18 Feb

Raza spotlights human trafficking tragedies in South Asia for VICE

Her baby cradled in her arms, Muskan recalls the winter night when she was duped into traveling more than 2,000 miles to be married to a man 30 years older than her.

So begins a VICE World News investigative report on desperate Rohingya women sold to men in Kashmir as brides. South Asia editor Danish Raza managed the project for VICE.

Raza worked at the Minneapolis Star Tribune during his Alfred Friendly fellowship in 2019, and he started contributing to VICE World News soon after his return to India.

Back in August, Raza was promoted to South Asia Editor for VICE World News and now leads a team of reporters and freelancers in the region while also reporting his own stories. 

Raza reported in December about child kidnapping in Afghanistan, and about Rohingya refugees who were moved from Bangladesh to a remote island against their will.

One of the region’s freelancers is Pari Saikia, who focuses on human rights. During a human trafficking journalism fellowship funded by Impulse NGO Network, Rohingya women told Saikia their harrowing stories of being sold to men in Kashmir.  After her reporting trips, Saika looked for a platform to host the article and pitched the story to Raza.

To get it published, Raza said, “took me multiple rounds of edits, brainstorming with the design team and thorough fact checking.”

The result of the nine-month project: Rohingya Brides Thought They Were Fleeing Violence. Then They Met Their Grooms.

Owi Luinic, courtesy of VICE World News

VICE World News traces the trafficking horrors to the Myanmar military’s brutal crackdowns on Rohingya Muslims. In 2017, the military forced over 740,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee the Buddhist-majority country by crossing the Naf river into Bangladesh. The refugee crisis fueled a market for the trafficking of brides outside the country. 

A social worker told VICE that Kashmiri families pay the equivalent of about $680 to $1,370 for a Rohingya bride, an amount much less than the minimum expenses for a Kashmiri wedding, around $6,831.

“More people find it economical to buy a bride than organize a wedding,” he said.

The VICE World News report had more than 50,000 views in Asia in the first few weeks after publication and robust social media engagement.

Raza was a reporter for the Hindustan Times in New Delhi before his fellowship, funded by the Patrick and Janna Stueve Foundation. His quick promotion to a digital news outlet with worldwide impact is not uncommon. A 2019 classmate from China, Yan Zhang, was recently hired by Radio Free Asia; among the 2015 fellows, Saher Baloch from Pakistan and Saw Yan Naing from Myanmar were hired by BBC World News, joining 2017 fellow Benita Dahal from Nepal, and David Herbling from Kenya was hired by Bloomberg News, joining five other alums working for the global service. Rodney Muhumuza from neighboring Uganda now covers East Africa for The Associated Press, which now has five former fellows on its news staff.

“The fellowship left me much more confident both as a person and a professional,” Raza said. “My experience at the host newsroom helped me understand the contours of writing about people on the margins.”  

Raza interviews a resident of Uttar Pradesh during a reporting assignment before his fellowship

11 Feb

Lebanese Fellow overcomes frustration with digital news startup

Alia Ibrahim walks with Syrian refugees while on assignment in Bekaa Valley for Al-Arabiya television news

Alia Ibrahim, the co-founder and CEO of a groundbreaking digital media company in Lebanon called Daraj, divides her journalism career in two parts: Before her Alfred Friendly fellowship, and after her fellowship.

Ibrahim’s present-day success was affirmed by the judges of WAN-IFRA’s World News Organization awards. They gave first place in the Best Digital News Startup category in the Middle East in each of the past two years.

At the center of Ibrahim’s career arc is an Alfred Friendly fellowship classmate from 2002 — Marina Walker Guevara, executive editor of the Pulitzer Center. They came together again when Ibrahim was developing the investigative journalism idea that became Daraj and Walker was directing the Paradise Papers project for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

We asked Ibrahim to tell the story in her own words. Here’s what she wrote:

“When I think about the major turning points that have marked my 20 years in journalism, I would first think about the shifts I made from print, to TV and most recently to digital, the move I made from being a senior correspondent at a leading TV station to co-founding and managing an independent media, and my residence at the Washington Post in 2002, thanks to the AFPP.

To put it simply, to me there has always been a before and after the fellowship. The exceptional part, however, is that almost two decades later, I continue to gain from.

As the leader of an emerging media that prides itself on the quality of its journalism produced by a network of some of the best journalists from across the region, I am fully convinced that our future as a media and the future of the countries we live in depends on how well we train our young reporters. When it comes to that, I always find myself drawing lessons from my time with AFPP.

Like many other fellows before me, I have sustained beautiful relationships that have added richness both to my life and to my career.

