For Immediate Release Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018
The forum will be livestreamed here:(https://www.facebook.com/tasscinternational/videos/315060139081539/)
Persecuted Journalists Speak Out: A Global Forum on Torture and the Press, Fri., Nov. 2, Washington, DC
(Washington) –As the torture and murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi draws worldwide outrage and condemnation, a group of international journalists on Friday, Nov. 2, will speak out about the torture they endured at the hands of their own governments across the world. The Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC) will host the forum with journalists from Egypt, Congo-Brazzaville, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at American University’s Washington College of Law. TASSC works with hundreds of survivors of torture every year, including many persecuted journalists as well as advocates for embattled journalists.
TASSC Executive Director Léonce Byimana said: “The torture and murder of Jamal Khashoggi is another horrific and tragic reminder that across the world journalists are being harassed, persecuted, tortured, kidnapped, disappeared, and killed by repressive governments, police and criminal cartels simply for doing their jobs. Our community of torture survivors at TASSC includes numerous journalists who were targeted by their governments’ security services, jailed and tortured for telling the truth about conditions in their countries. Harsh treatment is not uncommon among the stories we hear from journalists who are offered treatment and support for recovery by our organization. Our Nov. 2 forum is timely in light of Khashoggi’s killing but we want the world to know that violent assaults on journalists occur regularly throughout the world.”
Byimana noted that in 2017, the Committee to Protect Journalists documented the killings of 46 journalists worldwide. He said hostility against the media is growing in democracies, especially when journalists have been accused of spreading “false news” and of being “enemies of the people.”
In addition to journalists, the forum will include representatives from Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists and Ali Al-Ahmed, a Saudi writer on Saudi political issues, who will speak on the murder of Khashoggi.
Al-Ahmed said: “The US and Western governments should use the Khashoggi murder as a lever to focus international attention on Saudi Arabia and force it to improve human rights and allow freedom of the press."
Members of the media are invited to cover the forum and speak to individual participants afterward. The American University Washington College of Law is located at 4300 Nebraska Ave., N.W., The forum will take place in Room Y403 of the Yuma Building (4th floor).
Please RSVP through the media contacts listed above.
For general public, please RSVP here
Use hashtag #journalistsontorture
Bios of the participants are listed below.
FORUM PARTICIPANT BIOS
Ali Al-Ahmed is a Saudi-American expert on Saudi political affairs including: terrorism, Islamic movements, Wahhabi Islam, Saudi political history, Saudi-American relations, and the al-Saud family history. He is a writer, and public speaker on Saudi political issues.
He has been invited to speak by Princeton University, Amnesty International, the Hudson Institute and Council on Foreign Relations.
As a journalist, Ali exposed major news stories such as the Pentagon’s botched translation of the 9-11 Bin Laden tape, and the video of Daniel Pearl’s murder. He has authored reports on Saudi Arabia regarding religious freedom, torture, press freedom, and religious curriculum.
Ali has contributed columns and been quoted by major world media outlets including CBS News, CNN, PBS, Fox News, Washington Post, the Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Boston Globe, The Guardian, the New York Times and other newspapers in several languages.
He graduated with a B.A. in Journalism and a M.A. in International Finance from Saint Thomas University in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Angesom Teklu is a Citizen Journalist from Eritrea and currently a candidate in the MA Program in Sustainable International Development at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. Angesom has worked as an underground journalist in Eritrea, a country that is among the 10 most serious violators of press freedom in the world, according to Freedom House’s latest press freedom report. Angesom has written underground news articles, journals, opinion pieces and analyses on a variety of issues. He also trained youth from Eritrea in Journalism 101, photo journalism, video journalism and New Media. Because of his work, he was arrested, tortured and detained several times. In 2018, Angesom was recognized as a Forbes Under 30 scholar, and in 2017, he was awarded the prestigious Civil Society Leadership Award from the Open Society Foundations. He holds a Master’s Certificate in Journalism and New Media training from the Aileen Getty School of Citizen Journalism.
Hend Nafea is an Egyptian human rights advocate. She is a former fellow at National Endowment for Democracy. Hend is also the founder and former executive director of the U.S.-based NGO Human Rights Port, which provides support and protection for human rights defenders and civil society activists in Egypt and the greater Middle East. She is also the co-founder of Watan Bila Ta’azib (‘A Nation without Torture’), a campaign that seeks to bring an end to torture in Egypt.
As a journalist, Hend reported on political prisoners, human rights violations and anti-government demonstrations carried out by laborers and other social groups not covered by the mainstream media. Because of her participation in the 2011 uprisings against former president Hosni Mubarak, Hend was arrested, tortured, and later sentenced in absentia to 25 years in prison. She has been profiled in the New Yorker, the New York Times, and the 2015 documentary feature film The Trials of Spring. Hend received the Civil Society Leadership Award from the Open Society Foundations and she is currently a graduate student at Brandeis University completing a dual degree in Conflict Resolution & Coexistence and Sustainable international Development.
