"The fact that she is a woman and comes from the Arab world sends out a very important message," he says
International Publishers Association president on Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi’s new role
The new president of the International Publishers Association (IPA), Mexico’s Hugo Setzer, has welcomed the appointment of Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, founder of the Emirates Publishers Association, as IPA vice president, describing it as “very significant”.
In an exclusive interview with The National at the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), Setzer said: “Historically, many of the IPA’s presidents and vice presidents have come from either Europe or the US. Now, we have a Mexican and an Emirati, so that’s really relevant. We will be focusing on emerging [publishing] markets around the world.”
Speaking about Sheikha Bodour, the daughter of the Ruler of Sharjah and the founder of Kalimat Group, the UAE’s first publishing house for children’s books in Arabic, Setzer continued: “The fact that she is a woman and comes from the Arab world sends out a very important message.
“[In publishing], the Arab world has been underrepresented. If you live in the US or Europe and just read the newspapers, you might have completely the wrong impression. Having Sheikha Bodour involved in the IPA – she is a very active and respected member – has changed the perspective of many of our members about the Arab world.”
The news of Sheikha Bodour’s appointment as vice president was announced at the Frankfurt International Book Fair last month. She is the first Arab woman to hold this position in the organisation’s 122-year history. In two years time, it is expected that she will take over from Setzer as president.
Speaking to this newspaper in Frankfurt, Sheikha Bodour said: “This nomination is a proud moment for our nation’s history […] Here in UAE, we are uniquely positioned at a vantage point of big trends that are transforming our industry.
“I look forward to engaging in the international publishing movement through this post, and to bringing the UAE’s leading publishing experience to global markets.”
Fighting for the freedom to publish
The IPA is made up of 81 organisations from 69 countries and represents thousands of publishers around the world. It was set up in 1896 to defend the interests of the publishing industry.
In his keynote speech at SIBF, Setzer promised to continue to fight for the freedom to publish. “We are facing more restrictions to freedom to publish all around the world,” he said. “No country is immune to the potential risk of censorship, even countries which have always been considered beacons of freedom, such as the US.
“Censorship and self-censorship undermine the possibility of publishers to contribute to society with the publication of valuable insights, entertaining stories, scientific information and more. Freedom to publish is essential to maintaining not only a healthy business environment where publishers and authors can thrive, but also to a stable democracy.”
Standing up for copyright
Setzer also defended copyright laws, which he claims “big tech” companies are trying to undermine. “Big tech has seized the initiative and to some extent been able to push us against the ropes,” he said. “They preach the Google gospel – a future where everyone has ‘access to everything, whenever and wherever they want’.
“And while that may be all well and good, they also pretend it should be for free, because they make money using a different business model. All over the world, they have been successful in presenting an image of publishers as defending illegitimate privileges and exploiting consumers through an outdated thing called ‘copyright’.
“With very deep pockets, with which they have been able to sponsor academics to back their views, they are pushing an agenda across the globe that offers free information for everyone, in many cases in the form of broad copyright exceptions.”
Setzer and Sheikha Bodour will begin their new roles on January 1.