At Norway’s WEXFO: IPA Prix Voltaire Names Its Shortlist

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

At Lillehammer’s World Expression Forum, the International Publishers Association names a shortlist for its Prix Voltaire.

International Publishers Association president Bodour Al Qasimi and IPA Freedom to Publish committee chair Kristenn Einarsson open the announcement of the 2022 Prix Voltaire, during the World Expression Forum (WEXFO) dinner at Lillehammer. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

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

See also: WEXFO Opens in Norway: Victor Pickard on Technology, Free Speech, Journalism

Bodour Al Qasimi: ‘Catalyzing Critical Societal Dialogues’
At the opening night dinner of the inaugural World Expression Forum (WEXFO) gathered here in Lillehammer, the International Publishers Association has announced its 2022 IPA Prix Voltaire shortlist.

The list this year honors publishers from Ukraine, Thailand, India, Guatemala, and from Afghanistan and Canada.

An award ceremony is set for 12 November as part of the 33rd biennial International Publishers Congress, to be convened in Jakarta.

The announcement of the shortlisted publishers this evening has followed an address by one of the most eloquent personalities to win the Prix Voltaire.

Rasha Al Ameer is the co-founder of Beirut’s Dar Al Jadeed with her brother, Lokman Slim, who was assassinated in Lebanon in February 2021. Al Ameer is also a winner of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award from the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre.

In her comments, Al Ameer has referenced atrocities both in Syria and in Ukraine under Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked assault, drawing parallels to the multiple crises in Lebanon, telling the WEXFO delegates, “Freedom is a delicate gem.

In times of war, freedom murmurs and hibernates. Our duty is to rouse it and stand by it, and that is what Prix Voltaire is doing.

“The Prix Voltaire did this when it awarded Dar al Jadeed the same year Lokman was assassinated: it was a clear message to those who are making decisions to kill with impunity that Lokman’s blood counts.”

The Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, president of the International Publishers Association and founder of the internationally active Kalimat Foundation, said, “Publishers enable human progress and development by enriching public debate, catalyzing critical societal dialogues, and giving voice to the marginalized.

“The Prix Voltaire plays a very important watchdog role in monitoring the status of freedom to publish globally so that publishers can continue to fulfill this role.

“By highlighting champions of freedom to publish and helping to secure justice, the Prix Voltaire prevents governmental overreach and abuses that perpetuate self-censorship or erode freedom to publish.”

Kristenn Einarsson

And the WEXFO founding managing director Kristenn Einarsson—who is also chair of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish committee and former CEO of the Norwegian Publishers Association—said, “We received a record number of nominations this year,” for the Prix Voltaire, “which is a tribute to the remarkable publishers who are producing challenging works, but also a sad indictment on the freedom to publish situation around the world.

“The publishers shortlisted for the 2022 IPA Prix Voltaire shine a light for all of us.”

2022 Prix Voltaire Shortlisted Nominees

A few notes of clarification before listing the five shortlisted nominees for this year’s Prix Voltaire.

  • Prix Voltaire nominees are publishers (individuals, groups or organizations) who stand firm on the freedom to publish—whether as longstanding defenders of these values or by virtue of recently published works—despite pressure, threats, intimidation, or harassment from various sources.
  • Nominees have typically experienced such interference from governments, other authorities, and/or private interests.
  • In some cases, they may be publishers with a distinguished record of upholding the values of freedom to publish and freedom of expression.

For the purposes of the IPA Prix Voltaire, the definition of publisher is an individual, collective, or organization that provides others with the means to share their ideas in written form, including via digital platforms.

VK Karthika (India)

Among the best-known names in Indian publishing, VK Karthika was the editor of Westland Books (recently closed by Amazon). She published several books that made the Indian government uncomfortable.

VK Karthika

Karthika’s career has included work at Penguin Books India and HarperCollins India. In 2017, she moved to Westland and launched a new imprint, Context, focused on “serious, thoughtful, politically engaged fiction and nonfiction” from Indian authors.

