Jigme Wangchuk

The press is the mirror of democracy. The bolder and louder the press, the better, some are quick to nail it down to a final axiomatic bang.  Not always true, however. A true democracy nurtures a healthy press; a vibrant press cultivates a healthful democracy. The press can and should be much more responsible, humble but not subdued, duty-bound, and dead serious.

The Bhutan Media Foundation is starting a formal Thimphu Press Club. What does it mean? For many, it would mean next to nothing. For the media professionals, thinkers, policymakers, innovators, inventors, educators …  the press club is more than a casual hangout. It is a welcome home, a fellowship of thinkers, the hub of the intellectuals, and soul of a healthy and vibrant democracy.

Thimphu Press Club is, put it simply, a sign of Bhutan’s rising intelligentsia and maturing democracy. Here is the meeting point of professionals from various organisations and agencies, a place to socialise network, and discuss issues of national importance.

Press clubs provide a platform for journalists to connect, share ideas, and collaborate with one another. These interactions can lead to valuable professional relationships, story leads, and opportunities for collaboration on journalistic projects.

Because a press club is public space with strict membership norms and regulations, the club is a avenue for journalists and other members of the club to engage in fruitful discussions with public figure, intellectuals, and policymakers. 

Press club is for all

First and foremost, journalism is about empowering the people with information. This serious responsibility is of the citizens is often undermined which affects the governance and accountability thereof. 

Needrup Zangpo, executive director of Bhutan Media Foundation, said, “A press club is critical to building an informed society. Our objective is to bring together professionals from all sections of society to discuss ideas and deepen discourse. It aims to serve as a stimulus to thought, reflection, and contemplation.”  

Enhancing access to information and deepening interaction will go a long way in improving the quality of journalism in Bhutan. But when the country’s media become far-removed from the other sections of society, enhancing access to information, exchange of ideas, and more frequent interaction can become increasingly challenging.

So, the Thimphu Press Club aims to bring together all government press conferences to its conference hall, which the club hopes will result in a healthy interaction between the government agencies and the media.

“We will keep exploring and expanding the interface between the media and the government,” said Needrup Zangpo. “The press club will host press conferences, workshops, training, dialogues, lectures, World Press Freedom Day, and Annual Journalism Awards for journalists and other members … The press club activities like the monthly dialogues, workshops, and lectures will be open to all its members, allowing journalists to engage with the community.”

Significance of it all

The Thimphu Press Club is a sign of Bhutan growing fast as the world’s youngest democracy. It’s a picture of a covenant between a government determined to serve the people and the people looking up to the government with trust and confidence.

In 2008, editors and senior journalists discussed the establishment of a pressclub.

Dorji Wangdi, Opposition Leader, said that the press club for the media community and thinking members of our society has been long overdue.

“I am aware that there were attempts to establish a press club in the past which could not see the light of day for the want of resources and organisational requirements … The news of this press club must excite our journalists and people in the knowledge sector.

The club, he added, should be a bastion of quality conversations, interactions and innovation of new ideas and thinking. “The conversations and ideas discussed at the press clubs usually mirror the pulse of society you live in.”

Rinzin Wangchuk, editor of Kuensel’s Dzongkha edition, said, “With the support of journalists, government officials, and various stakeholders, the Thimphu Press Club is poised to become a crucial venue and platform for information and entertainment.

“We want to create a healthy and vibrant intellectual and democratic hub, expanding the interface between the media and other sectors, and deepening public discourse through various events and activities … The Thimphu Press Club is poised to become a crucial venue and platform for information, education, and entertainment.”

Vision from the fountainhead

There are clubs and there are groups and there are associations. Each differs in their vision and mission.

For Thimphu Press Club, Needrup Zangpo reduced it succinctly:  “The long-term goals of the press club include creating a healthy and vibrant intellectual and democratic hub, expanding the interface between the media and other sectors, and deepening public discourse through various events and activities.”

At a time when media in Bhutan are faced with shut doors and lack of information, the news of the Thimphu Press Club is being welcomed and celebrated by media professionals, politicians, and thinkers alike.

The Thimphu Press Club, they say, is the picture of evolving and forward-looking Bhutan.