Sunday, December 23, 2007

Nepali FM stations to air common program on exiled issue


Kathmandu, December 22: Five private radio stations have formed a network to launch radio program for exiled Bhutanese.

Managing director of Communication Corner, Gopal Guragai informed Bhutan News Service (BNS) that all procedures have been completed to start airing Saranarthi Sandesh from January 9.

"The program goes on air from Ujyalo FM Kathmandu, and Mechi Tunes Bhadrapur, Saptarangi FM Damak,Kanchanjanga FM Birtamod and Sapta Koshi FM Biratnagar simultaneously from 6:30 PM to 7:00 Pm every Wednesday and Friday ".

Funded by Foundation of Open Society Institute, USA, Saranarthi Sandesh targets to inform all exiled Bhutanese with reliable and informed information on repatriation, local integration and third country resettlement.

"We will distribute 18,000 Chinese radio sets to all huts in seven camps before we start our program" said Guragai.

Besides Saranarthi Sandesh, FM stations in Jhapa are airing weekly radio programs targeting one-lakh plus exiled Bhutanese listeners.

BNS started airing weekly radio program Saranarthi Sarokar a year back from Nepal FM, Kathmandu and same program from Pathibhara FM ,Damak since last November. It is the only radio program having excusive contents and produced by 'refugees' radio journalists.

Kuensel (East) goes colour


20 December, 2007 - Kuensel's regional office in Kanglung, Trashigang, has started printing in colour, exactly a year after the office was set up.

Although not commercially viable, the objective was to provide the same colour facilities in the six eastern dzongkhags as was available in the western part of the country, said the regional office's printing manager. "Our readers here are happy," she added. With a full Heidelberg printing setup, that took several months to set up, the regional office is now in a position to handle any colour printing work required in the six eastern dzongkhags.

The Kuensel regional office in Kanglung began printing on December 17 last year, coinciding with National Day.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Exiled Bhutanese journalists ‘intimidated’

By: T P Mishra

At a time when violence is escalating inside the Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal, exiled journalists working in the camps are increasingly reporting having received threats from the local authorities.

Bhutanese journalists working in exile in Nepal have long-faced pressure and intimidation as they go about their work, but with an increase in disputes inside the refugee camps, journalists, who are working on a voluntary basis, now fear for their own safety and security.

The Bhutanese exiled journalists aim to offer those living in the refugee camps their fundamental right to information. Their work on their behalf for promoting individual’s right to information must not be threatened.

The arrest of Bhola Siwakoti, general secretary of the Bhutan Press Union , by Nepalese police in October with no reason given, is just one instance of how members of the local administration treats exiled Bhutanese journalists.

The Armed Police Force (APF) personnel, based near the refugee camp in Beldangi-I have asked Arjun Pradhan, a correspondent with the Bhutan News Service (BNS), the only news agency run by refugee journalists, to sign in a register kept at the base camp each day.

The authorities said this was necessary because Pradhan had reported a case of the shooting of a refugee youth from Beldangi-I camp. Journalists working in camps cannot work freely under such harassment from the local authority.
There is a need for Bhutanese organisations in exile, aid agencies and individuals, to extend their support to the refugee journalists and their organisations in exile at this time.

The press bodies established in exile to promote media freedom, freedom of speech and expression in Bhutan are determined to continue to promote the right of the refugee population to freedom of information.

These organisations, including the Bhutan Press Union (BPU), the Third World Media Network – (TWMN) Bhutan Chapter and the Association of Press Freedom Activists – (APFA) Bhutan have issued a joint ‘Exile Declaration’ to work together under the banner of the BNS.

The harassment of any independent exiled journalists is viewed as an attack on the BNS, which would adversely affect the smooth functioning of news agency. The BNS is calling on international press bodies to put pressure on the local authorities managing the refugee camps to allow Bhutan’s journalists in exile to continue to work independently and in a safe and secure atmosphere.

Friday, December 7, 2007

ECB-BBSC JV: please don’t laugh at them

By: Kashyapji

It was unfortunate that I could not attend the function but as I read the event through Kuensel today, I could not stop laughing at the public debate organized jointly by BBSC and the Election Commission for Zhemgang politicians.