In 2016, when along with some colleagues I decided to launch Daraj, it was largely out of frustrations. By then, the Arab Spring had turned ugly and working within our media organizations became increasingly difficult. The publication of the Panama Papers, the first collaboration of it’s kind between investigative journalists from across the globe, without us being part of it made us feel how far behind we were. I decided to call an old and dear friend.

Marina Walker, the then deputy director of ICIJ, was a roommate during the time we spent in Washington D.C. I told her I was thinking about starting an initiative with other independent journalists, asked her about her opinion and more importantly whether ICIJ would be willing to work with us. Her answers gave me and my team the encouragement we needed to move forward.

A little over a year later Daraj was born and five days after its launch we were the Arabic Partner on the Paradise Papers.

It’s been a long time since my time at the fellowship, and it’s a completely different world we now live in, but what I believed in then, what I continue to believe in more than anything else is the role of journalism anywhere, anytime.”

Along with her job at Daraj, Ibrahim directs the investigative Current Affairs program at Al-Arabiya, is a special correspondent for The Washington Post and teaches at The Lebanese American University.

After the successful collaboration of the 2002 Friendly Fellows, here’s what a columnist for The Nation wrote:

“The international collaboration behind the Paradise Papers project has helped spread investigative journalism to such previously inhospitable regions such as the Middle East…A new independent, pan-Arab news site named Daraj launched in November with explosive revelations from the Paradise Papers.”

The Paradise Papers, a global investigation into the offshore activities of some of the world’s most powerful people and companies, won the George Polk Award for Financial Reporting. The Paradise Papers investigation expanded on the revelations from the leak of offshore documents that spawned the 2016 Panama Papers investigation by ICIJ and its media partners, which also won the Polk Award and later won the Pulitzer Prize.

Alia Ibrahim reported live from a Syrian rebel group’s position in northern Syria for Al Arabiya News in 2012

03 Feb

Alum takes readers inside India’s dark data economy

Samarth Bansal, an Alfred Friendly Fellow in 2018, says few people in India are aware that details of their private lives are very public, and in the hands of private operators, thanks to lax privacy laws and high consumer demand.

These details, on everything from how they shop to who they date, are open for “aggregation, sale, purchase, leaks, and rampant misuse by anyone who has the means,” Bansal said in an email. 

Samarth Bansal speaks at the Alfred Friendly graduation gala in the National Press Club in December, 2018

“If you follow news from India, you must have read about the digital surveillance threats that citizens, activists and dissidents potentially face from governments,” he said. “But it is important to note that the government is not the only entity that has access to personal information related to hundreds of millions of people. So do social media platforms, e-commerce websites, digital wallets, dating apps and mobile recharge shops, to name just a few others.”  

They brainstormed about ways to narrow and personalize this huge topic with an editor at the long-form journalism outlet Rest of World. He suggested they tell the story through two character sets: private detectives and data brokers. 

And for the article, Inside India’s booming dark data economy, they found a compelling victim:  a 21-year-old college student whose new husband was recording private conversations between her and her friends and family without her permission. Telephone calls, video calls, and text messages. He ambushed her at a family gathering and played recordings, including conversations of her complaining about his parents. The lead:

“Ayushi Sahu has no idea how her phone was bugged or for how long she was surveilled. But she has one clue: Her Vivo smartphone was an engagement gift from her husband.

It is likely that Sahu’s phone had off-the-shelf spyware on it. Her husband may have installed it himself or even consulted a private detective before marrying her, who provided him with the phone. In either case, he would have been part of a growing trend of individuals — often, jealous lovers — making use of personal surveillance technology.

They found out that it’s now common for wealthy families to assess the suitability of a potential bride or groom by hiring a private detective, a vetting that usually costs around $500.”

In the case of apps that millions in India use but no one in the world is watching, they owe no accountability, Bansal said. “There is zero consideration for user privacy and hardly any avenues for complainants.”

Bansal’s article points out that a personal-data-protection bill would give users more control over their digital information.

The article was featured on the popular website and was trending on HackerNews on the day it was published. 

Bansal said the five months he worked for the data investigations team at The Wall Street Journal during his fellowship “boosted my confidence and broadened my perspective to report complicated stories. It’s hard to quantify the meta-stuff you learn by working in one of the world’s best newsrooms. But it leaves its mark in most of my work.”

Please consider donating today to Alfred Friendly Press Partners so we can train more ambitious reporters like  Samarth Bansal who go on to make significant contributions to freedom of the press and democracy.


