We talk to Rikynti Marwein of the Highland Post on the sidelines of her win at Red Ink Awards for Journalism
Q. Congratulations on bagging the prestigious Red Ink Award for Journalism in Mumbai last month. When you broke the story on sexual allegations against the erstwhile Meghalaya Governor V. Shanmuganathan in a small local newspaper called Highland Post, did you anticipate that this story will get you so much attention?
When I broke the story, I knew this will attract attention to the newspaper. I did not think it will affect me personally because we don’t go by bye-lines. I knew we will be questioned, yet I was confident because I had all the facts intact. I was ready with follow ups. Except for social media, no one knew I was the one who had written and pursued the story.
Q. People see you as a crusader for truth and justice now. How were the reactions to your story over the past one year?
Reactions were positive on social media. But not from some who believed I went against journalistic ethics. However, I am a person who stands by what I see. It was the truth and it has to be told. Truth I can deliver but I am not the one to judge. My job is to present truthful facts.
Q. As a grassroots journalist in Northeast India, how has been your experience of reporting in the field in Meghalaya? Tell us about some of your other remarkable stories?
As a grassroots journalist in my state, reporting is not competitive and I don’t believe in it. We are not here to compete but to serve and be torchbearers of the truth. Challenges as a woman exist but those can be achieved with support and I believe support from a family and management is pertinent for women journalists to grow.
In the past, I had reported on the Shillong jailbreak in 2009 and exposed how a serial killer, Fullmoon Dhar, was killed in a fake encounter and not as claimed by the police. I had the opportunity to meet the escaped UTPs and got them on record. The killing of Fullmoon was a high profile case and the matter is still lying with the court when civil societies took up the issue. But this was not possible without the help of my male journalist friends of course.
There are other stories which I did on various subjects and I can’t remember many as here we don’t cover stories by beats, but work on all subjects from politics to crime, sports…My soft stories featuring youths might have somehow changed lives.
Q. Do you feel when it comes to awards and recognition, the journalists in Northeast India are often overlooked? What is your perception?
I don’t think awards and recognitions are overlooked. We are geographically isolated. It is up to us to work hard and break into the scene.
Q. What are you working on now? Is there something you want to say to grassroots women journalists who look upto you?
I can’t tell you what I am working on but it will definitely get it published. My message to other women journalists would be strive to be the real you. Don’t follow me but create your own benchmark. Be trustworthy, honest and fearless to the people who need their voices to be heard. Just stand by the truth and no one will be able to question you.
I would like to quote Émile Zola, ‘If you shut up the truth and bury it under the ground, it will but grow, and gather to itself such explosive power that the day it bursts through it will blow up everything in its way.’
Follow the writer on twitter @NasreenAssam