Portenier Human Rights Bursary

The Portenier Human Rights bursary competition is SUSPENDED because of the pandemic, which has resulted in the suspension of most in-person hostile environment training courses. There will be no 2020 competition. Although Regular FFF bursaries were restarted with adjustments to the rules, an essential condition specific to the Portenier competition makes that impractical for the Portenier. We expect to reactivate this bursary when the pandemic ends, in 2021 or later. 

Dawn Marie Paley,
a Canadian freelance journalist and author based in Mexico, was the fifth winner of the annual Portenier Human Rights Bursary, chosen  by an international jury. The 2019 competition attracted entries from 17 countries around the world
She is writing a book, under contract with Verso Books New York, on social issues and human rights concerns facing Mexico in the first year of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's tenure.

Photo: Murray Bush/Flux Photo 

For an earlier book, Drug War Capitalism, she gathered information on the ground in Columbia, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico over four years. Her freelance journalism from Central and South America, South Africa, Europe and elsewhere has appeared in many publications, including The Guardian, The Globe and Mail and The Nation, and she has also reported for radio, including CBC. After taking time to complete a PhD at a Mexican university, she returned to freelance journalism with an article in The Nation in January this year. 


Describing her latest project, Ms. Paley wrote: “In this book, we’ll accompany activists working towards the cleanup of the noxious Lerma-Chapala-Santiago River system, which begins near Mexico City and is infused with human and industrial waste as it travels through five states before reaching the Pacific Ocean. We’ll travel to rural areas on the coast and on the US-Mexico border to document struggles in defense of the land led by Indigenous communities and communal landowners. We’ll march alongside union and peasant organizations fighting financialization, odious debt and precarity. We’ll profile the brave women organizing for reproductive rights and against all violence. We’ll walk with collectives of victims, made up mostly of women, who are searching for the remains of the disappeared in Coahuila and Tamaulipas, and report from the barricades erected by self-defense groups in the states of Morelos, Michoacán and Guerrero.”

Read our media release           

Une journaliste et auteure canadienne basé au Mexique est devenue le cinquième récipiendaire de la bourse Portenier droits de la personne. La bourse d’une valeur de 3000$ lui permettra de recevoir une formation en sécurité en milieux hostiles, destinée aux journalistes couvrant les conflits armés et autres situations dangereuses. Dawn Marie Paley, basée à Puebla au Mexique, a été choisie par un jury international parmi les candidatures reçues de journalistes et de documentaristes de 17 pays. Elle écrit un livre, sous contrat avec Verso Books New York, sur les questions sociales et les problèmes de droits de l'homme auxquels le Mexique doit faire face au cours de la première année du mandat du président Andrés Manuel López Obrador.                        

Photo: Murray Bush/Flux Photo


Dans un ouvrage précédent, Drug War Capitalism, Mme Paley a rassemblé des informations sur le terrain en Colombie, au Honduras, au Guatemala et au Mexique pendant quatre ans. Son journalisme indépendant d'Amérique centrale, d'Amérique du Sud, d'Afrique du Sud, d'Europe et d'ailleurs a paru dans de nombreuses publications, notamment The Guardian, The Globe and Mail et The Nation. Elle a également réalisé des reportages à la radio, y compris CBC. Après avoir obtenu son doctorat dans une université mexicaine, elle est revenue au journalisme indépendant avec un article dans The Nation en janvier de cette année.


En décrivant son dernier projet, Mme Paley a écrit: «Dans ce livre, nous accompagnerons des militants travaillant au nettoyage du réseau fluvial nocif Lerma-Chapala-Santiago, qui commence près de Mexico et est imprégné de déchets humains et industriels qu’elle traverse cinq pays en direction de l’océan Pacifique. Nous allons nous rendre dans les zones rurales côtières et à la frontière américano-mexicaine pour documenter les luttes pour la défense de la terre menées par les communautés autochtones et les propriétaires fonciers communautaires. Nous marcherons aux côtés des organisations syndicales et paysannes pour lutter contre la financiarisation, la dette odieuse et la précarité. Nous allons profiler les femmes courageuses qui s’organisent pour les droits en matière de procréation et contre toutes les violences. Nous marcherons avec des collectifs de victimes, composés principalement de femmes, qui recherchent les restes des personnes disparues à Coahuila et à Tamaulipas, et rapportons de les barricades érigées par des groupes d'autodéfense dans les états de Morelos, Michoacán et Guerrero.»

Lire notre communiqué de presse


The Portenier Human Rights Bursary competition complements the regular FFF bursaries for freelancers engaged in news coverage and gives independent documentary-makers and other freelance journalists of any nationality, working on significant projects about human rights abuses, a chance to win a bursary for hostile environment training.


The competition recognizes that some of these investigative projects can put independent journalists at considerable risk, which can be lessened by appropriate safety training. The bursary cannot be used to fund the project itself. 


The bursary, awarded annually to just one person, is sponsored by the renowned human rights documentary producer, Giselle Portenier, who is also a member of the Forum’s board of directors. The bursary provides $3,000 (CAD) to help the winner attend a hostile environment and first aid training (HEFAT) course run by one of our approved course providers. These courses are currently available in Canada, the USA, Britain, Afghanistan and intermittently elsewhere. 

"Human rights abuses continue unabated in the 21st century, and human rights defenders worldwide need the support of journalists and documentarians to help them shine a light on these injustices. Some of the worst abuses are committed against women and children, sometimes as a result of war, but often systematically, in the name of culture and religion. The purpose of this bursary is to help ensure the safety of journalists and documentary filmmakers as they expose some of the most egregious abuses of human rights in the world today.”  - Giselle Portenier

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Read about Giselle’s latest documentary

In 2018 the Portenier was won by Ola Falola, a freelance writer and journalists based in Togo, with a project investigating modern-day slavery in Mauritania

Brennan Leffler, a Toronto-based documentary producer/director, won the Portenier in 2017. His documentary,  focused on women and children abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria. 

The 2016 Portenier winner, Eman Helal, was a Cairo-based photojournalist who documents sexual harassment and physical attacks on Egyptian women. Her photographs and photo-essays have appeared in many international publications including The New York Times and The Guardian

The inaugural winner in 2015 was Jason O’Hara, a Toronto-based documentary filmmaker. He is seen right receiving medical treatment after being attacked by police in Rio de Janeiro before the 2014 World Cup.  

Photo: Bernardo Guerreiro/Midia Ninja Collective.                                   

Applicants compete for a single bursary each year to help them attend a hostile environment course offered by one of the following approved course providers: AKE, Blue Mountain Group, Dart Centre at Columbia Journalism School1st Options SecurityGlobal Journalist Security, Pilgrims GroupRemote Trauma, or Tundra Group. 

These courses typically run 3-5 days. The list of course providers is subject to change from time to time. 

The Portenier winner is chosen by an independent jury. The winner has two months after notification to choose a course provider and secure a place on a course, beginning within 9 months of the winner being notified.                                                                                                                                                                   


Applications open: SUSPENDED

Application deadline: SUSPENDED

Notification of winner expected by: SUSPENDED

Course to be chosen by: SUSPENDED

Course to begin by: SUSPENDED

Applying for one of our regular FFF bursaries for news freelancers does not disqualify a candidate from applying for the Portenier, and vice versa, but applicants must meet the appropriate qualifications. No person, however, may receive two bursaries from the Forum in the same year.

Read the full Portenier rules

Lire tous les règles pour la bourse Portenier droits de l’homme