English PEN is the founding centre of PEN International, the worldwide writers' association. Established in 1921, the organisation promotes freedom of expression and literature across frontiers. English PEN is a registered charity in England and Wales, and is governed by a board of trustees that is elected from and by members. The current President of English PEN is Philippe Sands. The Director is Daniel Gorman.
A cast-iron sculpture entitled Witness, commissioned by English PEN to mark their 90th anniversary and created by Antony Gormley, stands outside the British Library in London. It depicts an empty chair, and is inspired by the symbol used for thirty years by English PEN to represent imprisoned writers around the world. The memorial was unveiled on 13 December 2011.
|English PEN Centre presidents|
|Henry W. Nevinson||1938|
|Margaret Storm Jameson||1939-44|
|L. P. Hartley||1967-70|
|Raficq Abdulla (acting president)||2013-14|
In May 2018 Private Eye identified two lawyers who are members of English PEN's Board of Trustees but who, in the normal course of providing legal services to their clients, were accused of being in conflict with English PEN's primary aim to defend and promote freedom of expression. The accusation is that these two lawyers should have refused to provide legal services to their clients.
Anthony Julius is Deputy Chairman of Mishcon de Reya, a British law firm. The Maltese blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia was accused of libel by Mishcon de Reya "on the instruction of both Malta's prime minister and Henley & Partners", prior to her death in 2017. English PEN's public statement on 1 May 2018 about Caruana Galizia says:
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is also pursuing a libel case against Caruana Galizia's son Matthew Caruana Galizia. The Shift News, an independent media outlet launched after Caruana Galizia's assassination which has pursued a number of her stories, is currently facing the threat of a financially crippling SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) from the Jersey-based firm Henley & Partners, who had taken legal proceedings against Daphne Caruana Galizia prior to her death.
PEN is seriously concerned about the fact that senior government officials including Prime Minister Joseph Muscat are insisting on trying 34 libel cases against Daphne Caruana Galizia, which have now been assumed by her family. PEN believes that these proceedings are in direct reprisal for her work in investigating corruption within the current Maltese government.
Geraldine Proudler is a lawyer and partner at Olswang, a London-based law firm, where she is Head of the Reputation and Media Litigation practice. Proudler represented Pavel Karpov, a former Russian Interior Ministry officer, for a 2012 libel action in London against Bill Browder after Browder accused Karpov of involvement in the 2009 death of Sergei Magnitsky. Karpov lost the case and was ordered to pay over £800,000 in costs. In 2016 Karpov was additionally sentenced to three months in prison for contempt of court for non-payment of costs. Over £660,000 of that amount remains unpaid.
In January 2016 the Henry Jackson Society noted:
Karpov retained the services of Andrew Coldicott QC, one of the UK's most expensive libel barristers, and Geraldine Proudler. But exactly how Karpov, whose official monthly salary was US$500, afforded his legal representation (Karpov's court costs alone were estimated at £2 million), is an important question. Browder's barrister Anthony White noted that Karpov "does not have the means to pay for this litigation himself", and alleged "the court cannot be satisfied that the Russian state is not behind the claims in some way".
I know Anthony Julius vaguely and Geraldine Proudler, one of the Olswang lawyers who went for Browder, was on the board of the Scott Trust that oversees the Guardian and Observer. (She is now on the board of an English PEN that never seems to learn.) I'm sure that in private they love investigative journalism, freedom of thought and expression, democracy and the right to hold the powerful to account. Perhaps the firms to which they belong love money more.
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