Wednesday 13 January 2016

SA Cities of Refuge Project: Repaying South African Exiles’ Debt of Hospitality

The South African Cities of Refuge Project grew out of a meeting in Johannesburg in 2011 between Swedish cultural activist Fredrik Elg, South African actor Gerhard Rudolf, and myself, a South African journalist and free press activist. The animated dinner resulted in me in my capacity as Executive Director of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism (IAJ) being invited by Elg to attend the 2012 General Assembly of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), a network of cities and regions that had agreed to provide safe haven for persecuted journalists and writers.

The General Assembly occurs every two years and is a grand gathering of ICORN staff, Cities of Refuge officials, and of former and current “guest writers,” those who ICORN has assisted in securing the interim relief of two years’ sponsored exile in an ICORN host city. Applicants for guest writer status are vetted by PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee to ensure they are legitimate writers or journalists and that the nature of the threat against them is serious enough to warrant emergency exile. The profile of guest writers over the years has demonstrated that most have experienced the jackboot of repressive regimes, whether in Belarus, China, Iran, Syria, or elsewhere, but some are the victims of sub-state forces such as terrorists and criminal syndicates.

Read the rest of the report here: