Germany’s Freedom of Expression Week Stages More than 90 Events

In News by Porter Anderson

‘With courage and attitude,’ says Ingo Kretzschmar, Thalia is ‘using our wide reach in bookstores’ to boost freedom of expression.

The first of the celebrity posters supporting Germany’s Freedom of Expression Week 2024 featured Eintracht Frankfurt footballer Makoto Hasebe, who is also a bestselling author. His message: ‘“Intolerance harms sport. I wish for respect for the diversity of opinions. The image appeared on more than 3,750 publicly visible screens Image: Börsenverein

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

See also: Germany: 2024 Freedom of Expression Week Runs Through May 10

PRH’s Egetemeier: ‘Stand Up for This Fundamental Freedom’
Close to 4,000 out-of-home screens have been used across Germany to involve citizens in the market’s fourth Freedom of Expression Week and its closely followed new 2024 series of major influencers’ endorsement of the program and its free-speech principles.

This is the program led nationally each year now by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Germany’s publishers and booksellers association, and this year with the newly founded Freedom of Expression Foundation and the Frankfurt Agency Alliance.

Reportedly, this year’s program blew past last year’s 60 activities to deliver more than 90 events from programming 70 partners.

The program concluded on Friday (May 10), UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day, as what the Börsenverein’s Peter Kraus vom Cleff is calling “a visible signal for democracy.”

The program closed on Friday with a solemn remembrance of the May 10th book burnings of 1933, the 91st  anniversary of a moment when the United States’ Holocaust Museum Encylopedia refers to as “Nazi-dominated student groups” carried out public burnings of books in 34 university cities.

The books, deemed “un-German” by the Nazis, are described today as “works of prominent Jewish, liberal, and leftist writers.”

This year’s Freedom of Expression Week 2024 supported the Places of German Democratic History Foundation as a cooperation partner. Other sponsors included the ZEIT Bucerius Foundation, the CH Beck Foundation, the Polytechnic Society Foundation, and the Palm Foundation.

Peter Kraus vom Cleff

“The Freedom of Expression Week has set a visible signal for democracy, debate, and diversity with a new record number of participants and events,” Kraus vom Cleff says.

“Freedom of expression and publication are the basis of existence for an independent book and media industry—which is why we’re committed to these basic values ​​and are pleased that so many partners from society, politics, sport, and associations support us in this.

“The impulses of the action week should continue to resonate: There are European elections on June 9.

“We call on all citizens to go vote and actively shape the future of our democracy.”

The week was opened by an unveiling in Frankfurt of this year’s series of celebrity posters supporting Germany’s Freedom of Expression Week and featuring Eintracht Frankfurt footballer Makoto Hasebe, who is also a bestselling author. more endorsements were contributed by the Grimme Prize winner Sophie Passmann; the pianist and activist Igor Levit; the presenter and Web video producer Esra Karakaya; and the human rights activist and television presenter Düzen Tekkal.

Britta Egetemeier

In a comment on the success of this year’s effort, Britta Egetemeier, publisher and managing director of Penguin Random House Verlagsgruppe, says, “Freedom of expression does not just mean being able to have different opinions, but also being able to express different opinions freely—spoken and in print.

“Authors and we as publishers stand up for this fundamental freedom every day when making books. Through Freedom of Expression Week with its many actors and events, we are all showing a large public why it is so important to defend free exchange and discourse on a daily basis.

“At the Penguin Random House publishing group, we are particularly pleased to have celebrated the end of the week together with the industry’s young talent at the Mediacampus Frankfurt and our author Hasnain Kazim, who stands for freedom of expression in a very special way.”

Ingo Kretzschmar

We also have a comment from Ingo Kretzschmar, CEO of the bookstore chain Thalia Bücher GmbH, who says, “In times like these, there is no question for us at Thalia that we are sending a visible signal for democracy and freedom with courage and attitude.

“That’s why we wholeheartedly support Freedom of Expression Week and are using our wide reach in bookstores as well as our digital channels to focus on one of the most important pillars of a democratic society.”

On May 5th, the Börsenverein took part as a partner in the ceremony for the 75th anniversary of the “Basic Law” in Frankfurt’s Paulskirche, an event organized by the City of Frankfurt, the Places of German Democratic History Foundation, and the Evangelical Academy Frankfurt am Main.

More information is available at the 2024 site for the campaign, which is here, and can be followed in social media at #MehrAlsMeineMeinung and #FreedomOfExpression.

Television presenter Düzen Tekkal, in her Freedom of Expression Week message, says ‘Our freedom of expression is under pressure. Let’s get louder instead of quieter.’ Image: Börsenverein

A Programming Note: WEXFO 2024

On May 27, the first day of the two-day World Expression Forum (WEXFO) in Lillehammer, Publishing Perspectives will moderate an afternoon-length publishing-specific program titled Access to Information, Books, and Ideas: How to Advance the Freedom to Read.

Publishing Perspectives will moderate this event, with documentation to follow, in which speakers will explore how “politicians must look at the funding to support reading, not as funding something ‘nice to have,’ but as a pure necessity in the fight to uphold our democracies.”

Among the most serious conference-setting examinations of the gathering pressure on publishing to date, this event will bring together speakers including:

Speakers in the special May 27 focus on advancing the freedom to read are, on the top row from left, Miha Kovač; ; Jørgen Lorentzen; Even Aleksander Hagen; and Karine Pansa. On the lower row from left are Tora Åsling; Mariann Schjeide; Laurie Halse Anderson; and Olav Brostrup Müller

Ticketing information and other details about the 2024 WEXFO, May 27 and 28, is here.

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.

Publishing Perspectives is the world 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 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.