CALL FOR STORY PROPOSALS: 2018 SEAPA Journalism Fellowship

2018 Journalism Fellowship
Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
Theme: Disinformation and Governance in Southeast Asia




The explosion of digital and social media platforms has sparked an information era that is unlike any other in history. That it has massively transformed how people access and generate information — at an unprecedented speed — cannot be stressed enough.

The dark side to today’s information revolution is the spread of false, misleading, and oftentimes, entirely fabricated and grossly distorted information, generally dubbed “fake news,” that has fractured societies across the globe — and given rise to today’s disinformation order.

Disinformation is not new, having been in the regular arsenal of governments, political parties, businesses, and other groups courting the public and advancing specific interests.

From cheerleading to arguing, from insults to outright threats, from opinion gathering to surveillance, from fake news to hate speech, the disinformation machinery has risen to the forefront of political concern on both sides of societal divides throughout the world.

Southeast Asia is certainly no exception.

The spread of disinformation and all of its permutations has set off alarm bells in a region that has seen a dramatic growth in the number of social media users in the last two years — now estimated at 370 million, or more than half its population — and is expected to be the fastest-growing internet market globally by 2020.

Yet, against this rosy backdrop, freedom of information is increasingly under threat in a political landscape where states are leaning on the “fake news” crutch to silence dissent, using draconian and often vaguely worded laws to prevent the independent media from producing stories that run counter to “official” narratives, and silencing dissenting voices. Government efforts to legislate against “fake news” — with states as the self-appointed arbiters of truth — and manipulate public opinion while clamping down on the media and civil society are now a menacing trend in the region, and an essential part of specific state-sponsored or -sanctioned disinformation campaigns that go hand in hand with systemic human rights violations.

Amid a declining public trust in the media, the unabated spread of misleading and blatantly false information on social media that is polarizing citizens, authoritarian governments leery of opposition and all forms of dissent think nothing of using the “fake news” mantra to label perceived opponents as purveyors of misleading and false information — a charge that often comes at a steep price.

It’s time to look deeply into the impact of disinformation on governance in Southeast Asia and how it is undermining civic space and fundamental rights amid well-entrenched political structures.

The 2018 Fellowship

The Disinformation and Governance Journalism Fellowship is an opportunity for writers from print, broadcast and online media to contribute toward greater understanding of how disinformation networks operate and their impact or role in governance.

The 2018 Program aims to shed light on how disinformation happens in Southeast Asian countries in different contexts that affect various human rights: public participation, religious, ethnic and cultural discrimination, gender rights, and freedom of expression and other civil liberties (including press freedom).

While the following list is not exhaustive, story ideas may revolve around the following:

  • How disinformation groups operate;
  • The use of technology by disinformation networks;
  • Human rights impact of disinformation;
  • State role and policy in relation to disinformation;
  • Empowering affected sectors to push back against disinformation campaigns.

The 2018 Journalism Fellowship will be a reporting fellowship. Successful participants shall receive a maximum reporting grant of USD 2,000 each to produce well-researched and timely in-depth reports. Each successful fellow will be given between 30-50 percent (%) of the approved grant (depending on the submitted, approved budgets) upon acceptance to the program; the remainder, upon approval of the final reporting output.

Between six (6) and 10 participants will be selected for the 2018 SEAPA Journalism Fellowship.

Who can apply?

The 2018 SEAPA Journalism Fellowship is open to mid-career journalists with at least five (5) years of experience in print, broadcast, and/or online media. Applicants, including freelance writers, must be currently engaged with media institutions or are actively pursuing journalism as a full-time profession. Journalist applicants may team up with researchers, public-interest bloggers, or citizen journalists, provided they take the lead role in the development of their proposed stories.

Applicants must be bona fide citizens of any of the Southeast Asian countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam; and have the ability to understand and communicate in English.

The following are strongly encouraged to apply:

  • Women journalists
  • Journalists working outside the country capital
  • Journalists working in alternative or community media

Cross-border reporting proposals, or coordinated stories on different countries in the region, are highly encouraged. These may be submitted in the form of joint proposals to produce the minimum output for a single fellowship or as coordinated proposals or multiple grants, with each participant producing the required output for one fellowship.

Team reporting applications, including cross-border reporting involving two or more countries in the region, will be accepted, provided that the proposal identifies a lead reporter who shall be responsible for the final output. In such cases, each team application, if approved, will be entitled to one grant, the amount of which will be based on the approved budget.

How to apply?

Applicants must submit the following:

  • Updated CV (no more than two pages);
  • Story proposal (max. 500 words) consisting of the following:
    • Specific topic
    • Abstract
    • Story plan (including timeframe, specifically for field research/interviews and writing)
    • Budget
  • Risk assessment: anticipated risks and mitigation measures related to story development (Please note that applications may be disapproved on the basis of risks associated with story production.);
  • Gender considerations in the content and sources;
  • Target output format and plan for publication;
  • Motivation letter explaining:
    • Why you are joining this Fellowship
    • How you think this Fellowship will help you as a journalist
    • Why you think this story is relevant to the Fellowship theme
  • At least two samples of published in-depth article/audio/video/multimedia, preferably stories related to the Fellowship theme. Articles originally using a regional language are also accepted as samples, provided they come with an English translation.
  • A letter of endorsement from an editor or producer who agrees to publish the anticipated story.

Please complete the application form and submit the rest of the requirements to with subject line: 2018 SEAPA Journalism Fellowship. We encourage applicants to submit their story proposals early, and to review the proposal after submission.

Deadline of submission of the proposal and other requirements: 10 September 2018.

Fellowship Output

Deadline: 20 November 2018

1. Main story output can be in the format of the participant’s regular medium of reporting, i.e., any of the following:

  • One main article of at least 2,500 words ; or
  • A full audio or video production (minimum of 15 and 10 minutes, for respective formats) based on your regular medium of reporting.

2. Fellows must also submit a supplement article in the form of a sidebar story (approximately 800 words), photo essay, or video clips.

Applicants who intend to write or produce stories in their local languages must provide an English translation of the final output/s. Translation costs must be included in the proposed project budget/cost.

Successful applicants will be asked to attend SEAPA’s regional conference on disinformation: 28-29 September 2018, Bangkok, Thailand. (Airfare and accommodation will be borne by SEAPA.)


Applications will be selected according to the following criteria:

  • Strength and relevance of the story proposal vis-a-vis the Fellowship theme.
  • Viability of the story proposal, based on the expected output and the work plan submitted.
  • Competence based on the applicant’s experience, personal statement, and letters of recommendations.
  • A selection panel composed of an expert on the topic, a Fellowship editor, and a SEAPA representative will screen all applications.

Selection will also consider diversity of the subject matter and geographic area relative to other applications.

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