Thursday, January 29, 2009

APFA concerns

Press Statement

Date: January 29, 2009: Association of Press Freedom Activists (APFA) Bhutan is concerned by the increasing number of incidences in Bhutan hindering operation of free press even after the formation of a ‘democratic’ government.

Within a month of fining Bhutan Broadcasting Service Corporation (BBSC) on allegations of televising a discussion on taxi fare, Bhutan InfoCom and Media Authority (BICMA) has interrogated the journalists from Kuensel newspapers.

Kuensel journalists were summoned by the regulatory body for interrogation on charges of writing against the government interference into BBSC. The Kuensel had published an opinion piece entitled ‘The Right to Expression’ protesting the government intention of controlling the media.

BICMA officials during interrogation accused Kuensel journalists of nursing a personal agenda against it, of willfully distorting the truth as BICMA saw it, of trying to pull it down. It then sent warning letters to the media- defending its authority in which it claimed, “The penalty on the BBS was imposed as the form and manner of the panel discussion in question breached the Code of Ethics for Journalists.”

The act is intimidation upon press freedom and it clearly shows the government body is in mission to silence the media against the mandate it is given to promote free press. The authority still operates in style that used to be under absolute regime.

“The ability of media and journalists to work without fear of intimidation is a reliable indicator of a democracy’s health. That is why BICMA’s enforcement of fine on the Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) was worrisome. BICMA infringed on the right to expression and free press. That is why Kuensel wrote about the issue,” Kuensel reporter Kencho Wangdi said.

As a government regulatory body, BICMA cannot prescribe bounds for press, ethics for journalists and guidelines for content generation for the media or instruct journalists how a panel discussion ought to be held.

I. P. Adhikari

Association of Press Freedom Activists (APFA) Bhutan

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