United Progressive People (UPP) president Saviour Chishimba says government must stop underpaying and abusing journalists.

In a statement today, Chishimba said he had received information that journalists from Times of Zambia and Zambia Daily Mail were being underpaid and had accrued salary arrears.

“We, in the United Progressive People (UPP), are in receipt of credible information on the extent of casualisation of journalists and allied workers at Times of Zambia and Daily Mail. Even though the detailed information that we have is on these two media houses, we are fully aware of casualisation, underpayments, abuses, accrual of salary arrears and the absence of job security for journalists across all media houses. This most nauseous practice must be stopped by the government and owners of media houses,” Chishimba stated.

“Journalism is a noble profession, which deserves dignity through good conditions of service. Journalists should not be used as ladders to immense wealth by owners of media houses. A look at the list of journalists, in our possession, who are working as causal workers at Times of Zambia and Daily Mail is appalling. One of the casual journalists at Times even died in the course of duty in Kabwe. This is totally unacceptable and cannot be allowed to go on unabated.”

Chishimba noted that the amount of money some journalists where earning on a monthly basis could not enable them sustain themselves.

“Whereas K500,000 is being secured by one of the public media houses to buy a luxurious vehicle for the deputy managing director, the salary arrears are continuing to swell up for journalists. Some of the casual journalists get paid K20 ($2) per story and how can these hard working men and women sustain their families in this economy?” Chishimba wondered.

He however noted that even the private media was not so different.

“Further, UPP sadly notes that the same practice is not uncommon across the entire media spectrum in the private sector. Some of the journalists and allied workers work long hours without contracts and decent pay, and yet the owners of these media houses drive the most expensive cars on the blood and sweat of the hard working journalists,” he stated.

Chishimba called on Minister of Information Kampamba Mulenga to intervene and ensure that journalists were not exploited by their employees.

“UPP urges the Minister of Information to immediately intervene and end all manner of casualisation. We also demand that all the salary arrears be paid as well as increase salaries for journalists and allied workers in all public media houses (Times of Zambia, Zambia Daily Mail and ZNBC). The labour laws in Zambia proscribe casualisation and this piece of legislation begs implementation by the PF-led government. We stand ready to fully support government efforts in this endeavour,” he said.

Chishimba also challenged Minister of Labour Joyce Nonde to audit both public and private media houses on labour compliance.

“UPP challenges the Minister of Labour to undertake a labour compliance audit in both public and private media houses. We shall not close this campaign for justice until each and every media house is in compliance. The future UPP Government, God willing, will religiously implement the policy of equal work for equal pay,” said Chishimba.