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Journalist Fellowship for Infrastructure Reporting in Lower Mekong, 2024

Call for Applications
Published on
05 Jan 2024
railway over a bridge
6 February 2024, 11:59 PM, Asia/Bangkok (UTC +07) (Extended Deadline) info.ejn [at] internews.org

Please read the following sections carefully, as they contain important information on eligibility and the application process.

Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN) has launched a Journalist Fellowship for Infrastructure Reporting in Lower Mekong to equip mid-career journalists with training, mentoring, and story grants to report on infrastructural development and its impacts on the environment and human rights. Participating journalists will also learn measures and strategies to mitigate potential physical and digital risks both they and the communities involved may face when reporting on this theme. Via a hybrid workshop (10 hours online and two days in-person) in March 2024 and subsequent story grants, the fellowship aims to strengthen journalists’ knowledge and skills to produce engaging and impactful stories on infrastructural development while ensuring a Do No Harm approach when engaging and reporting on individuals and communities.

Overview

Southeast Asia (SEA) is set to become the world’s fourth largest economy by 2030. To sustain economic growth, the Asian Development Bank estimates that the region needs to invest $60 billion per year upgrading its infrastructure and many SEA countries plan to rapidly expand investments.

Many of the resulting infrastructure projects, such as the high-speed rail connecting Laos and China and hydropower dam near Luang Prabang, promise strong economic growth. However, this push for infrastructure development has exacerbated existing environmental issues such as unchecked urban sprawl and severe environmental degradation. For example, the Xayaburi Dam in Thailand has changed water and sediment flows, and as a result farmers have seen their farmland disappear underneath the changing Mekong River. Vietnam’s Mekong Delta also faces severe degradation due to huge demands for sand used in infrastructure development. Further, this rush to expand infrastructure puts the rights of marginalized groups (including women, children/youth, indigenous populations, migrants, rural populations, etc.) at high risk as they often depend on natural resources for their livelihoods and/or are more vulnerable to the pollution that may result from these projects.

Inadequate regulation, enforcement, and transparency from governments and developers alike means that these most affected groups are often not even aware of infrastructure projects until they have broken ground, nor do they have a voice in mitigating the impacts on their environments, health, and/or livelihoods. Attempts to increase public awareness of infrastructure projects have also put local journalists at risk: these topics are often tied to national and international government and economic interests, and in some cases, have links with illicit markets such as illegal logging and sand mining.

Strengthening Transparency in Infrastructure Development Through Environmental Reporting in Southeast Asia (STRIDES) is a new two-year project that supports environmental reporting on infrastructure development and its impacts. The Journalist Fellowship, which is comprised of a reporting and safety training followed by story grants, is part of STRIDES' effort to create in-depth media coverage that raises public awareness and hold governments and corporations to account during the current infrastructure boom.

Logistics and expectations

To equip journalists with the skills to not only investigate the environmental and human rights impacts of infrastructure development in their communities but also to do so safely, EJN’s STRIDES project is running a hybrid training programEJN will select 15 journalists who will take part in a series of online training sessions (8-10 hours over five days) and a two-day in-person workshop in March 2024. EJN will cover the cost of travel, accommodation, and meals of selected participants.  

Participants who successfully complete the training will subsequently be eligible to apply to receive story grants (with an average budget of $2000 each) and be closely mentored by experts as they research and investigate their stories. We expect the stories to be completed by September 2024.

Each selected journalist will be paired with an EJN senior journalist who will act as a mentor throughout the story development process. Participants will also receive support through the resources and tools made available via the STRIDES online knowledge portal.

Fellows will be expected to dedicate the minimum equivalent of two days per week to fellowship activities, which may include but is not limited to story production, full attendance at the initial online and in-person workshops, and calls with mentors.

Fellows are expected to produce at least one story during the course of the fellowship for their media outlet. Journalists can produce stories in local languages suitable for target communities, but all stories should also be made available in English.

Each Fellow will be required to participate in monitoring and evaluation activities including completion of surveys and will be asked to submit a blog post at the end of their fellowship speaking about their experience. 

Eligibility

Participants can be from Thailand, Laos PDR, Myanmar, Cambodia, or Vietnam. We especially encourage early- and mid-career journalists, as well as women and Indigenous journalists, to apply.

Applicants must:  

  • Commit to attending all days of both the online and in-person workshops.  
  • Have at least two years of experience reporting on infrastructure and/or environmental topics in any medium (online, print, television, radio) from all types of media organizations – international, national, local and community-based.
  • Understand and be able to communicate in English. For the purposes of this training opportunity, we will only be accepting applications in English. Unfortunately, we do not have the capacity to consider applications in other languages at this time. Applicants must either have a working understanding of English or have a translator available to assist with communication with Internews staff.
  • Permit republication by EJN of any output as a result of participation in the fellowship.  

 

Applicants are required to be transparent about the use of generative AI tools, if any, in the development of their proposals.

EJN reserves the right to disqualify applicants from consideration if they have been found to have engaged in unethical or improper professional conduct, including, but not limited to, plagiarism and/or submitting AI-generated content as their own.

Story themes

We welcome story ideas that focus on infrastructure development (and related activities such as illegal logging or mining) and the subsequent threats to the environment and human rights of local communities. We also welcome solutions-driven story pitches highlighting the actions of policymakers, civil society organizations, local communities and business sectors to deter and mitigate the threats posed by infrastructure development in the Lower Mekong.

Please note: Applicants should submit a preliminary story idea as part of their application. If selected for the fellowship, journalists who have successfully completed the training will have the opportunity to further refine their story ideas and budgets. 

Budget: All applicants are required to provide a detailed budget with justification for the amount requested using the template provided below. We ask that the budgets be reasonable and account for costs necessary for reporting, such as travel and accommodation. Story budget can be used toward local or English translations as needed. Please also note on your budget form if you are receiving funding from any other donors for the story.

Generally speaking, applications with smaller budgets will be more competitive, but we will consider larger grant amounts for stories using innovative, collaborative or investigative approaches that may be more resource-intensive and time-consuming.

We expect that proposals will largely reflect what equipment the applicant already has access to (including cameras, drones, lighting, tripods, etc.) and will not consider budgets that heavily focus on procuring new equipment. 

We will consider a stipend for the reporters’ salary, particularly if the applicant is a freelancer. Please estimate the time you’ll need to complete this story and propose compensation you believe reflects a fair market rate. We ask, however, that this comprises no more than 30% of the total budget. 

Acknowledgement of EJN support: Published stories and/or broadcasts must disclose EJN support by including this tagline: “This story was produced with support from Internews’ Earth Journalism Network.”

How to apply   

  • Click the 'Apply now' button at the top of the page.   
  • If you don’t have an account, you must register by clicking “Log in” on the top right of the page and click the “Sign up” link at the bottom of the page that opens. Click here for detailed instructions on how to create an account, and here for detailed instructions on how to reset your password.   
  • If you start the application and want to come back and complete it later, you can click 'Save Draft.' To return to the draft, you'll need to go back to the opportunity and click 'Apply now' again to finalize the application.   





If you encounter difficulties with submitting your application or have questions, please email [email protected]. Do not contact any other Internews email regarding this opportunity, as we will not receive it.     

Applications submitted after the deadline will not be considered.   


Banner image: The China-Laos railway over the Mekong River / Credit: Julia Denton-Barker via Wikimedia Commons.

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