More than six press conferences, 36 meet the press sessions, more than 26 Friday media meets, and 200 meet the people sessions were held during the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) government’s term since 2013.

The weekly meet the people programme was initiated as a part of the PDP government’s 100-day pledges.

An official with the Public Service and Grievance Redressal Division said that it was aimed to create easy access for general public to meet with the prime minister and cabinet ministers without having to seek official appointment and to share their grievances, views, ideas and feedback on public service and day-to-day governance.

According to 100-day pledge, the cabinet would dedicate at least a day in the weekend to meet the people. “The prime minister will meet the youth, the private sector and people from all other sectors on Saturdays without any appointment. Cabinet ministers will also be in their office and people can walk in without appointment.”

In an earlier interview with Kuensel, PDP’s General Secretary Sonam Jatso said the programme tried to address problems related to public service delivery or government-related services and that the programme did not entertain legal issues, kidu cases or issues-related to constitutional agencies.

He said the programme was beneficial, especially in addressing miscommunications such as people not getting the services they should. “The best thing about the programme is that it is informal.”

The first meet the people session was held on August 24, 2013.

An official from the Prime Minister’s Office said that the meet the press sessions discussed issues and queries by the media on pertinent topics. “Press conferences were held when the government had to share information to public. For example, the government conducted a press conference on November 10, 2017 when the fuel prices dropped.”

The official said the Friday media meet was introduced to interact with senior editors and reporters. “Gradually, Friday meet also became an interactive session where the media could question lyonchhen and the cabinet ministers.”

Senior reporters and editors each from Kuensel, Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS), Journalist Association of Bhutan, and chair of the private media board attended the sessions.

However, PDP’s other pledge to approve private television and to enact Right to Information (RTI) Act did not happen.

PDP’s manifesto states that since media is one of the most crucial institutions of a democracy, they would approve private television and make BBS a public service broadcaster. “We will enact the Right to Information (RTI) Act and come up with necessary legislations to ensure that the Bhutanese media grows.”

Karma Cheki