The 2022 IPA Prix Voltaire Laureate: Thailand’s Same Sky Press

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

A 20-year-old press known for attracting the ire of the authorities in Bangkok wins the IPA’s Prix Voltaire.

An August 13 view of Si Lom in the Bank Rak district of Bangkok. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Mathias Berger

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

Einarsson: ‘Standing Up to Intimidation’
As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, the International Publishers Association announced its 2022 IPA Prix Voltaire shortlist of five candidates in late May, appropriately during the inaugural World Expression Forum (WEXFO), seated at Lillehammer.

The IPA’s Freedom to Publish committee chair Kristenn Einarsson—who is also the World Expression Forum’s managing director—was joined by Bodour Al Qasimi, president of the International Publishers Association, to make the announcement.

Now we have word that the Thai house Same Sky Publishing (Fah Deaw Kan, ฟ้าเดียวกานต์) has been selected as this year’s winner by the IPA’s committee.

The award is to be presented to a representative of the house at the gala dinner closing the 33rd IPA International Publishers Congress at Jakarta on November 12. At our press time on this, it was unclear who the company’s representative in Jakarta may be on that occasion.

‘The Climate of Fear’

Same Sky publisher Thanapol Eawsakul following his arrest in late June by authorities. Image: Courtesy Thai Lawyers for Human Rights

You may know what Einarsson means when, in his announcement this week he says, “Same Sky Publishing is a perfect example of a publisher demonstrating their bravery by standing up to intimidation and continuing to publish works they believe in.”

Kristenn Einarsson

After all, this is a publisher to whose defense Einarsson already has risen, saying during the summer, “This harassment has to stop.”

As we reported on July 5, Same Sky’s co-founding publisher Thanapol Eawsakul was arrested at the end of June “under charges of violating Thailand’s computer crimes act and sharing classified information that could affect national security,” according to a report in the Thai Enquirer. The arrest was made at the publisher’s office, according to reports, by officers of the Technology Crimes Suppression Division, referred to locally in social media as “cyber police.”

Thanapol reportedly was released on bail on June 30, but IPA’s Freedom to Publish committee’s concerns remained—about the harassment itself and about this publisher’s chances for a fair and open trail in Bangkok.

Same Sky Publishing House was founded in Bangkok in 2002 by three former student activists—Thanapol himself, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, and Chaithawat Tulatol.

Since then, Same Sky has published what’s reported to be many academic journals and books in the social sciences and humanities, mainly from a critical perspective. Some suggest that this critical position has disturbed those who uphold the political and social status quo.

“The last two decades of volatility in Thai politics have impeded freedom of speech in Thailand,” the IPA’s secretariat writes in its media messaging, “particularly with regard to the abolition of the monarchy—something Same Sky’s work seeks to address. As a result, Thanapol, Same Sky’s executive editor, has had to endure monitoring by state officials attempting to persecute him for sedition.”

When Tommy Walker was writing about an earlier incident involving Thanapol, Same Sky, and the Thai authorities in January for the Voice of America, Pravit Rojanaphruk, a journalist who had spoken with Thanapol, said that it appears that such official actions have indeed been exactly the effort to intimidate that they appear to be.

“The raids, particularly at Same Sky Books and Magazine,” Pravit told Walker, “demonstrate how police and even the court induce the climate of fear. The laws seem to bend and [be] used as a tool of the powers that be.”

Others Shortlisted for the Prix Voltaire

This year, the four other shortlisted candidates for the Prix Voltaire include:

  • VK Karthika (India)
  • Raul Figueroa Sarti (Guatemala)
  • Nahid Shahalimi (Afghanistan/Canada)
  • Ukrainian Publishers and Booksellers Association

And it’s heartening for those who understand the value and importance of the Prix Voltaire in the world publishing community to see that the program’s prize-funding profile has improved, with a group of seven publishers this time contributing (over five hardy Nordic publishers in the previous year) to the 10,000-Swiss-franc purse (US$10,229.58).

This year’s list of contributors comprises:

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 having recently published works despite pressure, threats, intimidation or harassment from various sources.

If you’re new to the Prix Voltaire program, which takes on more meaning almost daily during this era of so many authoritarian efforts to censor and bully journalists, our stories on the program can be found here.

This is Publishing Perspectives’ 174th awards report published in the 180 days since our 2022 operations began on January 3.

Trasvin Jittidecharak

Another Thai publisher, Trasvin Jittidecharak of Silkworm, is a speaker in our 11 a.m. session on Thursday, October 20, in the inaugural edition of the Publishing Perspectives Forum at Frankfurter Buchmesse. Jittidecharak—a much-respected proponent of the freedom to publish who serves on the IPA’s committee with Einarsson—will be joined by Oxford University Press’ Niko Pfund and Williams Collins’ Arabella Pike in a discussion moderated by Erin L. Cox and titled “Nonfiction Publishing in the Age of Misinformation.”

At Frankfurt, please join us at the Publishing Perspectives Forum, a two-day program of leading and influential professionals in the international publishing industry discussing today’s challenges, dynamics, and trends.

Attendance is free of charge for all Frankfurter Buchmesse exhibitors and trade visitors. The program language is English. You’ll find full details and developing news here. Drop in as you can between meetings.

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, more on international publishing and book awards programs is here, and more from us on the International Publishers Association is hereMore 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.

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.