Writers At Risk

PEN’s bedrock work is long-term advocacy on behalf of individual writers who are being persecuted because of their work. This page features our highest priority cases. With the help of our members and supporters, we are carrying out campaigns to win their release and ensure they are safe and can write and publish freely.

PEN America examines threats to free expression in our annual Freedom to Write Index, a year-end count of imprisoned writers worldwide. Explore our Writers at Risk Database for updated tracking of cases of writers, journalists, artists, academics, and public intellectuals around the world facing myriad threats for their writing and expression. Read the most recent PEN International case list here.

Take a moment to share information about these writers and take action on their behalf. This is only a small sampling of writers under threat around the world.

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Tashi Wangchuk

Tashi Wangchuk | Status: Imprisoned | China

Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan language activist and entrepreneur, was sentenced to five years in prison for “inciting separatism” on May 22, 2018. These charges were a consequence of his… More

Mahmoud Abou Zeid (Shawkan) | Status: Conditional Release | Egypt

Shawkan is a journalist and photographer who often depicts daily cultural life and produces street portraits. He is a contributor to publications such as Time Magazine, Die Zeit, BILD,… More

Zehra Dogan

Zehra Doğan | Status: Released | Turkey

Zehra Doğan, a Turkish journalist and artist, was sentenced on March 24, 2017 to two years and ten months in prison for creating a painting of a Turkish city… More

Ai Weiwei | Status: Continued Harassment | China

Dissident Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has been free to travel since Beijing authorities returned his passport in July 2015. However, Ai was previously banned from foreign travel… More

Akram Aylisli | Status: On Trial | Azerbaijan

Since the publication of his novella, Stone Dreams, in 2012, writer Akram Aylisli has been subject to an officially-sanctioned harassment campaign. On March 30, 2016, on More

Nguyen Quynh

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (Mother Mushroom) | Status: In Exile | Vietnam

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, better known as “Mother Mushroom,” is a prominent independent blogger, whose blog addresses social concerns in Vietnam. More

Nasser Zarafshan | Status: Released | Iran

Nasser Zarafshan, a prominent writer and attorney, was released on March 15, 2007, after serving a five-year prison sentence on politically motivated charges.  More

Çayan Demirel and Ertuğrul Mavioglu

Çayan Demirel and Ertuğrul Mavioğlu | Status: On Trial | Turkey

Award-winning filmmaker Çayan Demirel and veteran journalist Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, directors of the documentary Bakur (which means north in Kurdish), were charged in 2017 under Article 7/2-1 of Law no. 3713 on… More

Shokjang (Druklo) | Status: Conditional Release | China/Tibet Autonomous Region

Shokjang, a Tibetan writer and intellectual, was arrested in March 2015 and sentenced to three years in prison on February 17, 2016 for writing an essay and blogpost. More

Irakli Kordzaia | Status: In Exile | Georgia

Irakli Kordzaia is currently in exile owing to the continued use of threats, harassment, and intimidation by Georgian authorities in response to his work exposing government corruption and ethical… More