Editorial : Muzzling the Press

After the Royal Kasho of 1992 delinked Kuensel from the government there were skeptical and regressive voices among the powerful elite who were not entirely comfortable with the concept of a free Press.
The Kasho was one of the Fourth King’s first steps towards the introduction of free media whereby powerful ministers and bureaucrats would be accountable not only to His Majesty but also the people.
However, the recent circular issued by the MoIC on the instructions of the MoIC minister Lyonpo Nandalal Rai not only undermines the growth of a vibrant and free media but also destabilizes the very foundation of our young democracy.
The circular in short asked MoIC departments not to give advertisement to The Bhutanese. This paper has good reasons to believe that similar instructions were passed along in all 10 government ministries in a coordinated step by the 10 ministers.
After the circular was issued The Bhutanese has seen a dramatic drop in government advertisement from all 10 ministries. This is when media in Bhutan depends for up to 90% of their revenue from government advertisement. The intention clearly was to close down The Bhutanese.
The circular was issued in response to serious, critical and investigative journalism practiced by the paper. Journalism, which not only focused on the government but also supporters of the opposition party and the private sector.
The circular in this context is a direct and brazen assault by the government on press freedom in Bhutan.
The MoIC minister’s claim that it was a miscommunication and that the circular has been withdrawn is not true.
The fact that the circular was marked confidential and great care was taken to maintain its secrecy shows the true intent of the circular.
There is also no official circular that was issued to withdraw the confidential circular which is normal government procedure for erroneous circulars.
Even if the the minister’s miscommunication explanation is accepted the correct version of his circular should have stopped all government advertisement to the Bhutanese media and not just The Bhutanese.
The circular cannot be based on any circular from the Ministry of Finance as there is no MoF circular asking for advertisement to be completely stopped. Also the specific MoF circular with regards to advertisement was issued on 11th June 2012 and the MoIC Circular was issued on 2nd April 2012. These are just a few of the many big holes in the MoIC’s official explanation.
The Press apart from informing the people and playing the role of a watch dog is also a pressure valve that allows for the various pressures of a democratic society to be released safely. Once that valve is shut the result over a period of time is a buildup of pressure until inevitably the entire system explodes. Visible examples of this are in Algeria, Libya and Egypt.
In the long run the absence of a free Press will lead to more corruption, poor governance, abuse of power, authoritarian tendencies, polarization of society and instability. A strong Press is like a strong immune system fighting these various ills.
The timing of this circular could not have been any worse as all Media houses are already suffering. The circular is also a stark ultimatum for struggling media houses to either become government mouthpieces or face an ominous end.
The impact of the circular is already visible with a dramatic fall in critical stories in the media. This short sighted move by the government has set a very unhealthy precedent for future governments who will also use the same methods to muzzle the press.
The Prime Minister has stated that the most important aim of this government is to build a strong foundation for democracy. However, this circular and the subsequent actions of the government ministries have greatly weakened not only the free Press but also our young democracy.
In short he has failed spectacularly.
The fact that The Bhutanese is still being blacklisted in spite of all the excuses, media coverage and public reaction is proof of the authoritarian streak which has become a hallmark of this government.
The only distinguishing factor that we are still a democracy is that elections will take place in 2013. However, even free and fair elections cannot be a gauranteed with a government controlled media.
For all intent and purposes Bhutanese democracy is dying a slow and suffocating death.

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22 comments

  1. What is Happening in GNH Country, Why the bhutanes is justing accusing MOIC on the papers. You have right them to Drag them to the Court and the person who have signed the Circular will justify the issue and accordingly Punish the Ministry ,Minister or the Person who have signed the Circular. The Person who wrote and signed the circular has to accountable is its amtter of error and how dare they can do such carelesness in such critical Issues and has to be punished accordingly. But if it is the case of Ministers Order then the court of law will deal with it. As far as I am concerned this seems to be directed by Minister Himself. The MOIC minister should be ashamed if he is the person behind this issue, Indeed this is his responsibility to encourage and help the medias to be better than what they are now and If their article are of non revelatent and try to accuse some peoples with out any proof MOIC has to warn them and held them responsible.

  2. Bhutanese democracy is dying under the DPT. I have been saying this from the day they introduced CDG and forced it on the country. That was just the start. Intimidating the press is just the latest. There’ve been many more examples in between and between now and 2013, I’m sure plenty more to come.

