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Fine contravenes spirit of media freedom: IFJ (Media)

Published on Jan 28 2009 // Main News, Media Monitor
Kathmandu, January 28: The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said it is concerned that a fine of Nu 18,000 was levied on the Bhutan Broadcasting Service Corporation (BBSC) saying it is contrary to the spirit of media freedom and may lead to undue restraints on the exercise of free speech in Bhutan.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, IFJ said, the country’s regulatory body, the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA), found that a panel discussion aired by the broadcaster on the quality of a pre-paid taxi service was contrary to the media code of conduct in force.
Some of the speakers invited to the program allegedly attacked officials of Bhutan’s government. There was no official representative on the program to speak on behalf of the government.
The BBSC management has clarified that a representative of the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) was invited to participate in the program, but left shortly after making his initial comments.
“The IFJ appeals to Bhutan’s regulatory authority to waive the fine imposed on the BBSC since it sets a bad precedent in terms of the media’s role as a watchdog on the conduct of governmental authorities,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
 “As Bhutan goes through a significant transition to popular democracy, it is essential that a clear signal is sent that media freedom and the public’s right to free speech will be protected,” the media rights body further said in the statement. Bhutan News Service
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