Writing is a dangerous profession for some. A writer is being threatened with prison because of what he wrote about the Singapore death penalty. The author of The Bookseller of Kabul has been ordered to pay damages for her fictionalised depiction of a woman in her story. Both are standing by what they consider to be the truth in their writing and are defending their right to express what they feel they have to say.

The second case gave me particular pause for thought, as it is about a character in fiction. True, the writer herself claims her story is based on fact, and there seems to be the Bookseller's own literary ambitions which might be muddying the water, even so, to have to pay damages on a work of fiction? All writers draw on the people around us, should we, perhaps, be more circumspect about how we do this after this ruling?

Words have a power which terrifies authoritarian regimes and people who cannot bear, will not survive, criticism or contrary views. There are many writers we hear little of who have been detained, tortured, even killed or disappeared, because they have dared to make public their words (see Amnesty International's website:

It is a sobering thought for one as safely cossetted as me.