Mohamed Hashim, owner of Merit publishing house, was awarded the Hermann Kesten award, offered annually by the PEN center in Germany for supporting freedom of expression. Hashim will be travelling to Germany on 15 November to receive the 10,000 euro award at a ceremony in Berlin.
The first Hermann Kesten award was given in 1985, on the 85th birthday of its honorary president, writer Hermann Kesten. Germany’s PEN Center is a member of the international Poets Essayists and Novelists, an advisory member of the UN commission for Human Rights and of UNSECO. Its mandate is to preserve freedom of literature, art and information, and the award is given in support of persecuted writers.
Before this, Merit publishing had received other international awards for their dedication to freedom, most notably the Jeri Laber International Freedom to Publish award. Presented by the Association of American Publishers, Merit won for its continued commitment to defending freedom of expression in an environment that was often hostile to it.
Hashim told Ahram Online, "We received the notification from the PEN Center Germany through email, requesting that we confirm acceptance or refusal for the prize. Of course we accepted. It is an honour for Merit to win such an honourable prize from the international PEN Center. It is a true recognition of Merit's 12 years of efforts in publishing and supporting freedom and creativity, including support for creative writings and studies, in addition to translations of international, renowned literature. Many of Merit's publications were translated. I am very happy to win this prize.”
In addition to its role in Egyptian publishing, Merit played a prominent role during the events of the January 25 Revolution, owing to its geographic proximity to Tahrir Square. Merit was the central point for writers and artists gathering in Egypt willing to support the revolution, particularly during the Revolution nights, when the publishing house was a place for creative interaction that enabled the Egyptian intellectuals to manifest their voice during the revolution.
Hashim, Merit’s founder said “I did not think for a moment that there are people on the other side of the world who appreciate the small role that we are playing in the cultural and political arenas in Egypt.” Mohammed Hashim has struggled against authorities as a firm proponent of these beliefs.