Bhutanese journalists will be able to work for foreign media organisations if the Parliament passed the Bhutan Information Communications and Media Bill.

The media bill was passed by the recently concluded National Assembly session and will be deliberated in the National Council in the upcoming session.

According to the bill, Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) will operate a scheme of accreditation under which Bhutanese journalists wishing to work for foreign media organisations can apply for such status.

The conditions, privileges and procedure for application and the criteria for granting accreditation will be specified in rules and regulations that the BICMA will draw after the Parliament passes the Bill.

The Bill comes at a time when the local media industry is facing survival challenges. Many journalists have left the profession due to the wobbly state of industry.

The Bill is expected to address deficiencies in the Bhutan Information, Communications and Media Act 2006.

The President of the Journalists Association of Bhutan (JAB), Rinzin Wangchuk, said accrediting Bhutanese journalists to work for foreign media agencies is a good move.

“However, the journalists writing for foreign media agencies should be responsible and should know what they are writing about,” he said, adding that the country’s security and image should not be compromised. “The journalists writing for foreign media houses should be mindful of the implications their articles might have on the country.”

Once the Bill becomes a law, journalists working for local media houses will also have to apply for accreditation with BICMA.

“Applications for accreditation shall be dealt expeditiously by BICMA and where an application for accreditation is refused, BICMA shall state the reasons for refusal in writing and communicate the reasons to the applicant as soon as possible,” reads the Bill.

Rinzin Wangchuk said that it would be helpful to develop the professionalism of journalism if accreditation of journalists is brought within the jurisdiction of JAB. He cited the example of tour guides, whose accreditation is given by the Guide Association of Bhutan although they were accredited with the Tourism Council of Bhutan.

A former journalist said that the move would help Bhutanese journalists find alternative media companies to work for at a time when the private media houses are facing financial problems.

If a foreign journalist intends to be accredited by BICMA, the journalist should apply for “ad hoc accreditation” with or without conditions in accordance with the procedure prescribed for this purpose in rules and regulations.

If the journalist breaches any of the conditions of accreditation, or if BICMA thinks that the continued holding by the journalist of such accreditation is against the public interest, BICMA may, by an order in writing, revoke the accreditation.

MB Subba