Benjamin Joffe-Walt

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Benjamin Joffe-Walt
Benjamin Joffe-Walt Airlie headshot blueshirt.png Benjamin_Joffe-Walt_Airlie_headshot_blueshirt.png
Born (1980-03-05) March 5, 1980 (age 42)
🏳️ Nationality United States,  South Africa
💼 Occupation
Chief of Staff,
Notable credit(s) Chief of Staff (Present) Vice President of Communications (2010-2013)
Colors Editor (2007-2010)
The Guardian Features Writer (2005-2006)
The Telegraph Chief Africa Correspondent (2004-2005)
👪 RelativesChana Joffe-Walt (sister)
Rabbi Brian Walt (father)
🏅 AwardsCNN Africa Journalist of the Year
Young Journalist of the Year (UK Foreign Press Association)
Society for Environmental Journalism
Top Places to Work in PR ( News)
Benjamin Joffe-Walt

Benjamin Joffe-Walt is a technology executive currently serving as the chief of staff of, the world’s largest petition platform.

Joffe-Walt first became notable as a reporter and editor for various media outlets, including The Economist, BBC, The Guardian, The New Statesman, The Sunday Telegraph, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, Al-Quds newspaper, Arab News, and Colors magazine. He won several awards for his coverage of Africa, the Middle East, and a series of human rights and environmental issues. He made international headlines for his exaggerated report of the beating of Chinese activist Lü Banglie, which inaccurately claimed the activist had been killed.[1][2][3]

In 2010 Joffe-Walt joined, building the company's global communications team, which PR News named one of the top places to work in PR. He became chief of staff in 2014 and has served as a spokesperson for the company through a number of controversial decisions.[4][5]

Early life[edit]

The son of South African parents who emigrated to the US in the 1970s,[6] Joffe-Walt studied history, education, and feminist studies at Oberlin College, Birzeit University, McGill University, and the University of Toronto[7][8] and was involved in various social causes.[9][10] During his university studies he trained as a medic and worked as a forest fire-fighter.[11]

Africa writing and reporting[edit]

Joffe-Walt moved to Johannesburg in 2004 and began writing for various publications. In May that year, he became one of the first journalists to successfully sneak into Darfur, Sudan to report on the genocide, a feat he accomplished by illegally walking from Chad to Sudan across an uninhabited part of the Saharan desert.[12][not in citation given] From Darfur he reported on rape campaigns,[13] secret trials of Sudanese Air Force pilots who refused to bomb Darfurian civilians,[14] and other human rights issues. He served as The Telegraph's Chief Africa correspondent from 2004 to 2005,[citation needed] reporting from places including the Congo,[15][16] Somalia,[17] and South Africa.[18]


Joffe-Walt was awarded the 2005 CNN Africa Print Journalist of the Year for his coverage of Darfur.[19][20] He was awarded Young Journalist of the Year by the UK Foreign Press Association for coverage of the forcible relocation of two million Ethiopian farmers in the largest resettlement program ever attempted in Africa.[21][22] He was also awarded an environmental journalism prize in 2005 by the Society for Environmental Journalism for his work following recycled electronic waste to China.[23]

Lu Banglie report[edit]

In 2005, Joffe-Walt was hired as a features writer by The Guardian and dispatched to China. A few weeks after arriving, he was sent to report on hunger strikes by imprisoned activists in Taishi Village in Panyu District Guangzhou, Guangdong province.[citation needed] Taishi villagers had been trying to remove their village committee head whom they viewed as corrupt, a movement widely supported by activists and intellectuals across China.[24] Joffe-Walt and his entourage were attacked by a mob and Joffe-Walt's equipment destroyed as they tried approaching the village on October 8, 2005.[25] Lü Banglie (吕邦列), a democracy activist with Joffe-Walt at the time, was reported by Joffe-Walt as being quickly beaten unconscious by the mob, with the report leaving many to believe Lü dead.[26]

Joffe-Walt and the paper were criticized for his eyewitness account of the beating, which appeared on the cover of The Guardian and gave the impression that Mr Lü may have died. Days later when Mr Lü was located, his injuries were found to be serious but less severe than reported by Joffe-Walt.[3][27]

Many argued the criticism was overdone,[citation needed] claiming that conservative British pundits out to discredit The Guardian and Chinese bloggers concerned with the overall role of foreign media in China were exploiting the bad luck of a reporter trying to highlight a human rights issue and caught in a violent situation[dead link] rarely witnessed by foreign correspondents[not in citation given][unreliable source?] and which he had made efforts to avoid.

For its part The Guardian was criticized for putting Joffe-Walt in a dangerous position by sending a young journalist to a violent hotspot a few weeks after arriving in China, then printing his eyewitness account of a traumatic incident without seriously considering his ability to report on it reliably and objectively.[citation needed]

Following the incident, The Guardian had Joffe-Walt flown out of China after fears that the episode could lead to threats on his life.[28][not in citation given]

Reflecting on the incident in a 2014 interview, Joffe-Walt said the decision to take the Guardian job in China was “a big mistake” and that the “huge international incident” around his reporting of the Lu Banglie attack had been a “moment of hubris” which changed his life and eventually led him to[6]

Middle East writing and reporting[edit]

While still with The Guardian, Joffe-Walt broke a story on illegal arms sales to Israel[29] and wrote extensively about the growth of UK-based academic boycotts of Israel.[30] His coverage of the boycott movement was criticized both by pro-Palestinian groups as having a pro-Israeli bias, and by pro-Israeli groups as having a pro-Palestinian bias.[citation needed]

Following The Guardian, Joffe-Walt wrote extensively on the Middle East and North Africa for outlets including Arab News, the Palestinian Al Quds newspaper, The Palestine Telegraph, the American Task Force on Palestine, The Jerusalem Post, Yemen Times, Gulf Times, Daily News Egypt, the Ethiopian Review, and the Journal of Turkish Weekly.[edit]

Joffe-Walt is the Chief of Staff of,[31] the world’s largest petition platform.

