With all 44 Members of Parliaments voting for the Bhutan Information Communications and Media Bill 2017, the National Assembly passed it yesterday.

The bill was passed by the Assembly during the 9th session and forwarded to the National Council. The house had completed deliberation on the recommendations of the upper house on December 4.

The Act will repeal the Bhutan Information, Communications and Media Act 2006.

Information and communications minister, DN Dhungyel, during the deliberation said that the new law would strengthen the independence of the media and promote a free and vibrant media industry in the country.

The Bhutan Information Communications and Media Bill 2017 allows establishment of an independent body called Media Council and a National Film Commission.

The aim of the Media Council is to promote and protect freedom and independence of the media. The council will serve as a standard-setting body and regulate or curtail harmful, offensive, illegal or antithetical content on the Internet and other ICT and Media services.

The media council will also hear complaints and settle disputes in relation to offences of media contents that are not criminal in nature.

The Film Commission will be responsible for promotion, development and provide support to the audio-visual and film industry in the country. Headed by an “executive”, the film commission will represent the members of the film industry.

The Bill also aims to create and promote a Bhutanese information society and the right environment for the vibrant growth of ICT and media sectors in the country.

The government also says that the Bill, if approved, will ensure technology neutrality, convergence, innovation, private sector participation and competition in the development of the ICT and media sectors.

According to the government, the need to replace the existing Act was felt in the face of changing times. The Bill also aims to address deficiencies in the current BICMA Act resulting from rapid technological changes in the ICT and media landscape, as well as in the socio-economic and political environments.

According to the Bill, BICMA would be headed by a chairperson, who must be a senior civil servant, appointed by the Cabinet on recommendations of the MoIC. The decision-making authority of BICMA will be vested with the chairperson, three civil servants and a member representing the private sector.

The bill will now be submitted to His Majesty The King for royal assent.

MB Subba