On the 31st Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre . . .

A replica of the memorial in the Polish city of Wrocław depicting a destroyed bicycle and a tank track as a symbol of the Tiananmen Square protests. The original was destroyed by Security Service despite the fact that it was after the 1989 elections./ Photograph courtesy of Masur and generously released into the Public Domain.

The Tiananmen Square protests or the Tiananmen Square Incident, commonly known as the June Fourth Incident were student-led demonstrations held in Tiananmen Squarei n Beijing during 1989. The popular national movement inspired by the Beijing protests is sometimes called the ’89 Democracy Movement. The protests started on April 15 and were forcibly suppressed on June 4 when the government declared martial law and sent the military to occupy central parts of Beijing. In what became known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, troops with assault rifles and tanks fired at the demonstrators and those trying to block the military’s advance into Tiananmen Square. Estimates of the death toll vary from several hundred to several thousand, with thousands more wounded. MORE



On June 4th, the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, PEN America announced it will bestow the 2020 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award on Chinese essayist, civil rights activist, and lawyer Xu Zhiyong. Xu, a longtime civil rights leader, was detained February 15 for penning an essay criticizing the leadership of China’s president Xi Jinping, including his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, and calling on Xi to resign.



Xu Zhiyong / Photograph courtesy of Shizhao under CC BY 3.0

Xu Zhiyong (b. 1973) is a Chinese civil rights activist and formerly a lecturer at the Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications. He was one of the founders of the NGO Open Constitution Initiative and an active rights lawyer in China who helped those underprivileged. He is the main founder and icon of the New Citizens’ Movement in China. In January 2014 he was sentenced to four years in prison for “gathering crowds to disrupt public order”. He was detained again on 15 February 2020, in the southern city of Guangzhou.Xu was born in Minquan County, Henan Province.  He is married to Cui Zheng, a journalist. Their daughter was born on January 13, 2014, while Xu was in a detention center facing trial. He had been in hiding since late 2019 and was detained by Chinese police on February 15, 2020.

Xu received his Bachelor of Law degree from Lanzhou University in 1994 and Doctor of Law degree from Peking University in 2002.

Xu is currently being held incommunicado in state custody, and it is widely expected that he will soon be formally charged with “subverting state power,” an offense that carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence. Earlier this spring, PEN America labeled China as the top jailer of writers worldwide based on a global census published in the PEN America 2019 Freedom to Write Index.



The PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, given annually, recognizes an imprisoned writer targeted for the exercise of free expression. Of the forty-seven jailed writers who have received the this honor since 1987, forty-one have been released due in part to the global attention and pressure the Award generates. By conferring the award on Xu, PEN America kickstarts a global campaign for his release.

“Xu Zhiyong has guts,” said Suzanne Nossel, PEN America’s CEO. “His essays have served as calls to conscience at pivotal moments in China’s recent history. The one that resulted in his arrest was a detailed, blistering analysis of President Xi Jinping’s blind spots and shortcomings as a leader, published while COVID-19 still raged in China. His detention forms part of a Chinese government effort to control the global narrative about the outbreak, including by disciplining Chinese doctors and journalists who tried to sound alarm bells and punishing critics of the government response to the pandemic. In his writings, Xu has been a persistent voice calling out Beijing’s intolerance for dissent—and campaigning for social equity, rule of law, and a joyful vision for his country’s future.”

Alongside his human rights advocacy, Xu is well known for his series of online essays concerning contemporary social issues in China. He has written prolifically online on issues including access to fair education, governmental mistreatment and repatriation of migrant workers, corruption, and wasteful government spending. His essays have achieved the status of samizdat-like writing among reform-minded intellectuals and advocates across China. In the essay published just before his detention, entitled “Dear Chairman Xi, It’s Time for You to Go,” Xu wrote: “If you are determined to set yourself against history, you will surely visit disaster upon this country. What China needs above all other things is freedom! Only with freedom will creativity truly flourish and progress be possible.”

“Thirty-one years ago today, Chinese dissidents and activists peacefully protesting to demand greater liberty—including the freedom to speak openly and without fear—were massacred in Tiananmen Square,” said novelist and PEN America’s president Jennifer Egan. “As our own country reels in crisis, citizens peacefully demanding that leaders be held accountable must be protected. We stand in passionate solidarity with those who use language as a tool of protest—in words and writings, and as a spur to mobilize others and drive forward public debate—around the world and here at home. We are proud to honor Xu Zhiyong for his indomitable will to speak the truth in the face of grave danger, and we pledge that his voice will not be silenced, nor his name erased. We will fight on his behalf until he is free.”

