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Journalists' Salary Comes Under Scrutiny

SUVA: Fiji journalists work under strained conditions [and for poor salaries], Assistant Information Minister Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi claimed yesterday, the Fiji Times reports.

Vayeshnoi said journalists were working long hours without overtime pay.

He said the starting salary of some journalists was below those of civil servants and garment workers.

Vayeshnoi made the comments at the opening of a Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) workshop in Nadi [funded by the AusAID Pacific Media Initiative].

He said media owners must be held accountable for the training and working conditions of their journalists.

"It is not unusual for journalists to work 16 or 18 hours [a day] and travel long distances at weekends," he said.

"Some are being paid $F4000 to $F5000 per annum - well below the starting salary of their counterparts in the civil service or even garment workers for that matter.

"Much of their poor working conditions can also be attributed to the absence of an active industry union, given its opposition by the management of most media organisations."

Vayeshnoi said it was not clear whether the Fiji Journalists Association (FJA) was still actively involved in the welfare of journalists.

He said there was a need for all journalists in Fiji to come under one umbrella.

Vayeshnoi questioned the role of the Fiji Islands Media Association and the Fiji Journalism Training Institute.

He said FIMA had been dormant for over a year and had not released any training programmes.

Vayeshnoi said FIMA's financial mess was also of concern to the government.

"There has been no proper accounting and administration system between 1996 and 1998 which is of great concern to government as it will adversely affect the chances of such aid being made available to us in the future," he said.

Vayeshnoi said the government was ready to help FIMA find strategic partners and manage the training institute.

VAYESHNOI TELLS OF NEED FOR ETHICS

SUVA: Untrained and politically-biased journalists breach media ethics, a training workshop in Nadi was told yesterday.

"Media reports must be accurate, well-researched and balanced, reflecting the guidelines and ethics all journalists are bound to uphold," Assistant Information Minister Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi said.

"These, I believe, are the key elements that set the professionals apart.

"It is the untrained, unseasoned journalists and politically biased who make mistakes."

Vayeshnoi highlighted recent media reports on possible cabinet reshuffles.

"How many cabinet reshuffles have been reported locally by the media, based on conjecture and denials by the government either shelved or ignored?" he asked.

"It is with these types of statements, based on personal prejudices against one minister or another, that journalists involved, can no longer claim impartiality of the organisation he or she represents.

"It is these types of stories that bring into question the credibility of the media organisation which reports such news."

The workshop will look at managing a professional organisation, handling ethics and developing professional standards.

+++niuswire

PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media, the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, and Pactok Communications, in Sydney and Port Moresby.

(c)1996-2000 Copyright - All rights reserved.

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