By Raphael Jov, Abuja
Abuja based human rights group, Citizen Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER), has given seven days ultimatum to all private media houses owing their employees backlog of unpaid salaries and entitlements across Nigeria or risk closure.
Speaking at a Press Conference in CASER headquarters, Abuja, Executive Director, of the renowned advocacy group, Barrister Frank Tietie, bemoaned the spate of nonchalant disposition of private media owners in the countries to the plight of journalists and other media workers.
Tietie, used the conference tagged: “UNPAID SALARY ARREARS, PENSION DEDUCTIONS AND ENTITLEMENTS OF WORKERS IN NIGERIAN PRIVATE MEDIA HOUSES to decry affected media houses, saying their actions was shameful and inimical to Independent Journalism, Nigeria’s democracy and the society at large.
He lamented that “the welfare of media workers in Nigeria is in disarray, and it constitutes a threat to proper news gathering and production in Nigeria.”
Besides, the Executive Director, further noted that such unwholesome treatment against journalists as well as other media workers would constitute a breach to free press in the country.
According to him “it also constitutes a threat to the sustenance of democracy in Nigeria because Section 22, which imposes a constitutional duty on the Journalists to report news in such a manner that will hold government accountable to the people would be defeated.
“A journalist is now being driven by who gives him money to determine what he publishes. This is a threat to democracy and an affront on the right of citizens to fair reporting.”
Tietie, a renowned radio presenter said the civil society group will approach a court to seek the closure of erring media organisations due to their non-commitment to the welfare of their staff.
“Therefore, why we sounded this alarm is that, workers from THISDAY Newspaper Ltd, Daar Communications amongst others, informed us that they were being owed salary arrears, entitlements and pension funds that were deducted, but not remitted to their retirement savings accounts. Some are now retired but nothing to fall back on.
“The media is currently faced with the threat of extinction, and we want to use the unpaid media worker arrears as a starting point in redeeming the constitutional place of the media.
“We wouldn’t wait again for another set of media workers to be chased away from these media houses before we swing into action.
“We are starting with the insistence that, due salaries arrear, entitlements and pension arrears be paid, or we would impose the proper provision of Nigerian law which ultimately will lead to liquidation of these companies and forfeiture of their properties including cars and buildings.’’
It would be recalled that, the group had earlier written to the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission and other stakeholders in the media industry for quick action. The letter was copied to the Ministry if Information, Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Nigeria Press Council (NPC), Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON).