Senior Journalists Seminar


Senior Journalists feeding ‘sacred’ cows in Mumbai, India.Launched in 2003, the Senior Journalists Seminar (SJS) is an immersive dialogue, study, and travel program intended to enhance media coverage and elevate the public debate regarding identity and religion’s role in and resulting impact on the public sphere, specifically as it concerns U.S. relations with Muslim majority regions.

Designed for senior print, radio, broadcast, and online journalists from the U.S. and countries with substantial Muslim populations, the seminar offers an opportunity for journalists to engage their peers, experts, and the citizens of those countries visited on issues that are thematically relevant  including:  the cultural identity, treatment, and representation of religious groups, specifically Muslims; the religiosity, religious diversity, and religious freedom/rights; the A Senior Journalist tours the Gawad Kaling Housing Project, a faith-based community project in Manila, Philippines.political context, structures, and policy influencers that shape domestic and foreign policymaking; the  impact of religious and cultural identity on the national and political identity of citizens; and initiatives to reduce religious tensions and domestic extremism. Another key component of the Senior Journalists Seminar is the exploration of religious identity, experience, and diversity in the literary, visual, performing, and media arts of those countries visited and the role of the arts in building bridges between and across communities. The media’s role in choosing, framing, and disseminating stories with a religious element and its effective shaping of public perception and U.S. relations with the Muslim region is also explored. A diverse mix of background sessions as well as interactive meetings with government officials, military and business leaders, academics, civil society activists, artists, filmmakers, musicians, writers, and others enables participating journalists to better understand the political, economic, educational, artistic, and cultural role religion plays in society and provides them with tools necessary to report on and analyze U.S. relations with Muslim majority regions. It is a signature program at the EWC due to its demonstrated outcomes and impact:

  • Nuanced understanding of religion’s role in the public sphere, specifically as it concerns U.S. relations with Muslim majority regions gained by participating journalists through discussions at the EWC and during study tour meetings with government, military and business officials, religious leaders, academics, journalists, authors, artists, filmmakers, musicians, educators and students, and community activists.
  • Informed regional perspective of religion’s role in the public sphere and cultural identity in the countries represented by participating journalists through their engagement with one another throughout the 21-day seminar and beyond via social media.
  • Development of reliable professional and personal information networks upon which journalists may draw for future coverage and analysis of U.S. relations with Muslim majority regions.
  • Enhanced media coverage and increased public awareness of religion, its role in the public sphere and U.S. relations with Muslim majority regions through:
    • interactive dialogue between SJS participants and outreach to local communities via panel discussions, student forums, interviews with local media, observance of religious services and interaction with adherents, host family dinners, art and cultural activities, and public events;
    • tweets, blog postings and stories written, produced, and edited by participating journalists;
    • greater depth and balance to future media coverage of stories with a religious element.

To date, 159 journalists from 18 countries have participated. For a complete list of our Senior Journalists Alumni, please click here.

2017 Senior Journalists Seminar

Dates:  August 23 – September 15, 2017

Study Destinations:  Washington, DC; Minneapolis, MN; Manila/Cotabato City, Philippines; Istanbul, Turkey *Political and security conditions on the ground may necessitate replacing Istanbul, please be flexible

