Rappler multimedia journalist Mara Cepeda was chosen for the prestigious Reham Al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship (RAF) to cover the 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
Cepeda is among the 19 young journalists selected from more than 800 applicants worldwide for the RAF program, which will be held virtually from September 20 to October 8 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The RAF program, sponsored annually by the UN Department of Global Communications, was conducted online for the first time in its history in 2020. In previous years, the program brought fellows to the UN headquarters in New York for the General Assembly sessions.
Formerly known as the DPI Training Program for Broadcasters and Journalists from Developing Countries, the fellowship was renamed in 2003 in honor of Reham Al-Farra. She was a 29-year-old Jordanian public information officer who was killed in the August 19, 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad.
The fellowship provides a unique opportunity for journalists aged 22 to 35 from developing countries and countries with economies in transition to cover the UN.
Fellows will be covering the official meetings of the 76th UNGA, attend briefings by officials from throughout the UN System, and engage with other journalists and professionals.
At the UN, Cepeda wants to focus on how the COVID-19 crisis impacted human rights across the world.
She also intends to report on the foreign policy implications of the International Criminal Court's looming investigation on the alleged crimes against humanity committed under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal drug war.
Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance and has trailed the campaign of opposition candidates in the 2016 and 2019 elections. She covers the Office of the Vice President and the Senate of the Philippines. She previously covered the House of Representatives.
In 2021, Cepeda was among the 17 reporters from across Asia selected for the prized Asia Journalism Fellowship of the Singapore-based Temasek Foundation and the Institute of Policy Studies at the National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
In 2019, she joined five other Rappler journalists in filing an unprecedented case before the Philippine Supreme Court: a petition to challenge Duterte's ban on Rappler reporters from covering his public events.
Aside from Cepeda, the 2021 RAF fellows are the following: