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WiPC launches "Freedom to write in the Americas" campaign

(WiPC/IFEX) - The following is an abridged version of a 17 February 2009 WiPC press release:

WiPC launches Freedom to write in the Americas campaign

Today the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC) launches a campaign to promote freedom of expression and freedom to write in the Americas, to run throughout 2009.

Freedom to write in the Americas aims to highlight the persecution of writers and journalists and the issue of impunity in the region, provide direct support to colleagues in trouble and raise awareness of trends of repression and censorship threatening writers' rights.

In the five years from January 2004 to December 2008, 37 writers and print journalists (1) were murdered in Latin America while four more were forcibly disappeared. WiPC figures for 2008 alone show a total of 191 attacks against writers and journalists, all but seven in Latin America. These included seven killings and one forced disappearance (all in Mexico), 30 imprisonments (25 in Cuba), 44 physical attacks, 35 death threats and 35 other types of threat or harassment.

In many cases it is clear that these writers were targeted for their writing. In others, their criticism of the authorities or criminal gangs gives rise to concerns that the killings and attacks were related to their work. In very few cases have the culprits been brought to justice.

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The primary focus countries of the campaign will be Mexico, Cuba and Venezuela, while developments in Peru, Colombia and Nicaragua will also be closely monitored. These countries were selected on the basis of the volume of attacks and severity of persecution against writers in recent years, and the interests of PEN Centres in the Americas and worldwide identified during a consultation process carried out in 2008. (See Background below for details of concerns in each country).

Freedom to write in the Americas will be primarily web- and email based, and will provide suggestions for actions and other materials in both Spanish and English at http://www.internationalpen.org.uk/go/freedom-of-expression/campaigns . The website will be regularly updated with new information and campaigning tools.

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