‘Too early to say Bhutan has press freedom’
Kathmandu, May 03, 2009: A Bhutanese journalist working with a weekly newspaper published from Thimphu said it would be too early to say that Bhutan has press freedom even after the country adopted constitution and changed its politics from absolute monarchy to parliamentary democracy last year.
In his presentation made at the regional conference in Kathmandu organized jointly by Panos South Asia, UNESCO and Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) marking the international press freedom day, reporter or Bhutan Observer Nedrup Zangpo also outlined the difficulties Bhutanese media have been facing for sustenance.
Lack of advertisement, low rate of circulation and lack of adequate media professionals are some of the hurdles he pointed out of the Bhutanese media. He said, the government promoted its mouthpiece Kuensel as daily paper recently and most advertisement from the government are given only to Kuensel. The private companies rarely come up for advertisement, leading to collateral hindrances for sustainability to budding media industry of this youngest democracy.
In his presentation entitled ‘A scenario of media law in Bhutan’, he further said all journalists working with Bhutanese media inside the country have very little or no information about professional journalism and its ethics.
Zangpo also said the politicians and bureaucracy have not changed their behavior with media though political system has changed which he cited as lack of knowledge on them regarding the importance of media for national development. He said they have been questioned ‘why’, whenever journalists write opinion pieces in newspapers. “Bureaucrats are not used to in accepting critical stories,” he said.
He criticized the code conduct prepared by the government, saying it has been imposed without consent of the journalists. The code was prepared by the previous non-democratic government and has not been reviewed since then.
However, Zongpo mention that with the change in politics and emergence of Bhutan Observer and Bhutan Times, two dailies, Bhutanese media have been doing good on their part despite hurdles and challenges.
Zangpo quoted politicians during the recent discussion between media and parliamentarians in the initiative of Center for Media and Democracy, saying “We need happy stories as we say Gross National Happiness”.
Two papers of Bhutanese media are scheduled to be presented at the conference from Bhutan by T. P. Mishra (editor) and Vidhyapati Mishra (manager) of Bhutan News Service and APFAnews.com.