Govt expresses concern over JAB report on poor state of Media

The Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and the Minister for Information and Communications D.N Dhungyel expressed concern over the poor state of the Bhutanese media.

The Prime Minister said, “I read the JAB report and I am more concerned about the financial aspects of the media and its sustainability.”

Lyonchhen said that as a country Bhutan needed to see how it can take the media forward.

“The media has grown in terms of numbers but there has been a huge slide in terms of quality and content over the years,” said the Prime Minister.

The MoIC Minister said that the report pointed out that access to public information is a challenge along with Media freedom.

Lyonpo said, “The government would like to do a lot and so the Department of Information and Communication is doing a study based on reports coming in from the Media.” He said that the report would also help bring out the situation among the journalistic fraternity in the Bhutanese context.

He said that the media was faced with a lot of problems from getting information to sustainability. The minister said that if public information was denied to journalists then they could approach the MoIC which would bring out solutions.

The PM talking about the government’s role in helping the media said, “I think all of us agree that the less interference from the government, the better for the media and all of us.”

He, however, said that it was important to improve the situation of the media and to do that it was important to assess where the media was and if Bhutan’s economy and society can support 12 papers and if not than how many.

“If there is an expectation that it’s a free for all and everybody will get licenses and everybody will be financially profitable, then it’s a non starter. Most media houses have bitten more than they can chew,” said the PM.

The PM also noted that the report talked about possible government policy and support and also asked the media on how the government can support in terms of policy.

“On the issue of information access, I as a member of the government want to know to what level and extent it’s a problem. Here at the monthly meet the press we try our best to provide as much information as possible and have a free and frank exchange without feeling inhibited. But if you are denied access then please let me know.”

The PM also requested the media to be fair and not intimidated if a reporter without access to information had done an incomplete story and he called the editor to provide the full information. He said that this should also not be misconstrued as a ‘tshoda’.

The PM requested the media to let him know if there was interference as he said it was alarming if around 60 percent feel there is interference while others feel journalism is a career hazard.

The JAB study on the situational assessment of Journalists in Bhutan showed that the current media situation in the country is ‘very bad.’

The survey covered 90journalists working in 16 media organizations and 29 former journalists. The primary objective of the study was to identify constraints and challenges facing journalists in discharging their responsibilities and assess prevailing media policies and freedom to practice journalism like access to information and challenges.

The majority (71%) of working journalists felt that journalism has become unattractive and lost its attractions. The low salary packages, professional hazards, and the lack of public recognition of the profession were cited as the main reasons.

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