For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
Sri Lanka media guards top salary secret
Mar 19, 2013 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s media, including banned-but-popular news websites, have evidently avoided reporting on the “princely wages” they have just been awarded by a government keen to win over their support.
The Wages Board for the Journalists Trade determined last week that an editor of a daily newspaper should be paid a minimum 22,730/ ( 179US) rupees, three times the amount of money a family needs for a month. Even factoring a 10 percent inflation rate since Education Minister Bandula Gunawardena worked out last year that a family of three can live comfortably for a month on 7,500 rupees, the Wages Board decision appears generous.
None of the national newspapers have reported the Wages Board decision that went into effect from March 1, 2013.
However, the Wages Board itself took out advertisements last week to announce the new salary structures. Even then, the main stream media appears to have ignored the money side of their trade.
A trainee in the journalism trade is guaranteed a minimum wage of 9,460 rupees, well above Minister Gunawardena’s standard of living.
At the lowest entry level, a reporter, photographer, junior sub-editor, proof reader (a dying breed in journalism as evidenced by typographical errors in all news media) is paid 14,235 rupees.
This is perhaps the first de facto official recognition that school-leavers entering the journalism trade are better qualified than graduates in government service who are paid only 10,000 rupees at entry level.
Buoyed by such compliments, media trade unions are unlikely to join the Organisation of Professional Associations (OPA).
The Working Journalists’ Association, which got journalism recognised as a “trade” worthy of the wages board intervention in the mid 1980’s, did not comment on the new salary structure or their plans to stay away from the OPA.
However, a senior reporter who requested anonymity said he feared a government conspiracy to get them to fall in line with the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Law No 1 of 1975.
The law requires editors and members of the editorial staff of newspapers to make an annual assets declaration although not many are known to have complied over the years. But with higher pay, there is no escaping
By Namal Suvendra