BBC journalist joins CIS

September 8, 2009

CAMBRIDGE, MA— The MIT Center for International Studies (CIS) announces today that Firle Davies, a journalist for the British Broadcasting Corporation, has been named the 2009–10 IWMF Elizabeth Neuffer Fellow. Davies is the fifth recipient of the annual fellowship, which gives a woman journalist working in print, broadcast or online media the opportunity to focus exclusively on human rights journalism and social justice issues. The award is offered through the International Women's Media Foundation and is sponsored in part by CIS.

While at CIS, Davis will spend nine-months in a tailor-made academic research program. During that time, she will have access to the Boston Globe and New York Times. The Neuffer Fellowship includes housing, a stipend to cover meals and living expenses, transportation, and health insurance.

"Firle is a tenacious journalist who tackles dangerous topics with finesse. Her vast work on domestic issues in Africa demonstrates both bravery and an arduous pursuit of social justice. We look forward to her time with us," said Richard Samuels, director of the Center for International Studies and Ford International Professor of Political Science at MIT.

A journalist for more than two decades, Davies has worked for the BBC since 2000. She has reported for domestic and world service radio, domestic and world television, and has produced online and current affairs documentaries.

Davies, 39, has worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan and Zaire, among other countries.

Some of the topics she has covered include:

  • In the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zaire: the start of the Great Lakes conflict in 1996, the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees to Rwanda, mass rape used as a tactic of war, child soldiers, and the Congolese Army and Tutsi rebels.
  • In Rwanda: the 1994 genocide, the mass exodus of refugees and the ensuing cholera outbreak, the rebel insurgency from Zaire, continuing ethnic violence, overcrowded prisons, public executions, and the Rwandan people’s continuing search for accountability and justice.
  • In Sierra Leone: the mercenary outfit employed by the government to fight the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel army, the use of children by the RUF during the war, and diamonds and their destructive role in the conflict.
  • In Somalia: the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the early 1990s and the ongoing conflict between the Islamic Courts and the transitional government.
  • In Sudan: the civil war in the south, slavery and the work of the United Nations Operation Lifeline Sudan, a consortium agencies providing humanitarian assistance.

Davies began her career in journalism in 1988 directly after graduating from high school in Africa. She began covering civil wars and humanitarian emergencies in Africa for Visnews, which was bought by Reuters in 1992.

“In nearly 20 years of covering conflict in Africa,” Davies wrote in her application for the IWMF Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship, “the one issue that now consumes me is the search for justice and accountability. Without justice, and without accountability in its most basic sense, acts of violence and hatred will continue to be committed.”

During her fellowship, Davies hopes to put into context her years of covering conflict and human rights and social justice issues. She plans to use her time in an academic environment to better understand patterns and precedents to help prevent future conflict and human rights abuses. Davies would also like to use what she learns in her courses to design ways to use journalism in support of a process for reconciliation in African countries.

“I have had amazing, extraordinary opportunities and experiences,” she wrote in her fellowship application, “but I feel more and more these days that I cannot continue to just take people’s stories. I have an obligation, a responsibility to do something more than that.”

The Elizabeth Neuffer fellowship is a project of the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF.) The fellowship is named for Elizabeth Neuffer, a Boston Globe reporter and the winner of a 1998 IWMF Courage in Journalism Award who was killed while on assignment in Iraq in 2003. Neuffer’s life mission was to promote international understanding of human rights and social justice.

The fellowship is generously supported by Peter Canellos, Mark Neuffer, Carolyn Lee, The Boston Globe and the Boston Globe Foundation, the Correspondents Fund, MIT Center for International Studies, United Nations Foundation and numerous friends of Elizabeth Neuffer.

More information about the Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship, go to:

The Center for International Studies (CIS) supports interna­tional research and education at MIT. It is the home of MIT’s Security Studies Program; the MIT International Science & Technology Initiative, its pioneering global education program; the Program on Emerging Technologies; and seminars and research on migration, South Asia politics, the Middle East, cybersecurity, nuclear weapons, and East Asia. The Center has traditionally been aligned with the social sciences while also working with MIT’s premier science and engineering scholars. CIS produces research that creatively addresses global issues while helping to educate the next generation of global citizens.