Given annually, the Jeri Laber Award recognizes a book publisher outside the United States who has demonstrated courage and fortitude in defending freedom of expression.

AAP President and CEO, Maria A Pallante said: Azadeh Parsapour has worked tirelessly and entrepreneurially to give a voice to those who do not have one in her native Iran. In publishing exiled, banned, and blacklisted authors, she embodies the perspective shared by publishers around the world that speech, expression, and the exchange of ideas are never as threatening as censorship.

Kristenn Einarsson, Chair of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish Committee added: Azadeh Parsapour is such a deserving winner of the AAP’s Jeri Laber Award. Her innovative efforts to break the censor’s wall are an inspiration as to what can be done. Congratulations.

Parsapour established Nogaam e-Publishing in London in 2012 using crowdfunding to publish books that would likely have been censored or banned by authorities in Iran. Nogaam supports and empowers Iranian authors, advocates freedom of speech, promotes Farsi-language digital publishing, and provides easy access to invaluable Farsi books. Published as e-books under a creative commons license free of censorship, all books are available for free download from the Nogaam website. Parsapour is the founder of the ‘Tehran Book Fair, Uncensored,’ which gathers independent Farsi-publishers from Europe and the United States to discuss books, authors, and common challenges. The first meeting was in London and has now visited fifteen cities including Paris, Stockholm, Berlin, Amsterdam and cities in the United States.

Parsapour was nominated for the IPA’s Prix Voltaire in 2017 and 2018 and spoke at the IPA’s inaugural Freedom to Publish Seminar at the London book Fair in April 2018. She has since become a guest blogger for the IPA.

The 2018 award was presented at AAP’s Annual Meeting by Geoff Shandler, Chair of the AAP Freedom to Publish Committee and Editorial Director and Vice-President of Custom House, an imprint of HarperCollins. ‘As publishers, we believe that great stories come with many sides and can be told in many ways,’ he said, ‘but this year’s winner hails from yet another nation where releasing the “wrong” sorts of books can be a death sentence—a tragedy in general, but one particularly potent given Iran’s astonishingly sophisticated literary tradition.

Because many of her authors would face certain arrest and detention if she tried to publish their books in Iran, Parsapour not only arranges for the books to be published electronically, distributed as ePub files or PDFs, but also offers workshops for authors on digital security, so they can better protect themselves.

Parsapour accepted the Award via video message from London (ironically, because as an Iranian citizen she could not get a US visa) and thanked AAP for recognizing Nogaam’s efforts to defend freedom of speech in Iran. ‘With Nogaam e-publishing, we proved that the internet and new technologies can be used effectively to bypass censorship and to overcome obstacles,’ she said.

The Award, which includes a cash prize, is named in honour of Jeri Laber, a co-founder of Human Rights Watch and founding member of AAP’s Freedom to Publish Committee. Each year, members of the Committee consult with colleagues from around the world to review the actions of publishers who have faced censorship, political persecution, or personal peril in their work, or have otherwise taken a stand to defend the cause of freedom of expression and the written word.

You can read Azadeh’s guest posts for the IPA here.