The Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) last week issued Standard Group a seven-day notice to pay its journalists who have not received their salaries for six months or face protests. “The Standard Media Group is in dire straits, and we have issued a seven-day ultimatum for them to take action! If they fail to do so, we will organize a protest at their premises,” said Kenya Union of Journalists Secretary General, Mr Eric Oduor.
So bad is the situation at Standard group that any money that comes in falls into the hands of creditors. The company’s premises on Mombasa Road has become a hub for various auctioneers retained to recover money owed to different companies by Standard.
“It’s a pity, my guy,” said a senior manager at Standard. “Auctioneers are always camping at Standard Group offices. “Money that comes in is promptly paid to creditors to avoid embarrassing situations that could also disrupt media operations.”
Journalists and other staff at the media company have been working without a salary for the past six months, making do with handouts from the employer. As the seventh day of the KUJ passed passed on Thursday, there was silence from both union and Standard Group, leaving journalists at the mercy of their employer.
Standard journalists who spoke to BT said the management has yet to communicate on the matter and are worried that about their fate and piling arrears. KUJ, which represents some of the Standard Group journalists, has accused the media company of flouting labour laws by neglecting to pay salaries to its workers.
“This is not only illegal but also a grave violation of human rights. Therefore, the company must be held accountable, particularly by its stakeholders and business partners,” Mr Odour insisted.
He underscored the perilous consequences of poor terms of service and non-payment of salaries on press freedom in Kenya. “When workers are not remunerated, it becomes virtually impossible for them to carry out their professional duties in accordance with the code of conduct and ethics of journalism. In the end, they face financial hardships and mounting bills,” he explained.
Mr Odour disclosed that KUJ has already received reports of several other media houses failing to pay their employees, reflecting the dire financial challenges that journalists working in these organizations are facing.
Ms Patience Nyange, the Executive Director of the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK), said the organization had received distressing messages from some media workers who are contemplating self-harm if their overdue salaries are not paid promptly.
“Our gathering here is a manifestation of solidarity with the frustrations experienced by everyone in the media industry. It is a response to their cries of desperation,” Ms Nyange stated.