Save the date: April 21

On Thursday, April 21, Umar Cheema will speak in the Fred Smith Forum at RJI, starting at 7 p.m.

Your attendance is required (no class that morning).

Here’s why I’m making a fuss: Mr. Cheema is about to win the International Free Speech Award for enduring hell to write truthful stories about the government of Pakistan.

He’s paid for his courage in blood.

An investigative reporter for a major Pakistani newspaper was on his way home from dinner here on a recent night when men in black commando garb stopped his car, blindfolded him and drove him to a house on the outskirts of town.There, he says, he was beaten and stripped naked. His head and eyebrows were shaved, and he was videotaped in humiliating positions by assailants who he and other journalists believe were affiliated with the country’s powerful spy agency.

At one point, while he lay face down on the floor with his hands cuffed behind him, his captors made clear why he had been singled out for punishment: for writing against the government.

Cheema had been attacked before in retribution for his stubborn insistence on doing journalism.

This is one of those cool things you get to do as a student at the Missouri School of Journalism. So I told the event organizer, Randy Smith, you all would be there, prepared to ask excellent questions.

Don’t miss it.



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