Now It’s Up to You

CIMG0115A typical training in Maldives ends with a certificate ceremony, but I hope this group will leave our five day election news training with more than a piece of paper. They’ve learned to look at election reporting through a new lens of fairness. They were willing to consider examples of international best practices and learn from their own experiences. We saw examples of journalists in danger; photographers and newscasters beaten or pepper-sprayed , and some truly frightening footage of an attempt to burn down VTV with the entire staff inside. It was good to have PR representatives of both the Maldives police and the Maldives National Defense Force in the training. The skills of these new certificate holders would be quickly tested as police set up barricades for a confrontation over a site being used by MDP for rallies and protests on a public beach.CIMG0129

A teaching exercise split the Maldivians into two groups and challenged each of them to develop a story proposal examining public opinions or an issue. One group planned a story on a small island with no school of its own and only 30 voters. Although they’re not likely to see a campaign rally, how closely are the remote islanders following the election and how will they decide their votes? The other group decided to give a voice to the voiceless people who are inconvenienced by the street protests in the capital city. It’s not hard to find compelling stories in this country. Broadcasters here have all the know-how needed to shoot, write and edit the stories. Now it’s up to them to get the job done. The whole world is watching and wishing them a free and fair election.

A final word of thanks to the people who helped me every step of the way: Noora Ali and  Aishath Hana of the Maldives Broadcasting Commission and their colleagues for conceiving the program and inviting me to Maldives, and Arshad and Shaaheen who went the extra mile to make sure it all went smoothly. And thanks to the US Embassy in Colombo for the funds to make it possible.CIMG0108

We said our goodbyes at the Dolphin, a boatlike cafe with a splendid sea breeze and a view toward the airport island. Here’s hoping for a chance to come back soon.CIMG0132