KP Sharma

Presidents of Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP), their candidates and supporters contributed at least half a million Ngultrums to the Election Commission of Bhutan in fine for breaching election rules, mostly social media regulations up to the poll day today.

As of yesterday, a total of 32 individuals have been warned and fined by the Office of the Media Arbitrator of the Election Commission of Bhutan for violating social media regulations during the general round of the election.

Out of 32 registered cases, 16 were the supporters and candidates of the BTP, while 15 were that of PDP’s. While both the presidents were fined Nu 75,000 each, BTP contributed Nu 120,000 in fines and the PDP more than Nu 300,000 according to offences and penalties reported by the media. Four candidates of the PDP were penalised excluding the penalty levied on the party’s convention in Thimphu last year.

The OMA issued written warnings to 14 individuals affiliated with BTP and two individuals were fined a sum of Nu 15,000 each affiliated to the same party. Among those who received a warning letter were Sonam Maekay Penjor, the BTP candidate from North Thimphu and Tshering Penjor, the BTP candidate from Dewathang-Gomdar constituency.

On the other hand, 10 individuals associated with PDP received warning letters from the OMA, while four individuals were fined Nu 15,000 each.

Aside from warning and fines, a PDP coordinator who was a repeat offender was publicly reprimanded and fined for making defamatory remarks against BTP’s North Thimphu candidate, Sonam M Penjor.

An individual named Phub Thinley also known as Ugyen Sonam received a warning letter for sharing videos on TikTok that contained defamatory remarks, hate speech, and false information about both the parties. He was also instructed to remove the particular videos from his account.

Upon reviewing social media violations from both parties, the violations involve defamatory remarks, disseminating false information, inciting regionalism, campaigning outside designated periods, making false accusations, third-party advertising, and engaging in hate speech. 

These violations were mainly recorded within the parties’ individual groups, primarily on WeChat and WhatsApp.

As per Section 6.10 of the media coverage of elections rules and regulations of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2018, the Office of the Media Arbitrator is required to monitor all media coverage including social media during the election period, to ensure free and fair conduct of elections.