By Doris V. Cross
NEW YORK — At the annual Literary Gala held by PEN on May 1 at the Museum of Natural History, Istanbul publisher Ragip Zarakolu was the recipient of the annual Association of American Publishers’ Jeri Laber International Freedom to Publish Award. Peter Balakian, whose memoir, Black Dog of Fate: An American Son Uncovers His Armenian Past, was published in a Turkish edition by Zarakolu’s Belge Publishing House, presented the award to his two children, Seref and Zerrin Holle. Zarakolu, who has been repeatedly jailed for challenging free expression restrictions in his country, and was recently released pending trial, was not well enough to make the trip from Istanbul.
In addition to Zarakolu, Eskinder Nega, one of Ethiopia’s most courageous journalists, was honored with the Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. Nega is currently in prison and standing trial on manufactured terrorism charges. He could face the death penalty if convicted. Nega’s wife, Serkalem Fasil, has been jailed herself for her journalism and traveled from Addis Ababa to accept the award on her husband’s behalf “at a time when freedom of expression and press freedoms are at the lowest point in Ethiopia.”
This year’s PEN Literary Service Award was conferred on Edward Albee as “a writer whose critically-acclaimed work illuminates the human condition in original and powerful ways.”
In accepting the Freedom to Publish Award on behalf of Zarakolu, his children read a mes- sage from their father. Seref Holle began, “I spoke with Ragip a couple of hours before com- ing over here. He wanted to personally apolo- gize for not being able to make it tonight, and he asked my sister Zerrin and I to share this letter with you:”
“I want to thank the International Freedom to Publish Committee of the Association of American Publishers for the honor of the Jeri Laber award.