A group of journalism teachers and senior journalists has issued a statement calling upon the government – and the owners and editors of different media outlets in the country – to find a way to protect the industry and journalists during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Considering all the adverse realities, we urge the owners and editors of all media outlets – including newspapers and private television channels – to collectively find a way and strategy to keep the institutions afloat; without shutting down any organisations, laying off any journalists or reducing anyone's salaries and allowances," read the statement on Sunday.
"We believe that if you use your collective thinking, creative innovation and financial ability, you will overcome this difficult time without laying off anyone," said the statement signed by 60 academics who teach journalism at different public and private universities across the country.
The teachers include: Professor Sakhawat Ali Khan, Professor Golam Rahman, Professor AAMS Arefin Siddique, Professor Sheikh Abdus Salam, Professor Mofizur Rahman, and Professor Dulal Chandra Biswas.
They said laying off journalists is a common way to deal with the financial crisis. In this age of modern thinking and technology, it is important to think about how your organisations can be managed by ensuring the livelihoods of all journalists without resorting to old tactics like firing.
In the midst of this crisis, the owners of media outlets can seek loan assistance from the government on the easiest terms or bring emergency assistance funds to media outlets from their other businesses – media owners' organisations may consider setting up a joint fund to overcome the crisis.
"It is our firm belief that the owners and editors have more advanced and creative thinking than this," the statement added.
Highlighting the widespread impacts of the pandemic on the lives and livelihoods of people across the world, the statement said, "In such a reality we are getting some news about the current crisis in the media of the country which is making us anxious. We have learned that the authorities of many newspapers and television channels – a month after the general holiday was declared at the end of March to deal with Covid-19 – have decided not to give Eid bonuses to the journalists, officials and employees of their organisations."
"Well-established, profitable and well-known media organisations have cut bonuses by three-quarters. We are concerned that some media outlets are planning pay cuts and even layoffs of a large number of journalists, and to send journalists on compulsory leave without pay," added the statement signed by a group of 16 senior journalists from different print and electronic media houses.
The signatory journalists include: Nadeem Qadir, Sukanta Gupta Alak, J E Mamun, Ashok Chowdhury, Munni Saha, Julfikar Ali Manik, and Probhash Amin.
Mentioning that every conscious person knows how important a strong independent media and journalism are in a democratic state and society, it said the importance of journalism is immense to take all the public and private sectors forward.
"Therefore, we think it is more important in this crisis to come forward with the responsible role of both public and private sectors in protecting journalism and the media and the lives of journalists."
They said, "We would like to appeal to the public and private sectors at the same time, if you are considering reducing advertising in mainstream media outlets, avoid this."
"Instead, place more advertisements in the media to continue advancing journalism in the interest of all and to ensure the professional protection of journalists in all crises by increasing their income," they added.
"Our only concern is to ensure that not one journalist becomes jobless during this crisis. It is impossible for anyone who loses a job at this time to find another job or source of income in the current reality," it went on.