… in the World Press Freedom ranking for 2017

Bhutan’s press freedom ranking has soared by 20 places in the past three years, as it jumped 10 places for the third year in the World Press Freedom ranking 2017. Bhutan jumped from 94 in 2015 to the 84th position out of 180 countries.

Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based media rights group, released its 2017 World Press Freedom Index on April 26. “The kingdom is now evolving and the media landscape with it,” the report stated.

It said that the number of privately-owned media is still low but pluralism seems to have been developing since the transition from absolute to constitutional monarchy in 2008, and foreign journalists with official accreditation are able to operate freely.

However, the report pointed out that the adoption of the Bhutan Information Communications and Media Act in 2006 and the creation of a media regulatory authority have reinforced the government’s armoury of draconian legislation, which already included a national security law that punishes any attempt to create “misunderstanding or hostility between the government and people”.

“Legislation criminalising defamation in 2016 encouraged self-censorship by journalists and restricted the ability of the media to work freely.”

The last time Bhutan fell was in 2014 when it dropped by 12 places from the 82nd to 104th position.

Bhutan is the only SAARC country in the top half of the 180 countries included in the ranking.

In the region, Pakistan and Nepal also rose in the rankings by eight and five places and are at the 139th and 100th positions respectively.

Bangladesh slipped two places to 146th, India fell three places to 136th and the Maldives marked the biggest drop from 112th to 117th.

Afghanistan and Sri Lanka held their ranks at the 120th and 141st positions.

Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark took the first four positions in the rankings.

Releasing the report, the media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders stated that globally “media freedom has never been so threatened.”

It has also released an analysis, titled “Journalism weakened by democracy’s erosion”, which gave reasons for the decline of democracies in the index as obsession with surveillance and violations of the right to the confidentiality of sources. This includes the United States (down 2 places to 43rd), the United Kingdom (down 2 to 40th), Chile (down 2 to 33rd), and New Zealand (down 8 to 13th).

Media freedom has never been so threatened and RSF’s “global indicator” has never been so high (3,872). In the past year, nearly two thirds (62.2 percent) of the countries measured have registered a deterioration in their situation, while the number of countries where the media freedom situation was “good” or “fairly good” fell by 2.3 percent.

Tshering Palden