Lohvinau Publshing House, which has operated since 2000, recently had its licence withdrawn by the Belarus government after it printed a book containing a photo of a protester who had been assaulted by police.
The Afghan PEN Centre has played a crucial role in promoting publishing Afghanistan since 2003, printing works by male and female writers in several local languages.
You can read our profile of Ihar Lohvinau and of the Afghan PEN Centre. They join Ilbay Kahraman, Nguyen Vu Binh, Irina Balakhonova and Myay Hmone Lwin on the short list for the 2014 IPA Freedom to Publish Prize. The winner will be announced at the London Book Fair on April 8th.
IPA Freedom to Publish Prize 2014
Nominee: Ihar Lohvinau (Belarus)
Ihar Lohvinau is an important figure in Belarusian literature and culture. Since 2000, he has run Lohvinau Publishing House, printing around 700 titles: literature, history, politics and art, translations of international writers into Belarusian as well as works by local writers. He also runs a bookshop, a book club and a café which functions as a hub for the Belarusian cultural community.
Belarus is justifiably referred to as Europe’s last dictatorship. The Belarusian language is frequently demonised as the language of dissidents and opponents by President Lukashenka’s regime, and the fact that Lohvinau titles often deal with everyday life in Belarus has been perceived as political criticism and opposition.
In October 2013, Belarus’ Ministry of Information withdrew Ihar Lohvinau’s licence to publish, due to “trespassing the rules of licensing”. They accused Lohvinau and his team of “extremism”. The reason was the publication of “Belarus Press Photo 2011”, a catalogue of photographs that includes this image of a protester who has been beaten up by the police.
The withdrawal of Lohvinau Publishing House’s licence is a political attempt to stifle a creative and courageous publisher and to silence the voice of freedom and openmindedness in Belarus. Ihar Lohvinau has vowed to continue to publish important works in Belarusian, as he fights both for his own justice as well as for freedom of expression.
Nominee: PEN Centre (Afghanistan)
The Afghan PEN Centre recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. Since 2003 it has published and distributed a multitude of books in various local languages, and under extremely difficult circumstances.
Operating within a volatile security situation, Afghan PEN Centre has managed to unite different language groups, getting male and female writers together for readings and discussions and publishing their work. The Centre has published over 50 books in Persian, Pashtu, Uzbek, Turkmen, Pashayi, Baluchi and Nuristan.
The Centre has been heavily involved in educational programmes since its foundation. It collaborates with a national television channel, and contributes to a weekly literary programme aired across the country.
In Afghanistan, tolerance of freedom of expression is not widespread and threats to writers are a constant. There are few professional publishers and little tradition of copyright. In this climate, the achievements of Afghan PEN Centre in promoting publishing are significant.