Prague Bookfair and the politics of Saudi censorship, part 2
Padraig Reidy Prague Bookfair and the politics of Saudi censorship, part 2
17 May 11

Last Friday, Index on Censorship editor Jo Glanville wrote here about the dubious adulation of Saudi Arabia at the Prague Bookfair:

The sponsor and guest of honour at the book fair this year is Saudi Arabia. Although there are a number of politically sensitive events taking place — such as a discussion on the Arab Spring and another on social change in Saudi culture — it is not enough to let anyone forget the Saudis dismal record on freedom of speech. The sponsorship of book fairs by authoritarian regimes is becoming a disturbing trend. China was guest of honour at the Frankfurt book fair in 2009, also highly controversial and to be repeated at the London book fair next year. Russia was the market focus country this year at the London book fair.

This week, the Guardian has more on the controversy, pointing out that only one Saudi writer was actually present at the fair:

Abdullah Al-Nasir, described by the Moroccan author Abdelkader Benali who shared a platform with him at the festival as “more of a civil servant” than an author, was the only representative from the kingdom, after the joint winner of the 2011 International prize for Arabic fiction, Raja Alem, did not make a scheduled appearance.

Jo Glanville commented: “Where censorship is the norm, where writers who are celebrated in translation outside their own countries find it difficult to get published at home.”

“Book fairs are obviously a marketplace, but should also be standing up loud and proud for freedom of expression.”

Also more here

By Padraig Reidy

Padraig Reidy is the editor of Little Atoms and a columnist for Index on Censorship. He has also written for The Observer, The Guardian, and The Irish Times.