Friday, February 20, 2009

How free is South Asian democracy & media?

19 February, 2009 - Through Struggle or amicable consensus, democracy has come to all the countries in south Asia today. But what’s still in debate is whether democracy has really replaced authoritarianism in South Asia?

As democracy dawns, this “yet-to-be reality,” was the issue that brought together about 200 journalists from every SAARC country at Cox’s Bazaar, a tourist resort of Bangladesh, to discuss democracy and authoritarianism in south Asia. The two-day conference saw journalists discussing, besides the state and independence of media in each country, the transition of governance from an elite few to the masses.

In one of his papers, the Secretary General of the South Asia free media association (SAFMA), Imtiaz Alam, presented a brief background of how democracy came to each country in the region.

It stated, “Afghanistan, with three decades of war and civil strife, presents an enigma of transition; Nepal had to give way to full-fledged democratic rule; Bhutan voluntarily opted for the path of constitutional and democratic rule; Sri Lanka, the longest surviving South Asian democracy, has seen a gradual evolution towards a unitary system of centralised governance; the recent elections in Pakistan have thrown up a very powerful republican government; a military backed transition in Bangladesh has finally come to an end and India as the biggest democracy in the world is the only country that has stood as a stable example of democracy in south Asia.”

A Pakistani-American sociologist and historian, Dr Ayesha Jalal, a history professor at Tufts university, who has also authored a book in 1995 titled “Democracy and authoritarianism in South Asia,” spoke about the distinction between formal and substantive democracy as well as covert and overt authoritarianism.

Her book states, “A formal democracy is a genuine democracy insofar as it guarantees, among other things, the right to vote and the freedom to expression. Yet it may not show all the features of its normative ideal, thus the notion of a substantive democracy.”

She defined authoritarianism as an organised power embedded in the institutional structure of the state. “Far from representing a neat and sharp dichotomy, democracy and authoritarianism are reflective of ongoing struggles between dominance and resistance.”

Pointing out the importance of civil societies and the media in a democracy, Dr Jalal said, “Because democracy is contentious, institutional mechanisms are needed to moderate conflicts between the individual and the community. “The media can play a very crucial and productive role in that enterprise.”

The conference also discussed that the Mumbai attack should not threaten South Asia. “It should compel South Asia to seek solutions to problems that are bound to become more trans-border than they are now,” said the consulting editor of The Friday Times, Lahore, Pakistan, Khaled Ahmed, in his paper.

Speaking at the concluding session of the conference, Bangladesh’s foreign minister Dr Dipu Moni said that freedom of expression is the building block for the development of democracy.

This was the seventh SAFMA conference. It ended on February 12 after the signing of the 25 points Cox’s Bazar declaration. Besides welcoming the surge of democracy in the region, the media persons declared their concern over the spread and spillover of terrorism in the region and to take serious note of the global recession, its implications for the region’s economies and its serious ramifications for media industry.

It was decided that the next SAFMA conference would be held in Bhutan.
By Sonam Pelden -
Phuntsho Choden -

Source: Kuensel

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bhutanese Media After Democracy

By T. P. Mishra
Source: The Rising Nepal
IS there media freedom in Bhutan? Are Bhutanese citizens’ right to speech and expression guaranteed by the state? Are all citizens exercising their right to information as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Let’s first step into some dubious instances that themselves answer this question.


Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) fined the Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) regarding a panel discussion on pre-paid taxi services televised earlier this month. BICMA has asked the corporation to deposit a sum of Nu 18,000. A letter dispatched by BICMA says that it finds no adequate justification to consider such panel discussions are fair, decent and balanced in line with the Code of Ethics of Journalists. In response to the decision of BICMA, the BBS said the discussion was conducted with appropriate representation, including the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) and other stakeholders.

A question arises as to whether holding a panel discussion is beyond the ethics of journalists. It was the right of the BBS to hold such a panel discussion, and the former’s decision to fine is attention drawing. It is a severe attack on media freedom. Dubbing it contrary to the spirit of media freedom and thinking it could lead to undue restraints on the exercise of free speech in Bhutan, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) even showed deep concern.

