Cairo Book Fair cancelled amid demonstrations in Egypt

Cairo Book Fair cancelled amid demonstrations in Egypt

The 43rd Cairo Book Fair, due to have been held this week, has been cancelled. The Guardian reports that "many foreign exhibitors" have been left stranded after failing to secure flights home, while others have had to abandon stands and books after the fair was halted during setting up. The fair is the biggest in the region and last year attracted 1.8 million visitors.

Representatives from the UK's Publishers Association and the Frankfurt book fair, cancelled their flights or left ahead of time last week, the Guardian notes.

The CIBF was due to open 29th January and run until 8th February. But guest of honour China pulled out on the eve of the fair, after the wide-spread disruption in the city and the rest of the country. Embattled president Mohammad Hosny Mubarak traditionally opens the book event.

Publishing Perspectives reports that the Chinese delegation that had traveled to Egypt—bringing with it 248 publishers and 10,000 books—left Cairo last Thursday. In all, some 630 publishers from 29 countries, including 17 in the Middle East, have been affected by the delay.

The International Publishers Association had already decided to boycott the opening of the fair on Saturday to protest the government’s stifling of freedom of expression. Ibrahim El Moallem, chairman of Dar El Shorouk, one of Egypt’s largest publishing houses and vice-president of the IPA said: "Egypt is experiencing an escalation  of angry protests equal to those that were waged in the pre-communication revolution era.  Citizens are suffering further due to the disruption of their Internet and mobile services, and the ensuing inability to contact one another. IPA believes that participation in the Cairo Book Fair would be against its organizational pillars because the host country is experiencing a case of obvious hostility to publishers’ rights and the rights to knowledge and access to information."