AAP’s International Freedom to Publish Award Casts a Wide Net

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Citing concern among publishers about retaliatory governments, AAP opts not to name a specific winner of its 2023 International Freedom to Publish Award.

Image – Getty iStockphoto: Konoplytska

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

‘Concern Over Increased Public Recognition’
In a departure from the norm, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) in mid-December announced that they were awarding their International Freedom to Publish Award to “all publishing houses that continue to publish in the in the face of increased government pressure, harassment, and threats in multiple countries and regions of the world.”

The intent of this decision, the association says, is to call attention to the fact that there’s “pressure on publishers at unprecedented levels.” Needless to say, the lack of a specific publisher or publishing house as a designated winner, makes it more difficult to focus the kind of attention that the award has offered honorees including Azadeh Parsapour of Iran and Caracas’ Editorial Dahbar and its founder Sergio Dahbar in the past.

The association’s statement, however, says, “As AAP engaged with potential nominees this year, a number of publishing houses under consideration expressed concern over increased public recognition, fearing additional reprisals from local governments for both the recognition and their underlying work of disseminating materials that are critical of current regimes or politicians, or depict underrepresented groups, including LGBTQ+ individuals.”

Terry Adams

This is something Publishing Perspectives has seen, for example, among publishing professionals in Belarus during the Lukashenko regime’s crackdowns, as well as among publishing interests and players in other nations. Certainly under the sort of far-right censorship attacks being mounted in parts of the West, as well, a low profile may seem preferable to the award’s attention.

Terry Adams, the Little, Brown publisher who chairs the committee handling the award is quoted, saying, “From government censorship and book bans to harassment and arrests, pressure on the global publishing community has reached unprecedented levels.

“The danger, the outrageous levels of censorship, the deep fears of reprisal, and the freedoms that are very much on the line make this the most important award we’ve ever given.”Terry Adams, AAP

“This year we heard from numerous publishers from various parts of the world who were grateful to be considered for recognition, but who also live in fear of the additional scrutiny, harassment, and danger that such an honor might bring.

“As a result, this year’s award is for the many houses that quietly fight the battle for free expression under impossibly difficult circumstances.

“We realize that the empty hole at the center of this year’s award might seem to represent a missed opportunity to recognize some one individual publisher, and so in making this announcement we cannot emphasize strongly enough that the danger, the outrageous levels of censorship, the deep fears of reprisal, and the freedoms that are very much on the line make this the most important award we’ve ever given.

“On behalf of AAP’s board of directors and Freedom to Publish committee, we send a loud and clear message to publishing professionals who are under siege for their bravery, their determination, and their sacrifice: we see you.

For more on international recognition of publishing valor in the face of oppression and threat, see the work of the International Publishers Association (IPA), which confers the annual Prix Voltaire, under the auspices of its own Freedom to Publish committee chaired by Kristenn Einarsson, with the direction of James Taylor.  More from Publishing Perspectives on the work of the Association of American Publishers is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s world media partner.

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.

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