As a government regulatory body, BICMA cannot prescribe limits for the press, ethics for journalists and guidelines for the content of the media or instruct journalists how a panel discussion ought to be held. Such attempts would undoubtedly be seen as a tactics to dictate media content. Bhutan’s repeated claim that it has already stepped into the democratisation process seems questionable since there still exists suppressive rules to keep the media under control.

Of late, the Bhutanese authority has declared a jail term of seven-and-a-half years to a refugee journalist, Shanti Ram Acharya, who had reached Bhutan to meet his relative. Acharya, 20, was arrested by the Bhutanese security forces on January 16, 2007 at Tashilakha area on charges of being a member of the underground Communist Party of Bhutan. Showing concern at the High Court’s sentencing of journalist Acharya, the international media watchdog said, "The IFJ urges Bhutan’s authorities to take a humanitarian view of the case of Acharya and review the harsh sentence imposed on him."

Acharya was produced before the court for preliminary hearing only on March 16. This is against the right of the detainee. It is obvious he faced tremendous torture into confessing to the different charges. Besides, it also shows Bhutan’s unwillingness to respect and safeguard the fundamental rights and allow the freedom of movement and assembly to its citizens enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

The Bhutanese High Court claimed it granted full opportunity to journalist Acharya to plead. However, since the judiciary system in the country is still state-controlled, there is no way one can believe the court’s claims. It’s definite that Acharya failed to hire an attorney for his defense for two reasons, and these made him fall prey. One, Bhutan does not have independent attorneys who can be hired by an individual, and two, he lacked the financial backup because he was produced in court without the knowledge of his relatives and family members.

The police charge sheet against Acharya says he was arrested for taking photographs of an outpost of the Royal Bhutan Army with a digital camera, which does not provide enough evidence to prove he was acting against Bhutan. For sure, a journalist will take photos and this is his/her right. It might have been a wrong place - an outpost of the army - for taking the photos, thus, the Court’s order to sentence him for such a long time simply for taking photos sounds illogical.

At this moment when the world is witnessing hasty changes in the media sector, Bhutan still lazes more or less where it was. The question of the state’s guarantee to media freedom, respect and safeguard of the public’s right to speech and expression still remain unanswered despite the regime’s claim that the country has already stepped into the democratisation process.

The citizen’s right to information has been trampled by the state for long, although Bhutan is a member of the United Nations, which guarantees such fundamental rights. Peoples’ democracy would remain a farce as long as there is no press freedom in the country. The so-claimed democracy does not have a free press, a must to drive the regime towards good governance.

Interestingly, the Bhutan Chapter of South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) remains silent on the issue as if to say there is complete press freedom in Bhutan. SAFMA’s aims at strengthening the networking among the media stakeholders, especially working journalists, to improve their professional standards through journalist’s education, training and capacity building and promotion of press freedom is, therefore, questionable.

The media sector has to operate in a free and fair atmosphere so that democracy can foster. The ongoing practices opted by the media houses inside Bhutan in themselves are not adequate. Besides, a sense of self-censorship still exists among Bhutanese journalists.
(President of the Bhutan Chapter of Dhaka-based Third World Media Network, Mishra is also Editor of Bhutan News Service. He can be reached at:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Tidbits of the region's media

By: Chhetria Patrakar
In Bhutan, the situation is certainly not as dire as that in Burma, but ‘press freedom’ continues to be a relative term. Journalist Shanti Ram Acharya has been given a seven-and-a-half-year prison sentence for being involved in “subversive activities”, and for allegedly having links to Maoist groups that work against Thimphu. The truth appears to be more that along the lines that Acharya, long a refugee in Nepal, had worked for two papers published by exiles. This, coupled with his political activism on behalf of refugees, seems to be the real crux of the matter.
Source: Himal South Asian

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Are journalism and activism compatible?

