At London Book Fair: The IPA Prix Voltaire Shortlist

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The 2023 IPA Prix Voltaire nominees—from Pakistan, Egypt, Ireland, Turkey, and Iraq—’have made a significant contribution’ to freedom to publish.

On the exhibition floor at London Book Fair 2023. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

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

‘Multiple Voices and Perspectives’
Following a London Book Fair seminar on the critical importance of the freedom to publish and “strategic litigation against public participation” in the United Kingdom (SLAPP), the International Publishers Association (IPA) has announced a five-publisher shortlist for its 2023 Prix Voltaire.

The newly announced shortlist includes publishers in Egypt, Iraq, Ireland, Pakistan, and Turkey, and the event was organized by Kristenn Einarsson and James Taylor, the chair and director, respectively, of the IPA Freedom to Publish committee.

Einarsson said, “Publishers play a vital role in guaranteeing the freedom of expression of authors.

Kristenn Einarsson

“This year’s 2023 IPA Prix Voltaire shortlist is a testament to publishers who put themselves at risk to publish the works of others and contribute to our societies by ensuring readers have access to multiple voices and perspectives.”

The laureate will be announced at the World Expression Forum (WEXFO)—which is helmed by Einarsson—in Lillehammer on May 22.

IPA 2023 Prix Voltaire Nominees

Mazen Lateef Ali

Mazen Lateef Ali, Iraq

Mazen Lateef first became involved in the book business as a student buying and selling books on Al-Mutanabi Street in Baghdad. In 2007 he established the publishing house Dar Mesopotamia for Printing, Publishing and Distribution and became an established and respected member of the cultural community in Iraq. He published a range of books including many about the Jewish communities and individuals of Iraq.

On January 21, 2020 he was kidnapped at gunpoint with no news of his whereabouts since.

Günışığı Kitaplığı Publishing House, Turkey

Founded in 1996, Günışığı Kitaplığı (“Sunshine Library”) specializes in contemporary literature for children and young adults. In the last decade, a number of the publisher’s books have been removed from school reading lists, subjected to concerted social media pressure, banned from sale on online platforms and at book fairs, and declared “obscene” by the Board for the Protection of Minors from Obscene Publications. The company is fighting seven separate cases of effective bans on books considered “harmful to minors.”

Mehr Husain

Mehr Husain, Pakistan

Mehr Husain is a journalist, editor, author, and publisher. She is the founder of ZUKA Books, established following Pakistan’s ban on books from India. A sole voice that lobbied the government to help local authors at a time, she set up ZUKA Books which aimed to create a cultural disruption by speaking up for the freedom of creative expression, gender equality  and inclusive publishing. ZUKA Books published books that are the first of their kind in Pakistan and have generated a national dialogue focusing on female inclusivity and empowerment.

In 2021 ZUKA Books co-organized Ananke Women In Literature Festival which focuses on female voices in South Asia and the MENA region.

Ahmed Mahmoud Ibrahim Ahmed

Ahmed Mahmoud Ibrahim Ahmed, Egypt

Ahmed Mahmoud Ibrahim Ahmed is a young author, photographer, and co-Founder of Kotopia, an Egyptian Publishing House, established in 2016 and dedicated to publishing books in different genres.

Ahmed was arrested in Saudi Arabia during Riyadh International Bookfair in October 2022 without justification. He was subsequently released and returned to Egypt on March 5.

Mercier Press, Ireland

Mercier Press was founded in 1944 by Captain Seán and Mary Feehan as they believed in the importance of Ireland’s ability to provide accessible histories and cultural books for all who are interested in Irish life. Mercier challenged Catholic dogma which dominated Irish society as well as censorship in Ireland, publishing books like Marriage Partnership (which had to be sold under the counter) and went on to publish a range of titles on previously undiscussed matters such as drug abuse, domestic violence, the sexual revolution, women’s rights and clerical sexual abuse.

Mercier continues to publish controversial books—including One Day in My Life by Bobby Sands; The SAS in Ireland by Raymond Murray; Lethal Allies: British Collusion in Ireland by Anne Cadwallader; and Burnt Out: How the Troubles Began by Michael McCann.

About the 2023 IPA Prix Voltaire

Prix Voltaire nominees are publishers—individuals, groups, or organizations—who have typically published controversial works amid pressure, threats, intimidation or harassment, from governments, other authorities, or private interests. They may be publishers with a distinguished record of upholding the values of the 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 on digital platforms.

The IPA Prix Voltaire, which comes with a 10,000-Swiss-franc prize, is made possible by contributions from sponsors, all of which are publishing houses and organizations that share the values that the IPA Prix Voltaire recognizes.

The current sponsors of the IPA Prix Voltaire are, in alphabetical order:

  • Albert Bonniers Förlag (Sweden)
  • Bonnier Media Deutschland (Germany)
  • Holtzbrinck (Germany)
  • Penguin Random House
  • Norstedts (Sweden)
  • Samlaget (Norway)
  • Verlag CH Beck (Germany)

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.