The International Publishers Association yesterday took the unusual step of having a vote on whether the Emirates Publishers Association should become a full member of the IPA.

The EPA has, for the past two years, been an affiliate member, a position that leads, in the normal IPA scheme of things, to full membership. But BookBrunch understands that France forced a vote on the issue at Thursday’s Frankfurt meeting, alleging that the United Arab Emirates banned the publication of books sympathetic to Israel and those about homosexuality.

In the end the result of the vote was six to five against, with a further five countries abstaining. Supporters are thought to have included Germany, Spain, Portugal and Belgium. BookBrunch further understands that France was opposed to the election of Egyptian publisher Ibrahaim el Moallem, chairman of Dar El Shorouk, Egypt's largest publishing house, as IPA vice president a couple of years back, despite his position as the much-respected head of a long-established publishing and media empire.

The news of the block was conveyed to Sheikha Bodour, founder and president of the EPA, in Frankfurt early yesterday morning. No one doubts the Sheikha’s commitment to the promotion of literacy and reading in Sharjah and beyond, and she has been a pioneer of western-style children’s publishing, buying rights and developing indigenous writing and illustrating talent.

She told BookBrunch that YoungSuk “YS”Chi, the IPA president who conveyed the news, was disappointed by the vote. So too the Sheikha, who said there was complete freedom to publish in the Emirates. As to additional charges that Arab publishers did not respect copyright – the 2009 IPA Congress was held in Abu Dhabi, which Sheikha Bodour addressed, specifically to acknowledge the progress made in that arena.

The hope is that in a year’s time the EPA will be granted full membership, and Sheikha Bodour believes that research she has commissioned, showing how Emirati publishing is developing along increasingly professional lines, will bolster their claim to it.