    • I agree with you Solaris, The system of CDG is wastage of Peoples money. They neither have plan nor projects to spent that Money. Now the RRA is pinching them on the submission of Accounts and they have misused their CDG. IN some cases they have handed money in lumpsum to the GUPS( head of local governments) and the Gup distributed that money among Tshogpas. Now the poor uneducated Tshogpas what they can do with that money, but they have used that money unnecessarly in some areas. I request our only and one papers who have heart and Guts ” the bhutanese” to investigate to that CDG fund some irresponsible MP would have definately misuesed it.

  3. The Bhutanese is right. In fact, we should not have expected people like Nandalal Rai, Jigmi Thinly or their allies would endeavour to build a strong foundation for democracy. They are nagging the baby democracy. But it is also the fault of media people like you who failed to inform the voters about right candidates they must choose.

  4. constructionist

    Time for people to act, lets contribute to the growth of the bhutanese 

  5. the bhutanese, dont worry about your business as your are the one and only paper who have guts to shed light on corrupted Ministers and high level peoples. Now its the time for majority,we have only few peoples who were involved in those corruptions, It may affect your business for timebeing but dont worry i have the solution below. 1. Just give your contact address,postal address of the regional office we are eargly waiting to subscribe your paper. 2. Majority of the bhutanese people is waiting for some one like you to take up such jobs which can keep the check and balance for the Ministers and secetaries.

    3. Try to create a system of becoming a ”the bhutanese” member and collect some membership fees (if law allows) we are ready to contribute. If you all can risk your life and future for the country ,why cant we contribute few hundred per months to keep you alive for the Country. As per present situation we need more bold media houses who can perform like your paper. We are fade up with the puppet our only television BBS and the oldest paper Kuensel. Very sad that govt.is not happy with coming up of stronger Medias. Some times we wish we the peoples of bhutan join hands and dissolve this govt.tomorrow itself.

    • Drukpaheartson

      I am also in support of Agey Haap’s idea of having membership in the The Bhutanese and contributing nominal fees like seeking memebrships in Football Clubs. Though the amount may not be huge enough to sustain the whole functioning of the press, at least the contributions would fetch the price to buy refreshments and cofee: especially when the workers has to stay late night… hehe sounds childish, but it is just a metaphor. I feel it is far worthwhile in contributing to the media than spending extravagantly on religious purposes, after all the media also contributes in illuminating ignorance within the society and it is virtous deeds like any other activities.
      In particular, The Bhutanese is shouldering far more responsibility in upholding the free media and justice than our constitutional bodies. They don’t even dare to show concern and investigate over the issue approched to them. Keep posting the sensitive and issues.this media is growing stronger day-by-day as more controversies emerges, perhaps, it is blessing in disguise. I am pretty sure this media has gained lots of attention after the miscommuncation by our comminication minister…haha..keep moving after all truth will prevail in this special land.

    • Motor Bike Rider

      Agey Haap: I m fully agreed with your points and i m also ready to subscribe with “the Bhutanse” coz only you are the only one who will reveal their real scene behind(The Bhutanese) This Ministers(DPT) headed by one of the corrupted old man “JYT” are the real threat to our country. Even whats the use of having ACC in our country,this peoples are useless. Or only government rules and regulation will be imposed to poor peoples like us not to big fish?When DPT’s leader JYT is misusing our public’s resources and misusing their powers onto us,why this ACC is still silence? We elected them thinking that they will resolve inconveniences of public and bring more changes to our small kingdom,instead they started misusing it. Indeed, no body is happy with DPT and i will assure non of our public is willing to vote for DPT for coming election. Please please help our country from getting worse.

    • Agey Haap,
      Your idea is excellent, let us join together make “The Bhutanese” alive.

  6. If the govt. ads is not coming your way, the private, corporate (although small)  will definitely come. I will personally encourage people around me to give ads to your paper, however small it may be worth of. Your paper is for us, the common ordinary citizens like us. And I thank you.  

  7. Press freedom is an indispensable element in sustaining democratic gains and assisting soceity’s effort to provide for the fullness of human development. In such a situtation, the Bhutan Media Foundation’s intervention will be appreciated as this is a challenge for the private media professionals.

  8. Yes, the people being in partnership with a business entity could be a new business model. The current options are either to be a pure profit making venture or to be a pure government budget wasting department.

    This third option if developed well, can become a profit making venture, that means no financial support from the government, but that does not seek massive profits for owners or shareholders. This model I believe can be successful if the business owner has a social-service policy at heart.

