(Washington, DC) — PEN America today announced that attorney and advocate Nadine Farid Johnson has joined the literary and free expression group as its Washington director. Previously executive director of ACLU of Kansas, Johnson will oversee all of the organization’s advocacy efforts with the U.S. government—including the White House, Congress, the State Department, and other federal agencies—as well as PEN America’s robust coalition work with human rights and advocacy groups in Washington.

“Free expression requires a robust defense, and in today’s Washington, no other organization is as uniquely positioned as PEN America to defend the freedom to write,” said Johnson. “I’m honored to be joining PEN America at this critical moment for the country, the world, and for PEN America’s future as the organization begins its second century.”

Her appointment comes as PEN America embarks on a dramatic expansion of its work promoting free expression in the U.S. and globally. Through extensive work on Capitol Hill, PEN America’s Washington office has advanced critical legislation and policy promoting a free press, fighting disinformation, supporting writers and journalists in the U.S. and abroad, and demanding the release of imprisoned writers worldwide. Johnson succeeds Thomas O. Melia, who departed to join the staff of U.S. Senator Ben Cardin.

“The threats to free expression are transforming every day, and having a growing presence in Washington allows us at PEN America to help policymakers understand how they can best defend free speech,” said PEN America’s Summer Lopez, senior director of free expression programs. “We’re happy to welcome Nadine, who has extensive experience not only in policy circles but in diplomacy and human rights.”

Previously, Johnson served as a U.S. diplomat whose work spanned the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and multilateral affairs. Prior to entering public service, she was a professor of constitutional, international, and intellectual property law at Gonzaga University and a Climenko Fellow and lecturer on law at Harvard Law School. She worked at Google and at the law firm Darby & Darby. She graduated from DePauw University and Tulane Law School and studied at the Naval War College. She is on the board of directors of CalSAC, an education-focused nonprofit, and is an advisor to Jimiri, a racial justice and youth development organization.