Why Byron Writers Festival won’t be stopping the press

Jennifer Clement (President PEN International), Behrouz Boochani and Peter Greste to discuss Press Freedom and Writers at Risk at Byron Writers Festival.

Every year at Byron Writers Festival a PEN Empty Chair sits on stage to symbolise a writer who cannot be present because they are detained, imprisoned, tortured, forced into exile or in other ways silenced.

PEN International is the worldwide association that acts as a powerful voice on behalf of writers who have been silenced and this year Byron Writers Festival welcomes its President, the acclaimed Mexican-American author Jennifer Clement (Gun Love, Prayers for The Stolen, Widow Basquiat).

Clement will discuss the important issue of press freedom in a special evening Satellite Event ‘Writers at Risk’ with celebrated journalist Peter Greste, Kurdish Iranian journalist, author and activist Behrouz Boochani and his translator and collaborator Omid Tofighian.

“One of the PEN Empty Chairs at Byron Writers Festival has been dedicated to Behrouz Boochani for the past three years. This year he will be taking part in the Festival via live-stream from Manus Island, where he is detained under Australian law after fleeing Iran fearing persecution for his writing,” said Festival Director Edwina Johnson. “The crucial issue of press freedom needs constant vigilance and urgent debate – in Australia and the wider world. Byron Writers Festival is honoured to bring Clement, Boochani, Greste and Tofighian together for this vitally important discussion.”

Discussions about media freedom will also feature throughout the main Festival program. For timely discourse on the recent raids on Australian media outlets and the need for a Media Freedom Act, Peter Greste will appear in the panel ‘Action for Free Media’ with Margot Saville. Peter Greste, Director of the Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom, was incarcerated in Egypt in 2013 for his work as a foreign correspondent. He detailed his harrowing ordeal in his gripping memoir The First Casualty.

Peter Greste will also appear alongside Amal Awad, investigative journalist Kate McClymont and Guardian Australia columnist Ranjana Srivastava in a session hosted by Paul Barclay, ‘How Free is Free Speech?’.

Kerry O’Brien, who recently joined Peter Greste in calls for Australian legislation to enshrine stronger press freedom and definitive whistleblower protections, is also a highlight guest at Byron Writers Festival. He will be featured in conversation with The Saturday Paper’s Karen Middleton.

As one of the key pillars of democracy, media freedom will also be discussed by esteemed UK philosopher and academic A.C. Grayling when he delivers the annual Thea Astley Address on ‘The Crisis of Democracy’.

Byron Writers Festival 2019 runs from 2-4 August. Full program details can be found at byronwritersfestival.com.

IMAGE of Behrouz Boochani by Ashley Gilbertson

2019 Writers and Presenters
Nicole Abadee, Sarah Armstrong, Amal Awad, Sunil Badami, Bronwyn Bancroft, Paul Barclay, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Tony Birch, John Birmingham, Jesse Blackadder, Paul Bongiorno, Behrouz Boochani, Phil Brown, Jennifer Byrne, Barbara Carmichael, Isobelle Carmody, Gianrico Carofiglio, Gabrielle Chan, Melanie Cheng, Jennifer Clement, Matthew Condon, Maddison Connaughton, Tim Costello, Sophie Cunningham, Marele Day, Karla Dickens, Tishani Doshi, Jill Eddington, Sara El Sayed, Russell Eldridge, Claire L. Evans, Matthew Evans, Richard Fidler, Carly Findlay, John Flanagan, Tim Flannery, Tony Flowers, Clementine Ford, Karen Foxlee, Antony Funnell, Damon Gameau, Simi Genzuik, Lisa-ann Gershwin, David Gillespie, Morris Gleitzman, Alice Gorman, Ginger Gorman, Stan Grant, A.C. Grayling, Peter Greste, Ash Grunwald, Chris Hanley, Sarah Hanson-Young, Lynda Hawryluk, Ashley Hay, Jess Hill, Chloe Hooper, Shep Huntly, Daniel James, Zacharey Jane, Erik Jensen, Gail Jones, Toni Jordan, Sarah Kanowski, Samia Khatun, Sarah Lambert, Christina Larmer, Vicki Laveau-Harvie, Benjamin Law, Hung Le, Angela Ledgerwood, Debbie Lee, Min Jin Lee, David Leser, Alison Lester, S.L. Lim, Caro Llewellyn, Zanni Louise, Melissa Lucashenko, Scott Ludlam, William MacNeil, Alex Mankiewicz, John Marsden, Kate McClymont, Phillipa McGuinness, Miles Merrill, Karen Middleton, Rosemarie Milsom, Evelyn Ida Morris, Di Morrissey, Rick Morton, Sisonke Msimang, Melanie Mununggurr-Williams, Joanna Nell, Mandy Nolan, Georgia Norton Lodge, Zoë Norton Lodge, Patrick Nunn, Kerry O’Brien, Kristina Olsson, Mick O’Regan, Bruce Pascoe, Mark Pesce, Ailsa Piper, Helen Pitt, Stephen Pyne, Roman Quaedvlieg, Hannie Rayson, Michael Robotham, Kevin Rudd, Harry Saddler, Omar Sakr, Leigh Sales, Margot Saville, Julianne Schultz, Nathan Scolaro, Jock Serong, Julia Shaw, Joanne Shoebridge, Adam Shoemaker, Dominic Smith, Jeff Sparrow, Adam Spencer, Tracey Spicer, Ranjana Srivastava, Megan K. Stack, Andrew Stafford, David Stavanger, Jason Stephens, Natasha Stott Despoja, Gabbie Stroud, Adam Suckling, Mark Swivel, Anne-Marie Te Whiu, Omid Tofighian, Barbara Toner, Kate Veitch, Michael Veitch, Peter Watt, Jessica White, Debbie Whitmont, Michael Williams, Geordie Williamson, Tara June Winch, Eddie Woo, Clare Wright, Nevo Zisin, Markus Zusak.

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