Laid-off journalists agree on action plan to draw attention to their plight

July 6, 2010
By

Bahraini journalists who have become unemployed after their newspaper shut down in May said that they had agreed on a schedule for public action to get their long-due financial compensations.

“We will implement the schedule to press for our demands within days,” Ahmad Al Boosta, the former head of international news at Al Waqt newspaper, said. “We will contact all competent people to make sure that we receive fair compensations as soon as possible,” he said.

Al Waqt (The Time) issued its last copy on May 3 coinciding with World Press Freedom Day, and bid farewell to its readers, citing its inability to meet financial demands and blaming the advertising structure for its failure to secure enough revenues to continue.

The leftist leaning paper, established in 2006 as a joint venture, defines itself as a non-partisan and non-governmental newspaper that is not run by businesses or ruled by alliances.

However, the paper faced financial woes since its foundation and struggled to earn money in an increasingly difficult market. Its difficulties were compounded by the onslaught of the global financial crisis and its staff last year voiced anger after they were not paid their salaries on time.

In a bid to save money, the paper took several drastic actions and dropped off several international columnists. However, talks about a possible purchase of the majority of the shares by a group of businessmen earlier this year did not materialize, plunging the paper into a deeper crisis.

In April and in an unprecedented move in Bahrain’s media history, the staff of Al Waqt went on strike after the management said that they did not have enough funds to pay them. Less than three weeks later, the paper said it was shutting down and its staff were promised swift and fair compensation.

Initial sympathy with the staff and direct support from the Bahrain Journalists Association (BJA) following the shut down resulted in direct contacts with the labour ministry to find solutions.

However, pledges were not honoured and a call by the BJA to the other local six newspapers to hire some of the redundant staff was largely unanswered with only few journalists or sub-editors getting recruited.

“We appreciate the efforts by some people to help us, but we are afraid that too much time is being wasted and that whenever we feel there were signs of progress, we find ourselves eventually back to square one and we are made to wait for another two months,” Al Boosta said as 30 former Al Waqt staff rallied in front of the labour ministry to push for action. “We now want at least our salaries for March and April.”

According to the staff, the job offers they received were not serious.

“The jobs have a low salary or are not adequate. Some of us did even get an offer,” they said. “We urgently need jobs because there are genuine financial commitments and we must honour them.”

Al Waqt was the fifth daily newspaper to be published in Bahrain’s modern history and Ibrahim Bashmi, a member of the Shura Council (upper chamber) has served as the chairman of the editorial team. The paper is often associated with leftist-nationalist tendencies.

 

         

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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Career
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
Education
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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