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Forum Freelance Fund Bursaries

Applications for FFF bursaries for 2020 ARE ON HOLD BECAUSE OF THE PANDEMIC.

Three more freelancers working in dangerous places around the world won Forum Freelance Fund (FFF) bursaries for hostile environment training in the 2019 competition.

FFF bursaries are intended for Canadian-linked freelancers working in dangerous conditions. The number of bursaries awarded varies from year to year.

The bursaries are worth $2,500 CAD each. Freelancers must have sufficient field experience to apply.

FFF applicants must be Canadian or show a considerable body of work for Canadian media. Priority is given to those whose work puts them in greatest need. Sponsors include CBC News and Radio-Canada Information.

The 2019 winners, chosen by an independent jury, were:

Michael Colborne, a freelance reporter/photographer from Sherwood Park, Alberta, reporting on connections between far right groups in Ukraine and Croatia, involving illegal activities. He has already been assaulted physically in the course of that continuing work. Some of his work has appeared in The New Republic.


Lena Macdonald, an independent Toronto-based filmmaker and journalist. She has spent the last decade directing, producing and developing documentaries and television series for broadcast with TVO, CBC, and TSN. Lena is currently in production on a feature-length documentary that investigates the international justice apparatus, and how it harms or helps post-conflict nations on the African continent. The documentary is slated to run on CBC’s Documentary Channel.

Anna Bianca Roach, a Canadian freelance journalist with a focus on the intersection of gender, labour, and migration. She works out of Toronto and Redwood City, California. After finishing a degree in conflict studies at the University of Toronto, she moved to Armenia for a year, where she reported on the 2018 Velvet Revolution and its immediate aftermath. She is now reporting on labour rights under populist governments. Her work has appeared in The Toronto Star, Open Democracy Russia and Open Caucus media, among others.

Applications for the 2020 Portenier Human Rights Bursary competition will open ON A DATE YET TO BE DETERMINED BECAUSE OF THE PANDEMIC. 

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These are intended to help Canadian freelancers working abroad, and freelancers of other nationalities with a considerable body of work for at least one Canadian media client, attend hostile environment training courses offered by our approved providers. We expect to award 3 to 5 of these bursaries each year, depending on the availability of funds and the quality of applications.

Courses are currently available in Canada, the United States, Britain, Kenya and Afghanistan. Course providers may add locations from time to time. These are the same kind of courses many staffers now get before they are deployed into potentially dangerous situations. We don’t encourage freelancers - especially inexperienced ones - to place themselves in danger. It is vital that freelancers have a firm grasp of their craft before attempting to work where dangerous conditions will increase the demands on them. Through these bursaries, we try to ensure that freelancers know how to evaluate, reduce or avoid risks and how to handle a range of dangers that now befall journalists in many situations abroad. Courses include appropriate field first aid. 

The regular FFF competition is held in cooperation with Rory Peck Trust (RPT) which may, in its sole discretion, grant additional bursaries to successful candidates. FFF applications are assessed by an independent panel, including a representative of RPT.The Forum and the Rory Peck Trust are both members of the ACOS Alliance, an international group of organizations concerned with the safety of freelance journalists around the world.  


This bursary was introduced in 2015 and is sponsored by acclaimed filmmaker Giselle Portenier, a member of the Forum's board. It is open to freelance journalists or independent documentary makers with projects focusing on human rights abuses. The competition recognizes that such work can place practitioners in danger equal to that found in many conflict zones.   

The sole winner each year will receive up to $3,000 CAD for hostile environment training by one of our approved course providers, as listed below. The competition is open to people of any nationality, with no requirement for a Canadian connection. The bursary is for safety training and associated travel only, not general production costs. #PortenierBursary  Get full details of the 2020 Portenier competition here.


AKE, Blue Mountain Group, Dart Centre at Columbia Journalism School, 1st OptionGlobal Journalist Security, Pilgrims GroupRemote Trauma, SEPAR International and Tundra GroupThese courses typically run 3 to 5 days. The list of course providers is reviewed from time to time. 



For a selection of comments from previous winners and course providers, click here



For a full list of all previous FFF and Portenier bursary winners, click here.