Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Finally, Minimum Salary for Working Journos in Nepal is Rs 19,500

Rabin Man Shakya

The recent decision of the government of Nepal fixing the minimum wages of the journalists working in the private media sector as Rs 19,500 and subsequent statements of the associations of the media owners denouncing the government decision have underscored the vulnerable and susceptible relationship 'on the issue of wages  of the journalists' between media owners vs government and media owners vs working journalists.

Working journalists of Nepal have been demanding for fixation of minimum salary in the print and electronic media in the private sector for years. It looked like the genuine voices of the working journalists have fallen in the deaf ears of the authorities. A number of task forces and committees were set up within past two decades for fixing the minimum wages for the working journalists. Even the umbrella organization of Nepalese journalists - Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) -came under fire for its lackadaisical approach to the issue of minimum wages for the working journalists.

There is no doubt that the bold decision  of the government has come as a de facto victory for the working journalists of Nepal.

Meanwhile, the three associations of the media owners namely Nepal Media Society, Broadcasting Association of Nepal and Radio Broadcasters' Forum in a statement published recently have urged the government to rethink its decision on journalists' minimum wages.

The three associations of the media stalwarts said that the government decision would add a new constitutional crisis to the media sector, already rattled by the 2015 earthquake and economic blockade.

They also went on to say that the decision was taken unilaterally while discussions among stakeholders over the issue were yet to conclude.

It is true that Nepalese FMs and TV channels are facing a number of challenges that threaten the very survival of the media outlets (with the exception of NTV and few others) due to sharp decline in advertising revenue and increasing production costs.

Why do the journalists who are supposed to play watchdog roles end up in being the lapdogs of the politicians and tycoons? Why too many Nepalese Nepalese journalists  are playing sycophantic role in the Nepalese media industry? Apart from politicization and polarization of the media, the financial constraints are pushing  some journalists to become media lapdogs at the hands of political stalwarts and business tycoons.

Working as journalists and anchors in various Nepalese TV channels and FM radio stations sounds very great. But in reality it is nothing more than the superficial glamour and glitter of the tinsel town - that is Kathmandu. The Nepalese journalists continue to suffer because of underpayment and late payment of salaries. But it looks like the Nepalese journalists have been " sweetening the pill " by continuing to work for less money or even no money.

If one analyzes the problem in broader perspectives, it will be found that licenses and registration of newspapers, FMs and TV channels were issued haphazardly in Nepal without examining deeply into the actual financial status of the media organizations.

Here in the United States, the practice is totally different. For example, Portland is the biggest city in the state of Oregon, but there is only one regular daily newspaper "The Oregonian". It goes without without saying that journalists working in the newspapers, radio and TV channels in the US get very good salary.

However, the recent decision of the government to fix the minimum salary of working journalists is a right step in the right direction and the implementation of the decision should be made in an effective manner. Therefore, harsh penalties should be imposed on the media outlets which are found to be underpaying and not paying on time and which are found to be violating the recent government decision on minimum payment of wages to the working journalists.

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