Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering, who has begun every press conference by stating that he wants a good relation with the media, concluded the first meet the press session stating that the media failed to live up to his expectations when it came to asking questions he thought were important.

The media was required to ask questions based on the theme, which was the 12th Plan. Dr Lotay Tshering closed the session by citing the first meet the press as an example of Bhutanese people’s failure to excel in their work at home.

“What I realised is that in Bhutan as a Bhutanese, we are not getting what we are expecting to get. We are not performing as per our expectation. But when Bhutanese go out they do much better than average, be it in universities or in trainings. Back here we don’t perform,” he said.

Citing the meet the press session as an example of non-performance by Bhutanese, he said, “The reason for setting the 12th Plan as the theme was to discuss on the theme. We got one or two questions only on the theme. I wanted to interrupt in between but I thought not to do so,” he said.

Dr Lotay Tshering said the cabinet members had expected “some good questions” on the 12th Plan, which he said was the last as a least developed country.

He said he had expected the media to ask how and why the Plan was different from the 11th Plan and what the government approaches were. “There were no such questions,” he said.

The PM said that the capital budget in the 12th Plan was less accounting for about 25 percent only and that almost 80 percent were recurring. “Is that a good trend?” he said, lamenting that no such questions were asked.

“We (DNT) fought hard on health. We came to power mainly because of our health agenda. How have we changed the 12th Plan budget lay out based on our manifesto? This question too is not there, he lamented yet again. “We missed out on important issues on the 12th Plan,” Dr Lotay Tshering said.

The PM said it was the first Plan in which the budgetary provision were 50-50 between local governments and the central government. He was of the view that the media had failed to question if local governments had the capacity to implement the budget and that such questions were “juicy.”

“From the next session, I will not entertain any questions outside the theme. Any one can ask pumo guley thu thup (out of no where) questions.”

During the session, the prime minister occasionally joked, citing some of the incidents from the last election.

However, the prime minister’s jokes and concluding remarks on the media did not go well with some of the journalists. Among the journalists present were editors, media owners and reporters from all media houses.

A senior reporter said that he realised that the prime minister was not actually joking but that he was underestimating the professional capacity of the journalists present there. “I didn’t realise until the end of the press conference that he was actually making fun of us,” he said.

The prime minister said that the cabinet members had come well-prepared on the 12th Plan. However, reporters shared that they had no access to the revised 12th Plan budget to ask specific questions around the theme.

Another reporter said that what is a good and interesting question for the government may not be as good a question for the media. He said that the government needed to trust the media and respect the professionals.

“Media persons use their wisdom to fulfill their role. The government should not always expect the questions they want to hear and respond to,” he said.

The government has so far held four meetings with the media since taking office. In his first press conference as the Prime Minister on November 7, Dr Lotay Tshering emphasised the importance of responsible reporting, responsible story writing, and responsible journalism. “If you don’t adhere to it, I am worried the government might have to take actions. We need constructive criticism and not criticism for the sake of criticising.”

The PM held the first Friday Meet on December 9 at the courtyard of the National Assembly, where he said the government wanted an excellent relation with the media during the next five years. However, he said that there would be problems if the media misreports.

Speaking at the second Friday Meet, he said he wanted to invite observers at press conferences to observe and that he did not want media to appear “amateur” in front of the observers. He also said he was disappointed because the first question of the day didn’t come immediately after the floor was opened.

MB Subba