03 Feb

OCCRP Alfred Friendly Fellowship Application


OCCRP Investigative reporting Fellowship Application

Download the application here (PDF). If you would prefer a Word document, email David at

Press Partners must receive completed applications by March 31, 2021.

email to:, and | subject: OCCRP Fellowship Application AFPP

The fellowship program:

In the conviction that a strong, free press is essential to the healthy functioning of a democracy, the late Alfred Friendly, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and former managing editor of The Washington Post, conceived a fellowship program that would both impart American journalistic traditions and respond to worldwide interest in the dissemination of fair and accurate news. It was Alfred Friendly’s belief that working side by side with reporters and editors is the best way to absorb the practical realities of journalism in this country and the instrumental role it plays in our society. He created the program that bears his name to immerse journalists in American newsrooms. Since 1984 the Alfred Friendly Press Partners has trained more than 330 journalists from 80+ countries and placed them in nearly 70 newsrooms for three to six months.

The overall goal of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project in this partnership with Alfred Friendly is to strengthen investigative reporting in South Asia by ensuring journalists have the capacity to expose corruption, inform citizens, and empower the public to push for greater government accountability and transparency. This involves creating a network of journalists doing cross-border investigations both in the region and beyond, as well as creating a platform consisting of technology, research and security support necessary for investigative work.

Participants must be accomplished investigative reporters from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, or Sri Lanka aged 25-35.

After the online training conducted by OCCRP, the OCCRP fellowship program begins with a one-week orientation and training seminar at the Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia, Missouri. The training is designed to prepare the fellows – both personally and professionally – for the challenges of living and working in the United States. Fellows join the staffs of one or more major U.S. media outlets for three months. A final seminar allows them to compare and evaluate their experiences and discuss their impressions of the American media, and to learn and practice presentations to make in their home countries, sharing lessons learned with colleagues.

The fellowship arranges participants to get J1 visas, and covers all costs of program-related international and domestic U.S. travel, health insurance and provides a monthly stipend to cover basic living expenses. It is highly recommended that fellows bring additional money with them. Family members may visit for up to two weeks.

program goals:

  • To provide the fellow with experience in reporting, writing, editing, producing and editorial decision-making that will enhance future professional performance;
  • To expose the fellow to the technological changes that are occurring in the industry;
  • To enable the fellow to gain a practical understanding of the function and significance of the free press in American society;
  • To transfer knowledge gained on the program to colleagues at home;
  • To foster continuing ties between free press institutions and journalists in the United States and their counterparts in other countries.


OCCRP The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project is dedicated to developing and equipping a global network of investigative journalists who hold power to account. OCCRP provides a range of critical resources and tools, including digital and physical security, and teams journalists worldwide with trusted editors. In less than two decades OCCRP has grown into a true global network with hundreds of affiliated reporters and editors and dozens of member centers in Europe, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Central Asia. It began operations in South Asia in 2021. More information:


A complete application includes ALL items A through J. Please check the boxes next to the items as you complete them. Applications are only accepted by email. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed.

  • A application form. The application form must be completed in full. Please attach one additional page to the application form if more space is needed to answer questions.
  • B cv/résumé. A curriculum vitae (CV) or résumé that outlines your professional and educational history. Briefly describe your responsibilities and achievements in each job. The CV/résumé should be one to two pages, typed and in English.
  • C essays. Each of the essays should be one to two pages, 400 to 800 words, typed and in English.
    1. Professional Statement. Please describe your journalistic experience, career plans and goals, and how you will work in and outside your home newsroom to share what you learn during the Press Partners/OCCRP program with others.
    2. Individual Fellowship Goals. Outline the specific goals you’d like to achieve if awarded a OCCRP Investigative Reporting Fellowship administered by Alfred Friendly.
  • D letters of reference. Two confidential reference letters are required. A third reference from someone familiar with your personality, character, background, etc., is optional. References must be written on the forms provided (pages 4 and 5) and sent directly to Press Partners. English translations must accompany letters not written in English originally. Effective letters of reference are those offering significant insights into the candidate’s ability and experiences that best indicate his/her suitability to be a fellow.
      1. Required Reference #1 must be written by the publisher, editor, manager or director of your news organization. (Freelancers’ references can be from an editor at an outlet where they are published.)
      2. Required Reference #2 must be written by your immediate supervisor – or another person for whom you have worked who can attest to your journalistic abilities and professional character.
  • E employer’s endorsement. Please have your employer complete and sign the form on page 6 endorsing your participation and granting a six-month leave of absence should you be chosen. (Freelancers exempt)
  • F articles. Links to four published/broadcast stories that best show your interests and abilities. Full English translations, completed by the applicant, must accompany articles not written in English originally. Note: Editors who do not have recent clips may include copies of published work along with a description of your editing role in these samples. Internet journalists must submit samples that are journalistic in nature and demonstrate that your job involves news gathering, writing, editing or producing. Broadcast journalists should submit links of video samples with translations or summaries in English if necessary.
  • G photograph. One passport-size head-shot photo, taken in the last six months.
  • H press credentials. A clear photocopy/scan of your working press credentials, press pass or equivalent.
  • I copy of passport. A clear photocopy/scan of your valid passport. Please include picture, information pages and any U.S. visas you’ve had. (If you hold more than one passport please send copies of each.)
  • J copy of driver’s license. (if applicable) A clear photocopy/scan of your valid automobile driver’s license.

