In a talk at the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair, International Publishers Association president Richard Charkin, who is executive director Bloomsbury, said the situation in Turkey is of grave concern, and that the international publishing community stands in solidarity with Turkish publishers.
“I went there two or three weeks ago and it's pretty horrible,” Charkin told fairgoers. “We’re supporting them as much as we can, but it's a really difficult situation.”
The plight of Turkish publishers has been a prominent issue at the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair, in the midst of a so-called “purge,” by the Erdogan regime, following a failed coup attempt this past July. Reports suggest that upwards of 30 publishers have been shuttered, and thousands of authors, journalists, academics and intellectuals have been arrested, or dismissed.
Charkin visited Turkey October 1-2, and released a statement on the IPA website after the visit condemning the government’s actions. “If the government continues its vengeful persecution of any individual or organization whose views differ from its own,” he observed in that statement, “then Turkish publishing, and the country’s creative industries as a whole risk decimation.”
In the 30-miunute talk, Charkin also defended last year’s decision to extend IPA membership to Saudi Arabia and China, a move that has generated criticism among members concerned with state censorship and abuses in those countries.
Charkin stressed that the two nations were admitted by a member vote. “It’s called democracy,” he said. “There are people who disagree, and that’s okay. Otherwise there wouldn't be any point in having the election the first place.” But, he suggested that engagement with Saudi and Chinese publishers was the more effective path forward.
“It's just an instinct,” he said. “I am not a legal bureaucrat, I'm a publisher. And what publishers do is publish, and part of publishing is engaging. So instinctively, on a purely personal level, I think engagement is better than disengagement. Does anyone really think it would make a difference if China was not a member of the IPA? Would that help, not talking to them? I think that's crazy. The fact is, they are members, they come here, they discuss, the meet, they learn, we learn from them. I just think it's a no-brainer, frankly.”
Asked whether being admitted to IPA might confer “respectability” on some odious regimes, Charkin was blunt. “Well, the United Kingdom is a member of the IPA, and we just ‘brexited’ which is one of the most stupid things we’ve ever done, and odious,” he quipped. But he stressed that countries are not members of IPA, publishing associations are, and he doubted that any nation’s reputation could be burnished by IPA membership. “China's a member of United Nations,” he added. “Being a member of the IPA, or not being a member of the IPA, is neutral.”
Charkin also stressed the importance of IPA’s work in the copyright arena. “Without strong copyright protections,” he said, “There is no freedom to publish.”
He noted that copyright was currently “under attack” in several territories, criticizing “dangerous” proposals to make more exceptions to copyright. He quoted Gordon Graham, former publisher of Butterworth: “Where information is free, there's little freedom of information,” he said. “The sum truth of that is, if you're not paying for something, someone is, and you don't necessarily know who it is.”