Turkish Publishers’ ‘Freedom of Thought and Expression’ Award

In News by Porter Anderson

The Turkish Publishers Association honors a house fighting seven cases of effective bans on books considered ‘harmful to minors.’

The Turkish Publishers Association holds its general assembly in Istanbul, May 25. Image: Türkiye Yayıncılar Birliği

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

See also:
At Norway’s WEXFO, Iraqi Mazin Lateef Ali Wins the IPA Prix Voltaire
At London Book Fair, The IPA Prix Voltaire Shortlist
PEN America Tracks ‘Emotional Gag Orders’

‘Prohibitions, Legal Difficulties, and Pressures’
In coming days and weeks, you’ll see us covering some of the high points of an especially heavy spring season of international publishing events. Needless to say, the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has had a lot to do with this, upending program’s calendars and plans for more than a year in many cases.

As new editions industry programming have come back to physical venues, there have been too many important and illuminating moments onstage for timely reporting. Nevertheless, much of the border-crossing discussion and presentation involved is still fully viable. Some of it, in fact, is even more relevant than when it was presented earlier this year because elements of the book business are catching up with what was being discussed by some forward-looking individuals.

This is particularly the case, for example, in the Scuola per Librai Umberto e Elisabetta Mauri, set in Venice and organized by Nana LohrengalStefano Mauri, and Alberto Otierri with distinctive prescience this year–a topic of coverage upcoming.

Today (May 26), we want to flag for your attention the work of the Turkish Publishers Association, which on Thursday (May 25) held its general assembly in Istanbul, having named winners of its Freedom of Thought and Expression awards last month.

The association presents its freedom awards not only in a publishers’ category but also in an author category and a bookstore division. PEN Türkiye and the Writers’ Union of Türkiye were named recipients of the author award, while Fidan Bookstore of Malatya won the retail honor.

In the publisher category, as it turns out, the Turkish Publishers Association honored one of the shortlisted candidates for this year’s IPA Prix Voltaire from the International Publishers Association (IPA). As our readers know, on Monday evening at Kristenn Einarsson’s World Expression Forum, WEXFO, in Lillehammer, Iraq’s Mazin Lateef Ali was made the IPA Prix Voltaire laureate for 2023.

Under Einarsson’s and James Taylor‘s leadership as chair and director, respectively, the IPA Freedom to Publish committee made the Turkish publishing house Günışığı Kitaplığı (“Sunshine Library”) one of the four shortlistees contending with the eventual winner, Mazin Lateef.

The IPA’s write-up  of Günışığı Kitaplığı says that the house 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 cases of effective bans on books considered ‘harmful to minors.'”

There are unmistakable echoes here, of course, of the kind of commentary we’re getting from PEN America on censorship efforts in the United States. In fact, it’s hard to think of a more chilling message from one book market to another.

‘A Peaceful, Just, Equal and Peaceful World’

Turkish Publishers Association chief Kenan Kocatürk presents the association’s Freedom of Thought and Expression Award 2023 for publishing to Günışığı Kitaplığı editor-in-chief, Mine Soysal, April 12. Image: Turkish Publishers Association/IPA

In its presentation of its own award on April 12 at Istanbul’s Yapi Kredi Culture and Arts Centre, the Turkish Publishers Association president, Kenan Kocatürk, spoke of how–according to the association’s report–”the main problems that the Turkish publishing sector struggles with are the obstacles to freedom of thought and expression, as well as the prohibitions, legal difficulties, and pressures on the freedom to publish.”

Kocatürk, in fact, spoke of “the danger of the spread and deepening of censorship in all areas of life.”

Günışığı Kitaplığı editor-in-chief Mine Soysal accepted the award from the Turkish association, saying, “We are deeply committed to the freedom of thought, expression, and publication.

“We defend the rights of people of all ages to access, read, or not read books, under all circumstances. We continue to publish our books with joy and pride.

“The source of the ‘Sunlight Library’ is its admiration for art, science, creative mind, literature, poetry, and philosophy. What we are giving is the struggle for freedom for future generations. This is the promise we make to ourselves first and then to the whole society for a peaceful, just, equal, and peaceful world.”

Books featured on the site of the award-winning Turkish publishing house. Image: Günışığı Kitaplığı

The Turkish association was founded in 1985 and is a member of the International Publishers Association, which assisted us with the news of Günışığı Kitaplığı’s win.

More from Publishing Perspectives on issues of the freedom to publish and freedom of expression is here, more on the Prix Voltaire is here, and on the International Publishers Association is here. More on the World Expression Forum, WEXFO, is here, and more on Türkiye’s publishing market is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the global media partner of the International Publishers Association.

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.com, 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.