Private media and democracy

The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa party was elected with an overwhelming majority winning 45 of the 47 seats and also securing 67 percent of the total votes. This was the mandate of the people in 2008 and the peoples mandate was accepted by one and all.
Therefore it comes as matter of a great surprise that the Prime Minister alleged the private media and elements within it wanted to pull the government down. This was the reaction of the Prime Minister to some critical and investigative stories in the media including those done by this paper.
Coincidentally on the same day of the Prime Minister’s explosive speech with young graduates a circular sent by the Election Commission of Bhutan said that all future election advertisement is to be given to only Kuensel, BBS and Kuzoo FM. The ECB’s circular was based on a Ministry of Finance circular and letter.
The restriction of election advertisement to private papers will be a death blow for most if not all private newspapers that are already on the verge of closure. This circular also comes after the ongoing and now public attempt by MoIC and the other nine ministries to stop all advertisement to this paper for its editorial content and critical coverage.
In this government, media and advertisement debate a few clear facts and ground rules must be recognized.
While DPT has the mandate of the people that mandate comes within the larger purview of the constitution and Bhutanese democracy. The same constitution that allows for elections and the elected government to govern the country, also gives rights and freedoms to various democratic institutions, including the media to check and balance the government.
The government must realize that the opposition party sits only in the Parliament. The government’s own statements in the past have either blatantly pointed out or hinted that democratic institutions like the Supreme Court, ACC, RAA, ECB, Media, RCSC, Local government and the bureaucracy are all involved in a great big plot to oppose the government. These are dangerous and irresponsible accusations not credible enough to even warrant any response.
Since the inception of democracy, the media and particularly the private media has played a key role in bringing about transparency, fighting corruption, informing and educating people, keeping the government on its toes, checking abuse of power, promoting human rights and strengthening democracy. This of course has not been without its fair share of controversies and accusations.
While it is true that the private media has varying editorail standards it is the private media that has been at the vanguard of Bhutanese journalism and also behind most of the biggest stories in the last few years. Unrestricted by government ownership and a bureaucratic set up the private media has brought a breath of fresh air not only to Bhutanese media and democracy but also to our national consciousness.
Private media at many levels can be equated as a symbol of when the nation started thinking and expressing itself critically. It also symbolized Bhutan’s move into a new era of democracy and free media.
The MoIC and the ECB circulars both based on government orders will take the Bhutanese media and hence Bhutanese democracy from the modern age to a feudal age of fear, conspiracy theories, ruthless suppression of critical voices and a high degree of intolerance.
Coming to advertisement the government from 2010 itself made a fundamental calculation mistake in assuming that annual government and corporate advertisement expenditure is Nu 300 mn. The government budget itself reflects government advertisement as Nu 58 mn in 2010-2011. Corporations spend far below the government. The fictional 300 mn figure is partly the reason for a dramatic cutback in overall advertisement.
The private media despite having a comparative disadvantage in circulation and reach compared to government owned media houses agreed in principal to the government advertisement guidelines whereby advertisement would be given based on 50% content and 50% circulation. This is with the premise that advertisement is not a subsidy but a message in itself.
However, both the MoIC and ECB circulars do not give any credence to the advertisement guidelines.
Also, while it is important to have reach and circulation, a vibrant democracy also must have space for diversity of views, opinions, criticism, and ideas which is visible in the private media.

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12 comments

  1. we can help private news paper every one buying copies from stand and boycotting kuensel, switching off bbc

  2. As you mentioned DPD is elected with overwhelming majority  and it clearly shows the trust and confidence we citizen have on them.And they are doing great job.Therefore, “the Bhutanese”don’t create havoc among the public by just giving one sided news.

  3. What is the basis on which those media were selected for adverts? Now they sing lullabies to convince general public using their fear tactics, their eloquent speeches are dissolving in the plethor truth infront of every citizen. These leaders just want the public to support them against our conscience, mouth of young graduates were filled with witty but sure words about how balant lies and emotional outcry of the current government, most agreed to taste new political parties in future.
    If every news were targetted against the party, why is there no one outside the party that is corrupt enough to be branded in media?

  4. i guess the ruling government is making fun of its voters…..ovewr all they are trying to keep the money withing itself. Why not the private media, arent they BHUTANESE FIRMS? PM and concerned ministry (trade/economics/labour) talks that the government should always try to pull up the private firms as it creats employment for the youths…..where are your words now….what have you promised and what did you contributed to the private firms so far? RULING GOVERNMENT instead of helping private firms now trying to KICK off private peoples who voted them to lead the country.

