On February 7, 2023, an international conference organized by the International Publishers Association (IPA) and the Ukrainian Publishers & Booksellers Association (UPBA) was held on the topic: "The impact of war on freedom of publish - Ukraine".

Representatives of professional public organizations of publishers from 35 countries of the world took part in this conference. From Ukraine, the following were present at this conference and spoke:
Oleksandr Afonin — president of the UPBA;
Yuliya Orlova — general director of Vivat publishing house (Kharkiv);
Maryana Savka — editor-in-chief of Stary Lev Publishing House (Lviv);
Ostap Slyvinsky — writer, president of Ukrainian PEN;
Yuliya Kozlovets — the coordinator of Book Arsenal.

During the conference, the issue of the activity of the publishing industry of Ukraine, the difficulties faced by its subjects in the conditions of Russian aggression, and the ways and options of supporting Ukrainian book publishing by related foreign professional public associations were considered.

Your attention is offered to the speech of the president of the Ukrainian Publishers & Booksellers Association Oleksandr Afonin at the conference.


Good afternoon, dear ladies and gentlemen, colleagues!

I am glad that the long-delayed event that José Borghino and I have been talking about for many months has finally happened.
Today we will talk about Ukraine and its publishing business in the circle of people from many countries of the world who are involved in book publishing. So, about the freedom of publications, but on a slightly different level than we are used to talking about from year to year at numerous conferences.
Is there freedom of publication in Ukraine today? The answer will be ambiguous: both yes and no.

From a purely political point of view, there are no restrictive norms or censorship in the Ukrainian legislation that regulates national book publishing, which directly contradicts the decisions of the UN and international conventions in this area. That is, evaluating the policy of Ukraine as a state in ensuring the freedom of book publishing, I say YES.

However, almost a year ago, on February 24, 2022, Putin's imperial Russia, having launched an unprovoked aggression against Ukraine, announced its intentions to deprive Ukrainians not only of their rights to freedom of speech, publications, and their native language but also to life itself. And for 11 months now, Ukrainian book publishing has been fighting, surviving, and working against the aggressor's attempts to deprive it of its right to exist.

In her recent publication, the president of the International Association of Publishers, Karina Pansa, mentioned the death of our colleague from Lebanon, Lokman Slim, who paid with his life for the right to publish what he wanted, and for which no one has yet been held accountable.
So, in the time that has passed since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, hundreds of Ukrainian publishers, editors, illustrators, printers, book trade workers have paid with their lives for the right to freedom of publications and their distribution.

With the help of weapons, artillery, bomb and missile attacks on the cities and villages of Ukraine, its infrastructure, and energy facilities, the aggressor is trying to deprive the Ukrainian nation of its own book as a spiritual and intellectual product that forms a person as a civilized personality.

During 2022, the year of the war, only 563 of the 1,059 publishing houses that worked in 2021 remained. The number of publications published by Ukrainian publishing houses last year, compared to 2021, decreased by 60% in terms of titles, and in total by almost 80%. 8.5 million copies of various genres of literature - fiction, non-fiction, children's, and educational - were issued to the entire population of Ukraine. Last year, and it is not excluded that it will happen this year as well, Ukrainian schoolchildren were left without printed textbooks.

Yes, we are sincerely grateful to our colleagues from other countries for their letters of solidarity, sympathy, proposals for holding free consultations, seminars, webinars on the organization of modern book production. However, you cannot and, God forbid, you will never be able to advise us and share your experience about:
— how to save and save mock-ups of books prepared for printing from computers burned after missile strikes;
— how to print books under artillery fire and take them to a safe place with a threat to life;
— how to bring together workers who were forced to leave the war zone around the world;
— how to send the author a mock-up of the book he wrote for proofreading when he is currently in the trench repelling an attack by criminals released from prison dressed in Russian military uniforms;
— where to find funds to restore lost, damaged, burned property and to continue publishing books, to defend one's "freedom of publications";
— how to work at all in the absence of electricity throughout the country for 12–18 hours a day due to the destruction of power plants and power grids by Russian missiles.
Today, in order to preserve its freedom of publication, Ukrainian book publishing needs very serious help, with the request of which we have already addressed to you, our colleagues from the International Association of Publishers, writing out the options for help that we need most. I will voice them again. It:
— your purchase of the rights to the works of Ukrainian authors and their translation and publication in the languages of the nations of the world;
— purchase and placement of Ukrainian books on the shelves of European and global bookselling networks and libraries;
— financial assistance through charitable funds for the purchase of books by Ukrainian publishers for Ukrainian libraries whose collections were destroyed and premises destroyed during hostilities;
— financial assistance to employees of publishing houses and bookstores who lost loved ones, housing, property, and means of livelihood as a result of the war.

Today, freedom of publication for Ukrainian publishing houses largely depends on your understanding, colleague, of the state in which Ukrainian book publishing has found itself, and on your real help to us.

I want to sincerely thank our Polish colleagues, the management of the German Association of Publishers and Booksellers and the Frankfurt Book Fair, colleagues from Italy and Thailand, as well as a group of caring Americans led by Askold Melnychuk for such help. They were the first to understand that in order to fight for our freedom, in particular freedom of publication, we need not only sympathy, but also really effective and financial support, and provided and continue to provide organizational and financial support. We hope that colleagues from other countries will do the same.

In the meantime, we, exerting all our strength, human and material resources, are waging a hard struggle against absolute evil in the person of Putin's Russia for our freedom and yours, and not only for publications but in general for the right to live in a free democratic world and remain human.

Thank you for your attention!

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