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Peshawar Journalists Worried About The Future As Employment Crisis Hits

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PESHAWAR: A number of journalists have lost their jobs in recent days due to a crisis in Pakistani media. But commentators have pointed out that a question arises about the reasons behind this media crisis: it is either economic recession or a competition between the traditional and social media.

According to the General Secretary at Peshawar Press Club (PPC), Zafar Iqbal, about 40 journalists and 60 support staff have lost jobs since September 2018 under the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.

He said that members of the club and Khyber Union of Journalists staged a protest for two hours every Thursday in front of Peshawar Press Club to condemn journalists being laid off. He added that besides these symbolic measures, they have taken some practical steps about the grave threat to the livelihood of journalists: in this context, the PPC gives a stipend of Rs10,000 to the members who have lost jobs.

To compensate the jobless journalist, Peshawar Press Club held a meeting with the information department officials who had agreed to release advertisements for local media houses and in return, the organizations will accommodate the club members. A few of the newspapers have “adjusted” some of the unemployed journalists but the overall situation appears to be going from bad to worse and the current provincial government doesnt seem to take practical steps for the media community.

Peshawar-based unemployed journalists are leaving the media industry and some of them have even started their own businesses. “In some cases, the journalists are even working as security guards, while only 8 to 10 journalists have been accommodated in local newspapers on meagre pay,” the General Secretary added.

Talking to Naya Daur, Khyber Union of Journalists president Fida Khattak said that the provincial assembly had passed a bill for the protection of journalists’ jobs but the government failed to implement that bill according to its letter and spirit.

Answering a question as to whether journalists face these difficulties in employment in part because they are not equipped to meet the requirements of the digital era, he said that they

have spent 15 to 20 years in conventional media. In such a situation, neither journalists themselves nor the media organizations employing them train for multimedia work, blogging or as Youtubers. He emphasized that it was the responsibility of media houses to update their workers with new skills required for the digital age.

Khattak demanded that there be also an audit of media owners, since in his view they receive sufficient advertisements from government departments including those pertaining to information. In his view, these owners are never in any kind of loss and that “it is obvious they have created this artificial crisis.” In this context, he added that in firing dozens of journalists, media outlets are in total violation of the country’s labour laws.

Safeer Ullah, a journalist who has been working in the field since 2009 and was dismissed from his job two months ago, said that the wave of unemployment started from last year.

First, the media houses cut salaries up to 20% and later my organization Dunya Television sacked me along with one cameraman, an engineer of the Digital Satellite News Gathering (DSNG) vehicle and another reporter.

Answering a question about the possibility of moving to online media, he said that it was not profitable in Pakistan at the moment.

Another journalist Aftab Mohmand has worked with many media organizations but these days he is jobless. “I was financially supported by the Press Club in the first month,” he says. “We repeatedly asked the information minister to ban advertisement for such newspapers and television networks but nothing was done practically to support the journalists so far.”

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