Journalists in Timor Leste are facing pay cuts amid the Covid-19 outbreak. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has joined its affiliate the Timor Leste Press Union (TLPU) to call on media company proprietors to reconsider this decision and protect the rights of journalists, who are on the front line in the fight against the Covid-19.
The President of Timor Leste Francisco Guterres Lu Olo declared a national emergency on Friday, March 27. Since Monday, April 1, all activities in the capital city of Dili have been significantly reduced in efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Several printed media outlets have reportedly cut workers' salaries, as media companies face a steep decline in revenue. The decision also affects correspondents in regional areas, with the newspapers focusing on news coverage in the capital.
Even before the pandemic, journalists in Timor Leste struggled to make a living because of wage pressures. On average, journalists receive around US$150 per month which is insufficient to make a decent living and provide for a family.
The South East Asia Media Freedom Report 2019 revealed that the key safety threats for journalists in Timor Leste are poor wages and deteriorating working conditions. This results in journalists being forced to take on other work after hours to supplement their income. It also affects their professionalism and independence, as journalists are more likely to use sources that provide a fee for their services. The lack of decent wages and associated benefits continues to discourage and undermine good journalism in the country.
As of April 14, Timor Leste has confirmed 18 positive cases of Covid-19. Around 570 people are still in isolation.
The chairman of TLPU, Manuel Pinto, has asked media owners to review their decision to cut journalist salaries. "Actually, in such a situation journalists' salaries must be increased rather than cut because journalists are on the front line in the fight to overcome this pandemic," Pinto added.
The IFJ said: "IFJ is disappointed with the decision to reduce the salaries of journalists at a time when high quality reporting in vital. IFJ urges media proprietors to review their decision as protecting workers' rights and ensuring their safety must be prioritised in this health crisis."
For further information contact IFJ Asia – Pacific on +61 2 9333 0918