Finance Minister AMA Muhith on Tuesday categorically said there is no need to have any wage board for journalists, triggering a war of words with reporters.“We’ve a feeling that the wage board for journalists is unnecessary, totally unnecessary! Because your salary scales are better than government salary scales,” he told reporters who instantly disagreed with the minister saying, “No, no.”
Muhith kept saying, “Let me finish….so, we intervene wherever salary scales are bad. We shouldn’t intervene where salary scales are good. What the information I’ve got today is that your salary scales are better than government scales.”The journalists again disagreed with him and tried to give him proper information.
The Finance Minister was talking to reporters after his meeting with the representatives of Newspaper Owners’ Association of Bangladesh (NOAB) at his secretariat office.One of the reporters informed Muhith that one having a postgraduate degree starts journalism with only Tk 8,000 a month. In reply, Muhith said they (govt) have peons having masters’ degrees. “I understand you’ve five grades. What’s the lowest…around Tk 20,000?”
Another reporter told him that television channels do not have wage board but the Finance Minister claimed they do have, too.Amid the argument, Muhith asked the reporters to take an initiative and give him a list of five grades of journalists under wage board.The reporters pointed that the wage board is not effective in all the media houses.
The Finance Minister wanted to know the number of newspapers published from Dhaka. In reply, reporters said the number is 201.“Rubbish. That’s my answer to you. Rubbish. At best, the number could be 20. See, there’re over 500 newspapers…all these are bogus. Shall I fix salary scales for them? No, not all. I’ll fix the salary scales for the 15-20 newspapers where people work. And give me the salary scales of these newspapers,” Muhith said venting his anger.
He also said they have not taken any decision yet because he has an understanding that there is no need of wage board for journalists.Asked about the fate of television channels, Muhith said these stations will die one day and that is desirable for the country. He posed a question saying in which part of the world has so many TV channels like here.
In reply, the reporters said the government gave the licenses to these televisions.Muhith said these channels will die naturally and there will be consolidation.Information Minister Hasanul Huq Inu, who was standing beside the Finance Minister, supplemented saying there is no law to deal with the salary scales of TV journalists.
Inu said they discussed newspaper issue with owners at a meeting with the Finance Minister in the chair and they also talked about problems the sector faces.Muhith added, “There has been no decision. We’ve collected information. And we’re getting very sad information.”
How and why newspapers remain operational if they are not following rules and regulations, the reporters asked the Finance Minister and Information Minister.“It’s heart-breaking news for television journalists. Many journalists may die hearing this news,” said one of the reporters.