28 May 2007

Legal Eyes on Working Journalists Act

By Harsha Man Maharjan

I believe that people who have not studied journalism from Proficiency Level have rights to study Journalism and Mass Communication in Masters Level. This is happening in two colleges in Nepal: Kantipur City College and College of Mass Communication and Journalism. It is not happening in R R College.

I think specialists need to think over Nepali journalism and mass communication. Here I am giving an example of Working Journalists Act 2051 v.s.(1995) Ramesh Badal is a lawyer having specialization in Labour issues. His interpretation of the genesis of Working Journalist Act of Nepal was new to me. I studied the act minutely many times but I could not discern the issues as he did. He was speaking in a media discussion series organized by Martin Chautari on 24 May 2007. Its topic was Issues Related to Working Journalists in Electronic Media.

He thinks it was a blunder of Nepali journalism sector to deny to entertain Labour Act in 1990s. At that time in Nepal trade unionism was only in industries, factories and hotels. Journalists went for Working Journalists Act as in India to differ themselves from muscle power using workers.

According to Badal there is a provision of entertaining Industrial Dispute Act in Indian act related to working journalists which Nepali act lacks.
Actually media owners framed Nepali Working Journalists Act. And the act came in favour of media owner.

These owners included a clause of “journalists in contract”. This provision became weapons to exploit journalists. Nepali journalism sector in infant age at that time and there was majority of journalists who even see management.
So the demand for its amendments came in later years. Some even demand to annul the act.

Government has brought a bill related to amendments in the act. It covers all journalists: print, radio, tv and online. The bill provides equal facilities even to journalists in contract.

Yet Badal is not satisfied with the amendments. He thinks all issues related to working journalists are to be addressed through labour department and labour court. This is not clear in the amendments. He still sees hesitation in journalism sector to go through labour act.

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