As the Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Joel Simon spends his time taking action on behalf of journalists who are targeted, attacked, imprisoned, or killed. He is an expert on how countries around the world handle the kidnapping of their nationals, including how they analyze and respond to intelligence and provide support for the hostage families. At a time when journalists are in greater danger than ever before, Simon’s newest book draws on his extensive experience interviewing former hostages, their families, employers, and policy makers to lay out a new approach to hostage negotiation. He is joined onstage by Sewell Chan, deputy managing editor at the Los Angeles Times, as well as Federico Motka, an Italian aid worker who spent a year as a hostage of Isis in Syria.
Joel Simon has been the executive director of Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) since 2006. Simon has led the organization through a period of expansion, helping to launch the Global Campaign Against Impunity, establish a Journalist Assistance program and an Emergencies Department, and spearhead CPJ’s defense of press freedom in the digital space through the creation of dedicated Technology Program. Simon has participated in CPJ missions around the world, from Argentina to Zimbabwe. He has written widely on press freedom issues for publications including Slate, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, World Policy Journal, Asahi Shimbun, and The Times of India. He is a regular columnist for Columbia Journalism Review. He is the author of the three books, Endangered Mexico (Sierra Club Books, 1997); The New Censorship (Columbia University Press, 2015); and We Want to Negotiate: Inside the Secret World of Kidnapping, Hostages, and Ransom (Columbia Global Reports, January 2019).
Federico Motka is based in London and the co-founder of the social enterprise FieldWorks. In 2013, when serving as an aid worker at a Syrian refugee camp, Motka was kidnapped and held captive over a nine-month period. This is the first time Motka has spoken publicly about his time in captivity.
Sewell Chan is an American journalist who currently serves as a deputy managing editor at the Los Angeles Times. From 2004 to 2018, he worked at The New York Times in a variety of reporter and editorial positions—most recently as the international news editor in the London office and before then as the deputy editor of the Op-Ed and Sunday sections. Chan was previously a staff writer at The Washington Post and has written for The Wall Street Journal and The Philadelphia Inquirer.