The Federation of Nepali Journalists said its attention had been drawn to the mental torture meted out to journalists by various media houses on the pretext of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It warned that subjecting working journalists to layoffs, pay cuts, forced leave without pay, improper transfer and denial of regular and full salary without valid reasons was unacceptable and illegal.

The umbrella organisation of journalists also said that the condition of mediapersons had been worsening like never before amid the resurgence of the second wave of the pandemic.

Issuing a press release, FNJ said working journalists had been facing the double whammy of escape from its duties and responsibilities towards employees in the adverse situation created by COVID-19. It also called on media houses to immediately stop the act of expelling journalists, provide regular and full salary and refrain from sending them on leave," read the release.

"Journalists have been working on the frontline to disseminate information to the public and guarantee citizens' right to information in the midst of the pandemic," it said.

FNJ warned that rigorous agitation would be the only option to make the media houses pay the salary of working journalists and retain their jobs if the demands put forth by them were not addressed as soon as possible.

Section 20 of the Working Journalists Act guarantees that the service and facility of journalists shall not be altered or changed in any way that affects them. It also demanded that the government duly implement the prevailing law to do justice to working journalists and deny state facilities to such media houses for failing to abide by the law.

"As the government is the implementing agency of the law, it should be equally accountable to the problems faced by journalists," said the release. FNJ also appealed to journalists to lodge complaint with it so that necessary action could be initiated in that regard.

Meanwhile, FNJ is all set to conduct monitoring of media houses beginning tomorrow to take stock of the situation before announcing protest programmes against them. Earlier, the National Human Rights Commission had written to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to resolve the crisis facing journalists, but to no avail.

According to the findings of a national survey recently released by Nepal Press Institute and Bournemouth University of the United Kingdom last month, COV- ID-19 has affected the mental well-being of majority of journalists in Nepal.

Eighty-three per cent of journalists reported increased sense of vulnerability, 75 per cent increased anxiety, and 62 per cent grief, while 25 per cent said they experienced depression. The respondents also reported decrease in broadcast, video and audio productions.

A version of this article appears in the print on June 21, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.