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Immediate Past Secretary, National Union of Journalists (UK), Jeremy Dear, is calling for improved pay and working conditions for members of the media profession.

He made the call while addressing the Press Association of Jamaica’s (PAJ) National Journalism Awards banquet at the Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston on December 7.

“An industry that wants the best must be prepared to invest in the people, who produce the best day in, day out, week in, week out. It cannot be right that the PAJ is bombarded with requests from journalists in and out of the profession, who have fallen on hard times; who have not lived lives of luxury, have not drunk, or smoked, or gambled their money away, or been careless or opulent in their lifestyles, but cannot afford to make ends meet,” he said.

“It cannot be right that journalists are called out to work are unable to respond because they have no money for gas for the car. It cannot be right that journalists are out covering hurricanes, leave their children alone at home in a raging storm because they cannot afford proper care and it cannot be right that these journalists, fearful about losing their jobs, suffer in silence that such issues are only ever whispered about,” he added.

Mr. Dear said journalists should strive to produce the best despite the conditions under which they work, stating that managers should ensure that their staff members have access to the relevant equipment needed to do the job.

He further urged media managers to be the agents to ensure that the profession is preserved.

“Journalists need help and support to stand up to the pressures from those who want them to be the servants of big business or of political masters. Journalists need to reinforce the message that journalism matters; that without the right equipment, resources and staffing, the historic mission of journalism will be increasingly compromised,” he stated.

Mr. Dear said quality journalisms builds trust and “trust in journalism is a brand that helps win market shares and commitment from audiences,” adding that the profession remains relevant in informing citizens.

He said that the notion that journalists are the least important actors in the media business must change.

“We understand that journalism itself doesn’t change the world but media in the public service can help undercut the lies, the distortions, the spin, the censorship and the secrecy of anti-democratic governments and corporations, and such information can act as a spur to change,” he stated.

Mr. Dear also paid homage to those in the profession, who have excelled over the years, despite the odds they have faced.

During the ceremony veteran journalists Ken Chaplin; Claire Forrester; and the late John Maxwell; were inducted in the PAJ Hall of Fame.

Kirk Wright from Television Jamaica (TVJ) was named the 2012 Journalist of the Year, while David Brown from CVM copped the Young Journalist of the Year Award.

Over 20 awards were presented to members of the media fraternity, highlighting their contribution to the profession.

The dinner culminated the week of activities observing Journalism Week, which began last Sunday (Dec. 2).