He joined the company as an editor, and was at the center of what became’s flagship pivot when a South African activist launched a petition on against ‘corrective rape.’ The campaign generated over 150,000 supporters from all over the world, led to legislation, and was a “big light bulb moment” for the company, which pivoted shortly thereafter from an editorial site to a petition platform.[6]

Joffe-Walt then founded and built the company's communications team, leading a global team of communications directors which claims to have driven thousands of top tier mentions in more than 20 countries.[32][33] Prominent coverage of has included TIME, New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, Bloomberg, Fortune, Businessweek, CNN, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Ellen, Diane Sawyer, Anderson Cooper, Dan Rather, Jakarta Globe, Times of India, El País, and Le Parisien. [34] [35] [36] [37] [38] [39] [40] [41] [42] [43] [44] [45] [46] [47] [48] [49] [50]

Joffe-Walt was’s spokesperson when the company suffered a DDoS attack in early 2011. The attack, allegedly launched by hackers in China, brought down the site after global art museums used to call on China to release the artist Ai Weiwei. More than 140,000 people from 175 countries signed the petition.[51][52]

Joffe-Walt was also’s spokesperson during a controversy among U.S. progressives over the company’s advertising policy. In the summer of 2012 came under pressure from labor groups upset over advertisements on the site by two education reform groups critical of teachers unions.[53] Joffe-Walt said was undertaking an internal review process, and would conclude existing contracts with both groups while the policy was under review.[54]

In late 2012, decided to adopt an open advertising policy[55] similar to that of other tech platforms, arguing that the company needed to get out of the business of censoring advertisers based on a subjective, political filter.[56] The decision meant would allow advertisements from groups with diverse viewpoints. This upset some left wing activists, who saw as a progressive company abandoning its roots. [57] [58] [59] [60] The following year Joffe-Walt said the company was responding to the progressive criticism with a new flagging system and a platform to allow small donors to ‘crowdfund’ the expansion of online campaigns.[61] was attacked by hackers again in 2013. Joffe-Walt told CNN that the attackers had exploited a "minor vulnerability" and no personal information was stolen.[62]

PR News named's communications teams one of the top places to work in PR the same year.[4]

Joffe-Walt was promoted to chief of staff in 2014.


  1. Guardian retraction: Ian Mayes, "Seeing and believing in China," The Guardian, October 17, 2005
  2. Tim Luckhurst, "A reporter who got too near the action", The Independent, October 25, 2005
  3. 3.0 3.1 Roland Soong, "The Case of Benjamin Joffe-Walt," EastSouthWestNorth, October 11, 2005
  4. 4.0 4.1
  5. VP of Communications Promoted to Chief of Staff
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Cape Argus
  7. Education history
  8. [1]
  9. Benjamin Joffe-Walt, profile
  10. William Singer, "Men’s Groups Work to Redefine Masculinity," The Oberlin Review, February 15, 2002
  11. "Bio"
  12. "Benjamin Joffe-Walt (27)," Colors Magazine, November 2007
  13. Benjamin Joffe-Walt, "Proof of Collusion," The Progressive, December 2004
  14. Benjamin Joffe-Walt, "Trial by Fire," This Magazine, March–April 2005
  15. Benjamin Joffe-Walt, "Weapons haul shows UN failure in Congo," The Telegraph, May 1, 2005
  16. Benjamin Joffe-Walt, After 11 years, Rwanda's refugees go home," The Age, June 28, 2005
  17. Benjamin Joffe-Walt, "'There are no laws. We are in a country where no one can control anyone else'," The Telegraph, February 13, 2005
  18. Benjamin Joffe-Walt, "Anger as overseas homebuyers 'colonise' Cape Town," The Telegraph, April 12, 2004
  19. " Angelo Kinyua named CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2005],"CNN, June 25, 2005
  21. “Benjamin Joffe-Walt (C) with his award for Young Journalist of the Year with Dr. Hans Blix (L) at the Foreign Press Association annual awards November 23, 2004 in London, England. The annual ceremony rewards excellence in foreign reporting and other areas of serious journalism, both print and broadcast.”
  22. "“He was recently named Foreign Press Association Young Journalist of the Year”,” The Telegraph
  23. " Winners: SEJ 4th Annual Awards for Reporting on the Environment," Society of Environmental Journalists
  24. Human Rights in China, "Taishi Village: Hotbed of the weiquan movement," China Rights Forum, 2006, no. 3
  25. "Cases 2005: China," Committee to Protect Journalists, October 18, 2005
  26. Simon Parry, "Here Lies The Truth," South China Morning Post, October 19, 2005
  27. Jonathan Watts, "Activist found alive after beating by mob," The Guardian, October 11, 2005

External links[edit]


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