Publication: Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority’s (BICMA) endorsement of the New Rules for Publication sparked debate among the bookstore owners in Thimphu.

On March 10, BICMA endorsed the New Rules for Publication, which left many bookstores confused.

BICMA’s chief information and media officer, Lakshuman Chettri, said the Rules for Publication is a revision of the existing rules governing printing presses, books and newspapers to make it practical for relevant stakeholders as mandated by the BICMA Act 2006.

“The new rule has brought down the registration fee from Nu 500 to Nu 5 per title and also the number of copies to be deposited with the Authority from three copies to one,” Lakshuman Chettri said.

The new publication rule was posted on BICMA’s website for about a week before the actual consultation meeting with stakeholders that included owners of bookstores, newspapers, publishing houses as well as individual publishers.

“During the consultative meeting most of these issues were discussed and a consensus arrived at. We must point out that it may be the stakeholders who had not participated in these consultations that are now raising all these issues without understanding what has really happened and discussed,” he said.

In consultation with the book vendors, the authority agreed on Nu 5 as the registration fee for a book title irrespective of the number of copies being imported, Lakshuman Chettri said.

“If the book has already been registered, then further registration and payment is not required. The Authority will allocate the same registration number,” he said. “Very often the intentions of regulatory bodies are misinterpreted and stakeholders do not seem to understand the need for regulatory bodies to ensure discipline in order for the system to run smoothly.”

Lakshuman Chettri said that BICMA as a regulator, feels that it will not be possible for the authority to make all stakeholders happy, as there will always be individuals who will continue to complain because some of them will only be thinking of their own individual interest and not of the system or the nation at large.

“The registration fee of Nu 5 per book title (and not number of copies) is directly deposited in the government’s revenue account and BICMA does not have any access to it,” he said.

As a media regulatory body, Lakshuman Chettri said, it is important to know what types of information dissemination materials are made available to the general public, which also constitutes children and youth. Although, it will not be possible to monitor what is happening on the Internet, “this does not preempt us from doing what can be done to make our environment a better one.”

However, during the Meet the Press session held on April 27, the Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said BICMA is a regulatory authority and the government shouldn’t undermine their efforts. He said that regulators must be allowed to fulfill their mandate.

“In this particular incident, it appears that it is hindering, not business, but perhaps reading culture. We want to promote reading and make books as accessible as possible,” Lyonchhoen said. “On the other hand, BICMA has a mandate to carry out, and since there appears to be some inconveniences, it is the government’s duty to intervene and investigate and to see how far we can intervene within the provisions of existing laws, policies, rules and regulations.”

Prime Minister added that the government will ask BICMA and see how government can improve the situation.

While some bookstore owners chose not to comment while some said they were waiting for a clearer directive from BICMA.

Thinley Zangmo