Private papers want Dzongkha out

Published on Jan 27 2012 // Media Monitor

Dzongkha editors of private newspapers will meet the information and communications minister and secretary next month to discuss their proposal to discontinue publishing Dzongkha editions of their English language papers.

The private media houses, during an informal meeting with the ministry on January 16, said the mandatory publication of the Dzongkha edition had become a “huge financial burden” and impacted the sustainability of media houses.

Newspaper CEOs and editors said Dzongkha editions were being published more as a requirement, which was not necessarily helping to promote the national language. Media development and Dzongkha development should not be mixed, they said.

Bhutan Observer’s chief executive officer, Phuntsho Wangmo, said they spent Nu 100M in the past five years on their weekly Dzongkha edition alone. “No one reads the Dzongkha editions and the sale is only 10 percent of the English edition,” she said.

Business Bhutan outsources its Dzongkha edition, an eight page insert to one of the Dzongkha papers, chief executive officer Tashi Dorji said. “Most private papers don’t have an independent Dzongkha editorial team,” he said. “Private papers publishing Dzongkha is not helping Dzongkha development.”

With four independent Dzongkha papers already in the market and some more waiting to be licensed, English language newspapers should be “freed” of the obligation to come up with their Dzongkha editions, private newpapers have reasoned.

The Bhutan Media and InfoComm Authority (BICMA) is today processing two new newspaper applications, an English daily and a Dzongkha paper.

The emphasis on having a Dzongkha edition, they said has instead “adversely impacted” quality. “Many Dzongkha words are misspelt, sentences are wrongly structured, often deviating from acceptable grammatical norms and creating confusion rather than clarity,” the proposal stated.

During the meeting, the media were told that it is the government’s mandate to promote the national language and the media is seen as a medium to help the government in this effort.

The issue ministry officials  said should rather be on how best the government could use media to promote Dzongkha, check its quality, and support the growth of Dzongkha editions of newspapers. The ministry and the media authority will also review this clause in the licensing requirement.

The media authority’s licensing requirement of a Dzongkha edition is based on an April 14 letter they received from the ministry last year, BICMA officials said.

BICMA’s April 18, 2011 letter to the media houses states, “…we have received the directive from the government that stopping the Dzongkha editions of the English newspapers at this stage would tantamount to revoking the policy decisions of the parliament as well as that of the government”.

All newspapers, it stated, must continue publishing the Dzongkha editions and have the responsibility to publish Dzongkha editions. The BICMA Act of 2006 does not specifically state the requirement of a Dzongkha edition.

Prior to receiving such directives from the ministry, BICMA said its licensing requirement of a Dzongkha edition was based on the decision of the 281st CCM, which was held on November 27 in 2005 and on the resolution of 87th session of the National Assembly in June 2007.

The National Assembly had resolved that based on the contents of the royal Kasho and the resolutions of the past National Assembly sessions, “…efforts should be made to publish notifications in our national language and the contents and quality of both the Dzongkha and English language newspapers should be same.”

Former Dzongkha development secretary Dasho Sangay Dorji said parliament had not made it mandatory for every Dzongkha paper to have an English edition because English being an international language was more popular in the society than the national language.

“If the Dzongkha edition as mandated today for English papers are removed, there is a high risk of there being no Dzongkha papers,” he said.

Information and communications minister Nandalal Rai said publishing in Dzongkha, which was a precedent set by the private papers themselves, shoud not been seen as a burden.

“When the first private papers came into existence they said they would also publish dzongkha editions,” lyonpo said. “On that line it became a rule, we never insisted that Dzongkha should be a part of the English editions.”

While BICMA told the media houses the issue might have to go to the parliament since it was discussed there, lyonpo said its more of an “executive” business. Promoting the national language through the media must not be a “secondary” requirement lyonpo said.

“For our print media today, Dzongkha has almost become a secondary language in the look and content,” lyonpo said. “We are going to look into it.”

By Sonam Pelden in Kuensel, Jan 27, 2012