October and the first days of November were again very busy, with visits to four different countries and three book fairs in the course of three weeks.
First was the traditional Frankfurt book Fair with a lot of work for the IPA: Meetings of all its committees, including the Executive Committee and the General Assembly, where we welcomed three new provisional members (Ghana, Libya and Russia) and one provisional member was approved as full member (Cote d’Ivoire).
During my annual report, I mentioned that the challenges we face are of global nature, that is why we need an organization like IPA. The support of all our members and the active engagement of so many individuals from many different nationalities, participating at our committees, together with the work of a committed and professional team at our office in Geneva, is what makes IPA’s global activity as relevant as ever.
The week was packed with activities, like our traditional meeting with the leadership of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, the Federation of European Publishers and many individual meetings with representatives of member associations.
On top of that, I had the privilege of participating in the program “Collaboration for development of Publishing potentials in Africa”, organized by the African Publishers Network (APNET), to speak about the huge potential of the whole region and the ongoing cooperation between IPA, APNET and the different publishers’ associations.
I also had the opportunity to deliver the keynote address at the Convention of University Presses: Reading is for everyone: The Road to accessible Publishing. A great deal of interest from the university publishers in accessible publishing and the activities of the Accessible Books Consortium, where I am honoured to be part of its advisory board.
At the United Nations stage, I was invited by the UN publications division to take part in a panel discussion about an awesome program, that has the full support of IPA: the SDG Book Club.
Norway was guest of honour at the fair, which reminded us all of our next appointment: The 33rd IPA International Publishers Congress, in Lillehammer, Norway, 28-30 May, 2020.
After an extremely busy in Frankfurt, I spent the following week in Geneva for the 39th session of WIPO’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR39). Here I joined a delegation of about 20 publishers and many other allies from creative sector organizations, like authors and CMOs, to defend rightsholders interests from the threat of more copyright Exceptions and Limitations.
The strategic work of IPA in this forum, in coordination with our allies, is of utmost importance at a time when copyright as we know it is under serious threat.
After Geneva I had the privilege of participating at the opening of the Sharjah International Book Fair and two important seminars.
The first was a two-day Educational Publishing seminar, organised in partnership between IPA, the Emirates Publishers Association and the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Education, that brought publishers and the ministry together to look at how publishers can support the Ministry vision of innovative education for a pioneering and global knowledge society.
The second was the publishers conference organized by Sharjah Book Authority, “Spotlight on Africa”, where the first seven African publishing-related projects that received a grant from the Africa Publishing Innovation Fund where announced by IPA and Dubai Cares CEO, Tariq Al Gurg.
Finally, I visited for the first time the Istanbul International Book Fair and was impressed first by this magnificent city itself, with its rich tradition of 2,500 years of serving as a bridge between Europe and Asia. A beautiful city that is able to bring together the best of both worlds and have different creeds and cultures coexisting peacefully together.
However, during my speech at the opening ceremony, in the presence of Turkey’s Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mehmet Nuri Ersoy and Istanbul’s charismatic and popular new Mayor, Ekrem İmamoğlu, among many other high ranking officials, I said that this peaceful way of living, the democratic values that have characterized Turkey since the days of President Kemal Atatürk, are nowadays at risk, because of censorship and the increasing self-censorship.
Furthermore, I also said that the rest of the world is watching and demanding that freedom of expression and freedom to publish may be restored and guaranteed again in Turkey. Publishers from around the world are inspired by how their Turkish colleagues are bravely fighting for their freedom to publish.
But I was also impressed by a huge book fair and a vibrant publishing industry, that in spite of freedom to publish restrictions and other pressing problems, is able to turn out 67,000 new titles every year.
Three very intense and productive weeks of travelling on behalf of the International Publishers Association that enabled me to meet so many of our members and marvel again at our international publishing industry.