Freelance journalists in their fight for the truth and/or fight for their own lives and survival

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Not working by strict operating time rules means not having free time either; free time to go on holidays at any time at the same time means life with no annual and regular holidays either. Also, just as not being employed on a full-time basis, it at the same time means accepting any work provided, since one should always think about the “peanut season” that inevitably appears every single year.

by Eldin Hadžović, BHN Bulletin E-journalist, Sarajevo, 06/02/2018

In country with extremely high unemployment rate, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, we often hear, see and encounter freelancers, precarious workers that actually seek any work and feel discomfort when being asked :”What do you do (in your life)”, and when they have to reply by saying: ”Nothing, I am unemployed”. It seems that the term Freelancer sounds significantly easier to say, it sounds better for one’s self–confidence and it also sounds tougher, doesn’t it? Free Lancer. “No person is bossing me around and no one can tell me when I should turn up for work. No working time either. I have breaks anytime I feel like, work when and where I want and do what I like to do. I enjoy absolute freedom, with no censorship and auto-censorship”.

However, freedom is not free of charge; in fact, it is rather very expensive. In wonderful words spoken by Barbara Matejcic, a female journalist from Split (Croatia), freelancing is actually an only better name for unemployment. Still, her name (Barbara Metjcic) is a synonym for successful female journalist and author who she has been much respected reputable regional journalists and author, but also, in several occasions, she has been awarded female journalists outside Croatia. Today, in its freelance manner she claims:

“This June marks the eighth anniversary of my freelance work and mainly I feel well and hard working. However, sometimes I cannot avoid the feeling when my shaking heart feels just like the cat that is pushed against the wall by angry dogs, with no tree around where she could climb up and save herself. Those dogs metaphorically mark all my fears and real threats of my bleak future period. What will happen if I get ill? Pleurisy will do it; no need for more serious illness here. When will I stop working and how shall my elderly days look like? Will there be any media house left that I would be willing to work for?”

She reminded us of Zygmunt Bauman, a Polish sociologist who spoke of two basic and unnecessary conditions required for decent living conditions: safety and freedom. According to Bauman, their relationship represented the game with zero as a result which means that one could get more safety for the price of giving away part of his own freedom, and more liberty can be obtained at the price of an increased insecurity. “In fact, we need both”, claimed Matejcic.

“’Considering that I live in a rather unsafe environment, we could ask ourselves if this can really display a decent life. And this is of course not my concern only, but also represents concerns of an increasingly precarious class. Ever since the beginning, I realized that the price of my present freedom is inevitable, almost certain poverty period during my future and forthcoming retirement days.”

The position of a free journalist is very similar to the position of any other precarious worker. Boris Postnikov, on a particular occasion gave an excellent description of freelancing:

”Precarious work: inbox overloaded, missed calls, few hours until deadline. Precarious work: consciousness attack, breached deadlines, sudden adrenalin flow. Precarious work: honorary money payment being late, waiting for an honorary money payment to be paid, uncertainty in front of ATM machines, applications, forms, competitions, planners filled in, multitasking, e-banking, contract data, credit/loan incompatibility. Unsafe uncertainty…”

There are theoreticians that see precarious workers as a new class within standard labor class. This class is now facing great challenges that lay before them, although prior to the Berlin wall fall, while free and liberate world was still hoping for bright- er future, the freelancing was treated as emancipating movement which resulted in an increasing number of freelancers, not only in the field of journalism, during the 80’s (the eighties) in last century.

The problem with freelancers is the fact that their social, material or health insurance uncertainty places them in a vulnerable position where they often become subjects to all forms and shapes of flammable and burning populism, from both right and left-hand sides. Their fear is based on true and real facts, their frustration is part of their everyday life and their struggle and fight for survival is constant. Not having strict working and operating hours could also mean not having free time either; free time to go on holidays at any time at the same time means life with no annual holiday. Also, just as not being employed on a full-time basis, it at the same time means accepting any work provided, since one should always think about the “peanut season” that inevitably appears every single year.

Where is the “battle for freedom” in all of this? This battle obviously lives in pompous announcements and auto marketing advertisements and video clips resembling American media which is something that many TV houses use and misuse especially in former Yugoslavia countries. Freelancers have no time for bombastic word exchanging and discussions, particularly about the subjects and issues regarding the processes that are constituent parts and without which the journalism, as occupation, represents nothing but mere propaganda. They must fight for their own dignity and professional integrity. This must be done immediately and now.


This text is a part of E-Bulletin– third edition of special serial of BHN online bulletin implemented through the “Media and Public Reputation” (origin. “Mediji i javni ugled”) project, also representing a contribution to public debate regarding the transparency of media ownership and upholding and encouraging the passing of set of laws aimed to advance media field and information market in BiH. 


The article was republished from Safejournalists.net with permission. 

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