Historically, writers have played an important role in exposing brutality and corruption throughout the world - the work of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, for example, cast a harsh light on the practices of exile and repression in the former Soviet Union. Yet the state-sponsored suppression of writers has not ended with the demise of the Cold War and the collapse of communism.
As civil war and ethnic and religious conflicts escalate world-wide, writers pursuing their art continue to play a vital role in exposing governmental wrongs - and they continue to face oppression and suppression. As recently as 1989, the Iranian government condemned Indian writer Salman Rushdie to death for criticizing Islam in his novel The Satanic Verses. Rushdie's exile - which continued for ten years, during which he nonetheless wrote and published his work - drew international attention to the plight of writers working in repressive regimes, and to the importance of protecting their freedom of expression.
Nonetheless, more than a third of the world's people today live in countries where there is no freedom of the press. Writers continue to face censorship and persecution for their art throughout the world. PEN International’s current case list of writers and journalists attacked, killed or imprisoned because of their work includes 647 cases – all documented in the six months from January to June, 2011.