Nepal: Journalists suffer increased economic hardship amid Covid-1910 Jun, 2020
More than two months into the Covid -19 lockdown, journalists in Nepal face severe economic challenges with increased incidents of non-payment of salaries, job cuts, leave without pay and salary cuts. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Nepal affiliates; the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) and the Nepal Press Union (NPU) have expressed serious concern regarding the increased hardship and urge media houses to support journalists during the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to a media rights monitoring report released by Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), the situation for journalists is deteriorating with non-payment of salaries, lay-offs, salary cuts and leave without pay. According IFJ’s monitoring, Nepal Republic Media, the publisher of the Nagarik and Republica dailies along with other print media have requested staff stay on leave. Several media houses in Kathmandu have also suspended publications while others have not paid their staff for months. Delays in salary payments have occurred at many daily newspapers, more than half a dozen television stations and a handful of FM radios in Kathmandu. The Journalists have also revealed that media houses have deposited reduced salary into their accounts.
Kantipur Media Group (KMG), the publisher Kantipur, Nepal’s largest selling Nepali language daily, reportedly asked its staff to remain on leave without pay. Following a press release from FNJ on April 15, KMG withdrew this action. However, the media house is reported to be cutting staff pay up to 40 per cent.
The situation for journalists working in local and regional media is even worse as job losses continue. District correspondents of Kathmandu based media have been hit with non-payment of salaries while working in hazardous zones with minimal safety measures. “We feel traumatized particularly when we come back home from the reporting on Covid-19 in high risk zones,” a female journalists reporting from Indo-Nepal bordering area said. Regional journalists have also complained about not being provided with basic safety and personal protection equipment including masks and sanitiser.
FNJ General Secretary Ramesh Bista said: “We call on media proprietors to stop job cuts, leave without pay, pay cuts and urge them to reconsider their decisions. FNJ is going to launch an advocacy and initiate legal steps against economic harassment. We call on the government of Nepal to introduce a policy of soft loans to media houses.”
NPU General Secretary Ajaya Babu Shiwakoti said: “We strongly condemn the economic measures taken which impact on the safety and wellbeing of journalists and media workers. We urge the media management to keep humanitarian spirit in their decisions. Further, we call on government of Nepal to bring in special package for journalists and media houses.”
IFJ said: “The present tendency of media management to pass economic pressures on to journalists is inexcusable, particularly in these harsh economic times. This treatment of journalists raises ethical issues and may also have legal implications. IFJ strongly urges media houses to reconsider their decisions and protect the wellbeing of media workers.”