Kristenn Einarsson, Chair of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish Committee said: “The publishers that we recognize with this shortlist deserve our international support and remind us why the freedom to publish is so valuable. These five exceptionally strong candidates have, and continue to, risk their freedom and lives to promote the freedom to publish and we salute them. ” The IPA Freedom to Publish Committee (FtPC) is responsible for selecting the shortlist and laureate. The Committee comprises publishing professionals from a variety of countries in addition to members of the IPA’s secretariat. The following five nominees were selected for this year’s shortlist: 

  • Dar Al Jadeed Publishing House (Lebanon)
  • Independent Belarusian Publishers (Belarus)
  • Mikado Publishing (Turkey)
  • Samir Mansour Bookshop for Publishing (Palestine)
  • Raul Figueroa Sarti (Guatemala) 

The award ceremony for the 2021 Prix Voltaire will take place during the 35th Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara in Mexico at the end of November. Prix Voltaire nominees are publishers – individuals, collectives or organizations – who defend the freedom to publish. Nominees should have a demonstrated and firm commitment to defending these values and/or recently having published works in the face of threats, intimidation, repression or harassment from various sources. Previous prize recipients include Vietnamese publishing house Liberal Publishing House (2020), Egyptian publisher Khaled Lotfy (2019), Swedish Hong Kong publisher Gui Minhai (2018),Turkish publisher Turhan Günay and publishing house Evrensel (2017), Saudi blogger Raif Badawi (2016) and Belarusian publisher Ihar Lohvinau (2014). 

About the Nominees

Dar Al Jadeed Publishing House (Lebanon)

Founded in Beirut, Lebanon in 2000 by siblings Lokman Slim and Rasha al Ameer, Dar Al Jadeed Publishing House has sought to publish significant cultural works free from ideological conflict or partisanship. In February 2021, co-founder Lokman Slim was murdered after having been the target of repeated threats and intimidation due to his efforts to bring about greater freedom of expression and open dialogue to Lebanon.

Independent Belarusian Publishers (Belarus)

A number of different independent Belarusian publishers/publishing houses have been nominated with requests for anonymity for the individual publishers, due to the possible risks they face. These risks include harassment in the form of police visits, seizure of computers, books, blocking of books from export, investigations by tax and finance authorities, application of high fines for alleged financial irregularities and blocking of bank accounts. These tend to take place particularly after publication of books critical of the government.

Mikado Publishing (Turkey)

Mikado Publishing in Turkey, founded in 2006. They have been prosecuted on charges of obscenity for the publication of “Where do babies come from?” The publisher faces 6-12 years in prison with the case pending at the court of appeal. Mikado received the Turkish Publishers’ Association Freedom of Thought and Expression Award in 2020.

Samir Mansour Bookshop for Publishing (Palestine)

Samir Mansour Bookshop for Publishing in Palestine, based in Gaza for over 20 years before being destroyed in the Israeli missile attacks on Gaza in May 2021. The bookshop and publishing house was a critical part of the local community and contained tens of thousands of books in various languages covering a wide variety of subjects. It had been characterized as – “a way to lift the siege on Gaza through literature.”

Raul Figueroa Sarti (Guatemala)

Raul Figueroa Sarti in Guatemala. His political engagement forced him into exile in Costa Rica, though in 1993 he returned to Guatemala and founded F&G Editores, which over time has published more than 180 titles. As a publisher, Figueroa Sarti has promoted the organization of independent publishers in Central America and led to the founding of the Independent Central American Group (GEICA), which became the focus for the dissemination of Central American literature in the international market. In 2009, Mr. Figueroa Sarti faced a malicious judicial process that aimed to paralyze his editorial work and that initially resulted in a one-year prison sentence which was later suspended.