Freedom of information is no favour

Published on Jun 20 2009 // Media Monitor

Thimphu, June 19, 2009 – Opinion The Cabinet finally, on June 16, made its decision on the new corporate pay hike that would affect the lives of about 10,000 corporate employees, kept in the dark for more than five months after the pay raise for civil service employees.

Kuensel – being a newspaper with a mandate to inform the nation – approached the finance minister Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu, on June 17, for more details on the hike. A reporter met him outside the National Assembly hall.

“Lyonpo, may I please request you for details of the corporate pay hike decided by the Cabinet yesterday la,” asked the Kuensel reporter.

The reporter had tried earlier to call the minister but there was no response. He had also tried the cabinet secretariat information staff of the Prime Minister’s office, but to no avail.

Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu lost his cool. He walked towards the reporter, pointing his index finger at the reporter, and said:

“Why do I have to give you information? I won’t give you information. You can get lost.”

The incident was witnessed by several DPT MPs

“Do you think I’m at anyone’s beck and call? Why are you disturbing me?”

Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu berated the reporter for more than two minutes in full view of the MPs.

All because the reporter had requested Lyonpo for some public information which, as a minister and part of a new democratic government, which had, time and again, promised full access and transparency of information to the media, he was beholden to share.

We’d like to humbly remind Lyonpo that access to information and freedom of press are protected by the Constitution, which also provides the right to every Bhutanese citizen to be treated with dignity.

We also believe that, as an elected representative of the people, Lyonpo should not only preserve and defend the Constitution, but also obey the Constitution.

If Lyonpo did not want to talk to the press at that particular moment, he should have said so. The reporter Lyonpo scolded and humiliated was only doing his job. (Courtesy: Kuensel)