The International Publishers Association (IPA) today announces the shortlist for the 2017 IPA Prix Voltaire, which rewards exemplary courage in upholding the freedom to publish and in enabling others to exercise their right to freedom of expression.
The IPA Freedom to Publish Committee (FtPC), which is responsible for picking the shortlist and final winner, spent several weeks in discussion before making its selection.
The nine-strong body of publishing professionals from Argentina, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Thailand, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates felt the following nominees, in alphabetical order, deserved to go through to this year’s shortlist:
- Evrensel Publishing House (Turkey)
- Günay, Turhan (Turkey)
- Minhai, Gui (Sweden)
- Kim, Jeong-ae (North Korea / South Korea)
- Parsapour, Azadeh (Iran / UK)
- Way, Moe (Myanmar)
Briefs on the nominees can be found below.
IPA Freedom to Publish Committee chairman Kristenn Einarsson said the group had been aiming for a five-name shortlist, but that the final field was particularly strong.
He said: “The diversity of nominations this year was very striking. We received 21 submissions for 14 separate nominees from around the world, each with a unique backstory. The committee feels each has shown genuine courage in confronting attempts to deny their freedom to publish, and in taking risks to give writers their voice.”
Over the summer the IPA FtPC will select its eventual 2017 IPA Prix Voltaire winner, who will receive the award at the Gothenburg Book Fair, in Sweden, on 29 September, during a gala dinner. The winner will also join an IPA freedom to publish seminar in Gothenburg, which is also due to take place on 29 September.
2017 IPA Prix Voltaire Shortlist
Turkish publishing house
Founded in 1988, Evrensel (‘universal’) has published 689 titles in multiple genres, embracing progressive literary and cultural values. It is a multilingual publishing house with a catalogue that is 10% Kurdish, but also encompasses Armenian, Assyrian and Arabic.
Following the sweeping emergency powers assumed by the Turkish government in the wake of the July 2016 coup attempt, Evrensel Kültür Magazine was summarily closed due to its links to the company Doga Basin Yayin, which had also been shut down by a follow-up decree on 29 October 2016.Evrensel Publishing House, as part of Doga Basin Yayin, was forced to stop trading when its bank accounts were frozen and assets seized.
Turhan Günay has worked for Cumhuriyet Books, the book publishing branch of the daily Cumhuriyet newspaper, for over 30 years. He has also been the editorial director of the Cumhuriyet Book Supplement since February 1990. The weekly Cumhuriyet Book Supplement has presented book reviews, and interviews with writers, introducing Turkish readers to innumerable writers and books from Europe, Latin and North America, Asia and Africa through the Cumhuriyet Book Supplement.
On 13 November, 2016, Günay was arrested along with a number of Cumhuriyet newspaper columnists and editors. Günay, who defines himself as a “hard-line secularist” is accused of being a member of the so-called FETO religious terror organization and the Kurdish PKK terror organization. He remains in detention in Turkey.
Gui Minhai worked as a Hong Kong-based publisher and bookseller who specialized in producing fast-moving political potboilers that were critical of the Chinese leadership through his Mighty Current publishing house and Causeway Bay Bookstore. He was kidnapped by Chinese agents from his holiday home in Thailand in October 2015, resurfaced in Chinese custody several months later, and remains in incommunicado detention in China without legal or consular assistance.
Gui Minhai has spent much time contributing to the free circulation of ideas, participating in human rights conferences and sitting on the board of Independent Chinese PEN. His treatment at the hands of the Chinese authorities has had a fatal chilling effect on Hong Kong’s once vibrant and audacious publishing industry.
Kim Jeoing-Ae escaped from North Korea in 2003, reaching South Korea in 2005 via Vietnam and Thailand. She works as a reporter for Radio Free Asia, broadcasting into North Korea, and is the secretary-general of North Korean Writers in Exile PEN Centre. She received the North Korea Human Rights Literary Award 2016.
Her work with the North Korean Writers in Exile PEN Centre enables North Korean defectors who have left their homeland the freedom to express themselves through writing. An example was the establishment of the North Korean Writers in Exile PEN Literary Magazine, managed and written by NK defectors under her leadership. Kim Jeoing-Ae has faced numerous threats from North Korean agents while living in the South.
She is setting up a publishing company ‘to help defectors who were unable to freely express their thoughts in words or writing in their homeland to provide uncensored accounts of their emotional journey and the cruelty they faced in the North.’
Launched in December 2012 in London, Parsapour’s Nogaam Publishing uses crowdfunding to publish and promote Persian digital publishing, which are then made available for free under Creative Commons License.
Nogaam provides a platform where authors can earn both visibility and royalties. Nogaam has received more than 300 manuscripts in various, and has published 40 titles, including in taboo subjects in Iran: sex, LGBT, ethnic minorities, women’s rights. In 2016 Nogaam held the first Persian language book fair outside Iran.
Moe Way was already a published poet before he opened The Eras publishing house in 2001 to redress the lack of poetry publishing in Myanmar. All publishing in Myanmar is subject to strict state scrutiny and censorship, but The Eras tries to push the boundaries of what can appear in print. Moe Way steered the company through tough times, including government restrictions on The Eras’ ability to operate financially.
The Eras is one of few Burmese publishing houses that has ensured publication of works addressing political issues, journalism and youth issues, although many books submitted by The Eras have not made it past the Press Scrutiny Board.
About the IPA Prix Voltaire
The IPA Prix Voltaire is unique in honouring the freedom to publish, without which many forms of freedom of expression would be impossible. Publishers who provide authors with the tools to disseminate their written ideas assume the same risks as the writers themselves.
Nominees have usually published controversial works amid pressure, threats, intimidation or harassment, be it from governments, other authorities or private interests. Alternatively, they may be publishers with a distinguished record of upholding the values of freedom to publish and freedom of expression. For the purposes of the IPA Prix Voltaire, the definition of ‘publisher’ is an individual, collective or organization that provides others with the means to share their ideas in written form, including via digital platforms.
The IPA Prix Voltaire, which comes with a CHF 10,000 prize, is made possible by generous contributions from sponsors, all of which are publishing houses and organizations that share the values that the IPA Prix Voltaire embodies.
In 2017, the sponsors of the IPA Prix Voltaire are, in alphabetical order:
- Albert Bonniers Förlag (Sweden)
- Aschehoug (Norway)
- Associazione Italiana Editori (Italy)
- Bonnier Media Deutschland (Germany)
- Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (Germany)
- Cappelen Damm (Norway)
- Gyldendal (Norway)
- Holtzbrinck Publishing Group (Germany)
- Les Editions du Seuil (France)
- Librius (Belgium)
- Natur & Kultur (Sweden)
- Norstedts (Sweden)
- Verlagsgruppe Random House (Germany)
- Storytel (Sweden)