The two days are a challenging mix of real-life tales of suffering and being silenced set alongside inspirational stories that drive hope. High-profile speakers included:   

Irene Khan / Staffan Lindberg of the V-Dem Institute presented a compelling data-driven case for the autocratization of the world, remarks that were picked up later by Irene Khan, the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression as she called for more urgency. Staffan Lindberg will be speaking at the 34th International Publishers Congress in Guadalajara from 3-6 December 2024.  

Gérard Biard, the editor of French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo urged the audience to recognise that individual rights must not be above collective rights an idea reflected earlier by Laurie Halse Anderson when noting those banning books in the USA. You can choose what your own children read, but not what other people’s children can read.  

Sadly, the tech community, who so often present their tools as vital to free speech, were generally absent with only TikTok being present to state its case. 

IPA participated in a workshop around the freedom to read and the importance of reading to democracy. IPA President Karine Pansa was able to draw attention to two initiatives supported by IPA and other international book sector organisations. The frist being the joint statement on the trinitiy of freedoms – expression, to publish and to read. The second being the Ljubljana manifesto on higher-level reading.  

The speakers, ranging from local and national government to authors, publishers, booksellers and librarians all made the case for the importance of reading and the risks to democracies who allow the freedom to read to be threatened. 

Author Laurie Halse Anderson was able to present the broad scale of the challenges in the USA but also made it personal. Her own books have been banned, she has seen her invitations to speak in schools fall from 80 a year to just 1. Others suffer the same, harming their income. 

Artificial Intelligence was also on the agenda with Peter Schoppert of NUS Press (Singapore) presenting the blatant disregard for copyright in the training data used by generative AI companies. The freedom of expression impact of these tools was then laid bare by Sam SURNAME of Witness who showed how AI tools are being used to create deepfakes, softfakes, and sufficient confusion that allows damning real videos to be dismissed as fakes – all to the detriment of demcrocy. 

The IPA presented it’s 2024 IPA Prix Voltaire shortlist at the Gala Dinner (read more on that here) and was able to pay a tribute to Ukrainian author Victoria Amelina, who had been on stage with us at WEXFO in 2023 to receive a posthumous prize for Volodymyr Vakulenko only to be killed herself a few weeks later. 

The tribute also came just days after Druk Fabrik in Kharkiv was bombed killing 7, injuring 22 and destroying the major printing press for book publishers in Ukraine. People interested in supporting the Ukrainian book sector can contribute to a crowdfunding campaign here. 

Kristenn Einarsson closed with a perfect summary of the last two days: a rollercoaster of stories, facts and ideas. 

Next year’s edition will take place on 2-3 June 2025.