Imprisoned Egyptian bookseller shortlisted for 2019 Prix Voltaire

Imprisoned Egyptian bookseller shortlisted for 2019 Prix Voltaire

Imprisoned Egyptian bookseller Khaled Lutfi and London-based Farsi language e-book publisher Azadeh Parsapour have been shortlisted for the 2019 Prix Voltaire.

The annual prize rewards “exemplary courage in upholding the freedom to publish and in enabling others to exercise their right to freedom of expression”. The shortlist, picked by nine publishing professionals from around the world, was revealed by the International Publishers Association (IPA) this morning (16th April).

It includes Lutfi, founder of Cairo’s Tanmia Bookshop and Publishing. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment in February on charges of divulging military secrets and spreading rumours after distributing an Arabic translation of the book The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel (Harper), by Uri Bar-Joseph.

Also nominated is Parsapour, whose company Nogaam Publishing uses crowdfunding and creative commons licences to bypass payment restrictions in Iran. Operating from the UK and unable to return to her home country, she is also the one of the organisers of Tehran Book Fair Uncensored.

The shortlist also features South Africa’s NB Publishers, which works with imprints including Tafelberg, publisher of controversial book The President’s Keepers, by Jacques Pauw. The book highlighted cases of state capture which are now being investigated and led to allegations of intimidation and harassment of the author and publishing house.

Also in the running are Turkey’s Tekin, a leading light for holding the nation’s leaders to account, and Moe Way of The Eras poetry publishing house, who has steered a path through censorship in Mayanmar.

IPA Freedom to Publish Committee chairman Kristenn Einarsson said: “The work of these publishers is remarkable, working in extremely difficult circumstances to bring authors’ words and thoughts to readers. They have all demonstrated phenomenal courage and we are proud to recognise them in the 2019 IPA Prix Voltaire shortlist.”

The winner will be announced at Seoul International Book Fair on 21st June.

Last year’s £7,600 prize was awarded to missing publisher and bookseller Gui Minhai, first arrested in 2015 and later kidnapped by Chinese agents after his release.