PEN AMERICA’S 2019

FREEDOM TO WRITE INDEX

PEN America’s 2019 Freedom to Write Index, the organization’s first annual global count of writers and public intellectuals unjustly detained or imprisoned worldwide, found that China held 73 writers and public intellectuals in prison or detention for their writing in 2019—more than any other country.

Traditionally bestowed at PEN America’s annual New York City gala, the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write award kicks off a campaign of advocacy for the awardee’s freedom. Past honorees include Saudi writer-activists Nouf Abdulaziz, Loujain Al-Hathloul, and Eman Al-Nafjan (2019); Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo (2018, freed in 2019), Ukrainian writer and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov (2017, freed in 2019), Egyptian novelist Ahmed Naji (2016, freed in 2018), Azerbaijani investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova (2015, freed in 2016 with continued restrictions on her movement), and Uyghur professor Ilham Tohti (2014).

PEN America’s annual gala is scheduled for December 8, 2020 at the American Museum of Natural History, health and safety permitting.

This post is complied courtesy of PEN America and Wikipedia.


Jamie Dedes:

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Suspension of ABC Reporter “Sends the Wrong Message” says PEN America; News Outlets Defend Wright

Journalist David Wright meets Pope Francis en route to South America, July 2015 courtesy of Manitoba321 under   CC BY-SA 4.0 license

David Wright is an Emmy Award-winning Canadian-American broadcast journalist and political activist, a former correspondent for ABC News, and a self-described socialist. His work appears on Nightline, World News Tonight, Good Morning America and 20/20.



ABC News on Wednesday announced it had suspended correspondent David Wright for comments he made that were secretly recorded and disseminated by a right-wing activist group.

“ABC’s decision essentially—and wrongly—suggests that journalists are unable to do their work professionally if they have private opinions, as any individual does. In doing so, it hands a victory to an outfit whose mission is to use underhanded tactics to undermine public faith in the credibility of a free press. Wright was expressing his personal opinions at a bar, and even gave a disclaimer that his comments were separate from his professional work. To punish him for this sends the wrong message to the public and to those who seek to further drive distrust in professional media.”  Nora Benavidez, director of U.S. Free Expressions Programs, PEN America.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

The Poet by Day officially endorses Bernie Sanders for President.

The New New Deal

Link HERE for Bernie’s schedule of events around the country.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

PEN America celebrates the release of Turkish Journalist and Artist, Zehra Doğan

“Art should never be a crime. [Zehra] Doğan is a model of courage for all journalists and artists for standing up against injustice and silence, especially because of her determination to work and create while incarcerated.” Julie Trébault, Director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America



Last week PEN America celebrated the release of Turkish painter, journalist and feminist activist, incarcerated Zehra Doğan (Free Zehra Doğan • Zehra Doğan’a özgürlük). Doğan was released on February 24 after spending 600 days in a Turkish jail after courts deemed her journalistic and artistic work to be “terrorist propaganda.”

Doğan was the editor of Jin News Agency (JINHA), a feminist Kurdish news agency. She was arrested on July 21, 2016, and detained until December 2016 when she was released pending trial. On March 7, 2017, Doğan was sentenced to prison for 2 years, 10 months and 22 days on charges of “terrorist propaganda” as a result of her reporting, social media posts, and her paintings about the Turkish military’s operations in the largely Kurdish town of Nusaybin. The indictment stated that one of her paintings, which depicted a real-life scene of Turkish flags on war-torn buildings and was based on a photo circulated by the Turkish military on social media, went ‘beyond the limits of criticism.’ JINHA was also shut down as part of the government crackdown following an attempted coup in 2016.

“We are delighted that Zehra has been released and reunited with family and friends after her unjust imprisonment, which was an appalling affront to free expression,” said Julie Trébault, Director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America. “Art should never be a crime. Doğan is a model of courage for all journalists and artists for standing up against injustice and silence, especially because of her determination to work and create while incarcerated. Many other journalists in Turkey remain behind bars. As we celebrate Zehra’s release, we call for the release of all other Turkish journalists, artists, and activists who are in prison for their journalism or their expression.”

While imprisoned, Doğan rigorously continued to work on her paintings using diverse media including pomegranate shells, tincture of iodine, and bedsheets, despite restricted access to painting materials. Following her release, she told BBC Turkish that she had never painted as much as she did in prison. Also while in prison, she founded the 8-page handmade newspaper Özgür Gündem Zindan (Free Agenda Dungeon) with the help of several of her fellow inmates. As an inmate, Doğan received public support from numerous human rights organizations and renowned artists, including the graffiti artist Banksy and prominent Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. During her imprisonment, Doğan became the second woman in Turkey to receive the International Women’s Media Foundation’s “Courage in Journalism” award. She also received the Freethinker Prize from the Swiss Freethinker Association. Most recently, Doğan was shortlisted in the Arts category for the Index on Censorship Awards 2019.

