
- Tran Quoc Hien, 42, lawyer and cyber dissident, arrested on 12 January 2007, sentenced on 15 May 2007 to 5 years’ imprisonment and 2 years’ probationary detention for ‘spreading propaganda against the State’;
- Le Thi Cong Nhan (f), 28, lawyer and cyber dissident, a barrister from Hanoi and member of International Association of Lawyers and Nguyen Van Dai, 38, lawyer and editor of the clandestine review ‘Freedom and Democracy’, arrested on 6 March 2007 and sentenced on 11 May 2007 to 4 and 5 years’ imprisonment and 3 and 4 years’ probationary detention respectively, for ‘spreading propaganda against the State’.
At least 9 Internet writers and dissidents have been arrested since August 2006 and remain detained without charge or trial. They include:
-  Tran Khai Thanh Thuy (f), Tran Thi Thuy Trang (aka Nguyen Thi Thuy Trang) (f), Le Trung Hieu, Truong Quoc Huy, Vu Hoang Hai, Nguyen Ngoc Quang and Pham Ba Hai.
Appalled and concerned by violent attacks and forced confinement on women writers and cyber dissidents, including:
- Bui Kim Thanh (f), 48, lawyer and cyber dissident, held in psychiatric detention at Bien Hoa mental hospital since 2 November 2006, for her legitimate professional activities and critical writings;
- Tran Khai Thanh Thuy (f), 47, teacher, woman writer and poet, journalist, member of the Union of Hanoi writers and the Club of Hanoi women poets. Arrested and harassed several times for her critical writings since September 2006, and reportedly subjected to trial by a ‘popular court’ and held under strict house arrest. On 21 April 2007, she was arrested and imprisoned on the charge of ‘spreading propaganda against the State’. Tran Khai Thanh Thuy is suffering from diabetes and advanced tuberculosis.
- Duong Thi Xuan (f), 49, teacher and journalist, editorial secretary of the clandestine review ‘Freedom and Democracy’, subjected to harassments, threats and interrogations since August 2006. Seriously injured in a street accident allegedly caused by a plain-clothes policeman on 29 October 2006.
Urges the government of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam to
§ release immediately and unconditionally writers and journalists detained for having exercised their right to freedom of expression;
§ cease all attacks, harassments, intimidation and humiliation against independent writers and journalists.  Including: Le Chi Quang, Nguyen Khac Toan, Pham Hong Son, Duong Thi Xuan (f), Tran Ngoc Nghiem, Nguyen Dan Que, Do Nam Hai, Nguyen Xuan Tu, Bach Ngoc Duong, Hoang Tien, Nguyen Xuan Nghia, Tran Khue, Nguyen Thanh Giang, as well as their families;
§ allow sick prisoners to be hospitalized, to receive adequate medical care and visits from their families;
§ abolish censorship and lift all arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

           XIII.      Criminal Defamation in Africa
The Assembly of Delegates of International PEN, meeting at its 73rd International Congress in Dakar, Senegal, 4 – 11 July 2007
Fully endorses the Declaration of Table Mountain issued at the annual conference of the World Association of Newspapers in Cape Town, South Africa, on 3 June 2007 that calls for the elimination of “insult” and criminal defamation laws in Africa and for a review and subsequent repeal of other laws restricting the media;
Takes particular note of the annex accompanying the Declaration that refers to cases where editors, journalists and others engaged in media activities in 27 countries have been harassed, detained, convicted and jailed or physically assaulted under such or associated laws or authoritarian action;
Horrified at the high number of media practitioners listed and at the manner in which press freedom has been under attack in Africa and calls on the United Nations, UNESCO and the African Union to take urgent action to persuade the governments involved to end such practices,
Draws attention to the fact that International PEN has long campaigned worldwide for the abolition of these laws and takes this opportunity to endorse this call at such an important conference of writers on African soil.
