EnglishPEN on Twitter is a great example of how activism can work online. CreativeConnection created special illustrations for the organisation to be used on their social media channel to help promote their Writers at Risk program.

Project background:

For an organisation like EnglishPEN that promotes freedom of speech and expression and works to free writers across the world serving unjust prison sentences, social media is a powerful tool to mobilise support across the globe. EnglishPEN campaigns for the release of imprisoned writers and arranges vigils and demonstrations in front of embassies, creates calls to action to mobilise the public, and organises letter writing campaigns from individuals that provides moral support to writers in prison. Social media, especially Twitter, is an affective way to inform and encourage the public to support these writers. During the month of May, the organisation held a series of events including a fundraiser with Roberto Saviano and two vigils for the imprisoned writers Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger, and Khadija Ismayilova an Azerbaijani investigative journalist, in front of the Saudi and Azerbaijani embassies.

CreativeConnection approached Cat Lucas, manager of the Writers at Risk programme at EnglishPEN, and offered to create portraits of the writers and a series of photographs and illustrations devised from the events to be used in their communications and social media marketing and help promote their causes. We were so pleased that English PEN agreed to use our illustrations. According to Cat Lucas, new visuals on social media can refresh the plight of these writers and renew public awareness, especially since many of them have been serving sentences that have lasted years.

The result:

We created portraits of Roberto Saviano, Raif Badawi, and Khadija Ismayilova to correspond with the events organised by EnglishPEN. These visuals were shared extensively on Twitter by EnglishPEN as well as Amnesty International and were used as a CALL TO ACTION to inspire the public to help release these writers as well as part of a CONTEST that offered a reward for spreading the word.

English PENWhile the Twitter platform can at times seem overwhelming to the user with multiple tweets feeding in every second about a wide variety of topics, the hashtag is a way to collect all tweets of a certain issue, however broad or defined it be, onto one page. For activism, this is a powerful tool and can make a difference. People can quickly rally together, spread information, and organize protests across the world within minutes.

Raif Badawi, who is currently serving a 10 year prison sentence in Saudi Arabia for his blog that promoted free speech and a secular society, has just passed his four year anniversary in prison. The hashtag #FreeRaif is used across social media to help keep his plight alive. EnglishPEN’s tweet of the portrait of Raif along with the hashtag #FreeRaif was retweeted 66 times in the lead up to the monthly vigil in front of the Saudi Embassy.

#FreeRaif Raif Badawi Twitter
Khadija Ismayilova was released from prison two days before her 40th birthday, so the vigil in front of the Embassy of Azerbaijan in London turned into both a celebration as well as a call to action to free other writers currently being threatened or serving unjust prison sentences. English PEN’s tweets of the Khadija image with the hashtag #FreeKhadija was retweeted 120 times. Amnesty International UK, also involved in the campaign to free Khadija, tweeted the visual which received 98 retweets.

#FreeKhadija Khadija Ismayilova Amnesty International Twitter
Khadija Ismayilova Birthday celebration 27 May 2016
The Khadija Ismayilova Birthday celebration in London in front of the Azerbaijani Embassy 27 May 2016


To help raise awareness and increase ticket sales of their fundraiser, English PEN tweeted the Roberto Saviano portrait over a series of days and asked followers to retweet the image for a chance to win two tickets to the talk between Saviano and David Hare. The image was retweeted 157 times and received 150 likes and happily, English PEN’s fundraising event was a great success with sold-out attendance.

Roberto Saviano EnglishPEN Tweet Illustration CreativeConnection
The team:

Caroline Rudge created the portraits of the writers prior to the events. Giovanna Coppola and Lara Popovic from our Content Team researched the writers and attended the vigils and fundraiser and created illustrations.

Writers David Hare and Roberto SavianoHave your say:

Have you followed and supported a political cause on Twitter? Do you think Twitter is effective in broadcasting important information to a wide group of people?  Leave your comments below.