In January 2018, two big stories have demonstrated the importance of freedom to publish from two very different perspectives. The first was about a publisher being able to publish despite threats from a country’s highest office. The second saw a publisher deprived again of his freedom because he made books available that didn’t please the ruling regime. This is why the IPA Prix Voltaire is so important – it enables us to shine a light on worldwide challenges to freedom to publish.
January began with the President of the United States issuing cease and desist threats to American publisher Macmillan. The threats concerned Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, which promised to draw back the curtain on life in the White House under Donald Trump. This case demonstrated the importance of the US Constitution which ensured that the book was still published.
The same cannot be said in many other countries where intimidation can lead to self-censorship or, as Swedish/Hong Kong publisher Gui Minhai’s case has shown, kidnap and imprisonment. Having been ‘released’ to an unknown location last October, Mr Gui was recently seized from a Chinese train while accompanied by two Swedish diplomats. His whereabouts are currently unknown, and IPA has called for his release, as have the Governments of Sweden, Germany and the USA and many Human Rights NGOs including Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders.
Gui Minhai is part of the shortlist of publishers for the 2018 IPA Prix Voltaire alongside publishers from Bangladesh, Cameroon, Hungary and Iran. The ceremony for this year’s award will take place at the International Publishers Congress in New Delhi on 12 February.