Championing a Return to the Pen for Amnesty’s 50th Year

Press Release – Amnesty International

“I love texting, tweeting, blogging and emailing as much, if not more, than the next person, but there are some occasions when nothing, but nothing, can replace the power of the hand-written letter” – Stephen Fry
Amnesty International media release

For immediate release

14 December 2011

Championing a Return to the Pen for Amnesty’s 50th Year

“I love texting, tweeting, blogging and emailing as much, if not more, than the next person, but there are some occasions when nothing, but nothing, can replace the power of the hand-written letter” – Stephen Fry

Around the world and here in New Zealand people are picking up their pens and writing to government’s, ministers and people in power to ask them to respect human rights.

They’re writing to the Minister of Justice and Human Rights in Indonesia, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Filep Karma, jailed for 15 years for simply taking part in a ceremony where a Papuan independence flag was raised.

They’re writing to Chairman Kim Jong-il of North Korea asking him to release the 200,000 political prisoners and their families who are imprisoned without trial or following grossly unfair trials in prison camps throughout North Korea.

And they’re writing to the Head of Judiciary in Tehran on behalf of journalist Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence in Iran for peacefully expressing his views.

In modern times, Amnesty International relies on all forms of activism, from online petitions and other methods of digital communication, to public rallies and demonstrations. But in the organisation’s 50th year, the humble hand-written letter is being championed once again, in a “penaissance” during the Write for Rights 2011 Letterwriting Marathon.

Stephen Fry, an English actor, a famously prolific user of Twitter and renowned champion of other social media, said that sometimes a hand-written letter cannot be beaten.

Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand’s Activism Support Manager Margaret Taylor agrees and said that letters are the perfect platform for those who have no voice of their own.

“Amnesty International began with a man who put pen to paper to make a difference, and to this day, the letter continues to be the perfect tool to brighten the prison cells of many prisoners of conscience, to send a shiver down the spine of a prison guard and to let government officials know that there is someone out there taking notice,” said Margaret.

The marathon began on 3 December and so far the total number of letters written has reached 500,000.

Aucklanders will have the chance to add their letters to the global total on the final day of the marathon, Saturday 17 December at an event in Aotea Square.

From 10am to 7pm Amnesty International will be joined by some well known Kiwis including Shavaughn Ruakere from Shortland Street and author Emily Perkins, to write letters that save lives and open prison doors.
“A letter is a tangible thing, it is better than sending something off into the cyber world because you can physically hold it in your hands, unfold it, read the handwritten words,” said Shavaughn.

“A letter gives it more weight, more presence, makes things far more personal.”

A Christmas tree will feature as part of the event, remaining bare until enough letters and cards are written to fill its branches, when it will be lit up to shine a light on the people who featured in the letters.

What: Write for Rights 2011 Letterwriting Marathon – Letter writing, Live music by Caitlin Smith, Solidarity tree for messages of hope.

When: Saturday 17th December 2011, 10am – 7pm

Where: Aotea Square, Auckland
To read more about the Write for Rights Letterwriting Marathon visit http://www.amnesty.org.nz/get-involved/letter-writing-marathon-2011

To view a promo video visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hp9qoYlOPNs&feature=youtu.be

ENDS

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