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The US-based Human Rights Watch has given 28 writers from 13 countries grants in recognition of their courage in the face of political persecution. Among them is Dr Chee Soon Juan.
The Hellman/Hammett grants are given annually to writers around the world who have been targets of political persecution. The grant program began in 1989 when executors of the estate of American playwright Lillian Hellman asked Human Rights Watch to design a program in her name and that of her long-time companion the novelist Dashiell Hammett. The Hellman/Hammett funds provide assistance to writers in financial need as a result of expressing their views.
This years grants totaled $170,000. Human Rights Watch said that thirteen of the 28 grant recipients from Belarus, China, Eritrea, Liberia, Nepal, Ukraine, and Vietnam have asked to remain anonymous because of the dangerous circumstances in which they are working. Ten of the recipients have fled to exile.
The group says on its website that in many countries, governments use military and presidential decrees and criminal libel and sedition laws to silence critics, often on fabricated charges. Writers and journalists are threatened, harassed, assaulted, indicted, jailed, or tortured merely for providing information from nongovernmental sources. In addition to those who are directly targeted, many others are forced to practice self-censorship.
Human Rights Watch announces the grant recipients each spring. It said that in the thirteen years that the program has existed, more than 400 writers from all over the world have received grants amounting to well over one million dollars.
The Hellman/Hammett program also makes small emergency grants from time to time throughout the year to writers who have an urgent need to leave their country, who need immediate medical treatment arising from prison conditions or torture, or who find themselves in desperate financial circumstances as a result of political persecution.
For more information about the grant and the recipients for 2003, please visit http://www.hrw.org/about/info/hellman2003.html