Germany’s Börsenverein Announces a Third ‘Freedom of Expression Week’

In News by Porter Anderson

This nationwide and international campaign for freedom of expression was instigated in 2021 by German Publishers and Booksellers Association.

Posters for Germany’s Freedom of Expression Week 2021 in the windows of a bookstore. Image: Börsenverein

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

‘A Universal Human Right … Non-Negotiable’
In its media messaging today (February 6), the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Germany’s publishers and booksellers association, has set May 3 to 10 as the dates for a third iteration of the country’s Freedom of Expression Week—Woche der Meinungsfreiheit. 

Described as a “nationwide week of action,” the program’s theme this year is “Together for Peace, Democracy, and Diversity.”

The Börsenverein sees its 2023 edition of this programming as a chance “to put public focus on the importance of the freedom of speech and lively debates for a free, democratic society. From the International Day of Press Freedom on May 3 to” commemorations of “the book burning in Germany on May 10, the German Publishers and Booksellers Association invites organizations, companies, and private individuals to hold events and campaigns nationwide.”

Publishers and bookstores can order packages of campaign material, and part of the conceptual development of the program includes a designation of “the bookstore as a place of freedom of expression, with authors from Penguin Random House Verlagsgruppe speaking on the theme and an opening concert.

Peter Kraus vom Cleff

In a prepared statement, Peter Kraus vom Cleff, the Börsenverein‘s general manager, is quoted, saying, “With Freedom of Speech Week, we want to stand up for a free, democratic and diverse society. Rarely has our concern been more urgent than today.

“In view of Russia’s ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine, increasing polarization in society, and a heated climate of debate, we’re urgently required to work for peace, human rights, and understanding.

“At the same time, it’s the 90th anniversary of the National Socialist book burnings—a shocking anniversary that should serve as a reminder to us to this day.

“Hand-in-hand with institutions and civil society, we want to spend a week in May drawing attention to the importance of free speech, creating opportunities for speeches, and promoting unprejudiced debates in all areas of society. We invite all people and organizations to join our alliance for peace, democracy and diversity.”

As before, a Charta der Meinungsfreiheit—a Charter for the Freedom of Expression—underlies the project with its 11 principles “seeking to protect and promote a culture of open debate.”

Its very first point conveys the adamant, urgent dynamic behind this annual effort and its focus: Freedom of expression is a universal human right and as such is non-negotiable. Every person has the right to claim their freedom of expression.

Publishing Perspectives readers in many of our world markets will find all 11 points meaningful, perhaps painfully so. At this writing, a total 2,127 people have signed on to the charter.

  • Those who would like to be involved this year, will find information and a chance to register here.
  • You can submit a campaign and/or event of your own to the program using an online form here.
  • Information for the book-publishing industry (and campaign materials) can be learned about here.
More than 142 Million Contacts in 2022

While this program engaged more than 50 civil society organizations and companies last year, the program was originally founded by the Börsenverein. In 2022, there were close to 60 events reported, including activities and campaigns, with more than 142 million people making contact with the effort.

The campaign in 2022 was awarded the International German PR Prize of the Democratic People’s Republic of Germany, and thus has quickly become a nationally and internationally recognized focus of freedom of expression—and by extension, the freedom to publish.

Find it on Twitter: @WdM_2023;  on Instagram: @woche_der_meinungsfreiheit; and on Facebook: @WeekofFreedomofExpression.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the German book market is here, more on the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels is here, and more on the freedom of expression and freedom to publish 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.