PEN America on 31 March 2016 announced that it will confer the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award upon imprisoned Egyptian novelist and journalist Ahmed Naji.
The award will be presented to Naji at Pen America's annual Literary Gala on 16 May 2016 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
PEN America’s 16 May 2016 Literary Gala will also salute Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling with the 2016 PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award for engendering a love of literature among children worldwide.
Who is Ahmed Naji?
• Naji is the author of three books and a journalist at the state-funded Akhbar al-Adab literary magazine.
• He has been a vocal critic of official corruption under the rule of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
• In 2015, he was charged with violating public modesty after a private citizen complained that an excerpt from Naji’s novel The Use of Life published in the state-run literary journal Akhbar al-Adab had given the reader heart palpitations due to its sexual content.
• State prosecutors then brought a case against Naji despite the Egyptian censorship board’s previous approval of the literary text. When a trial court found him not guilty, prosecutors appealed to a higher court that in February 2016 delivered a guilty verdict and imposed the maximum sentence of two years in prison.
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