According to the manifestos released this month, all four parties have pledged to improve the state of media in the country through various activities.

Bhutan ranks 94th out of 180 countries in its press freedom ranking, according to the 2018 World Press Freedom index. In 2017, Bhutan was ranked 84th.

One of the common pledges among the parties is professional development of journalists.

Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP) has pledged to build responsible public media and broadcast service, and career development through increased funding and policy support. The party has also pledged to conduct regular press meetings with the cabinet ministers and parliamentarians to discuss topical national issues.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) pledged to review the standing policies that were createdto engender a vibrant news media, review the Right to Information Legislation that was drafted since 2007 and consider it for enactment.

Extending necessary assistance to institutions and organisations, including CSOs, established to assist and ensure a robust Bhutanese media, and strengthening media authorities like BICMA to better carry out their responsibilities were also included in the manifesto. “Encourage a free media that is in the interest of the public, especially in view of proliferation of unverified news on social media, and for the purpose of healthy political discourse,” pledged DNT.

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) has pledged to ensure access to all public-interest information, and an independent media.

Making the appointment of public-owned media houses competitive and transparent, facilitating the revival of the struggling mainstream media houses, and promoting Bhutan Broadcasting Service as a public service broadcaster are also among DPT’s pledges.

With the pledge of professional development of journalists and media professionals, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) pledged to subsidise printing of newspapers, and provide financial incentives and tax holidays for media houses for the next five years.

The manifesto has specifically pledged to institute a Media Development Fund to facilitate access to financial assistance to ease the sustainability challenges faced by media houses. Appointing a media and information officer for every government agency and continuing monthly meet-the-press was also included.

PDP has also pledged to support the Journalists Association of Bhutan through an annual sustainability fund.

Phurpa Lhamo