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Besieged Writers Receive Awards
(New York, July 29, 2003) A diverse group of 28 writers from 13 countries are receiving Hellman/Hammett grants in recognition of their courage in the face of political persecution, Human Rights Watch said today.


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Hellman-Hammett Grants
Short Biographies of the 2003 Recipients

Hellman-Hammett Grants

In many countries, governments use military and presidential decrees and criminal libel and sedition laws to silence critics, often on fabricated charges. Writers and journalists are threatened, harassed, assaulted, indicted, jailed, or tortured merely for providing information from nongovernmental sources.

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Thirteen of the 28 grant recipients have asked Human Rights Watch not to release their names for fear of further reprisals, a larger proportion than in previous years. Ten recipients have fled to exile.

The Hellman/Hammett grants are given annually to writers around the world who have been targets of political persecution. The grant program began in 1989 when executors of the estate of American playwright Lillian Hellman asked Human Rights Watch to design a program in her name and that of her long-time companion the novelist Dashiell Hammett. The Hellman/Hammett funds provide assistance to writers in financial need as a result of expressing their views.

This year´s grants totaled $170,000. Recipients from Belarus, China, Eritrea, Liberia, Nepal, Ukraine, and Vietnam have asked to remain anonymous because of the dangerous circumstances in which they are working.

In many countries, governments use military and presidential decrees and criminal libel and sedition laws to silence critics, often on fabricated charges. Writers and journalists are threatened, harassed, assaulted, indicted, jailed, or tortured merely for providing information from nongovernmental sources. In addition to those who are directly targeted, many others are forced to practice self-censorship.

The Hellman/Hammett grants are announced each spring. In the thirteen previous years of the program, more than 400 writers received grants totaling well over one million dollars. The Hellman/Hammett program also makes small emergency grants from time to time throughout the year to writers who have an urgent need to leave their country, who need immediate medical treatment arising from prison conditions or torture, or who find themselves in desperate financial circumstances as a result of political persecution.