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Belarusian publisher has licence withdrawn over 'extremist' book

The International Publishers Association (IPA) strongly protested today against the withdrawal of a publishing licence from Łohvinaŭ Publishing House, a publisher based in Minsk.

Ola Wallin, the Chair of the IPA's Freedom to Publish Committee, said, "The IPA completely rejects this action by the Belarusian Ministry of Information. Preventing Łohvinaŭ from exercising its legitimate right to publish is anathema both in principle and in this particular case. Government interference in the normal business of a publisher cannot be justified or condoned and the very idea of a government publishing licence is offensive."

"We call on the Government of Belarus to revoke this withdrawal of Łohvinaŭ's licence, immediately and without qualification. Further, we call on the Government of Belarus to protect the freedom to publish of all its citizens. Freedom to publish is one of the cornerstones of a modern civil society. Without this right, economic or democratic progress is impossible," Mr Wallin said.

The Belarus Government is withdrawing Łohvinaŭ's publishing licence because the book Прэс-фота Белорусi 2011 (or Belorusian Photojournalism 2011) has been deemed 'extremist'. A collection of photojournalism depicting the everyday lives of Belarusians, this book is the product of an annual photography competition. There are grave doubts about the legality of the process by which the Belarusian Government has gagged this publisher and the grounds for the withdrawal of the licence are clearly spurious. But beyond this, Mr Wallin stressed the ironclad principle of Freedom to Publish that is involved in this case and which must be upheld.

"The IPA has long proclaimed that the freedom to publish is an essential element of the fundamental human right to freedom of expression. We have argued passionately against censorship around the world. Strong, mature and confident democracies are able to accept the principle of freedom to publish and they gain not only culturally and ethically but also economically from this freedom. By silencing a voice like Łohvinaŭ, the Belarusian Government is working against the common good of its citizens," Mr Wallin said.

Background:

Łohvinaŭ, based in Minsk was founded in 2000 and is one of the largest non-state-run publishing houses in Belarus. It publishes scientific literature in various spheres including the Humanities as well as contemporary Belarusian literature & foreign fiction translated into Belarusian.

Mr Ola Wallin is the Chair of the IPA's Freedom to Publish Committee. He is the cofounder and managing director of the independent Swedish publishing house Ersatz. He is the international secretary of Swedish PEN and is a passionate advocate for the freedom to publish.

The IPA is the international federation of national publishers associations, representing all aspects of book and journal publishing from around the world. IPA is an industry association with a human rights mandate. It fights against censorship and promotes copyright, literacy and freedom to publish, around the world.

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