Journalists complain of dismissal, salary cuts amid COVID crisis
28 Jul, 2020
By A Staff Reporter Kathmandu, July 28: Many stories of job lost and troubles being faced by working journalists are making rounds after the government imposed lockdown to prevent and control the COVID-19 infection. They were dismissed, asked to stay on unpaid leave or accept salary cuts by the so-called ‘big’ private media houses. Journalists Laxman Karki, Madhu Sudan Bhattarai and photo journalist Bikash Karki were some of the victims. According to complaints registered at the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), Karki did not get working environment at the Ujyaalo Radio after the Radio management stopped vehicle facilities and told him to come to office by managing the vehicle. But the public vehicles were off the road during the lockdown and he did not attend office. Karki complained the FNJ and the FNJ high-level delegation reached the Ujyaalo Radio management and asked to address the case. Karki wanted to resign from the office if the Radio management assured him facilities provisioned in the Working Journalists Act and Regulation. But the management was adamant over the case so it is not been settled yet. Another journalist Bhattarai, who had been working for the Kantipuronline was also forced to take leave after the lockdown. He complained to the FNJ and the FNJ asked the Kantipur management to settle the case. But according to FNJ, till Sunday his case was not settled. Another victim of media house is photographer Karki, who was first transferred to the Investigative Bureau before being sent to Dhangadhi from Kathmandu. “The intention of the management was to force me out of office, but I am fighting against this unjust act,” he said. Karki also filed a complaint at the FNJ and the FNJ top-brass met his media owner. The management promised to settle the case, but the case was not settled. “Now we want to settle the case by consulting his owner, if not, we will protest against the media house,” said FNJ chair Govinda Acharya. The FNJ has got complaints relating to 14 media houses. “We are trying to settle the cases through talks and discussions,” said Acharya. The FNJ has acted in favour of the victim journalists and it held talks with some media houses, wrote letters threatening the media houses to face protest if the cases were not settled. Not only the Nepali journalists’ umbrella organisation, FNJ, pressing the media houses, the government is also trying to settle the cases. The Department of Information and Broadcasting has also been active to settle the cases as it got many complaints from the working journalists of the big media houses. The Department monitored the media houses and wrote to them to settle the cases. The Department is also working in favour of journalists in close coordination with the FNJ, Nepal Press Council and the Minimum Wage Fixation Committee. “We got many complaints. We visited the media houses and sent letters as well,” said Director General of the Department Lekhnath Sharma. “After our initiation, many cases have been settled,” he said. Sharma warned if the media houses did not abide by the Department direction, it would take legal action against them in the capacity of the Press Registrar. Recently, the Development and Technology Committee of the House of Representatives also directed the
government to take action against the media houses for dismissing journalists, keeping them in forced leave and cutting their pay. “We are working in line with the Parliament Committee, and the directives received from the line ministry and legal provisions,” said Sharma. Even though the issue is being raised from street to parliament, accurate data on dismissal from job, forced leave and salary cut are not recorded in any agency.