Application Deadline:  Thursday, May 10, 2017 

The 2017 Senior Journalists Seminar (2017SJS) will bring together 12-16 international journalists for an immersive 22-day dialogue, study, and travel program to Washington, DC; Minneapolis, MN; Manila/Cotabato City, Philippines; Istanbul, Turkey. The 2017SJS will begin in Washington, DC with an overview of the American political system, including the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, federalism, the separation of powers, and congressional influencers on foreign policy making. Other foundational sessions will examine the religious make-up, diversity of religious identity, and the prayer and attendance practices of the American public. The Washington, DC study tour will also feature participant presentations summarizing religion’s role in their home countries. In Minneapolis, journalists will experientially explore America’s multicultural and multi-religious society, the experiences of minority religious communities, initiatives bridging faith divides, and how cultural and religious identity, experience, and diversity is expressed in the literary, visual, performing, and media arts. Throughout the U.S. study tour, journalists will consider the political, military, and cultural engagement of the U.S. with Muslim majority regions. Travel to Manila/Cotabato City, Philippines and Istanbul, Turkey will contextualize and compare religion’s role in the public sphere across democratic nations; provide first-hand exposure to and more nuanced understanding of the diversity of Muslim societies; and build the professional networks of participating journalists. Meetings with government officials and academics in all three countries will explore domestic and international counter-terrorism efforts and opportunities for cooperation. Interactive experiences will also be included to deepen journalists’ understanding of Muslim cultures through the arts, culture, and new media. Finally, the media’s role in choosing, framing, and disseminating stories with a religious element and its effective shaping of public perception and U.S. relations with Muslim majority regions will be explored.

As the Senior Journalists Seminar requires participating journalists to attend various religious services as respectful observers and includes both high level government meetings and tours of impoverished areas, it is important to note that the seminar is both mentally and physically very challenging.

Who Can Apply:  Media professionals from print, broadcast, online, and multi-media news organizations, including editors, reporters, columnists, editorial writers, producers, bloggers, videographers, and photo journalists with a minimum of ten years of experience are eligible to apply. The Senior Journalists Seminars will include a total of 12-16 journalists from the United States and countries with substantial Muslim populations. Of the total journalists selected, SEVEN-ELEVEN will cover foreign and diplomatic relations, security, military affairs, domestic politics and government or religion and FIVE will cover the arts and/or culture, including race and/or minority issues.

Journalists covering all relevant beats from the following countries are eligible to apply:  Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Burma, China, India, Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Palestine, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, and the United States. In addition to the list of countries above, journalists who specifically cover art and/or culture, including race and/or minority issues, from the following countries are also eligible to apply:  Algeria, Belgium, Canada, Chad, Cyprus, England, Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Mali, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE, and Yemen.

Successful candidates represent the diversity of religions (e.g. covered and non-covered Muslims, Buddhists, Catholics, Christians, Hindus, and Jews)s, ethnicities, and regional differences within the United States, Africa, Europe, the Near and Middle East, Southeast Asia, and South Asia. Preference is given to those journalists who offer compelling story ideas and clear dissemination strategies. Fluency in English is required.

The EWC requires journalists to file at least one story or a series of blogs and/or tweets resulting from their participation in the seminar. Journalists must offer specific story ideas and how you will fulfill this requirement in your application.

*Citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen be aware that U.S. visa regulations are in a state of flux and may or may not alter to make your participation possible/impossible.*

Funding:  The 2017 Senior Journalists Seminar is funded by the East-West Center, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute and supports the participation of 12-16 journalists from the United States and countries with substantial Muslim populations, as defined above. Valued at approximately USD$11,725 per person, funding includes:   

  • Roundtrip airfare to and from your home country and throughout the study tour
  • Ground transportation and airport transfers
  • Lodging in each of the study tour destinations
  • Provided program meals and a modest per diem to cover meals not provided
  • Cultural activities and networking opportunities
  • Interpretation in-country, when necessary
  • Pro-rated speaker honorariums, cooperating organization costs and meeting rooms
  • Participant Resource Binder
  • Seminar flash drive of program documents, speaker PowerPoint presentations and photos 
All participants are responsible for the Senior Journalists Seminar fee of USD$800.00, visa fees, health insurance and airline baggage charges. EWC encourages additional participant cost-sharing of programmatic costs and considers cost-sharing in the selection of applicants. 

