Writers for Freedom

The Global Fight for Freedom of Speech


Freedom of speech is a fundamental right and is considered to be one of the most important indicators of democratic rule. Nevertheless, around 800 authors, journalists, editors and publishers worldwide are currently in fear of reprisals from exerting their right to free speech – they are being persecuted, threatened, placed under house arrest, imprisoned, tortured and even murdered.

To make a definite stand against rogue regimes silencing critics in this way, it is essential to make people aware of the fate of those affected through public discourse. The ZKM is dedicated to this task as part of the series of »Writers for Freedom« events in cooperation with the PEN Zentrum Deutschland and the Literarische Gesellschaft Karlsruhe. Throughout the entire period of the GLOBALE, with support from renowned contemporary writers as reading partners, specific cases will be presented, texts by imprisoned authors will be read and discussions will be held about the precarious situations in countless countries.

»As long as there are still political prisoners in the world, our hearts will also remain imprisoned.« (Liao Yiwu)

To kick off the series on August 12, 2015, Chinese author and musician Liao Yiwu is a guest at the ZKM. Due to the publication of a critical poem, he was imprisoned for four years in China, but managed to flee to Germany in 2011 and has lived in Berlin ever since. As a reading partner, he raises his voice for his friend and colleague, Li Bifeng, who was sentenced to twelve years’ imprisonment in 2012, and discuss the situation of writers in China with SWR2 literature presenter Gerwig Epkes. The actor Frank Stöckle will read out German translations of selected texts by both authors.

»To imprison a writer means destroying a library that can not be rebuilt.« (Enoh Meyomesse)

On November 4, 2015, Cameroonian poet Enoh Meyomesse shares his experiences with Hans Thill (Writers-for-Peace Officer of the German PEN). He stood in the presidential elections in 2011. However, due to an alleged formal error, his candidacy was refused. In November 2012, Meyomesse was imprisoned and sentenced to seven years in prison. In April 2015, an appeal court acquitted him unexpectedly. Through the Writers-in-Exile program of the German PEN Zentrum, he received the opportunity to come to Germany for several years.

»A poem is a maximum of freedom in the smallest space.« (Jan Wagner)

On January 27, 2016, Jan Wagner, whose volume of poetry »Regentonnenvariationen« was awarded the Leipzig Book Fair Prize in 2015, raises his voice for Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami, who is currently serving a fifteen-year sentence due to the publication of his critical poem »Tunisian Jasmine«, among other things.

»Die Stille im Augenweiß ist frei.« (Herta Müller)

For the finale of the series on March 8, we look forward to welcome Nobel Prize winner for literature, Herta Müller as the reading mentor of Chinese poet and artist Liu Xia. Together with moderator Gerwig Epkes, Herta Müller speaka about the powerful poetry of Liu Xia and about her own work, in which she eloquently highlights the horror of totalitarianism.

Entry is free. Donates will benefit imprisoned writers all over the world through the PEN Zentrum Deutschland.

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