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Human Rights Watch called today for nominations for the prestigious Hellman/Hammett grants for 2011, for writers who have suffered persecution because of their work and are in financial need.

The Hellman/Hammett grants recognize and provide financial assistance to selected writers around the world for their commitment to free expression and courage in the face of political persecution. Nominees should be writers whose work and activities have been suppressed by repressive government policies governing speech and publications. Nominations are due by December 10, 2010.

"The Hellman/Hammett grants aim to help writers who dare to express ideas that criticize official government policy or people in power, " said Lawrence Moss, coordinator of the Hellman/Hammett grant program. "We encourage civil society leaders and supporters of freedom of expression around the world to identify and nominate writers who deserve these awards."

The grant program began in 1989 with a trust established under the will of the late American playwright Lillian Hellman. Human Rights Watch administers the program, and a distinguished panel of writers selects the recipients. The number of grantees and the amounts of the awards vary, with 37 writers from 19 countries having received the grants for 2010.

Past Hellman/Hammett awardees have included writers who had been persecuted and silenced by military and presidential decrees, criminal charges, and libel and sedition laws. Many had been harassed, assaulted, indicted, jailed on trumped-up charges, or tortured merely for providing information from nongovernmental sources. In addition to those who are directly targeted, many others had been forced to practice self-censorship.

Hellman and her longtime companion, the novelist Dashiell Hammett, were both questioned by US congressional committees about their political beliefs and affiliations during the aggressive anti-communist investigations inspired by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. Hellman suffered professionally and had trouble finding work. Hammett spent time in prison.

In 1989, the trustees appointed in Hellman's will asked Human Rights Watch to devise a program to help writers who were targeted for expressing views that their governments oppose, for criticizing government officials or actions, or for writing about subjects that their governments did not want reported.

Over the past 20 years, more than 700 writers from 91 countries have received Hellman/Hammett grants, up to a maximum of $10,000, totaling more than $3 million. Each year, some of the grant recipients ask to remain anonymous because of possible continuing danger to them and their families. The program also gives small emergency grants to writers who have an urgent need to leave their country or who need immediate medical treatment after serving prison terms or enduring torture.

After an extensive review and selection process, the next winners of the Hellman/Hammett grants will be announced in mid-2011.

The nomination form is available at:

Nominations should be submitted by December 10, 2010, to:

For more information about the Hellman/Hammett grant program, please visit:

For the 2011 grant applications, please visit:

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