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The Freedom to Publish

Freedom to Publish

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The core mission of all publishers is the dissemination of works and words, whether they convey knowledge, opinions, ideas or news.  This role of publishers in supporting authors to find an audience must be undertaken whether or not the words are deemed inconvenient, wrong or offensive by others.  Whilst the law exists to protect people against libel and wider society against obscenity, the freedom of expression and freedom to publish should be sacrosanct.

The PA is a member of the International Publishers Association (IPA), which has an active mandate in this field.   The IPA defends and promotes freedom to publish as a fundamental part of freedom of expression, and defends the rights of authors and publishers to ‘create and distribute the works of the mind in complete freedom.’

IPA’s activities are underpinned by Article 19 of the University Declaration of Human Rights (1948), Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) and Article 10 of the European Convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms (1950).

To promote freedom to publish, IPA:

  • monitors cases of persecution of publishers and authors worldwide

  • assists and lobbies for member organisations where national laws change adversely

  • networks with international NGOs including International PEN and intergovernmental organisations like the United Nations Human Rights Council

  • awards the IPA Freedom to Publish Prize

  • supports international events

  • takes part in fact-finding missions and trial observation missions.

The PA is also a member of the Federation of European Publishers (FEP), whose policy statement defends the freedom to publish within and beyond the boundaries of the European Union.  FEP links the freedom to publish to the freedom to create, with an eye to the contractual relationships between author and publisher, and an expectation that the authorities should recognise books’ special nature by exempting publishers and booksellers from certain forms of commercial regulation.

PA has close links with English PEN, the founding centre of a global literary network.  PEN defends and promotes free expression, and removes barriers to literature.  Campaigns include Books for Prisoners, which has run since the Ministry of Justice introduced restrictions on sending books to prisoners in November 2013.  In November 2014 the MoJ agreed to increase the number of books prisoners can keep in their cells; the ban on sending books into prisons may still be live, but PEN’s new Book Rooms at HMP Wormwood Scrubs are one way to counter it.  

See also:    

  • Article 19 (defends freedom of expression and information)

  • Index against Censorship (promotes and defends freedom of expression – poet Stephen Spender was key to its birth.)

  • Liberty’s active relationship with books and writers saw them delivering books to justice Secretary Chris Grayling to protest the prisoner book ban.Writers at Liberty, Liberty’s ‘natural constituency’, marks this campaigning group’s 80 th anniversary.

  • Amnesty International’s imprisoned writers series at the Edinburgh Book Festival (free) – watch for the programme in June for news of August 2015 events.


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