For the record

Unlike in and with most Bhutanese newspapers, Kuensel’s editorials are a representation of views of its editorial board, the members of which are all the editors and senior journalists of the newspaper’s English and Dzongkha editorial departments.  As the oldest and well-established newspaper in the country, Kuensel has a deep, sincere and unflinching respect for code of ethics for journalists, which is public service without striking a Faustian bargain.

Kuensel has never had to respond to accusations from another media house because the newspaper does not believe in discrediting or putting another newspaper or media house down for what it believes in, how it functions, and what its reportage style is. But these are extraordinary times, indeed. When baseless accusations are thrown up against Kuensel, it only behoves the newspaper to stand its ground and respond. Intelligent and discerning readers will make their own minds.

Kuensel’s editorial of its January 11 issue, titled “A problem bigger than pandemic?” indeed was in support of The Bhutanese article: “A deeper look into the factors behind the perfect COVID-19 storm”.  The Kuensel editorial said that “A systemic, even systematic, flaw in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic in Bhutan have begun to come unravelling. And coming from an “entry point” such as Paro, now, is unsettling.”

What Kuensel found was that the records with health officials in Paro did not tally with that of the driver himself. The editorial says: “From March last year, the driver was involved in ferrying passengers and frontliners from airport to quarantine facilities. His last day of duty was on December 18. However, according to the record with health officials in Paro, the dzongkhag discontinued the quarantine provision for frontliners since September.

“What is worrying is that the incident commander, Paro dzongdag, has been unaware of these changes and much of what has been happening in his dzongkhag in terms of fighting the spread of Covid-19.”

The editorial was based on the fact that pinning the case on one person in such a situation is wrong when the system itself has failed. Even if The Bhutanese report had not blamed or singled out the driver, it convinced enough readers to blame him, which is evident from the fact that those close to the driver had called 1010.

The editorial also rebuked the manner in which the health ministry and minister herself dealt with the issues—“Too little, too late.”

Kuensel has neither empathy nor sympathy if The Bhutanese failed to understand “how information that actually exposes lapses of the authorities and the system in the public interest and the Shaba driver as one of the victims is ‘a bigger problem than the pandemic itself.’”

If “wilful misinformation” from the authorities in power to deal with the issues related to the pandemic, which is creating “fear and panic” is so hard for The Bhutanese to understand or misinterpret it to suit its stand, there are discerning readers who can and do.

And to put the record straight for those who are in the dark, Kuensel started as a government department but has been and is an independent news organisation and voice guided by an editorial policy of its own. And, unlike other newspapers, Kuensel does not receive any subsidy from the government to stay afloat.

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