** english language assessment. Top candidates may be required to demonstrate their English language proficiency prior to receiving a fellowship. Evaluations would be administered in the candidate’s country of residence.


03 Feb

OCCRP-AF Investigative Reporting Fellowship Application

OCCRP-Alfred Friendly Application Form




27 Jan

Juan Garcia, Class of 2018, launches news portal in Mexico

Two years after his Alfred Friendly fellowship, in the middle of a pandemic, Juan Luis Garcia joined two colleagues to create a news platform that overcomes free-speech barriers and provides an independent, fresh perspective on life in Mexico.

Their nonprofit organization will launch with an online event on Friday, Jan. 30.

The news portal mixes a youthful presentation with tough reporting and pledges to “sail against the current” in this new wave of digital journalism. Their focus will be on how regular people live in Mexico and how they are affected by policies and problems.

“We have in mind the daily dramas Mexicans are going through, so you will find stories on emigration, the drug wars, gender violence, the pandemic and more,” Garcia said.

During the fellowship training at the Missouri School of Journalism, Garcia learned how to use digital journalism tools that they are using to inform their audience, including data visualization.

“Once I came back from the U.S., my first interest was to pass the message to other colleagues, share what I learned,” Garcia said. “I kept applying the new methods in my work, but now I think it’s a great chance to use it on a whole platform level.”

During his fellowship in 2018 sponsored by the Patrick and Janna Stueve Foundation, Garcia worked at Miami Herald’s sister publication, El Nuevo Herald, and the Texas Tribune, a highly successful member-supported, digital-first, nonpartisan media organization

“My experience in the Texas Tribune was a key to falling in love with nonprofit media,” Garcia said. “Of course, they have many resources and much support, even by U.S. standards, but the main thing for me is that they have been able to save their editorial line from business distortions.”

“We are in a different situation here in Mexico, but we would like to follow The Texas Tribune’s good practices in our work,” he said. “Putting the readers first, and covering stories some big media wouldn’t, maybe because they are too centered in the breaking news.

Some of Aguamala’s stories are directly related to the United States, including those about emigration and bilateral security. One of the members of Aguamala, Marco Lopez, is based on the southwest border, in Ciudad Juarez.One of Garcia’s stories in the inaugural issue is an interview with an international security consultant about corruption and impunity related to the capture in the United States and subsequent return to Mexico of Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos, a former defense minister accused of drug trafficking.

“So what we have here is a combination of literary journalism, data journalism, and investigation,” Garcia said. “We intend to give voice to the poorest and, at the same time, scrutinize decision-makers. The pandemic presents tough conditions to report, but we are optimistic.”

Please consider donating today to Alfred Friendly Press Partners so we can train more ambitious reporters like Juan Luis Garcia who go on to make significant contributions to freedom of the press and democracy.




20 Jan

Former fellow investigates Nepal business corruption

Upendra Mahato is among Nepal’s richest tycoons, with a fortune derived in part from his involvement in one of Nepal’s biggest businesses, Ncell. Today Mahato lives with his family in a domed neoclassical villa on a sprawling property with landscaped gardens in an upmarket area of Kathmandu.
But just how much money has Upendra Mahato made from the telecommunications company? And how much tax has he paid on his profits?
Deepak Adhikari, an Alfred Friendly Fellow in 2008, recently collaborated with two other journalists for a major investigation into the lack of accountability to Nepal’s laws on foreign exchange controls, taxation, and foreign ownership.

Deepak Adhikari, an Alfred Friendly Fellow in 2008, says the program had “a tremendous impact on my career. The fellowship and my work at the (Pittsburgh) Post-Gazette boosted my confidence. As a result, I started doing ambitious reporting projects.”

