Long before Donald Trump misused the term to brand any critical article against him, Bhutan as a nation had discovered ‘fake news.’
In part it was due to the lack of knowledge about the country while it partly has to do with a natural reticence of our people or for that matter our state institutions to speak out.
The educated class of Bhutan would have a good laugh over mainly harmless articles about Bhutan making tall and fantastic claims.
Journalists who never stepped a foot into the country would be the Bhutan experts writing about Bhutan. As a result it was more the perceptions of the news agencies or the foreign countries that shaped many ‘fake news’ about Bhutan.
It seems that things have not changed even today with a spate of either completely inaccurate stories coming out on Bhutan with fantastical claims to fit particular narratives or a lot of half baked and researched pieces.
The Doklam standoff has understandably generated enormous interest about Bhutan both in India and China.
Bhutan on its part has issued two official statements and then remained silent after that. As explained by this paper before, Bhutan’s silence should not be misread. It is to firstly avoid heating up an already hot situation and also at the same time to not end up saying something that can give cause to anger either the dragon or the elephant for that matter.
Bhutan’s silence will also make it easier for both India and China to come up with a face saving solution if one is possible.
Even the Indian government has maintained an equivalent level of silence limited mainly to an MEA statement.
However, strangely, it is Bhutan’s silence that is being questioned and misread.
Two of the many basic rules of journalism are to check ones facts and also ‘if in doubt to throw it out’.
It is neither right nor ethical to simply go lax on the basic rules of journalism or for that matter even basic good behavior only because the subject matter is a smaller country. Facts matter and in today’s connected and online world writers can no longer hide behind reams of yellow paper or yellow journalism for that matter.
Ratings don’t last. Good journalism does.