The Bhutanese completes two years

Launched on the auspicious occasion of His Majesty the King’s birthday on February 21, 2012 The Bhutanese has completed two years as a national newspaper.

The paper was the first in Bhutan to publish its Editorial Policy and the names of the owners.

The vision and mission of the paper was to take Bhutanese journalism to the next level through quality journalism. We endeavoured to give special focus on investigative journalism to fight corruption and bring about greater accountability and transparency.

The paper demonstrated this quality with many stories that exposed corruption, abuse of power, nepotism and other ills harming the nation and people.

This paper came into the scene, at a time, when Bhutanese society and polity was going through great upheaval with many corruption cases and a growing economic crisis. This was made worse with a government that kept denying problems and was becoming more authoritarian than ever.

At the time, most media houses failed to take a proper account of the growing disquiet among the people over various decisions of the government and it was very rare for tough questions to be asked.

This newspaper, in line with its mandate, took up a host of issues and stories, not because it created them, but because so many issues existed.

The paper soon had to suffer for its stories as the government of the day restricted government advertisement to the paper starting from April 2012.

In the paper’s 24 months of existence, from February 2012 to February 2014, around 17 months was involved in relentless financial, political and psychological persecution by the former government.

The persecution did not just stop at restricting advertisements, but senior ministers including the former Prime Minister, while in power, made various defamatory claims and allegations against the paper.

If this was not enough, the party’s supporters and backers also took on the onus of spreading rumors against the paper.

There was also intimidation in regular complaints filed to BICMA and official queries on the paper’s internal functioning.

There were also threats, both direct and indirect, and real and anonymous.

Through all of this, the paper stood relatively alone as no single institution or individual came out in support of the paper, mindful of offending the former government.

What was more, even many members of the journalism fraternity turned their backs to an obvious case of persecution of Free Press, while a few in the private and state owned media supportive of the government, both directly and indirectly, joined the government in attacking this paper.

The situation came to such a head that the former government confident of being re-elected launched its election campaign in Thimphu with a direct threat issued to the paper and how it ‘would not be spared’ after the elections. Their manifesto also had a provision to take care of ‘irresponsible media’.

However, in this generally tumultuous and battle scarred life of the paper, we have been vindicated by the facts bearing us out and we have been motivated by the positive impact we believe we bring to the nation and the people by simply talking about the real issues and challenges facing us.

Editor-in-Chief

 

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