How to Apply:

As noted in the application instructions, all applicants must complete an application form. Please download the PDF application form to your computer before completing it. In addition to the completed application form, applicants must also provide the following:

  • Letter of Interest (maximum two pages) including:
    • A brief paragraph on your news organization and its reach
    • Interest in seminar theme and its relevancy to the beat you cover
    • What you expect both to contribute and to gain from participating in the seminar
    • Possible story ideas and how the story requirement will be met in terms of dissemination

NOTE - The EWC requires participating journalists to file at least one story or a series of blogs and/or tweets resulting from their participation in the seminar

  • Resume (maximum two pages)
  • Two professional letters of recommendation, including one from your immediate supervisor describing your suitability for the program and how the news organization hopes to benefit from your participation. Recommendation letters should be signed and on letterhead.

Late applications will not be accepted. 

Please send applications by Thursday, May 10, 2017 via email, fax or post to:


Fax: 808-944-7600

Inquiries:  808-944-7368

Senior Journalists Seminar
East-West Seminars
East-West Center
1601 East West Road
Honolulu, HI  96848-1601  USA

PLEASE NOTE, for fax and e-mail submissions: Indicate “Senior Journalists Seminar Application” in the subject heading. We will confirm receipt of the application within 5 working days. If you do not hear back from us, please follow up.

2016 Senior Journalists Seminar

Dates:  August 17 - September 11, 2016

Study Destinations:  Washington, DC; Salt Lake City, UT; Honolulu, HI; Jakarta/Yogyakarta, Indonesia; Delhi, India

The 2016 Senior Journalists Seminar took place August 17 – September 11, 2016 with travel to Washington, DC; Washington, DC; Salt Lake City, UT; Honolulu, HI; Jakarta/Yogyakarta, Indonesia; and Delhi, India and included 14 journalists from 11 countries. Immersive study tour visits to the world’s three largest democracies – United States, Indonesia, and India – enabled participating journalists to meet with government and military officials, business leaders, academics, and their media peers regarding the political, economic, educational, ethnic, artistic, and cultural role religion plays in society. It was the Seminar’s various people-to-people interactions with religious leaders, educators, artists, students, and community activists, however, that truly contextualized the complex role religion plays in societies.

Highlights of the U.S. study tour included religious observance and community discussions at the Masjid Muhammad, the Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Temple, and the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. For many, these visits marked the first time they had ever stepped into a mosque, synagogue, and/or church and for others, attending these religious services and meeting with congregants provided them with a “better sense of their fellow countrymen, including Muslims.” Several journalists also noted that the breakfast discussion with John Gustav-Wrathall, President of Affirmation LGBT Mormons, Families, and Friends; Reverend Dwayne Johnson of Metropolitan Community Church; and Malcom Shanks, Steering Committee Member of the Muslim Alliance for Gender and Sexual Diversity, regarding America’s evolving attitudes on LGBT rights and how these rights conflict, or not, with religious belief challenged them to push beyond stereotypes and better grasp the vast religious pluralism of the United States. The journalists also appreciated meetings at the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Pentagon, which offered them “access to federal officials who offered invaluable insight into how government envisions its role in various regions, particularly in the Muslim world.” Similarly, the journalists benefited from a panel discussion with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Salt Lake City regarding its efforts to defend the U.S. against internal security threats and combat extremism through the Joint Terrorism Task Force and Multi-Cultural Advisory Committee, the latter of which seeks to demystify the FBI and engage the community in identifying radical youth. A discussion with Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leaders was, perhaps, the most well received session of the U.S. study tour. Elder Christofferson summarized the history of Mormonism as a religion, the persecution suffered by its early adherents, and the ongoing importance of protecting religious minority rights in the U.S.

