Kathmandu : debate has already begun in the field of (Nepali) journalism whether submission of a ‘payroll’ is necessary for a press pass to be provided by the government.
The debate followed the government (Ministry of Communications and Information Technology)’s instruction to the Department of Information to make provisions for the submission of the payroll (detail of payment of working journalists, media workers and employees through a banking system) before claiming for the government facilities.
According to Ministry spokesperson Rhishiram Tiwari, the decision to make the banking payroll for the DoI press pass mandatory aims to ensure the effective enforcement of the minimum wages for working journalists. “It is never intended to impose any sort of control over media.”
Some media experts have heartily welcomed the government decision while some voices are the government is demanding the bank statement which is connected to the issue of individual privacy as well.
Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) chair Govinda Acharya said the guarantee of minimum wages for journalists as determined by the law is the demand of the organisation. It could not entertain any attempt capable for obstructing the process towards the enforcement of minimum wages.
Nepal Press Union senior vice president Deepak Acharya said the Union has a clear-cut view that the minimum wages provision must be enforced, but in the name of the implementation, the bank statement should not be sought, violating personal privacy and freedom.
Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ)’s former president Dr Mahendra Bista said that one among the right to freedom of press and the right against labour exploitation should not be used to cancel the other as both the rights are guaranteed by the constitution. He added that the media should not shy away from transparency.
Press Chautari Nepal’s general secretary Rajesh Rai said the government’s initiatives to get the minimum salary for journalists implemented was a welcome move. “Everyone speaks and fights for own class. Some people speaking in favour of the media owners is but natural. The press freedom should not be considered restricted when the working journalists are paid for their work or the owners are made to pay for the work,” he said.
The Media Society, however, has urged the government to correct the provision requiring journalists to submit the bank statement indicating their pay while applying for the press accreditation card from the Department of Information, citing this provision attempted to restrict the press as the payroll is related to a person’s privacy.
The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology on January 21 issued a directive to the Department of Information to make the pay roll of the working journalists, employees and media workers mandatory for renewing their ‘press pass’.
“Arrangements would be made for rendering the services and facilities provided at the governmental level only after all the media institutions make provision for paying the remuneration of working journalists, workers and employees through the banking system. The Department is urged to send the progress report on this provision to the Ministry on a regular basis,” reads the Ministry’s directive.
The Department, on February 1, on the basis of the Ministry’s this directive send a letter to all the media houses urging them to submit the certified copy of the pay roll as well as the copy certified by the bank of the request letter they wrote to the bank for depositing the remuneration and allowances, in order to be able to avail the services from it.
According to the Department, 26 journalists have had their ‘press passes’ renewed from the Department in the last two months. The government had increased the minimum salary of the working journalists by 25 per cent to be effective from October 18, 2018. The minimum salary of the working journalists is now set at Rs 24,300 per month.