In what’s increasingly looking like a well coordinated strategy from the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa party, its party president Jigmi Y Thinley and candidates have pressed a series of allegations leading to defamation against the paper.
The reactions are in response to the story by this paper on ex-ministers and their spouses owning land near the Education City and on issues of transparency and conflict of interest in the mega project.
The first remark was made DPT candidate Kesang Wangdi from the Khamdang-Ramjar constituency under Trashiyangtse during the BBS General Elections Common Forum held on Sunday, 23 June 2013.
Kesang Wangdi, in response to a question from the audience on the news article on the Education City, made several defamatory statements against The Bhutanese.
He announced to the nation that the news reports by other newspapers can be trusted, but not the news that come from The Bhutanese. The MP also insinuated that the paper is also behind malicious online content. He also said that The Bhutanese had been banned for a while by the government. He also denied this paper’s story on ex-ministers and their wives owning land near the Education City.
The paper, in response, has filed a formal complaint with the Election Commission of Bhutan on June 24 for violating various provisions in the Constitution, Election Act and Election rules and defaming the paper.
Later in the evening this was followed with more defamation as the DPT president Jigmi Y Thinley alleged that The Bhutanese is supposedly an organ of the PDP. He also alleged that The Bhutanese was started by the PDP.
The DPT President at the Press Conference said, “We are being influenced and misled and misguided by the combination of the two organs of PDP- Bhutanomics and The Bhutanese.”
In the same evening, the DPT candidate of Bongo-Chapcha Ugay Tshering, while responding to a question on corruption charges, again repeated assertions that the paper is owned by the former Opposition Leader’s brother.
Responding to the allegations against the paper, the Editor-in-Chief, The Bhutanese Tenzing Lamsang said, “The allegations made by the DPT president are defamation at its absolute worst. I am saddened and disappointed that a respected leader like the former Prime Minister of Bhutan has presented such untrue information to the nation.”
The companies share certificate ownership papers whose copies are with BICMA and the Registrar of Companies show that none of the owners are politicians, PDP members or related to any PDP politician. 70 percent of the company is in Singye Namgyel’s name (not former OL’s brother) with 25 percent in Tenzing Lamsang’s name and five percent in a family member’s name.
Responding to allegations that The Bhutanese Editor was pro-PDP, Tenzing Lamsang said, “A few years back when I did stories on Bjemina, Phobjika and Damchen’s stone quarries, I was called a DPT reporter by PDP supporters. Now that I have done Gyelpozhing, Chang Ugyen and Education City, I am being called a PDP reporter by DPT supporters. In some ways, this is a compliment and shows that the media is doing its job.”
He said, “In the future, if PDP or any other party comes to power in 2013 or 2018, they will find it to their disappointment that we will be their biggest media headache, as it will be our job to check the government of the day. This is an uncompromising assurance to all our readers who matter, and not PDP, DPT or any other party. If we falter, then our readers can hold us to account.”
On why The Bhutanese carried more critical stories on DPT than on PDP, the Editor explained that since DPT was in the government, it would have committed more mistakes and this was also in the context that the paper having an investigative mandate.
Allegations were also made by the Prime Minister hinting that The Bhutanese and Bhutanomics are linked.
To this Tenzing Lamsang said, “As the ex-Prime Minister said in the past such sites with the right resources and technical help can be tracked. Please do so, and if the DPT can even provide even partial evidence that Bhutanomics and The Bhutanese have any links then I will quit journalism for good.”
The Editor said that DPT and its President was making it increasingly difficult for the paper to avoid an acrimonious and time consuming legal battle with increasing allegations every day, a legal battle that would prove the DPT President wrong on every count.
The Bhutanese was the first Bhutanese paper to publish an Editorial Policy so that it can be held to account by its readers.
Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times wrote: A free press in a democracy can be messy. But the alternative is to give the government a veto over what its citizens are allowed to know. Anyone who has worked in countries where the news diet is controlled by the government can sympathize with Thomas Jefferson’s oft-quoted remark that he would rather have newspapers without government than government without newspapers. “The government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people.”
