Call for Applications
East Africa Digital Rights & Online Freedom of Expression Litigation Surgery
8 – 12 April 2019, Kampala, Uganda
Application deadline: Thursday 7 February 2019
The Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) will be running a litigation surgery on the right to online freedom of expression, digital rights and the internet. This specialised, fully funded, legal workshop is for lawyers based in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Applications are currently open. The deadline for submitting applications is Thursday 7 February 2019.
All applicants are required to submit a current or potential case for discussion which involves the right to online freedom of expression, digital rights and the internet. If applicants do not have a case they may submit a relevant law, practice or policy relating to online freedom of expression that they would like to see challenged in court.
Successful applicants will, in addition to attending the litigation surgery training, become active members of a digital rights legal network which will provide opportunities for engagement both regionally and internationally.
Litigation surgery objectives
MLDI provides legal support to journalists, bloggers and independent media. In recent years, MLDI 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’ laws and intermediary liability, as well as calling for greater protections for online privacy and protection of journalistic sources.
Specifically, the objectives of the litigation surgery training are:
- To equip participants with the skills and knowledge 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 between lawyers undertaking such cases.
Criteria for eligibility
A maximum of 12 participants will attend the training. Participants will be selected on the following criteria:
- The surgery is open to lawyers who work and reside in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda;
- Applicants can either be working in private practice or be working for or be affiliated with NGOs promoting the right to freedom of expression in East Africa through litigation. Exceptionally strong applications will be considered 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;
- Applicants must be proficient in English;
- Applicants 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;
- As part of the application, interested lawyers are asked to submit a case study of a case which they are either litigating or intend to litigate and that could be discussed during the litigation surgery. For participants who do not have a case that is pending it will suffice 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.
MDLI is committed to advancing equality and diversity; and will therefore consider gender, age, and country of origin in the selection of participants.
How to apply
Deadline for applications: Thursday 7 February 2019.
Shortlisted applicants will be notified soon after the closing date and should be available for a Skype or telephone interview on 13 or 15 February 2019.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a litigation surgery?
A litigation surgery is a focused seminar where participants are able to present a case they are working on to peers and experts and discuss the case. The surgeries focus on preliminary problem identification, framing of violations, formulation of human rights arguments and remedies. The surgeries 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 East Africa are working on.
Q: Where must surgery participants be from?
This call for applications relates to East Africa, and only lawyers based and working in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda are eligible to apply. Legal advisors based in the global north who provide assistance to lawyers working in domestic courts are not eligible to apply; though their local partners should apply.
Q: How many participants will be at the litigation surgery?
A maximum 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 modest 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 the freedom of expression cases participants work on after the surgery, either by way of providing ad hoc legal support or by way of 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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