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Everything you need to know about the world's great writers and emerging voices is being collected and shared on the English PEN Online World Atlas. Head over to the Atlas to create (or edit) a profile for your favourite author or book, leave a comment or contact another user, and discover your next great read. We believe that great writing has the power to change your life and change the world, one book at a time.

The Atlas is proud to be partnering with the Hay Festival's Beirut39 contest, celebrating Beirut's year as UNESCO World Book Capital, to find the hottest authors under 40 of Arabic origin. Nominations are open until August 24th, 2009.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Speaking Freely: 60th Anniversary of the UNHCR

It's the 60th anniversary of the United Nations' signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this week, which is being marked by many celebrations -- and, in the blogosphere and media, a number of astute calls to recognise that the Declaration's work is far from done.

As ever, there are also stories that mark the challenges to, and successes of, one of Roosevelt's "four freedoms" enshrined in the UDHR, that of "freedom of speech." Rex Bloomstein's documentary "True Stories: An Independent Mind" screens on More4 on Tuesday 9, the eve of the anniversary (you can watch it online on a PC from Wednesday morning onwards). Bloomstein's interviewees include Burmese comedians the Moustache Brothers, Chinese sex blogger Mu Zimei and Syrian poet Faraj Bayrakdar, all of whom have been persecuted for expressing their opinions and who engage with Bloomstein in a lively and inspiring conversation about what we are permitted to say, how, and by whom.

In the Egyptian blogosphere, an equally lively conversation tackles the topic from a different angle, as Wikipedia have just launched a version of the site in the Egyptian dialect of Arabic. The site has raised both hopes and hackles: Global Voices has a translation of the debate about local and national identity vs. the region's mutual linguistic heritage, about what counts as 'correct' usage, and how languages evolve despite, rather than because of, imposed rules. As it often does, the blogosphere provides space for a debate about the freedom of speech -- and for realisations as to how that space is limited by technology, access, censorship and political will.

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