The International Publishers Association’s Freedom to Publish Committee has named its top five nominees for the 2016 IPA Freedom to Publish Prize.
The eventual winner will be presented with the award – which includes $10,300 and €9,200 (£7,250) on 10th April at the International Publishers Congress gala dinner, in London.
The top five candidates for the award include Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury who is also known as ‘Tutul’, a Bangladeshi publisher who was ferociously attacked and nearly killed by Islamist extremists in October 2015, and Bei Ling, a Chinese publisher, writer and poet who is also executive director of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre. Ling is an “outspoken critic of the lack of basic freedoms in China” and an advocate of Chinese social and political reform.
Also nominated for the award are ‘The Hong Kong Five’: Gui Minhai, Lee Bo, Cheung Chi Ping, Lam Wing Kee and Lui Bo, the five book trade professionals who went missing last year from various locations, including Hong Kong and Thailand, only to resurface months later in mainland Chinese police custody.
Moe Way, a Myanmarese poet and publisher who established publishing house The Eras to address the lack of poetry publishing in Myanmar, has also been shortlisted. The Eras has continuously pushed the boundaries of Myanmar’s strict censorship laws, with Moe Way keeping the company afloat despite “enormous political and financial pressure to close”.
Saudi Arabian blogger and creator of the Free Saudi Liberals website, Raif Badawi, was also shortlisted. In 2013, Badawi was convicted of insulting Islam and of apostasy, and sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes. In 2014 he was resentenced to 1,000 lashes, 10 years in prison and a fine. Today (23rd April), English PEN and employees from Little, Brown are holding a vigil outside the Saudi Embassy in London to protest his imprisonment.
Ola Wallin, chairman of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish Committee, said: “We had a strong field of candidates this year, with 19 nominations for 15 candidates. This is both pleasing and disheartening at once, since while it reflects the growing engagement of the IPA membership and partners in the success of the Freedom to Publish Prize, it also reflects the worsening state of freedom to publish in the world.”
IPA President Richard Charkin added: “There are many important awards that recognize courage. This one is different. It highlights the enormously brave work of people who face prison, torture or death for disseminating ideas, either their own or those of other people, and enabling the expression of those ideas in writing to be made available as widely as possible. It is part of the IPA’s job to highlight their plight and to remind people that the freedom to publish will continue to be eroded if we avert our gaze even for a moment.”
The IPA Freedom to Publish Prize honours a person or organisation that has made a notable contribution or shown exemplary courage in the defence and promotion of the freedom to publish, an important part of freedom of speech. The prize consists of a financial award of 10,000 Swiss francs and a certificate, and will be awarded byCharkin during the 31st International Publishers Congress in London next month.
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