Léonce Byimana, Executive Director of TASSC, came to TASSC in 2017 with 10 years of experience in Human Services and Program Management. He is a health professional and a human rights activist with degrees in Clinical Psychology, Public Health and Conflict Resolution. Léonce has worked with local NGOs in Rwanda and international NGOs like Handicap International, Partners in Health, the Clinton Health Access Initiative and Delagua Health/UK. He is passionate about working with vulnerable populations, including orphans and vulnerable children, HIV/AIDS patients, PTSD clients and torture survivors.
Margaux Ewen is the North America Director of Reporters without Borders (RSF). She runs the U.S. activities for the organization and advocates for journalists, bloggers and media rights worldwide. Acting as RSF’s spokesperson in the U.S., Margaux regularly appears on American media (CNN, VOA, The Daily Show, etc.) and foreign media (BBC, Al Jazeera, France 24, etc.) on press freedom violation issues and the work of RSF.
Margaux joined RSF’s US office in July 2015 as Advocacy and Communications Director with a background in International Law. She has degrees from the Sorbonne in France and the George Washington University Law School in the US and speaks fluent French. Prior to RSF, she most recently worked with the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative to help develop a training manual on mining and human rights for civil society in Guinea.
Nanythe Talani is a journalist, a survivor of torture from Congo-Brazzaville and a member of TASSC International. She has over 10 years of experience as a producer, investigative journalist and human rights activist. Nanythe has produced, written and edited more than 50 stories on environmental protection, elections, health, sexual harassment, minority human rights, corruption, street children and women’s empowerment. She was active for more than 15 years as a trainer and a volunteer with the Association des Femmes Juristes du Congo (Association of Women Lawyers in Congo).
In Congo-Brazzaville, Nanythe was threatened several times by police and government agents for writing about government corruption and human rights violations in the media. Government agents eavesdropped on her phone conversations and harassed her family members and friends.
In 2015, Nanythe won a prestigious Fulbright-Humphrey Fellowship, funded by the U.S. Department of State. From 2015-2016 she was an intern and then a broadcast producer with VOA-Afrique in Washington DC, where she is now employed. In 2018, she represented TASSC at a hearing held by the House Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Africa and Global Human Rights.
Reeyot Alemu is a journalist and survivor of torture from Ethiopia. Because she criticized the government in her writing, she was falsely convicted of “terrorism” and imprisoned over four years. Reeyot was a high school teacher and a columnist for local newspapers including the independent newspaper Feteh. She founded her own monthly magazine, Change, where she wrote about social and political issues including the causes of poverty and gender equality.
During her imprisonment, Reeyot was offered clemency if she agreed to testify against other journalists. She refused and was kept in solitary confinement for 13 days. While she was imprisoned, Reeyot had to undergo surgery to remove a tumor from her breast and was immediately sent back to prison. She was freed in 2015 shortly before President Obama’s visit to Ethiopia.
Reeyot was awarded the Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation, the Hellman-Hammett press freedom prize, and the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. She now works at Ethiopian Satellite TV (ESAT), where she hosts two shows weekly.
Sherif Mansour is an Egyptian-American democracy and human rights activist. Before joining Committee to Protect Journalists, he worked with Freedom House, in Washington, D.C., where he managed advocacy training for activists from the Middle East and North Africa. In 2010, Mansour co-founded the Egyptian Association for Change, a Washington-based nonprofit group that mobilizes Egyptians in the U.S. to support democracy and human rights in Egypt. He has monitored the Egyptian elections for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies and has worked as a freelance journalist. In 2004, he was honored by the Al-Kalema Center for Human Rights for his work in defending freedom of expression in Egypt. Mansour has authored several articles and conducted research studies on civil society and the role of the new media and civil society in achieving democracy. He was named one of the top 99 young foreign policy professionals in 2013 by the Diplomatic Courier. He received his master's in international relations from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and his bachelor's in education from Al-Azhar University in Cairo. He speaks Arabic fluently.
ABOUT TASSC INTERNATIONAL
TASSC International is the only organization in the United States founded by torture survivors to advocate for a torture-free world and educate people about countries where torture continues to be practiced. The organization provides direct services to torture survivors in the Washington, DC area. Its unique holistic approach includes social services, wellness and psychological services, employment counseling, legal representation for asylum and attention to their social and emotional needs. TASSC leads torture survivors to testify before the U.S. Congress, at the State Department and other forums to encourage the United States to raise human rights and the struggle to abolish torture in its policies. TASSC International was founded in 1998 by Sister Dianna Ortiz, a U.S. Roman Catholic nun who was abducted and tortured while serving as a missionary in Guatemala.