Rae Munavvar, Experienced Journalist Covering Conservation

MV Plus | May 25, 2022

“It broke my heart to see the damage those incidents did to him and how it impacted him as a writer, as a human being,” says Rae Munavvar, describing a fellow journalist getting assaulted and arrested.

“I think that was one of the hardest things I had to face,” she explained, talking about her colleague. “It was one of those moments where I felt like I wanted so badly to create that space, a safe space for my journalists. I can’t guarantee your safety in a rally, I can’t guarantee your safety when you’re investigating a piece but I can back you, and I can listen to your story, I can help you become the best writer you can be, and for me that was the opportunity to help people in a way that myself and some of my peers didn’t get to, has been the biggest force that has kept me going. Without that incentive I would have stopped writing and opted for a safer, fun job.”

Rae Munavvar, a seasoned journalist and a passionate advocate for conservation, shared some of her experiences and the harsh realities of being a journalist in the Maldives.

When asked about how she developed an interest in journalism, she replied that, “for as long as I can remember, the only thing that I could do that was worthwhile was writing.”

Having opted for a double major in journalism and advertising, Rae dabbled in both fields before she eventually chose to become a full time journalist.

With 10 years of experience under her belt, Rae shared the harsh realities of being a journalist in the Maldives, a country that ranks at the 87th spot at the World Press Freedom Index this year.

She criticised the consistent inaction towards crimes against journalism and stated that due to this culture of impunity, “all of the journalists in Maldives, are still working under this big looming cloud because there is so much of injustice from the disappearances, murders, assaults, the attacks, and the harassment.”
She then added that, “it is difficult to ask journalists to exercise all of their rights when it’s not clear how free we are and how safe we are in doing so.”

On that note, she also highlighted the challenges of being a journalist that predominantly produces their work in English.

“The media council awards does allow for English news to apply, but this is not reflected on the judges panel, and to my knowledge, all applications made on behalf of English writing journalists have failed, citing different reasons.”

Rae says that while it’s true that journalism is challenging and carries the weight of great responsibility, it is also a privilege.

“To be able to explore, uncover and tell stories about extraordinary people and reveal truths — it changes who you are and how you think. I can’t begin to explain all the ways it’s made me a better person. So that, and the ability to contribute to the growth of younger journalists, that’s what drives me.”

Rae also says that she would like to contribute to the development of journalists, evoke more respect for the industry, promote safe spaces for journalists and also in the sense of furthering citizen-journalism, in a lasting way.

“It is imperative that media encaptures the voice of the entire nation – we must represent all concerns and paint a comprehensive picture of what is happening. Crucial to that is equal participation [in news] by women and men, including people of differing abilities and all walks of life”.

Journalism is often a thankless job. A healthy democratic system depends on journalists, not just to keep the public informed, but also whistleblow on corruption and prioritise the citizens’ interests.