parallax background

Media4Democracy Maldives Fellowship Concludes with Significant In-Country Achievements

EUD Colombia Puts to Use Media4Democracy Recommendations on Countering Disinformation in 2022 Colombian Elections
Media4Democracy Podcast Launches – Six Interviews with Global Experts on Confronting the Crisis for Independent Media

Malé, December 2021 — Media4Democracy, working with the EU Delegation to Sri Lanka and Maldives, has completed its fourth and final Fellowship Programme to strengthen leaders of media institutions in Maldives. Despite challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, four Fellows improved their leadership and programme skills, and implemented successful Fellowship projects –  such as the revitalisation of the local journalists’ association, improving the implementation of the countries Right to Information Act and enhancing in-country media’s ability to report on the environment crisis in Maldives. The Fellowship programme also strengthened the engagement between the EU Delegation to Sri Lanka and Maldives and the Fellows and helped created long-lasting collaborative journalism initiatives.

The Fellowship programme in Maldives – Strengthening Institutional Leaders in Support of Media Pluralism – launched in January 2020 with a Media4Democracy assessment mission to identify key media institutions and participants with leadership skills and the potential to act as change agents within their media organisations and the wider sector.

The Maldives Fellows and their focused projects were:

  • Mohamed Junayd Saleem of the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) focused on: Setting up or reviving the Maldives Journalists’ Association / Unionize Journalists.
  • Mohamed Sharafudheen of focused on: Strengthening local media and investigative journalism through improved use of the RtI Act.
  • Rae Munavvar, Edition and Freelance Editor focused on: Advocating and establishing platforms for more effective use of the RTI Act to address environmental challenges and corruption.
  • Shaffan Gasim of the Information Commission Office of Maldives (ICOM) focused on: Developing online portal to improve implementation of the RTI Act & support media and public from all atolls to request information.

As the Fellowship programme launched immediately prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Media4Democracy rapidly adapted the methodology and curriculum to allow for extensive and interactive remote learning and mentoring. The Programme’s three-week intensive experiential learning programme in Denmark – which was due to be hosted at the Danish Union of Journalists (DJ) and with planned engagement with partners and experts in Denmark – was postponed until August 2021 when a final decision was taken to cancel the trip due to COVID.

Nevertheless, Fellowship Coordinators Mogens Blicher Bjerregård and Henrik Ahrens implemented the expanded online curriculum which began with an additional, highly customised series of four webinars on the evolving impact of COVID on media independence. The webinars were made available to the Maldives cohort and the 15 Fellows of three previous Fellowship programmes that were implemented with EU Delegations in Tanzania, Rwanda and the Kyrgyz Republic. The Fellows were able to exchange experiences and ideas about responding to the unprecedented challenges for journalists and media during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This series was followed by months of online group session, as well as regular individual mentoring support for each Fellow. Through the remote learning, Fellows were supported to design, develop, and implement high-impact projects to strengthen freedom of expression and access to information in the Maldives.

The Fellowship programme’s final evaluation found that despite the pivot to remote learning over an extended programme period, and the difficult COVID context in which the programme was implemented, the four participating Fellows have improved their leadership skills, made progress in introducing changes in their organisations, implemented projects and activities that have promoted media freedom and built stronger collaboration across the sector.

An overview of the Fellows accomplishments during the programme are summarised below:

  1. The four Fellows carried out 8 activities with more than 200 participants during the programme. Media content and advocacy messages published in the framework of the programme potentially reached 30% of Maldivian households given the penetration rate of the media outlets and social media platforms involved.
  2. The Fellowship programme resulted in collaboration and mutual support between the participating Fellows as individuals and between their organisations. In particular, the Maldives Journalist Association provided financial and public support to another Fellows’ environmental initiative ‘Covering the Environment’, and the online new platform AdduLive collaboration with the Information Commissioner’s Office of Maldives.
  3. The Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) managed to revitalize, reorganize, and rehabilitate after a long period of dormancy, and has developed a strong voice advocating for professional journalism and media independence. As a result, MJA succeeded in gaining international recognition and was accepted as a member of the International Federation of Journalists in 2021.
  4. Leading a consultative process across the sector, MJA developed an advocacy paper with recommendations to government on a framework for media self-regulation which has acted as an invaluable constructive contribution to the debate about the government’s proposal to merge the self-regulatory bodies.
  5. Through the programme, the Information Commission Office of Maldives (ICOM) managed to organize funding to develop and launch an essential online portal to support effective implementation of the Right To Information Act. The portal will eventually help facilitate journalists, civil society and members of the public to file requests for government-held information and support government officials to provide information.
  6. The rapid assessment mission in January 2020 provided the EU Delegation with information about relevant actors, priority issues and opportunities for media freedom in the Maldives and supported engagement between the Delegation and Fellows during the pandemic. These activities built the Delegation’s knowledge of the sector and informed the design of an EU Call for Proposals.
  7. MJA built on the results achieved in the framework of the Fellowship programme to form a partnership with Internews as part of a successful bid for a grant through the EU Delegation’s Call for Proposals.

With the closure of Media4Democrary planned for April 2022, this was the final implementation of the Media4Democracy Fellowship Programme. Nonetheless, discussions with INTPA and others at the European Commission are underway to identify the potential for continuing the Fellowship programme through a new mechanism. To facilitate the discussion, Media4Democracy is completing a Fellowship Programme Legacy Plan that will draw on successes and lessons learned, and consultations with partners in Denmark, to provide guidance on how best to continue, expand and strengthen the Programme in support of future Fellows and EU Delegations.