A look at Bhutan’s ranking in the press freedom index over the years makes for some interesting analysis. It was at its lowest in 2002 at 157th position and gradually made its way upwards as private media and parliamentary democracy was introduced, along with a Constitution that guaranteed freedom of press.
All of the above demonstrated the new freedoms and empowerment available to the media. As a result the peak scores and rankings were achieved for the years 2007 to 2010.
However, from 2011 onwards there was a gradual and noticeable dip downwards especially on two accounts.
This first being that media sustainability was becoming a major issue with a severe cut back in government advertisement from 2010 onwards.
The second reason was the government getting more impatient with a more assertive press, with one example being the former government taking out an advertisement embargo against this paper in response to its investigative stories.
This slide in rankings continued till 2014 as the 2015 report’s ranking of 104 reflects the score for 2014. The main issue here was the ever worsening financial situation of media houses with many senior journalists leaving to explore other options. However, in the last two years there has been a noticeable curve going upwards with Bhutan jumping up in the rankings again. This year’s report showing a 10 spots jump for 2016 comes despite the well publicized defamation case.
One factor that has always been in Bhutan’s favour in the rankings is that it has not had cases of journalists being killed, hurt or imprisoned.
On the bright side, Bhutan has the best press freedom ranking in the region, but on the other hand sustainability issues will have to be addressed to ensure a healthy and pluralistic press in the long run.
Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.