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The International Publishers Association (IPA), the Federation of European Publishers (FEP), PEN International, PEN Belarus and 24 Pen bodies around the world including PEN America, PEN Turkey, English PEN and Brazil PEN have all condemned the crackdown on freedom of expression in Belarus since the contested results of the election on 9 August.
The IPA and FEP are calling on the international publishers of Nobel Literature Prize laureate, Svetlana Alexievich, to demonstrate their support for the author as she faces interrogation at the hands of the brutal regime of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko who has led a campaign of violence and intimidation against peaceful protest.
In the US and UK a number of Alexievich’s titles are published by Penguin Random House. In the UK a number of her titles are Penguin Modern Classics, among them Chernobyl Prayer. She has won many international awards, including the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time”.
The IPA President Hugo Setzer said: “We stand in solidarity with all those in Belarus who are using their freedom of expression to achieve change through peaceful, constructive dialogue. The repression we are seeing in Belarus is despicable and must stop.”Rudy Vanschoonbeek, President of the FEP said: “We call on all the international publishers of Svetlana Alexievich’s books to make their voices heard. We need you to raise international awareness of the horrific situation in Belarus and help bring about a diplomatic, peaceful end to this crisis.”
Since the election the IPA notes that ‘three weeks of demonstrations have been met by Belarusian police violently cracking down on demonstrators and journalists. As well as resorting to physical violence, authorities have reportedly suppressed freedom of expression by interfering with mobile communications, blacking out websites, shutting down printing presses, and preventing international journalists’ access to Belarus’.
The IPA notes the authorities in Belarus have now accused Svetlana Alexievich of being part of an ‘illegal power grab’ and have threatened her with prosecution and jail. ‘The IPA and FEP call on the Belarusian government to drop all such charges immediately as a first step in paving the way for free, democratic processes to unfold.’
The joint statement from the PEN bodies included a strong comment from Emmanuel Pierrat, Chairperson of the Writers for Peace Committee of PEN International. He said: “It is clear that when political opponents are jailed and impeded from standing, when journalists are arrested for reporting on protests and political events, and when ordinary citizens are punished for peacefully expressing their views, free and fair elections are impossible. The authorities in Belarus must stop their politically motivated persecution of dissenting voices and allow for the democratic process to run its course unobstructed.”