Journalism - a profession with rising challenges

Author: Ajla Silajdžić

As plethora of consumer might assume, journalists indeed often face many inconveniences and obstacles when it comes to their labour rights and working conditions. One can vividly state how arduous and demanding the career itself is, nonetheless journalists are still forthcoming in positions to maintain, to say the least, a decent human right laws and regulations. 

According to the European Commission grant under DG Employment Social Affairs and Inclusion, the norm of a standard form of employment is increasingly replaced by non-standard contractual relations and outsourcing. Trade unions and professional associations of journalists in Europe are facing many challenges including the fragmentation of workforce and the division among workers (freelances vs employees) regarding their rights. 

In October 2015, a study carried out by the French National Union of Journalists (SNJ) and the evaluation and prevention of occupational risks office “Technologia” revealed that among the 1.135 journalists surveyed, more than a third (34%) said they would leave the profession. However, a majority still feel the passion for the profession: 80% expressed that they are satisfied with their jobs. This paradoxical situation has also been observed by a Belgian university study (Fion, 2008). 

This has lead to a :

-Deteriorating working conditions
-Decline in professional income
-Emergence of new forms of employment relationship 

According to a report published in 2013 by the National Council for the Training of Journalists in the UK, 82% of journalism or media graduates entering into the profession have done an internship but only 8% of them have received remuneration. The National Union of Journalists has taken this problem seriously and launched a campaign against the practice. Students and/or interns are often not in a position to claim their rights: they are not admitted in a lot of trade unions and professional association. However, they value the training opportunities as a kick-start for a good career. 

Less rights for journalists

Female journalists are not only the one who receive less rights, they are bullied at work. In December 2015, the Serbian Minister of Defense, Bratislav Gasic, was replaced following an offensive remark he made on a women journalist. During a visit to a factory, the journalist knelt down in front of him to avoid being in the way of cameras and he commented: “I like these female journalists who kneel down so easily.” Sadly, this despicable act is not the only one of its kind. 

On the other hand, International Labour Organization (ILO) has stated how xenophobia against migrant workers (in this case journalists) is fuelled by populist attitudes that are divorced from the reality on the ground. Wittingly or unwittingly, media can play its part in creating an unbalanced discourse about migration, including labour migration. Inaccurate, biased media reporting can lead to misinformation, and at worse, may be an instigator for discrimination and unfair treatment. 

The ILO is firmly committed against these negative forces and supports the development of balanced narratives that recognize the positive contribution of migrants. Policy-makers and the media have an important role to play in improving public perceptions of migrant workers and refugees, and doing away with the “us versus them” discourse altogether. 

With all that being said, it is unambiguous to media consumers and mass public as well as those inside the industry that the conditions are rotting per se. With new generations, one might hope for improved regulations and cease of the unfavorable working conditions for journalists.