Ms Semaab worked for local Lahore newspaper Daily Anti-Crime. She was the sole financial provider for her family including younger siblings and her father who requires regular medical treatment for cancer. According to reports, Ms Semaab jumped from the fourth story of the hostel where she lived with her family on August 15 following the newspaper management’s persistent refusal to pay her salary for several months.
The PFUJ and IFJ extend its deepest sympathy to the family, friends and colleagues of Ms Semaab. Tragically, Ms Semaab’s commitment to journalism was undermined by the very media organization she worked for.
The exploitation of media workers in Pakistan is all too common. According to the PFUJ, media organizations including Khabrain, AAJ TV, News 1, TV1, Royal TV, Wasaib, Channel 5 and Indus TV are known to withhold employee salaries. In similar incidents over the past 12 months, journalists working for Channel 5 and Aaj TV committed suicide after their employers withheld salaries for several months.
In a statement, PFUJ Secretary General Amin Yousaf demanded media owners stop exploiting their workers and called on the Supreme Court Chief to take notice of this tragedy and direct the media owners to pay salaries to their workers.
The Seventh Wage Award for journalists and newspaper workers in Pakistan, announced in 2000, guarantees conditions and wages under which journalists are employed in Pakistan however, the government and Wage Award Implementation Tribunal have failed to implement the statutorily determined level of wages for journalists. Journalists are increasingly employed without a contract or under short term contracts which are not accountable to the Wage Board.
“The death of Ms Semaab draws acute attention to the plight of exploited media workers in Pakistan” said IFJ Director Jacqueline Park.
“The IFJ urges the Government of Pakistan to take decisive action in the implementation of the Wage Award and hold media organizations accountable to all employees under the Act.”
The PFUJ, in partnership with the IFJ, recently deployed four missions to assess the situation for journalists in Balochistan, Interior Sindh, the Khyber – FATA region and Punjab.