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:
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:
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.