Bhutan Information Communication and Media Bill passed in the NA

The representative from the Tashicholing constituency, Ritu Raj Chhetri who is also the Chairperson of the Legislative Committee presented the summarized recommendations on the 77 clauses to the house during the previous week of the discussion.

“After the Communications Minister carried the first and the second reading of the bill, the Legislative committee was given the responsibility to the Legislative Committee to carry out further study on the bill. We held around 11 consultative meetings with all the relevant agencies,” said the Chairperson.

While deliberating on the establishment of a regulatory authority which is the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA), the Panbang constituency representative, Dorji Wangdi expressed that the establishment of a department under the Ministry of Information and Communication will suffice in the efficient accomplishment of the role of an authority, to which Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said that it would not be right for the Ministry to meddle in the issues related with media and that the independence of media should be respected.

The house then resolved on the keeping BICMA and on clause 31 which states that the authority shall comprise of a chairperson, three civil servants and one member representing private sector. Clause 113 of the bill, which provisions for the establishment of Bhutan Information, Communication & Media Appellate Tribunal as per the provisions of the Constitution and not by the Ministry as proposed earlier in the Bill was also resolved during the deliberation.

Section 219(2) of the Act provisions that Bhutan Broadcasting Service shall be designated as the Public Service Broadcaster (PSB) and governed by appropriate eye-law or charter approved for this purpose as a form of public service obligation on the broadcasters.

The Legislative Chairperson, Ritu Raj said that such possibility cannot be expected very soon. “I think it’ll take time for the Bill to see a day light sooner. The Bill will be submitted to the National Council and if the house comes up with disputed clauses, I don’t think it’ll be possible to push through this Bill in the upcoming sessions and might need to wait after the 2018 elections. Although I attended the presentation of the draft Bill by the BBS to convert into PSB, they need to come up another Bill and it is expected to take time.”

The recommendation from the Committee states that the tribunal shall comprise of three members appointed by the King on the recommendations of the National Judicial Commission.

The Legislative Committee also brought changes and recommended that the Film Commission shall comprise of the three civil servants including one from BICMA and two members representing the private sector to be appointed by the cabinet upon the recommendation of the Ministry while the original section of the bill stated that the Film Commission shall be constituted with five members appointed by the Cabinet upon recommendations by the Ministry from amongst people who are knowledgeable in the field of film , media or people from relevant background.

The Committee also brought changes in section 292 pertaining to the Film commission and recommended that the Film Commission shall certify the films for public viewing based on the guidelines approved by it in consultation with the Ministry.

Out of the 41 members present in the session, 40 voted ‘Yes’ in favor of the Bill to be passed and one abstained from voting.

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