I was honoured when I was invited to write the opening chapter for a book designed to be a guide for journalists in exile who are currently experiencing freedom of expression issues. I have never met the person who invited me to contribute; our only contact has been over the internet. Our lives couldn’t be more different. He is working, unpaid, as a reporter, editor and publisher in a network of refugee camps, and I have a comfortable lifestyle in England thanks to a long career in journalism.
When I first read the email asking me to write the introduction chapter "because you are an experienced journalist and media activist," it made me think.
If length of service equals experience, then I guess I qualify as an experienced journalist. I started as a reporter at my home town newspaper in the 70s, moved to radio, became a TV correspondent and then a political editor before moving to online journalism. I have worked as a journalist and manager in print, broadcast and online. However, as far as certificates go, my walls are bare. I passed a few basic exams for shorthand, typing and the essential law for journalists more than 30 years ago, but that's it.
However I have never thought of myself as a media activist. In fact I have always thought of activism as being incompatible with true journalism and I have always considered an activist to be someone who pushes a cause without aiming to reflect an alternative view point. If that is the case, and if an activist makes no attempt to remain objective and impartial, how can they also be a journalist?
Journalists must always aim to be removed from the issues they are covering. They must avoid becoming emotionally and politically involved, because once they do they are likely to lose their objectivity. So from my Western perspective I have never considered myself to be a media activist, but I think I understand what the person who contacted me is referring to.
For the last eight years I have been working with journalists in transition and post-conflict countries, and countries where freedom of expression is under threat. In all cases, I have been trying to help them establish strong, independent, high-quality media organisations. In those conditions, I can see the term activism being used in a different way by those who don’t enjoy the levels of freedom of expression that I enjoy in the West.
Perhaps the phrase media activist reflects the realities of what journalists in the majority world face day to day. I come from a society where journalists are taken out and wined and dined by the powerful and influential, whereas many journalists in the majority world are simply taken out with bullets and bombs.
In that atmosphere it is understandable to come across journalists who view themselves as activists.
However, if a journalist’s role is to seek out truth, reflect the voices and opinions of those who don’t usually have a say, and to represent the whole audience regardless of race, religion, political affiliation and social status, then perhaps a journalist is, essentially, an activist for freedom of expression.
Journalism basicsOne dictionary definition of journalism is ‘the profession of writing for newspapers, magazines, radio, TV and online’. However, I would argue that journalism, without clearly-defined journalistic ethics, can easily deteriorate into public relations (PR) and marketing.
Journalism has to be accurate. It is all about clear, irrefutable facts that are tested and well set out. Journalism also needs to be well-sourced. All evidence must be checked and verified. All elements of the story need to be thoroughly tested to ensure that they are not misleading and that they don’t magnify one side at the expense of another.
We should use clear, precise wording to tell the story and avoid comment and opinion that could add confusion. We need to be open about what we know, what we think we know and what we don’t know.Journalism needs to be impartial, objective, balanced and fair. We must write and broadcast to inform the whole audience regardless of religion, race, political persuasion, sexual orientation and financial status. We need to be fair and open-minded and reflect all significant opinions as we explore a wide range of disparate views.
If we decide not to use some views, we need to be clear why. We need to ask ourselves why we are omitting some information or views and including others.
What affect does that have on the piece? Does it help clarify issues, or does it confuse? If it confuses, what could be the consequences of that confusion and who is likely to gain?
We need to be honest with ourselves about our motives and reasons for covering a story. The key is to ask searching questions to all sides, particularly those who hold public office, and, in doing so, provide the basis for a healthy and robust public debate. All journalists will have their own political points of view, but these must never creep into our journalism and they must not have any bearing on the choice of stories we cover or the way we cover them.
Perhaps this is where the real meaning of the word activism becomes relevant. When all these conditions have been met, a journalist will have served as an activist for freedom of expression. If so, count me in. Not only do I qualify by definition, but I am proud to be a member of that global fellowship.
Source: Media Helping Media

Bus driver penalised

6 February 2009: Following a Bhutan Observer story on a driver and a conductor violating public transport regulations, the proprietor of Meto Transport has suspended both the driver and the conductor.

The Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) has asked for a written explanation from the driver and the conductor of Meto Transport.

“The drivers of public transport buses carrying extra passengers will be penalised,” said Dophu, the Regional Transport Officer, Thimphu. “I met the suspended driver of Meto Transport who told me that he had filed a case against the paper in Thimphu district court,” he added.

He said that the passengers had the right to lodge complaints in any regional office so that the offenders could be caught on the spot and penalised.

Dophu said that, if the drivers were going against the law, the authorities would punch their driving licence, even suspend it if they repeated the offence. “This could even reduce the proprietor’s contract with the transport authority,” he added.

