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Pen International Day of the Imprisoned Writer

Pen International set aside November 15 as the day of the imprisoned writer to create public awareness on the prosecution of writers in general. Each year, it focuses on specific imprisoned writers to highlight their circumstances and encourage the public to take action on behalf of these writers.



This year’s observation will mark 36 years of commemorating and remembering writers who have suffered persecution and imprisonment for exercising their freedom of expression.  PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, started the day in 1981 to promote literary culture, celebrating the freedom to write, besides taking action to call for justice and freedom for imprisoned and murdered colleagues.

Among this year’s writers is Ramón Esono Ebalé, from Equatorial Guinea. Also known as Jamón y Queso, Ebale is an award-winning cartoonist and activist who runs a satirical blog and a graphic novel La pesadilla de Obi (Obi’s nightmare).

Ebale was arrested in September this year in the capital city, Malabo for the critical portrayal of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, and other government officials in his cartoons.

Although initially arrested and questioned about his drawings and blog, Ebalé is detained at the Black Beach jail for alleged involvement in money laundering. He has denied the allegations. According to Amnesty International, Ebale has not been charged yet.


Read: Celebrating World Press Freedom Day

Harassment of journalists across Africa a concern. Cartoon: Roland Polman

Harassment of journalists across Africa a concern. Cartoon: Roland Polman

There has been a number of petitions to facilitate the release of Ebale, who received the Courage in Editorial Cartooning at an Association for American Editorial Cartoonists convention ceremony at Hofstra University in Long Island on November 6.

Ebale is listed together with Honduras’ Cesario Alejandro Félix Padilla Figueroa, Viet Nam’s Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, Syria’s Razan Zaitouneh and Turkey’s Zehra Doğan.

Read: Peacebuilding in Africa: why the media matters

The Day of the Imprisoned Writer also commemorates the writers who have been killed since the previous year’s event.

According to media foundation for West Africa, violations of freedom of expression are still rampant, with security agents targeting critical journalists for imprisonment and assassination.


The use of repressive media laws in countries across the continent goes to prove that more needs to be done to protect freedom of expression.