For quite some time now, the former Prime Minister has been going around in the rural areas, refuting media reports on various issues, especially on the corruption scams like Gyelpozhing. The verdict on Gyelpozhing from the district court, and now, the high court prove otherwise.
Though it is ethically and morally wrong for any politician to be economical with the truth for short term electoral gains, however, they are also free to exercise their freedom of speech. The voters, for their own sake, should be smart enough to separate the facts from fiction.
What is a matter of concern is that some politicians and their supporters from the incumbent ruling party have been casting doubts on the integrity and intention of media houses behind these stories.
They have, directly or indirectly, pointed at this paper in particular, and have also accused it of having political affiliations. One cornerstone of their allegation is that this paper is always doing ‘negative’ or ‘critical’ (read investigative) stories on the incumbent government.
The Bhutanese due to less resource and budget, cannot cover a wide array of news like it is done in Kuensel, it neither specializes in financial news like Business Bhutan nor news with rural focus like Bhutan Observer.
The Bhutanese, as announced and explained in its editorial on the launch issue of February 2012, is primarily an investigative paper dedicated mainly to investigative and critical reporting.
This paper will continue to pursue its mandate of providing critical news on any government that comes to power, be it the DPT, DNT, PDP, or DCT, once in power, they can expect the same level of scrutiny and investigative reporting.
We will bring stories on the abuse power or engagement in corruption by the government of the day, as stated in the vision, mission and policy of this paper. The fight against corruption will not stop with a change in parties forming the government.
The Bhutanese is not after individuals, per se, but driven to ensure that the system of governance and the leaders running it and exercising enormous powers are fair, efficient, and transparent in the public interest.
Apart from our investigation mandate, it is incumbent on every media house, big and small, to be a watchdog and be part of the levers of check and balance, which are the essence of any democracy.
Journalists and politicians, by the very nature of their professions and vocational calling, make uncomfortable bed fellows, and are usually on the opposite sides of the fence. If politicians and journalists start ‘getting along’ then both democracy and the public will suffer.
Since our democracy has just completed its first five years, there may be those in the incumbent ruling party who genuinely believe sections of the media to be biased, and have only given them a tough time.
However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Be it in 2013, 2018 or even 2023, the incumbent ruling party will be pleasantly surprised to learn that the media will be treating the new political party in power by the same standards. In fact, if the incumbent party is in the Opposition in the future, they will even cherish the role of the media, and also be accused by the ruling government of fanning the flames.
There are two regional examples to support this; a newspaper in West Bengal, The Telegraph, known for years as the critic of the Left Government in West Bengal was labeled as an Opposition paper by the Left government. However, when the Opposition party of Trinamool Congress formed the government recently, it found that its biggest media headache was The Telegraph, which continues its watchdog role.
Things have reached to such a stage that the paper has been banned from public libraries, and government advertisement has been stopped to the paper. The Left, which is now in Opposition, and carried similar actions, is now protesting against the ‘dictatorial’ attitude of the ruling government on the media clampdown.
In Sikkim, its most popular English daily was associated for years by the then ruling government, of being with the Opposition due to its critical reporting.
However, when this Opposition party formed the government, it found that its biggest critic was the daily paper. This new government soon cracked down on the paper by denying it advertisement, and the editor and the former Opposition leader are no longer friends as they used to be. The former ruling government, now in the Opposition, has instead raised this as an attack on press freedom issue.
The paper, however, is extremely popular with the public that see it performing its critical role as a watchdog.
Ultimately, the sacred relationship of trust is between a paper and its readers. Our readers will find that we will not be any less investigative or critical in pursuing stories, under any other government or party. The Bhutanese will continue to lead the way with stories to strengthen our democracy.