Minister of Communications and Information Technology Parbat Gurung said discussion was on with the Ministry of Health and Population to immunise members of the Federation of Nepali Journalists with Covishield vaccine free of cost.

At an interaction on 'Mass Media and Working Journalists: Policy, Programme and Budget' organised by the ministry today, Minister Gurung announced that a relief package would be brought for COVID-affected working journalists. Expressing commitment to implement minimum wages for working journalists, he said discussion would be held with owners of media houses for the same.

The government has determined minimum wage of Rs 24,375 for working journalists in national media and Rs 17,625 for working journalists in other media houses. Minister Gurung reaffirmed his commitment to make the acts and laws related to mass media more media-friendly.

Gurung, also the spokesperson for the government, said the government would allocate budget for Mass Media Academy in the next fiscal. He asserted that the FNJ should consider reviewing the provisions regarding the distribution of journalists' identity card. The minister pledged to address the issues surrounding the press pass and online registration that is handled by the Department of Information at the earliest.

Moreover, Minister Gurung said that the government was considering bringing new programmes for journalists to secure their welfare. Gurung elaborated that the government, based on experts' recommendations, would formulate longterm plans for life insurance, health insurance and accident insurance for journalists.

On a different note, Minister Gurung urged the media to become creative and positive instead of being cynical and negative.

"Mediapersons are not only a means of giving birth to conflict, but they could also serve as facilitators to reduce conflict."

On the occasion, the communications ministry Secretary Hari Prasad Basyal pledged to hold a discussion on relief the ministry could provide to the media affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Likewise, Chairperson of Gorkhapatra Corporation Krishna Murari Bhandari stressed the need for the media to be efficient and self-reliant instead of relying on the government for survival.

Chairperson of Nepal Television and former FNJ Chairperson Dr Mahendra Bista suggested review of media in terms of its content and responsibility.

Similarly, General Manager of Rastriya Samachar Samiti Opendra Sharma drew the attention of media houses to the illegal use of RSS content.

Other speakers - former FNJ chairpersons Dr Suresh Acharya and Shiva Gaule - and former General Secretary Ujir Magar and General Secretary of Nepal Press Union Ajaya Babu Siwakoti urged an amendment to the Public Service Broadcasting Bill after holding consultation with stakeholders.

FNJ vice-chairs Bipul Pokharel and Dilip Thapamagar demanded an insurance scheme for journalists based on FNJ membership. Coordinator of the Press Organisation Nepal Ganesh Basnet underscored the need for the government to support the media with small investment.

A version of this article appears in the print on February 8, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.