A world-wide association of writers which exists to promote friendship and intellectual co-operation among writers everywhere, regardless of their political or other views; to fight for freedom of expression; and to defend vigorously writers suffering from oppressive regimes. PEN is strictly non-political, non-governmental organization with UNESCO Category A status. It is composed of Centres (such as PEN Canada) which represent their membership, not country. Membership is open to all writers, regardless of nationality, language, race, colour or religion, so long as they ascribe to and will sign the P.E.N. Charter, thus agreeing to observe its conditions.

The International P.E.N. Charter is based on resolutions passed at its International Congresses and may be summarized as follows:

  1. Literature, national though it be in origin, knows no frontiers, and should remain common currency between nations in spite of political or international upheavals.
  2. In all circumstances, and particularly in time of war, works of art, the patrimony of humanity at large, should be left untouched by national or political passion.
  3. Members of P.E.N. should at all times use what influence they have in favour of good understanding and mutual respect between nations; they pledge themselves to do their utmost to dispel race, class, and national hatreds, and to champion the ideal of one humanity living in peace in one world.
  4. P.E.N. stands for the principle of unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations, and members pledge themselves to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression in the country and community to which they belong, as well as throughout the world wherever this is possible. P.E.N. stands for a free press and opposes arbitrary censorship in time of peace. It believes that the necessary advance of the world towards a more highly organized political and economic order renders a free criticism of governments, administrations, and institutions imperative. And since freedom implies voluntary restraint, members pledge themselves to oppose such evils of a free press as mendacious publication, deliberate falsehood and distortion of facts for political and personal ends.

International P.E.N. was founded in England in 1921, almost 25 years before the United Nations. At the time, "P.E.N." represented "Poets, Essayists and Novelists", but most of the 124 centres now welcome any wordsmith — including journalists, playwrights, publishers, translators, editors and screenwriters.

As an example of a centre, take PEN Canada. They say of themselves that "PEN Canada is for debate and against silence. We lobby governments in Canada and internationally, organize petitions, send letters, faxes, and postcards to lobby for the release of persecuted writers, and conduct public awareness campaigns about freedom of expression."


References
International P.E.N.
http://www.oneworld.org/internatpen
PEN Canada
http://www.pencanada.ca

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