Journalists in Bangladesh get paid more than what civil servants do, and should therefore not have a wage board, Finance Minister AMA Muhith has said.
He made the comment after a meeting with the Newspaper Owners’ Association of Bangladesh or NOAB on Tuesday, amid an ongoing movement by journalists demanding a new pay scale.
“A wage board for journalists is unnecessary, totally unnecessary. Because your salary scales are better than government salary scales,” said the minister.
A journalist then told Muhith that public servants receive pension after retirement. He said he used to get paid Tk 8,000 when he entered the profession with a master’s degree.
“We have peons who have completed master’s… You have five pay scale grades,” replied Muhith.
The current wage board for journalists came into effect in 2012.
The Ministry of Information has been working on the ninth wage board for journalists after they started an agitation for better wages following the increase in salaries for government employees.
The new board’s formation is being put off because NOAB had yet to name its representatives, the ministry has said.
Upon hearing Muhith’s comment, a journalist told him that he was “being misled by newspaper owners”.
“Then one or two of you should take this responsibility, and give me your salary grade,” the minister said.
The journalists also told him that there was no wage board for television journalists, and that not all newspapers follow the scale for paying their staff.
Muhith then asked, “How many daily newspapers are there in Dhaka?”
A journalist replied, “201.”
“Rubbish! It’s my answer to you. Rubbish! 201?” shouted Muhith.
The octogenarian minister was visibly trembling in rage, when Information Minister Hasanul Huq Inu who was standing beside, told him. “It’s okay, sir.”
Muhith said he doubts whether there were even 15 newspapers, at best 20.
“These some 500 newspapers, all bogus…you want to me fix a pay scale for them? No, not at all! I will fix pay scales for these 15 or 20 newspapers.”
He said they were yet to take a decision. “But what we think is there’s no need for a wage board for journalists.”
The minister made it clear that he was not in favour of fixing a pay scale for journalists; rather he wants the market to determine it.
“There is no wage board, except for the public service.”
When reporters pointed it out to him that there has been always a wage board for journalists, Muhith said it was ‘wrong.’ “If I find the wage board for journalists above the salary scales of government, I shall not constitute the wage board.”
Information Minister Inu clarified that the new wage board in consideration was for newspaper staff as a law for the electronic media is yet to be formulated.