Civil servants should be allowed to speak to the media, but they should be able to stand their ground, said Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering at the meet the press yesterday.
Lyonchhen said that the Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regualtions (BCSR) has provisions that he said could be in one way interpreted as “not allowed to talk with the media … When interpreted lightly, it could mean not to criticise the agency wrongly.”
The Clause 3.3.16 of the BCSR states that a civil servant should refrain from making any statement of fact or opinion in the media (broadcast, print and online) or in any document which may have adverse effects against the policies or actions of the royal government.
The Clause 18.104.22.168 states that a civil servant shall not criticise or undermine policies, programmes and actions of the royal government in public and/or media (broadcast, print and online); and Communicate/transmit/post hate messages or any content with the intent to defame a person or government agencies.
As for the current information sharing process, Lyochhen said: “It should not change as long as our conversation and association result in propagating true information.”
With regard to the compulsory retirement of the two foresters, Lyonchhen said that according to a notification from the forest and agriculture ministry’s secretary, the two were removed due to insubordination. He added that Kuensel’s story implied that the foresters were removed for talking with the media.
In Kuensel’s story titled, “Two foresters issued ‘compulsorily retirement order’ for talking to the media”, it is stated that they were expelled for talking with the media.
An order issued on April 4 by the agriculture and forest ministry quoted clauses 3.3.16, 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199 of the BCSR as the reasons for the two forester’s removal.
Lyonchhen said that the BCSR restricted civil servants from criticizing their agency. “Bureaucrats are not allowed to criticise their parent agency. I have nothing to say on that because that is clearly written in the BCSR. Civil servants would have read the BCSR.”
Lyonchhen said: “We are all accessible. Whatever information that comes out from us will also be similar to the ones that you might expect from the bureaucrats.”
The editor of the The Bhutanese, Tenzin Lamsang, pointed out that often the spokespersons (media focal) were junior officers, who have little idea about topics of interest to media and public. He added that written questions from media houses take days before an answer is provided.
He recommended that sector heads with the expertise be allowed to share information and also be held responsible to disseminate the correct information.