#1 2011

“If you reach a half million, we will place ourselves at your side”

The opposition in Belarus is shattered. Can an economic crisis help them get democracy in Belarus?

After the elections in Belarus in December last year, the situation in the country has become chaotic. Crackdowns on the opposition have been violent and many people have been thrown into jail. Journalist and author Svetlana Alexievich is Belarus's most prominent journalist. She has written the hard-hitting documentary book A prayer for Tjernobyl, for example, and is one of the regime's foremost critics. The author Cecilia Hansson has interviewed her in Berlin, where she currently resides. In this interview she gives us her personal view on the situation in Belarus right now.

A letter to Ahmet

What is happening to freedom of speech in Turkey today? This is a question that the writer Çiğdem Mater raises in this letter to her friend and colleague, Ahmet Sik, who was arrested on March 3. She writes about the

Becoming An Insect

There are some things that can never be depicted in Zimbabwe; neither in journalism nor in fiction. But in this short story, a Zimbabwean writer writes under pseudonym about a historical case of ethnic cleansing. This novel

Who dares to speak in Yemen?

The Yemeni journalist and blogger Afrah Nasser is today one of the Middle East's important voices. She has been named as one of the 10 most important bloggers in the Middle East by CNN. Ever since the demonstrations in

Imre Kertész on self-imposed exile and writing

In early March the Swedish publisher Svante Weyler and the filmmaker Håkan Pienowski went to Berlin to meet the writer and Nobel Laureate Imre Kertész. The meeting resulted in a short movie, produced by Swedish PEN. Svante

"Why are you following me?"

The Swedish PEN received a letter in May from the pseudonym ”Danlambao”, who wanted to tell us about the state of freedom of speech in Vietnam and one writer in particular, Bui Chat. You can read the whole letter here. It illustrates Swedish PEN

The ICORN-Relay – Anisur Rahman

There are currently 35 sanctuary writers throughout the world who have been forced to leave their countries because of persecution and harassment. We give some of them the opportunity to have their say in the Dissident Blog; we call it “the


The Dissident Blog grew out of a feeling of anger and frustration.

During the years following the impact of Internet as a new channel of communication accessible to, if not all then very large groups of people, hope was born for a new and virtually overwhelming breakthrough for freedom of speech and thereby for democracy. Internet could not be supervised! Who would be able to get a grip on this medium, with no centre, to which anyone at all could connect their computer and publish their ideas?

And in the beginning that was how it was. We can see what an important role the new digital means of communication played in various popular uprisings and “revolutions” – from as far back as the ”Velvet Revolution” in former Czechoslovakia up to the revolts this spring within the Arab world. But it has also been apparent how various groups in power have done their utmost to get a grip on digital communications. Internet is no longer the free arena for ideas it was in the beginning. The Chinese power-elite have perhaps gone furthest in controlling what their own citizens may or may not see on the Web. Look in the wrong place and the police come knocking. And after the demonstrations last winter in Minsk, Belarus, the KGB knocked on the doors of many of the citizens who had participated in the peaceful demonstrations against what they regarded as ballot rigging – at any rate of those who had had an active cellphone in their pocket while exercising their rights of freedom of expression. And in Sweden we have had our own debate on the so-called ”FRA-law” (Swedish Defence Radio Authority law, allowing warrant-less wiretapping of all telephone and internet traffic crossing Swedish borders).