Skip to main content

(New York) – Nominations are being accepted for the prestigious 2012 Hellman-Hammett grants for writers who have suffered persecution because of their work and are in financial need. The nomination form is available at Nominations should be submitted by December 10, 2011, by email to

The Hellman-Hammett grants recognize selected writers for their commitment to free expression and their courage in the face of political persecution. The grants are administered by Human Rights Watch, and given annually to honor and assist writers around the world who have been targets of persecution. The grant winners are chosen by a distinguished committee of authors, editors, and journalists who have a longstanding interest in free expression issues. The grant program began in 1989 based on trust established under the will of the late American playwright Lillian Hellman.

“The Hellman-Hammett grants aim to help writers who dare to express ideas critical of official government policy or people in power,” said Lawrence Moss, who coordinates the Hellman-Hammett grant program. “We encourage civil society leaders and freedom-of-expression supporters to identify and nominate writers who deserve consideration for these awards.”

Past Hellman-Hammett awardees have been persecuted and silenced by means of military and presidential decrees, trumped-up criminal charges, and libel and sedition laws. They have been harassed, assaulted, arbitrarily detained, unfairly indicted, and tortured merely for providing information from nongovernmental sources. In addition to those directly targeted, many others have been forced to practice self-censorship.

Hellman and her longtime companion, the novelist Dashiell Hammett, were 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 their governments oppose, for criticizing government officials or actions, or for writing about subjects 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. Short biographies of the 2011 awardees are available at: .

After an extensive review and selection process, the next winners of the Hellman-Hammett grants will be announced in mid-2012.

For more information about the Hellman-Hammett grant program, and a link to the 2012 grant application, please visit:

Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.