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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 international fora, and intervenes in cases where there is persecution of publishers and authors worldwide

  • assists and lobbies with member organisations where national laws change

  • promotes the UNESCO Florence Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Materials
  • networks with international NGOs including International PEN and intergovernmental organisations like the United Nations Human Rights Council

  • awards the IPA Prix Voltaire (formerly Freedom to Publish Prize)
  • supports international events on freedom of expression and freedom to publish

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

  • has issued a Freedom to Publish manifesto highlighting the work of the IPA's Freedom to Publish Committee, which manages IPA's work in this field.

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 writers' association.  PEN campaigns to defend writers and readers whose human right to freedom of expression is at risk; works to remove inequalities which prevent enjoyment of and learning from literature; and promotes translation into English of published work in foreign languages that is of outstanding literary merit. 

See also:    

  • Article 19 (defends freedom of expression and information)

  • Index against Censorship (campaigns for and defends freedom of expression worldwide)

  • Liberty (campaigns for civil liberties and human rights in the UK - see Writers at Liberty)

  • Amnesty International's imprisoned writers series at the Edinburgh Book Festival, marking its 20th year in 2017