How would you feel if a dedicated journalist working for a massive media group tells you with tearful eyes that he stole money from his 10 year old son’s money box to fuel his motorbike for a gruelling commute to work? This is not a fictional story, it’s the harsh reality that journalists face every day. The hapless man from the prior example works for a monolithic company that owns and runs two TV channels and an Urdu newspaper, however despite its success and popularity, the higher ups have failed to show concern for their employees well being by not paying them their hard earned dues on time and being negligent towards employees’ legitimate expectations.
It is a common perception that journalists are blackmailers who earn money through underhand tactics, or envelopes bursting with money. Yes, the perception is true in some cases, with a select few reporters or anchorpersons owning properties worth millions, luxury vehicles and even foreign bank accounts, while earning a nominal salary. However, a vast majority of journalists are underpaid for the kind of work they have to do, but they are content with their financial status, because that is the price you pay for having a clean conscience.
Pakistan witnessed an impressive growth of media outlets, with several new news channels, FM radio stations and newspapers flooding the market every two or three months. Traditionally, three media groups had a monopoly in the media industry prior to 2001. With the dawn of a new era in the Pakistani media industry, the financial status of working journalists had a temporary boost. Initially, they would get sound salaries on a regular basis, only to be saved in the name of downsizing a short while later, and the ones who remained were never paid on time.
The situation for working journalists deteriorated when business tycoons and land-mafia pushed their way into the field to gain power in order to safeguard their illegal businesses. They hire people from other groups, fail to pay them in a timely manner, and then ruthlessly fire them when they demand what is rightfully theirs.
According to a careful estimate, there are over 60000 journalists across Pakistan including out station reporters with a measly 10 to 15 percent receiving their salaries, and out of those 10 to 15 percent salaried journalists, only half of them receive their paycheck on a regular basis.
According to one faction of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, 98 percent of outstation reporters are not paid. Various leading media organisations have not paid 6000 journalists over the past 3 months, with 200 of them being fired, as well as additional inhumane terminations in the coming months.
Media owners are morose about the fact that the PTI-led government retains a large cut of government advertisements, which has lead to severe losses thus explaining the context behind the delayed salaries. However before anyone starts feeling sorry for them, a PFUJ official said that the new advertisement policy only reduced the ratio of profit for the owners by a small margin, in reality, they are still earning a substantial profit, which makes their prior statement look like a pitiful excuse.
The attitude of media owners is a form of blatant dissent towards the orders of the Chief Justice, which clearly stated that they need to pay the relevant departments and introduce a sense of regularity when it comes to paying dedicated employees. Media owners are committing financial murder through a stone cold disregard for their diligent employees, which may even lead to actual deaths brought on by dire circumstances. We have witnessed several members of the journalistic fraternity dying, helplessly, in their homes and even offices, due to the unprecedented oversight displayed by their gluttonous employers, and they need to be held accountable for their heartless actions