As journalists along with doctors and police, are at the forefront of the fight against coronavirus, less attention is being paid to them, with a number of media outlets forced to fire their journalists and reporters.
So far, however, two journalists, one in Herat and the other in Kandahar, have been infected with the coronavirus.
However, the Presidential Palace intends to help female journalists who have become unemployed during the quarantine in the country.
“They should compile a list of these journalists and give them to the Presidential Palace,” said Vida Saghari, a freelance journalist in the country. “They have decided to give the female journalists at least 4 months of food and supplies.”
“In the current situation, local radio stations have fired up to 10 employees each, and each radio station works with two or three employees. In the capital, the salaries of most journalists have been halved too,” she said.
Unemployment of Female Journalists in the Corona Crisis
Earlier, Afghanistan Supporting Open Media-Nai has called on the government to allocate part of the emergency budget for the fight against corona to the media.
Nai said in a statement on Saturday that the Afghan government has a special budget for each province, depending on the extent of the virus, which so far has been allocated to Herat, Kandahar and Kabul provinces.
“Although the government has said it will help the media out of the entire budget allocated to Corona, so far only Kabul and Herat have been paid in practice,” Mujib Khelwatgar, head of Nai said.
Under the current circumstances, a number of journalists, especially unemployed women, have now become jobless.
Nabila Akbari, a reporter for Radio Shahr in Kabul, has been unemployed for nearly a month. She left the radio after it became difficult for her to go to work in this situation. Currently, 4 men and 3 women have been dismissed from the radio.
Nabila Akbari told Reporterly: “After the outbreak of the coronavirus, head of the radio told us that we cannot afford to pay our salaries. They are also right. We used to get a small living wage which the virus also caused the isolation of a number of radio employees.”
Lack of Media Cooperation
Khadijeh Hosseini is another journalist who has been dismissed from a private television station. She has been fired since March 6 and is at home.
Ms. Hosseini has been working in the media outlets for a year and a half and is still a third-year journalism student at a private university.
“Our statement was published for this very reason because we believed that if quarantined, we would see challenges in two areas: trade, which would stagnate the market, and the media,” Khelwatgar said.
“Whatever happens in the market, it will affect the media and their activities. Our request to the government was to address this problem, because there is no other way but to interact with the journalists if they work without a salary or pay less, that they can keep the media with less money.”
The media outlet believes that this is normally challenging, now that the situation is even more difficult because if journalists become unemployed, they will take other steps to work, which will be more dangerous to their health.
Samira Sharifi, managing director of Shabnam Radio in Kunduz, said she was forced to temporarily lay off her employees: “Our work situation has weakened since the coronavirus problem. This has forced us to dismiss three employees, and only work with two employees. I couldn’t pay their salaries and fired them temporarily.”
Challenges Remain in Place
Nabila Akbari, who lives in a family of nine, now has no family income. Her father was also a cook who became unemployed during this time.
“The government is paying less attention to the media because of attention to other issues such as war, dialogue with the Taliban for peace and internal challenges, while the media need to ensure freedom of expression,” said Mujib Khalvatgar. “
However, the country’s media still faces several major challenges. The security challenge has not only made life difficult for the people, but also for the media and journalists, and the financial and economic issue has led to the closure of a number of media outlets and the reduction of journalists.
Zackaria Noori contributed reporting.