Using Social Media

The last one week witnessed a virtual firestorm in the social media based on a free lance journalist hosting a post on a legal case by that went viral. There were responses and counter responses as people shared articles and also their views in various ways. There are some vital lessons to draw from the recent episode.

The post ultimately lead to both the original author and the journalist host being sued in a libel case, by the accused individual in the post. Here, it is important to remember that one has to be very careful while posting information and views on the social media. The same legal principles that apply in the media also largely apply in the social media.

Even though the platform may be different the basic but golden rules of journalism in getting both sides of the story and verifying facts and evidences provides protection and can prevent libel cases.

More importantly it should take much stronger evidences and irrefutable facts for social media commentators, in the comments section, to start questioning the credibility of a hallowed institution like the Supreme Court and its Judges.  It is the same Supreme Court that delivered many important and landmark judgments that have strengthened our democracy.  This is not to say the Supreme Court or any other democratic institution is perfect as they should definitely be open to criticism in a democratic system, but the criticism should be fair, true and mature.

Whatever the facts of the case, the desperation and do or die attitude in the post against the judicial process was troubling. The strength of the reactions against the Judiciary and the judicial process exposed a deeper and older anger against the judicial system in Bhutan. The court system in Bhutan is still seen as being intimidating, in-transparent and not very people friendly. While it is a huge improvement from the past it is clear that the Judiciary still has some way to go.

One key issue brought about by the larger controversy is the issue of money lending and loan sharks in Bhutan. It is high time that this is recognized as a social evil in Bhutan and tackled as such. It is encouraging to learn that the Supreme Court and Royal Monetary Authority are working on the issue to regulate and restrict private money lending in Bhutan.

One important lesson from this whole episode is on how ordinary Bhutanese understand and use social media.

It is startling to find out that a opinion post authored by a person and hosted by a Journalist was presumed to be a ‘news story or article,’ by a majority of readers. It was also disconcerting to note readers easily buying into various sub-plots and mini-conspiracy theories floated by a few mainly anonymous accounts. While the social media has great power in any society, including Bhutan, that online power if not used in a responsible way can be ineffective. The silver lining from the whole controversy is that various sections have different and important lessons to learn from it.

“It is reasonable that everyone who asks justice should do justice”

Thomas Jefferson

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