PEN America Creates Freedom to Write Index

PEN America has released its inaugural PEN America Freedom to Write Index, a new annual global count of writers and public intellectuals unjustly detained or imprisoned worldwide. Alongside the Index, PEN America is launching a new, searchable database of Writers at Risk.

The index shows that at least 238 writers, academics, and public intellectuals were imprisoned or held in detention in 2019. The Index includes novelists, poets, playwrights, songwriters, biographers, memoirists, essayists, bloggers, and other genre writers. Nearly 60% of all imprisoned writers were being held by just three countries: China, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

China tops the Index, holding at least 73 writers and public intellectuals in prison or detention for their writing in 2019; Saudi Arabia held 38 writers and intellectuals in detention or prison last year, and Turkey held 30. Some 34 countries overall held writers, academics, and public intellectuals in prison. The report also analyzes patterns in terms of what motivates governments to target writers. 

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