SAR’s Support for Practitioners at Risk

Posted August 11, 2020

While Scholars at Risk’s (SAR) work arranging temporary positions for at-risk individuals focuses on scholars and academic researchers, it has always included on a case-by-case basis other individuals targeted for their ideas: journalists, writers, democracy and human rights advocates, lawyers, and artists, or “practitioners at risk.” Given the growing threats against defenders of democracy and human rights in a climate of shrinking civic space worldwide, SAR has embarked on a new pilot program, Practitioners at Risk, to explore university support for these individuals.

Investigative Journalist Ahmad Noorani

Hillary Tan/Missourian

Earlier this year, SAR arranged its first Practitioners at Risk position with Alfred Friendly Press Partners (partnered with the University of Missouri School of Journalism) serving as host institution for Pakistani investigative journalist Ahmad Noorani. Mr. Noorani faced threats to his life, severe violence, censorship, and barriers to his profession because of his reporting on Pakistan’s leadership. This position provides Mr. Noorani with extensive training on journalistic skills including investigative reporting and data journalism; exposure to working at and networking with US news agencies and staff; and the skills and tools to build his next project: data-driven news websites in English and Urdu that will run stories of journalists who are unable to get stories published because of censorship. Despite the challenges he has faced due to his reporting, Mr. Noorani remains committed to journalism: “the aim of [his] organization is to counter state censorship and ensure that fact-based information reaches citizens. We’ll cover the functioning of governments of South Asian countries, especially in the areas of democracy, human rights, healthcare and the environment.” Read more about Mr. Noorani’s story here.

More on the Practitioners at Risk program: SAR is cooperating with the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum for Democratic Studies to explore interest on the part of the higher education sector in expanding university support for practitioners at risk, including temporary visitor positions.

SAR is coordinating an affinity group to structure this discussion and invites participation of universities, colleges, research centers, associations, societies, and think tanks. SAR especially invites the participation of existing programs with experience hosting temporary visits by practitioners at risk, but no prior experience is required. SAR also welcomes those interested in possibly hosting such visitors in the future, but no firm commitment to host is required. If you are interested in joining the affinity group, please fill out the survey here, and if you have questions about the program, please reach out to Shreya Balhara, Program Officer at shreya.balhara@nyu.edu.