The empty chair

It was impossible not to notice the empty chair on stage at every event at the Byron Bay Writers Festival. Each represented a voice silenced. A writer, poet or journalist whose work has resulted in them being jailed, tortured or even killed.

Organised by PEN International , the chair is a powerful symbol of the price some men and women pay for the kind of writing we too often take for granted.

The photographs on each chair, many old and grainy reflecting how long some of the writers have been incarcerated, helped put a  face to what is often an anonymous group that cross all divides: cultural, geographic and religious.

Next time you listen to a politician or academic come up with seemingly plausible reasons for limiting our rights to freedom of opinion and expression consider the empty chair and speak out. Silence all too easily can become silenced.

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