Al-Rai journalists fired for demanding due payment

JPA working to address situation

(Photo: Envato Elements)
AMMAN — Six journalists working for Al-Rai newspaper were fired for demanding their rights and the Jordan Press Association is now working to return them to work.اضافة اعلان

“The crisis of Al-Rai newspaper is old; since 2011,” said JPA Vice-president Jamal Shtewi, adding that the newspaper’s financial situation started to decline financially 10 years ago.

What is happening today “is one of the consequences of this old crisis. The dismissal of the six employees is a clear example of mismanagement,” he said.

Shtewi added that Al-Rai director-general was “deliberately” delaying salary payment, even though the Social Security Corporation (SSC)'s “Estidama” and the “Tamkeen” program were supporting Al-Rai financially.

“The government’s sole aim was to help Al-Rai overcome its financial crisis, along with Ad-Dustour, through consultations on a range of possible decisions,” he added.

In January, many companies were listed as “most affected”, including Al-Rai, Ad-Dustour, and Al-Ghad News. Later, Al-Rai was helped by SSC to help it to continue functioning until at least June, but Shtewi said that “a package of government decisions was expected then, to support Al-Rai indirectly”, and that one such decision should have been to exempt all newspapers from paying income tax or sales tax.

He added that Al-Rai director-general was late in sending the required data to the SSC, which upset some employees who, when attempting to talk to the administration, were told by the director-general that “we do not know if there will be salaries”.

This roused the employees’ anger and they resorted to protest and escalation.

“There is indeed mismanagement at Al-Rai,” said Shtewi, adding that although the chairman of the board of directors tried to improve the financial position of the newspaper, the director-general, with “his traditional/old way of thinking”, was an obstacle to those efforts.

An example of financial mismanagement at Al-Rai was the administration’s choice to work on “luxury improvements”, which cost JD3,000, while neglecting the commercial printing press license, which generates a lot of money for the newspaper. The accumulated loss of not attending to the license cost and maintenance costs stands today at JD100,000.

JPA issued a memorandum to the prime minister, asking for support for journalists, said Shtewi, adding that the government promised to take several measures to support print media within the budgetary possibilities.

Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh described Al-Rai and Ad-Dustour as private companies, Shtewi said, adding that the premier was not wrong, as, under Jordanian law, these newspapers are private, but “these institutions can be considered semi-governmental and everybody should pay more attention to the prime minister’s emphasis on the need to maintain these newspapers.”

Shtewi stressed that JPA will always work to protect journalists, that it fully supports Al-Rai employees who were fired and “will remain supportive of them until they return to work because they did not violate any law but demanded their rights, nothing more”.

“JPA will continue to reject any unfair action against these and other journalists,” said Shtewi.

In an interview with Amjad Asfour, an Al-Rai employee who spoke to Jordan News on behalf of the other five who got fired, he said that the problems at Al-Rai were exacerbated when the government and some parties in power started to appoint presidents, directors, and employees to help them benefit, when in fact they have no actual knowledge of how to manage the newspaper business.

“The only losers are the employees,” said Asfour, adding that the six journalists were fired for having claimed their rights two years ago and now claiming salaries that they had not received for seven months, while the director-general and his deputy received increases estimated at hundreds of dinars and the expenses of the board of directors reached thousands of dinars.

Asfour stressed that Al-Rai newspaper owns means of production, such as commercial printing presses, which could have helped it survive, but there was management and the company started accumulating losses when, in 2007, it had made more than JD22 million in profits.

Many employees proposed solutions to develop the newspaper, keep abreast of the developments, resort to social media, and exploit the capabilities of the youth, but the administration continued to ignore these solutions and took the newspaper to collapse, said Asfour.

Al-Rai is an old and essential institution, he said, adding that he hoped the government will not deal with it “on the basis that it is only a for-profit company”.

Asfour emphasized the journalists’ confidence in JPA, which “is the only and most powerful way to get our rights back”.

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