Talk to the Press

Bhutan’s press freedom rankings have moved up quite a bit from 65 in 2021 to 33 in 2022. This is a cause for cheer as it shows how we are doing compared to other countries.

This is not due to any special effort by the government, but it is more to do with the government not interfering with the workings of the press.

The ratings will keep improving as long as the press is left alone.

At the same time, we also need to be honest with ourselves and see if there have been many dramatic improvements in the Bhutanese media scene to justify such a high ranking. Most Bhutanese journalists will say not much has changed on this front.

The high ratings of Bhutan may have less to do with our media capability and more to do with the peaceful and conflict free nature of Bhutan, where the rule of law is supreme.

The media in Bhutan still continues to grasp with its traditional challenges of sustainability, limited access to information, small society issues and other challenges.

One major area that needs works is access to information as recent actions by the MoAF and MoEA is leading to a chill and atmosphere of fear in the civil service to talk to the press.

As the Prime Minister has said the civil servants can and should talk to the media as along as they are not criticizing their agency and they can stand by their facts.

The RCSC is being blamed for this new normal, but a closer look at the BCSR rules do not forbid civil servants to talk to the press as long as they do not criticize their own agency or spread hatred.

The ministers can play an important role in resolving this issue by giving out directions in a ministry authorizing Chiefs, Directors, Secretaries and others to talk to the press. The role of media focal people in ministries only leads to an additional layer of red tape.

Our governments have so far been lucky that no citizen has yet legally invoked the right to information right in the Constitution. If this right is placed before the courts the government may be forced to share a lot more. It should instead act early and make public information public and accessible.

As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information.
Benjamin Disraeli

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