Pulled up for publishing unlicenced paper

Published on Sep 15 2011 // Media Monitor

The authority has notified the corporation of its violation of the BICM Act

Kuensel Corporation Ltd. 15 September, 2011 – The Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority has written a letter to Kuensel Corporation Limited yesterday for printing an unlicenced Dzongkha newspaper, Gyalchi Sarshog.

It states, “BICMA would like to bring to your notice that you have assisted in printing Gyalchi Sarshog newspaper without a valid publishing licence issued by the authority.”

This act of Kuensel, the letter states, “violates section 96 of the Bhutan Information, Communications and Media Act 2006.”

Kuensel has been directed to stop printing the paper with immediate effect. “And show cause on why you are not liable under section 96 of the Act on or before September 16,” the letter signed by the director states.

Under the “requirement of a licence to publish books and newspapers,” in the Act, section 96 states that no person shall print or publish, or assist in the printing or publishing of, any newspaper in Bhutan, except in accordance with a valid licence, hereinafter called a “publishing licence”, obtained from the Authority authorising the publication thereof.

“Any person, who publishes or assists in the publication of a book or newspaper without first obtaining a licence under this Section shall be guilty of an offence, which shall be a misdemeanour,” the Act states. “In accordance with the gravity of crime, a Court may impose an additional fine of up to one thousand days of the daily minimum national wage rate.”

Kuensel’s managing director Chencho Tshering in a telephone interview said Kuensel has so far not asked for licences from its clients before printing.

“All these years, Kuensel has been printing many papers and BICMA has never questioned us on that,” he said. “Our printing is based on trust and we trust that those who come to us for publishing have fulfilled the prerequisites of licensing and other documents.”

Kuensel printed 3,000 copies of Gyalchi Sarshog’s first issue that hit the newsstands on September 9.

The eight-page newspaper, which runs international news in Dzongkha more than local stories, is owned by Gembo Dorji, who has worked as a Dzongkha editor.

Gembo Dorji said he had proposed to BICMA that he would start his publication by the second week of June. He started operating his office from June 1 with 11 employees. Running his office for three months without an issue was becoming expensive, he said.

“I spent over Nu 300,000 every month on operational costs alone,” Gembo Dorji said. “Waiting for another month for BICMA to grant a licence was becoming difficult to sustain.”

So, on September 2, he wrote to BICMA stating that he would start publishing from September 8. “But there was no response from the authority and I went ahead because, according to astrology, the first week of the month was a good time to start.”

However, as per the Act, this act of publishing an unlicenced newspaper would call for the authority to cancel his licence, which was almost ready to be granted.

Section 97 (4) of the Act states that no licence shall be granted to any applicant, who has, at the time of making the application, been found guilty of an offence, which carries a fine not less than 2,000 days of the daily minimum national wage rate or an equivalent imprisonment term under this Act, or an offence under any other law and which carries a fine not less than 2,000 days of the daily minimum national wage rate or an equivalent imprisonment term.”

Gembo Dorji said he would bear the penalties for violating the provisions of the Act. “But I requested them to allow me to continue with the publication,” he said.

By Sonam Pelden in Kuensel