PEN International, The Gambia Chapter was formed recently when an executive was elected to steer its affairs in the country.
Earlier, it was Mr Musa Sheriff, Proprietor of The Voice Newspaper who served as a focal point for the International organization. He worked very hard to get the Gambia Chapter recognition and acceptance it on the main organization in the world. Now that it has an executive, work will start in earnest towards achieving the goals of this noble organization.
PEN International which used to be called International PEN until 2010 is a worldwide association of writers, founded in London in 1921 to promote friendship and intellectual co-operation among writers everywhere. The association has autonomous International PEN centers in over 100 countries, now including the Gambia.
The purpose of this association is to promote literature and defend freedom of expression worldwide. Other goals include emphasizing the role of literature in the development of mutual understanding and world culture; fighting for freedom of expression; and acting as a powerful voice on behalf of writers harassed, imprisoned and sometimes killed for their views.
The first PEN Club was founded in London in 1921 by Catherine Amy Dawson Scott, with John Galsworthy as its first President. Its first members included Joseph Conrad, Elizabeth Craig, George Bernard Shaw, and H.G. Wells. PEN originally stood for ‘Poets, Essayists, Novelists’, but now stands for ‘Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, Novelists’ and includes writers of any form of literature, such as journalists and historians.
Past presidents of PEN International have included Alberto Moravia, Heinrich Böll, Arthur Miller, Mario Vargas Llosa, Homero Aridjis, Jirí Gruša and John Ralston Saul. The current President is Jennifer Clement.
It is headquartered in London, United Kingdom and is composed of autonomous PEN Centres in over 100 countries around the world, each of which are open to writers, journalists, translators, historians and others actively engaged in any branch of literature, regardless of nationality, race, colour, or religion.
It is a non-governmental organization in formal consultative relations with UNESCO and Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
The PEN Charter is based on resolutions passed at its International Congresses and may be summarized as follows:
· Literature knows no frontiers and must remain common currency among people in spite of political or international upheavals.
· In all circumstances, and particularly in time of war, works of art and libraries, the patrimony of humanity at large, should be left untouched by national or political passion.
Members of PEN should always use what influence they have in favour of good understanding and mutual respect among nations; they pledge themselves to do their utmost to dispel race, class, and national hatreds and to champion the ideal of one humanity living in peace in the world.
PEN stands for the principle of unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations, and members pledge themselves to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression in the country and community to which they belong, as well as throughout the world wherever this is possible.
PEN declares for a free press and opposes arbitrary censorship in time of peace. It believes that the necessary advance of the world toward a more highly organized political and economic order renders a free criticism of governments, administrations, and institutions imperative. And since freedom implies voluntary restraint, members pledge themselves to oppose such evils of a free press as mendacious publication, deliberate falsehood, and distortion of facts for political and personal ends.
As stated earlier, Mr. Musa Sheriff was elected President, Mbemba Camara as Secretary general, Musa Bah as Public Relations Officer, Isatou Touray as the Auditor, Bakary Ceesay as the Outreach Officer with Omar Faye as his assistant. A few other positions like Treasurer, Assistant Secretary and others were also elected. With this new executive already in place, work will start in earnest to spread the message and work towards meeting the goals of the organization.
Compiled by Musa Bah
PRO, PEN International, The Gambia Chapter
Nusrat Senior Secondary School