Media: The media fraternity in the country observed World Press Freedom Day yesterday in Thimphu.
With the theme “Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms” the day was observed to raise awareness on the importance of freedom of press.
The 2016 edition of the World Press Freedom Index, which Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a France-based organisation, published on April 20, ranked Bhutan 94 out of 180 countries with a score of 30.73, an improvement of 1.93 from 2015, when it was ranked 104.
Journalist Association of Bhutan (JAB) general secretary, Kinlay Tshering said that the improvement in ranking might not be because of progress made by the media fraternity in the country but because of other countries falling in their rankings.
“We cannot be complacent with the improved ranking and develop a false picture saying everything is fine with media in the country,” said Kinlay Tshering. “It’s good for a young democracy to see an improving media culture in the country, however, the ground realities are much different.”
Kinlay Tshering said that media houses in the country still face many challenges in terms of quality of news and professionalism. “The poor financial health of media houses especially the privately owned ones has had a rippling effect on the quality of journalism,” he said.
Bhutan Media Foundation (BMF) executive director, Dawa Penjor said that the improvement in the ranking is encouraging and the country now has to think about how to achieve what countries like Finland (ranked 1), Netherlands (ranked 2) and Norway (ranked 3) have achieved in terms of press freedom.
“Investments in the field of capacity building and institution developments must be made for journalism to progress in the country,” said Dawa Penjor. “Journalism has come a long way, at least in the number of media houses we have now. We cannot be complacent with our small achievements.”
Dawa Penjor said that freedom of speech is an essential part of democracy. “We practice a relatively free journalism in the country,” he said. “However, this freedom must be exercised responsibly and help provide the public with the information they need for a healthy development of the country.”
He added that cohesion and solidarity among different media houses while supporting a common cause will help in the growth of journalism.
Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD) director Siok Sian Pek Dorji said that journalism in the country sill faces challenges in terms of quality and content of the news articles.
She said that most of the reporters and media houses in the country are based in urban cities and the issues covered are mostly urban-centric. She added that addressing rural issues is essential.
“We need to push ourselves a little more and come up with better ideas such as educational stories which will have major impact on people,” she said. “Press Freedom Index is one thing but we have challenges. We have to aspire to perform better with each time.”
Meanwhile, the second annual journalism award ceremony was also held in Thimphu to recognise various journalists in the country, yesterday.