         XIV.      Criminal Defamation and Insult Laws World Wide
The Assembly of Delegates of International PEN, meeting at its 73rd International Congress in Dakar, Senegal, 4 – 11 July 2007
Reiterating PEN’s belief that the necessary advance of the world towards a more highly organized political and economic order renders a free criticism of governments, administrations, and institutions imperative;
Recalling that the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression declared in a 1999 that “defamation laws should not afford special protection to the president and other senior political figures”;
Noting that the Special Rapporteurs for Freedom of Expression of the United Nations, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, and the Organization of American States, and the Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have individually and jointly declared that insult and criminal defamation laws place unjustifiable restrictions on freedom of expression and are incompatible with freedom of expression;
Encouraged that this global consensus that insult and defamation laws are incompatible with freedom of expression has led several countries to strike down, amend, or eliminate criminal defamation laws that had been used to silence critical voices, including Mexico, Peru, Panama, El Salvador, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, and East Timor since 2003;
Troubled that despite this international consensus several countries continue to prosecute writers, intellectuals and journalists for insulting the state, state institutions, or national symbols, including, Turkey, Ethiopia, Tunisia, and Iran
Deeply troubled that countries on every continent are currently prosecuting or have recently prosecuted writers and journalists under criminal defamation laws criminalizing criticism of heads of state and other public officials, among them Algeria, Chad, , Cyprus, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Morocco, Niger, Sudan, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Colombia, , Afghanistan, Maldives, Russia, and Iraq;
Further troubled by the existence of insult laws in many other countries, including in Western Europe, among them Germany, France, Italy and Poland,  which, although are rarely enacted and in some cases have been dormant for many years are anachronisms that need to be removed from the statute books once and for all;
Commends the global drive to eradicate insult and criminal defamation laws that punish criticism, limit debate, and stifle dissent, and applauds the countries that have amended or eliminated these laws, and those who are in the process of doing so;
Pledges PEN’s support for the international movement to eliminate these laws, and declares the elimination of criminal defamation and insult laws PEN’s highest campaign priority. 
           XV.      Journalists’ Safety in Conflict Zones
The Assembly of Delegates of International PEN, meeting at its 73rd International Congress in Dakar, Senegal from 4th to 11th July 2007
Recalling the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, in particular the Third Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 on the treatment of prisoners of war, and the Additional Protocols of 8 June 1977, in particular article 79 of the Additional Protocol I regarding the protection of journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict;
Emphasizing that there are existing prohibitions under international humanitarian law against attacks intentionally directed against civilians, as such, which in situations of armed conflict constitute war crimes, and recalling the need for States to end impunity for such criminal acts;
Deeply concerned at the frequency of acts of violence in many parts of the world against journalists, media professionals and associated personnel in armed conflict, in particular deliberate attacks in violation of international humanitarian law;
Recognizing that the consideration of the issue of protection of journalists in armed conflict by the United Nation Security Council is based on the urgency and importance of this issue, and recognizing the valuable role that the Secretary General can play in providing more information on this issue;
Condemns intentional attacks against journalists, media professionals and associated personnel, as such, in situations of armed conflict, and calls upon all parties to put an end to such practices;
Recalls in this regard that journalists, media professionals and associated personnel engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians and shall be respected and protected as such, provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians. This is without prejudice to the right of war correspondents accredited to the armed forces to the status of prisoners of war provided for in article 4.A.4 of the Third Geneva Convention;
Condemns all incitements to violence against civilians in situations of armed conflict, further affirms the need to bring to justice, in accordance with applicable international law, individuals who incite such violence;
Urges the United Nations Human Rights Council
-                     to raise these issues with all parties to armed conflicts, by urging such states to do their utmost to prevent violations of international humanitarian law against civilians, including journalists, media professionals and associated personnel; by emphasizing the responsibility of States to comply with the relevant obligations under international law to end impunity,
-                     and to urge the relevant authorities to prosecute those responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law and by urging all parties involved in situations of armed conflict to respect the professional independence and rights of journalists, media professionals and associated personnel as civilians.




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