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Alfred Friendly Press Partners celebrates graduating class of 2017

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The Fellows include journalists from India, Pakistan and Nepal.

Indian American philanthropist Frank Islam speaking at the Alfred Friendly Fellowship graduation dinner at the National Press Club on September 8, 2017.


Alfred Friendly Press Partners, which brings journalists from different countries around the world for training in the United States, celebrated its class of 2017 at an annual graduation program and dinner held the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on September 8.

A number of prominent members of Washington’s journalistic fraternity attended event, which also featured a conversation with Washington Post’s senior national security correspondent Karen DeYoung.

Eight Alfred Friendly Fellows, which included journalists from India, Pakistan and Nepal, spent six months at the Missouri School of Journalism and various newsrooms across the United States gaining hands-on experience and leadership skills.

The Friendly fellowship was established by the family of the late Pulitzer-winning Washington Post reporter Alfred Friendly in 1984.

The Fellow from India this year is Smitha Rajan, an assistant editor with DNA and Divya Bhaskar in Gujarat, India. Her fellowship was supported by the Frank Islam and Debbie Driesman Foundation.

Speaking on the occasion, Rajan thanked Indian American philanthropist Frank Islam and his wife, Debbie Driesman, for instituting the fellowship. In addition to attending classes at the Missouri School of Journalism, she worked for several weeks at the fact-checking website PolitiFact.

“Smitha is a fearless fighter, a foe of the power structure and a friend to the disadvantaged,” Islam said in his remarks. “She has reported stories not normally covered by the mainstream media including air pollution, swine flu outbreak, poaching, lion translocation, and the plight of the Dalits, the lowest in the Hindu caste system.”

The philanthropist said he and Driesman decided to join Alfred Friendly Press Partners in supporting the fellowship “for a simple reason: In a free society, the free press matters. It really matters.”

He added: “The free press has been a cornerstone of American Democracy. It is also an essential contributor to the American belief in government confined by a system of checks and balances. Freedom of the press requires constant vigilance and care. It’s a precious gift given to us by the founders in the Constitution.”

All the graduating Fellows spoke and shared their experiences as the Alfred Friendly Fellows.

Besides Rajan, the class of 2017 included Ashley Lime, a sub-editor at The Standard in Nairobi, Kenya; Binita Dahal , a correspondent for the BBC Nepali Service, based in Kathmandu, Nepal;  Nicholas Cheng, a reporter with Star Media Group, in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia; Salman Yousafzai, a reporter for The Frontier Post in Peshawar, Pakistan; Teo Escobar, a reporter with 14yMedio in Havana, Cuba; Veengas Yasmin, a sub-editor and writer with Daily Ibrat, in Karachi, Pakistan; and Yuliana Romanyshyn, a reporter for Kyiv Post, based in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Russian investigative reporter Yevgenia M. Albats, who was a Fellow in 1990, was honored with the Susan Talalay Award for Outstanding Journalism for her work and expose of corruption in Russia.

Another honoree of the evening was Jackie Combs Nelson, a former assistant editor at the Chicago Tribune, who has mentored generations of Alfred Friendly Fellows. She received the Ellen Soeteber Award for mentorship.

In her conversation with Tim Carrington, a former Wall Street Journal correspondent and a Friendly director, DeYoung discussed various global and national issues that dominate newsrooms worldwide. The Pulitzer-winner also answered questions from Friendly Fellows.

Watch DeYoung’s conversation below:

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