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Post and photograph courtesy of PEN America.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


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More than 100 writers, artists, and activists call on the United Nations for an investigation of Jamal Khashoggi’s Death

Jamal Khashoggi,Saudi journalist, Global Opinions columnist for the Washington Post, and former editor-in-chief of Al-Arab News Channel. Photo: Khashoggi offers remarks during POMED’s “Mohammed bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia: A Deeper Look”. March 21, 2018, Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), Washington, DC. / Courtesy of April Brady / POMED – Mohammed bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia: A Deeper Look under CC BY 2.0 license

It was painful for me several years ago when several friends were arrested. I said nothing. I didn’t want to lose my job or my freedom. I worried about my family. I have made a different choice now. I have left my home, my family and my job, and I am raising my voice. To do otherwise would betray those who languish in prison.”  Jamal Khashoggi



PEN America nonprofit logo under CC BY-SA 4.0

Pen America announced last Friday that more than 100 writers, journalists, artists, and activists are calling on the United Nations to initiate an independent investigation into the disappearance and apparent murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Marking a month since his disappearance and on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, the writers and artists issued an open letter demanding that those responsible be brought to justice.

Literary and artistic luminaries and leading journalists, including J.K. Rowling, Bob Woodward, Meryl Streep, Zadie Smith, Margaret Atwood, Arundhati Roy, Patrick Stewart, Chimamanda Adichie, Tom Stoppard, and Mario Vargas Llosa, have signed a letter calling on António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, to launch a thorough and independent investigation into the disappearance and apparent murder of Jamal Khashoggi in order to uncover the truth and lay the groundwork for those responsible to be held accountable.

The letter reads: “The violent murder of a prominent journalist and commentator on foreign soil is a grave violation of human rights and a disturbing escalation of the crackdown on dissent in Saudi Arabia, whose government in recent years has jailed numerous writers, journalists, human rights advocates, and lawyers in a sweeping assault on free expression and association. It is also yet another data point in a global trend that has seen an increasing number of journalists imprisoned and murdered for their work. As writers and journalists ourselves, we fear the potential chilling effect of this trend, at a moment when the work of all those who would speak and expose the truth has never been more important.”

The letter also cites the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, endorsed in 2012, which states that attacks on journalists “[deprive] society as a whole of their journalistic contribution and [result] in a wider impact on press freedom where a climate of intimidation and violence leads to self censorship.”

“The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was intended not just to silence one man, but to intimidate and suppress voices of dissent across borders,” said Summer Lopez, Senior Director of Free Expression Programs. “As such, it poses a threat not just to journalists, and not just to critics of the Saudi government, but to all those who would stand up for human rights and for the truth. China and Russia have already demonstrated a willingness to engage in extra-territorial and extra-judicial attacks on their critics; with Saudi Arabia joining that list, the threat to free expression globally is grave. In the face of such a vile and dangerous act, it is critical that the international community respond with fortitude and clarity in defense of journalists, and in defense of freedom of expression as a whole. The United Nations must lead that charge.”

Since Khashoggi’s disappearance, the Turkish government has repeatedly claimed to have evidence he was tortured, murdered, and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Although Saudi authorities denied any knowledge of his whereabouts for two weeks after his disappearance, they subsequently admitted he had been killed inside the consulate, but offered an implausible explanation, suggesting that an attempt to detain Khashoggi went awry. Turkey and Saudi Arabia both claim to be investigating the case.

Jamal Khashoggi began his journalism career as a correspondent for the Saudi Gazette newspaper. Although once close to the inner circles of the Saudi royal family, he was gradually subjected to rigorous censorship by Saudi authorities. Concerned about his safety in Saudi Arabia following a crackdown on free expression that began in 2016 under the new Crown Prince, he went into self-imposed exile and moved to the United States in 2017. That September, he began reporting for the Washington Post as a columnist, where he continued to do so until his disappearance. On September 28, Khashoggi made his first trip to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in order to inquire about the acquisition of documents needed for his second marriage. He disappeared on October 2, after returning to the building based on instructions provided to him.

PEN America Washington Director Thomas O. Melia spoke at a memorial service for Jamal Khashoggi in Washington, D. C. on Friday, November 2. More information is available here.

The open letter is available here.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its stated mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org


ABOUT

Poet and writer, I was once columnist and the associate editor of a regional employment publication. Currently I run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers.

My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation Press, The River Journal, The Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman