The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is alarmed by the sackings of media personnel at television stations and newspapers across Pakistan and calls on media owners to treat their workers with respect and to abide by Pakistan’s labour laws.
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), an IFJ affiliate, reports that hundreds of journalists and media workers in all major cities of Pakistan have been sacked with little warning since the beginning of the year. Many retrenched workers have received no explanation or been told their retrenchment is due to “financial constraints”.
Complaints about abrupt sackings have been received from workers at television stations Dawn News, News One, Channel 5, Aaj, GEO and Samaa, as well as Aaj Kal, Daily Jinnah Khabrian, the Post, Alsharq and the Pakistan Observer newspapers.
The PFUJ notes that the sackings contravene the provisions of the Newspaper Employees’ Service Conditions Act, Pakistan labour laws and the International Labour Organisation’s conventions. It condemns the retrenchments as cruel and stresses that media workers are already being exploited through the failure of media owners to implement the Seventh Wage Award, in accordance with the law.
The PFUJ will lead countrywide rallies on April 7 to protest the retrenchments.
“The IFJ stands firmly with all Pakistan’s journalists and media workers in condemning these abrupt and unjust sackings of media personnel,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
“This kind of short-term response to financial constraints poses a threat not only to journalists’ livelihoods but to diversity of information and freedom of expression. Owners should be encouraging investors to recognise that their interests lie in companies that invest in their staff, not those that slash employment for short-term cost savings.”
The IFJ draws the attention of Pakistan’s media owners to the February 2009 Hong Kong Declaration, in which leaders of journalists’ associations and trade unions from across Asia-Pacific, attending an IFJ regional meeting on the global financial crisis, urged media houses to recognise that drastic cost-cutting only leads to a vicious downward spiral, in which media companies, workers and the wider public suffer.
The declaration calls on media owners to work with labour organisations to protect the rights, security and living conditions of media workers, and to devise and implement appropriate measures for sustaining quality media businesses during times of financial hardship.
“We urge media executives to invest in the future of journalism by building new audiences and wisely managing the introduction of new technologies and tools that allow journalists to tell their stories in new ways. News executives need vision and courage to do this,” the declaration said.