WRITING FREEDOM: Report from a succesful network meeting in Krakow
An assembly of around 200 writers, human rights defenders and member city representatives, a professional festival office and the City of Krakow made the 2013 ICORN biannual Network Meeting an immense success in the literary city of Krakow on 14-17 May 2013.
Tuesday 14 May
Strengthening the network After a welcoming lunch at the Manggha Museum gathered writers, activists, coordinators and experts from all over the world, the 2013 ICORN Network Meeting was officially opened with greetings from Chair of the ICORN Board and co-founder of the organisation, Peter Ripken.
While a positive update on administration, finance and consolidation of ICORN was presented by the Administration, the proceeding testimonies of guest writers and city of refuge coordinators reminded us of why we were there: To strengthen the network’s capacity to protect, promote and participate in human rights and the freedom of speech. How can we protect writers when threats are becoming globalised and how can we help promote and prepare the writers for the next steps after ICORN?
Collaboration and expansion Following the opening session, representatives from PEN, Mille Rhode and Carl Morten Iversen, and Fredrik Elg from the Swedish Arts Council, discussed how to cooperate between cities on regional and national levels. A noteworthy discussion, which illustrated the different ways the various cities and organisations work together and with the writers. The founder of Casa Refugio in Mexico City, Philippe Olle-Laprune, Raffaella Salierno of PEN Catalan, Australian author Anna Funder and founder of the Cities of Asylum in Pittsburgh, Henry Reese, continued an inspiring talk on how to expand the network in times of crisis and recession.
Free speech in a crowded world Before attending a spectacular dinner hosted by the Mayor of Krakow at the City Hall, the participants grabbed the opportunity for some networking during a beautiful walk through Krakow’s historical streets - heading for the Jagellonian University at the heart of Krakow.
Here, the British historian, author and political commentator Timothy Garton Ash gave the inaugural speech of WRITING FREEDOM - the joint ICORN Network Meeting and PEN WiPC Conference, Free Speech in a Crowded World.
Wednesday 15 May
Protect, Promote, Participate - freedom of expression
Head of Free Expression Policy and PR at Google, William Echikson, started the day with an intervention about Google and their role as a facilitating authority in the field of freedom of expression. Echikson emphasized how an increasing amount of governments are cracking down on Internet freedom. The intervention was followed by a lively exchange of questions and answers with the audience. Four separate sessions followed, on; Protection – the challenges of visas and migration; Promotion – how we can cooperate to promote and create networks for ICORN cities and writers; Consolidation and Expansion – on the challenges and opportunities of an expanding organisation; and the ICORN guest writers’ network group had a chance to share experiences and discuss future challenges.
Villa Decius - Frontline reports and workshops Transport for lunch and joint workshop sessions with PEN International WiPC to the magnificent 16th century classical Villa Decius, where the ICORN guest writers are hosted when they are invited to Krakow, offered another opportunity to talk to distant colleagues.
The day proceeded with workshops, panel discussions and film screenings on relevant issues. Writers and frontline activists of PEN and ICORN were the voices of the panel discussions on Freedom of Speech at the Horn of Africa, Frontline Reports from writers and journalists in Russia and the former Soviet states and State of Freedom of Expression in the Arab Spring Countries. Silenced Voices, a strong documentary on the personal encounter of three exiled journalists from Sri Lanka, was shown, and chaired by one the portrayed journalists, Mr. Bashana Abeywardane.
Journalists and human rights defenders received valuable training from experts from Tactical Tech on how to navigate safer in the digital landscape they are operating in. Participants sparred and learned greatly about mapping and matching of writers and cities from ICORN’s sister organization FreeDimensional in Creative Resistance-sustainable protection, and at And the Mayor said YES!, representatives from cities and councils discussed how to convince cities to become active defenders of human rights and freedom of expression. Publication & Translation in a globalised world discussed how to break through to new audiences.
Poetry Slam and jazzy tunes
A day with a heavy set programme was magnificently rounded off by Xpress Freedom, a spectacular night of poetry, jazz and performance at the Alchemia Club, featuring ICORN writers Chenjerai Hove (Zimbabwe), Basem al-Nabriss (Palestine), Easterine Kire (Nagaland), Sjón (Iceland), Manal al-Sheikh (Iraq), Noufel Bouzeboudja (Algeria), Naimeh Sanaye (Iran), Mazen Maarouf (Palestine), Mansur Rajih (Yemen), accompanied by the renowned Polish jazz band High Definition.
Thursday 16 May
The morning programme started with a panel discussion with writers from the Middle East and North Africa, chaired by Ann Harrison, new WiPC Programme Director. The participants were ICORN guest writers Ali Amar (Morocco), Mazen Maarouf (Palestine/Gaza), Nasrin Madaanizad (Iran) and Noufel Bouzeboudja (Algeria).
Lessons learnt and future scenarios The panel discussion was followed by a report back from the working groups held the day before to share the lessons learnt and to boost the discussions of ICORN and its ways forward. Before wrapping up the conference and welcoming the preceding Milosz Festival of poetry, a panel debate was hosted on future scenarios and strategies for protecting persecuted writers, artists and human rights defenders with Luigia di Gisi (EU Commission), Sidd Joaq (Freedimensional), Fredrik Elg (Swedish Arts Council).
A sincere thank you!
Executive Director Helge Lunde says: ”We would like to extend out thanks to our co-organisers in PEN International WiPC for making this joint event so utterlt successful, and first and foremost, to the Krakow Festival Office and Villa Decius for being such generous, dynamic and professional hosts.”