Imprisoned Egyptian publisher Khaled Lutfi was announced as the winner of the International Publishers Association’s Prix Voltaire 2019 on May 2, 2019.
The International Publishers Association (IPA) Prix Voltaire is given to publishers who provide authors with the tools to disseminate their written ideas assuming the same risks as the writers themselves. It honours the freedom to publish, without which many forms of freedom of expression would be impossible. Nominees have usually published controversial works amid pressure, threats, intimidation or harassment, be it from governments, other authorities or private interests.
The shortlist for those in the running for this award was announced in April with two African based organisations considered in Egypt’s Khaled Lufti and South Africa’s NB Publishers. The winner has been announced and it is imprisoned Egyptian publisher Khaled Lutfi.
On February 4, Khalid Lutfi (also written Lotfy), founder of Cairo’s Tanmia Bookshop and Publishing, was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of divulging military secrets and spreading rumours for having distributed an Arabic translation of the book The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel, by Uri Bar-Joseph. The case started when Tanmia’s founder signed an agreement with Arab Scientific Publishers to publish an Egyptian edition of the book. Tanmia Bookshop opened in 2011 and later spawned a highly respected publishing house. The publishing house brought out a number of acclaimed authors in translation. Tanmia also published original works in Arabic, including a children’s book version of Mahmoud Darwish’s poem “Think of Others,” which won an Etisalat Prize for Arabic Children’s Literature.
The IPA Freedom to Publish Committee’s decision to award the IPA Prix Voltaire 2019 to Khaled Lutfi honours his bravery in publishing despite the risks involved.
Kristenn Einarsson, Chair of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish Committee said: “The international publishing community stands with Khaled Lutfi. We must support Lutfi’s fellow publishers in Egypt so that his imprisonment does not lead to fear and self-censorship in a country of such rich literary heritage.”
José Borghino, IPA Secretary General added: “IPA calls on President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to grant Khaled Lutfi a presidential pardon.”
The presentation of the IPA Prix Voltaire 2019 will take place at the Seoul International Book Fair on June 21, 2019.