Index on Censorship will begin a set of college events across the USA on 21 October 2019 as part of its Free Speech Is For Me programme.
The tour will include discussions with special guests such as Safa Al-Ahmad, a Saudi Arabian journalist and filmmaker who has directed documentaries focusing on uprisings in Yemen and Saudi Arabia and a former winner of the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award for Journalism.
The first stop will be at Columbia University, New York, on 21 October where Al-Ahmad will discuss impunity and the silencing of dissent in Saudi Arabia with Agnès Callamard, special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
On 22 October Al-Ahmad will be in conversation with Zaina Erhaim, the Syrian journalist who returned to Syria after war broke out to help train female citizen journalists and a former winner of the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award for Journalism, about local journalists on the front lines of the wars in Syria and Yemen at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
And then on 23 October Al-Ahmad will be interviewed by University of Delaware professor emeritus Ralph Begleiter on what it’s like to travel through a war zone in Yemen, the challenges of being a female journalist in the Middle East and what impact the murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi has had on journalists in Saudi Arabia.
The campus tour will take place during Free Speech Week, a national event to promote free speech and freedom of the press in the USA. Rachael Jolley, editor-in-chief of Index on Censorship, said: “This campus tour is an important part of the work that Index is doing in the USA to talk with students about why free speech is vital for all of us, and has always been at the heart of the ways laws and attitudes are changed. We want to hear what lots of people have to say.”
In another part of the Free Speech Is For Me programme, twelve applicants will receive one-on-one support from leading free speech experts, as well as media, communications and public speaking training. Participants will gain a clearer understanding of the challenges of censorship around the world and the tools to overcome them, as well as how to best advocate for and use free speech principles.
“‘Free speech has become a dirty word in the last few years,” Jodie Ginsberg, Index on Censorship’s chief executive, said. “Free Speech Is For Me aims to show how freedom of expression furthers democracy and individual liberty and benefit everyone. If we allow free speech protections to be weakened, we lose our greatest tool in advocating for change.”