carrying a different torch

Did you know it’s World Press Freedom Day? Neither did I, not until Threat Level pointed it out. They also pointed out that people are translating a poem by jailed journalist Shi Tao into various languages (over 90 as of today), carrying the poem across the globe with the plan to arrive in Beijing in August. (Shi Tao sent to a pro-democracy group a copy of a directive to the Chinese press to ignore the marking of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Yahoo ratted him out to authorities because … hey, it’s business.)

This is a different kind of torch relay, lit by PEN and its charter:

LITERATURE knows no frontiers and must remain common currency among people in spite of political or international upheavals.

IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES, and particularly in time of war, works of art and libraries, the heritage of humanity at large, should be left untouched by national or political passion.

MEMBERS OF PEN should at all times use what influence they have in favor of good understanding and mutual respect among 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 the world.

PEN STANDS FOR the principle of unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and among all nations, and members pledge themselves to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression in their country or their community.

PEN DECLARES for a free press and opposes arbitrary censorship in time of peace. It believes that the necessary advance of the world toward a more highly organized political and economic order renders 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.


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