Nepalese journalists were at the forefront of the global crisis posed by COVID-19. Despite the odds, they worked tirelessly to protect citizens’ access to knowledge and freedom of expression. However, with many media outlets closing owing to financial constraints, and others using the epidemic as an excuse, working journalists have had a difficult time and have been denied remuneration.
As a result, many journalists were forced to leave the industry, leaving them unemployed and underpaid. With this in mind, Nepal’s umbrella organisation of working journalists, the Federation of Nepali Journalists, has chosen to prioritise press freedom and working journalist rights.
Ramesh Bista, senior vice-chair of the FNJ, said they were preparing to build up a separate mechanism at the national level to deal with and promote journalists’ labour rights. He emphasised today, in an address to the FNJ Corporate Province Committee, that the exploitation of journalists’ labour could not be tolerated under any circumstances.
“Media entrepreneurs should cease thinking that their business can continue while working journalists’ rights are being violated,” Bista said, emphasising that working journalists’ financial rights must be handled in any case.
The journalists’ current difficulties were also discussed, as well as the refinement of FNJ membership. The majority of the participants emphasised the importance of self-correction in order to prevent non-journalists from becoming members of the FNJ and to enhance media professionalism.
“Political affiliation should not be a requirement for FNJ membership,” the participants said, adding that the personnel involved should be honest and follow the rules when approving and renewing membership.
The importance of journalists and the media portraying a clean and dignified image was emphasised during the presentation.
The chairs of FNJ corporate chapters informed the session of a number of difficulties, including non-payment, underpayment, reductions in perks and benefits, and so on, all under the guise of the COVID-19 crisis.
They believed that paying journalists according to their job would assist to encourage journalism and create professionalism.