Media in the bird year

YEARENDER:

The year that went by was an action-packed year for media.

Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) fined Bhutan Broadcasting Service Corporation (BBSC) Nu 224,625 for reporting on banned film Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait. Failing to pay the fine, BICMA took BBS to court for misinformation and unfair reporting.

The Royal Bhutan Police began naming and shaming suspects on social media depending on the severity of the cases even as justices reminded the media or any investigating agency that naming of a suspect should be the last resort. The discussion arose after police and the mainstream media published picture of a person accused of raping and murdering a 19-year-old girl.

The Bird Year witnessed a series of incidences of social media abuse. Notable cases include hacking of Wechat accounts, circulation of wrong and inappropriate content and deception, among others. The fake trulku case generated widespread public discourse. Social media users still remain vulnerable to various crimes.

Globally the media soared from 94 to 84 in the world press freedom index in 2016. However, concerns regarding information accessibility, inexperienced reporters, and minimum readers for the private media firms are still challenges in the country.

This echoed once again when the media was barred from the Sherig conference, an important annual event of the education sector. Earlier the dzongdag conference also barred media. This was to encourage open and frank discussion.

BICMA also cancelled license of private dzongkha paper Druk Yoezer for failing to meet circulation requirements.

Institutions may have contributed little for a vibrant press, however the Prime Minister’s effort with meet the press and meet the editors sessions, which were held regularly cannot be denied.

A media bill, which was passed to the National Council would work to uphold the much requested norm for a free press. Establishment of a media council and permission to work for a foreign media organisation in the country are part of the media bill.

The public service broadcaster (PBS) bill received little support due to concerns related to state resources going to a private channel.

Also, BICMA chose to approve only 56 channels for uniformity.

On the positive note, 21 journalists were awarded excellence in journalism award.

Phurpa Lhamo

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