A major consequence of austerity measures by successive governments is a continuing decimation of the private media as advertisement budgets get cut, and so the crisis is a creation of the government, unintended as it may be.
This decimation flies in the face of the responsibility of any government to protect free press, especially when its own manifesto clearly promises to support the media.
The absence of the private media or a very weak private media will impact Bhutan’s democratic credentials internationally. Bhutan will also fall in press freedom, democracy and transparency rankings.
For any democracy diversity and plurality of media is very important for different viewpoints.
What people need to understand is that the private media, unlike private business, is not profit driven and has a much higher standard of ethics to live upto.
It fulfills an enormous and important public service social mandate which touches all sectors like health, education, information, law and order, governance, culture, environment, national security, getting Bhutan’s perspectives out and more. This will all be lost with the death of private media.
The rise of the social media has led to the rise of online fakes news and hate speech, which can cause internal instability within Bhutan.
A strong private media is one of the few effective countermeasures so that people don’t rely just on social media and they can verify the truth.
A weak private media is an incompetent one and that can make it both ineffective and also dangerous.
The private media plays an important check and balance role on the government and other agencies. An enhanced 12th plan especially needs more watchdogs. When so much budget and authority is being given to local governments and other bodies, the oversight role of the private media in ensuring transparency and check and balance at every level is critical.
The absence of a strong private media will mean that a mainly young Bhutanese population will seek news and views from foreign media sources which could be wrong, manipulated and even biased. This can affect the security and sovereignty of the country.
“The only security of all is in a free press.”