“Our investigation uncovered how a trio of Nepali businesspeople made fortunes through sales and purchase of shares of Ncell,” Adhikari said. The two-part series was a joint investigation between the Centre for Investigative Journalism-Nepal and Finance Uncovered, a UK-based journalism organization.
“We unpeel the multiple layers of the companies to show how a handful of people earned millions of dollars through opaque share deals,” Adhikari said. “This story is important because Nepal struggles to raise funds for public financing such as education and health.”
The first and second stories were published in English and Nepali languages.
“The response for our stories has been huge, particularly from the government regulators,” Adhikari said. The Himalayan Times, a major English daily, published a report based on their stories, republished the first story and followed up with an editorial that said the stories demonstrated the need for reforming Nepal’s laws on foreign exchange controls, taxation and foreign ownership.
Adhikari credits the Alfred Friendly fellowship and his reporting experience at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for advancing his career.
Please consider making a donation to Alfred Friendly Press Partners so we can continue training reporters to do this kind of impactful investigative work.

10 Dec

Alfred Friendly, TRACE Fellows provide global perspectives on Covid19 during online event

Alfred Friendly Press Partners produced an online event on Dec. 3 that featured a panel discussion with Fellows from around the world.

 Here is a link to the virtual event posted on our YouTube channel.

We hope you’ll “tune in” at your convenience to watch this fascinating conversation. If you’d like to watch parts of the event that match your interests, here’s a guide:  

The panel discussion with the Fellows begins at the 7:30 mark with Daniela Castro of Colombia. Daniela is a multimedia journalist who works on multinational investigative reports for the Organized Crime and Corruption Project, and she describes how bad the Covid19 virus is in Colombia and other countries in South America. She also talks about her team project to expose corruption involving a company that was paid to provide mobile hospitals in Honduras.

At the 12:50 mark, Bilge Kotan of Turkey answers questions related to her reporting on the Middle East for TRT World, a public broadcaster based in Istanbul. She outlines Turkey’s Covid19 vaccination plan and how armed conflicts make fighting the coronavirus pandemic more difficult. 

Illia Ponomarenko of Ukraine, a reporter for the Kyiv Post who usually covers the war with Russia and security issues, is now contributing to the pandemic reporting. At 17 minutes in, Illia points out the lack of logic in Ukraine’s response to the spreading virus, and says the protests against lockdowns are erupting because the economy is “extremely fragile.”  

Georgia announced strict lockdowns last week as the outbreak reached its worst peak, with more than 4,000 daily Covid19 infections, and Tbilisi-based broadcaster Khatia Shamanauri describes the situation there at the 21:40 mark.   “Georgia is a small country so it’s a huge number for us,” Khatia says. “Hospitals are overwhelmed with patients.” Both Khatia and Illia said their countries don’t trust Russia and so won’t be using a vaccine from there. 

Abhishek Waghmare, a data journalist at  India’s Business Standard newspaper, takes his turn at 24:25. Abhi says the data visualizations he’s produced show India is doing relatively well when comparing the per-capita cases among major economies, but doing poorly when measuring the rate of death from Covid19. 

Ahmad Noorani of Pakistan talks about the recent launch of his investigative news website,, during his fellowship, at 33:24. Noorani also describe his exposé of a recently retired general that led to his resignation from the prime minister’s cabinet.

Yan Zhang, a reporter from China working in Washington, DC, joins the conversation at 40:25 and describes her new position with The Initium, an independent news outlet based in Hong Kong.

Yan also provides insight on U.S.-China relations, including the trade war and the

tit-for-tat visa restrictions on journalists — Chinese reporters like Yan working in the U.S., and 

American  correspondents working in China.


Donations to Alfred Friendly during the online event totaled nearly $4,000, and we hope you’ll also pitch in to our nonprofit organization so we can train premier reporters next year and uplift journalism around the world.


03 Nov

Noorani’s reporting sparks debate on military’s power in Pakistan

03 Jun

John Schirger

For over 25 years John has represented businesses and individuals nationwide in disputes concerning breach of contract, fraud, business torts, consumer protection, insurance and reinsurance, securities and commodities, whistle-blower claims, and environmental matters. He also has significant experience in personal injury and wrongful death cases.

John has successfully handled cases in federal or state courts in over 20 states, has argued before federal and state appellate courts, and has represented parties in AAA and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitrations.

John began his career at a large regional law firm where he was elected partner after four years of practice. After only five years of practice, he obtained an “AV” rating from law publisher Martindale-Hubbell, the highest rating a lawyer can receive for competence and ethics. John has been named a “Top 100 Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyer” and “Best of the Bar” by the Kansas City Business Journal.

John is currently representing clients at Miller|Schirger LLC in a wide variety of cases involving business and commercial disputes, securities litigation matters, and class actions.

John is a native of Rockford, Illinois, and now lives in Mission Hills, Kansas with his wife and two daughters.

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