Norway’s publishers’ association (Den norske Forleggerforening) announced on Tuesday that it would resign as a member of the Geneva-based International Publishers Association (IPA), in protest over the IPA’s decision to grant membership to publishers’ associations in China and Saudi Arabia.
The Norwegian publishers noted that the IPA’s own “Freedom to Publish” committee had supported membership for publisher associations in Bangladesh, Greece, Tunisia, Peru and Slovenia. It recommended against granting membership, however, to those in China and Saudi Arabia because of the “challenge” that would present regarding the IPA’s efforts to promote freedom of expression. That recommendation reportedly was overlooked at the IPA’s recent gathering in Frankfurt, and all seven new members, including those in China and Saudi Arabia, were approved.
The Norwegian association has therefore decided, in what it called a “matter of principle,” to withdraw from the IPA. The Norwegian publishers, meanwhile, stated they would cooperate with other national publishers’ associations concerned by the development at the IPA. Ongoing membership will only be considered if “necessary changes” are made so that the IPA’s own “freedom to publish” principles retain credibility.
The Norwegian publishers stated that the changes are necessary “so that the IPA can, with credibility, be said to be an organization that has ‘freedom to publish’ as one of its most important goals,” and can demand that all members practice under such freedom.
Publishers in both China and Saudi Arabia enjoy little freedom to publish. A Saudi Arabian blogger, for example, has been imprisoned and sentenced to lashings because of what he published online.