IPA’s Prix Voltaire: Open for 2021 Nominations in the Freedom to Publish

In News by Porter Anderson

The annual Prix Voltaire opens a call for nominations and for contributions, as uncertainty hangs over one of the key members of last year’s winning company.

An open-air reading room in Tallinn amid the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, February 7. Image – iStockphoto: Aimur Kytt

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Deadline for Nominations: June 20
The Geneva-based International Publishers Association (IPA) today (March 22) opens its call for nominations for the 2021 IPA Prix Voltaire.

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, the Prix Voltaire honors publishing players who show valor in the face of threats and retaliation for exercising their freedom of expression. Of all the work the IPA does to support the world publishing industry, the Prix Voltaire can be the most arresting because it’s the most direct annual interface this NGO has each year with the international humanitarian community.

The freedom to publish—the book business’ version of the freedom of expression—is one of the International Publishers Association’s two great pillars, the other being copyright. And in recent years, the visibility of the Voltaire award and its urgent mission has risen along with the high tide of nationalism, xenophobia, repression, and authoritarianism challenging so many cultures in which publishers operate.

In its announcement today, the IPA opens 2021 nominations, to run through June 20. A nomination form can be found here. And submissions go to prix-voltaire@internationalpublishers.org .

Nominators will be asked to provide “a comprehensive justification, preferably in English, but certainly in one of the official IPA languages (English, French, German and Spanish).”

According to today’s media messaging, nominations can be made by “IPA members, Freedom to Publish committee members, publishers and publishing houses, international, professional and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with interest in freedom of expression can nominate candidates.”

Kristenn Einarsson

As the IPA Freedom to Publish committee chair Kristenn Einarsson  says in a message for IPA’s nominations announcement, “Our 2020 Freedom to Publish Report demonstrated the scale and range of challenges to the freedom to publish around the world.

“We want to celebrate and support those publishers who have put themselves at risk by bringing different and challenging ideas to readers.”

The award carries a purse of 10,000 Swiss francs (US$10,759). That purse is supported this year by four companies in today’s information, all of them from either Sweden or Norway:

  • Natur & Kultur (Sweden)
  • Aschehoug, Norstedts (Norway)
  • Albert Bonniers Forlag (Sweden)
  • Det Norske Samlaget (Norway)
A Call for Contributions

The IPA is asking for contributions to the IPA Prix Voltaire Fund. Many might be surprised that more ready support isn’t in place for this award in light of the current state of political realities. One of our stories on the Prix Voltaire from 2019 indicates that the program was supported not by four publishing entities but by 11.  And in 2018 at the point of the call for nominations, the program enjoyed the support of 14 companies.

On the announcement page, the IPA provides banking details for donors, saying that it welcomes any contribution of any size.

Prix Voltaire’ Past Recipients: Alarm for the 2020 Winner

Previous Prix Voltaire recipients include:

Pham Doan Trang

The 2020 Prix Voltaire was given to Vietnam’s Liberal Publishing House (Nhà xuất bản Tự Do), a “clandestine press” reported to be frequently moving its operation to avoid the state’s detection as Hanoi tried to suppress its operations.

To the alarm and objection of the world industry, the company’s spokesperson and frequent author, the journalist Pham Doan Trang was arrested in early October in Ho Chi Minh City, prior to a scheduled video appearance at Frankfurter Buchmesse in an IPA presentation.

On February 1, Richard Paddock mentioned Pham Doan Trang in his article for The New York Times about Vietnam’s Communist Party and its provision of a third term to Nguyen Phu Trong. “Pham Doan Trang, was arrested in October on charges of making and disseminating propaganda,” Paddock wrote. “She faces up to 20 years in prison.”


More from Publishing Perspectives on the International Publishers Association is here, and on the Prix Voltaire is here. Publishing Perspectives is the international media partner of IPA programs and services.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As as an arts critic (National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.