The SMEX Fellowship for Reporting on Digital Freedoms is a three-month stipend-supported fellowship based in Beirut, Lebanon. The program is designed to encourage, facilitate, and disseminate research on digital rights in Lebanon, with the goal of advancing evidence-based public debates. Two fellows will be selected to investigate a topic of their choosing and produce an in-depth report detailing their findings. The fellows will be supported and mentored by SMEX advisors, who will offer them the opportunity to develop their skills, expertise, and knowledge on issues related to privacy and surveillance in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
In Lebanon, the lack of a comprehensive legal framework on privacy rights and data protection is ground for both the violation of the right to privacy and the implementation of unwarranted mass surveillance programs. For this reason, on Dec. 14, 2016, SMEX launched its inaugural report on digital surveillance, “Mapping the Landscape of Digital Surveillance in Lebanon,” to understand the mechanics of the Lebanese surveillance state and to identify areas for policy reform and advocacy for privacy protection.
Having established a baseline of knowledge on issues related to privacy, surveillance, and data protection, SMEX is now inviting journalists, rights’ activists, and researchers to further investigate the state of privacy and surveillance in Lebanon.
We are accepting preliminary proposals that address (some of) the following questions, but prospective fellows are welcome to propose other relevant topics and investigate these or other issues from any lens they may choose.
- Legal framework
– What effect has the lack of a clear and up-to-date legal framework had on the right to privacy in Lebanon?
– How is the judiciary working around the legislation currently in place?
– How are legal researchers and lawyers pushing for reform and how do they envision bringing about a more just legal framework?
– How can citizens remedy personal data breaches? How has the judiciary responded to past breaches?
– How can we start the process for a data protection law in Lebanon? What are the main components that should be included in such a law?
- Political understanding
– How is political expression being impacted by Lebanon’s current laws on privacy and surveillance?
– What is the potential social and political impact of the hundreds of recently installed surveillance cameras around Beirut?
– What are the limitations of the discourse on privacy rights in an unstable country like Lebanon? Is advocacy for expanded privacy rights possible under current security challenges?
– How does the average resident in Lebanon understand and regard privacy rights? How can their views be shifted?
- Infrastructure of surveillance
– Can a timeline of the construction of the surveillance state be drawn? At what cost (financial and other) has it been established?
– Who are its main actors and advocates?
– How are surveillance systems in Lebanon visualized, planned, and implemented?
– How are intelligence agencies gathering mass data? How is this date secured, shared, and used?
To be eligible for the fellowship, applicants must:
- Have at least three years of experience reporting on Lebanon and/or the MENA region
- Be full-time residents of Lebanon, with knowledge of the country’s politics, history, and laws. Having well-established contacts is a plus
- Be writers, reporters, journalists, or bloggers with an interest to work on questions related to digital rights, privacy, and surveillance
Application and Selection Process
Applications are accepted starting Dec.16, 2016 and through Jan. 20, 2017. Applications are first reviewed by SMEX, who will then convene a review committee with experts and advisors from partner organizations to select the finalists. After conducting an interview with each finalist, notifications will be sent to the selected fellows by January 27, 2017, and a public announcement will follow. After further developing their research proposal with SMEX advisors; the fellows are expected to start the program on February 6, 2017.
Email the following documents to firstname.lastname@example.org, only PDF files are accepted. Applications with missing documentation will not be considered. You may submit your application in English, French, or Arabic.
- A recently updated CV detailing your educational and work background
- A one-to-two-page single-spaced preliminary project proposal that clearly defines your research question, briefly outlines methodologies expected to be used, lists potential sources, and assesses foreseeable risks (make sure to also tell us why your research topic matters)
- At least three work samples that best exemplify your research, writing, or investigative abilities
- Two professional references from former, or current employers who can speak about your work
To be awarded a SMEX Fellowship for Reporting on Digital Freedoms, the fellow must agree to complete the following, within the specified time frame where applicable:
- Check in with their advisors on a biweekly basis, updating them on their progress and seeking their assistance when needed
- Document their own investigative process and write one blog post per month, totaling three during their fellowship
- Submit a final investigative or in-depth report, as outlined in their research proposal, for review at the end of the program
- Attend at least one public event hosted by SMEX presenting the findings of their investigation
About SMEX: Founded in 2008, SMEX is a registered Lebanese NGO based in Beirut that works to advance self-regulating information societies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Our work encompasses media development programs and digital literacy as well as Internet policy research and advocacy in support of more accessible, participatory, and just enabling environments for civil society across the MENA region.
About This Program: SMEX is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes submissions regardless of the applicant’s religious background, political leanings, sexual orientation, disability, age, or gender identification. Interested applicants with non-traditional backgrounds, freelance reporters and researchers, and rights’ activists are encouraged to apply.
Application deadline: January 20, 2017
Eligibility: Journalism experience and interest in digital freedoms
Notification date: January 27, 2017
Start date: February 6, 2017
Duration: Three months
Expected outcome: Three blog posts and one report
Deadline for the final report: May 22, 2017
Stipend: $1,800 (with the possibility of an additional $1,000)
Direct all inquiries and applications to: email@example.com