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On World Press Freedom Day, PEN launches Americas campaign, condemns rising violence against journalists in Latin America

(PEN/IFEX) - New York City, May 3, 2009 - PEN American Center is marking World Press Freedom Day today by launching the "Freedom to Write in the Americas" campaign, which will run through the rest of 2009, and by releasing the "Declaration in Defense of the Freedom to Write in the Americas." The Declaration is endorsed by Jon Lee Anderson, Ernesto Cardenal, Edwidge Danticat, Junot Díaz, Francisco Goldman, Alma Guillermoprieto, Elena Poniatowska, Sergio Ramírez and 50 other distinguished writers throughout the region.

The campaign aims to highlight the persecution of writers and journalists and the issue of impunity in Latin America, 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 were murdered in Latin America while four more were forcibly disappeared. PEN's 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 long-term cases 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.

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. All campaign materials, including an interactive map detailing attacks against writers and journalists in the Americas, are available in both Spanish and English at http://www.internationalpen.org.uk/go/freedom-of-expression/campaigns .

PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of International PEN, the world's oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperilled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession. For more information on PEN's work, please visit www.pen.org/freedom .

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