Call for Applications: West Africa Freedom of Expression & Digital Rights Litigation Workshop
3 – 7 September in Lagos, Nigeria
The Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) is calling for applications from English-speaking lawyers based in countries that are members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to participate in a forthcoming litigation workshop on the right to freedom of expression, digital rights, and the Internet.
All applicants are required to submit for discussion a current or potential case involving these matters. Successful applicants will attend the litigation workshop and become members of a digital rights legal network through which there will be opportunity for engagement regionally and internationally.
Litigation workshop 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 and intermediary liability, as well as calling for greater online privacy and source protection.
The objectives of the litigation workshop are:
- To equip participants with skills and knowledge to litigate using national and international laws as well as regional and international mechanisms relevant to freedom of expression – both online and offline;
- 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 workshop is open to lawyers who work and reside in countries that are members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) 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 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;
- 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 workshop. 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 workshop;
- 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
Shortlisted applicants will be notified soon after the closing date and should be available for a Skype or telephone interview on 12, 13, and 14 June 2018.
Deadline for applications: Friday 8 June 2018
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a litigation workshop?
A litigation workshop comprises in-depth 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 and discuss that case. The workshops focus on preliminary problem identification, framing of violations, formulation of human rights arguments and remedies. They 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 workshops 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 workshop?
Litigation workshops 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 workshop participants be from?
This call for applications relates to West Africa, and only lawyers who reside in countries that are members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are eligible to apply.
Q: How many participants will be at the litigation workshop?
12 participants will be selected for the litigation workshop. 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 workshop.
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 workshop, 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.
 Applications from lawyers who reside and work in the Republic of Cameroon will also be accepted.
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