Dzulfiqar Fathur Rahman, Jakarta – The Association of Media Companies and Profession said Thursday that media companies might need a relief package to help with paper procurement and utility bills to survive the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic.
The association, representing 12 member organizations including the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and the Press Council, called for the government to subsidize 20 percent of the paper price per kilogram and 30 percent of monthly utility bills for the rest of the year starting from May.
To lighten the financial hardship battering journalists, the association also said the companies would need a low-interest loan and suspension of the premium payment of employment social security managed by the Workers Social Security Agency (BPJS Ketenagakerjaan).
"The fear of laying off media workers is becoming increasingly apparent as the industry sees business performance declining drastically, which is also happening in other industries at the same time," the Press Council's head of institutional and foreign relations, Agus Sudibyo, was quoted as saying in a statement released on Thursday.
Like a few other businesses, many budget-strapped media companies are continuing to operate as usual while figuring out how to make a profit amid the economic slump induced by the fast-spreading coronavirus, which has infected over 16,000 people and killed more than 1000 according to official figures released on Thursday.
As a result, the Legal Aid Institute for the Press (LBH Pers) and AJI reported that 26 journalists were laid off, 21 were furloughed and 11 faced pay cuts or delays between April 3 and May 2.
The government is allocating Rp 405 trillion (US$27.2 billion) to its coronavirus relief package, which allows restructuring of the micro-loan program (KUR) for up to six months and provides a free-fare utility for 24 million customers subscribing to the 450 volt ampere (VA) scheme and a 50 percent discount for 7 million customers of 900 VA for three months.
"We, the Association of Media Companies and Profession, urge the government to expand the stimulus beyond the Rp 405 trillion stimulus package that has been decided," said Agus.