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IPA awards 2009 Freedom to Publish Prize to OLPEC founders

The 2009 IPA Freedom to Publish Prize Goes to Sihem Bensedrine, Neziha Rejiba and Mohammed Talbi, Founders of Tunisian Press and Publishing Watchdog, OLPEC

(IPA/IFEX) - Sarajevo, Geneva, Oslo - The President of the International Publishers Association (IPA), Herman P. Spruijt, announced on 25 April 2009 in Sarajevo that Sihem Bensedrine, Neziha Rejiba and Mohammed Talbi, founders of the Tunis-based Observatory for the Freedom of the Press, Publishing and Creation (OLPEC), were voted joint recipients of the 2009 IPA Freedom to Publish Prize for their exemplary courage in upholding freedom to publish.

The board of the International Publishers Association (IPA) meeting in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, on 24 April 2009 selected Sihem Bensedrine, Neziha Rejiba and Mohammed Talbi, founders of the Tunis-based Observatory for the Freedom of the Press, Publishing and Creation (OLPEC), as Prize-winners from among many highly commendable candidates, announced IPA President Herman P. Spruijt at a press conference held minutes before a round table on freedom to publish in the Western Balkan States organised by IPA and the Bosnian Publishers and Booksellers Association (UIK) at the Sarajevo Book Fair on 25 April 2009.

IPA established the IPA Freedom to Publish Prize to honour a person or persons or an institution that has made an important contribution to the defence and promotion of freedom to publish anywhere in the world. This year's award will be formally presented by IPA's President in Oslo, Norway, on 4 June 2009 during the Global Forum on Freedom of Expression (1-6 June 2009). Many important dignitaries will take part in the award ceremony.

IPA President Herman P. Spruijt declares: "The work of the Observatory for the Freedom of the Press, Publishing and Creation (OLPEC) as a press and publishing watchdog has often brought its three founders Sihem Bensedrine, Neziha Rejiba and Mohammed Talbi into conflict with the Tunisian authorities and endangered their personal safety. The Tunisian authorities have consistently denied approval of OLPEC. As a consequence, OLPEC has no legal status in Tunisia and its members must work under extremely difficult conditions. In Tunisia, freedom of expression violations go hand in hand with freedom of association violations. We award the 2009 IPA Freedom to Publish Prize to the three founders of OLPEC in deep respect for their courage, and as a salute to the passion, the integrity, and the steadfastness that they so marvellously demonstrate".

IPA Freedom to Publish Committee Chair Bjørn Smith-Simonsen adds: "OLPEC, which in a way emerged from the ashes of the Aloes Publishing House in 2001, issues alerts on freedom of expression violations, including an annual list of censored books at the Tunis Book Fair. This remarkable work is incredibly useful and should be honoured. Sihem Bensedrine, Neziha Rejiba and Mohammed Talbi have consistently stood up for the right to freedom of expression and freedom to publish in the face of physical attacks, police surveillance, or horrendous defamation campaigns, among others. We hope that the IPA Freedom to Publish Prize will encourage the three founders of OLPEC and OLPEC to continue their important work highlighting repeated freedom of expression and freedom to publish violations in Tunisia".

To read the full press release, see:
http://tinyurl.com/d59kln

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