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Journalists welcome pension fund, object to obligatory fees

By Mohammad Ghazal - Aug 12,2014 - Last updated at Aug 12,2014

AMMAN — Several journalists on Tuesday commended the establishment of a pension fund at the Jordan Press Association (JPA), but criticised the obligatory subscription system and voiced reservations over the volume of pension payments.

Staff at newspapers and news websites interviewed by The Jordan Times welcomed the idea of creating a fund that will secure journalists with a pension, but described the payments as “very modest” and not in line with rising costs of living.

“The idea is good and beautiful. It is good for journalists to have another pension when they retire, but I have reservations over the fact that it is obligatory for all members to subscribe to the fund and that the amounts are very small,” said Omar Maharmeh, a journalist at Ad Dustour and chief editor of the Jafranews website.

“The association should revise the volume of pensions and reconsider the obligatory subscription,” Maharmeh added.

Launched by the JPA on Monday, the pension fund is stipulated by amendments to the JPA Law, which went into effect in mid-July. It is mandatory for journalists to subscribe to the fund, but they have the option to choose one of two categories.

The first category entails payments of JD10 per month for the first 10 years, JD15 per month for the second 10 years and JD20 monthly for the third 10 years. At the completion of the 30 years, a member would get JD180 per month as pension.

Under the second category, a journalist can pay JD20 per month for the first 10 years, JD25 per month for the second decade and JD30 per month for the third 10 years.  Subscribers in this category will get JD300 as a monthly pension upon the completion of 30 years.

After the completion of the first 10 years, subscribers can ask for early pension and will receive a smaller amount of the total pension in each category.

Basel Okour, chief editor of the news website, commended the concept of such a fund, but said he was “completely against the mandatory membership”. 

“Some journalists are in very difficult financial conditions and… this will negatively affect their income. In addition, the pensions are peanuts. With inflation and the rising cost of living, getting JD180 or JD300 after 30 years will be nothing,” Okour pointed out.

“The association is simply collecting money without providing its members with services and I do not think there are experts capable of running such a fund at the association at present,” he charged.

Mohammad Hawamdeh, a journalist at Al Rai newspaper and chief editor of the Khaberni news website, expressed similar sentiments.

“I am against mandatory membership. It should be optional and that amounts should be higher… I will only subscribe because it is mandatory,” Hawamdeh said.

Some journalists, like Ibrahim Khreisat, managing editor of the economic division at Al Arab Al Yawm, said launching the fund was a “very positive step”.

“All associations have such funds and we should have one too… It will get journalists an income and that will help,” Khreisat noted.

Maharmeh said the reason behind the obligatory subscription might be to ensure that the fund succeeds.

“The association’s members are about 1,100 and it is a very small syndicate. If it is not obligatory many may not subscribe, so maybe the mandatory membership is a justification for its success. However, the association should invest in the fund itself and consider investing its resources to increase its members’ benefits,” Maharmeh noted.

JPA President Tareq Momani confirmed this premise.

“It is mandatory to join because if it was optional maybe a only 100 members would subscribe. We want the idea to succeed,” he said.

“This is just the beginning and every few years we will look into the pensions and may increase them based on inflation in the country and living standards,” Momani said.

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