Jailed ‘Free Saudi Liberals’ Creator Raif Badawi Receives IPA Prix Voltaire

Emphasizing ‘the plight of oppressed publishers and writers,’ the International Publishers Association confers its newly renamed Prix Voltaire on Saudi dissident Raif Badawi.

Image from International Publishers Association
Image from International Publishers Association

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Extreme Risk’

CongressRaif Badawi, the imprisoned Saudi online publisher, has been named the first recipient of the International Publishers Association’s (IPA) renamed Prix Voltaire.

Formerly known as the IPA Freedom to Publish Prize, the award was made Sunday evening in London at a dinner following the IPA’s 31st Congress at Olympia London.

Maureen Freely, President of English PEN, was on-hand to meet Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar Mohammed, who accepted the award on the jailed Badawi’s behalf. Mohammed lives in Canada, which granted the family political asylum in 2013.

Mohammed said, “It’s very touching and encouraging to see Raif’s courage being recognized by the international publishing community. We will use this money to keep fighting for my husband’s release and to highlight the cruel suffering of free speech advocates in Saudi Arabia.”

The Prix Voltaire carries a cash prize of 10,000 Swiss francs (IPA is based in Geneva), or US$10,500 (£7,431 or €9,202). It is backed by a group of sponsors this year including:

  • Albert Bonniers Förlag
  • Elsevier
  • HarperCollins
  • Kodansha
  • Oxford University Press
  • Penguin Random House
  • Simon & Schuster
  • Springer Nature
‘Adopting Liberal Thought’
Raif Badawi
Raif Badawi

Badawi, who now is 32, was taken into custody in Jeddah in June 2012 and convicted in July of that year for founding Free Saudi Liberals, an online forum, now shuttered.

Accused of “adopting liberal thought” and “insulting Islam,” he was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison and to 600 lashes. The IPA site reports that standing accusations of Badawi also include apostasy, although it’s reported that no court has yet ruled on this. After an appeal in December 2013 from Badawi’s (also imprisoned) attorney, the sentence in May 2014 was expanded to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes, a fine of some US$250,000, a 10-year travel ban, and a 10-year ban from participation in media work, including writing, after any release.

Amnesty International has reported on the January 9, 2015, administration of the first 50 lashes of the sentence, in a public flogging in Jeddah. International objection was profound, and the subsequent 950 lashes are not known to have been administered to date. In The Guardian, Jasper Jackson writes that Badawi reportedly began a hunger strike in December.

Fifteen prizes precede the Prix Voltaire for Badawi, including the PEN Pinter Prize (2015) and the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize (2015).

This year’s shortlist for winners of the Prix Voltaire included the five Hong Kong-based publishers who disappeared late last year and resurfaced in the mainland; Moe Way, the Burmese poet and publisher; Bei Ling, Executive Director of Chinese PEN; and Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury, the Bangladeshi publisher.

On the announcement of the IPA Prix Voltaire for Badawi, IPA President Bloomsbury’s Richard Charkin said in a prepared statement:

“The worldwide publishing community will continue to highlight the plight of oppressed publishers and writers like Raif. If we don’t, unscrupulous regimes everywhere will only tighten their grip further. Grateful thanks to our generous sponsors, without whom the Prix Voltaire would not be possible.”

There’s more: Read the full story at Publishing Perspectives

By Porter Ander­son

Originally published at www.PublishingPerspectives.com


Authors: To subscribe to The Hot Sheet—the essential industry newsletter for authors from Jane Friedman and Porter Anderson—click here and enjoy our 30-day free trial.

 TheHotSheet 600 2015-03-08_18-54-25

600 x 200 TEP this one

Publishers Forum 600 x 120

Main banner 600 x 124

HOW Live 2016 600 x 118

WDC NYC 2016 6OO X 120

Leave a Reply