By: Hasan Arfeh
On the 1st of May, 1886, the eight-hour day movement was born. It was launched by the workers of the American State of Chicago, who campaigned for their rights. Hundreds of workers challenged the authorities and employers in protest against their conditions; working for more than 12 hours per day was unbearable!
The strike spread to other American and Canadian states, as well as other places of the world, especially when the American authorities faced the strikers with an iron hand. The event paved the way for the Workers’ Day, which became an anniversary to be commemorated throughout the world. It also paved the way for the eight-hour work day as an international standard in all fields, with some exceptions, of course.
Thus, a strike is acknowledged as a civil protest movement and as a legitimate means to claim rights that are not acknowledged, and thus the staff of Rozana Radio in Gaziantep, Turkey, started their strike on January 9, 2017.
Many fallacies have appeared and spread regarding the strike reasons. The major one was that the strikers had financial goals only! The reduction of the salaries and the maneuvering way of taking and imposing the decision in a way lacking respect to the staff, had, no doubt, been the most recent blow by the management against the staff, which pushed the latter to threaten by strike. However, suppose that the strike had financial goals only, isn’t it one the simplest rights of any organization’s staff, regardless of the type of its activity, to receive financial pays that are appropriate to their potentials?
Here, I’ll not focus on the details and stages of the strike, which have been documented fully and step-by-step by the team, and which are available in case requested by any agency concerned with journalists and their rights; I’ll, rather, focus on the strike as a protest movement until the post-strike stage, before I quitted Rozana at the beginning of last March. Three colleagues and I had already decided to leave our jobs in Rozana provided that all the staff would remain in their positions and their rights would be met.
The strike of Rozana staff of Gaziantep office has been a big shake for the Syrian journalism that emerged after the revolution against Bashar al Assad in 2011. Many of those emergent media outlets have witnessed, and still, violations against their workers’ rights, both in and out their offices. Those violations are unacceptable under normal and ordinary circumstances; then, how should it be under circumstances like those witnessed in Syria after 2011?
However, the main question here is: what have you, as a journalist, learned from the strike? There are many answers; first of all, you, as a journalist, should not be restricted to investigating and defending others’ rights, you must also pay attention to your own rights. In order to build free media in Syria, we must not keep silent regarding the violations committed by small and big organizations. We can say “No,” (the word that we, the Syrians, have not used to use for a long time) in legitimate ways, one of which is the strike.
Some untold details that have gone behind the strike curtains show that our choices have been difficult; either to go on the strike for some more days, and that would put the organization, which we respected and still, at risk, as it might stop working and collapse, which would mean the demolishing of our work, as well as the work of so many colleagues for more than three years, or to make some concessions, some of which were considerable, in order to save and restore the boat so that it could continue its journey towards our goals, as sailors on it, and the goals of our Syrian public, who was our main compass in our journalistic work.
The concessions included: three members of staff decided to quit Rozana to save the budget, signing Turkish contracts, and not demanding the change of some management people who had been the problem cause and not the solution!
When the strike stopped and the work resumed on Monday, 16 February, the retaliatory acts against the strikers started. In the beginning, we found many excuses for the management’s retaliation, given the pressure it had been subject to and the attacks inflicted on it by many actors. Excuses, however, are not limitless; out of the journalistic and technical team, which included 14 persons, there are only 3 by the end of April, 2017. Then, what is going on behind the scenes of this Radio? Where are the Council of Trustees and its promises to protect the strikers’ rights?
This article is published as part of the campaign launched on World Press Freedom Day, in cooperation with Syria Untold.
The main photo: a picture from Rozana’s Facebook Page. It is used according to the fair use. All rights are reserved to the holders.