Thukten Zangpo

The Office of the Media Arbitrator (OMA) imposed a fine of Nu 15,000 on Chencho Dorji, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) coordinator from Paro, on December 15.

The penalty was issued for violating social media rules and regulations.

The OMA determined that Chencho Dorji shared a screen recording in various groups containing hate speech and defamatory remarks, contravening Section 4.4 of the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) Social Media Rules and Regulations of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2018.

The Section states that, “No individual shall communicate or transmit or post hate messages or any content with intent to defame or reduce the electoral chances of an opposing contestant or political party” during the election period.

Despite repeated reminders and warnings from the social media monitor of Paro, Chencho Dorji persisted in sharing the  video clips in various WeChat groups.

The OMA, considering the nature of the repeated offence, applied penalties in accordance with Section 10 of Penalties and Enforcement of the Rules on Elections Conduct in the Kingdom of Bhutan 2022.

The imposed fine of Nu 15,000, equivalent to the minimum wage rate for 120 days (Nu 125), must be deposited within 10 days of the decision.

The OMA also cautioned against engaging in similar activities in the future, emphasising the possibility of graver penalties for repeated violations.

The option for appeal to the Central Election Dispute Settlement Body, ECB, is available within five days if he is dissatisfied with the decision.

Meanwhile, PDP’s Mongar constituency candidate, Sonam Dendup was also fined Nu 37, 500 for campaigning before the commencement of the campaign period. The Mongar dzongkhag’s election dispute settlement body levied the fine on December 18.

The PDP’s member from Korphu gewog in Trongsa, Pema Khandu was also fined Nu 15,000 by Trongsa District Election Dispute Settlement Body on December 17 for violation of the Rules of Election Conduct in the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2022 on three counts.

He was found sharing videos that contained the Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP) as the new party has no budget. He was also found stating that the BTP’s Draagteng-Langthil candidate has no experience, and the local deity would not be pleased if people do not vote for PDP.