Forty writers have been killed globally in the past year. But no country is more dangerous than Mexico, reports PEN International, a worldwide association of writers and journalists.
“Today the situation for writers is worse than when PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee was formed 50 years ago,” says Marian Botsford Fraser, the current chair of the committee.
Today, PEN marks Nov. 15, the Day of the Imprisoned Writer.
Iran and Burma have gained notoriety for their show trials and excessive prison sentences. “And many other countries, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, use accusations like defamation to put writers behind bars,” notes Botsford Fraser. “But at least those countries have a court process, even if it’s a bogus one. In Mexico, writers are simply killed.”
Eight Mexican writers have already been killed this year, including Valentín Valdés Espinosa, who was abducted, tortured and shot. On Valdés’ corpse a message was left: “This is going to happen to those who don’t understand. The message is for everyone.”
Liu Xiaobo won’t be able to accept this year’s Nobel Peace Prize — the Chinese writer is serving an 11-year prison sentence for “inciting subversion of state power.” Among China’s political prisoners, 40 are writers.
Compared to that, being jailed for short stints, as Kenyan writer Philo Ikoyna has, seems like an easy fate. “Kenya is officially open to writers and literature, but reality isn’t that clear,” she says. “I could write books, but when I protested on the streets saying the same things, I was arrested.”