26 October 2011

Draw attention to murdered writers by holding your own Day of the Dead event

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Join PEN International in honouring fallen writers on Mexico's national Day of the Dead on 2 November. On Day of the Dead, an annual holiday in Mexico, people pay tribute to late friends and family members through numerous rites, including creating altars, visiting gravesites and cooking their deceased loved ones' favourite foods.

PEN International is calling for worldwide participation in this year's Day of the Dead to raise awareness about the 33 journalists, one author and one poet who have been killed by drug cartels since President Felipe Calderón began his military war on drugs. Another eight journalists have gone missing during the past five years, according to PEN International.

Free expression advocates are encouraged to participate in a range of ways, including, but not limited to: building traditional Day of the Dead altars and using them at public talks or panels, organising public readings of Mexican poetry compiled by PEN International for the event, demonstrating in front of Mexico's embassies with altars and music and sending press releases about the day to media outlets.

See PEN International's website for resources to support your Day of the Dead activities, including poetry, the Campaign poster, instructions on making an altar, and a list of writers killed in Mexico since 2006. Poems and other resources are available in Spanish, French and English. In a poem commissioned for PEN International, renowned poet Homero Aridjis writes, "Their ghosts stalk our cities. Deep in the nightmare their enforcers lie in wait for us with black daggers."

According to PEN International, the numbers of killed and missing have been increasing, with eight writers murdered and two journalists disappeared in 2011 alone.

While organised drug cartels are behind the majority of attacks, corrupt state agents, particularly local officials and police have also reportedly carried out or been complicit in the violence against journalist, PEN International reports. Almost all of the killings have not been properly investigated, and this impunity only motivates the killers further.

The goal of the campaign is to pressure the Mexican government to end the impunity and violence against journalists, solve past killings and make crimes against journalists a federal offence so that federal authorities have the power to investigate and prosecute these crimes.

On 23 November, IFEX members commemorate the inaugural International Day to End Impunity to raise public awareness of how prevalent impunity is in the free expression field, as well as to showcase the important work IFEX members have been doing to fight against it, such as the Day of the Dead campaign. Find out more at: http://www.daytoendimpunity.org

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