DUBAI // The group that represents publishers in the UAE is preparing to reapply for full membership of the industry's global association, a year after a surprise rejection.
The Emirates Publishers Association became an affiliate member of the International Publishers Association in 2009 and was told the step up to full membership would be a formality after two years.
But at a meeting of the IPA's executive committee in October last year the French delegation forced a vote on the issue after raising concerns about censorship and copyright protection in the UAE, and the application was rejected by six votes to five.
The EPA president, Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, confirmed yesterday that the association's renewed application will be considered at a closed meeting of IPA members during the Frankfurt Book Fair next week.
Sheikha Bodour also questioned the free-speech credentials of some long-standing IPA member countries.
"If the IPA grants membership only to countries that are considered to have complete freedom of speech, then Turkey, Japan, India, Thailand, Egypt, Lebanon and many others should, by definition, not be members," she said.
"Yet these countries have been members for a considerable length of time. With this in mind the question that has to be asked is: why was the EPA not granted membership?
"It is very important to make a distinction between what the EPA strives to achieve and the current situation in the Emirates.
"We represent an independent, non-governmental agency and our job is to make our laws more conducive towards publishers."
Sheikha Bodour said the UAE was serious about its commitments as a signatory to international agreements covering copyright protection, including the Berne Convention, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the TRIPS/WTO Treaty and the Arab Copyright Convention.
Membership of the international body was important to the EPA's efforts to help the publishing industry to grow, she said.
"We live in a global community and no part of that community can hope to thrive without maintaining healthy and mutually beneficial connections with its counterparts across the world," Sheikha Bodour said.
"The resources that the IPA affords its members are invaluable and we intend to make full use of them to develop the UAE's publishing industry to the fullest extent."
The EPA commissioned research into the UAE's publishing industry from the consultants Ruediger Wischenbart and Nasser Jarrous to support its renewed application, and chose a venue in France to announce the findings.
The report was launched last month at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris.
"While in the overall context of Arab publishing, piracy is generally considered a disrupting force, the UAE is not seen as a major harbour for the production and dissemination of pirated copyrighted works," the authors said.
"In the wider context, thus far, books do not seem to be a primary concern as compared to music, movies, games or software."
The study, entitled Book Publishing in the United Arab Emirates, highlights the success of such events as the Abu Dhabi and Sharjah book fairs and the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, and booksellers such as Magrudy's, Jashanmal and the University Bookshop in Abu Dhabi.
The authors conclude the UAE has the potential to become the main Middle East centre for new global publishers, booksellers and distributors of digital content.
But they caution: "Only a sound domestic publishing industry, with a fully developed sector covering the full cycle and value chain of the book, together with a domestic population that embraces reading and learning, will allow this exciting outlook today to turn into a reality for tomorrow."