June 28, 2018

You’ve heard of publishers getting robbed, but not like this


One time, many years ago, a friend of mine was mugged outside of a South Brooklyn bodega. It was late, and he was coming back from a publisher’s party. We were both editorial assistants then, with wages so low that on occasion wine and cheese parties took the place of dinner. As he tells it, someone came up from behind, hit him in the head, and then grabbed his tote bag, one of several given away at the party. The only thing inside it was a galley. “I did kind of want to read it,” he used to say as his punchline.

Having a book stolen is one thing, but imagine being a publisher who is robbed to near nakedness. According to the Eagle, a Nigerian daily, this is what recently happened to Femi Oyewole, publisher of the Sahara Weekly, a small Nigerian culture magazine. Oyewole was robbed by eight armed men at his own home. Along with his car, money, and other valuables, the robbers even attempted to take one of Oyewole’s children.

Speaking to the News Agency of Nigeria, Oyewole noted that “serious pleading and God’s intervention prevented them from doing so.” His children were apparently among the fews things few things Oyewole was able to save. “I was threatened with death if I fail to cooperate,” he said. “It was not a rosy moment for me.”

The police have yet to apprehend the assailants.

While reasons for Oyewole’s targeting are unclear, Nigerian publishers are no strangers of violent assault. Last June, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, one editor was badly beaten and a publisher was shot for refusing to print pro-extremist propaganda.



Michael Barron is an editor at Melville House.