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Contributions of women writers and journalists highlighted on International Women's Day

Campaigning for the protection and freedom of women writers and journalists around the world

A portrait of Liu Xia is displayed during a protest calling for the release of Chinese dissidents outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong, 5 December 2013
A portrait of Liu Xia is displayed during a protest calling for the release of Chinese dissidents outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong, 5 December 2013

REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

On March 8 PEN International and PEN Centres around the world mark International Women's Day by highlighting the continued contributions and achievements of women writers and journalists to freedom of expression and the challenges and threats they face in the course of their work. Female writers and journalist struggle to overcome challenges at all levels and are often targets of violence, threats and repression simply for doing their job in many parts of the world.

PEN International monitors and campaigns on behalf of female writers, journalists and bloggers worldwide by continuing to highlight the dangers these women face and by campaigning for their protection and freedom. Over the last year PEN International has monitored over 100 cases of female writers and journalists who have been threatened, imprisoned or killed.

This year we are focusing on the following cases, which are emblematic of the threats faced by female writers and journalists across the globe.

Liu Xia – China

Liu Xia is a poet, artist, and founding member of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre. She has been held in her Beijing apartment without access to phones, Internet, doctors of her choice, or visitors since her husband, Liu Xiaobo, was named the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2010. In recent months, there has been increased concern regarding the mental health of Liu Xia, who is reportedly suffering from depression. PEN has long protested against the on-going extra-judicial detention of Liu Xia and has continuously campaigned for her immediate and unconditional release. Read Xia's poetry.

Take action for Liu Xia.

Reeyot Alemu - Ethiopia

Reeyot Alemu is a journalist and is currently serving a 14-year prison sentence, reduced to five years on appeal in August 2012 after most of the terrorism charges against her were dropped. Alemu's arrest on 21 June 2011 was thought to be related to her articles criticising the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) party. Alemu has been subjected to ill-treatment in prison, including being denied access to medical treatment and visitors. Her parents are the only people allowed visitation rights. PEN International has protested the continuing imprisonment of Alemu, calling for her immediate and unconditional release.

Take action for Reeyot Alemu

Dina Meza - Honduras

Dina Meza, an award-winning journalist, human rights defender and author, has been the victim of harassment and threats since 2006 which have not been properly investigated. The harassment against her has intensified in recent months. Meza began her work as a human rights defender in 1989 after one of her brothers was abducted by security forces and detained incommunicado for a week during which time he was tortured and accused of being a guerrilla. PEN International believe that she is targeted for exercising her right to free expression and that her physical security is at risk. The organisation is calling for these threats to be investigated and for the Honduran authorities to provide adequate protection to Dina Meza.

Take action for Dina Meza.

Shiva Nazar Ahari - Iran

Shiva Nazar Ahari, journalist, human rights activist and blogger, is serving a four year prison sentence for her human rights reporting and peaceful activism. A founding member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters (CHRR), Ahari was summoned to Tehran's Evin prison on 8 September 2012 to serve out a four-year sentence for her alleged participation in political gatherings in 2009. The case dates back to 14 June 2009, when she was arrested following the disputed presidential election on charges of 'moharebeh' ('waging war against god'), 'propagation against the regime', 'actions against national security' and 'disrupting the public order'. She was released on bail on 13 October 2009, but re-arrested on 20 December 2009 and held in Evin prison until 12 September 2010, much of the time in solitary confinement. In a lower court hearing on 4 September 2010, she was sentenced to 74 lashes and six years in prison, later reduced to four years on appeal, and was sent to Rajaee Shahr Prison. PEN International believe that she is detained solely for the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression and calls for her immediate and unconditional release.

Take action for Shiva Nazar Ahari.

Ayşe Berktay, Büşra Ersanlı and Zeynep Kuray - Turkey

To mark 8 March International Women's Day, PEN International is calling on authorities in Turkey to drop all charges against Ayşe Berktay, Büşra Ersanlı and Zeynep Kuray, three women caught up in a wide-reaching anti-terror probe into Kurdish and pro-Kurdish civil society in Turkey. The indictments against all three women variously accuses them of leadership and membership of a terrorist organisation described as the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) while failing to demonstrate any material or causal links to terrorism or the plotting of violent acts. The three women are amongst thousands of suspects - including scores of writers, journalists, academics, politicians, publishers, lawyers and human rights activists - facing lengthy prison terms as a result of the ongoing investigation into the KCK. PEN International calls on the Turkish authorities to ensure that the cases against the three are brought to an end immediately and all charges relating solely to their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and association are dropped.

Take action for Ayşe Berktay, Büşra Ersanlı and Zeynep Kuray.

Malawi PEN: Supporting girls and women through education.
PEN Centres supporting women and girls around the world.

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