By Polina Sadovskaya, PEN America

People clash with police during a protest against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021 | AP Photo

Amid the thousands of arrests and brutal, well-documented assaults on peaceful demonstrators in Russia over the past two weeks, something different is happening this frigid winter. As in Belarus, where the machinery of oppression hasn’t stopped thousands from continuing to take to the country’s streets to oppose an authoritarian regime, Russian protesters are refusing to be silent, their ranks are swelling, and the Russian attacks on independent media — while ghastly — are signs that the Putin system of corrupt, anti-democratic governance is getting more and more fragile by the day.

While the U.S. has…


By Suzanne Nossel, PEN America

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

The real crisis in campus free speech is only beginning. Academics, pundits and politicians have for years decried rising intolerance among college students manifesting in calls to cancel controversial lectures or punish faculty for offensive utterances. In recent weeks protests have erupted over a Skidmore faculty member spotted at a pro-police demonstration and a series of incidents involving professors using words and terms offensive to certain students. …


By Nora Benavidez and Thomas Melia, PEN America

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

With journalists facing abuse and arrest while covering protests, and President Trump labeling violent attacks on reporters “a beautiful sight,” it’s not an exaggeration to say reporting has become one of the most high-risk professions in the country. This while local news outlets have been battered for years, hemorrhaging reporters and resources. …


By Karin Deutsch Karlekar and Amir Soltani

Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.

After nearly 50 days of forgoing food, Iranian women’s rights activist and PEN America Freedom to Write honoree Nasrin Sotoudeh ended her hunger strike. It was her second this year, begun to protest not merely her unjust detention but the plight of all political prisoners languishing in Iran’s prisons amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indeed, while some governments — even here in the over-incarcerated U.S. — have taken overdue steps to reduce prison populations, others have weaponized the pandemic to punish, silence, and endanger political dissidents. …


By Matt Bailey, PEN America

This article was updated on July 24, 2020; see “ISSUE 3” below.

Photo by dole777 on Unsplash

Well. We’re half way through 2020, and we have one or two things to talk about. Alongside the surge of protests against police violence and racism, we’re contending with the COVID-19 pandemic, an accompanying “infodemic” of disinformation and misinformation, the ever-growing spread of online hate and harassment, conspiracy theories, and a raft of bad ideas about how to fix the internet.


By Polina Sadovskaya and Veronika Pfeilschifter, PEN America

Photo by Michael Parulava on Unsplash

This article was originally published by the Atlantic Council’s UkraineAlert.

This week marks 76 years since Stalin deported nearly 200,000 Crimean Tatars from their homeland, but there will be no major commemorative events in their native Crimea. Ever since Russia’s illegal annexation in 2014, the peninsula’s indigenous people, the Crimean Tatars, have been denied the right to publicly remember their mass deportation. This ban on remembrance is just one particularly visible aspect of a far broader persecution campaign by the Russian occupation authorities that offers distressing echoes of Soviet crimes against humanity.


By Suzanne Nossel

On May 5, 2020, Gallup and Knight Foundation released a new report on college students and their attitudes about Free Speech. View the full report here.

No one likes to admit to being against free speech. Whether on the playground or in the elementary school classroom, the virtues of free speech as a quintessential American value are drummed into children from a young age. …


By Nora Benavidez, PEN America

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

Local news is suffering across the country. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused mass business closures around the country, resulting from a hollowing out of the advertising revenue which sustains much of the financing for local news media. As a result, many outlets have had to lay off employees, cut print editions, or even shut down altogether.

Yet at this confusing and uncertain time, local news organizations are needed now more than ever. They are reporting firsthand on the effects of the pandemic in our communities, as well as relaying government orders and well-sourced medical advice…


By Thomas O. Melia, PEN America Washington Director

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

President Trump’s careening assaults on truth and facts have led to yet another dismissal of a truth-teller working in the federal government, whose firing comes at precisely the wrong moment for the American people.

Dr. Rick Bright was pushed out of his job this week as the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and as the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response.

This case is all the more alarming because it is not “just” another case of punishing a federal employee for…


By Jonathan Friedman, PEN America

Photo by Gabriel Benois on Unsplash

This article was originally published by the University of California’s National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement.

Disruptions. Interruptions. Postponed tests. A deluge of racist, sexist, or pornographic content.

These are the hallmarks of so-called “Zoombombing,” which has swept across the landscape of virtual higher education in recent weeks. Perpetrators have interrupted routine academic engagements, including classes, conferences, and meetings, by sharing screens with offensive content, swarming chat windows, and flooding audio channels with insults. …

PEN America

#WritersResist, defending #FreedomtoWrite in U.S. and everywhere. #Resist infringements on #FirstAmendment and #FreePress. Annual festival: @penworldvoices.

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