Call for Applications: Southern African Digital Rights & Online Freedom of Expression Litigation Surgery

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Posted on: 
16 May 2019

Call for Applications

Southern African Digital Rights & Online Freedom of Expression Litigation Surgery

26-30 August 2019, Johannesburg, South Africa 

 

The Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) is calling for applications from lawyers based in Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, eSwatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe to participate in a forthcoming litigation surgery and training on the right to freedom of expression online, digital rights and the internet.

All applicants are required to submit a current or potential case, involving these matters, for discussion. Successful applicants will attend the litigation surgery and become members of a digital rights legal network through which there will be opportunities for engagement both regionally and internationally.

Litigation surgery objectives

MLDI provides legal support to journalists, bloggers and independent media. In recent years it has supported a significant number of cases involving online media. These have included challenging social media blocking and internet shutdowns, contesting cybercrimes legislation, ‘false news’ regulations and intermediary liability, as well as advancing greater protection of sources and privacy online.

The objectives of the litigation surgery are:

  • To equip participants with skills, knowledge, and training to litigate using national and international laws as well as regional and international mechanisms relevant to freedom of expression online;   
  • To build a digital rights network and help facilitate its engagement with international legal mechanisms and global civil society initiatives; and  
  • To assist and develop working relationships amongst lawyers undertaking such cases.

Criteria for eligibility

Participants will be selected on the following criteria:

  • The surgery is open to lawyers who work and reside in Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, eSwatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Applicants can either be working in private practice or be working for, or be affiliated with, NGOs promoting the right to freedom of expression through litigation. Exceptionally strong applications will be considered as well from lawyers who have not yet undertaken freedom of expression work, but have experience litigating other human rights cases and have a strong interest in undertaking freedom of expression work.
  • A maximum of 12 participants will be selected;
  • Applicants must be proficient in English;
  • The lawyers must have a demonstrated interest in and/or knowledge of the right to online freedom of expression, digital rights, internet freedom and/or related issues;
  • The lawyers must have a demonstrated interest in and/or knowledge of international and regional human rights law;
  • With their application, applicants are requested to submit a case study of a case that they are litigating or intend to litigate and that could be discussed during the litigation surgery. As set out above, it will suffice for participants who do not have a case that is pending to have identified a relevant law, practice or policy relating to online freedom of expression that they would like to challenge in court. However, such participants must demonstrate their ability and willingness to pursue the case after the surgery;
  • The cases submitted must involve a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of expression online. The following non-exhaustive list of themes are a guide for the type of cases that could be submitted with the application:
    • Cybercrime laws;
    • Intermediary liability;
    • Internet shutdowns;
    • Restriction of online media;
    • Online privacy;
    • National security; and
    • Anonymity online.

MLDI is committed to equality of opportunity and diversity; and will therefore consider gender, age and country of origin in its selection of participants. 

How to apply

Please complete the attached application form and submit it to Michael Moss at michael.moss@mediadefence.org. The deadline is midnight on Sunday 16 June 2019

Shortlisted applicants will be notified soon after the closing date and should be available for a Skype or telephone interview on 25 and 26 June 2019.

Deadline for applications: midnight on Sunday 16 June 2019

Application Form (Word Doc)

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a litigation surgery?
A litigation surgery comprises in-depth training sessions on international and comparative law relevant to freedom of expression as well as interactive sessions where participants present a case they are working on, to peers and experts, for discussion. The surgery’s focus is on preliminary problem identification, framing of violations, formulation of human rights arguments and remedies. This training will also provide an in-depth understanding of strategic litigation and litigating before regional and international human rights bodies.

Q: I am not a lawyer but I am interested, can I apply?
Litigation surgeries are only open to lawyers who are in practice. Very rare exceptions will be made for lawyers who are not in practice or other people providing legal assistance to civil society organisations that work on the right to freedom of expression.

Q: What is the purpose of a litigation surgery?
Litigation surgeries are intended to be a space for litigators to receive technical legal expertise on the relevant thematic issues. It is also a space for litigators to network and find out what other litigators in Southern Africa are working on.

Q: Where must surgery participants be from?
This call for applications relates to Southern Africa, and only lawyers based and working in Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, eSwatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Q: How many participants will be at the litigation surgery?
A maximuim of 12 participants will be selected for the litigation surgery. There will also be two MLDI lawyers, an MLDI project coordinator and an external facilitator.

Q: Who pays for the costs of participation?
MLDI will cover airfare, accommodation, travel expenses and a per diem.  

Q: Is there any follow-up?
MLDI plans to help facilitate a network of lawyers who are interested and active in defending digital rights and online freedom of expression cases. Further details will be provided during the litigation surgery.

In addition, MLDI’s lawyers will discuss with participants how MLDI can assist with their cases and provide follow-up. MLDI will also discuss the possibility of providing further assistance to freedom of expression cases participants work on after the surgery, either by providing ad hoc legal support or through partnerships. As MLDI is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to providing legal defence to journalists, bloggers and independent media across the world through its networks, it is always interested in following up on participants’ cases and working with participants on cases in the future.

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