To the Editors:
I’m very pleased to announce that the 2004 Jeri Laber International Freedom to Publish Award has been announced, and that this year’s recipient is Joesoef Isak.
Joesoef Isak is an Indonesian publisher who has been a courageous defender of free speech and the freedom to publish, enduring tremendous personal hardships over the last forty years. He is best known as the publisher of the works of Pramoedya Ananta Toer, one of his two partners in Hasta Mitra, a publishing house they founded in 1980 following their release from prison. Both Pramoedya and Joesoef had been imprisoned for more than ten years under Suharto, held without formal charge or trial.
In the early 1980s, Joesoef edited and published volume after volume of Pramoedya’s great works, including all four volumes of his epic Buru Quartet. All of Pramoedya’s works were eventually banned, often right after publication. Joesoef was frequently detained and interrogated.
More recently, Joesoef published the first book to offer eyewitness accounts of the events of 1965—the period of enormous bloodshed that remains the most controversial and volatile subject in Indonesian history. In 2003, he published a collection of newly declassified CIA documents pertaining to the events of 1965 in a book titled CIA Documents: The Efforts to Overthrow Soekarno.
Joesoef is the second recipient of the Jeri Laber Award, which is given by the International Freedom to Publish Committee (IFTPC) of the Association of American Publishers. The award honors a book publisher or editor outside the United States who has published in spite of political persecution and restrictions on freedom of expression. Jeri Laber has been the adviser to the IFTPC for more than twenty-five years, and was one of its founders. She was also a founder of Helsinki Watch (which became Human Rights Watch).
Joesoef continues to work in Jakarta, and is now sole director of Hastra Mitra. Officially, all of the restrictions are still in place that limit the rights of former political prisoners like himself. And though Pramoedya’s and other books by ex-political prisoners are openly sold, the bans against them officially remain.
International Freedom to Publish Committee
New York City
November 4, 2004