“Free Words Alliance”: A strong network to promote freedom of expression

Leading cultural, media and human rights advocates want to join forces in promoting freedom of expression / Network meeting held at the Frankfurt Book Fair #FreeTheWords
(Press release by Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels e.V.)

Freedom of expression, freedom of press and freedom of information are in danger in many parts of the world. Whether it’s in Turkey, Saudi Arabia or China – authors, journalists, publishers and other representatives of the cultural sector are being censored, put under pressure and imprisoned because they voice their critical opinion. Yesterday, leading cultural, media and human rights advocates met at the Frankfurt Book Fair to discuss ways of joining forces for the promotion of freedom of expression. Following the invitation of the Börsenverein (German Publishers and Booksellers Association), representatives of eleven organizations came together for a round table discussion. The Iraqi-German author Najem Wali und Angela Gui, the daughter of missing Hong Kong publisher and bookseller Gui Minhai, participated as well.

The attendants believe that their advocacy for freedom of expression can be made more effective by working in closer conjunction with one another. They agreed on intensifying the mutual exchange of information and experience. Furthermore, the participants want to think about setting up cooperative projects.

“I am happy that so many organizations and supporters followed our invitation. The task of protecting freedom of speech is becoming ever more pertinent. Working together as a strong network will allow us to live up to this important task more effectively and powerfully. By fostering exchange and possibly taking joint action we will be able to stand up more strongly for freedom of expression in the public and towards politics and it will let us support persecuted and imprisoned colleagues more compellingly”, says Alexander Skipis, managing director of Börsenverein.

Pierre Dutilleul, the managing director of Syndicat National del l’Édition (SNE), invited the participants to gather for another exchange at the Salon du Livre in Paris (24th – 27th of March 2017). By that time, a concrete structure for the network will be worked out under the lead of the Börsenverein. The attendants agreed on the working title “Free Words Alliance”. The network is open to further participants.

Participants in the meeting at the Frankfurt Book Fair:

• Amnesty International
• Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (German Publishers and Booksellers Association)
• Den norske Forleggerforening (Norwegian Publisher’s Association)
• Federation of European Publishers (FEP)
• International Cities of Refuge Network
• International Publishers Association (IPA)
• Nederlands Letterenfonds (Dutch Foundation for Literature)
• PEN-Center Germany
• Reporters without Borders
• Syndicat National de l’Édition (SNE)
• Turkish Publishers Association
• Angela Gui (daughter of Gui Minhai)
• Najem Wali (author)

Participants in the meeting at the Frankfurt Book Fair on 19th October 2016
Photo: Claus Setzer
From left to right: Ben Steward (IPA), Christian Mihr (Reporters without Borders), Jutta Gehrig, Alexander Skipis (Börsenverein), Kristenn Einarsson (Den norske Forleggerforening), Angela Gui, Markus Beeko (Amnesty International), Ozgur Akin, Yonga Cingöz (both Turkish Publishers Association).

Frankfurt / Main, 20th October 2016

Contact for the media:

Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels e.V.
Thomas Koch, Press Officer
Phone +49 (0) 69 1306-292, e-mail: t.koch@boev.deb