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Arzu Geybulla, Donna McKay, and Bruce Schneier join board of Access Now

Renowned journalist Arzu Geybulla, Physicians for Human Rights executive director Donna McKay, and leading digital security expert Bruce Schneier have joined Access Now’s board of directors, signaling a new era in the organization’s fight for human rights online. Access Now also welcomes Melody Patry, a leader on free expression, as the new Advocacy Director for the organization.

“I’m pleased to be joining the board of Access Now,” said Bruce Schneier. “In the face of data breaches and threats to users at risk, Access Now’s Digital Security Helpline offers vital protection to civil society groups around the world. We need to prevent the normalization of unaccountable government surveillance, and also to take meaningful steps to rein in ‘surveillance capitalism’ by corporations that profit from our data.”

Access Now defends and extends the digital rights of users at risk around the world. By combining innovative policy, global advocacy, and direct technical support, we fight for open and secure communications for all. Access Now’s free, 24-hour Digital Security Helpline works with individuals and organizations around the world to keep them safe online.

Our support is tailored to communities at risk, and in the past year, the Digital Security Helpline has responded to 255 requests from journalists, independent media, bloggers, and citizen journalists in need of assistance and advice.

“As a journalist who has personally experienced censorship, Access Now’s work fighting for freedom of expression and protecting journalists is more important than ever,” said Arzu Geybulla. “Governments are using the internet to threaten and repress media workers all over the world, and I am pleased that Access Now is helping to fight back.”

Access Now is dedicated to providing direct support to users at risk as well as equipping civil society groups with tools to understand emerging digital security threats and improve their practices.

“Around the world, governments are taking moves to shrink civic space,” said Donna McKay. “This trend is present in both the online and offline worlds, making it crucial to step up and promote human rights in the digital age. Medical workers and health care professionals are increasingly impacted by issues such as data privacy and the Internet of Things, and benefit from the guidance of organizations like Access Now.”

Our advocacy campaigns bring our work straight to the halls of parliaments and corporate boardrooms, and mobilize global internet users to pressure the powerful. We also seek to shift global norms to effect long-term systemic change by providing policy guidance to governments, corporations, and civil society. In addition, Access Now convenes RightsCon — the world’s leading summit on human rights in the digital age — where human rights experts, business leaders, technologists, activists, and government representatives come together to create tomorrow’s internet.

Speaking about the appointment of Melody Patry as Advocacy Director, Access Now’s executive director, Brett Solomon, said: “Melody Patry is a rising star in the global movement for free expression, with a strong vision and capacity for mobilizing those seeking to defend and extend the rights of users at risk across the globe. We’re grateful to have her join our team to build on the vital work of advocating for our fundamental rights to seek, access, and impart information, as well as to secure the privacy and digital security necessary to freely exercise those rights online.”

Board member Yvette Alberdingk-Thijm is stepping down after seven years of inspired service, and Esra’a Al Shafei is stepping down after two.

“We are deeply grateful for the guidance of both Yvette and Esra, as we have transitioned Access Now from a start-up to a global organization,” said Solomon. “We have benefited tremendously from their knowledge and insight, and it will continue to be instrumental in shaping our work for years to come.”

Bruce Schneier is an internationally renowned security technologist, and the author of 14 books — including Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World — as well as hundreds of articles, essays, and academic papers. An important voice who can break down complex technological concepts in simple language, Schneier has testified before the U.S. Congress and is regularly quoted in the press. Schneier is a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University; a Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School; a board member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Tor Project; an Advisory Board Member of the Electronic Privacy Information Center and; and a special advisor to IBM Security and the Chief Technology Officer at IBM Resilient.

Arzu Geybulla is an Azerbaijani columnist and journalist, with a special focus in human rights and press freedom in Azerbaijan. Arzu has written for Al Jazeera, Open Democracy, Eurasianet, Foreign Policy Democracy Lab, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty as well as Meydan TV, Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso and Global Voices. She is the recipient of the 2014 Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellowship with the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. She was featured on BBC 100 Women Changemakers in 2014. She was the Central Asia Azerbaijan Program Fellow at George Washington University in 2016.

Donna McKay is the executive director of Physicians for Human Rights, and brings more than 20 years of international and domestic nonprofit experience. She previously served for nearly a decade as the director of institutional advancement and special projects at the American Civil Liberties Union, where she played a critical role in transforming the organization as it responded to the erosion of U.S. civil liberties in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. She has also held positions at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, the Campaign to Eliminate Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus Worldwide, and Planned Parenthood of New York City. McKay holds an M.S. in nonprofit management and urban policy from the New School for Social Research.

Melody Patry comes to Access Now from Index on Censorship in London, where she was head of advocacy. There she worked with human rights defenders, government officials, and in coalitions such as the Global Network Initiative, the Civic Solidarity Platform, and Don’t Spy on Us. Before that, she worked with Cairo-based grassroots organizations and artists on campaigns addressing women’s rights issues, assisted the Representative to the European Union for Doctors Without Borders, and acted as a political advisor for the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations.

Schneier, Geybulla, and McKay join current board members Andrew Cohen, Andrew McLaughlin, Ronaldo Lemos, and Access Now’s executive director Brett Solomon.