Earlier this year, it was reported that she’d left Westland Books to join Pratilipi, an online writing platform and publishing house. She has been responsible for publishing several of India’s favorite writers and has spoken about her willingness to publish titles that are considered to be “activist publishing.”

Same Sky Publishing / Fah Deaw Kan (Thailand)

Same Sky Publishing (Fah Deaw Kan) was established in 2002 by three activists, Thanapol Eawsakul, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, and Chaithawat Tulatol.

Since 2002, Same Sky has publicized a large number of academic journals and books in the social sciences and humanities.

Some have suggested that the critical perspectives of these works have disturbed the status quo. For two decades, volatile Thai politics have driven impediments to the freedom of speech, observers say, particularly with regards to the abolition of the monarchy. Same Sky’s work has supported calls for the fall of the constitutional monarchy and the House of Chakri.

Among the three founding activists, executive editor Eawsakul has had to content with state monitoring efforts presented as a scan for sedition. Press reports this year from the region, such as this January 20 story from the Bangkok Post, have included accounts of police raids made on the Same Sky offices.

Raúl Figueroa Sarti (Guatemala)

As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, the F&G Editores founding publisher Raúl Figueroa Sarti in Guatemala City was given the Association of American Publishers‘ (AAP) 2021 Freedom to Publish Award, 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.

Raúl Figueroa Sarti

Figueroa was shortlisted previously for the Prix Voltaire in 2021.

In its rationale for the 2021 AAP award, the United States’ publishers’ jury wrote, in part, “F&G Editores has also published numerous nonfiction titles that have put Figueroa Sarti’s life in jeopardy in Guatemala,” adding, “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.”

Nahid Shahalimi (Afghanistan and Canada)

An Afghan-born artist and human rights advocate who fled Kabul with her mother and sisters in 1985, later settled in Canada, witnessing the Soviet occupation of her country.

Nahid Shahalimi

Between 2014 and 2018, Shahalimi collected stories from Afghan women who represent examples of courage and resilience. She collected these stories in the book Where Courage Bears the Soul: Stories of Courageous & Inspiring Afghan Women Suhrkamp, published in Germany in 2017.

She has been involved in women and girls’ projects in Afghanistan for more than 20 years and her We Are Still Here: Afghan Women on Courage, Freedom, and the Fight To Be Heard is to be released August 16 by Penguin Random House with a foreword from Margaret Atwood. The German edition was released in April 2021 by Suhrkamp.

We Are Still Here features 14 Afghan women, some of them in significant danger, speaking out about women’s struggles and their rights in Afghanistan, in terms of politics, art, culture, society, business, and the news media.

Ukrainian Publishers and Booksellers Association

The Ukranian Publishers and Booksellers Association (UPBA) was established on June 17, 1994, and has 95 members.

The association seeks to create favorable conditions for Ukrainian publishing entities to effectively provide the population with books.

Since Putin’s Russian attack on Ukraine began on February 24, the local publishing community in Ukraine has struggled to survive, many publishing professionals being forced to seek refuge outside the country.

The association has been central to sharing information and promoting initiatives. It also has been engaged in the provision of books to refugees outside Ukraine and to the effort to keep the country’s book publishing tradition and culture alive.

A Funding Expansion for the Prix Voltaire

Regular readers of Publishing Perspectives will recall that the Prix Voltaire’s 10,000-Swiss-franc purse last year (US$10,464) was funded only by five Nordic publishing houses.

This year, the funding profile has improved, the sponsorship profile now showing the backing of seven world publishers:

This is Publishing Perspectives’ 99th awards report published in the 101 days since our 2022 operations began on January 3.

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

More on the work of Kristenn Einarsson is here, and more on WEXFO is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s global media partner. We are also the world media partner of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Center and the Sheikh Zayed Book Award.

Catch up with all our coverage of Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine and its impact on the country’s publishing industry and players. More from Publishing Perspectives on the Ukrainian market is here, more on the freedom to publish and the freedom of expression is here

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.