January 25, 2022

PEN America Releases “Freedom to Write Index 2020”

From a Pen America Announcement:

PEN America‘s Freedom to Write Index provides a count of the writers and public intellectuals imprisoned around the world during the previous calendar year. Since its launch last year, the Freedom to Write Index has helped to inform the greater public about threats to writers around the world, telling the stories of individuals who have been silenced and detained for their words, and shining a light on the countries that present the gravest threats to writers and public intellectuals.


Among the findings of this year’s report:

  • For the second year in a row, China, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey topped PEN America’s list of the world’s worst jailers of writers and public intellectuals.
  • In 2020, at least 273 writers, academics, and public intellectuals in 35 countries were in prison or unjustly held in detention in connection with their writing, their work, or related activism. This represents a 9 percent increase over the prior year, signaling a serious deterioration for the climate for free expression globally.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened free expression in many countries, as governments have used the pandemic as cover to further restrict speech, with laws being put in place criminalizing “false information” or “rumors” about the pandemic, and in some cases even criminalizing criticizing the government itself.
  • Meanwhile, numbers increased in Iran, Vietnam, and Egypt, and expanded dramatically in Belarus, which accounted for zero cases in the 2019 Index, but now ranks as the fifth worst jailer of writers and intellectuals, with 18 documented cases in 2020—or some 7 percent of the total—as a result of a brutal post-election crackdown on mass protests that has targeted writers, translators, artists, and other cultural figures. Belarus is the only new country to make it into this year’s top ten list of the world’s worst jailers of writers and public intellectuals.

Direct to Full Text Report

Direct to PEN America’s Writers at Risk Database

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.