On May 21, the Minimum Wages Fixation Committee (MWFC), including board member and FNJ President Bipul Pokharel, met with the Minister for Communication and Information Technology, Rekha Sharma, to discuss a report calling for a minimum wage increase for Nepali journalists. Under the current legislation in the Working Journalists Act, the minimum monthly wage is NPR 24,600 (approx. USD 184).
The FNJ began talks with the Labour Welfare Promotion Committee in July 2018, demanding wage increases for working journalists. After considering a family budget survey by the National Bank, as well as inflation and other economic factors, the organisation and committee determined the minimum wage for working journalists in Nepal should be doubled, to NPR 40,000 (approx. USD 299). Advocacy by Bipul Pokharel and the FNJ has allowed the recommendations to be pushed forward in a meeting with Minister Sharma on May 21 2023, five years from the FNJ’s initial demands.
Following discussions and an agreement with Sharma, the MWFC submitted the report and its recommendations to the government, calling for an increase in the minimum monthly wage for journalists by 40 per cent to NPR 34,125 (approx. USD 255). At an official press conference, Minister Sharma said that despite weak economic conditions in Nepal, she would “take initiative” to increase the minimum wage for journalists in line with the report's recommendations.
The demand was one of eight recommendations from the MWFC for the government to amend the Working Journalists Act, legislation that governs and protects journalists in Nepal and established the MWFC. The act was implemented in the early 1990s and has not been amended since 2009.
Nepal’s economic crisis, exacerbated by the Covid-19 global pandemic, has resulted in an increase in media rights violations over the last three years, with journalists underpaid and left jobless. The IFJ’s South Asia Press Freedom Report, ‘Pressure and Polarisation: Powering Media Resistance in South Asia’, published on World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2023, found Nepal had the second highest rate of media rights violations regionally after Pakistan, recording 56 from May 1, 2022 to April 30, 2023.
The IFJ said: “The valuable work performed by journalists and media workers must be properly compensated, with these commitments representing an important step to amend years of inaction and wage stagnation in Nepal. The IFJ commends the advocacy led by the FNJ and other media stakeholders, and urges Minister Sharma and the Nepali government to seriously consider the MWFC’s recommendations to help improve the working conditions of all journalists and media workers.”