Fundamental freedoms are under threat across the globe, from the rise of authoritarian populism in the U.S. and parts of Europe to tightening authoritarianism in China, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and elsewhere, as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the spread of disinformation. Against this backdrop, the brave individuals who speak out, challenge tyranny and established orthodoxies, and make the intellectual case for freedom are on the front lines of the battle to keep societies open, defend truth, and resist repression. They form an essential cornerstone of the world’s ability to reverse current trends toward autocracy. By elevating, empowering, and offering them a measure of protection, PEN America will enable a range of stakeholders to understand and more effectively counter this threat.
The Freedom to Write project shines a light on the courageous writers and intellectuals who face grave repercussions for exercising their right to free expression. The Freedom to Write Index is the only global count of writers in prison, drawing attention to the countries where they are at greatest risk and analyzing how and why they are targeted. The Writers at Risk Database of writers, intellectuals, journalists, and artists under threat, is an essential tool for advocates, journalists, and researchers. We have developed these resources with the Foundation’s support and now seek funding to deepen this work and its impact by reaching new audiences and strengthening the visibility of the Index to policymakers and the public. We will publish two annual Index reports in 2022 and 2023, maintain and expand the Writers at Risk Database, and launch global events and advocacy to highlight cases and trends and raise the cost for repressive governments. This program seeks to protect writers under threat, ensure that their voices are not suppressed, and strengthen the bulwark that writers and intellectuals offer as an essential defense against authoritarianism.