Rights Group Honors Writers Worldwide With Monetary Awards

Posted September 14th, 2011 at 3:30 am (UTC-5)
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Human Rights Watch is honoring 48 writers in 24 countries for their commitment to free expression and what it describes as courage in the face of persecution.

The New York-based advocacy group on Wednesday announced recipients of the Hellman/Hammett awards of up to $10,000, which are going this year to journalists bloggers, and novelists, as well as a singer-songwriter and a cartoonist.

Seven of the grantees are from Vietnam, including Nguyen Xuan Nghia, a writer and leader of the banned pro-democracy group Block 8406. He is serving a six-year prison sentence for anti-government propaganda.

Other countries whose citizens were honored include Afghanistan, Angola, Bahrain, Belarus, Cambodia, Cameroon, China, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Mexico, Pakistan, Thailand and Venezuela. Additional writers were awarded in Malaysia, Singapore, Kazakhstan, DRC, Ethiopia, Gambia, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan

Seven of the honors were given anonymously to protect the recipients.

The Hellman/Hammett grants were established in 1989 by the trustees of the estate of the late American playwright Lillian Hellman. Human Rights Watch says the grants help writers targeted for expressing views opposed by their governments, for criticizing government officials or actions, or for writing about subjects their governments did not want reported.

Hellman and her longtime companion, American mystery novelist Dashiell Hammett, both were targeted during aggressive anti-communist investigations in the 1950s. Hellman was blacklisted and had trouble finding work, while Hammett served a brief prison sentence.