The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) has filed an official written compliant with the Media Arbitrator, Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) against anonymous users on social media on charges of being attacked online and criticized.
The letter says, “These users are resorting to character assassination, defamation, personal attacks with the use of unimaginable language.”
The letter sent on May 7, 2013 by the DPT Secretary General Thinley Jamtsho is a reminder to an earlier complaint letter sent by the party on April 16, 2013.
It says that since the first letter, the frequency and number of posts on the social media have increased.
It says, “Please be reminded that the damage on democracy and a small society like Bhutan is irreparable.”
“The emotional damage it does to family members and the society at large should serve as an alarm at the kind of means these people are willing to go to win votes,” says the letter.
Crying foul, the letter also says, “If your office has been monitoring these users you would have reached a conclusion that their posts are always against DPT. It is safe to assume that these users are highly political and under the guise of anonymity they only attack DPT.”
The letter also quotes ECB Social Media Rules and Regulations 2012. It says that the rules clearly spell out that, “No individuals shall communicate, transmit hate messages or any content with intent to defame or reduce the electoral chances of opposing contestants or political parties and that conversations via social media shall not resort to personal attacks, unsupported accusations, defamation or threats of any kind.”
The letter from DPT asks the ECB to swiftly deliberate on these issues before a trend is set.
Copies of the letter have also been sent to the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) and the Ministry of Information and Communications.
ECB Media Arbitrator and Director of Immigration Thinley Wangchuk said, “We did not receive the April 16 letter, but we have officially written back to the DPT General Secretary in response to his recent letter. We have told him that our office has issued election period guidelines for the media and social media, and that he can file his complaint against the individuals as per section 12.1.”
The Media Arbitrator, however, said that his office did not have the technical capacity and resources to go after anonymous people on social media.
He said that complaint would have to be filed against a real person who can be held accountable if he or she has broken the rules.
An ECB official said that the DPT Secretary General will also have to file his complaint in an official format by naming the particular individual as culprit.
The Media Arbitrator said major decisions like blocking the social media sites, among others is taken by the ECB.
Earlier, based on a court complaint, the anonymous site Bhutanomics was blocked in Bhutan. A legal expert said going by the precedence set in past cases, if DPT takes the issue to court then they can get social media sites like Facebook and Twitter blocked in Bhutan.
Earlier in a stakeholders meeting in ECB to discuss the social media rules, some participants including practicing journalists had requested the ECB to liberally interpret the rules to prevent political parties from subverting criticism against them by using these rules.
The General Manager, Druk Net who was at the same meeting informed the stakeholders that Bhutan did not have the technical capacity and resources to track down anonymous people on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter hosted from outside the country.
The Chief Election Commissioner Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said that the Office of the Media Arbitrator will receive such complaints, and have to give appropriate responses.
DPT had also filed a complaint against the Anti-Corruption Commission’s awareness videos, asking voters and political candidates to not to engage in electoral corruption, or vote for corrupt candidates. The ECB which did not find anything wrong with the content, but has anyhow stopped it from being telecast, on technical grounds as the election period had started.
DPT has also filed a complaint with the Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) on a comedy series due to some scene, which was said to be mocking the party.
The DPT Secretary General affirmed that he had sent a complaint letter on the Social Media issue but directed the reporter to a DPT Social Media observer for further comments. The Social Media focal person of DPT was unable to reply to the emailed questions of the paper due to her busy schedule.
Tenzing Lamsang / Thimphu