Citing media reports on central schools, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said that the media must be fair.

“Don’t let one unique incident influence your perception,” he said.

Kuensel asked if the central school principals were instructed to not to talk to the media. Kuensel learnt that some dzongdags had instructed centra school principals to not talk to media.

Education minister Norbu Wangchuk said that there were no instructions given to Central Schools to refrain from talking to media, and added that today a reporter can walk in to a school or hostel and get interviews.

“To me this is the level of media freedom that we enjoy in the country,” the minister said. “Nowhere in the world media would enjoy that amount of freedom to information.”

Countries above Bhutan in the press freedom ranking such as Norway, Sweden or Finland would not have such freedom, the minister said.

He said that in those countries the media have to seek the permission of the head of the school and submit who is to be interviewed and the subject of the interview.

“As a government, we have  been as accessible and as transparent as possible,” the minister said.

He said that the Prime Minister has never missed a session of the Meet the Press and also meets senior journalists every Friday.

The minister said the annual dzongdag conference was a working meeting and media was only to attend the inaugural session.

“We can’t have the meeting with full blown media presence because then some of the dzongdags will hesitate with you all hanging around,” the education minister said.

The intention of the meeting was to have dzongdags be as candid and as honest so that all issues would come up, he added.

Works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden said that there is a negative impression that the media is controlled.

“If anyone wants any information from my ministry, I try to provide as much as possible,” she said. She added that media can make a difference in how a society is shaped and there is a need for some positivity.

“We have never sucked up to any senior journalist so that he or she is going to influence the younger journalists,” the Prime Minister said.

He said that it is too common for politicians to hang out with the senior journalists and then the senior journalists to influence the junior journalists.

“This has happened in Bhutan, not under my watch,” he said. “We’ll not disrespect our reporters.”

He asked the media to think about whether the media should have free access to working meetings like the annual dzongdag conference.

Staff Reporter