Harka Tamang, the Joint Director of RSTA, said that they had their regional staff on highway vigilance. “Anyone can complain to us and we will take action.”

He said that passengers have to note the vehicle number and the date of violation of rules to lodge a complaint.

RSTA has also issued notices to all the regional offices in the country to frequently monitor the roads.
Source: Bhutan Observer

Sacked bus driver and conductor sue newspaper

11 February,2009-Bhutan Observer (BO) has been sued for alleged false reporting and writing that resulted in the loss of jobs for a bus driver and his conductor.

The suit was filed in Thimphu district court by the now former bus driver, Dorji, and former conductor, Tenpa, Wangdi, of Meto transport on January 21. Both claimed they were fired from their jobs on January 17 following a BO story that said they carried extra passengers, overcharged and misbehaved with the passengers. The bus was on its way from Trashigang to Thimphu on January 6.

The story, headlined “Troubled Bus”, stated that the bus carried nine extra passengers without issuing tickets but charging the same fare. The bus had a capacity of 19 passengers only.

Driver Dorji, 42, told Kuensel that he rejected all charges made against him in BO. He said that carrying extra passengers was not possible because there were several checkposts along the way, where several RSTA officials and police inspected the public transport buses.

Dorji said that the BO reporter, who was also travelling on the same bus, was charged Nu 100 for a carton, excluding three bags, for which he had refused to pay. He said the story was personally motivated because he made the reporter pay for his extra luggage.

BO said that it stood by its story. The paper’s managing editor, Needrup Zangpo, said that the story was factual and the BO management strongly supported the reporter. He said that the reporter wrote on an important national issue and had no personal agenda against either driver or conductor.

The editor added that there was a huge network of people involved in such illegal activities. “The bus driver at some point had transported some passengers to a cab just to cross the checkpoint and we can prove it in court,” he said.

By Passang Norbu
Source: Kuensel

Monday, February 9, 2009

Banned cable TV channels back

9 February, 2009 - Almost five years after the government restricted the number of TV channels to 33, the Bhutan infocom and communication authority (BICMA) has approved the airing of some additional music and sports channels by cable operators in Thimphu.

In 2004, after a media impact study, the then Bhutan communication authority restricted many cable TV channels from being broadcast in the country on the ground that these channels aired excessive violence, glamorised drugs, and showed explicit content. Music channels like MTV, channel V, Zee music, the fashion channel FTV, and a sports channel, Tensports, were banned.

The additional channels allowed are Zee music, MTV, STC music, S1, S2, and channel V. According to BICMA’s head of telecommunications, Wangay Dorji, cable operators were also asked to reinstate Tensports. However, he said that the authority had warned cable operators to refrain from airing channels that broadcast explicit or violent content.

Meanwhile, with BICMA legalising, in principle, the direct-to-home (DTH) technology, popularly known as dish TV, many TV viewers are waiting for the go-ahead to purchase DTH sets, while some are already using it.

Cable operators, aware of this, have requested BICMA to develop a proper system, which will balance the services of the cable as well as DTH television systems.

Wangay Dorji said, “In principle, DTH television has been regularised since November 25 last year, but we’re still working on the modalities regarding the content of the channels available.”
“The public and the stakeholders will be consulted once a proper system has been formulated,” said Wangay Dorji, adding that same content should be available by both services. “If there’s going to be a restriction on DTH television services, there will also be restrictions on cable television.”
By Kunzang Choki
Source: Kuensel

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Thanx goes to all of you!

My pre-assumption was completely incorrect when I presented a sheet of paper; I like to call it an appeal, which was aimed at drawing the attention of the delegation of International Media Mission towards the case of Shanti Ram Acharya.

When I read a news story in The Kathmandu Post, a Nepalese daily newspaper, highlighting the Mission's visit to Nepal to access the media situation in the country, I made-up my mind to rush to catch them and draw their attention towards Bhutanese authority's decision to sentence our correspondent Acharya for 7.5-year without any reason.

I called Binod Dhungel, one of the senior Nepalese journalists whom I know since a couple of years, over telephone to seek his suggestions and possible support to help me to catch the delegation.

My plan turned quite 'hopeful' when Dhungel responded very positively; he gave some cell numbers of other Nepalese journalists who were with the Mission.

