Tuesday, September 10, 2013

PEN in Reykjavik day one

 Reykjavik is a good place with a pleasant atmosphere and good energy. The building 'Harpa' in which we work is a spectacular colossus of metal, glass and concrete. Does that sound awful? The building is great, it clothes  a person, shelters, does not make one feel small, it feeds the soul.The first meeting was for the Writers in Prison Committee and thus confidential. We listened to cases of authors and discussed how to campaign. The view from the room was pleasant, clouds on an island in the distance, boats in the harbor. It was also an occasion to meet people again whom i had met in Krakow earlier this year.
We also reflected on the definition of 'writer', in other words are it just the authors, journalists, bloggers and publishers or do we need to include the whistle blowers who leak the secrets the general public should know. The real battle is about information.
I learned how the UPR (Universal Periodic Review) at the United Nations works and the role PEN is playing in this process. 
The campaign against impunity targets countries where journalists and authors are tortured and killed. It is worst in Honduras, where 30 journalists where killed since 2009, after the coup. Mexico and Brazil sadly also have a bad record. (Football fans beware!) And we know about Russia after the Punk prayer in the Cathedral... China's record is pretty bad. Yet the USA in persecuting Bradley Manning when she leaked the CIA secrets only wanted to expose the war crimes of the US. American citizens can challenge the government when it spies on them but non-Americans can't. It is all about Freedom of Speech: without that no creativity but fear and self-censorship and without literature no freedom of speech.
The dinner and the speeches were fantastic... What a fulfilling day!

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