Day of the Imprisoned Writer

Each year on November 15th, PEN International, PEN Centers, and PEN members from around the world commemorate the Day of the Imprisoned Writer to highlight and campaign on behalf of writers who face unjust imprisonment, attacks, harassment, and violence simply for their free expression work.

The day is marked by promoting literary culture, celebrating the freedom to write, and taking action to call for justice and freedom for imprisoned and murdered colleagues.

We encourage you to take action—in the form of donations and letters of appeal—on behalf of these writers as well as sharing information about these cases via social media using the hashtag: #ImprisonedWriter

This year, PEN is highlighting the cases of these five writers: 

Republic of Honduras
Cesario Alejandro Félix Padilla Figueroa
Student leader, PEN member

Cesario Alejandro Félix Padilla Figueroa, journalism graduate, student leader, and founding board member of PEN Honduras, was convicted of "usurpation" ("usurpación") at the National Autonomous University of Honduras (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras­ – UNAH) on June 7, 2017. The conviction represents the culmination of a pattern of harassment that he has faced since 2014 for his part in student protests at UNAH, which called for an end to plans to privatize the university and for the democratization of its governing bodies. Padilla Figueroa has faced ongoing harassment, including surveillance, in connection with his involvement with the protests.


Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (Me Nâm)

On June 29, 2017, blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, popularly known by her pen name Me Nâm (Mother Mushroom), was convicted of “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 88 of the Penal Code and sentenced to 10 years in prison. PEN International believes that Me Nâm is being targeted for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression. PEN International calls on the Vietnamese authorities to quash Me Nâm’s conviction and release her immediately and unconditionally, in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Vietnam is a state party.


Equatorial Guinea
Ramón Esono Ebalé 
Cartoonist and activist

Ramón Esono Ebalé, alias Jamón y Queso, is an award-winning cartoonist and activist, who, in addition to running his satirical blog, has published a graphic novel, La pesadilla de Obi (Obi’s Nightmare). Esono Ebalé is a well-known critic of President Obiang and his government and uses his drawings to highlight the large levels of inequality in Equatorial Guinea and the human rights violations committed by the state. On September 16, 2017, he was arrested in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea. While initially questioned by security agents in relation to his cartoons that are critical of President Obiang and other government officials, news outlets reported a few days later that Ebalé was being investigated for alleged money laundering and counterfeiting money. He was presented before a judge on September 20 where he was asked about these allegations and was subsequently sent to Black Beach prison in Malabo where he is being held in preventive judicial detention while further investigations are conducted. Esono Ebalé appeared in court on October 3 and gave a statement before a judge, but according to PEN’s information, he has yet to be formally charged with an offense.


Razan Zaitouneh
Human rights defender and writer

Razan Zaitouneh is a human rights defender, blogger, lawyer, and cofounder of the Violations Documentation Center in Syria (VDC). On December 9 2013, Zaitouneh, along with her colleagues Samira al-Khalil, Nazem Hamadi, and Wa’el Hamada (her husband) were abducted during a raid on the offices of the VDC in Douma, near Damascus, by a group of armed men. They had been documenting human rights violations after fleeing the Syrian government-controlled area. There has been no news of their whereabouts since their abduction, but they are presumed to be detained by an armed Islamic group in control of Douma.


Zehra Doğan
Journalist, painter, poet

Zehra Doğan is serving a prison sentence of 2 years, 9 months, and 22 days. On March 24, 2017, she was convicted of "propagandizing for a terrorist organization" (Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law) by the Second High Criminal Court of Mardin province, for her work as a painter and journalist. PEN considers her imprisonment a violation of her right to freedom of expression as an artist and a journalist, and calls for her immediate and unconditional release.