The Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights has decried the huge salary arrears owed private media practitioners and called for urgent measures to address it.
The Executive Director, CASER, Frank Tietie, who made the call in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja, called on the media practitioners to immediately declare a state of emergency on the industry.
The statement said: “Our attention has been drawn to the prevailing situations of accumulated salaries being owed workers by proprietors of private media houses which operate radio, television, newspaper, online and print outfits.
“A letter to this effect has already been written to the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission and other stakeholders in the media industry for quick action.
“The move for a state of emergency in the industry has become necessary given the rising and troubling cries of many media workers.”
Tietie, however, warned that the organisation would not hesitate to institute legal action against the proprietors of the private media houses if they failed to pay their workers within the shortest possible time.
Tietie said the letter was copied to the Ministry of Information, Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, News Agency of Nigeria, Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria and Nigeria Press Council.
He said the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Nigeria Guild of Editors, Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, Amnesty International, Centre for Democracy and Development were also copied.
Tietie said the UN High Commission for Human Rights was also copied.
He said: “A situation where workers in the Nigerian media industry are being owed salary arrears for periods ranging from 10 months to 36 months is unacceptable by any standard.
“It amounts to unfair labour practice to make workers continue to offer their services without pay.
“CASER wonders how these workers have managed to pay their bills of accommodation and maintenance of a decent lifestyle without salaries, yet they continue to go to work and offer their services.”
The executive director said a situation where media workers were not paid for a long period could make journalists undermine the objective of the profession and adopt improper means to search for survival.
Tietie said the situation could also bring a big risk that could jeopardise the hard-earned Nigerian democracy, which could result an implicit derogation of citizens’ fundamental right to free press.
“The citizens’ right to a free press as guaranteed by Section 22 and 39 of the 1999 Constitution must not be derogated, even if implicitly,” he said.
Tietie said the role of an independent, impartial and financially empowered media was one of the most important elements of a democracy that must not be toyed with.