Speakers – June 3, 2022 – Closing Keynote

Farida Nekzad, Journalist-in-Residence, Carleton University

Farida Nekzad is a prominent Afghan journalist and human rights defender and a champion of press freedom and women’s rights in Afghanistan. Nekzad fled Kabul with her young daughter and her brother-in-law in late 2021, leaving behind other family members and her position as the director of the Centre for the Protection of Afghan Women Journalists. Earlier in her career she was the managing editor of Pajhwok Afghan News, one of the country’s largest independent news agencies.

Nekzad’s journey out of Afghanistan began in August 2021 when Taliban forces began to enter Kabul. On the advice of her husband – also a journalist – she left their home with her daughter and brother-in-law, initially staying with another relative before taking sanctuary in an airport hotel that was being used as a staging post for journalists and human rights defenders who needed to leave the country. Despite her hope that she could continue to build on 25 years of work as a journalist and advocate for press freedom, she made the difficult decision to leave, not least because she wanted to protect her 12-year-old daughter.

When she first arrived in Toronto, Nekzad and her family were supported by  Canadian Connections, a grassroots group of volunteers that came together in August with a mandate to support Afghan families fleeing the Taliban. Canadian Connections works to bridge the gap between what the government can provide and what these families will require to settle in Canada. Allan Thompson, the head of Carleton’s journalism program, came in contact with Canadian Connections through broadcaster Lisa LaFlamme, Chief News Anchor for CTV National News. LaFlamme has been working behind the scenes to help journalists, interpreters and other human rights defenders who are fleeing Afghanistan. “As a faculty, we decided that Carleton’s journalism school should step up and try to help fellow journalists,” Thompson said. “Farida is a remarkable journalist who has so much to offer to our students and faculty members.