Guatemala’s F&G Editores Wins AAP’s Freedom to Publish Award

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

F&G Editores publisher Raúl Figueroa Sarti thanks AAP for helping to expose ‘the risks that freedom of expression and publication are experiencing today.’

Raúl Figueroa Sarti

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

Pallante: ‘A Threat that Affects Us All’
The Association of American Publishers (AAP) has announced today (November 17) that F&G Editores in Guatemala City is the 2021 recipient of its International Freedom to Publish Award.

The AAP’s annual honor is also known as the Jeri Laber Award for the co-founder of Human Rights Watch and a founding member of AAP’s Freedom to Publish committee.

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, Guatemalan book publisher Raúl Figueroa Sarti, F&G’s founder (1993), is on the shortlist for the 2021 Prix Voltaire from the International Publishers Association (IPA).  The recipient of that award is to be announced at the 35th Guadalajara International Book Fair.

Figueroa, in fact, will speak on November 30 at Guadalajara in a special seminar mounted by the IPA, “The Different Shades of Censorship: From Government Pressure to Libel Threats, and Self-Censorship.”

That program, running from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m. CT (18:00 to 19:30 GMT) is also expected to feature Mayra González Olvera, the literary director of Penguin Random House México; IPA’s Freedom to Publish committee chair Kristenn Einarsson; Nicaraguan author Sergio Ramirez; Penguin Random House Peru’s director general, Jerónimo Pimentel; and Prix Voltaire nominee Rasha Al Ameer.

Maria A. Pallante

In a statement provided to news media today on the announcement of F&G Editores,’ the association’s president and CEO Maria A. Pallante is quoted, saying, ”

“In bestowing this award, AAP has long been guided by the principle that if one of us is denied the right to publish, that threat affects us all.

“We thank Raúl Figueroa Sarti for his extraordinary commitment to authors and readers despite the serious and numerous threats he has had to endure at the helm of F&G Editores.”

Terry Adams, digital and paperback publisher with Hachette’s Little, Brown and chair of the AAP’s Freedom to Publish committee, stresses the long-term commitment acknowledged in today’s honor, saying, “Raúl Figueroa Sarti and his colleagues at F&G Editores have exercised their freedom to publish not only through periods of active peril but also through the lulls that precede danger’s inevitable return.

“They’ve endured the cycle of terror and intimidation not for weeks, or years, but decades.

‘It’s an honor to recognize their fine work as publishers, as well as their tenacity and bravery, which command the respect of all who value freedom.”

In Guatemala, F&G Editores’ staffers celebrated the news today on social media, tweeting, for example, a thanks for the congratulations of the Guatemalan Publishers Association.

And in a response to the news, Figueroa said, “I am very grateful to the Association of American Publishers for giving me the Freedom to Publish Award.

“Beyond an acknowledgment of my publishing work in Guatemala, it seems very relevant that attention is paid internationally to the risks that freedom of expression and publication are experiencing today, both from central government and from the most powerful economic groups of Guatemala that fear their privileges are at risk.”

AAP’s Statement of Rationale

In an extensive rationale for the selection of the Guatemalan press and its founder, the AAP lays out its committee’s regard and admiration. From that text:

“Despite significant personal danger, Figueroa Sarti has chosen to build his publishing house in Guatemala, in the process serving as an activist for a humane civil society in a region torn by war and corruption.

“As a result of his unrelenting activism while running F&G Editores, Figueroa Sarti has received numerous personal threats over the years, some direct and others veiled.

“In 2009, he faced false charges as part of a campaign designed to paralyze his publishing operation. He initially received a one-year prison sentence, which was later suspended. He has subsequently been targeted by both the government and far-right business groups which have launched a series of smear campaigns falsely alleging financial wrongdoing, among other allegations.

“Since its launch F&G Editores has earned an unquestionable reputation for excellence, publishing some the most important fiction and non-fiction in Central America.

“In 1997, F&G published an edition of the Guatemalan criminal procedure code that immediately became one of the bestselling books in the country, rolling through five editions in a single year. The debut of this volume marked the first time that court decisions and law changes were ever published in Guatemala.

“From the editorial perspective, the quality of paper, interior design, format, cover design, and binding of this compendium was considered unique in Guatemala.

“Over the course of its existence, F&G Editores has published more than 180 titles, including the works of Guatemala’s Miguel Ángel Asturias, 1967 Nobel Prize for Literature, and texts by other important Guatemalan writers, including a series entitled Miguel Ángel Asturias National Prize Collection for Literature that showcases texts by award-winning authors such as Rodrigo Rey Rosa, Marco Antonio Flores, David Unger, and Arturo Arias.

“F&G Editores has also published numerous nonfiction titles that have put Figueroa Sarti’s life in jeopardy in Guatemala, including:

  • Lineage and Racism in Guatemala. “Published in 2005, 14 years after its first edition in Costa Rica, this book exposed racism against the Mayan peoples.
  • State Crime: The Parlacen Case. “Published in 2011, this book brought to light the involvement of state security forces in the murder of Salvadoran deputies in Guatemalan territory, and later the murder in prison of the police officers accused of the crimes.
  • Convicted of Genocide. “In 2013 this book revealed that General Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide, a sentence that had been officially concealed by the courts.
  • From the Barracks. Another Vision of Guatemala. “Published in 2017, this book revealed the vision of a progressive military man in the Guatemalan army who denounced the links between the military leadership and the economic elite.
  • Guatemala: Causes and Origins of the Internal Armed Conflict; Conclusions and Recommendations. “Published in 2019, this book includes excerpts from the voluminous report prepared after the signing of the 1996 Peace Accords that ended the 36-year internal war which Guatemalan authorities had tried to conceal.
  • The Back Courtyard: The Hour of the Comedian. “Published in 2019, this book reveals the corrupt regime of former president Jimmy Morales and his links with the powerful economic elite that for decades sponsored war in Guatemala.
  • Dissent and Discipline. “Published in 2021, this non-fiction book exposed methods put into practice to “discipline” businessmen who demonstrated against corruption in Guatemala in 2015 and 2016.

“This year F&G Editores plans to publish 12 books, seven of which are literature and five of which deal with social and political issues in Guatemala. “

Previous recipients of the AAP’s award include:

  • Bangladesh-based Jagriti Publishing House in 2020
  • South Africa-based NB Publishers in 2019
  • Azadeh Parsapour in 2018, a London-based publisher of censored Iranian authors

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Association of American Publishers is here. More from us on the freedom of expression and freedom to publish is here, and more on the International Publishers Association’s Prix Voltaire is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the world media partner to the International Publishers Association.

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 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 International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, 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.