Finance Minister AMA Muhith said there is no need to formulate a new wage scale for journalists.
He made the statement to reporters following a meeting with the leaders of Newspaper Owners Association Bangladesh (NOAB) held at the Finance Ministry auditorium on Tuesday.
The minister said: “The existing payroll for the journalists has five layers, and they are almost equal to the government pay scales. So there is no need to create another pay scale for them.”
“All the newspapers published from Dhaka, except for some 10 to 12, are rubbish and bogus. These newspapers import newsprint without paying government duties and collect advertisements from the government. Should we implement the wage board for such newspapers?” he asked.
At this point, the reporters told the finance minister that the whole matter had been wrongly interpreted to him.
They said: “There is no wage board and pay scale for private television channels.”
The minister replied: “You are wrong. All are equal. There is a wage board for everyone.”
The starting salary of the five-layer pay scale that was presented to the minister during the meeting is Tk18,500.
The minister in this regard said: “I have seen that your lowest pay scale is equivalent to that of the government officials.”
The reporters, in reply, said: “There are university graduates who join television channels as interns with a starting salary of Tk8,000.”
The minister, however, said: “It is not true.”
When asked why he was not taking any initiative to shut down the newspapers he claimed are bogus, the minister said: “We have started taking initiatives.”
When the reporters stressed further that the minister had misunderstood the matter, Muhith said: “You people have a myriad number of associations. Who should I speak to?”
The journalist, in reply, recommended the minister speak to the presidents and general secretaries of four associations – Dhaka Union of Journalists (DUJ), Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ), National Press Club and Dhaka Reporters Unit.
The minister said: “Let us see. I will speak to them”
“We have just listened to the proposals of the NOAB leaders. We will take a final decision after meeting with the government officials.”
Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu, NOAB Chairman and Editor of the Daily Prothom Alo Matiur Rahman, The Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam, Publisher of the Daily Samakal AK Azad and NBR Chairman Md Nojibur Rahman attended the meeting, among others.
The report was first published on the Bangla Tribune