Journalists are facing many problems including salary reduction and unemployment
(Report: Asif Mehmood) Journalism sector in Pakistan has been declining for the past few years, thousands of journalists have been dismissed from their jobs, economic security has become an important issue for journalists. According to the South Asia Press Freedom Report, 2,000 journalists (working journalists) and non-journalistic staff (non-journalistic staff) have been dismissed from their jobs in Pakistan only in a period of one year from May 2018 to April 2019. A large number of journalists who have been fired from their jobs are suffering from severe economic hardship and are forced to take up professions that they did not even think of as a source of employment, while on the other hand, those who are still employed in the media industry. They are also insecure and the fear of job loss is constantly hanging over their heads.
Conditions of layoffs
Rana Muhammad Shahzad sells cotton clothes on a highway in Lahore. Rana Muhammad Shahzad has worked with various newspapers and TV channels as Chief Reporter, Producer, Assignment Editor and Bureau Chief. Rana Shahzad, who has given 25 years of his life to the field of journalism, is forced to live a very modest life these days.
Rana Shahzad said that he started practical journalism in 1998. In 2007, for writing a story against the land mafia, he was assassinated near Jalo area of Lahore, in which he was shot five times, but his life was spared. He registered a case against unknown persons against the incident and told the police that he could identify the accused when they appeared but till date the accused could not be caught.
He said that he was in the hospital for several months after being shot and could not follow the case. The other police station in which the case was registered was in the border area of Lahore, away from the city. The land mafia was strong, that’s why the accused could not be arrested till date.
He further said that he has also developed a neuro problem due to which he becomes unconscious, due to which he has had four accidents and one of his arms has been broken in different places. According to Rana Muhammad Shahzad, he also has cancer. Four tumors have been removed from his body while two are still inside the body but he has no money for treatment. The Public Relations Department of Punjab gave him a check of Rs.20,000. While he was given three lakh rupees by the federal government, out of which two tumors were removed and some was spent in debt repayment. Rana Shahzad says that no journalistic organization or organization helped him, but a few senior journalists personally helped him a lot, including the late Arshad Sharif, Imran Riaz Khan, Salman Ghani, Asif Butt, Rana Azim and a few others. Journalists are involved.
During Rana Shahzad’s illness, his wife also died in a road accident, now he is raising his children alone. Rana Mohammad Shahzad said that no organization gives him a job now because everyone knows that I am sick.
Like Rana Mohammad Shahzad, there are many other journalists who are suffering from economic problems after they quit their jobs. Someone set up a vegetable shop, someone set up a stall and started selling nan tikkis. A senior journalist in Lahore has also been driving a Ching Chi rickshaw.
Journalists tried their luck in other fields
While the economic conditions of many journalists have worsened due to being fired from their jobs, there is no dearth of journalists who have tried their luck in other fields after leaving their jobs and are earning better jobs. While there are some journalists who are doing personal business along with journalism. We are running Arabian non-shop in a posh area of Lahore along with senior news reporter Hasnain Chaudhary journalism. Similarly, another reporter, Arshad Mehdi, is running a clothing business along with journalism.
Both Hasnain Chaudhary and Arshad Mehdi say that they chose fields where more work is required from workers. They monitor themselves. Due to this reason, their journalism has not been affected, but due to economic improvement, they are performing their journalistic duties with confidence.
There are many journalists, including women journalists, who have given up on journalism and are working elsewhere or have their own business. Former New News reporter Zubair Sajid Dhillon is doing property business in Dubai. Former reporter of Geo News Zeeshan Bakhsh and former producer of Express News Aamir Kamal are working in UK. Talking about women, Samaa News Faisalabad reporter Shahnaz Mehmood suffered from financial difficulties for a long time after being fired from her job, but now she is working as a PRO in Lyallpur Museum. Former reporter of Samaa News Tehmina Ahmed is working as PRO in Tourism Department of Punjab. Similarly, Sadia Khan, a former reporter of City 42, is working in the Punjab Fisheries Department, while another reporter of the same organization, Fiza Imran, has built her own beauty parlor and salon and is living a better life.
Advice on running your own business alongside journalism
Fiza Imran says that in the last four to five years, the media situation in Pakistan has become very bad, hundreds of journalists and media workers have become unemployed. There are also a large number of women among those who are unemployed from journalism institutions. He said that with us, women are already given permission for jobs with great difficulty and when the organization dismisses them, parents get an opportunity and immediately start preparations for her marriage. Thus, his dream of doing something prominent in the field of journalism remains unfulfilled.
Fiza Imran says that she will advise her journalist friends to start any business of their own in a better way, the way I have created a beauty parlour. Today I have dozens of girls working for me. Whereas there was a time when I had to work day and night for a few thousand job. He said that starting your own business is apparently not easy, but if you work hard and work well, you will definitely get success. It’s hard to break the habit of work, but rely on your own abilities, start your own business with the intention that your situation will improve, and two or four more unemployed people will get a job.
In the last five years, 10,000 journalist workers became unemployed; Reports
How many journalists and media workers have quit their jobs in Pakistan in the last four to five years or they themselves have said goodbye to the sector, none of the journalists’ organizations have accurate data. However, according to the South Asia Press Freedom Report, 2,000 journalists (working journalists) and non-journalistic staff (non-journalistic staff) have been dismissed from their jobs in a period of one year from May 2018 to April 2019. The actual number is much higher than that. In Lahore alone, the number of journalists and media workers fired during the last five years is close to 1000. According to Afzal Butt, president of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), since 2017, the economic killing of journalists has intensified. According to him, more than 10,000 journalists have been dismissed from their jobs in the last four to five years.
Reaction of journalistic organizations to dismissals of journalist workers
Abdul Majeed Sajid, secretary of Lahore Press Club and senior journalist, says that it is a fact that hundreds of journalists have become unemployed due to various reasons. Press clubs and journalistic organizations raised their voices and protested against it at every forum. Former Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, former Chief Minister Punjab, has raised his voice against the firing of journalists on the floor of the Punjab Assembly, Governor House, outside the Press Club and in every forum where possible. Protests and sit-ins were also held outside the offices of some journalistic institutions. Because of this, journalists have received their dues and there has been a significant reduction in forced dismissals from institutions.
Asif Butt, president of Electronic Media Reporters Association, says that whenever a journalist was fired from his job or there was a problem in paying his dues, he first went to this organization along with his colleagues and protested. He said that in view of the increasing unemployment of journalists , he started Emra daily with the help of colleagues, started Youtube Primera News. Dozens of journalists are working with this organization now. Apart from this, many unemployed journalists are financially supported on a monthly basis. He was also given a loan to start his own business so that he could stand on his own feet.
Asif Butt says that he is running daily Emra News, daily Baldiat, sports channel, digital channel and also the first special channel in Asia where all employees are special persons. Digital channel anchor Saad Mustafa is also blind. Apart from this, the daily newspaper Parliament is going to start very soon.
This institution is run by the partnership of various entrepreneurs. At present, 126 people in Lahore, 46 in Multan, 25 in Islamabad and about 20 journalists are associated with his organization and now he has established offices in other cities including Peshawar, Quetta and Gujranwala to give employment to his journalist brothers. will Journalists working in Emra News say that there are not huge salaries here, but thanks to Allah, they get a reasonable salary every month, with which the stoves of their homes are burning.
The president of Lahore Press Club also had to wash his hands of the PTV program
Lahore Press Club president and senior journalist Azam Chaudhary was recently fired from PTV as an analyst only because he gave a speech in front of (former) Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif on June 30 at the Punjab Governor House. During the press conference, the issue of restrictions on the media was raised. He questioned the Prime Minister as to when and how restrictions on media will end and why political parties like Muslim League-N and People’s Party did not support freedom of expression. Shahbaz Sharif replied that he was against the restrictions and referred the matter to (former) Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb. He said that he does not want to dwell on the past but he is aware of what happened. He assured Azam Chaudhary that his legitimate concerns would be addressed.
According to Azam Chowdhury, he was fired from PTV after this press conference. He said he was hired by PTV as an analyst, but was fired without explanation. He said that he is a victim of media pressure and threats.
However, PTV management says that no directive has been issued to ban Azam Chaudhary’s participation in the programs. Azam Chaudhary was participating in a program as an analyst and was expressing his views freely. According to PTV management, the selection of relevant analysts for a program depends on the topic under discussion and is at the producer’s discretion. PTV has a number of analysts who are selected based on the needs of the program and the expertise of the participants. PTV Antamiya also informed that Azam Chowdhury himself has refused to participate in various talk shows on several occasions in the past due to his other engagements.
Secretary General of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists Rana Azim says that the traditional economic model of the media has become obsolete and now this model is not compatible with the current conditions, which results in job cuts and delayed salaries in media houses. I am coming forward. Rana Azim says that every government and state institution wants all newspapers and TV channels to follow their narrative, if even a small piece of news goes against a government or state institution, he gets angry, newspapers and Channels are banned from advertising, banned by PEMRA and programs of unwanted anchors are stopped. By justifying this situation, journalistic organizations fire workers from their jobs or the problems of non-payment of their salaries arise.
