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Between a rock and a hard place

Four months ago, I wrote about the dangers of being a journalist in Nepal – a country “where journalists are murdered on a recurring basis and governments are unable or unwilling to prosecute the killers”.

world Updated: Nov 28, 2010 23:31 IST
Utpal Parashar

Four months ago, I wrote about the dangers of being a journalist in Nepal – a country “where journalists are murdered on a recurring basis and governments are unable or unwilling to prosecute the killers”.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based organisation, says that 14 journalists have been killed in Nepal since 1992. The nation ranks seventh among countries unsafe for our tribe.

That the situation is no better in rest of the region is evident from inclusion of Sri Lanka (4), Afghanistan (6), Pakistan (10), Bangladesh (11) and India (12) in that list.

Last week, a report prepared by the information ministry exposed another sorry aspect of working journalists in Nepal-– exploitation by employers.

“The percentage of working journalists who have not been paid the minimum salary by media organisations is 37,” says the annual report of minimum wage fixation committee of the ministry.

Not that the minimum salary is princely. The Working Journalists Act says it should be NRs 5,200 (Rs 3,250) – less than the price of a good pair of sneakers.

One third of journalists are not paid the salaries promised and 14% don’t get paid regularly.

There’s more. Nearly half of working journalists don’t have appointment letters.

This gives employers freedom to show journalists the door at will. If they fall sick or wish to enjoy a vacation, journalists in 36% media houses will have to forego part of their salaries as they have no provision for leave.

“With inflation making it impossible to make ends meet, it’s not surprising to see many journalists compromising on ideals,” said a senior journalist friend.

The report urges the government to deprive errant media houses of advertisements – a tactic that could work – if used.