The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN, the WiPC,
was set up in 1960 as a result of mounting concern about attempts to
silence critical voices around the world. A team of volunteers was set
up at the International PEN office in London to gather information and
to alert the PEN membership to take action.
Today, the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN is staffed
by a small team of professionals who monitor around 1,000 attacks on
writers, journalists, editors, poets, publishers and others every year.
These attacks include long prison terms, harassment, threats, and even
murder. WiPC staff members work on international campaigns in
defence of freedom of expression, write and publish special reports on
specific issues, and ensure that the work of the WiPC is represented in
other areas of International PEN such as literary events and PEN
International magazine. They also work with the international
programmes team to enable long term change in civil society.
The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN publishes a
bi-annual country by country Case List of writers around the world
who have been harassed, threatened, imprisoned or killed. It leads
international campaigns, and alerts the PEN membership to urgent
cases, keeps it informed about developments on individual cases of
attack as well as global trends affecting free expression, and gives
advice on actions and campaigns. These actions and campaigns
include protest letters, lobbying governments and raising public
awareness. Through writing to families and where possible directly to
prisoners, PEN members provide encouragement and hope.
The WiPC is a founding member of the International Freedom of
Expression Exchange (IFEX), a global network of non-governmental
organisations that monitors censorship worldwide and defends writers
and journalists who are persecuted for exercising their right to
freedom of expression.
Today, the Writers in Prison Committee is based in the Head Office of
International PEN and works with Writers in Prison Committees in
around half of the PEN Centres worldwide.