I immediately rushed to the central office of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), lying couple-of-minute-walk from the entry gate of Tribhuwan International Airport.

Before I met with the President of FNJ Dharmendra Jha, one of the CC members of IFJ-- I could not remember his name during the writing of this piece, almost tried to avoid me to meet with the delegation. "I think it would have no any meaning to handover them with a sheet of paper appealing for your reporter's release", he said, however, immediately adding he would talk to Posan KC, general secretary of the FNJ once.

By then it was learnt that the delegation of the Mission was heading towards the central office of FNJ after meeting with Jhala Nath Khanal, general secretary of Communist Party of Nepal (United-Marxist-Leninists) in Balkhu.

I decided not to leave from the premises of FNJ central office despite one of it's CC member's unwillingness to help me.

It was almost 1.30 hours I was waiting to catch the delegation. "When there is a will there is a way." This quotation was proven, henceforth, accurate when the delegation of the Mission arrived at 5.30 pm and finally I was helped by Purna Basnet and Dharmendra Jha for the arrangement of few minutes to present the plight of our correspondent Acharya.

Let me not enter into the details of the appeal sheet (paper), herein, as it is kept at the end of this write-up.

The responses I received from the delegates were extremely 'HOPEFUL' and it was clearly learnt the Mission was taking Acharya's case quite seriously. Thanks to International rights and media groups for taking our correspondent's case seriously. Click here to read a brief news story that appeared online on the news portal of Bhutan News Service.

Shanti Ram Acharya, 20/M
Address (temporary): Bhutanese refugee camp, Beldangi II, Sector D/1, Hut No.85, Jhapa, Nepal
Address in Bhutan (Permanent): Goshi Block, Dagana district
Arrested date: January 16, 2007
Arrested by: Bhutanese security forces
Arrested at: Tashilakha outpost in Gedu district
Made public on: January 21, 2006 via state-owned Kuensel
Preliminary hearing on court: March 16, 2007
Jail term: 7.5 years
Reason to go to Bhutan: To meet his relatives as per his family members
Charge on him: Involvement in subversive activities
Health status while he was arrested: He had mentally gone ill; used to talk more
Did he hire independent lawyer? Bhutan does not have any independent attorneys to be hired by individual
How journalist? He worked with The Bhutan Reporter monthly and subsequently at Bhutan Jagaran fortnightly in 2005. He is also the founding editor of Baal Aawaj (Voice of Children).
Date his relatives visited him inside jail: Devi Charan, his brother, and sister-in-law (wife of Devi Charan) visited him on October 22, 2008 inside Chemgang central jail in Thimphu, the capital city where he has been kept from the next day of arrest. They visited Shanti Ram with the help of ICRC- India Representative.
Health status inside jail: mentally and physically tortured as per his brother Devi Charan. Devi Charan quotes Shanti Ram as saying that he was forced by the security forces to admit that he was a Maoist militant of Communist Party of Bhutan (CPB-MLM). Where we get updated stories on Acharya? , and

Association of Press Freedom Activists (APFA) – Bhutan
Third World Media Network – Bhutan Chapter
Kathmandu, Nepal

I also submitted some xerox copies of his news clips with his name in byline but i could not get it loaded here right at the moment.

Int’l mission concerns Acharya’s case

Kathmandu: International Media Mission, which is currently in Nepal to access the press freedom situation, has assured that it would seriously take the case of journalist Shanti Ram Acharya.

Receiving an appeal handed over by the Chief Editor of The Bhutan Reporter, where Acharya was associated, one of the delegates Mark Bench said they were concerned about the case of Acharya. “We have taken this case very seriously,” Bench said.

Another member of the delegate, also a representative of International Federation of Journalist (IFJ) Sukumar Muralidharan said IFJ had already stood on the side of Association of Press Freedom Activists – Bhutan.

Bhutanese authority has declared a jail term of 7.5 year to Acharya accusing him of involving in subversive activities.
Source: click here

BICMA forms tribunal

Thimphu, February 07: After severe tussle with the media houses, the Bhutan InfoCom and Media Authority (BICMA) has announced the formation of a tribunal to look into complaints.

In a notice the media regulatory body said that Bhutan InfoCom and Media Appellate Tribunal has been established as per section 198 of the Bhutan Information, Communication and Media Act, 2006.

