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PEN centres honour persecuted journalists and writers

This month, several PEN centres have honoured journalists and writers who have paid dearly for being outspoken - by being beaten, detained or forced into exile as a result of their work.

On 18 November, Vietnamese writer and activist Chi Dang received the Oxfam Novib/PEN Award in The Hague. Chi Dang has written numerous articles on human rights in Vietnam and is co-founder of the Free Journalist Network in Vietnam. She lives in exile in Canada. The Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari, the Georgian writer Irakli Kakabadze, the Sri Lankan journalist Sonali Samarasinghe and the Colombian columnist Daniel Coronell were also honoured with awards, but were not present.

Swedish PEN honoured Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak with its 2009 Tucholsky Award on 15 November, the Day of the Imprisoned Writer. Isaak has been detained without charge since September 2001, at the time of a brutal crackdown on independent media in Eritrea.

Norwegian PEN's Ossietzky-prize for "outstanding achievements within the field of free expression" was awarded to 25-year-old Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer on 16 November. Omer has written for international media like "The Nation" and Inter Press Service. In 2008, he was awarded the 2007 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism for his reporting, described as a "humane record of the injustice imposed on a community forgotten by much of the world." On his return to the Gaza Strip after the ceremony in London, Omer said he was stripped to his underwear and beaten by Israeli soldiers.

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