29 آبان 1392

Meager pays, costly days hamper Iranian journalists lives

20 November 2013

Translated by:Mehrdad Safa

Khabarnegaran.info-Saba Etemad: “Iranian journalists are paid meager salaries.” How true is this statement? In which types of media are meager wages more prevalent? Does affiliation of a media to a political party, whether reformists or conservatives, affect the salary level of journalists? Is a journalist with ten years of related working experience able to earn a living?

Many media workers would spontaneously say that journalists are paid far less in Iran than those in other countries.

The monthly wage for journalists is determined by the Labor Law at the same level of the worker’s minimum wage. The average salary of journalists, depending on their working experience and their institution (public or private), usually varies between $166 and $333.

Media owners are hardly eager to increase their wages; rather, to compensate for rising inflation, increased paper and zinc costs and the like, they decrease from journalists’ salaries. The legitimate demands of journalists for their minimum rights usually prove to be futile. In a few words, Iranian journalists are still paid low salaries.

In this report, we ask a few experienced Iranian journalists about the wages and living of media workers in Iran.

Our interviewees are experienced journalist Iraj Jamshidi, media expert Pejman Mousavi, a France-based journalist under the pseudonym of Maryam, a Bahar newspaper journalist who has lost his job after the daily was banned nearly a month ago, and freelance reporter Bahar Makouyi who works for a few French media.

Talking about wages is red line

“Whenever we talk about our wages and bonuses, it is as if we have passed a red line or committed an unforgivable sin,” says Iraj Jamshidi, who has been working as a parliamentary reporter for years.

“Unfortunately, journalists are always paid the minimum wage in Iran. Newspaper owners, as employers, hardly agree to increase their wages,” Jamshidi explains.

“Journalists also receive the minimum bonuses as stated by law. In many cases, we have seen that they do not get paid even the minimum.

Jamshidi believes that the earning of Iranian journalists can be improved by breaking self-reinforced taboos that journalists do not deserve high wages.

A Bahar newspaper journalist who wants to remain anonymous also compains, “We journalists must defend our union rights. The reality, however, is something else. We have the right to defend the others, but when it comes to ourselves, we have to remain silent.” “Media managers, particularly in reformist and independent media, always disregard the rights of freelancers, as if the reporter have not put any effort into producing the content,” he added.

Media owned by out-of-media people

What are the ifs and buts for not paying decent wages to journalists? The country’s economy, Jamshidi believes, plays a key role in these ifs and buts. “Media owners are always complaining about the high costs of paper, film, zinc, printing, as well as additional costs of rent, water, power and telephone.”

“Since it’s impossible to lower these costs,” Jamshidi explains, “media managers choose to the simplest way, namely cutting the wages of journalists.”

The holding down of journalists’ wages does not affect the overall costs of a newspaper or magazine that much, as they only account for 10 to 15 percent of the total expenses, according to Jamshidi. “However, this means a lot to journalists and affect their living very much.”

Who are these media managers finally? Are there any statistics available showing what percentage of newspapers are owned by media workers, and what percentage by stakeholders and non-media. “We can surely say that more than 80 percent of Iranian newspapers are in the hands of people from the outside of media class,” says journalism pundit Pejman Mousavi.

Jamshidi says that there is no official figure that would reveal the number of the media owned or managed by journalists themselves. “However, evidence indicates that almost one hundred percent of all magazines are in the hands of those individuals who lack a working background in journalism. They are mostly political parties and groups that were able to acquire a license of a newspaper with their lobbies,” Jamshidi notes.

Freelancers treated unfairly

“The average monthly wage of a journalist in Bahar newspaper was around $200, They did not pay anything to freelancers who were not a member of the editorial staff” says Bahar newspaper journalist, who believes that freelancer journalists are treated more unfairly than others.

Maryam, a France-based freelance reporter, says, “Here, if you write a story or an op-ed for a RFI’s Persian-language website, the minimum fee is 80 euros ($108).”

“I know an international multilingual media that pays $100 for short articles with a thousand words length,” she adds, “for longer articles, the payment varies between $250-350.”

In Iran, a freelance journalist is lucky if he get paid around $23 for an article.

Maybe this is why Jamshidi believes that the freelancing style should be abolished. “Freelancing is an unfair treatment of journalists. The experience shows that freelancers are deprived from the minimum wage.”

Average salary: $166-333

No reliable figures exist for the salaries of journalists, desk editors and editor-in-chiefs.

However, evidence shows that the magazines and dailies affiliated to the government or Tehran Municipality are able to pay much higher than privately-owned newspapers.

Meanwhile, the average salary of journalists is estimated to vary from $150 to 250. The salary of desk editors may be higher with a $70-170 margin.

Defenseless journalists with no labor union

Is there any law to protect the rights of journalist? Their claims for wages are mainly allowed under the Labor Law.

“If a journalist is employed in a media and is entitled to social security, he or she can make a claim for wages,” says Jamshidi. There is however no trade union for journalists now in Iran.

Mousavi claims that the situation is different in various media, depending to which party they belong to. “In conservative, state-owned or governmental newspapers, there is usually no problem, and if there is, it will be most probably resolved within that organization,” “However, it occasionally happens in independent and reformist media. Few people have the patience for lodging claims, since they usually are fruitless or do not worth the effort,” Mousavi adds.

“In the absence of Iranian Journalists Association, there is no non-governmental agency to defend the rights of journalists. It is only the Ministry of Labor that only investigates the claim of those who have an official contract,” he notes.

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