BICMA said, the presiding officer of the Appellate Tribunal is a retired or sitting high court judge, with two other members, who are well versed in the field of ICT, law or administration, as per the provision in the Act.

The agency has asked anyone who is aggrieved by its order to file an appeal for review.

The journalists have challenged the continuing interference of the BICMA into media matters. The latest instances are the interrogation of Kuensel journalists and fining Bhutan Broadcasting Service for criticizing Information Minister Nanda Lal Rai.
Source: click here

Friday, February 6, 2009

And so we move on …

5 February, 2009 - Kuensel’s editor-in-chief, Kinley Dorji, has been appointed secretary in the ministry of information and communication. In his last days with Kuensel, he reflects on his experience with Bhutan’s national newspaper.

When we started publishing Kuensel twice a week, a reader complained to me: “So we now have to read two preachings a week?” It was a legitimate complaint. Editorial writers are always grappling with one dilemma, that of making a point without sermonising. The responsibility of imposing ideas on people can be an uneasy exercise. But it is one that must be done. And, having written 1,020 editorials - exercising the right to tell people what they do not want to hear - the good news for my critics is that this is my last.

Having been granted a new mandate, I am moving on. I believe it is only right that we move on when we are getting more out of an organisation than we are contributing to it.

Like generations of Bhutanese before me (and generations that will come after me), I grew with Bhutanese society. I believe in the intricate web of karmic existence within which we are all destined to a tiny role in the phenomenon of human existence. So I do not wonder that I grew up without newspapers, radio, or television and became a journalist.

Like a number of others of my age group - give or take a few years - I was plucked out of an innocent society and sent abroad to study, first to India and then overseas. We returned to privileged jobs, pioneers by fate. I didn’t have to look for a job as a reporter. By 1986, the fourth Druk Gyalpo had decided that Bhutan needed a newspaper. So we started one.

As Bhutanese professionals look beyond the national horizon for better opportunities today, I still hear the echoes of amazement of other foreign students in our time: “Why do all of you go home after your studies?” Little did they know that we were a generation in transition: “Because we’re Bhutanese,” we said. And this was a historical perspective.

In the two and a half decades I spent writing for Kuensel I had the honour and privilege to belong anywhere and everywhere. I have sat in the Throne room. I have sat with murderers in their prison cells. I listened to the fourth Druk Gyalpo announce his abdication. I listened to the first cry of a new-born baby in a new maternity ward. I watched the transition of the Raven Crown and His Majesty the King don the Dhar Na Nga.

The excitement comes from documenting the present as it becomes history and by anticipating the future … all this through the most passionate human drama. The professional dignity of a journalist comes with the mandate to talk to everyone and to ask questions, with the legitimacy of being relevant in any situation.

Many of my editorials were written in hotel rooms and on buses, trains, aircrafts, shopping malls, coffee shops, and bars. Cradling a laptop besides bikini-clad sunbathers in the Maldives can be fun. Prostrating at sacred Hindu temples in India is sanctifying. Because of Kuensel I have flown to the fragile glacial lakes high above the clouds and walked the tunnels below the salmon-filled Hokkaido river. I dined with heads of state at national capitals and scrambled for the last piece of meat at a lunch in Dagana.

At one stage we would send stories and photographs from the east by jeep with three men driving in shifts. Within a few years I got a dial up connection at Kurizampa, where a sleepy woman charged me Nu 7.00 to send an editorial to Thimphu from an outdoor PCO booth. In my time at Kuensel the 15-kg metal typewriter changed into a portable lightweight typewriter, then into an electronic typewriter, and then a laptop.

Some say that journalists express, sometimes develop, the conscience of a nation. The role of the media is so important that a society can be judged by how it treats its journalists.

Working in a society, which is transiting into a new era, is both grave and exciting. The right to question comes with the obligation to find answers and to address issues around us with objectivity and responsibility. That is a high call but even if one person reads your story and says, “Yes, that makes sense”, it is an achievement. If one person has been given a good idea, it has been worthwhile. If you’ve helped make a small change, it has been a service. And if you have influenced national policy or thinking, you cannot ask for more.

