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Joan Alison Smith (born 27 August 1953, London) is an English novelist, journalist and human rights activist, who is a former chair of the Writers in Prison committee in the English section of International PEN.
Smith was educated at a state school before reading Latin at the University of Reading in the early 1970s. After a spell as a journalist in local radio in Manchester, she joined the staff of the Sunday Times in 1979 and stayed at the newspaper until 1984. She has had a regular column in the Guardian Weekend supplement, also freelancing for the newspaper and in recent years has contributed to The Independent, the Independent on Sunday, and the New Statesman.
In her non-fiction Smith displays a commitment to atheism, feminism and republicanism; she has travelled extensively and this is reflected in her articles.
In 2003 she was offered the MBE for her services to PEN, but refused the award. She is a supporter of the political organisation, Republic and an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society.
In November 2011 she gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into press and media standards following the telephone hacking practiced by the News of the World. She testified that she considered celebrities thought they could control press content if they put themselves into the public domain when, in reality the opposite was more likely. She repeated a claim that she has persistently adhered to in her writings that the press is misogynistic