Portenier Human Rights Bursary

Applications for the 2019 Portenier Human Rights Bursary competition care now closed. Applications were received from independent journalists and documentary-makers in 17 countries. Finalists are now being considered by an independent jury. The winner is expected be announced in late July or early August.   

The 2019 Portenier Human Rights Bursary competition opened Wednesday, May 15 and closed on June 12. The 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 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

Read our media release 

Voir notre communiqué de presse

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Read about Giselle’s latest documentary

First read the rules to see if you qualify. While the competition is open, we provide a link to the online application form at the bottom of the rules page. Applications may be submitted in English or French, but applicants may be required to demonstrate that they have adequate understanding of the language of instruction, which for all courses currently approved is English.

D’abord lire les règles pour voir si vous êtes admissible. Bien que la concurrence soit ouvert, nous fournissons un lien au bas de la page de règles pour la formulaire de demande en ligne. Les demandes peuvent être soumises en anglais ou en français. Cependant, il se peut que les postulants soient demandés de démontrer d’une compréhension adéquate de la langue utilisée en cours. En ce moment, tous les cours approuvés se donnent en anglais. 

This is the fifth year in which the Portenier Human Rights Bursary has been offered by the Forum. Last year it 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, for which filming has recently been concluded, focuses on women and children adbucted by Boko Haram in Nigeria. It is to be broadcast by TV Ontario. 

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: May 15, 2019

Application deadline: June 12, 2019

Notification of winner expected by: July 31, 2019

Course to be chosen by: September 30, 2019

Course to begin by: April 30, 2020

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.