Columbia University: Committee to Protect Journalists Executive Director Joel Simon to explore the launch of Global Press Freedom Research Center as Tow Center Fellow

After 15 years as Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Joel Simon will be joining the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School as a fellow to carry out research on press freedom in the U.S. and around the world. Simon will also serve as a senior visiting fellow at Columbia’s Knight First Amendment Institute.

Simon’s fellowship at the Tow Center is being supported by a generous grant from the Ford Foundation. His work will focus on how to create a global press freedom center at a U.S. university.

“The goal of the center would be to become a leading academic institution dedicated to the study of press freedom policy around the world, particularly the intersection of press freedom, democracy and human rights,” said Simon. “Through cross-disciplinary academic research, the center would also tackle a key challenge of the information age: how to safeguard free expression and the right to know while combating disinformation at the global level.”

Such topics reflect a longstanding interest of the Tow Center, led by Founding Director Emily Bell, Leonard Tow Professor of Journalism.

“So many of our research topics over the past decade, from digital security to the role of platforms and the erosion of journalism within local communities, have a press freedom and global dimension to them,” Bell said. “At the Tow Center, we are committed to helping researchers and practitioners find the space and resources to tackle these dynamic problems head on. Joel’s work here could not be more timely or important to the field.”

In addition to the Tow Center fellowship, Simon will be a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia, which uses strategic litigation, research, and public education to defend freedom of expression in the United States.

“For many years, Joel has been one of the most effective champions of press freedom in the United States as well as around the world,” said Jameel Jaffer, the Knight Institute’s Executive Director. “We’ve learned a great deal from collaborating with him in the past, and we’re delighted to have the opportunity to work with him more closely.”

Simon, who joined CPJ in 1997 as the Americas Program Coordinator and has served as Executive Director for 15 years, announced in June that he would be stepping down from CPJ at the end of the year. He will assume his Tow fellowship in January 2022. Simon led CPJ through an expansion, growing its network of global correspondents, creating a new North America program focused on press freedom advocacy in the United States, and helping to develop an Emergency Response Team focused on safety and direct assistance to journalists in crisis around the world. Simon has participated in CPJ missions from Argentina to Zimbabwe. Under his leadership, CPJ has been honored with numerous awards, including the Thomas J. Dodd Prize in International Justice and Human Rights, a News & Documentary Emmy, and the 2018 Chatham House Prize, given for the most significant contribution to the improvement of international relations in the previous year. Simon has written widely on press freedom issues for publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and The Wall Street Journal.

Simon is a regular columnist for the Columbia Journalism Review. Prior to joining CPJ in 1997 as program coordinator for the Americas, Simon worked for a decade as a freelance journalist in Latin America. He covered the Guatemalan civil war, the Zapatista uprising in Southern Mexico, the debate over the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the economic turmoil in Cuba following the collapse of the Soviet Union. A graduate of Amherst College and Stanford University, he is the author of “Endangered Mexico: An Environment on the Edge” (Sierra Club Books, 1997), “The New Censorship: Inside the Global Battle for Media Freedom(link is external)” (Columbia University Press 2015); and “We Want to Negotiate: The Secret World of Kidnapping, Hostages, and Ransom(link is external)” (Columbia Global Reports 2018). Simon’s forthcoming book co-authored with Deputy Director of CPJ, Robert Mahoney and published by Columbia Global Reports for release on April 5 is titled “The Infodemic: How Censorship and Lies Made the World Sicker and Less Free.”

About Columbia Journalism School
For more than a century, the Columbia Journalism School has been preparing journalists in programs that stress academic rigor, ethics, journalistic inquiry and professional practice. Founded with a gift from Joseph Pulitzer, the school opened in 1912 and offers Master of Science, Master of Arts, Master of Science in Data Journalism, a joint Master of Science degree in Computer Science and Journalism, The Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economics and Business Journalism and a Doctor of Philosophy in Communications. It houses the Columbia Journalism Review, the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, The Tow Center for Digital Journalism, The Ira A. Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights, The Simon and June Li Center for Global Journalism, the Craig Newmark Center for Journalism Ethics and Security, and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. The school also administers many of the leading journalism awards, including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, the Maria Moors Cabot Prizes, the John Chancellor Award, the John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism, Dart Awards for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma, Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award, the Mike Berger Awards and the WERT Prize for Women Business Journalists.

About the Ford Foundation
The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than 80 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.