The mass protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square that led to the overthrow of the Mubarak regime and sparked a complete overhaul of the country’s social and political systems, also, unsurprisingly, prompted the cancellation of this year’s Cairo International Book Fair. The demonstrations have given way to talks, the dust has started to settle, and and it’s clear Egypt’s publishing industry has been turned on its head. Small presses have faced huge losses in sales and many have dramatically cut back their lists. And yet, according to Ahram Online, the nation’s publishers are eager to test the waters in this emerging social order and are optimistic about the industry’s future.
From Ahram Online:
Mohamed Hashim, owner of Dar Merit publishing house, talks enthusiastically of an expected major cultural and intellectual renaissance in the coming period. Hashim says he would not accept government compensation for the loss of sales caused by the revolution “no matter how much,” referring to the request by the publishers union for such reparations based on the size of rented space at the Cairo Book Fair grounds. Questions have been raised about the legitimacy of the request, which will be decided on by the minister of culture, the head of the National Book Organization and the minister of finance.
The biggest change will be the relaxing of state censorship policies:
Prior to the revolution, state security played a role primarily after publication, forcing the confiscation of publishedbooks and harassing and sometimes imprisoning publishers. After [small press Dar Noun’s] publication in April 2010 of ElBaradei and the Dream of the Green Revolution by Kamal Ghobrial, state security investigated details about places [Ahmed Mehanna, the owner of Dar Noun,] visited, cafes he frequented, the address of his office (obviously already known to them), his views about the book’s content and even his opinions about Egyptian and Arab affairs. Mehanna was eventually arrested and spent two days in solitary confinement and his entire personal library was destroyed.
In a few cases, state security intervened earlier. [Mohamed Salah, owner of Al-Dar publishing house] was harassed for eight months prior to the publication of Ibrahim Eissa’s My Book, which was merely a collection of Eissa’s articles that had been published in Al-Dostour newspaper during his time as editor.