S04E09: Evi Mariani, Co-Founder & Executive Director of Project Multatuli, Indonesia

So that has become our value proposition at Project Multatuli. So this is kind of like for me, something I could do, what I believe, really believe in, in serving the underreported, serving the marginalized and holding power accountable independently, and with a lot of room to do that.

Evi Mariani

Today’s episode is with Evi Mariani, ​​Co-Founder and Executive Director of Project Multatuli based in Indonesia. 

Evi was the former managing editor at The Jakarta Post. Her collaborative projects won the 2020 Public Service Journalism Award from the Society of Publishers in Asia and the 2020 Tasrif Award from the AJI. 

evi mariani project multatuli indonesia
Evi is most proud of winning the SOPA Award for Excellence in Public Service Journalism in 2020.

Evi and 3 other fellow journalists started Project Multatuli, a media organisation dedicated to carrying out the ideals of public journalism by giving a voice to the voiceless, spotlighting the marginalized, and reporting on the underreported. Multatuli comes from Latin meaning “I have suffered much.”

In this episode, we talk about how a crisis led Evi to start something that truly spoke to her heart – social justice. She said she was never raised to be political – all she wanted was to travel and see the world as a journalist. As an Indonesian Chinese with a Catholic upbringing, social journalism wasn’t the path she was supposed to take. However, her first taste of political activism began in earnest when she entered Gajah Mada University which opened her eyes to diversity, pluralism, gender equality and so much more. 

Evi started her media organization during the pandemic which also pushed her to return to her Chinese business roots so to speak. She had to figure out the best model for her media business because she didn’t care much for the advertising model that most media defaulted to. 

As the only woman among the 4 founders of Project Multatuli, she is known as Ibu Dir. Evi called herself an underachiever but today, she is the one who is pushing for greater change through the medium she knows best. 

Her social activism began in university and later, on the newsroom floors of The Jakarta Post resulting finally in Project Multatuli. 

Today’s conversation is a little deeper and more thoughtful but I know that Evi and Project Multatuli are exactly what we need to change the game. 

Her organization produces data-based, deeply researched news stories. Their work involves collaboration with other news organizations, research bodies, and civil society groups that strive for democracy, human rights, social justice, environmental sustainability, and equal rights for all. In her work, she is deeply inspired by Malaysiakini, a Malaysian media organisation. 

Every month I have to check our money and to think about how should I pay the salary of 14 people? We now have 14 full-time staff working for us….still doing good journalism and still have a loyalty to our mission. There are organizations that want to support us, like not pay in kind or pay in advertising but they realize that good journalism is costly. But also we are very strict and very firm about our editorial independence.”

Evi says to women journalists, “When you are already advanced in your career, look up. If you see a glass ceiling, break it. When your workplace doesn’t give you enough room to grow, and others don’t hire you, just leave, find friends, build your own place, and grow together.”

She also says that gender inequality is the reality, thus “meritocracy is bullshit when there is no level playing field when the rules of the games are made by men. Don’t play by their rules, make our own.” 

Evi is inspired by many great people but the closest person she admires most is her husband. It was he who encouraged her to take the bold step of setting up Project Multatuli. 

As for books, Evi says,” I’m behind in reading serious books. I have many favourite authors but one I’m reading right now is Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I love easy romance books.” Her favourite listens are easy-listening music, jazz, a little bit of hip hop, indie rock, pop – a little bit of everything. 

Years and years of denial. Right. Years and years of denial and thinking to myself that no, I’m not a business woman. I’m not a business person. But the situation required me to step up as someone to lead this organization. And then think about sustainability. Also think about how the newsroom, how the organization will give a safe space to everyone. 

Evi is most proud of winning the SOPA Award for Excellence in Public Service Journalism in 2020 for their collaborative work and founding Project Multatuli and making it into the most talked about new media outlet in Indonesia within months of launching. 

She earned her master’s degree from Universiteit van Amsterdam and was a 2011-2012 Hubert Humphrey Fellow at the University of Maryland.

Connect with her:
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/evi-mariani-75a64650/
Twitter: @evimsofian

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