2023 SMEX Fellowship on Technology and Human Rights

New technologies are at the heart of struggles for rights in the MENA region, offering unprecedented opportunities for freedom of expression, networking and mobilization. These technologies also, however, have been assimilated into existing systems of control leading to a host of threats, from privacy breaches to targeted harassment and suppression of dissent. Authoritarian regimes across the region have been investing in new tools that surveil their citizens, whilst nurturing business partnerships with big tech companies that place profits over human rights.

Over the last two decades, digital platforms have been used to build spaces of liberation and organizing by marginalized communities in the region, including LGBTQ+ individuals and migrant domestic workers fighting back against the repressive Kafala system. SMEX seeks to expand this space where digital resilience and social justice issues intersect by advancing knowledge and cultivating engagement among scholars, advocates, journalists, artists, and analysts in the region.

SMEX is launching the inaugural SMEX Fellowship Programme to bring new minds and voices to the digital rights field, raise innovative solutions to the many-layered issues that govern use and access to the internet, and expand research on emerging topics within digital rights in the MENA region. 

The Fellowship will take place over 12 months, is part-time, stipended and designed for early to mid-career professionals. SMEX will recruit a cohort of 4-6 nonresident Fellows.

What does SMEX expect from the fellows?

We are looking for fellows who will advance knowledge and engagement on one of the topics listed below relating to digital rights. They will do so through a combination of at least two of the following tactics: research, advocacy and lobbying, campaigns, convenings, op-eds and other creative interventions. 

Priority will be given to applications pursuing one of these eight primary areas of focus: 

  • Freedom of expression online 
  • Digital surveillance (related to authoritarian regimes, Big Tech, and beyond) 
  • Expansion of tech companies’ collaborations with regional authoritarian regimes; Business and Human Rights
  • Emergent technologies and ideas, such as AI, Web 3.0, smart cities, and beyond
  • Internet shutdowns
  • Climate change and technology
  • Sexual and reproductive health & rights at the intersection of technology
  • Telecommunications and the digital divide
  • Improvement and protection of digital safety for civil society and social justice entities

The Fellowship is open to early (not entry level) to mid-career candidates based in the MENA region or with significant ties to the region. Fellows can conduct their work in either English or Arabic, but they should be fluent in both languages so as to communicate collectively in the monthly meetings. Applications from data scientists, sociologists, policy experts, journalists, digital rights activists, economists, artists and/or other social scientists are welcome. Those currently enrolled or recently graduated from a postgraduate course related to digital rights or technology are encouraged to apply. Ideal candidates will be able to demonstrate strong research, writing and speaking skills in English and Arabic as well as demonstrable experience in and commitment to protecting and promoting digital rights and internet freedoms. The strongest candidates will have thought about how their project ‘grows the field’ of digital rights. 

This is a nonresident fellowship programme, where we expect primary engagement to be remote (with physical presence at SMEX’s annual conference Bread&Net 2023). For fellows selected from Beirut, you are welcome to utilize the resources of our offices in Badaro. For fellows outside Beirut, you may request an additional fixed ‘technology allowance’ to cover IT costs to improve remote meeting participation, on an as-needed basis.

In lieu of in-person participation, fellows will be expected to participate in monthly meetings virtually. Fellows are also expected to commit to an average of 15 hours per week.

What will SMEX offer the fellows?

The Fellowship is a paid, part-time (approx 15 hours a week), fellowship over the course of 12 months. Upon selection, fellows work with their mentor to develop a workplan and schedule. The Fellowship is designed to be flexible and dynamic to account for each fellow’s skills, interests, and experience. Fellows can expect the following from SMEX:

  • A mentor who is a technical expert in a field related to the fellow’s topic 
  • Monthly meetings with a mentor and/or fellowship programme manager to support the fellow as they execute their approved work plan, as well as quarterly convening for the entire cohort where fellows can share their progress and benefit from peer support and feedback
  • A monthly stipend of $900 net
  • Fully paid travel and accommodation to attend our annual Bread&Net conference in 2023
  • Access to SMEX’s extensive digital rights network, including coalitions SMEX convenes, and introductions to practitioners who may offer platforms and other opportunities for collaboration for the fellow
  • Training related to digital security and campaigning
  • Additional funds may be available to cover costs associated with attending one additional conference or meeting of direct relevance to the topic researched and located in the MENA region

To Apply

To apply, please submit the following materials to this form by Sunday, 11 December 2022. Files should be labeled ‘[type of document, e.g. CV]-[family name, first name]’.

  1. Curriculum vitae (CV) 
  2. A ‘statement of interest’ indicating your project proposal (a general outline and tactics to be pursued where applicable). All statements should be 2 pages (750 words) max.  
  3. Contact information for two professional references. 
  4. A writing/project sample (this can include a link to your social media page(s)).


Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until the deadline. Final decisions will be based on strength of application, relevance of topic to SMEX’s programmatic work, interview and overall fit with the fellow’s cohort. 

Please apply by Sunday, 11 December 2022. Decisions will be announced in December and the fellowship commences in January 2023 and ends December 2023.  For any inquiries about the fellowship please contact Afef@smex.org

This page is available in a different language العربية (Arabic) هذه الصفحة متوفرة بلغة مختلفة

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SMEX is a registered Lebanese NGO that works to advance self-regulating information societies in the Middle East and North Africa.