Rana Azeem says that PFUJ has raised its voice on every forum regarding this matter, pressure has increased on journalistic institutions due to which now the series of forced dismissals has stopped but now new media houses have also been established. There have been places where unemployed journalists have found jobs. Due to social media, many journalists have found alternative employment.
Taleb Faridi, a senior journalist from Lahore, who has been associated with Express Media Group for many years, says that journalistic organizations have protested against the dismissal of journalists, but unfortunately, the relationship between the journalistic community and the organizations is not clear. I am not unity. There is a general perception among journalists that officials of journalistic organizations work for the interests of their respective institutions. An organization lays off workers, when a protest is announced against it, the workers working in the same organization do not cooperate. Therefore, there is no hope of improvement.
Taleb Faridi says that apparently things are not as bad as these owners make them out to be. TV channels and newspapers are getting advertisements from the private sector in the same way as before. Yes, there has definitely been a reduction in government advertisements. This reduction in one year is only 7%. He said that the problem of an ordinary journalist and media worker is not unannounced censorship . Their problem is their economic murder, these people want job security. Their problem is that they want to get salary every month so that they can feed their wives and children.
What did the government do to save journalists from being unemployed?
What steps is the government taking to save journalists from unemployment and why are media houses not being talked to? And anyway the caretaker government has nothing to do with these matters, the permanent governments make these policies. On the other hand, the caretaker Federal Minister for Information, Murtaza Solangi, was also contacted to know his position on this matter, but he did not give any reply.
Former federal information minister Fawad Chaudhary says that the major problem regarding media houses is the lack of transparency. Financial files of all major media groups are not available, all media groups are required by law to inform PEMRA of their financial affairs, but none of the media groups have fulfilled this legal obligation. During the Tehreek-e-Insaaf era, only Hum News, Dawn News and Business Record reported their profits which earned 36 to 40 percent profit respectively. Fawad Chaudhary says that the solution to this problem is to take the media out of individual ownership and give it to a public limited company so that the financial books come out and the public and media workers can know the details of the organization’s financial affairs. The bosses started a campaign against me for financial transparency and unfortunately our government succumbed to this pressure.
Why are media houses forced to lay off workers?
President of the Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors Kazim Khan says that there are two major sources of income for newspapers; One is government advertisements while the other is private sector advertisements. Government advertising rates are very low while talking about the private sector, there were three major sectors with mobile companies, real estate, business organizations and educational institutions advertising at the top. Unfortunately, the advertisements of telecom companies moved to TV channels. Another problem for newspapers is the skyrocketing value of the dollar. Paper, ink and other goods are imported from abroad. Paper which was earlier Rs 150 per kg has reached Rs 400 to Rs 450 per kg.
He said that CPNE delegation had met Shahbaz Sharif (at that time he was the Prime Minister) and he had assured that the rates of government advertisements would be increased to 35% but there was no response yet. No progress has been made. Apart from this, a policy has been made regarding official advertisements to digital newspapers, but it is not being implemented. Regional newspapers are closing down while national newspapers are badly affected. In such circumstances, newspaper owners and editors are left with no other option but to reduce staff.
In this regard, when I asked the director of New News Muhammad Usman to know the reasons for the retrenchment of journalists from the electronic media and the cut in their salaries, he said that the media industry is now being run as a business. . No longer is the sentiment that the owners take losses and run the media houses. Advertisements are the source of revenue for media houses. Earlier, there were 7, 8 channels, so the revenue was distributed among these institutions. Now there are 18 to 20 channels. Due to this the revenue rate has decreased. Also, advertisements are now being given to digital media in addition to TV channels.
On the other hand, if we look at the expenses, the operational cost has increased manifold due to inflation. Electricity bills alone, which were Rs 50 lakh per year for an organization, have reached Rs 20 crore. In these situations, when the owners are facing losses or their profits are reduced, then this affects the workers. Layoffs are made, pay cuts are made.
Mohammad Usman says that a new trend is emerging in electronic media, the real estate sector itself is buying media houses. New channels are coming up, journalists are getting good salary packages due to employment and competition but it is a question whether this trend will continue. So the answer does not seem to be positive because we have few examples from the past. Those who invest in the media from the real estate sector have their own interests, they give huge salaries and benefits for a few months, but when they do not get the revenue, they do not get the profit as expected, then they blame the journalists. Either they are fired or their salaries are cut.