Civil servants allowed to speak to media as long as it is truthful and constructive: PM

During the recent press conference, a concern was raised on dissemination of information between media and government officials after the recent action against Forestry officials for insubordination and MoEA action against a Chief level officer for criticizing the government on social media, to which the prime minister replied, “Before I joined politics, I was once reprimanded by the RCSC for talking to the media about politics. It’s not about not being allowed to talk but rather it’s about talking the facts and figures, and about talking what is true. I stood my ground and argued the same points, and now also I am 9 years older but I have not changed and I hold the same beliefs that truth must be spoken rather than speaking baseless rumors and lies. I personally feel that access and flow to the information should not change as long as our conversations and associations result in propagating true information.”

Lyonchhen further said that BCSR is also very clear; if rightly interpreted the government officials are allowed to talk to the media as long as they are speaking the truth and not wrongly or falsely accusing the government.

Lyonchhen continued that the officials are basically focal persons (the ten ministers themselves included) with all the agencies and those focal persons are legally correct to share any kind of information as long as it is correct. “People should be able to speak but the speakers must stand their ground. In a literate society, me and my cabinet friends, we are all ready to be criticized but constructively criticized (and not unnecessarily criticized). Criticisms must not be to pull down the other side down and vent out grievances, so positive constructive criticisms are always welcome. So I don’t have any problems regarding that,” said Lyonchhen.

The Prime Minister continued, “But what happened with the two foresters of MoAF who were compulsorily retired is that there were fired for insubordination and the next day the media has written an article saying that they were fired for talking to the media, so the rest of the media followed suit and published that that was the case and it gave an image that civil servants are not allowed to talk to the media.”

“You are allowed to speak but you should know what you are speaking. BCSR says you cannot criticize your agency. The foresters were retired for wrongly accusing the government and not for talking to the media. You are welcome to criticize the cabinet but bureaucrats are not allowed to criticize their parent agency which is clearly written in the BCSR. Civil servants will have read the BCSR and it is their responsibility to know the BCSR; that is the guiding principle for their day to day activity. When they don’t follow what they are expected to follow, I cannot blame RCSC for taking action. That is the totally a different field,” the PM added.

Lyonchhen further said, “Every agency will have two focal persons; bureaucratic and political. From our side, we are available all the time and have no problem sharinginformation. I am deeply concerned and saddened that all of us have promoted the story wrongly that civil servants are not allowed to talk to the media. We are all wrong here and they are allowed to speak. You must know how to put it and how to say it. Sources should be available and seekers should be able to seek.”

He said civil servants should share information with the media but not their grievances as that will bring down the rating of the press freedom.

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