Media Action Nepal calls to value journalism, respect journalists’ right to work

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KATHMANDU/June 17: Media Action Nepal’s serious attention has been drawn to the plight of the journalists from Annapurna Post who were forced to resign without getting their due salaries and rightful remuneration. Media Action Nepal (MAN) is worried that the actions of Annapurna Post and its parent organization Nepal News International Pvt. Ltd. has violated the journalists’ right to work and their entitlement to remuneration for their service as provided by the Labor Act, 2017. Seven of the journalists have also approached the Department of Information and Broadcasting asking to receive the salaries, provident fund, remuneration for the accumulated leave and other basic facilities they are legally owed.

Talking to Media Rights Monitoring Desk of MAN on June 16, Tuesday, Uma Bista, one of the victims approaching the Department against Annapurna Post, revealed that the journalists have not been paid their full salaries since the first lockdown i.e. March 24 last year. Despite repeated attempts to discuss the matter with the Editor of Annapurna Post and the Chief Executive Officer of Nepal News International, they were also put off or given false promises. Then, in March of this year, the management and the Editor told all the journalists to resign claiming that the Post was shutting down its print and going completely digital.

Yet, no formal notice has been issued in this regard and the paper has not made any formal announcements of its closing. Bista informed that the management has still been avoiding meeting with the wronged journalists and has instead engaged in closed-room bargaining. “Their attention has been to stop us from uniting and have hence, chosen to engage with individuals rather than the group,” she said.

Talking to Media Rights Monitoring Desk of MAN on June 16, Tuesday, Uma Bista, one of the victims approaching the Department against Annapurna Post, revealed that the journalists have not been paid their full salaries since the first lockdown i.e. March 24 last year. Despite repeated attempts to discuss the matter with the Editor of Annapurna Post and the Chief Executive Officer of Nepal News International, they were also put off or given false promises. Then, in March of this year, the management and the Editor told all the journalists to resign claiming that the Post was shutting down its print and going completely digital.

Citing pressure from the upper levels and an unfavorable work environment, a total of 28 journalists collectively resigned from Annapurna Post on March 16 this year and demanded that they receive the payments and facilities they are legally owed. The Post and its parent company have so far refused to provide such payments which forced seven journalists to call on to the Department of Information and Broadcasting for relief. In the letter submitted to the Department, the seven working journalists have also made it clear that they did not resign out of will but rather due to the physical and mental duress they were put under.

Stating that such an attitude from a mainstream media organization as large as Nepal News Network International Pvt. Ltd. will negatively impact the professionalism of journalism in the country, Laxman Datt Pant, Chairperson of MAN said, “Such lack of job security, the position of financial duress and dishonest behavior of employers will cause the exodus of skilled and qualified manpower and discourage the new generation from entering this sector.” It will also decrease the overall content quality of Nepali media and prevent it from moving forward as a true pillar of democracy, he added.

MAN calls upon Nepal News Network and Annapurna Post to address the journalists’ demands because these are people who have devoted up to 20 years of their lives for the betterment of the newspaper and the organization.

Stating that such an attitude from a mainstream media organization as large as Nepal News Network International Pvt. Ltd. will negatively impact the professionalism of journalism in the country, Laxman Datt Pant, Chairperson of MAN said, “Such lack of job security, the position of financial duress and dishonest behavior of employers will cause the exodus of skilled and qualified manpower and discourage the new generation from entering this sector.” It will also decrease the overall content quality of Nepali media and prevent it from moving forward as a true pillar of democracy, he added.

Over the past year, hundreds of journalists were laid off by media institutions across the country, primarily in the name of losses inflicted by the COVID-19. This robbed countless individuals of their livelihoods and put a stain on the entire media community that will take years to wash off. Journalists are an integral part of a country and its democracy who hold the powerful to account and protect citizens’ constitutional rights to information and freedom of expression, among others. That is why treating them so poorly is not only a violation of their labor rights but also an attack on democratic values and ideals.

MAN requests all the media organizations of Nepal to value the journalists and the important work they are doing at considerable risks to themselves and their families, especially during the current pandemic. We urge everyone to respect the journalists’ right to work in a dignified manner and get adequately compensated for their services.