The handing taking over ceremony of the Media Council of certain functions from the DoIM and BICMA in the MoIC

Media Council formed

The Prime minister during the weekly Friday meet congratulated the media for the formation of the Media Council along with the Ministry of Information and Communication (MoIC) and the Media Council Members.

Lyonchhen said now that every possible legal support is in place the time is to take things forward for the media.

The council members and secretariat head did the handing and taking over of function from Bhutan Infocomm and Media Authority (BICMA) and the Department of Information and Media (DoIM) at the MoIC on 2nd September and its head of the Secretariat Lakshuman Chhetri took charge as the Chief Information and Media Officer on 10th September.

The Media Council has come into being due to Chapter four of the ICM Act 2018 which says that the Ministry (MoIC) shall establish an independent Media Council supported by a Secretariat.

The Chapter lays out 10 main functions for the Media Council.

It says the Media Council Promote and protect freedom and independence of the media, serve as a standard setting body to promote and enhance ethical and professional standards amongst journalists and media enterprises for media practitioners, accredit and certify the Journalists practicing in Bhutan.

The Media Council will also have to regulate or curtail any harmful, offensive, illegal or antithetical content on the internet and other ICT and Media services, unless otherwise provided under specific provisions in this Act.

It will set standards and guidelines in accordance with the overall media related codes and standards set by BICMA.

It will hear the complaint and settle the dispute in relation to offences of content not amounting to criminal offences which are prescribed under the Rules and Regulations but a party aggrieved by the decision of the Media Council may file an appeal to the Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre.

It will provide recommendations on matters affecting the media sectors to the Ministry and Regulatory Authority.

It has to ensure objective and fair treatment of any person by the media, protect general public and more specifically vulnerable sections of the population such as children and young persons from undesirable influences of all Media services and frame Rules and Regulations on matters relating to the Media Council.

The members of the Media Council consist of one nominee representing Journalists organization, one nominee representing proprietors of Media firms (in relation to the private media), one representative from Bhutan Media Foundation, one representative from BICMA Secretariat and one representative from the Ministry of Information and Communications and the head of the Secretariat as a Member Secretary.

The presence of three media related individuals on the council is the first of its kind in Bhutan giving it a representative character.

The member secretary to the Council will be the legal representative of the Council and implement the decisions of the Council.

The members of the Media Council shall elect a Chairperson from among its members through a secret ballot at the first meeting of the Media Council or whenever a vacancy occurs.

The tenure for the members is for a period of five years, and may be re-appointed for an additional of one term.

The Media Council shall meet at least four times in a year at such time, and place as prescribed in the Rules and Regulations to be adopted by the Media Council, and it has to optimize every such meeting by consolidating the agenda items.

The Act says that the Media Council shall be adequately funded by the Government.

The media council as is visible from above will be serving an array of functions from regulatory to setting standards to development.

It has onerous responsibilities straddling the world of both mainstream media and also the social media.

One of the special features of the Council is that people with issues on the media can approach the council instead of directly heading to court.

In fact, an issue has already come to the newly formed council as a Thimphu District Court verdict has asked the Media Council to frame social media regulations in relation to a defamation case.

The secretariat of the Council is located for now in the DoIM until its gets the full manpower from RCSC.

The effectiveness of the Council will not depend on just the legal provisions of the ICM Act and Council members but crucially on if it gets adequate manpower and resource support from the the RCSC and the government, given its many responsibilities.

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