A leading British publisher and one of the UK’s most respected literary bodies have both spoken out against the arrest of authors in Africa and Belarus.

Stephen Page, Chief Executive of Faber, issued a statement about the arrest of his Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga whose novel, This Mournable Body is shortlisted for the Booker Prize.  The author was released on bail at the end of July having been detained during a peaceful anti-government protest in the capital Harare.  She has been charged with incitement to commit violence, and breaching coronavirus health and safety regulations.

Page said: “On 31st July, President Mnangagwa deployed heavily armed soldiers and police onto the streets of the Zimbabwean capital city, Harare, where hundreds of activists and opposition leaders were set to stage a peaceful protest against the ongoing economic crisis and human rights abuses in the country. Tsitsi Dangarembga was one of those protestors.

“She was peacefully protesting with one other person against the current Zimbabwean government. As she faces trial, we at Faber and Faber stand with Tsitsi Dangarembga to demand her acquittal and we urge others to support her cause. By joining together and raising our voices, let the power of our collective call effect change.”

Meanwhile, the UK’s Society of Authors has condemned the arrest of three author members of Belarus PEN who are reported to have been detained amid protests in Minsk demanding the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko.

The authors arrested include Belarus PEN secretary, poet, and translator Hanna Komar; project manager, poet, and translator Uladzimir Liankievic; and translator Siarzh Miadzvedzeu.

Komar was subsequently jailed for nine days for ‘violation of the order of organization and holding of mass events’ under 23.34 part 1 of the Belarusian Code of Administrative Offenses.

The Society of Authors says it “stands with English PEN and CEATL [the European Council of Associations of Literary Translators]  in condemning the authors’ arrests and those of the fellow citizens engaged in peaceful protests in the strongest possible terms”.