As a citizen of a young democracy I am very concerned to hear that most private media houses are contemplating to close down soon.
Initially given Bhutan’s underdeveloped stage in from the 1960’s to 1990’s our government needed the media to perform basic developmental activities like informing the public of government activities.
This was perfectly achieved by government media like BBS and Kuensel which kept the nation informed.
However, with the advent of democracy in 2008 the Bhutanese people need media that not only informs but also performs a lot of other functions.
The media has to also criticize wrong policies and decisions, point out wrongdoing or corrupt activities, make citizens think and question, create a national debate and offer various points of view.
I as a citizen am grateful to the private media for encouraging people to think more critically and also criticize the government.
I think that we got to see more critical news in the media only after the start of private media in the country as I suspect it also emboldened the state media houses.
The private media in many ways has contributed to strengthening Bhutanese democracy more so in the last five years of DPT rule when the government started to get quite dictatorial.
While BBS and Kuensel must be appreciated for also coming out with consistent and good quality news they are still owned by the government and therefore vulnerable to government interference in a variety of ways.
I am afraid that if all the private media closes down then it will only be BBS and Kuensel left to disseminate news to the people.
We all must understand that in a democracy the power lies with the people who as voters elect the government of the day. Even after the government is elected a lot of the decisions of the government are taken based on public opinion.
The decision of the voters to elect governments and popular public opinion is shaped by the public based on information given by the media.
So if the government controls the only available media outlets then no matter which government be it PDP, DPT etc then Bhutanese democracy will be weaker and more vulnerable.
As a young citizen I go through a lot of frustrations in relation to government services or the general state of the country. However, a lot of these frustrations find an outlet through the freedom of expression and right to criticize available for citizens like us in the media. If that is taken away then overtime these frustrations and problems will keep building up creating instability and problems.
I feel that the media is also bridge between the people and the government and keeps both sides honestly informed of each other and allows them to respond to any problems.
The government should do more to help the poor state of the media otherwise it will impact us all.
The writer works in the private sector