She will be the city's second Guest Writer in the frame of the Refuge Writer Program, coordinated by Catalan PEN. Sihem Bensedrine is prevented from working in her own country because of her extensive involvement in the fight for human rights in Tunisia. She has faced long term persecution and reprisals against herself and her family.
As a journalist, Bensedrine made her debut in the Tunisian independent press which prospered in the eighties. This was the beginning of a fight for press freedom, a fight that was extended to the feminist sphere when she took part in establishing a women's club, Club Tahar Haddad, and Nissa, a feminist magazine. Sihem Bensedrine is now editor in chief of the online magazine Kalima and of Radio Kalima (web and satellite radio).
Catalan PEN officially presented Sihem Bensedrine as the new Barcelona Guest Writer at a press conference held on the 23rd of March. Members of the Government of Catalonia and of the Barcelona City Council joined Ms. Dolors Oller, Chair of Catalan PEN, and Ms. Raffaella Salierno, Director of the Refuge Writer Programme, to welcome the new guest writer. Mr. Salem Zenia's speech was especially emotional, as he symbolically passed on the relay as Guest Writer to Ms. Bensedrine. In his speech, Mr. Zenia stressed how being an ICORN Guest Writer has made a difference for him, even in his own country. Fifteen years after his first novel in Tamazight was published in France, the book has been reprinted and can circulate in his native Cabilia (Algeria). To Mr. Zenia, this fact is a clear indication of how international support can help persecuted writers break through censorship.
In her own speech, Sihem Bensedrine denounced the systematic censorship that the Tunisian government wields on all the independent media and the complicity of European countries towards the African non-democratic rulers, in the name of the struggle against terrorism. To Ms. Bensedrine "the obsession of European countries for security has become totally irrational. They do not realize that by putting down the voices that claim democracy, they are leaving the field free for the radicals". Sihem Bensedrine herself is experiencing the negative consequences of this alliance. On request of the Tunisian and Algerian authorities, France has shut the Radio Kalima channel that was broadcasting through the European Satellite.