The Big Drop

Bhutan so far has largely had smooth sailing in international waters, especially so after it became a democracy with various institutions including a Free Press.

Except for the occasional blips, it has seen its international stock rise as it did increasingly better in various ratings and measurements.

However, just as it is with the Australia Rush, reality is now hitting home on our media rankings front too with a sharp drop of 57 places to the 90th place this year from 33 last year.

There are three things to note here.

The first is legacy as the media since 2010 has seen a major and worsening economic crisis as three democratically elected governments cut down on advertisements which are the main source of revenue for the media in an economy with a limited private sector.

With democracy every institution has gotten stronger and more mature, but the media has been hollowing out year by year. People are worried about the Australia Rush now but there was a media rush right from 2010 onwards when journalists and others left in huge numbers.

The second issue with the drop in rankings is the growing sustainability problem for the media houses as a whole lot of government advertisements shift online and there are no other viable revenue sources. Everybody agrees that the media serves a public good but there is a great deal of reluctance to support it.

The third issue is governance as the series of rules and notifications from various agencies have bound the civil servants into complete silence and agencies now seem to be competing with each other to make journalists lives miserable by not sharing information or making it very difficult.

The doing away of the autonomous Media Council with industry representatives to look after media content and its transfer back to BICMA has also had an impact as mentioned in the RSF report.

There are more sharp drops ahead if we do not learn from our lessons.

A free press needs to be a respected press.
Tom Stoppard

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