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Announcing $10,000 Award for First Amendment Defender

November 12, 2007

New York, NY, November 12, 2007—PEN American Center and the Katherine Anne Porter Foundation today unveiled a new $10,000 prize for ordinary people who take extraordinary stands to defend the First Amendment in the United States.

The PEN/Katherine Anne Porter First Amendment Award, which will honor a United States citizen or resident who has fought courageously to safeguard the First Amendment’s right to freedom of expression as it applies to the written word, will be conferred annually before an audience of America’s most distinguished writers at the PEN Gala in New York. The Katherine Anne Porter Foundation is sponsoring the award, a fitting tribute, PEN said today, to the Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s steadfast support for the freedom to write.

“We are absolutely thrilled to announce this major award, and honored to have it associated with the memory of one of PEN American Center’s most distinguished members,” PEN President Francine Prose said in a statement today. “Most importantly, we are excited to be able to recognize the achievements of individual, front-line free expression heroes. At a time when the First Amendment is under pressure from all sides, and when defending the freedom to read and to write can feel riskier and lonelier than it has in decades, our community owes so much to those who put themselves between us and the would-be censors.”

“Katherine Anne Porter once wrote, ‘I detest everything Henry Miller ever wrote, but I would march to defend his right to publish it,’” Katherine Anne Porter Foundation President Barbara Thompson Davis recalled. “We are delighted to join PEN in celebrating remarkable individuals who understand this most fundamental aspect of the First Amendment and who take courageous stands so that everyone can write, publish, and read freely.”

The PEN/Katherine Anne Porter First Amendment Award succeeds the PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award, which concluded a successful 13-year run in 2006. During that time, PEN recognized the efforts of schoolteachers, librarians, booksellers, journalists, school administrators, prison inmates, and government translators who challenged attempts to censor or suppress literature or written materials. Recipients came from throughout the United States, often small towns or communities outside of major media markets – a reminder, Prose noted, that some of the fiercest battles to protect freedom of expression happen at the local level.

“PEN has a proud tradition of identifying truly unsung heroes in the struggle to defend this basic right, and we will be combing the country to give a new round of First Amendment champions their due. I look forward to introducing our first PEN/Katherine Anne Porter First Amendment Award recipient here in New York on April 28, 2008,” Prose concluded.

PEN American Center is the largest of the 141 centers of International PEN, the world's oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession and seeks to preserve and expand free expression in the United States.

Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105, lsiems@pen.org