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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

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 SlateThe New York Review of BooksThe New York TimesWorld Policy JournalAsahi 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, Hostagesand Ransom (Columbia Global Reports, January 2019).


Federico Motka

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 will speak publicly about his time in captivity.


Sewell Chan

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.


Reservation Policy for Free Programs:
As most ALOUD at Central Library programs are free of charge, it is our policy to overbook. In the case of a FULL program your free reservation may not guarantee admission. We recommend arriving early. Space permitting, unclaimed reservations will be released to standby patrons at approximately 7:15 PM.

Standby Policy:
Standby numbers are distributed in person only one hour before the program, on a first-come, first-served, basis. There is no advance wait list for full programs. Standby patrons will be admitted subject to availability. Most programs will be available via podcast.

Book Signing Policy:
ALOUD is one of many free programs at the Los Angeles Public Library made possible by the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. Most ALOUD author programs are followed by book signings. At least one copy of the author’s book must be purchased from The Library Store in order to participate in any post-program book signing, and you will be asked to show proof of purchase. Please be prepared to show your proof of purchase when you enter the book signing line. Proceeds support the Los Angeles Public Library.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the reservation policy for ALOUD?

    As most ALOUD at Central Library programs are free of charge, it is our policy to overbook. In the case of a FULL program your free reservation may not guarantee admission. We recommend arriving early. Space permitting, unclaimed reservations will be released to standby patrons at 7 PM.

  • Why do programs fill so quickly?

    ALOUD provides a unique experience for the public to engage with scholars, authors, and artists in the intimate 235-seat Mark Taper Auditorium. Library Foundation Members have the benefit of reserving for programs in advance of the public. Consider joining as a Member to receive this benefit, and check the website on an on-going basis for program availability. Be sure to subscribe to our email alerts, and visit our Media Archive for podcasts and other items from our recent programs.

  • Where does ALOUD take place?

    Unless otherwise noted, ALOUD programs are held at the downtown Central Library’s Mark Taper Auditorium.

  • Where should I park for ALOUD programs?

    We recommend taking public transportation. Parking for the Central Library is at the Westlawn Garage at 524 S. Flower Street. For more information, visit the Library’s website.

  • Should I purchase the author’s book in advance?

    We encourage you to purchase books from the Library Store. All proceeds benefit the Los Angeles Public Library. Books are made available for purchase when you reserve for a program online, and are also on sale at programs. In order to participate in the book signing, you must purchase at least one book from The Library Store. Members receive discounts on purchases.


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