The Day of the Imprisoned Writer

A Photographer’s Dedication to Peace and Freedom


Article and Photography by Eleanor Bennett

This third article from me shall hope to highlight the active community of the Society of Imprisoned Writers, otherwise know as PEN International. With this installment, I am including a few photographs that received a prize in the “Peace Is” International Photography Competition based in Greece.

November 15th is the official Day of the Imprisoned Writer, an annual multi-national day intended to recognize and support writers who resist repression of the basic human right to freedom of expression. It was started in 1981 by PEN’s International Committee.

In the gallery for this article are images from the international photo competition “Peace Is 2012”; I placed in the top 10 in the Student category. Three of the images I sent in are recent constructs of what the word peace means to me. The two images of legs are the award winning images from the Peace competition. Along with myself, these admirable youths also reached the top 10 placing:

  • Saif Hussain Altameme, Iraq
  • Pepa Barták, Czech Republic
  • Estela Cesar, USA
  • Belina Kortotsi, Greece
  • Anastasia Rimba, Greece
  • Felicia Simion, Romania
  • Maya Wald, USA
  • Vendula Zrůstová, Czech Republic
  • Amar Shakir Jajja, Pakistan

It was an effort to use the right image to encapsulate the right emotion for the Day of the Imprisoned Writer. To even imagine the pain of having a life’s goal or workings stifled by the situation you are forced to endure with daily life is very difficult for a young artist. Yet, in my archives I found a striking image of cold, dark and dreary barbed wire, twisted to form a circle. This is my dedication along with the white dove of peace.

The work of PEN International recently reached my attention as I have joined the Australian Book Creators Circle to communicate with more people like myself who enjoy books, illustration and publishing. In our regular meetings using the wonder of Skype at first and now Ventrilo, I learned that in respect of  PEN International, a seat is dedicated to a chosen author denied the right to free speech. It struck a chord with me — everything that I had read as a child in National Geographic and the like — the truths of the environment around me should never be hidden. Education is something that all are deserving of. The right to consume and release knowledge is like a gift to which time adds yet more value and wonder.

The founder and director of the Book Creators Circle, Letizia De Rosa, is also an ambassador for PEN. I discovered her, PEN and BCC through one of my many calls for submission. Anyone used to rejection can become somewhat brow-beaten upon becoming ignored so to receive a reply introducing me to the circle was just the lift I needed. I thank Black Chicken Publications for such a lift.


PEN International was central to the campaign that awarded Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. They are leaders in international freedom of expression campaigns and are defenders in freedom of expression via the internet. They are essential to the support of writers forced into exile. Their roots are in the country of my birth, in London, England, in 1921. For over eight decades they have represented a truly international front with an overwhelming majority of their centres based outside of Europe. Their efforts have resulted in lives saved. In the 1930s, Hungarian-born Arthur Koestler who had been imprisoned in Spain and sentenced to death had his freedom acquired due to the campaign run by PEN. Today they are a very active community campaigning on behalf of those imprisoned, persecuted and attacked for what they have written or even just being a writer

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