For a 14 minute conversation between the candidates, the organizers pulled on people fro the villagers, many seemed told to walk for hours. Like the Kuensel reported, ‘It was with excitement and high expectations that the residents of Zhemgang town, Trong and Dangkhar villages gathered at the Dzongkhag Yargye Tshogdu (DYT) hall on the chilly morning of December 2’ to talk with their candidates.

But the proceeding, I imagine was the most lazysome.

I like to ask the organizer what can they say in five minutes time. Or else it was arranged so because there is no one in the BBSC team who can edit video.

By nature, politicians must be talkative. Unless, they go this way, it would be impossible to make speeches for them in public functions. Besides, speeches and debates ahead of elections must go lengthy, explaining the people in depth what they would do, what they plan and how can the people cooperate with the candidate to execute the proposed plans.

The Zhemgang-pas have heard the public speeches of their candidates for several times by now. And candidates’ appearance to TV station should not only meant to reverberate what they say in masses.

It was named a public debate, yet the people are restricted from asking questions to their candidates. In many instances around the democracy practices, it has been observed that leaders rarely interact with people while in campaigns.

In the first instance of the public debate that our immature ‘experts’ at ECB and BBSC arranged for the two National Council candidates Pema Lhamo from Nangkhor gewog and Pema Dendup from Trong gewog, was to give speeches and asking each other questions in a debate or tseodpa.
The candidates asked each other, the people gathered watched as if they are fooled.

By practice, it was either the journalists who gather questions from people and ask the politicians or the people themselves participate to ask the questions to their candidates if their candidates really understand what people are in need of. Questioning from the people helps not only narrowing down the gap between people and politicians but also to candidate better understand the sentiments of the people who he or she might not have encountered.

To effect the impacts, the candidates must ensure the people not his or her rival at the election. We have various experiences from large number of Indian TV channels running public debate series.

The politician must be accountable to people not their chiefs or head of the government of the state. It is the spirit of true democracy. To be accountable to people, the politicians must answer the questions from the people. And for politicians, allocating timeframe is foolish-some. It is not an extempore speech that a student gives in debate programme in his school. At least two-three hours required if all questions raised by the public has to be answered in details, understandable to all, even the illiterates.

The public debate of the ECB-BBSC is a good start but to continue in the same design henceforth is worth not to go ahead. You will be laughed at, not praised with.

Media Arbitrator meets media representatives

December 6, 2007: The Media Arbitrator Dasho Dr. Sonam Tenzin met with representatives from the media for the first time after his appointment to the post in October.

The meeting was held at the conference hall of the Ministry of labour and Human Resources yesterday.

According to Media Arbitrator’s terms of reference, the Media Arbitrator will function independently and make decisions in media arbitration. The meeting discussed the role of Media Arbitrator.

Media professionals pointed out that the Media Arbitrator should play an independent role. However they said the Media Arbitrator seems to be like an arm of the Election Commission according to the terms of reference.

They also said provisions should be made for the media to complain against the political parties rather than only the political parties or candidates taking the media to task.

The media professionals also felt that the media should be responsible to point out the flaws of the Election Commission, government and political parties.

The meeting was attended by broadcast, print, online journalists and cable operators.

Electioneering electronically

By: Tashi Dema

6 December, 2007 -
It was with excitement and high expectations that the residents of Zhemgang town, Trong and Dangkhar villages gathered at the Dzongkhag Yargye Tshogdu (DYT) hall on the chilly morning of December 2.

They were told that the two National Council candidates of the dzongkhag, Pema Lhamo from Nangkhor gewog and Pema Dendup from Trong gewog, would be giving speeches and asking each other questions in a debate or tseodpa. Tseodpa is a religious term meaning a debate between intellectuals, that would enable the audience to discuss and decide on differences within a timeframe.

To add to the excitement were the TV cameras placed in various locations around the hall to record the event for broadcast on national TV and radio on December 8.

As the cameras began to roll and silence took hold over the hall, both candidates were given five minutes each to speak. They used it to introduce themselves, express why they wanted to be councillors and explain the difference between the National Assembly and the National Council.
They were given a chance to ask a question each and given two minutes to respond. Pema Lhamo asked her opponent what he as a councillor would do to stop a strong ruling government from indulging in unlawful activities.

Pema Dendup asked Pema Lhamo why she shifted her census to Nangkhor gewog.
That brought to an abrupt end the ‘public debate’, leaving the audience a little lost and somewhat dissatisfied.

