Loten Zangmo and Dechen Yangzom

Thimphu thromde established a protocol mandating media professionals to seek written permission to avail information.

The thromde issued a notification on April 12,  asking any individual or media person wanting to avail information to fill up a form and wait for the response from the media relations officer.

Thromde officials said they  prepared the media form on April 6.

Thromde’s executive secretary, Karma Namgay, said the new protocol will ensure reporters need not wait for one focal person for information unlike in the past.

He said with the new requirement, media relations officer will direct media to the reliable focal persons. “Reporters will get responses within three to five days after they submit their request form.”

Karma Namgay said they established the communication unit with proper standard operating procedure based on their past experience where they could not give proper time and information to the media.

He said the new protocol will help both the thromde and media organisations to maintain accountability. “The thromde will give information only in the written form due to the ongoing thromde election.”

Meanwhile, the thromde’s new protocol did not go well with practising journalists, who have deadlines to meet. “Three to five days is too long for the thromde officials to respond,” a senior journalist said. “Face-to-face interview would be best.”

The president of Journalist Association of Bhutan, Rinzin Wangchuk, said thromde’s new protocol comes at a time when journalists in the country are already facing challenges in access to information.

He said such requirements will further hinder journalists from carrying out their duties of informing the people. “It will cause a delay in the dissemination of information to the public.

It was learnt agriculture ministry’s Department of Forest and Park Services also adopts a similar protocol, making it difficult for reporters to gather information.