Journalists in Nepal worked on the forefront of global crisis posed by COVID-19. Despite sheer adversity, they worked continuously to ensure citizens' right to information and free speech. But, with the closure of many media due to financial paucity and some taking pandemic as an excuse, the working journalists faced tough time and were deprived of remuneration.

Many journalists were therefore forced to quit the media, left unpaid, and low paid. With this in background, the umbrella organisation of working journalists in Nepal -- the Federation of Nepali Journalists -- has decided to take the agenda of press freedom and rights of working journalists.

FNJ senior Vice-chair Ramesh Bista viewed they were preparing to set up a separate mechanism at the central level to deal with and promote the labour rights of journalists. In his address to a session organised by the FNJ Corporate Province Committee here today, he said the labour exploitation of journalists could not be entertained under any circumstances.

"Media entrepreneurs should stop thinking that their business would go on amidst the violation of the rights of working journalists," said Bista, stressing that working journalists' financial rights must be addressed at any rate.

The session also discussed the journalists' contemporary issues and refining of FNJ membership. The majority of the participants stressed the need of self-correction to prevent the FNJ membership to non-journalists and to promote media professionalism.

"Political affiliation must not be the qualification of FNJ membership," the participants were univocal while adding that the honesty and compliance with required guidelines should be there on part of the people concerned while approving and renewing the membership.

It was reiterated at the programme that clean image of journalists and media could help prod other sectors to be clean and dignified.

The chairs of FNJ corporate chapters apprised the session of several issues like the non-payment, under payment, cut of perks and facilities, and so on in the pretext of COVID-19 crisis.

They were of the view that once the journalists were paid as per their work, it could help promote journalism and develop professionalism.

A version of this article appears in the print on October 9, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.