“I thought I’d be discussing whom I’m going to vote for and why I was going to vote for him or her with my friends when I came to the hall,” said Thinley, 38, of Zhemgang town, who had worn his favourite mathra gho for the occasion.

“All they did was introduce themselves and give reasons why they wanted to be councillors. That’s what they tell us everytime we meet them,” said Rinchen, another resident of Zhemgang town.

Some of the people, who had gathered at the DYT hall, said that they expected the debate would involve the public.

“I thought it would be something like ‘We the People’ on NDTV,” said Norbu, a civil servant in Zhemgang, who was called to watch the debate from the khuru field.

“But I’m skeptical whether this 14-minute public debate will be good enough to educate the voters on the capability of a particular contestant.”

The two candidates also felt that the time was too short for discussions and deliberations.
Pema Lhamo said that though television was one of the best media to reach out to voters, it was sad that they could not maximise the opportunity.

Pema Dendup said that they could have made an hour-long programme and telecast the edited version for 14 minutes.

The BBSC team coordinator, Chimi Dorji, said that they followed the provisions related to Election Advertising, where it states that each candidate gets five minutes to make his statement and two minutes to respond to a question or make an observation.

“Since Zhemgang has only two candidates, people felt the debate was short, in other dzongkhags where there are four to five candidates, it will take about 42 minutes,” said Chimi Dorji.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Tenuous reinstatement of Ten Sports

By Ugyen Penjore
1 December, 2007:
There is good and bad news for Bhutanese soccer fans. The Bhutan InfoCom and Media Authority (BICMA) had instructed cable operators to reinstate the sports channel, Tensports.

But cable operators say it will not be possible before 2008.“We are under pressure from the public to reinstate the channel,” said BICMA’s Wangay Dorji, who said that BICMA had instructed the cable operators to reinstate the channel with effect from November 1. Tensports airs the highgly popular UEFA European Champions League, the African Nations Cup, Copa America (Brazilian league), and also live cricket matches.

“If MSOs don’t reinstate Tensports, we’ll legalize satellite dish TV,” said Wangay Dorji.

The channel was banned in 2004, following an independent media impact study, which pointed out that the channel aired violent programmes like the World Wrestling Federation.

“We received several applications, telephone calls, and requests in person to reinstate the channel,” said Wangay Dorji. “One application was signed by about 50 people, mostly football fans.”

However, multi service operators (MSO) say that it will take time to reinstate the channel. Innovation Bhutan Network’s coordinator, Nyema Zam, says that Tensports, which was distributed to Bhutan by the Sony group, had been sold to Zee. “Zee network is in the process of formulating their distribution territories,” she said. “Once everything is sorted out, it will be reinstated, probably by early 2008.”

Nyema Zam said that affordability of the channel would also have to be looked into. “When cable operators subscribe the channel, they’ll have to pay,” she said. “Maybe the channel will be made available in urban centres where subscribers are more.”

Cable operators say that they cannot promise anything, since purchasing the channel would mean additional cost. “BICMA just sent us a letter to reinstate, but there are cost implications,” said UCTV’s Jigme Karchung. However, a UCTV employee said that they were in the process of negotiating with their Indian partners. “We’ll be able to give concrete answers by the end of the week,” said the staff member.

Tensports is available in many dzongkhags though not in Thimphu and Phuentsholing.

Nyema Zam said that Tensports was made legally not available in Bhutan. “Cable operators must have pirated the channel through Dish TV,” she said.

ECB and BBSC to conduct public debates for NC candidates

Source: BBS
November 30: The Election Commission of Bhutan and the Bhutan Broadcasting Service Corporation will be conducting public debates for the National Council election.

According to the strategy for the implementation of the provisions related to Election Advertising, the candidates nominated from gewogs for the National Council elections shall participate in one public debate conducted jointly by the BBSC and Election Commission.

Each candidate will get five minutes to make a statement. The rest of the candidates can ask the speaker one question or make an observation.

Each speaker will get five minutes to respond. Local cable network shall be directed to re-broadcast the recorded debates at least two times a day at hours specified by the Media Arbitrator till the campaign period ends.

The Election Commission says the debates will also be aired on radio. The debates will be broadcast on BBS TV starting from December 8.