The Minister for Information and Communications Lyonpo D.N Dhungyel introduced the Information, Communication and Media Bill 2016 to the House for the first and second reading, however, the Opposition instead demanded that the Right to Information (RTI) Bill should be tabled first.
“Unless the Bill covers provisions pertaining to right to information, we can’t support this bill,” said Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi. “We don’t mean that the ICM Bill is not important.”
He said the RTI bill was one of the pledges of government during the 2013 election and when it was in opposition, so the new RTI bill should be tabled in first.
Since the RTI bill couldn’t be deliberated after being passed in 2014, Dorji Wangdi said, the MoIC has failed to present the RTI bill which is why the opportunity to present the bill was lost.
Foreign minister Damcho Dorji said the National Council doesn’t approve of it so the ruling party doesn’t have the right to force it. He said that RTI Bill was not only the government’s election pledge but also a fundamental right of citizens. “We haven’t forgotten the pledge which is why the bill was brought into NA and passed,” he said.
The Opposition Leader (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho said one of the major problems faced by the media was the lack of a RTI law. He said the ICM bill is like hardware and RTI like software, which should always go together. “Two years have passed since the bill was not deliberated, it’s government’s responsibility to solve the issue,” he said adding that if the bill was important then, it should be important now.
The Minister for Economic Affairs offered a way out by proposing that the ICM Bill can have provisions of the RTI Bill.
Lyonpo said the Bill was tabled mainly because the existing Act of 2006 had to be revised in the face of changing time. He said, “The Bill was tabled mainly because the new Act would enhance timely service delivery to people in information, communication and media sectors.” He said every important mandate is included in the bill.
He also said that the annual expenditure of Nu.2 million on media council and Nu.6 million for the film commission would be incurred. “Both of these bodies would be established with the enactment of the Information, Communication & Media Bill, However the expenditure for the film commission would be met from related taxes and fees.”
The House referred the Bill to the Legislative Committee for review and resolved that the committee should also review the possibility of including provisions related to the right to information in the bill. The Bill will be tabled for the third reading in the next session of parliament.
The Chairman of the Legislative Committee MP Ritu Raj Chhetri said that since RTI is a fundamental right which cannot be violated the committee will see if the ICM Bill can have provisions mandating the sharing of information and also penalties for failure to do so.
He said such a mechanism would be helpful as RTI was an important pledge of the government.