Call for Applications: West Africa Digital Rights and Freedom of Expression Litigation Surgery
1 – 5 July 2019 in Accra, Ghana
The Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) is a charity, based in the United Kingdom, which provides legal help to journalists, bloggers and independent media across the world. We support journalists’ legal defence, undertake strategic litigation, fund media defence centres, and strengthen capacity in the legal community through practical, specialised training and network-building.
MLDI is calling for applications from English-speaking lawyers based in countries that are members of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) and the Republic of Cameroon to participate in a practical litigation workshop on the right to freedom of expression, digital rights and the internet.
Successful applicants will be funded to attend the litigation surgery in early July in Accra, Ghana. After completing the training, attendees will also become active members of a digital rights legal network through which there will be opportunity for engagement regionally and internationally.
All lawyers wishing to apply are required to submit a current or potential case involving freedom of expression, digital rights and the internet, for discussion in the legal workshop. If applicants do not have a case, they may submit a relevant law, practice or policy relating to digital rights or freedom of expression that they would like to challenge in court.
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 source protection.
The objectives of this specialised litigation surgery training are:
- To equip participants with the practical 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 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 countries that are members of the ECOWAS (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo) and the Republic of Cameroon;
- 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 West Africa through litigation. Exceptionally strong applications 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 will be considered as well. A maximum of 12 participants will be selected;
- Applicants must be proficient in English;
- They 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 either currently litigating or that they intend to litigate, which may 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.
MDLI is committed to advancing equality and diversity and will therefore consider gender, age and country of origin in its selection of participants.
How to apply
Shortlisted applicants will be notified soon after the closing date and should be available for a Skype or telephone interview on 8, 9 or 10 May 2019.
Deadline for applications: Midnight on 28 April 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 have a discussion about the case. The surgery’s 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 practicing lawyers. 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 West Africa are working on.
Q: Where must surgery participants be from?
This call for applications relates to ECOWAS States and the Republic of Cameroon. Only lawyers who reside and practice in this region 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; their local partners should apply.
Q: How many participants will be at the litigation surgery?
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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