Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

To help local government (LG) leaders use social media productively and be smart consumers, 26 LG leaders from 12 gewogs in Tsirang attended a two-day media and democracy literacy training that ended recently.

An official from the Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD), Kencho Tshering, said that Bhutanese were vulnerable as global social media introduced new values to unsuspecting Bhutanese society.

The country, he said, was seeing an increasing number of cases of online scams, frauds, defamation, fake news and malicious content. “It is becoming increasingly harder to discern what is real from what is fake.”

“The third local government election saw many new leaders take office, and it’s critical to equip them with media literacy skills,” he added.

Participants were trained on how to verify the news, use media as a tool for constructive feedback and discourse, and engage safely and responsibly on social media, among others.

A participant from Dunglagang gewog said that the training prepared the LGs working at the grassroots level with skills to consume media content critically. He said that with the introduction of smartphones and various social media platforms, people in the rural communities were empowered but were also exposed to misinformation.

Citing incidents that occurred during the pandemic, the mangmi said that it was challenging to obtain information from credible sources and communicate to people. “A strong and well-informed LG acted as a bridge during such times.”

Villagers, he said, now have access to social media platforms such as Facebook, Telegram, WeChat, and Messenger.

United Nations Democracy Fund supported the training.