Highlights of the Indonesia study tour included a session covering Indonesia’s dual court system and the implementation of shariah, to whom and how it is enforced, and whether those laws may or may not impinge on individual rights. Several of the journalists found the session useful in deciphering shariah law as well as how decentralization in Indonesia has contributed the politicization of Islam’s moral code. The journalists also gained insight into the treatment of women and other marginalized groups in Indonesia from a session with representatives of the SETARA Institute for Democracy and Peace, the Indonesian National Commission on Violence Against Women, Ardhanary Institute, and the Legal Aid Working Group. Each representative provided a brief overview of their organization’s efforts to end human rights violations, seek redress for past injustices, and engage policymakers and the public on issues pertaining to religious minorities, women, refugees, and the LBGT community. A visit to the Al Hidayah Mosque provided an overview of Ahmadiyah, its place in Indonesia as a minority and illegal sect, and further challenged the journalist’s preconceived notions regarding both Islam and Indonesia. Several of the journalists also highlighted sessions with the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict and the Chief of the Indonesian National Police regarding the fragmentation of extremist groups and the rise of Islamist civil society along with Indonesia’s counterterrorism and de-radicalization efforts and the effectiveness of those efforts. Finally, the journalists noted the visit to a privately run madrasah and discussion with school administrators regarding the curriculum, student composition, and educational background of the teachers as a “revealing” example of how religion is incorporated into Indonesia’s educational system.

The 2016 Senior Journalists further highlighted opportunities in India to attend religious services, meet with congregants, and explore how religion impacts one’s daily life in India as “most useful.” In particular, a visit to Sree Vinayaka Mandir Marg was visually powerful and offered the journalists the opportunity to observe Ganesh Chaturthi and interact with those offering prayers. The journalists also visited Jama Masjid Delhi, one of the largest mosques in India. Moreover, a session with John Dayal, Secretary General of the All India Christian Council, explored how tolerant Indian society is of its religious pluralism and to what extent India’s faith groups engage one another. The journalists also highlighted a session with Breakthrough, a human rights organization working to make violence and discrimination against women and girls socially and legally unacceptable, as “deeply valuable.” Finally, an interactive roundtable discussion with media peers representing The Times of India, The Wire, The Hindu, and Business Standard provided the journalists with an overview of press freedoms and limitations in India as well as how the country has changed or has not changed since the Modi administration took office in 2014, particularly in its treatment of religious minorities. Together these on-the-ground experiences in both Indonesia and India provided the 2016 Senior Journalists with a deeper and more nuanced understanding of Islam as it is practiced in the world’s largest Muslim country and largest Muslim-minority country respectively.

The 2016 Senior Journalists were:

  • Lorraine Mahia ALI, Senior Culture Writer, The Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Hany DANIAL, Assistant Editor, Albwabh News, Cairo
  • Gonul GEZBUL, Senior News Correspondent, Turkish Radio and Television, Istanbul, Turkey 
  • Mohammad H. HAMID, News Editor, Utusan Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Tom HENEGHAN, Senior Correspondent & Religion Editor, Thomson Reuters, Paris, France/USA
  • Mohd Puad IBRAHIM, Digital Editor, Berita Harian, Singapore Press Holdings Ltd., Singapore
  • Jack JENKINS, Senior Religion Reporter, ThinkProgress, Washington, DC, USA
  • Chadia KHEDHIR, Editor-in-Chief, Tunisian Public Television, El Manar, Tunisia                                
  • Muhammad LILA, Special Correspondent, CNN, Toronto, Canada
  • Fernando Garcia (Jun) SEPE, Jr., Deputy Editor, Multimedia, ABS-CBN, Manila, Philippines      
  • Waseem Ahmed SHAH, Senior Staff Correspondent, Dawn Newspaper, Peshawar, Pakistan                 
  • Zaffar Iqbal SHEIKH, Bureau Chief, New Delhi Television Ltd (NDTV), Srinagar, India                       
  • Yonat SHIMRON, Managing Editor, Religion News Service, Washington, DC, USA
  • Habib Khan TOTAKHIL, Reporter, Wall Street Journal, Kabul, Afghanistan 

For more information on East-West Center journalism fellowships and exchanges, see

Contact Information
Liz A. Dorn
Program Coordinator, Seminars
East-West Center
1601 East West Road
Honolulu, HI  96848  USA
Phone: (808) 944-7368
Fax: (808) 944-7600