The 82nd PEN International Congress is Currently Underway

29 Sep 2016
The 82nd PEN International Congress is Currently Underway

The 82nd PEN International Congress is currently underway in Ourense, Spain hosted by PEN Galicia. The Congress has brought together more than 200 writers and PEN members representing Centres from across the world.

Margie Orford is attending the Congress in her capacity as PEN South Africa President and as a member of the PEN International board.

Together with Mexican PEN, PEN South Africa has proposed a change to the PEN Charter to call on PEN members to pledge “to do their utmost to dispel race, class, religious, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and national hatreds, and to champion the ideal of one humanity living in peace in one world.”

This builds on the initial Charter which calls on members “to dispel race, class and national hatreds”. PEN South Africa strongly believes that the inclusion of religion and gender related discrimination is a crucial one.

PEN South Africa also submitted a resolution, which was seconded by PEN Uganda, calling on the Egyptian government to:

  • Release immediately and unconditionally all writers, journalists, bloggers and activists imprisoned and detained for peacefully exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression;
  • Repeal the 2015 Anti-Terrorism Law in order to comply with Egypt’s obligations under international law regarding freedom of expression;
  • Ensure that Article 178 of the penal code, which criminalises content that violates public morals, is not used to impose restrictions which exceed those that may be imposed under international law;
  • Repeal or amend all laws that violate Egypt’s obligations under international law;
  • Repeal the Law on Associations and Foundations in order to allow all non-governmental organisations to operate freely within the country with access to the necessary resources;
  • Guarantee the independence of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate and Egyptian Writers Union;
  • Protect the rights of all to freely express their views, whether as citizens, journalists, or writers, as protected under the Egyptian Constitution and as per Egypt’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

This Charter change and resolution will be voted on during the Congress, along with twenty other proposed resolutions put forward by PEN centres.

PEN International President Jennifer Clement had the following to say about this year’s Congress:

“In the words of former PEN President Arthur Miller ‘When political people have finished with repression and violence, PEN can indeed be forgotten. Until then, it is still a fellowship moved by the hope that the work it tries and often manages to do will no longer be necessary.’ The truth is that in 2016, our work is just as important as it was almost 100 years ago when we were founded. This meeting of our global community in the city of Ourense, is an opportunity to renew our commitment to the fundamental right of free expression and to say in one voice that we will continue this work, no matter how challenging until it is no longer necessary.”