London-based Iranian e-publisher Azadeh Parsapour and missing Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai have been shortlisted for the 2018 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 shortlist was revealed by the International Publishers Association on Thursday (11th January) in Geneva. It also lists Bangladeshi publisher and writer Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury, who was named 2016's International Writer of Courage by Margaret Atwood; Cameroonian journalist Lewis Medjo, twice arrested and imprisoned for his reporting on human rights abuses and corruption; and Hungarian anti-communist dissident Tamás Miklós.
Swedish national Gui is the last of five booksellers from Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong still to be missing after the group was abducted and imprisoned in 2015. It is strongly suspected that he was taken by the Chinese authorities after publishing books critical of China's political elite through the bookshop's publishing imprint, Mighty Current. He was supposedly "released" from custody in mainland China on 17th October 2017, according to the Chinese Ministry of Affairs, but his whereabouts are still unknown. His daughter said in a statement then: "It is still very unclear where he is. I am deeply concerned for his wellbeing."
Meanwhile, Parsapour's venture Noqaam Publishing, launched in London in 2012, is also shortlisted. It has published 41 titles that were subject to censorship in Iran. Iranian readers now have free access to Persian publishing on topics spanning underground music, LGBT, women, relationships, war, censorship, extremism and immigration.
IPA Freedom to Publish Committee chairman Kristenn Einarsson said: "All of these nominees have shown genuine courage in confronting attempts to deny their freedom to publish, and in taking risks to give writers their voice. The committee has the difficult task of choosing one name among them for the 2018 Prix Voltaire."
The IPA’s Freedom to Publish Committee will select its winner, with the award presentation taking place at the IPA’s International Publishers Congress in Delhi on 11th February.