    I feel that most newspaper owners are too money oriented and only looking for govt ads. If the Bhutanese can prove it is not after mega profits, then the little contributions of the public would no doubt be enough for survival and later on the donations can even increase so long as the public service aspect of the paper is always kept alive and kicking.

  9. The very person who is trusted to lead the nation for the first time democratically elected Prime minister will be leaving bitter story, for generation to generation. Now, people are very clear, the way PM leading the nation were hoax and coax. We Bhutanese have culture of accepting boss or authority, when they are going wrong. But our PM crossed the limit. Instead of appolizing the nation for wrong doing, choose to be stubborn and defensive. And in other hand Minister and MPs who voted to be Prime Minister has no authority to question instead PM preaches and other listen. That is reason why LYZ has to favor KW, LN LRai has to favor Samden and Issue circular to stop ads to “The Bhutanese”. By just uncovering their hidden story, they want to close media in Bhutan, Shaaame. Now, due to Denchi compensation scam, innocent Lynpos were also drag to his stand. As a concern citizen such present precedent will not tolerated even in future
    Though they elected democratically, it seem that they don’t know what is democracy and leading the nation with corrupted blood. Leader defames all MPs putting in same pit. Gossip are everywhere market and bars. And worst thing is, gov does not like listen to public opinion eg. Everybody is saying intention of PD is good but the way it implemented is wrong, what is wrong to revisit order? Why is flexibility with near and dear, trowa or Denchi and why stand strong with general public?
    Nation is experiencing critical economic crisis, due to mismanagement by DPT gov, instead of addressing the issue, just blaming general public. By this we individual were hurt. And gov. did not know that management country’s economy lies in their hand. The way handling, county’s economy, seems perfect for them and unaware that common people has been hit hard and targets are yet to come more.
    Look at high horse bullshit GNH. Leading nowhere, Country wants to sell GNH or concepts only? Who will be the Buyer? What is the cost? Why don’t we sell to India which is our biggest trading partner so that economic imbalance can be improved.
    Come on young Bhutanese, these, senior minister’s brain has been saturated completely, they don’t want change, instead of going to 21st century, they will be taking us back to 19th Century.
    Any way we cannot do anything to this power hungry people, need to accept if they say buffalo to cow. The situation will demand the justice.

  10. I also go with Agay Haap regarding becoming member and contributing to support you to continue as a watch dog over the Corrupted GNH Government of Bhutan

  11. It is disheartening to know that a MINISTER MIS-COMMUNICATED with his staff to ISSUE an OFFICIAL CIRCULAR, marked it CONFIDENTIAL and then WITHDREW (as MoIC minister claimed). If democracy becomes an enemy of liberty, what good can it do for the people and the society?

  12. Drukpaheartson

    If we really feel the issues raised by this print media, ” The Bhutanese”, why not we support it by subscribing for its product in the form PDF files @ Nu. 300 for 6 months. This sounds more practical than collecting fees for membership. Our sincere hopes and aspirations are lies on media. We trusted so far, hopefully lives up to the standard.

  13. It just the time that this so called the powerful elite will have to pay if they don’t follow the rule of the land. A day will come in Bhutan. It comes everywhere!

  14. Let’s unite and support the cause for democracy. Very little support will help the papers. DPT has lost my vote and that of my family and relatives. I am very ashamed for wat they are doing. Its time for journalists and supporters of free press to unite. This is going to look very bad in the outside world. We have to keep the press media going to show that people care about democracy. Now even autonomous agency like Election Commission is being bossed around and told what to do by the government.  I am sure all corporations and agencies are being directed to stop all support. People, this is not a dictatorship country where only good news abt the govt should flow. People, this is a democracy given to us by our God like King. Please protect it. When institutions like ECB that should support democracy is being controlled, where is the freedom of press? Where are the democratic institutions coming to help? The govt was elected by people. They are not our boss instead they scarf holders work for us. We are humble to respect them but they only want to force people into corner and beat them. This is not what I want for my children. Nobody should have their constitutional rights taken away. 

  15. I already support the Bhutanese by buying a copy of each issue, even though I read its news online. I am in for both pdf subscription and membership fee system. This paper needs to stay alive, if we are to save this country from going to dogs.

    • Karma, hats off to you! I really appreciate your concern. I hope many supporters of theBhutanese come forward in the same manner. But as of now i am helpless. I will also join you soon.

  16. It’s indeed a very shameful act committed by Mr. Nandal. But let us all not blame him. A person of his caliber will not understand what is right and what is wrong.

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