… attempts to resume appointment of media focals

Lhakpa Quendren | Gelephu 

With the implementation of a standard operating procedure (SOP), the government has increased the scrutiny of sharing public information with the media.

In a six-page executive order issued by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Employment (MoICE) on April 28, only information related to functions and responsibilities are allowed to be shared with the media.

The implementation of the SOP would be consistent with the relevant laws and practices, keeping in mind information sensitivity, classification, and handling, according to the executive order.

The agencies are not allowed to share internal or intra-office documents, including draft documents, information related to internal investigations, and those that are likely to undermine the policy dialogue.

Information produced by agencies from or sent to third parties, documents that would pose a risk to the safety of individuals, violates their rights, invades privacy, and affects the proper conduct of any operation or activity of the agency, among others, are disallowed to share with the media.

The SOP cautioned all parties involved in the sharing of information to take appropriate measures in safeguarding against unauthorised access, disclosure, or loss of information.

“Agencies while sharing public information with the media must maintain a balance between the need to grant maximum access and government agencies’ obligation to respect the confidentiality of information,” it stated.

The offices would appoint at least one media focal and media spokesperson through the approval of the agencies’ human resource committees.

While the agencies would prioritise responding to the information related to active matters or recent incidents, media requiring detailed information can expect to get the response within five working days.

If it is not possible to provide the requested information within the above time limits, the media focal will inform the media of the reason for requiring more time and the date for sharing the information concerned, according to the SOP.

The SOP is expected to ensure effective and secure information-sharing with the public and the media. “Information will be shared in a timely and efficient manner,” it states.

This is to improve transparency and accountability in government and public trust, foster greater collaborative and positive relationships with the media and build the image of government agencies and their policies and programmes.

However, if the information appears confidential, the media focal would consult with the legal officer if the information can be shared with the media or whether an exception should be made.

For a document containing both confidential and non-confidential information, only non-confidential information would be shared with the media.

The SOP states that where the request is denied, the media focal would provide the justification to the media after consulting with the official responsible or legal officer.

The SOP will serve as the standard blueprint for all government agencies while sharing public information. The implementation of the SOP will be monitored by MoICE.