This is precisely what The Bhutanese is doing – informing facts to the Bhutanese people.
JYT said on the report of The Bhutanese on Gyalpozhing land scam: “ Using highly offensive terms such as scam and land grab, and abusing the tolerance of the government, one journalist, acting as prosecutor, judge and jury, has fabricated the “Gyalpoizhing case” to malign the government. Further, what transpired 10 years ago has nothing to do with the present government. If indeed, Tshogpon Jigme Tshultim had violated laws of the land, he would have suffered for it immediately. However, as I and a few ministers or their family members were implicated, and in the interest of promoting transparency, I requested the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in August 2011, for a thorough investigation.
This “one journalist” referred by JYT is Tenzing Lamsang. What has been reported by Lamsang was endorsed by ACC and the Royal Courts of Justice. Jigme Tshultim and Minjur Dorji were convicted by the court. Tenzing Lamsang has credibility. It is JYT who fabricated to smear the reporter who reported facts to the Bhutanese people.
Why sis this paper not lodge a formal complaint to ECB against both Bongo chapchha candidate and the Ex- Prime minister.
This will make you appear weak, do it as soon as possible.
As a bystander, I find the level of evidence from both sides to be equal. What The Bhutanese writes as evidence and what DPT alleges seems to be of the same level of evidence and truth.
Maybe there is no nexus, but the bottom line of the two Bhutanese media appears to me to be to bring DPT down during this time of elections. And whether PDP is linked or not, they stand to gain, no?
Regarding free press, the continous stream of articles with the same tone combined with some facts and some liberal dose of editorial license is what gives rise to a lot of skepticism among many observers about the objectivity of The Bhutanese.
And Bhutanomics is mostly taking full advantage of anonymity by taking some facts and going overboard with mean spriitied articles that contain fiction mixed in with facts.
Definitely the party which has done wrong will be in the disadvantage if its misdeed is exposed and known by the public. And the other party will gain to some extent. That is the hazard of being the ruling party. They have to cope with it, or have the option not to do anything wrong, or give way to other people. This is what democracy is all about.
If this paper intends to scrutinize the ruling government, why writing articles about DPT? DPT for now is not ruling government. We have the interim government and two parties are vying for next governance. So, do not mistake that DPT is still ruling.
I have never heard of DPT being indicted by the Court of law in the Gyelposhing case. Yes the Court did sentence JIgme Tshultim and Minjur Dorji for official misconduct in their official capacity as Mongar Dzongda and not as DPT members . The Bhutanese as a respected media house should separate these two aspects- DPT as a political entity from the two individuals who have been indicted and sentenced to imprisonment as an individual entities.
JT and MD are part of DPT. It definitely is a huge setback for DPT.
All kudos to the bhutanese. To go along with JYT allegations, we the people feel that all the rest of the medias are arms of the DPT government.
why don’t any one file a case against ex-prime minister JYT for fooling the nation and hiding the truth all the time?..Where was the transparency in his governance?
This paper has felt a deep cut when told of its behaviour. Others too feel the same because all human beings have sentiments. If you can not help others atleast do not harm them!
In order to understand whether this news paper has been defamed or this newspaper has defamed the party, I think that judiciary as a neutral team should read all the articles written thus far and analyze. Analysis should cover the content and extent, whether it covers all the parties or just one party, whether the contents are true or exaggerated, whether the topics are selective or wide in coverage, whether the topics are of national and security interest, whether the news benefit the public or cause disharmony to the public, whether the articles are written within the boundaries of ethical journalism and so on. After in-depth analysis only it will be clear who is right and who is wrong. Then the one who is wrong should be penalized.
I love The Bhutanese for being so brave and sharing every important news with the people of Bhutan.
I will always support to have a ” Right to Information” act in our small country esp when the democracy system is prevailing in our country.