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The sight of nosy reporters hanging around offices and businesses is often not appreciated unless they were called or invited. And quite often, young reporters give into pressures. They come back empty handed thoroughly convinced that the issue is either sensitive or officials are not ready to talk.

Yesterday, a Kuensel reporter stumbled upon the six electric taxi drivers all gathered, with their e-taxis, at the Thunder Motor office. She was asked to leave them alone although the taxi drivers didn’t mind. The reporter left after a minister called her and convinced her that information would be shared when the deal is done. The minister didn’t pressure her and was professional in explaining the situation.

It was not a big issue, but worth covering because of a development in the e-taxi issue that has reached the Parliament besides receiving media’s attention. Kuensel is bringing up this issue not because it is against electric cars or Thunder Motors, but because there was also a strange development.

Following the petition to the Prime Minister by the taxi drivers, the Lyonchoen has assured them that he would look for buyers for the second-hand taxis. Lyonchoen said within two months, but within a month, a buyer was arranged to the relief of the drivers. The dealer was to buy back the taxis and a “terms of conditions of vehicle reimbursement” was drawn.

One of the conditions refrained the drivers from talking to media. Full confidentially was to be maintained.  E-taxi drivers were not happy with the nine-point conditions and expressed concerns that they would receive very little after selling the cars back to the dealer.

To be fair, Thunder Motors is a business entity and not a charity organisation. While they agreed to buy back the cars, they will also ensure that the taxis are in conditions to be resold. Values will have to depreciate, loans have to be settled, deduction will be made from damages and missing parts will have to be replaced.  But signing a deal preventing them from talking to media about the deal raised their curiosity. What is there to hide?

As a business entity, there could be genuine concerns. But we are talking about second hand cars used as taxis. Not many vehicles last long as taxis because of the usage. Besides, there are other Nissan Leafs that are running smoothly and without problems. Users have good feedback. On the negotiations, we hope there will be a fair deal and e-taxi drivers will not be punished for talking to media.

Preventing from talking to media is nothing new. It happens everyday and everywhere. Sometimes officials with information or who talk to media are reprimanded if not black listed for revealing information their bosses would want to hide.

From experience, it is people with nothing to lose, like taxi drivers, who are vocal when raising issues or criticising policies. The Bhutanese media, with all its shortcomings is attempting to fulfill its role. There is nothing wrong in people coming to media to raise issues if they feel media can highlight their issues and draw the attention of authority for solutions.

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