Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji

Media is Free: Foreign Minister

The Member of Parliament from Jomotshangkha Martshala constituency, Norbu Wangzom, raised a question to the Information and Communications Minister on what the ministry is doing to support the media to enhance the freedom of press and freedom of speech yesterday at the National Assembly (NA).

The MP said that the media has a vital role in democracy, and it should be strengthened in a good democratic country.

She said that it is also critical that the government and citizens offer information to the media.

“The media has the power to provide and share news without fear. It is the Fourth Estate of the government. They have the right to watch over government works and actions to see if it is being carried out properly and fairly. However, we’ve heard that reporters are rarely given information on time, and that they are occasionally harassed,” MP Norbu Wangzom said.

She also said that everyone is aware that the two foresters that spoke to the media about not being treated fairly, and as a result that they have been forced to retire, causing anxiety among the public.

“As a result, we are concerned about whether it has impacted press freedom and freedom of speech in the country. According to international news, our media has been performing well, but we are concerned that it may be impacted,” she said.

In response to the question, the Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji, on behalf of MoIC Minister, said that the government has no censorship, and the media has the freedom to write and speak whatever they want, but they must take accountability for what they write.

Lyonpo said that they will also be required to write in accordance with the media policy. Individuals in the country, not just the media, have the right to write on the social media.

“There is also a media association where they support each other and have put in a lot of effort to enhance freedom. In addition, the ministry has convened an open house dialogue in which representatives from the media have been asked to discuss how to strengthen and promote press freedom.  They also held a meeting with the print media last year, where they talked to the individuals and discussed ways to help them. They’ve met with social media writers this year,” Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo added that the government has supported the media. “If you look at the accomplishments, Bhutan placed 63 in global press freedom in 2021 and 33 in 2022, indicating that it is progressing,” Lyonpo added.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor, said that the two forestry officials were compulsory retired with benefits for insubordination- for violating orders for deployment and for violating the civil service values, and not for talking to the media.

The Human Resource Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests issued an excess staff deployment order to its seven forest rangers working under Thimphu Forest Division. As per the order, the seven foresters were identified as excess staff and were asked to be re-deployed in other agencies across the country, after which the two female foresters appeared on television news to discuss the matter on 23 March 2022.

The ministry issued an order relieving the two foresters from service on compulsory retirement with benefits on 4 April. 

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