  5. Goodwill Embassador

    U know, we r a very young democracy, not even 5 years old and we must not forget that we r still bound by our old social values. Don’t u think that it has been too early for the social media to start attacking the government and humiliating the leaders who were respected so much by the entire population just 5 years back? I think our media r trying to exercise their full rights at one go but surely they cannot function this way because we r a close-knit society where the people have a great faith in the government and the monarchy. We have not certainly been ripe enough for launching such challenges openly on the government and the society. Look at some of the world’s oldest democracies and even there, media do not challenge the government so bitterly and openly. So, I think this paper went little too far quite too soon. As a result, the government has been compelled to come up with such strategies as this to respond to the critical stories carried by this paper. I am sure the same strategy will not be applied to all private media houses. Otherwise, the issue will get worse.

  6. The Bhutanese please be fair! You do not censor false and bad report on Govt. but when it comes to this media you do not like it. If it is to run the show like this, better close down the forum. People are not wrong in saying the Bhutanese is very biased in reporting.

  7. This editorial writing doesn’t look like TL’s though it has got his contents in it. Any way, the paper reminded itself of the verdict that the people of Bhutan passed in 2008 but all along this paper has been trying to prove that it was not. 

    Well I appreciate the job TL did when he was in kuensel exposing corruptions in the Ministry of Health and I would always welcome such an exposing. However after he joined the private media and especially after he started his own paper, his credibility had fallen way down. He started to dwell in the past that the government has no control over. Instead of professional and ethical journalism he started to dwell more and more on personal and vindictive journalism, attacking the JYT and his government. He started to interpret, judge and distort the facts thus deliberately misinforming the general public. 

    Digging the past problems that doesn’t relate to the current situation is nothing but vindictive. If there is a solution to all past problems, nothing like it. We must go for it but it is very unlikely. It will only bring discontentment, hatred and disharmony. Digging the past is nothing critical. 

    Washington post and wall street journal are not sponsored by the US government. So private media must pull up their socks so that they don’t have to depend on the government for their survival.  This way, they can be more critical against any government elected.  Now I know, some of you may ask, we are not US. That is the point, we are not USA, so we don’t have to act like one. We means you and I including the media house. 

  8. yeah , i agree with birla!

  9. Media should not go far to mislead, misquote  and  dis-harmonize to the nation in the name of religion like Pakistan,India and . Bhutan is a peaceful,happy and paradise nation.Keeping those in mind, it is to be conducted fair,transparent,truth and peaceful manner as prescribed  by Bhutanese Driglam Choesum and Driglamnamza.Media is not the place for to score the personal vendetta and  inflating ego.Learn the mistakes of media from the other countries and do the job.Hope Bhutan will learn the lesson from the neighbouring countries where media are responsible for chaos and disharmony of nation.

  10. TheBhutanese ….has proved to be the real media machine to speak the voice of the voiceless. Great job. Fear not, truth be spoken and public be informed, for the constitution has guaranteed the right to information. For the rulers like ours, real truth always be bitter. Thus, they always like to add artificially coated honey onto the bitter fact and let  common people just to lick. They never let people to get into and know what is hidden inside the coated honey paste.
    As of now whatever TB is doing by informing people about” WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE NATION AS IT IS” has become greatest opposition. If country remained being ruled as per what Govt. ask to write in Kuensel, nation’s treasury gets empty within no time. Govt.’s mouth piece is misleading innocent people and making them believe only what Kuensel writes. 
    Lets pray and hope, His Majesty shall look upon this matter for the greater cause of the public. We are really proud of having such benevolent  a guardian.  HM is in favor of having private media in the nation and his wishes are always there for their progress along with the gifted Democracy in the nation.
    For free and fair forthcoming election, TB should remain bold enough to represent the voice of the voiceless. 

    • The very voice of the voiceless  and truth are sometimes twisted by irresponsible media .They blow the things out of proportion,misled and provoke the public.Such media should be very careful and most of the media doesn’t do the home work carefully and very often facts are distorted and very selective in esp.Govt media. 

  11. TL should be deputed to Syria to dig the corrupt practices of ASAAD Regime because he should be brought to justice as many innocent people are being killed as there is no investigative journalist like we have in Bhutan. If facts and figures are established the RED Cross community could initiate legal action against ASSAD

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