We need journalism. At a time when our society must delve deeper into itself, we need Bhutanese journalists. We need to ask those uncomfortable questions. We need discourse on important issues. We need to reflect on ourselves. Gross National Happiness, which we talk about so much, lies within us, not outside. Democracy must take shape. Bhutanese must understand Bhutan.

In the early 1990s, encouraged by a royal decree that freed Kuensel and BBS from government control, we were testing and expanding the boundaries of free speech despite resistance from the society itself. We had to nurture the idea of a free and, by the standards of an unexposed readership, aggressive media.

Today, we are looking at the birth of a new generation of Bhutanese media professionals. They are taking on a huge mandate. Some by choice, some by fortune, they are placed in a position to influence thinking and make a difference. The literate audience, as in most developing societies, are key decision-makers and journalists have the opportunity to broadcast and write stories that will have impact. They will have the privilege of hearing their ideas discussed in important fora and of seeing some of them influence national policies.

Journalists eventually discover that journalism is not a job. It is a serious responsibility. In the process, journalists face many dilemmas and hardships. They already face numerous complaints and harassment. It will get worse. But a good journalist will not regret a single moment of his or her career no matter how stressful it might be.

And we have our own style in Bhutan. I was given the title of “Ace Reporter” before I even wrote my first decent story. But, as far as the profession itself was concerned, I had, somewhat unwittingly, jumped on to a very sensitive balancing act. Premature gray hair and hypertension came with the profession.

But I believe it is journalism that has shaped my personal values and perspectives by forcing me to confront myself, society, and the world. In the process, journalism has given me a horizon and deeper understanding of my surroundings, my experiences, and myself.

So I have, once again, taken the privilege of imposing a part of my story on those who read this piece. To those, who are annoyed with yet another sermon, I offer no apology. To the young women and men, who will become journalists, I offer my solidarity. As I change my job, some call it a promotion. I see it as a mandate. I believe that journalists do not go up or down. They just move around.

But, most important, I consider it critical that I keep looking at the world as a journalist.
Source: clik here (Kuensel)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

TBR sees blank editorial for Acharya's release

Kathmandu, Feb 4: In a bid to protest the Bhutanese authority's decision to sentence journalist Shanti Ram Acharya for seven-and-half year, the The Bhutan Reporter (TBR) monthly, where he was associated, has left its editorial space blank for February edition.

Bhutan Media Society (BMS), the publication house of TBR, in its front page with a headline 'Blank Editorial' stated that the house was deeply concerned towards Bhutanese authority's decision to sentence its correspondent, Acharya, for such a long time without any justifiable reason.

"We deserve to take Acharya's side at this hour," it reads, urging the Druk authority to review the case and allow Acharya to hire independent attorney. "We also decided to leave the editorial space for February edition of TBR blank. And, this is done to protest against the high court's decision and also to press the Druk regime for Acharya's early and unconditional release," it added. TBR further stated that the initiative to leave editorial space blank was the first-ever record since the inception of TBR.

Source: Bhutan News Service

Monday, February 2, 2009

Television: changing lives of rural Bhutanese

January 25: Many people now have access to television with the installation of television sets in 172 geogs. It has not only helped to keep them updated on the happenings in the country but also enabled them to watch live broadcast of important events like the election, coronation and the recent Parliament discussion. The television sets were installed under a UNDP project funded by the Japanese government.
One of the beneficiaries of the UNDP project, institutional and human capacity building of the Election Commission of Bhutan is Dechhenling geog in Pemagatshel. Under the project television sets were installed in 172 geogs to disseminate information on election and democracy through TV. The remaining geogs have cable connections.

Our reporter in Samdrupjongkhar Pema Samdrup says the people are reaping the benefits of the project. One example is the live coverage of the recent parliament session on BBS. He said people from nearby villages come to the geog center, where the Television set is installed, to witness the Parliament discussions which was broadcast live on BBS TV.

Some people told our reporter that they felt as if they were actually present in the National Assembly and Council halls as the discussion were taking place. They said in the past they could only listen to the discussions but now they can also watch the discussions in the two houses.

The Gup of the geog said during the coronation the small room geog center was packed with people. He said people living in far off places came with pack lunch. He said they are now building a multipurpose hall and the TV set will be moved there to accommodate more people.

Source: BBS